Beards in African cultures and global ones
An overview of ancient and modern cultures that wore beards
Nowadays, a beard is simply worn as a fashion choice or statement . However, back in the days men in different cultures wore beards for various reasons. Some of them include:
- As a sign of masculinity
- For religious purposes
- As a symbol of wisdom
- To show great virility
- For warmth in cold climates
Here in Africa, the two most notable cultures that wear beards are the Ethiopians and the Rastafarians.
Ethiopia is one of the best places where a large majority of men wear beards for religious purposes. A good number of people are Orthodox Christians (Tewahedo). Ethiopia has the second highest number of Orthodox Christians in the world after Russia.
That means millions of people are bearded in Ethiopia. Both congregants and clergy have been wearing beards for thousands of years. This brings us to Rastafarians.
We have all heard of Rastafarians. The one thing to note about this culture or religion is that it stems from Marcus Garvey’s philosophy and links to Ethiopia. Followers of this movement hold strong beliefs in the former emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie (Power of the Trinity).
Interesting enough, the emperor’s birth name was Ras Tafari and his religion was Tewahedo. Apart from that, he also wore a beard and was from the Solomonic House of the Amhara branch.
In other words, his lineage can be traced back to Solomon and Makeda (Queen of Sheba) and is recorded in the Kebra Nagast (The glory of the Kings).
Remember that Solomon had at least 700 wives From different cultures and tribes. Among them were women of royal status as recorded in (1 Kings 11:1–3). He also had 300 concubines.
Although the most obvious identifying factor of Rastafarians is their locks, a lot of them also wear beards. Rastafarian is practiced in Africa and around the world, but more predominantly in the Caribbean especially Jamaica.
As mentioned above, some of the cultures in Ethiopia trace their lineage back to Solomon when the Queen of the south visited Israel. Surprisingly a lot of Hebrew men wore beards as well. This can explain the cultural influence on Ethiopia.
A good example that can show the Israelites wore beards was the directive given to Aaron in Leviticus 21:5. He was told that his priestly lineage should not shave off their beards. Aaron himself also wore a beard as written in Psalms 133:2.
Other notable Hebrew men who wore beards were David and his men (2 Samuel 10:4–5). That by itself would mean that by default Solomon also had a beard as well. Others are Ezekiel, Joseph and the Messiah as highlighted in (Isaiah 50:6).
Mesopotamians are known for some marvelous wonders of the ancient world. Their ingenuity has influenced a lot of cultures in terms of writing, mathematics and spirituality.
The other thing that made them stand out, was their beards and how well they were styled. They had magnificent beards especially the Assyrians, Babylonians, Sumerians and even the Elamites.
In fact, of all the ancient civilizations, they had the best and most elaborate beards. Just google “Assyrian beards” and see for yourself. To them, beards were a sign of great strength and masculinity.
The Greeks are another culture or people who wore beards during ancient times. They took a lot of pride in their beards to such an extent that it was a badge of virility and wisdom. During times of mourning, they would shave off their beards.
When Alexander the Great of Macedonia ascended to power, he had a different perspective of beards. He advocated that men shave off their beards. However, after the Macedonian times, men such as philosophers retained beards as a sign of their profession.
Other cultures/ religions that wore beards
- Indians (sadhu)
- Islam (fitra)
Originally published at https://mandevu.co.ke by Mark Odecho on February 15, 2021.