Gallows or Guillotine?


Strung up, or cut down? That’s the decision I’m considering right now. Not for a fictional character in one of my stories, but rather, for my hair.

I learned that my hair was sacred, a connection to the spirit realm and my ancestors, while attending an end-of-day indigenous program when I was in primary school. Shorn hair should be kept, and later burned or buried; never thrown away. Only members from your household or bloodline should handle or help care for your hair. And when someone close to you passes on to the spirit world, you should cut your hair short to allow them to settle in to their new state of being.

These things ground you, and help you heal.

I’ve always been drawn towards spiritualism. Even before I really knew what it was. I read books featuring fantastical creatures, and characters with magical abilities from a young age; pretending I could do the same with every fibre of my belief. Forever seeking out more details about the occult, mystical, and unknown. I tried meditating for the first time when I was fourteen, using breathing techniques described in a book. Taught myself to read Tarot the same year. Collected crystals, gemstones, and other objects I considered charmed for the simple reason that they were precious to me. Centring myself and clearing my thoughts was much easier back then…

In high school, my epithet was “psychic.” At the time, it wasn’t my intention to gain focus from others for things I considered fascinating. I really don’t recall when that became the label used to define me by my peers. One day, I was the weird quiet girl who cried all the time, and was rarely in class; and the next I was “the psychic girl” and everyone knew me based on that (though not many of them actually knew my name).

It didn’t happen all at once. It was gradual, but all encompassing, like the sweeping severity of a storm. A breeze that lowers the temperature, clouds roll in, the sky darkens. By the time you notice the chill the rain is already beating down on you. Everything is disrupted. Everyone is rushing inside.

I wasn’t secretive about my interests. I bought the cards in front of my father. I did a science presentation about known / recorded psychic abilities in ninth grade. I never left the house without a charm to protect me. I don’t remember where or when I got the Ouija Board, but it was a catalyst in how my life changed back then.

Tenth grade I was being invited to parties and requested to bring my board and cards. People would sit with me and ask how to sense energy, how to see auras. They wanted to talk to their dead grandmothers, and know whether or not their crushes felt the same way. It was all so juvenile and innocent.

Speaking for the dead was easy (because they’re dead). They aren’t going to haunt me if I tell their relative that they’re remembered fondly from the great beyond. I never gave bad news from a lost loved one, but I did genuinely try and open the connections when they asked. I didn’t know much about communing with spirits back then, and feeling next to nothing when I tried wasn’t surprising.

Managing social hierarchies and answering relationship-based questions for sexually inexperienced teenagers proved to be much more difficult.

What does all of that have to do with getting a haircut?

Traditional indigenous people have waist-length hair. I’ve always wanted that level of connection to my spiritual self and my ancestors, but something always seems to come up and I end up cutting it… In grade school, it was too much for my mother to deal with, so she cut it short and we kept it near my chin / shoulders for years. In high school, I started keeping it in box braids so it was easier to manage, but then classmates (and even strangers at the fucking mall) would grab handfuls of it and pull because they thought it was fake. This caused horrendous migraines because of the pinched nerve in my neck, so I cut it to my shoulders again to wear it loose without being bothered. I moved out and couldn’t afford the products I needed while going to college and paying rent; cut. I had a miscarriage; cut. My foster-sister was murdered; cut. I ended a long term relationship because I lost sight of who I was trying to please him and needed to re-centre; cut. With my husband’s encouragement, I finally embraced my curly hair and stopped using chemicals and straighteners, ending up with mostly frayed spilt ends; cut.

I have cut my hair for spiritual growth in the past, for major events in my life, as well as for minor ones. I collect the hair and store it until I can ritually burn it with herbs and sweet grass.

I identify my hair as part of my spiritual journey; but I also recognise that I lost the fulfilling connection I had to spiritualism nearly fifteen years ago.

Being a card reader has introduced me to so many people in my life. It allowed me to have relationships where I was understood and valued in a way that my own family never has. It has granted me personal reflection, and the ability to see a problem from outside of myself. In high school, it was my own personal exploit to get to know those who sought me out. And it led me into a friendship with a person who would devastate my life, my spiritual beliefs, and my ability to trust in ways I still struggle to acknowledge.

Going into the full details of that is far too much for this entry, and it’s only a footnote in what I’m currently struggling with, but it did lay the groundwork for how openly I share my metaphysical beliefs now.

I’ve been lost. Disconnected from my own interests, and unwilling to immerse myself like I have in the past. I allowed myself to be distracted by school, work, and family. Those were the things that I became engrossed with because I could count on them. They were time-consuming endeavours with tangible results.

But now I have all the education I need for my position. I love my job and have no intentions of leaving it for anything other than my dream job (full time writer). And my family has made it plain that all of the time that I’ve dedicated to helping and supporting them is meaningless and unappreciated. Knowing I’m not wanted has granted me the permission to step back from their demands to spend time writing and reflecting.

That time, and the termination of contact with my family, bled into a period of depression I haven’t felt since my confidence in cohorts was shattered by my best friend from high school.

Suicidal ideation is a normal part of my day-to-day life. It has been for as long as I can remember. The thoughts are simple: Had a good day? Great, go out on a high note, kill yourself! Had a bad day? Fuck everything, give up, kill yourself.

It’s always been a simple passing thought, a moment in my mental process before I move on with my day. Except for two periods of time when the thoughts were so intrusive and compelling I was afraid to move; as though every action was a step towards death. When I was a teenager, and the past two months.

I don’t want to die; I can’t stop thinking about it.

Gallows or guillotine? Strung up, or cut down?

I need to cut my hair. For spiritual growth; to focus and ground myself; to re-centre and look towards the future. I don’t want to cut my hair. No one has died. I haven’t spoken to my family in one year, and while the wound is still raw, I don’t miss them. I don’t think my sparsely acknowledged spiritual needs are enough of a justification for me to alter my corporeal form.

Most importantly, I’m concerned that if I do, I’ll still be afraid to indulge my spiritualism, and myself.

The cards say that my state of mind is being noticed by more people in my life than I realise. Change is necessary, but so is discipline. Focusing on what was lost causes you to overlook the abundance that remains. The spirit path is ever-present; the amount of merit is balanced by the depth of fortitude. Go out into the world to become whole.

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