Hairstyles as depicted on an ancient sculpture of women in the Louvre, France.

Legendary Locks: Can Hair Act as a Sixth Sense, Protecting us from Danger?

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Humans have ever styled their hair in a multitude of creative and symbolic ways, and the various cuts, colors and presentations reflected across the ages are nearly unlimited. But does hair serve us in more ways than providing simple warmth and good looks? There are some who believe that hair is directly associated with sensory power and it serves as an extension of our nervous system.

Depending upon the time and place on earth in which one lives, the hair on one’s head (or the lack thereof) has had intense significance. Belief systems and folklore have long dictated how hair was to be handled and worn: tied up, covered up, grown long, cut short, shaved off, crimped, colored and curled, decorated, twisted, braided, and more. But for many societies, the longer the hair, the better.

Goddess Sif, wife of Thor, was renowned for her long, golden tresses which were associated with wheat, fertility and family.

Goddess Sif, wife of Thor, was renowned for her long, golden tresses which were associated with wheat, fertility and family. ( Public Domain )

Hair as a Sixth Sense

In fact, some feel that long hair gave Native Americans certain sensory abilities, acting as a sort of antenna, much like whiskers on a cat.

One report speaks of a claim by a worker at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the United States during the Vietnam War. It is alleged that, like the Choctaw and Navajo Native Americans known as ‘Code Talkers’ during both World Wars, talented scouts were sought to move stealthily through rough and dangerous terrain in conflict zones.

The enlisted recruits, who were well documented as having “outstanding, almost supernatural tracking abilities” were said to not perform as expected in the field, and when questioned about the failures in performance, “ the older recruits replied consistently that when they received their required military haircuts, they could no longer ‘sense’ the enemy. They could no longer access a ‘sixth sense’, their ‘intuition’ no longer was reliable, they could not ‘read’ subtle signs as well or access subtle extrasensory information,” writes WakingTimes.com

A Native American man with long hair.

A Native American man with long hair. (Flickr/ CC BY 2.0 )

The report claims that government testing institutes compared the behaviors and tracking performances of Native American trackers with and without long hair, they found that the long-haired subjects outperformed those whose hair had been cut in military fashion. The suggested theory was that the long hair might have behaved as an extension of the nervous system, as, not unlike the way cat whiskers transmit information to the cat on the prowl as it approaches prey, the long hair acted like a sixth sense.

Some skeptics challenge the claims, noting that no evidence has been found as yet to show that hair is anything more than dead cells (keratin proteins) and as such transmits nothing. However, strands stem out from our skin, and the follicle at the base is actually an organ that produces hair. Hair is connected to tactile receptors in the skin that tell us that it’s cold or hot out, let us feel the slightest breeze, or the annoying bug that is about to bite us, serving as a protective warning device.

When our hairs stand up on the back of our necks when we’re in danger or feel threatened (known as goose bumps, or horripilation), is that a reflex of something we detect with our other senses, an unconscious perception affecting the hair? Or is it our hair affecting us, sending us a warning?

Certainly there are societies that feel hair plays such an important role in our lives. The tale of the Native American trackers echoes the ancient biblical myth of Samson.

The Mighty Samson

It was written in the Hebrew Bible that Samson, a Hercules-like figure with superhuman strength, was born a Nazirite with vows to abstain from wine, to have no contact with the dead, and to never cut a hair on his head. Nearly an undefeatable man—his superhuman abilities made him a powerful warrior, and he was able to rip lions apart—he did have a weakness which would lead to his undoing.

Samson's Fight with the Lion (1525) Samson’s power was said to be connected to his uncut hair.

Samson's Fight with the Lion (1525) Samson’s power was said to be connected to his uncut hair. ( Public Domain )

He fell in love with a woman (a Philistine, with whom the Israelites were at war) against the wishes of his parents. Delilah was tasked by her people to find out Samson’s weakness, so as to defeat the hero that was said to protect the Israelites.

Comments

I'm not going to go into religion of any sort, but don't you all felt the hairs on your back or hairs on the back of your head tingles or froze upward whenever you sense negative energy or maybe a negative feeling? Would you call that a sixth sense? I don't believe that it'll be any of the 5 senses that you're feeling. You're not touching it physically, taste it, smell it, hear it, nor see it at all. It's just...well, a feeling.

What you describe is the physiological response that gives rise to 'goose bumps' where tiny muscles at the base of each hair contract, making the hair 'stand on end', and causing the surrounding skin to become 'bumpy'. The textbooks usually describe it as a stress-related fight-or-flight response, but that's where things start to get a bit sketchy, with suggestions that it's a vestige from a much earlier and hairier stage of evolution where having a lot of dense hair stand up makes one look bigger and more frightening to an enemy (as seen in scared cats for example).

Or might it come back to that suggested "sixth sense" one wonders, where fear of something lurking makes the hair stand on end, making it more sensitive to movement in the surroundings, especially in the dark say. Thus the common report of being conscious of the hair on one's head or neck. Might that help serve as a warning of something creeping up behind one, partly compensating for not having eyes in the back of one's head?

Does anyone know what's keeping interest (from afar) in this posting alive? It's invariably listed under "Most Popular" and this morning one sees it's in the "Most Read Today" as well! Yet it's over a week since it last attracted a comment, and that was pretty dismissive of the idea that hair could serve as a "sixth sense".

Peculiar, most peculiar, the persistent interest that fails to materialize as new comments that is...

Perhaps it is an interesting article, an idea that some people at a certain level can relate to. Not every one feels the need to post a comment one way or the other after reading any article. Could be there's more to 'hair' then just being 'hair'.

OK Gord, put like that it sounds eminently sensible.

But if you’ll forgive my saying, you overlook one thing. If folk read something that interests them, but leave no comment, then what they have read will reach and/or be shared with fewer new readers (leaving aside cliquish social media).

Why not? Because of the way the internet works: search engines respond mainly to comments in my view, not to mere number of visits and clicks from come-and-go readers.

A paucity of comments means that the article then languishes on Page 7 of Google returns where few if any will spot it. The knowledge-seeking public is then dependent on the MSM to be kept informed, but journalists and broadcasters with few exceptions respond to slick press releases that are put in front of them by those with an axe to grind, often biased or distorted: they use internet search engines infrequently or as a last resort, but when they do will rarely go beyond the first page or two of returns.

So the moral is: leave a comment if something one has read online piques one’s interest. That way the new and interesting ideas gets a quicker look-in, a wider currency, than would be the case if relying purely on there being an inquisitive well-informed journo out there.

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