Henna or “Lawsonia Inermis” in Morocco
This thorny shrub of the lythraceae family, called mehandi in India, is imbued with seduction and magic in various ceremonies. The term henna, of Semitic origin, is linked to tenderness.
The ancient history of henna
Whether in ancient Crete and Greece, Mesopotamia, India or Pharaonic Egypt, its uses are varied.
The first henna tattoos are very old, Jews and early Christians used it to decorate female hands. Most often these ideograms honored both fertility and female sexuality.
The Assyrians used it at wedding ceremonies to decorate the nails and palms of the hands of future brides. In Egypt, the mummy of Ramses II was largely coated with hair, hands and feet.
It is certainly its medicinal and cosmetic virtues known since ancient times that allowed it to proliferate from Mesopotamia to Persia and then to Central Asia before reaching the Maghreb with Arab penetration.
Withstood tropical climates well, the shrub now flowers from the Maghreb to China, from sub-Saharan Africa to Oceania. In Morocco, it is in the south that it is exploited, notably in mountainous oases of Jbel Sagho, as in Tazzarine or Nkob.
Henna culture and harvest
If it can reach two meters in some countries, the henna shrub will rarely exceed one meter in the Saharan countries where its culture remains delicate.
The wet seasons are beneficial to it favouring young shoots which, once appeared, slow down its development.
It is thus quite naturally that henna likes tropical zones and that it grows there naturally, even if it does not like the excess of heat or freshness, periods during which its sheets can yellow and fall on the ground.
Depending on the climate, they are picked by hand two or three times a year when the shoots are ripe, then the leaves are dried naturally. It is once these are crushed several times with mortar that henna powder, mixed with water, can finally be part of the seductive arsenal used by women.
Virtues of the Paradise plant
Described by the Prophet as a plant of paradise, henna has many virtues considered beneficial and beneficial. The medicinal virtues of its tannin have long been known, particularly in Ayurvedic medicine.
Healing and anti-dandruff, antifungal, it provides effective dermal protection for the soles of the feet or palms of the hands, to dye and maintain hair. In Morocco and the Middle East, it is often used in the hammam by women.
In poultice, it treats eczema, boils, panaris, dermatoses or even chapped or painful sprains. In infusion it acts on ulcers and diarrhoea.
Muslim men sometimes dye their beards, but their wives and daughters remain the main users.
Over the centuries of its use, it has become an essential element in the lives of Moroccan women and often highlights their femininity during the many traditional ceremonies that punctuate their lives.
Rites of Ceremonies
Henna is traditionally used in India by women who under their resplendent ornaments rich in symbols hide the initials of their future husbands who will have to discover them during the wedding night.
Its use become cultural, it is associated with many legends and popular beliefs, providing protection against disease, the evil eye, evil fate and evil spirits, and it promotes luck. Thus it will be applied on the bodies of infants and young children circumcised as a protective symbol.
In Morocco, if certain traditions give way to modernism, henna always keeps a place of heart in the rituals associated with engagement, marriages, baptisms or circumcisions.
Use of henna during the wedding ritual
It is the wedding day itself that the bride’s headdress is made. Coated with henna, the hair is braided, surrounded by a silver ring, symbol of purity.
Symbol of fertility, an egg is broken on it. Symbol of happiness, two dates coated with honey are introduced into the hairstyle at the time of knotting it.
Generally, all the guests participate in this ritual and the hennayas, the officiants, do not idle to draw hands greedy for ephemeral beauty.
Henna tattoos practiced mainly on the hands are very long to perform, only women are able to indulge in them with all the patience desired.
From birth to circumcision
It is with many henna powders that are practiced the main rituals of protection of mother and infant from birth.
The mother henna-coated her hair before braiding them and like for marriage enclose them with a silver bracelet to protect herself from the evil eye.
Then, as a prelude to the rite of circumcision, one of these compositions supposed to bring happiness and richness is applied from birth on the umbilical cord of the baby once it is cut.
Fatima’s hand, rosettes, circles, lines, dots, moon crescents or spirals, all these ideograms are rich in a great symbolism often recalling very ancient Berber beliefs or divinities.
Natural henna does not present any particular danger or precaution, except a possible aesthetic skid, it is easy to make at home the preparation and to be applied with the appropriate equipment, syringe and rounded needle.
This simple preparation requires 2 tablespoons of natural henna and a small glass of water.
Mix henna powder well with gently pouring water. For a good application of the paste, it must be neither too dry nor too liquid. A few drops of lemon essential oil will strengthen the tattoo over time. For the hair, perfume the paste with orange blossom or rose water.
Palms of hands and soles of feet: coat the palms or soles of the dough and put them in plastic bags.
Be patient before cleaning; waiting time, about 1 hour, will depend on the hue and duration of the coloring.
Evolution of the tattoo on the skin
Ephemeral, the color of the tattoo will fade, its lifespan is about three weeks.
This can vary depending on the pH of the skin, dermal or beauty products and soaps used.
Climate and temperature will also play their part. Indeed in a cold and dry climate the tattoo has a greater expectation of duration than in a hot and humid climate supporting a more important cutaneous perspiration.
Black henna, risk of dangerous side effects
If it is attractive to have your hands drawn on certain squares or medinas in southern Morocco, you must remain vigilant about the use of this henna as a tattoo both in the Maghreb and in Europe.
Perhaps to satisfy a certain demand, tattooers choose to force the line by adding paraphenylene diamine commonly called PPD.
This chemical compound used for its dyeing properties in industrial dyes (rubber, hairdressing, tanning, photography…), can cause delayed allergies (15 days) at the place of drawings.
It is therefore better to avoid black henna tattoos and prefer, those without danger, natural henna…