An Article: Shrouded History
Vice Magazine South Africa

Vice used to be published and circulated for free in South Africa many years ago. I considered it a pretty trashy, over-purposely grungy and obnoxious magazine.

Now that I have a soft spot for Vice photographer Richard Kern my understanding and appreciation for the magazine and the culture it cultivates has changed.
I used to pick up Vice, page through it and put it back down; this article, and its images, caught my eye and I’ve kept them in some file for the last 8 or 9 years.

Written in true Vice style and with an excessive vocabulary which ironically mirrors the age-old history of the topic it discusses via satyr, it’s a very nice compilation of information of the veil which truly does have a crooked history.

Lets take a look behind the veil…
Sometimes around the days when it was fine to throw slaughtered pigs into the crick behind the factory, the bridal veil outsourced its power to the wedding dress. The latter gets all the credit these days for a lady in white’s blushing beauty, but really, that’s bullshit. The veil contains the secret lore of marriage rites, its origins so arcane even the smartest historians of head lace do not see eye to eye on its inception.
Is the veil a quick derivation of the canopy under which a middle eastern bride and groom of yore set their forevermores, hand held somewhat apocalyptically by four members of the wedding party? Or was it perhaps invented for the crusaders, who upon returning from slaying vile heathens were presented with maidens, face-swathed to hide their probable homeliness.
Regardless, the veil begat lots of rituals referring to death rites and shrouds, the womanly triumvirate of blood (of period, of deflowering, of child birth, as demonstrated with the colour red), hiding sadness and other seemingly behaviors or appearances and preventing a women, a natural conduit for evil, from possession.
Lets lift some mystery from this gossamer delusion with the following compendium of veil-trivia bits and bobs.

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 A bridal veil is more like a gimp hood among the Berber folk in Morocco. The bride is dressed from neck up like a fancy execution victim, donning an attractive square red sack into which a long thin cushion is stuffed, along with her head. Called a “aãbroq”, the pillow case mask get up goes down to her chest, and just to make extra sure she won’t be showing any skin from the collar bone up, she is sewn into it. It is not to be removed through out the three-day ceremony, to protect her otherwise easy entered face orifices from crabby anthropomorphic spirits who are known to posses or even kill a bride if they wake up on the wrong side of the bed. It only comes off (maybe) when the couple goes home to do you-know-what.

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Veil popularity vanished for several centuries after the time of the Roman hair dart. Early Anglo-Saxon brides preferred the Ren-faire look, with garlands of flowers crowning their free-flowing locks. Early Christians held a square net, called a care-cloth (a pale rip-off of the Jewish Chuppah), over the bride and groom while the service was performed. During Renaissance and Elizebethian times, lots  of ladies married in glorified bathing caps trimmed with all sorts of flouncy girlie stuff.  

In the Slavic areas of Europe in the 1500’s brides were given extra head gear on their special day to distinguish their new status, since daily veils for women were customary. This “capping ceremony” was a puberty initiation ritual during which an older married woman removed the brides headdress and chopped her hair off while she and her fair maids sang maudlin dirges for her tresses (metaphoric for impending loss of cherry, of course). It was generally assumed the sadness was a sham and the Slav teens were anxious to get laid.

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In Random, Poland, it was customary for the bride to run away screaming when it was time for the shearing and to be forcibly returned to a sheep skin covered box, where she finally became a matron. For Polish brides, this was only the beginning for the ritualistic embarrassment. After a wedding ceremony, bridesmaids would put on red veils and blind fold the bride with her white one, rub honey on her mouth and throw wheat at her while the groom escorted her to their home. (Greeks also enjoyed red veils, as it was the colour associated with Hymen- which is not only that sexy membrane, but also their God of marriage).

Veils continued their shame spiral and weren’t worn at all for white weddings of the 18th century. Western brides instead opted for hats, bonnets, wreaths, tiaras, jewels, lace and ribbons. But then, one magical day, technological advances in clothing manufacture made veils feasible again. Tulle, once reserved for the lace machine of 1768, became handy and cheap thanks to new fangled machinery. And then came Queen Victoria who was  the first modern monarch to wear a veil. After her, no self-respecting lass would be seen without one.

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In the Christian church of Abyssinia, a happy couple are locked away for their marriage, during which the new wife has to wear a black veil over her face the entire time.  The 19th century saw the invention of another fun Christian veil game in Lorraine, France. The bride and her three pals were covered with a large white cloth, the peaks of their head gear adjusted to the same height. Using a twig, the groom had to prod the body he thought was his future sweetie. If he selected the wrong girl his punishment was to dance with her all evening, not with his bride.

The record for longest veil worn down the aisle was, for more than a decade, a 25-footer that was propped on the head of Princess Dianna. But in 2004 monstrous demon Star Jones decided she’s top the record with a crystal-encrusted 27-footer. Maybe one day she’ll further follow Diannas example and get decapitated in a car wreck.

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