A new essay by alumna Peggy Shinner (fiction, ’94) appears online in BOMB Magazine: 

Berenice’s Hair

The Tantrics said the forces of creation and destruction lay in the binding and unbinding of a woman’s hair. The Syrians said a woman who combed her hair on the Eve of Holy Sunday consorted with werewolves. The Slavs said the vili, or female spirits, hid in the water and made rain by combing their hair. The Scots said women should refrain from combing their hair at night when their brothers were at sea, because that could raise a storm and sink the boats. In Laos, the wife of an elephant hunter was forbidden to cut her hair in order not to sever the ropes restraining the elephant. The Navajo prohibited a woman from washing her hair while her husband was out hunting lest he come home empty-handed. The Punjabi said a woman should not wash her hair on Thursday or Sunday, because “the house would lose money and people would tell us lies.” The Romans said that strands of a woman’s hair made fine strings for bows against the Gauls. Berenice, wife of Egyptian king Ptolemy III, made an offering of her hair to Aphrodite, for her husband’s safe return from war. Upon his homecoming, her hair appeared in the sky as the constellation Coma Berenice, Berenice’s Hair. One of the stars is named Al Dafirah, “the curl.”

Continue reading online at BOMB Magazine. 

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