Monday, June 11, 2007

Mourning Hair and Celebrating Tradition



Mourning Hair, originally uploaded by chanchanchepon.
My ancestors had many traditions that made them unique. Over the last several years I have worked to learn, teach, and share many of them. One of them has to do with hair.

The men of our tribe would grow their hair long as a symbol of freedom. It was meant to reflect the fact that we have an unconquerable spirit, that we are always shawnee, and that we are free.

I used to wear my hair short. Then, on November 12, 1994, I put my faith in Jesus Christ. I became a Christian. I was set free from my slavery to sin, death, and evil. Because I was finally free, it was an appropriate time to start growing my hair. If you've ever wondered, the growing of my hair is both a symbol of my heritage as a Shawnee, and a symbol of the true freedom that Jesus offers each and every one of us when we put our trust in Him.

My ancestors also had another tradition--when a loved one passed on, they would cut their hair as a symbol of their mourning, and as a way of honoring those who went before them.

Saturday, after my mom's funeral service, I honored her in this ancient way. I celebrated our common heritage as Shawnee people. I celebrated her life and mourn her departure from this world as well. Even though I know she is with Jesus, I'm going to miss her dearly--we all are.

I gave the hair that was cut to locks of love so that someone else who is fighting cancer like my mom did can wear it. It's another way participating in this tradition can bless and serve another human being.

Already, people have begun asking about my "new style" so I figured this blog would be a helpful way to introduce people to this ancient tradition I participated in, and it also might explain to many why I wear my hair long in the first place.

Sometimes in our modern world we lose sight and are confused by the diversity of traditions that are out there. We have very little idea or understanding of the swirl of cultures around us. I encourage you today to take some time and learn a little bit about the beautifully intricate world and people among which we live.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Billy, I so saddened to hear about your mom on Sunday at church. It's always bittersweet when someone we love goes Home. I still remember so clearly the peace we had when Andrew's mom died from cancer 4 years ago. It was hard to say goodbye but knowing she's in Heaven made the sorrow we felt seem so small. I am touched to read about your haircut. I'm sure it took a little getting used to, but the meaning behind it is incredible!

We'll be praying for you and your family. Tons of love dear brother!

Michele Ballard

Beth said...

Billy,
As soon as I saw your haircut I knew your mom is with Jesus. I'm crying now for both you and Nina for losing your moms. It seems so fast.
Love,
beth

Spartan Sojourner said...

Billy,

I am always amazed and impressed by the reverance and desire you have towards traditions. It is something talked about so infrequently in many of the evangelical and seeker based churches. Thank you so much for sharing :)

~John 'Gideon' Hepper

Greg said...

Hey brother. This is Greg from CRC. I tried to find your cell phone number, but I couldn't... thus, I'm posting to you here. Moms are so special. I'm recalling now how Christ entrusted his mother to John (it was John in traditional church teachings, anyway) while he gave his life away for us on the Cross a long time ago. I know this is a rough time for you. Please know that you are constantly in my prayers. Know, too, that I'm so glad for your mother. It's an odd thing, but, it must be something wonderful for her to see Jesus face to face right now. She's plunged head-long into the mystery of God, her faith ending in sight. That's so wild to think about. Well, that's about all I have to say. I love you, dude. You have always reflected Jesus' life to me, and you do even more now: your love for Christ reflects in the ways you've spoken about your mom's life and passage. Contact me at gbelknap@mix.wvu.edu if you want to.