Cultural Appropriation and the Tichel

Now before I begin to really get into what my life is like as a pagan woman who practices veiling I feel the need to say a few words on the topic of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture.

I do want to note that I do not believe that any one culture has exclusive to the way that a person ties a scarf upon their head. There are a multitude of ways for someone to tie a scarf or veil and while the style in which some people tie their scarfs or veils may mirror another cultures there is no harm in that so long as they follow a few basic rule.

Firstly when you are using a veil ensure that you call it something that is not tied to a religious group. I have seen this all through the community of people that are pagan and choose to veil. One of the biggest examples of this is the use of the word tichel as a descriptive word for the kind of head covering a person decides to wear.

While I will admit to using the use of the word tichel when I am looking for a way to wrap and while looking for places to buy new head coverings, I will never use the word tichel to describe the way that I am covering my head and unless you are a Jewish woman you shouldn’t either.

Tichel is the Yiddish word for the headscarf worn by many married Orthodox Jewish women in compliance with the code of modesty known as tzniut, which requires married women to cover their hair. Since I myself and not practicing tzniut I feel that it would be wrong of me to use the word tichel to describe my covering.

So what are we supposed to do when we talk about the way that we cover our head? While that is historical proof that our pagan ancestors also covered their head I have yet to come across a term that is exclusive to pagans and the way that they cover their head. So to keep it simple and not to step on any toes in any other religious community I call my choice to cover my head as just that… my head covering, a veil, or a scarf. These are terms that are not appropriating any particular culture as they don’t belong to any one culture or religion.

Remember that a tichel is not a style of wearing a scarf but the name of the head covering an  Orthodox Jewish woman wears. Now another term that I see used to talk about a type of head covering that I agree with using is pashmina. This is a term that I agree with using when talking about a head covering because it legitimately describes what the kind of scarf you are using. A pashmina is a kind of fabric, a tichel is not.


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