– St. Jerome, on advice for raising daughters
In 1676 France, the princess de Soubise captured King Louis XIV’s eye. But, according to Eleanor Herman in Sex With Kings, “Though tall and beautiful, the princess suffered the misfortune of flaming red hair.”
Alas, red didn’t taint only a woman’s triangular private privy.
Medievals believed those with red hair were the offspring of parents who had bloody sex during the wife’s menses, thereby displaying a depraved lack of sexual self-discipline. As a result of this belief, King Louis lost interest in the blood-haired princess de Soubise rather quickly.
Think you the Virgin Mary would be exempt from this bloody-haired scourge?
Me thinks not.
Prior to 1500, the Virgin Mary’s hair was depicted as red in medieval paintings.
But after this period, Christianity associated the color red with sexuality and demons. In line with this new vision of red hair, the first order of business for the Church was to destroy all images of the red-haired Virgin Mary, and re-illustrate her across Christianity as blonde or dark-haired.
And Mary wasn’t the only one whose hair was a bleeding shame.
Red animals and flowers also became taboo.
The robin red-breast, and the red fox became the devil’s creatures. The poppy became the devil’s flower.
And women with red tresses became whores, witches and demon-spawn conceived by bloody bitches.
Medieval, bloody-haired bitches also suffered perceived physical malformations. They were believed to “sweat easily, bleed copiously, have a strong foxy smell, and such bad breath that they can raise blisters on other people simply by breathing over them.”
Well, naturally. 🙄
Blood-haired demon spawn conceived illicitly within a bloody bitch were seen to be morally corrupt, hot-tempered, and “highly-sexed.” Judas, Cain, and Mary Magdalene were blood-haired, and their perceived evils contributed to bloody bitch hair theory.
Parents who made love during the woman’s menses were breaking a deadly taboo.
In England, it was believed that “Families where red hair is frequent are often said to be descended from the Danes, from the Scots, or from Spanish sailors of the Armada—all formerly enemies of England. If only one child has this colouring, it might be vaguely ascribed to ‘bad blood’ – or more specifically to the mother’s adultery.”
Moreover, red hair was thought to be a mark of a beastly sexual desire and moral degeneration. Montague Summers, in his translation of the ‘Malleus Maleficarum‘ notes that red hair and green eyes were thought to be the sign of a witch, werewolf, or vampire during the Middle Ages.
Ancient Egyptians buried redheads alive. Ancient Greeks characterized them as insane. And during the Spanish Inquisition, redheads were singled out for persecution, their flaming hair a sure sign of direct connection to the fires of hell.
Medievals also attributed magical properties to the bodily fluids of redheads. Fat from a blood-haired person was used to make poison. And urine from blood-haired children was mixed into paint for stained glass windows.