Braiding the Weather

by Jessica Pape-Green

[This post was originally posted to WordPress and may have formatting errors as a result to being moved here.]

A picture of one side of my double French braid

Our first Farmers Market day was yesterday, Sunday. On Saturday, the weather predicted thunderstorms. On Sunday morning, the prediction hadn't much improved. Now, I haven't ever tried weather witching before, but I really want to make money. Apparently, it's uncouth to admit that as a crafter and business owner, I want to make money, but like, fuck it? I'm not running a charity, I am feeding my family. If we don't make sales, we might not afford basics. That's the reality of most people you meet at farmer's markets and craft shows, and we shouldn't be forced to pretend otherwise.

Anyway, soapboxing aside, I gotta make money and nobody likes shopping in the rain. So I'm like "What can I do on short notice with little time at hand for complexity?" First thing that comes to mind is Thor. But what to do? I have a Thors hammer that I don't wear in public much. I don't want to just pray, because I don't like praying (it's uncomfortable due to my Christian past), and because I feel I should give him something since I've literally never worked with him before.

Then I realize: Duh! He's a Viking!* and what do Vikings love?

Kendra: Beer?

Jess: What? No. I mean yes, but I'm talking about hair. They're vain as hell and love hair.

I'm in the process of getting ready anyway, so what will it hurt to dedicate grooming to Thor in hopes of getting his attention? I pull out all my combs in order to do a proper Viking job of this. I know it needs to involve braids, but my short hair has only grown a couple inches past my nape. As I start, inspiration strikes, and with confidence I do the following:

I wrap my mjolnr pendant around my left wrist. Then, I carefully comb out my tangles and damaged strands, starting with a wide tooth sandalwood comb, then a medium tooth horn comb, then a fine tooth plastic tail comb.** All the while, I think of Thor and how proud he must be of his own hair and beard and braids. Next, I take my tail comb and part my hair down the middle, saying, "Thor, please part these clouds." Then, I braid my hair in the "double French" style. (One braid on each side of the part.) I tell him, "Thor, please bind these clouds."

I can't be sure it worked. I think most people would consider hair magic to be better for Sif than for Thor, but I think in general I could use hair grooming and braiding to appeal to any of them, since it was so important to the Norse. In the end, we did get brief 7-minute thunderstorm and a couple smatterings of rain after, but that is a hell of a lot less than the weatherman forecasted.

*sort of. A "viking" is technically a pirate, and I think Thor counts but like it's debatable? But what I'm actually talking about is medieval Scandinavians, particularly of Norway and Denmark and Sweden, but also including parts of Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, Russia, and islands along the way. Most people, academics included, casually refer to these people as Vikings.

**So back in ye olden days, wooden combs in straight-hair regions (especially in medieval Europe where people were water-averse because they had a lot of deadly diseases in their water) were really really fine tooth, sometimes as fine as lice combs. That's because they did the job of cleaning the hair. Being that fine-toothed would literally pull out excess oil and dirt, meaning you could easily have nice hair while washing it only once a week (as the Scandinavians did) or less (as the Europeans did).

For the reference: Combs made of oily/resinous woods like Sandalwood condition the hair and are usually anti-microbial. I have only a wide tooth sandalwood comb because I find overuse can make my hair too oily, so it's only used for the first pass. Combs from non-oily woods (like maple or oak) or horn help distribute oils and, if fine-toothed enough, strip grime and broken hairs. Plastic is non-porous, so while it can help get rid of debris, it will still leave hair as oily as when you started. I do want to a very fine-toothed wood or horn comb, but I haven't found one good enough yet because they harder to make.

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