IN DIFFERENT RELIGIONS
veil is an article of clothing or hanging cloth that is intended
to cover some part of the head or face, or an object of some significance.
Veiling has a long history in European, Asian, and African societies.
The practice has been prominent in different forms in Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam. The practice of veiling is especially associated with
women and sacred objects, though in some cultures it is men rather
than women who are expected to wear a veil. Besides its enduring
religious significance, veiling continues to play a role in some
modern secular contexts, such as wedding customs.
statue of a veiled Vestal Virgin
bronze statuette of a veiled and masked dancer, 2nd–3rd century
Elite women in ancient Mesopotamia and in the Greek and Persian
empires wore the veil as a sign of respectability and high status.
The earliest attested reference to veiling is found a Middle Assyrian
law code dating from between 1400 and 1100 BC. Assyria had explicit
sumptuary laws detailing which women must veil and which women must
not, depending upon the woman's class, rank, and occupation in society.
Female slaves and prostitutes were forbidden to veil and faced harsh
penalties if they did so.
Middle Assyrian law code states :
40. A wife-of-a-man, or [widows], or [Assyrian] women who go out
into the main thoroughfare [shall not have] their heads [bare].
A prostitute shall not veil herself, her head shall be bare. Whoever
sees a veiled prostitute shall seize her, secure witnesses, and
bring her to the palace entrance. They shall not take her jewelry;
he who has seized her shall take her clothing; they shall strike
her 50 blows with rods; they shall pour hot pitch over her head.
And if a man should see a veiled prostitute and release her and
not bring her to the palace entrance: they shall strike that man
50 blows with rods; the one who informs against him shall take his
clothing; they shall pierce his ears, thread (them) on a cord, tie
(it) at his back; he shall perform the king’s service for
one full month. Slave-women shall not veil themselves, and he who
should see a veiled slave-woman shall seize her and bring her to
the palace entrance: they shall cut off her ears; he who seizes
her shall take her clothing.
was thus not only a marker of aristocratic rank, but also served
to "differentiate between 'respectable' women and those who
were publicly available". The veiling of matrons was also customary
in ancient Greece. Between 550 and 323 B.C.E respectable women in
classical Greek society were expected to seclude themselves and
wear clothing that concealed them from the eyes of strange men.
Mycenaean Greek term, a-pu-ko-wo-ko, possibly meaning "headband
makers" or "craftsmen of horse veil", and written
in Linear B syllabic script, is also attested since ca. 1300 BC.
Greek and Hellenistic statues sometimes depict Greek women with
both their head and face covered by a veil. Caroline Galt and Lloyd
Llewellyn-Jones have both argued from such representations and literary
references that it was commonplace for women (at least those of
higher status) in ancient Greece to cover their hair and face in
public. Roman women were expected to wear veils as a symbol of the
husband's authority over his wife; a married woman who omitted the
veil was seen as withdrawing herself from marriage. In 166 BC, consul
Sulpicius Gallus divorced his wife because she had left the house
unveiled, thus allowing all to see, as he said, what only he should
see. Unmarried girls normally didn't veil their heads, but matrons
did so to show their modesty and chastity, their pudicitia. Veils
also protected women against the evil eye, it was thought.
veil called flammeum was the most prominent feature of the costume
worn by the bride at Roman weddings. The veil was a deep yellow
color reminiscent of a candle flame. The flammeum also evoked the
veil of the Flaminica Dialis, the Roman priestess who could not
divorce her husband, the high priest of Jupiter, and thus was seen
as a good omen for lifelong fidelity to one man. The Romans apparently
thought of the bride as being "clouded over with a veil"
and connected the verb nubere (to be married) with nubes, the word
of populations resulted in a convergence of the cultural practices
of Greek, Persian, and Mesopotamian empires and the Semitic peoples
of the Middle East. Veiling and seclusion of women appear to have
established themselves among Jews and Christians, before spreading
to urban Arabs of the upper classes and eventually among the urban
masses. In the rural areas it was common to cover the hair, but
not the face.
of Isabeau of Bavaria, queen of France, wearing veiling
For many centuries, until around 1175, Anglo-Saxon and then Anglo-Norman
women, with the exception of young unmarried girls, wore veils that
entirely covered their hair, and often their necks up to their chins
(see wimple). Only in the Tudor period (1485), when hoods became
increasingly popular, did veils of this type become less common.
This varied greatly from one country to another. In Italy, veils,
including face veils, were worn in some regions until the 1970s.
Women in southern Italy often covered their heads to show that they
were modest, well-behaved and pious. They generally wore a cuffia
(cap), then the fazzoletto (kerchief/head scarves) a long triangular
or rectangular piece of cloth that could be tied in various way,
and sometimes covered the whole face except the eyes, sometimes
bende (lit. swaddles, bandages) or a wimple underneath too.
centuries, European women have worn sheer veils, but only under
certain circumstances. Sometimes a veil of this type was draped
over and pinned to the bonnet or hat of a woman in mourning, especially
at the funeral and during the subsequent period of "high mourning".
They would also have been used, as an alternative to a mask, as
a simple method of hiding the identity of a woman who was traveling
to meet a lover, or doing anything she didn't want other people
to find out about. More pragmatically, veils were also sometimes
worn to protect the complexion from sun and wind damage (when un-tanned
skin was fashionable), or to keep dust out of a woman's face, much
as the keffiyeh(worn by men) is used today.
Coptic Christian woman wearing a veil (1918)
In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam the concept of covering the
head is or was associated with propriety and modesty. Most traditional
depictions of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, show her veiled.
During the Middle Ages most European married women covered their
hair rather than their face, with a variety of styles of wimple,
kerchiefs and headscarves. Veiling, covering the hair, rather than
the face, was a common practice with church-going women until the
1960s, Catholic women typically using lace, and a number of very
traditional churches retain the custom. Bonnets were the rule in
non-Catholic churches. Lace face-veils are still often worn by female
relatives at funerals in some Catholic countries. In Orthodox Judaism,
married women cover their hair for reasons of modesty; many Orthodox
Jewish women wear headscarves (tichel) for this purpose.
Byzantine literature expressed rigid norms pertaining to veiling
of women, which have been influenced by Persian traditions, although
there is evidence to suggest that they differed significantly from
actual practice. Since Islam identified with the monotheistic religions
practiced in the Byzantine and Sassanian empires, in the aftermath
of the early Muslim conquests veiling of women was adopted as an
appropriate expression of Qur'anic ideals regarding modesty and
piety. Veiling gradually spread to upper-class Arab women, and eventually,
it became widespread among Muslim women in cities throughout the
Middle East. Veiling of Arab Muslim women became especially pervasive
under Ottoman rule as a mark of rank and exclusive lifestyle, and
Istanbul of the 17th century witnessed differentiated dress styles
that reflected geographical and occupational identities. Women in
rural areas were much slower to adopt veiling because the garments
interfered with their work in the fields. Since wearing a veil was
impractical for working women, "a veiled woman silently announced
that her husband was rich enough to keep her idle." By the
19th century, upper-class urban Muslim and Christian women in Egypt
wore a garment which included a head cover and a burqa (muslin cloth
that covered the lower nose and the mouth). Up to the first half
of the twentieth century, rural women in the Maghreb and Egypt put
on a face veil when they visited urban areas, "as a sign of
practice of veiling gradually declined in much of the Muslim world
during the 20th century before making a comeback in recent decades
The choice, or the forced option for women to veil remains controversial,
whether a personal choice as an outward sign of religious devotion,
or a forced one because of extremist groups that require a veil,
under severe penalty, even death. The motives and reasons for wearing
a hijab are wide and various, but ultimately depend on each individual
person's situation and can not be said to come from any one distinct
reason or motive. Although religion can be a common reason for choosing
to veil, the practice also reflects political and personal conviction,
so that it can serve as a medium through which personal choices
can be revealed, in countries where veiling is indeed a choice,
such as Turkey.
for men :
man wearing a veil
Among the Tuareg, Songhai, Hausa, and Fulani of West Africa, women
do not traditionally wear the veil, while men do. Male veiling was
also common among the Berber Sanhaja tribes. The North African male
veil, which covers the mouth and sometimes part of the nose, is
called litham in Arabic and tagelmust by the Tuareg. Tuareg boys
start wearing the veil at the onset of puberty and veiling is regarded
as a mark of manhood. It is considered improper for a man to appear
unveiled in front of elders, especially those from his wife's family.
African rock engravings depicting human faces with eyes but no mouth
or nose suggest that the origins of litham are not only pre-Islamic
but even pre-historic. Wearing of the litham is not viewed as a
religious requirement, although it was apparently believed to provide
magical protection against evil forces. In practice, the litham
has served as protection from the dust and extremes of temperature
characterizing the desert environment. Its use by the Almoravids
gave it a political significance during their conquests.
Indian groom in traditional attire, with Sherwani, Sehra
In some parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, men wear
a sehra on their wedding day. This is a male veil covering the whole
face and neck. The sehra is made from either flowers or beads. The
most common Sehra (headdress) is made from fresh marigolds. The
groom wears this throughout the day concealing his face even during
the wedding ceremony. In Northern India today you can see the groom
arriving on a horse with the sehra wrapped around his head.
and religion :
Biblical references include:
mitpachat (Ruth 3:15; marg., "sheet" or "apron;"
R.V., "mantle"). In Isaiah 3:22 this word is plural,
rendered "wimples;" R.V., "shawls" i.e.
(Isaiah 25:7; in Isaiah 28:20 rendered "covering").
The word denotes something spread out and covering or concealing
something else (compare with 2 Corinthians 3:13–15).
(Exodus 34:33, 35), the veil on the face of Moses. This verse
should be read, "And when Moses had done speaking with
them, he put a veil on his face," as in the Revised Version.
When Moses spoke to them he was without the veil; only when
he ceased speaking he put on the veil (compare with 2 Corinthians
(Exodus 26:31–35), the veil of the tabernacle and the
temple, which hung between the holy place and the most holy
(2 Chronicles 3:14). In the temple, a partition wall separated
these two places. In it were two folding doors, which are
supposed to have been always open, the entrance being concealed
by the veil which the high priest lifted when he entered into
the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. This veil was rent
when Christ died on the cross (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38;
(Genesis 24:65). Rebecca "took a veil and covered herself."
(See also Genesis 38:14,19) Hebrew women generally appeared
in public with the face visible (Genesis 12:14; 24:16; 29:10;
1 Samuel 1:12).
(Song of Solomon 5:7, R.V. "mantle;" Isaiah 3:23).
The word probably denotes some kind of cloak or wrapper.
the veil which hung before the entrance to the holy place
20:16, which the King James Version renders as: "And unto Sarah
he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver:
behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are
with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved" has been
interpreted in one source as implied advice to Sarah to conform
to a supposed custom of married women, and wear a complete veil,
covering the eyes as well as the rest of the face, but the phrase
is generally taken to refer not to Sarah's eyes, but to the eyes
of others, and to be merely a metaphorical expression concerning
vindication of Sarah (NASB, RSV), silencing criticism (GWT), allaying
suspicions (NJB), righting a wrong (BBE, NLT), covering or recompensing
the problem caused her (NIV, New Life Version, NIRV, TNIV, JB),
a sign of her innocence (ESV, CEV, HCSB). The final phrase in the
verse, which KJV takes to mean "she was reproved", is
taken by almost all other versions to mean instead "she was
vindicated", and the word, which KJV interprets as "he"
(Abraham), is interpreted as "it" (the money). Thus, the
general view is that this passage has nothing to do with material
Praying Jewish woman wearing Tichel
After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the synagogues
that were established took the design of the Tabernacle as their
plan. The Ark of the Law, which contains the scrolls of the Torah,
is covered with an embroidered curtain or veil called a parokhet.
covering a chalice and diskos on the prothesis
in the Basilique Saint-Denis showing veiling to either side of the
altar cross veiled during Holy Week
burse and chalice veil laid over the holy vessels. There is also
a maniple sitting to the right of the chalice
Veiling of objects :
Among Christian churches which have a liturgical tradition, several
different types of veils are used. These veils are often symbolically
tied to the veils in the Tabernacle in the wilderness and in Solomon's
Temple. The purpose of these veils was not so much to obscure as
to shield the most sacred things from the eyes of sinful men. In
Solomon's Temple the veil was placed between the "Inner Sanctuary"
and the "Holy of Holies". According to the New Testament,
this veil was torn when Jesus Christ died on the cross.
Tabernacle veil :
Used to cover the church tabernacle, particularly in the Roman Catholic
tradition but in some others as well, when the Eucharist is actually
stored in it. The veil is used to remind worshipers that the (usually
metal) tabernacle cabinet echoes the tabernacle tent of the Hebrew
Scriptures, and it signals that the tabernacle is actually in use.
It may be of any liturgical color, but is most often white (always
appropriate for the Eucharist), cloth of gold or silver (which may
substitute for any liturgical color aside from violet), or the liturgical
color of the day (red, green or violet). It may be simple, unadorned
linen or silk, or it may be fringed or otherwise decorated. It is
often designed to match the vestments of the celebrants.
2. Ciborium veil :
The ciborium is a goblet-like metal vessel with a cover, used in
the Roman Catholic Church and some others to hold the consecrated
hosts of the Eucharist when, for instance, it is stored in the tabernacle
or when communion is to be distributed. It may be veiled with a
white cloth, usually silk. This veiling was formerly required but
is now optional. In part, it signals that the ciborium actually
contains the consecrated Eucharist at the moment.
3. Chalice veil :
During Eucharistic celebrations, a veil is often used to cover the
chalice and paten to keep dust and flying insects away from the
bread and wine. Often made of rich material, the chalice veils have
not only a practical purpose, but are also intended to show honor
to vessels used for the sacrament.
In the West, a single chalice veil is normally used. The veil will
usually be the same material and color as the priest's vestments,
though it may also be white. It covers the chalice and paten when
not actually in use on the altar.
In the East, three veils are used: one for the chalice, one for
the diskos (paten), and a third one (the Aër) is used to cover
both. The veils for the chalice and diskos are usually square with
four lappets hanging down the sides, so that when the veil is laid
out flat it will be shaped like a cross. The Aër is rectangular
and usually larger than the chalice veil used in the West. The Aër
also figures prominently in other liturgical respects.
4. Humeral veil :
The humeral veil is used in both Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches
during the liturgy of Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed
Sacrament, and on some other occasions when special respect is shown
to the Eucharist. From the Latin for "shoulders," it is
an oblong piece of cloth worn as a sort of shawl, used to symbolize
a more profound awareness of the respect due to the Eucharist by
shielding the celebrant's hands from actually contacting the vessel
holding the Eucharist, either a monstrance or ciborium, or in some
cases to shield the vessel itself from the eyes of participants.
It is worn only by bishops, priests or deacons.
5. Vimpa :
A vimpa is a veil or shawl worn over the shoulders of servers who
carry the miter and crosier in Roman Catholic liturgical functions
when they are not being used by the bishop.
6. Chancel veil :
In the early liturgies, there was often a veil that separated the
sanctuary from the rest of the church (again, based upon the biblical
description of the Tabernacle). In the Byzantine liturgy this veil
developed into the iconostasis, but a veil or curtain is still used
behind the Royal Doors (the main doors leading into the sanctuary),
and is opened and closed at specific times during the liturgy. In
the West, it developed into the Rood Veil, and later the Rood Screen,
and finally the chancel rail, the low sanctuary railing in those
churches that still have this. In some of the Eastern Churches (for
instance, the Syrian liturgy) the use of a veil across the entire
sanctuary has been retained.
7. Lenten veiling :
Some churches veil their crosses during Passiontide with a fine
semi-transparent mesh. The color of the veil may be black, red,
purple, or white, depending upon the liturgical day and practice
of the church. In traditional churches, there will sometimes be
curtains placed to either side of the altar.
The Veil of our Lady is a liturgical feast celebrating the protection
afforded by the intercessions of the Virgin Mary.
by women :
in the Restored Reformed Church of Doornspijk
of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church wearing Christian headcoverings
Traditionally, in Christianity, women were enjoined to cover their
heads when praying both in church and at home, just as it was (and
still is) customary for men to remove their hat as a sign of respect.
Wearing a veil (also known as a headcovering) is seen as a sign
of humility before God, as well as a reminder of the bridal relationship
between Christ and the church. This practice is based on 1 Corinthians
11:4–16 in the Christian Bible, where St. Paul writes :
I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep
the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you
know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the
woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying
or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered
dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it
be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is
the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither
was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For
this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of
the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither
the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the
man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long
hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it
is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But
if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither
the churches of God.
Western Europe and North America, from the arrival of Christianity
to those lands to the start of the 20th century, women in most mainstream
Christian denominations wore head coverings during church services
(often in the form of a scarf, cap, veil or hat). These included
many Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian
Churches. In these denominations, the practice now continues in
isolated parishes where it is seen as a matter of etiquette, courtesy,
tradition or fashionable elegance.
veiling is still practiced, especially among those who wear plain
dress, such as Conservative Quakers and many Anabaptists (including
Mennonites, Hutterites, Old German Baptist Brethren, Apostolic Christians
and Amish). Moravian females wear a lace headcovering called a haube,
especially when serving as dieners. Many Holiness Christians who
practice the doctrine of outward holiness, also practice headcovering,
in addition to the Laestadian Lutheran Church, the Plymouth Brethren,
and the more conservative Scottish and Irish Presbyterian and Dutch
Reformed churches. Traditionalist Catholics still follow it, generally
as a matter of custom and biblically approved aptness; some also
suppose that St. Paul's directive is in full force today as an ordinance
of its own right, despite the teaching of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith's pronouncement on the matter, which stated
that practice of headcovering for women was a matter of ecclesiastical
discipline and not of Divine law;
many traditional Eastern Orthodox Churches, and in some conservative
Protestant churches as well, the custom of women's covering their
heads continues in church (and when praying privately at home).
by nuns :
A veil over the hair rather than the face forms part of the headdress
of some orders of nuns or religious sisters in Catholicism, Lutheranism
and Anglicanism; this is why a woman who becomes a nun is said "to
take the veil". In medieval times married women normally covered
their hair outside the house, and a nun's veil is based on secular
medieval styles, often reflecting the fashion of widows in their
attire. In many institutes, a white veil is used as the "veil
of probation" during novitiate, and a dark veil for the "veil
of profession" once religious vows are taken; the color scheme
varies with the color scheme of the habit of the order. A veil of
consecration, longer and fuller, is used by some orders for final
profession of solemn vows.
are the female counterparts of monks, and many monastic orders of
women have retained the veil. Regarding other institutes of religious
sisters who are not cloistered but who work as teachers, nurses
or in other "active" apostolates outside of a nunnery
or monastery, some wear the veil, while some others have abolished
the use of the veil, and a few never had a veil to start with, but
used a bonnet-style headdress as in the case of St. Elizabeth Ann
fullest versions of the nun's veil cover the top of the head and
flow down around and over the shoulders. In western Christianity,
it does not wrap around the neck or face. In those orders that retain
one, the starched white covering about the face, neck, and shoulders
is known as a wimple and is a separate garment.
Catholic Church has revived the ancient practice of allowing women
to be consecrated by their bishop as a consecrated virgin. These
women are set aside as sacred persons who belong only to Christ
and the service of the church. The veil is a bridal one, because
the velatio virginum primarily signified the newly consecrated virgin
as the Bride of Christ. At one point this veil was called the flammeum
because it was supposed to remind the virgin of the indissoluble
nuptial bond she was contracting with Christ. The wearing of the
flammeum for the sacred virgin Bride of Christ arose from the bridal
attire of the strictest pagan marriage which did not permit of divorce
at the time. The flammeum was a visible reminder that divorce was
not possible with Christ, their Divine Spouse. Consecrated virgins
are under the direct care of the local bishop, without belonging
to a particular order, and they receive the veil as a bridal sign
has also been renewed interest in the last half century in the ancient
practice of women and men dedicating themselves as anchorites or
hermits, and there is a formal process whereby such persons can
seek recognition of their vows by the local bishop; a veil for these
women would be traditional.
Lutheran and Anglican women's religious orders also wear a veil,
differing according to the traditions of each order.
Eastern Orthodoxy and in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church,
a veil called an epanokamelavkion is used by both nuns and monks,
in both cases covering completely the kamilavkion, a cylindrical
hat they both wear. In Slavic practice, when the veil is worn over
the hat, the entire headdress is referred to as a klobuk. Nuns wear
an additional veil under the klobuk, called an apostolnik, which
is drawn together to cover the neck and shoulders as well as the
head, leaving the face itself open.
in the predominantly Islamic country of Algeria wearing a haïk,
a type of veil
A variety of headdresses worn by Muslim women and girls in accordance
with hijab (the principle of dressing modestly) are sometimes referred
to as veils. The principal aim of the Muslim veil is to cover the
Awrah (parts of the body that are considered private). Many of these
garments cover the hair, ears and throat, but do not cover the face.
on geography and culture, the veil is referenced and worn in different
ways. The khimar is a type of headscarf. The niqab and burqa are
two kinds of veils that cover most of the face except for a slit
or hole for the eyes. In Algeria, a larger veil called the haïk
includes a triangular panel to cover the lower part of the face.
In the Arabian Peninsula and parts of North Africa (specifically
Saudi Arabia), the abaya is worn constructed like a loose robe covering
everything but the face itself. In another location, such as Iran,
the chador is worn as the semicircles of fabric are draped over
the head like a shawl and held in place under the neck by hand.
The two terms for veiling that are directly mentioned in the Quran
is the jilbab and the khimar. In these references, the veiling is
meant to promote modesty by covering the genitals and breasts of
Afghan burqa covers the entire body, obscuring the face completely,
except for a grille or netting over the eyes to allow the wearer
to see. The boshiya is a veil that may be worn over a headscarf;
it covers the entire face and is made of a sheer fabric so the wearer
is able to see through it. It has been suggested that the practice
of wearing a veil – uncommon among the Arab tribes prior to
the rise of Islam – originated in the Byzantine Empire, and
Bedouin living in Southern Palestine and the Sinai peninsula also
use face veils. The traditional veils in Palestine are short and
decorated with coins. In northern Sinai, the veil sections are longer
and often contain embroidery, chains, pendants, beads, The Bedouin-style
mask is known as al-maghrun, al-baghrah or al-niqab.
the UAE, Qatar and Oman, a face mask known as the burghu is used,
and Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, the batulah is used.
Central Asian sedentary Muslim areas (today Uzbekistan and Tajikistan)
women wore veils which when worn the entire face was shrouded, called
Paranja or faranji. The traditional veil in Central Asia worn before
modern times was the faranji but it was banned by the Soviet Communists.
The wearing of head and especially face coverings by Muslim women
has raised political issues in the West; including in Quebec, and
across Europe. Countries and territories that have banned or partially
banned the veil include, among others:
France, where full-face veils (burqa and niqab) have been banned
in public places since April 2011, with a 150-euro fine for breaching
the ban. All religious veils have been banned in public schools.
• Belgium, also banned full face veils in
public places, in July 2011.
• Spain has several towns and cities which
have banned the full face veil, including Barcelona.
• Russia's Stavropol region has announced
a ban on hijabs in government schools, which was challenged but
upheld by the Russian Supreme Court.
Places where headscarves continue to be a contentious political
issue include :
United Kingdom, where the Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne called
for a national debate about headscarves and their role in public
environments in Britain.
• Quebec, where there is much discussion
as to whether the province should allow people wearing a veil over
their face to vote without removing it.
• Europe, with a large Muslim population,
the European Court of Human Rights has allowed countries to ban
full-face veils, as it does not breach the European Convention on
Indian religions :
In Indian subcontinent, from 1st century B.C. societies advocated
the use of the veil for married Hindu women which came to be known
as Ghoonghat. Buddhists attempted to counter this growing practice
around 3rd century CE. Rational opposition against veiling and seclusion
from spirited ladies resulted in system not becoming popular for
several centuries. Under the Medieval Islamic Mughal Empire, various
aspects of veiling and seclusion of women was adopted, such as the
concept of Purdah and Zenana, partly as an additional protection
for women. Purdah became common in the 15th and 16th century, as
both Vidyapati and Chaitanya mention it. Sikhism was highly critical
of all forms of strict veiling, Guru Amar Das condemned it and rejected
seclusion and veiling of women, which saw decline of veiling among
some classes during late medieval period. This was stressed by Bhagat
stay, O daughter-in-law - do not cover your face with a veil. In
the end, this shall not bring you even half a shell. The one before
you used to veil her face; do not follow in her footsteps. The only
merit in veiling your face is that for a few days, people will say,
"What a noble bride has come". Your veil shall be true
only if you skip, dance and sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord.
Says Kabeer, the soul-bride shall win, only if she passes her life
singing the Lord's Praises.
Bhagat Kabir, Guru Granth Sahib 484
Bridal veils :
bride wearing a typical wedding veil
The veil is one of the oldest parts of a bridal ensemble, dating
as far back as Greek and Roman times, to hide a bride "from
evil spirits who might want to thwart her happiness" or to
frighten the spirits away. The veil also served to hide the bride's
face from the groom prior to the wedding, as superstition says that
it is bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony.
As weddings became more religious ceremonies in Western culture,
the veil was used to symbolize modesty before God, obedience, and
when the veil was white, chastity. By the 17th and 18th century,
bridal veils were occasionally worn, but were generally out of fashion
in Britain and North America, with brides choosing from many other
options instead. However, the bridal veil returned to popularity
after Queen Victoria wore a veil in her wedding to Prince Albert
in 1840. The bridal veil became a status symbol during the Victorian
era, and the weight, length, and quality of the veil indicated the
bride's social status. Bridal veils worn over the face were not
common until the second half of the 19th century.
tradition of a veiled bride's face continues today wherein, a virgin
bride, especially in Christian or Jewish culture, enters the marriage
ritual with a veiled face and head, and remains fully veiled, both
head and face, until the ceremony concludes. After the full conclusion
of the wedding ceremony, either the bride's father lifts the veil,
presenting the bride to the groom who then kisses her, or the new
groom lifts her face veil in order to kiss her. Some see the lifting
of the veil as symbolically consummating the marriage, representing
another thin membrane (the hymen) that will be physically penetrated
on the wedding night.
modern weddings, the lifting of the veil at the conclusion of the
ceremony to present the bride to the groom may not occur, since
it may be considered sexist for the bride to have her face covered
through the ceremony, whether or not the veil is worn to symbolize
virginity. Often the veil is worn solely as a fashion accessory
as part of the bridal attire, instead of for its symbolism. A bridal
veil is not normally worn during a civil marriage ceremony, nor
when the bride is remarrying.
Scandinavia, the bridal veil is usually worn under a traditional
crown and does not cover the bride’s face; instead, the veil
is attached to and hangs from the back.
Orthodox Jewish wedding in Vienna, where the bride is wearing a
In Judaism, the tradition of the bride wearing a veil during the
wedding ceremony dates back to biblical times. According to the
Torah in Genesis 24:65, Isaac is brought Rebekah to marry by his
father Abraham's servant, and Rebekah took her veil and covered
herself when Isaac was approaching.
a traditional Jewish wedding, just before the ceremony, the badeken
takes place, at which the groom places the veil over the bride's
face, and either he or the officiating rabbi gives her a blessing.
The veil stays on her face until just before the end of the wedding
ceremony – when they are legally married according to Jewish
law – then the groom helps lift the veil off her face. The
most often cited interpretation for the badeken is that, according
to Genesis 29, when Jacob went to marry Rachel, his father-in-law
Laban tricked him into marrying Leah, Rachel's older and homelier
say that the veiling ceremony takes place to make sure that the
groom is marrying the right bride. Some say that as the groom places
the veil over his bride, he makes an implicit promise to clothe
and protect her. Finally, by covering her face, the groom recognizes
that he is marrying the bride for her inner beauty; while looks
will fade with time, his love will be everlasting. In some ultra-orthodox
communities, it is a custom for the bride to wear an opaque veil
as she is escorted to the groom. This is said to show her complete
willingness to enter into the marriage and her absolute trust that
she is marrying the right man.
ancient Judaism, the lifting of the veil took place just prior to
the consummation of the marriage in sexual union. The uncovering
or unveiling that takes place in the wedding ceremony is a symbol
of what will take place in the marriage bed. Just as the two become
one through their words spoken in wedding vows, so these words are
a sign of the physical oneness that they will consummate later on.
The lifting of the veil is a symbol and anticipation of this.
Christian minister marries a groom and bride, the latter of whom
is wearing a wedding veil in the church
In Christian theology, St. Paul's words concerning how marriage
symbolizes the union of Christ and His Church underlie part of the
tradition of veiling in the marriage ceremony. In Catholic traditions,
the veil is seen as "a visible sign that the woman is under
the authority of a man" and that she is submitting herself
to her husband's Christ-like leadership and loving care.
removing of the veil can be seen as a symbol of the temple veil
that was torn when Christ died, giving believers direct access to
God, and in the same way, the bride and the groom, once married,
now have full access to one another.
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints :
In 2019 a letter by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, Dallin H. Oaks and
Henry B. Eyring, declared that "Veiling the faces of deceased,
'endowed' [members who have been through a temple ceremony] women
prior to burial is optional"; previously it had been required.
The letter went on to say that such veiling, "may be done if
the sister expressed such a desire while she was living. In cases
where the wishes of the deceased sister on this matter are not known,
her family should be consulted." That same year veiling of
women during part of the temple endowment ceremony was also made
optional where it had been required before.
Veils remained a part of Western mourning dress customs into the
early 20th century. The tradition of widow's veiling has its roots
in nun's attire, which symbolized modesty and chastity, and the
mourning veil became a way to demonstrate sincerity and piety. The
mourning veil was commonly seen as a means of shielding the mourner
and hiding her grief, and, on the contrary, seen by some women as
a means of publicly expressing their emotions. Widows in the Victorian
era were expected to wear mourning veils for at least three months
and up to two and a half years, depending on the custom.
veils have also been sometimes perceived as expressions of elegance
or even sex appeal. In a 19th-century American etiquette book one
finds: "Black is becoming, and young widows, fair, plump, and
smiling, with their roguish eyes sparkling under their black veils
are very seducing".
One view is that as a religious item, it is intended to honor a
person, object or space. The actual sociocultural, psychological,
and sociosexual functions of veils have not been studied extensively
but most likely include the maintenance of social distance and the
communication of social status and cultural identity.
veil also has symbolic interpretations, as something partially concealing,
disguising, or obscuring.
The English word veil ultimately originates from Latin velum, which
also means "sail," from Proto-Indo-European *weg?slom,
from the verbal root *wegh- "to drive, to move or ride in a
vehicle" (compare way and wain) and the tool/instrument suffix
*-slo-, because the sail makes the ship move. Compare the diminutive
form vexillum, and the Slavic cognate veslo "oar, paddle",
attested in Czech and Serbo-Croatian.