For longer than I can remember, I am the one who cuts my husband’s hair. This is not because I am trained (you should see the dolls I have stored away that were victims of my earliest cosmetologist adventures), but he doesn’t seem to mind an occasionally bad hair day. Or week. Or however long it might take to grow out what can only be described as sheer ugly. Once, when I was finished, I bowled over with laughter and told him he looked like Sgt. Vince Carter from the old Gomer Pyle television show.
Why then would he let me near his hair with a pair of scissors? Maybe it’s because his father was a barber, and the convenience of getting one’s hair done in the privacy of their own home remains attractive (unlike some of my haircuts).
Yet for all my mistakes, he’s never once suggested I shave his head.
Which brings me to the topic of the tonsure, or a shaved head with only a crown of hair remaining. This style of haircut has religious significance and can be worn by a monk or a priest, someone who is ordained, or someone on his way to becoming ordained. For anyone interested in the stories I write, you will read about Franciscan “frays,” “friars,” or priests who have their heads thus shaved.
Prior to the Sixth Century, the time when tonsured heads became popular with clergy, this style was the mark of a slave. The correlation between slavery and sin is replaced by the decision to become a slave to righteousness, and thereby, free. To better understand the Christian scriptural context, I suggest you read from the Bible and the book of Romans, chapter six, verses sixteen through twenty-three.
Basically, regarding the tonsure, there are three styles:
1) Roman, or St. Peter – all the head is shaved save for a ribbon of hair that circles the head
2) Eastern, or St. Paul – the entire head is shaved
3) Celtic, or St. John – the only hair that is shaved is a patch over the forehead
How the Bishop Became a Barber (or The Ceremony of Tonsure Begins)
The first hairs cut are five snips in the form of a cross. After that, the remainder. It is said that the wider the circle of hair, the closer one is to priesthood. Therefore, an ordained priest could have a ribbon of hair as wide as the circle of the wafer of the Eucharist (bread used in commemoration of the Lord’s Supper).
This cut signifies a love of all things pertinent to the church (prayer, for example), a deliverance from worldly ambition, and a visual of the person’s dedication to these things.
Buddhist’s, Hindu’s, and others also practice tonsure as proof of their renunciation of the things of this world.
The tonsure is only one of many outward forms of inward transformation. My husband, while he does not sport a tonsure, is a man of integrity and devotion. He is the strength of our family, a patient father, and a diligent provider. If, however, it appears he does have this haircut of sacrifice, it is only because of my questionable cosmetology skill. It’s no wonder he never leaves me a tip!