Ancient superstition decrees that a person’s hair contains their ‘essential spirit’ (this could be a forerunner of what we now call DNA). Therefore, anyone who has a strand or lock of your hair has the power to command your person and bewitch you. So should you give such a valuable key to your life and soul to another person, personal love and deep trust are involved. Accordingly, parents who keep a lock of their child’s hair into the child’s adulthood must guard it with extreme care, lest it be damaged, or worse, stolen. The child’s essential spirit could be in danger from a stranger with evil intent.
Male hair is often perceived to be associated with strength. The obvious example is Samson the Israelite, but there are also many jokes about hairy-chested men (and a relevant superstition foretells that men with hairy arms have a future of great riches).
Hair colour sometimes unfairly pigeonholes the owner’s personality: red: fiery and energetic; dark (brown or black): brave, reliable, often successful; fair: possibly shy, timid; grey: wise.
Of course, the availability of mass-produced hair dyes has rather upset these assessments. (A survey reported that Americans spent $1.6 billion annually on hair colouring in order not to show grey.) A curious supposition that Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, had red hair nurtured the unfounded suspicion of red-haired people.
Even Shakespeare makes the connection, when, in As You Like It, Rosalind says of Orlando:
His hair is of the dissembling colour . . . and Celia replies: It is something browner than Judas’s . . .
The redhead (ginger, copper, auburn) is subject to other ancient and very dubious judgements: a fiery temper; an ardent lover; possibly an unfaithful husband; cruel by nature — if the beard is also red; and (somewhat unexpectedly) hopeless at churning butter!
Anyone nervous of ephemeral evil creatures must meticulously collect all clippings after a haircut and burn them. Leaving them lying about is an open invitation to witches, interfering spirits — and birds. The witches, now having part of your body, will cast spells to cause you harm. And passing birds could pick up some of your clippings and weave them into their nest, thus causing you to suffer debilitating headaches.