Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The art of Henna

This is the small henna tattoo (just above my wrist) I got this weekend at the Peace Providence event. I've always wanted one and it just happened that the artists' (http://www.hennabyheather.com/) table was near mine. Hers was the busiest table all day.

It is applied like icing, with a steady hand. The henna dries after about 30 minutes and begins to flake off revealing a very light design. Twenty-four hours later is is darker and will last up to 3 weeks with care.

Practiced for five thousand years throughout India, Africa, and the Middle East, the act of painting the body with preparations made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant, whether it be in preparation for a special occasion or in celebration of a particular event, has always been done with the assumption or fervent wish that the act would engender good fortune, happy results, and good feelings.

Mehndi in India
In the north and western parts of India, the desert areas where the henna plant grows, mehndi (or henna painting) is a very important part of the wedding ritual and ceremony. As the story goes, the deeper the color obtained on the skin, the longer the love between the couple will last; hence the belief that a proper mehndi application is tantamount to a prayer to the gods for everlasting love and a successful marriage.

Mehndi in Morocco
Pregnant Moroccan women in their seventh month seek out well-respected henna practitioners called hannayas in order to have certain symbols painted on their ankle, which will then be encircled with a corresponding amulet. The henna and the amulet are meant to protect both the mother and child through birth. Once the baby is born and the umbilical cord severed, a plaster of henna, water, and flour is placed on the newborn's belly button in order to ensure beauty and wealth. (source: www.earthhenna.com/geography-c103.html)

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