Hair and Braids

In addition to their other functions, such as gratitude and reciprocation, many offerings that are metonymies (closely associated with the votary) or synecdoches (a part of the votary that represents the whole) perpetuate votary presence at a shrine. Hair and braid offerings are highly overdetermined, because their basic votive functions are compounded by presence (the offering is part of one’s body) and, particularly when braids are offered, by sacrifice: “I am here offering you with affection that which I so much love,” as one votary put it. Many parents give thanks for safe childbirth or for resolved medical problems in infancy by offering their own or the child’s hair.