Where Did Dreadlocks Originate? Here Are 9 Interesting Accounts

LovingkinkycurlsLocs, Protective Styling2 Comments

origin of dreadlocks

Do dreadlocks belong to any culture? This somewhat controversial hairstyle (due to spiritual & cultural affiliations) has been around for decades. Actually, there are multiple accounts on the origin of dreadlocks.

In this article we will look at nine different accounts on the origin of dreadlocks. Here is a summary;

The origin of dreadlocks can be traced to numerous places around the universe, including Egyptian mummies from ancient Egypt, Aztec Priests from South America, Afro-Buddhists in Japan, Vikings from Scandinavia, Maasai Morans from Kenya and Sadhus from India.

Dreadlocks naturally form when hair tangles up, and is not combed or cut. Over the years the hair becomes matted and knots against each other forming locks.

Dreadlocks can also be started methodically by a loctician, this is a much faster way of getting the hair locked and dare I say, results in ‘neater locks

With dreadlocks, they can become very long as they don’t involve a lot of manipulation. However, they still need a lot of care to reach their full potential.

Origin of Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks have been around for decades and can be traced to several civilizations. They do not belong to any culture and that is why there is a lot of controversy on the origin of dreadlocks.

With no documented evidence of the first ever dreadlocks, in this article, we will focus on nine groups of people/ cultures where early dreadlocks discoveries were made.

Egyptian Mummies

where did dreadlocks originate

In ancient Egypt, there are mummies who’ve been found with dreadlocks as well as art that features humans with dreadlocks. Interestingly, some mummies have been found with dreadlocks still intact on the skull. [1

Shiva, the dreadlocked deity from India

Dreadlocks have been tied to the Hindu deity, Shiva. There are unsupported claims that she’s the first being to have dreadlocks. Some early art on dreadlocks dates backs to India. In a lot of artistic depictions, Shiva is shown with dreadlocks.

Shiva is known as a Supreme deity that created the universe and protects it. Apparently, she gets her powers from, her Jata (dreadlocks).

The Jata (long hair) indicates, that this deity, travels between two worlds, knows how to yield fire, communicates with spirit.

It’s believed that dreadlocks attract cosmic energy and helps people connect to a higher power. The longer the dreads, the more significant their spiritual connection and devotion is.  

Himba Tribe

dreadlocks origin

The Himba Tribe are semi-nomadic herders who live in Namibia. They existed in the early 16th century. They hold their dreadlocks together with goat hair, butter and ground ochre pounded into otjize. It protects them from insects and the sun. They also sleep on wooden pillows taking care of their dreadlocks. [2]

Hair reflects whatever stage of life they’re in and, it usually starts in puberty for girls. The Himba believe that their hair is a reflection of their strength. Creating hairstyles is seen as a communal activity, and it symbolizes fertility. The more hair a Himba woman has, the more, fertile, she is.

Maori Tribe, New Zealand

The Maori people came to New Zealand in 1300CE and came from, a place called Tahiti. They used hair to convey their feelings. Like if they’ve lost a loved one, then they let their hair grow into dreadlocks until they’d have their vengeance.

The Maori believe that tapu (the top part of the head) is a sacred part. It isn’t touched, unnecessarily, then dreadlocks also take on a spiritual connection. [3]

Maori believe that pregnant women shouldn’t cut off their hair since this will stop their unborn baby from receiving strength and energy. On the other hand, tribe members that have lost their status and power would get their heads shaved like prisoners.

It’s said that a hero named Repu visited a legendary God called Rēhua with thick locks of hair on his head, and Tui birds flew from his dreadlocks.

Maasai Tribe, Kenya

where did dreadlocks originate

The Maasai Tribe are a semi-nomadic tribe found in Kenya, and they’re known for their warrior locs. Before a Maasai boy begins his journey as a Moran warrior, he starts growing out with his dreadlocks to symbolise the transition. They use natural extracts to make their locks red.

Aztec Priests, South America

In the Aztec religion, dreadlocks are symbolic.

Once people joined religious schools called Calmecacsthen, they’d cut off all their hair, symbolising a new chapter in their lives. They’d then never be allowed to cut off their hair (dreadlocks), unless they chose not to become priests.  A white ribbon covered in soot holds back the dreadlocks.

Dreadlocks showed their importance in society and symbolised their religious roles. A priest removed from his position of power and authority gets his dreadlocks cut off in front of a crowd [4].

Vikings, Europe

The Vikings existed in the 8th Century, and they came from the Scandinavia countries. They were pagans and believed in raiding and exploring other countries. Cultures that interacted with Vikings said that their hairstyles included dreadlocks.

Related Article: Microlocs Vs Sisterlocks, What is the difference?

Rastafari Movement, Jamaica

The Rastafari movement started in 1930 in Jamaica as a political and religious movement that has ties to mysticism, Protestants and Pan African ideals. They believe that Jah’s (God) ancestral home is in Ethiopia.

Rastafarians let their hair grow long before turning it into dreadlocks. They believe that spirituality is tied to their dreadlocks.  It also embodies their connection to nature since they don’t tamper with dreadlocks and let them grow naturally. Hence, the entire journey of growing dreadlocks is similar to a spiritual journey taken by the soul and the mind.

Rasta-Buddhists in Japan

This Rastafarian community started in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were drawn into this culture because Rastafarianism and Buddhism are a lifestyle and reject materialism, so they combined them.

With Rasta-Buddhists or Japanese Rastafarians in Japan, they’ve shaped their hair into dreadlocks because it’s symbolic of the order of nature.

The community includes people inspired by the Rastafari movement and believe that dreadlocks show that they aren’t tied to earthly material things but are more concerned with Jah.

Closely tied to this are Tibetian Monks that believe they receive power from their hair. Hence, they can never cut their hair.

Do these dreadlocks origin stories ring a bell? Did I miss any account? If so, would love to learn about it in the comments.

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2 Comments on “Where Did Dreadlocks Originate? Here Are 9 Interesting Accounts”

    1. That is an interesting one, I hadn’t come across it when doing my research. Will check it up. Thanks

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