Henna in Ancient Egypt
By: Krysteen Lomonaco ~
Evidence of Henna's presence in ancient egypt can be found through painted hieroglyphs, the symbol Pouquer, resembles a henna plant. Mummified pharaohs have been discovered with henna stained nails. Ramesses the Great's mummified body was discovered wrapped in Henna soaked fabric, his hair and beard dyed red, and his feet and hands dyed with Henna as well. The Henna plant was also burned as incense to invoke the spirit of Ra, an ancient egyptian solar deity.
Henna was used to stain the skin of males, typically royal, in ancient egypt. Women used henna as incense and perfume, as well as cosmetically to stain their hair and lips. In fact, you can still find henna-based lip stains today.
Cleopatra is said to have used henna on her fingernails as nail polish, as well as decorating her hands with elaborate designs to enhance her beauty. There is also tales of her maids taking baskets of henna across the Mediterranean to Rome, where she intended to marry Julius Caesar. After forsaking Caesar and marrying Marc Antony, their daughter Cleopatra Selene was born and later married off to King Juba II of Morocco. Selene was sent to Morocco with, you guessed it, baskets of Henna, only to learn that Henna is also a native plant to the area. Here she learns the ritualistic aspects of Henna tattooing and praying to protect the bride and the sanctity of marriage.
The history of Henna, the uses of it, and the rituals associated with it are vast and very intriguing. Learn more about ancient egypt by following our reference links: