Veiling & modesty

Veiling has nothing to do with my prep for Samhain, but I’ve been thinking about it and so here we go…

A while back, in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook group, someone asked about the role veiling plays in people’s practice. And, I have strong feelings about veils, their uses and their role in modesty culture, subjugation, and modern living.

First off, if, for whatever reason, you like to wear a veil – that’s your choice, fair play to you, on you go. I am making no comment on people who choose to wear the veil, a veil, for whatever reason. What I’m discussing here are the reasons why the saint or the nun might be depicted with a veil and some of the considerations in relation to the use of a veil in practice.

I don’t use a veil as a general rule. I also don’t have much use for modesty in my deities, saints or other Beings around me. I don’t have much use for physical modesty in myself either. I tend to wear comfy clothes and, if the weather gets hot, this tends to mean a lot less clothing. Of course, when the weather gets cold, I’m covered up in as many layers as necessary.

There are times when I cover my hair with a bandanna – usually if the pollen count is high. Helpful hint there, wearing a bandanna restricts the pollen getting trapped in your hair and, if you have hair like mine, less pollen then gets into your nose and eyes. So when it’s practical, yes, I will use a bandanna. I don’t think of it as modesty though – as always practicality wins the day for me.

Modesty culture though – modesty culture to me is a continuation of respectability politics, a means to control women. It’s rarely men who are expected to cover up in a certain way or ensure they don’t arouse lust in the opposite sex (yeah, same sex relationships tend not to be considered in these situations either). It’s offensive to me to suggest that I must dress a certain way to ensure the men around me don’t get inspired to rape or other forms of violence against women. I tend to put more faith in the men I know than that. I mean most of them are well familiar with the terms “No” and “Not interested” and “hell no, get off me, you prick”. Not that they’re heading out trying to pick up women all the time, but they understand the words and most of them can admire a woman without assuming dress means an invitation.

There are plenty of women (and men to be fair) who choose to dress modestly, out of choice or habit or ease. I’ve no problem with that. I do have a problem with people being ordered to dress a certain way though.

The veil can be useful in a spiritual practice though. I can see a value in donning a certain article of clothing as a signal someone is about to engage in spiritual practice. And I have in the past thrown a scarf over my head (well actually, a coat or hoodie is more likely) to give myself some privacy in a public space. I have used certain objects, certain items of clothing, certain habits to indicate to myself I’m entering a spiritual space. It takes time and practice, but it’s an important way to signal to oneself that the mundane world is being left behind, or that this is an action that has more consequences than we might immediately think of.

I wouldn’t be thinking of giving Brigid, or indeed any other deity, instructions on how I expect them to dress mind. Modestly or otherwise, it’s up to them how they choose to appear and I for one amn’t going to give them guidance. How we as humans depict them however – well that’s another story. I think I’ve ranted here before about the “sexy goddess” statues and paintings that abound on the internet. Sure, it’s grand, but when Every. Single. Statue. looks like the wet dream of a teenager, there’s an issue.

So in short, my attitude to veiling is the same as with most things clothes-related. If it’s your choice – go ahead, have fun. It can be useful. Where I start getting issues is when people start trying to force others to veil or be modest or dress a certain way or whatever. And really, seriously, trust me on this one – don’t try it with deities!!

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