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The Turquoise Tree

Red Hair

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Red Hair

 

 

The following is an excerpt from a lecture given by Serenity Macleod to new initiates at the Hall of the Red Lady. Most of the lecture discussed the history and mythos of the cult; in this section she discusses why Vinga has red hair.

 

 

 

One aspect of our faith, which all know of, but few outside the cult understand, is the requirement that we dye our hair red to honour the Goddess. This is true, by dying our hair we do indeed honour the Goddess; this is however the extent of the limited knowledge that most people, including some Vingans, have about this ritual.

They understand its broader purpose but know little or nothing of its practice or reason. They fail to understand that the form of the ritual is largely mutable in ordinary practice, that devotion to the Goddess is the one constant element and ultimately it is this devotion that brings us closer to the Goddess and honours her.

We honour her through our deeds, prayers, sacrifices, and words; she has no need of, or desire for, flattery. Vinga is a proud goddess not an arrogant one. She does not, and would not, demand that we dye our hair. This we do of our own volition, to bring us closer to the Goddess, and emulate her as best we can. It is not compulsory, remember, No One Can Make You Do Anything.

The nature of our practice is this. Upon initiation, a Vingan cuts her hair, sacrifices it to the wind, and calls upon the goddess for strength. She will then dye her hair, usually with henna (although camphire is commonly used in Esrolia). After that, worshippers are free to let it grow as they wish. Most Vingans wear their hair in braids, although many followers of the Adventurer aspect of the goddess keep theirs loose.

Each year on Defence Day, and during Sacred Season, we dye our hair for the rituals and ceremonies. At other times, there is no need to bear the flaming badge of the Goddess. Most Vingans do, but this is as much a symbol to others of their allegiances and devotion as anything else. There are times however when it is more practical and much safer to keep ones faith hidden. This is especially so if being known as a Vingan could harm innocents or the clan in some way, the Goddess was never one to stand on ceremony if her people were under threat.

In some cases, a would-be initiates hair turns red during the first stage of the initiation rituals, such women are considered blessed by the Goddess and are often given the titles Child of Vinga or Beloved of the Goddess. It is usually seen as a portent of great things; many of those blessed by Vinga go on to become powerful and famous heroes of the cult.

All priestesses of the goddess have red hair, either natural or changed by the goddess when they become a priestess. Their devotion to the Goddess cannot be readily concealed; indeed few would want it to be so. The goddess sometimes blesses the most devout of initiates with the gift of red hair as a sign of her favour.

Several of you have made comments about the colour of my hair. You are indeed correct, it is not henna-red, but blood red, a gift from the Earth Avenger. It is a great and yet terrible gift.  I am an Avenging Daughter and Red Lady, as well as a Storm Lady. I have sworn terrible oaths of vengeance to the Axe Sister, taken the Red Vows, and was bathed in the Cauldron of Blood (well, dunked really), as the Goddess was in the God’s Time.  I shall speak no further of this, it is a dark path that I would not wish for any of you. My vengeance will come, and my anger abate, when the Red Moon no longer shines over Sartar, and more than the rivers run free

Our goddess is of the Storm, ever changing, and the passage of time has hidden many of the tales of her exploits from us. Much lore has been lost, and that which remains seems at times almost contradictory.

 It seems likely that different tales of her deeds have emerged simply because no one clan has an all-encompassing knowledge of the Goddess, and thus almost all keep to those tales that they know to be correct.

All of the myths are true, it is just that they are taken from different points in the life of the goddess, seen from different perspectives, and this can give the impression that they disagree with other myths or stories.  The loss of much ancient lore has left our knowledge of the deeds of the Goddess fragmented. 

 

The following is what I know of the different myths about Vinga’s hair. Much of it appears to disagree, but as your understanding of the Goddess increases, so too will your knowledge of her deeds and you will be better able to understand how the different myths do in fact form part of a whole, the story of the Goddess.

 

 

Most Vingans in Sartar would tell you that Vinga’s hair turned fiery red when Elmal told her that to leave the palisade and that fighting was not a proper activity for a woman. Her anger knew no bounds, and her fury turned her head the colour of fire. This is true and yet other myths exist that appear to disagree with this.

 

        Many Esrolians believe that Vinga has always had red hair.

        Some clans believe that her hair turned fiery red when Elmal healed her, when she defended him after Zorak Zoran had struck him down. Some say that this is where he used up the last of his Fire powers.

        Others say that Vinga was dipped in the Cauldron of Blood by Babeestor Gor (and Maran Gor in some versions), either as a test, or as part of her Red Vows.

        Some clans, mostly in Esrolia, believe that Vinga’s hair turned red when Ernalda showed her the secret of infertility and taught her to dye her hair with henna (camphire in some versions).

These myths appear to disagree, this is not however the case, they simply represent Vinga at different times in her life, pieces of a puzzle as it were. To the best of my knowledge they are all true.

Vinga was born with copper-red hair, both a symbol of her connection to Earth, and a sign of her fiery temper. The first time that Vinga’s hair became fire-red was when she and Elmal argued on the palisade of Orlanth’s stead. Her righteous anger turned her hair to a fiery red colour, it later faded when she calmed down but did not entirely lose its bright-red hue.

After this, Vinga sought for a way to prove herself to her father. Ernalda saw that her daughter could not be content until she had joined the warband. She showed Vinga a secret, a preparation of henna and secret vows to the Earth, which could render her infertile. The secret turned Vinga’s hair henna-red in colour, marking her infertility. This is when she first cut her hair short. Later she joined the Thunder Brothers, a story you all know well.

When Ty Kora Tek took Barntar, it was Vinga who sought a way to bring him back to the stead. She journeyed to the darkest place of Dark Earth to rescue him, but was confronted on her journey by Babeestor Gor, the Axe Guardian. Vinga claimed kinship with her, and Babeestor Gor tested this by holding her in the Cauldron of Blood. The cauldron turned Vinga’s hair blood red, and so the Earth Avenger knew she was kin and must not kill her. As you all know, Vinga travelled on, finally succeeding in her quest and returning with Barntar. 

Later in the Darkness, when she swore The Red Vows to avenge her hearthmates, the Earth Avenger immersed her in the Cauldron of Blood for a second time. This was the second time she cut her hair short.

When Zorak Zoran struck down Elmal it was Vinga who protected him. She was sorely wounded in doing so, but finally drove the dark god off. Elmal saw her grievous wounds and used some of his remaining fire powers to cure her. After that, Vinga bore the mark of this healing, for her hair turned fire red. It is said that they became lovers after this; a few clans even believe that this is why Vinga’s hair remained fire red thereafter.

Once each year she renews her vows to the Earth and dyes her hair with henna. When the dye wears off, the natural hue of her hair returns.

 

As you follow more of the paths of the Goddess, and travel to the Red-Headed Lodge during the Sacred Time rituals, so you will see the truth of my words with your own eyes. It is your devotion and good deeds that pleases the Goddess, red hair alone does not make a Vingan.  She will be your strength if you need her, just as she is the strength of all women.