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My Experiences Headcovering as a Western Christian

(and the prejudice associated with it)


Headcovering is a practice that many would at first associate with Islam and other religions, to the point that most people (at least in western countries) aren't even aware of the religious significance it holds to Christians all over the world.

There are a myriad of reasons as to why Christian women may choose to headcover, but here are a few:

I live in a western country where Christian veiling and headcovering of any kind is seen as very unusual. Despite being a High Church Anglican, generally surrounded by a wealth of tradition, I have only ever met a few other women throughout my lifetime who have practiced it. They were elderly women, all dead now, and they only ever wore hats in church; they did not veil.

I believe headcovering to be a wholly personal conviction, and do not view it as mandatory in any sense, nor do I believe the aim must necessarily be to cover the hair itself; I do, however, believe it to be a beautiful tradition and practice, which is why I decided to try it for myself. I chose to wear small headscarves at first, and am now looking into buying longer mantillas: I like this one a lot.

On an individual level, I adored the experience. I felt reminded of God's presence incessantly throughout the day, as I was able to recognise and acknowledge that my sole reason for wearing my headscarves was to bring glory to God and remind myself of His sovereignty in my life.

However, it was not met so kindly by other people. Various relatives scorned the practice, claiming it was a dirty, antiquated thing, no longer necessary or relevant. Family friends accused me of subjecting women to unjust standards, and immediately assumed I believed all women ought to do the same as I was doing. Many strangers insulted it, or met me with glaring eyes, and the kindest response I received was to hear nothing at all. The only time I seemed to receive no judgement was during a service of Choral Eucharist at a foreign church.

All of this to say, I suppose, that it is a shame that people must be so judgemental towards a time-honoured tradition (which I wish more people were aware of and/or educated on), and that they must be so presumptuous about one's beliefs simply due to an item of clothing they happen to be wearing. I was not once asked about my views; they were simply assumed. It is a sad state of affairs. We often claim to live in such an accepting society, and yet the moment people are faced with something unfamiliar or that they do not understand, the vast majority seem to revert to their habits of prejudice, presumption and judgement.