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Traditional womn’so headdresses
2003 / JULY

Throughout history clothing has been decorative as well as practical, and headdresses in particular have taken countless forms. Those used by women have always been especially ornate and colourful, using many different materials to enhance the wear'sea beauty and signify her role and rank in society. In Turkey the traditional headdresses worn by women and girls over the centuries varied according to the region, and their age and status. It was possible to tell from their headdresses whether they were of marriageable age, engaged, newly married, had children or not - even the number of children, whether they were boys or girls, and whether their sons were doing their military service; whether they were widowed, wished to marry again, lived in a village or town, were rich or poor. Among the formerly nomadic Türkmen it was customary when a girl was born to take gifts of silver coins, which were sewn onto a cap that the girl wore until her marriage, at which time her husbnd'sg family presented her with a new headdress.

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Traditional womn’so headdresses
2003 / JULY

These traditions still continue in parts of Turkey today, as I discovered when I was a guest at a Türkmen wedding in a mountain village near Edremit on the Aegean coast in 2002. At a ceremony the day after the wedding, the women of the groo'sg family presented the bride with a headdress adorned with Ottoman gold coins worth over four thousand dollars. The marriage headdress is worn for the rest of the womn'sr life, the gold coins only being spent in case of dire need, since it is considered dishonourable to make use of them. If circumstances do require that some or all of them be spent, it is essential to replace them as soon as possible. Women and their headdresses are regarded as sacred and inviolate. The headdress is traditionally worn all the time; at home, at work, at weddings and at festivals. Besides gold and silver coins, it is decorated with beads, flower motifs worked in needle lace, and diverse metal motifs. The headdresses themselves consist of silk crepe, fringed scarves, silk cord, and block printed scarves.

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Traditional womn’so headdresses
2003 / JULY
On the day of the wedding procession, when the bride rides on horseback from her own home to that of her husband, she wears a special ceremonial headdress. This headdress has a veil and is decorated with coloured crepe, birds' feathers, mirrors, metal jewellery, gilded bay leaves, branches and flowers. It symbolises the sacred nature of woman as the mother goddess. In 1984 I attended a village wedding in the central Anatolian province of Sivas. In preparation for the procession to her new husbnd'si house the bride was wearing a magnificent tall headdress and stood as straight and dignified as if she were indeed the mother goddess Cybele herself. The headdress consisted of a basketwork understructure, with lengths of crepe in various colours wound in bands around it and tied at the back. A silver brooch was pinned to the front, since metal is believed to have protective powers. This is the reason why silver ornaments are invariably a feature of such bridal headdresses. Upon arriving at her new home, the bride is shown into the couplsng bedroom, where she remains standing.
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Traditional womn’so headdresses
2003 / JULY
The groom now enters, says 'Welcome to our house,' then kisses her headdress three times and declares, 'I make you the crown of my head.' Then he takes off the headdress and hangs it from the ceiling. The bride now bends down and kisses the floor three times, declaring, 'Henceforth the place that you tread is my homeland.' The headdress is left hanging from the ceiling for three, seven or forty days, depending on local custom. Then it is taken down with prayers at a ceremony among the family members. The crepe bands and dyed feathers symbolising the rainbow are untied and kept for the rest of the womn'sd life, either hanging on the walls or stored in a chest. When she dies these are placed on her head for burial. It is believed that her spirit will become a bird and fly into the sky. In eastern Turkey young girls wear a beaded headdress decorated with a circular metal plate like a skullcap known as a tepelik. Other types worn by women and girls of all ages have a silver tepelik decorated with real or artificial gold coins.
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Traditional womn’so headdresses
2003 / JULY

Headdress ornaments are closely connected with ancient folkloric beliefs relating to fertility, health, good fortune and long life. In diverse forms such beliefs are to be found in different cultures all over the world. Various metals feature in the costumes of shamans, for example, and similarly when Muslims perform the pilgrimage to Mecca they always wear a silver ring, which is believed to bring God's blessing. The personal ornaments which human beings have worn since time immemorial speak a universal language that crosses all boundaries of country, religion, race and language.

* Sabiha Tansug is an ethnologist, researcher and writer.

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