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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/290

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OF the physiognomy of man—so interesting in its every phase—no feature can boast a more varied interest than the hair. Remnant of the coarse fur which once covered the body of the human animal—withdrawn at last, after a losing battle with time, to its invincible retreat and stronghold upon the head—this relic of beast life grew with the process of the suns into a thing of use and meaning,—a mark of race, an emblem of rank, a symbol of religion, and lastly, but chief of all, into an adornment of surpassing beauty affording to Cupid a most potent weapon in his merry warfare against the sons and daughters of men.

The place of the hair in the religious life of the race has been unique. Among the Greeks and Romans, the hair, worn long until the fourteenth year, was then severed from the youth's head and dedicated to a river-god; and the sailors of both these countries, after a shipwreck or other dire calamity at sea, thought it a fitting propitiation of the angered deities to remove and cast away the hair. It is highly noteworthy that not only in the Roman Catholic and Hindu churches, but throughout nearly all the ancient world, the tonsure in one form or another was a sacred rite. This was true of the vestal virgins as it has been true of the Roman Catholic nuns and monks, and a like custom among the Tartars of old survives in the queue of the Chinese.

As a mark of honor the hair in the old time played no less distinctive a part. To the ancient Persians, Goths and Gauls, long, flowing locks spoke of high rank, and among the ancient Germans the same adornment told of noble or royal birth. Even so lately as the reign of Henry VIII. in England long hair was a token of gentility, and readers may still recall the love-locks of the cavaliers of Charles I.—an amiable vanity which was given short shrift by their Puritan victors.

Seeing the large place which the hair has filled in the religious and social life of the race, it is in no wise remarkable that the fancy of mankind should have sought to attach to that feature of the physiognomy a much deeper meaning. Thus, in all ages, stiff and wiry hair has been deemed a sign of dishonesty or low birth, while softly clustering curls humanity has ever been prone to associate with gentleness and innocence. Coarse hair has been looked upon as a sign of a coarse organization, but the "poet's ringlets" have always formed a part of the popular conception of the poetic character.

In a general way, the well-known facts of ethnology have given a