Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
The Lass wi' the Carroty Pow
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Gilbert reached across the aisle, picked up the end of Anne's long red braid, held it out at arm's length and said in a piercing whisper:
Then Anne looked at him with a vengeance!
She did more than look. She sprang to her feet, her bright fancies fallen into cureless ruin. She flashed one indignant glance at Gilbert from eyes whose angry sparkle was swiftly quenched in equally angry tears.
"You mean, hateful boy!" she exclaimed passionately. "How dare you!"
And then--thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert's head and cracked it--slate not head--clear across." ~ Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1908
Aw ... Gilbert was just trying to get her attention. Don't worry redheads, you're in good company, historically and particularly in literature. Other famous fictional redheads include: Ygritte from "A Song a Fire and Ice"; The Weasleys from the Harry Potter Series; Poison Ivy from the superhero genre; Nancy Drew, that titian-haired sleuth; Pippi Longstocking; hotel-loving Madeline; and Tintin from The Adventures of Tintin!
The Lass wi' the Carroty Pow
"Ruadh gu brath!" - “Red heads forever!”
Nighean Ruadh is Gaelic for "the red-haired girl."
Red hair is the rarest natural hair color in humans. The non-tanning skin associated with red hair may have been genetically advantageous in far-northern climates where sunlight is scarce.
Scholars note that redheads have influenced history out of proportion to their numbers. Famous redheads include Roman emperor Nero, Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, the ancient god of love Aphrodite, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon Bonaparte, Oliver Cromwell, Emily Dickinson, Antonio Vivaldi, Thomas Jefferson, Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, Galileo, and King David.
While Scotland has the highest proportion (13%) of redheads (followed by Ireland with 10%), the United States has the largest population of redheads in the world, with between 6-18 million redheads, or 2-6% of the population.
Some common surnames in the British Isles reflect the frequency of red hair there, including Flanary (“red eyebrow”), Reid (“red-haired, ruddy complexion”), and Flynn (“bright red”).
In various times and cultures, red hair has been prized, feared, and ridiculed, often with unfortunate consequences. In Medieval times, red hair was thought to be a mark of a beastly sexual desire and moral degeneration. A savage red-haired man is portrayed in the fable by Grimm brothers (Der Eisenhans) as the spirit of the forest of iron. The 11th century medieval author and compiler of texts, Theophilus Presbyter, describes how the blood of a red-haired young man is necessary to create gold from copper. And the 15th century best-selling treatise, second only to the Bible in the Middle Ages, Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), notes that red hair and green eyes may mark the sign of a witch, a werewolf or a vampire!
Today people celebrate this beautiful hair color, whether Strawberry-Blonde, Ginger, Classic Red, Deep Red, Auburn, or Dark Auburn.
For more about how redheads have been viewed historically, click the painting of Lady Lilith (1866-68), by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, who along with the other pre-Raphaelites, often favored redheads as female subjects in his paintings.
A large 1867 watercolor of Lady Lilith, painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, has a verse from Goethe's Faust as translated by Shelley on a label attached to its frame:
"Beware of her fair hair, for she excells
All women in the magic of her locks,
And when she twines them round a young man's neck
she will not ever set him free again."