What Is A Hair Shirt An Ultimate Guide

What Is A Hair Shirt? An Ultimate Guide

First, what is a hair shirt? 

A hair shirt is a shirt made of an uncomfortable, rough material that some religious people used to wear as self-punishment.

When you say that someone is wearing a hair shirt, you are referring to the fact that they are trying to punish themselves in order to express their regret for something they have done.

Please continue reading for more information.

Introduction Of Wearing Hair Shirts

Hairshirts are clothing items made from coarse animal hair, typically goat hair, that are worn as a top or under shirts next to the skin to irritate and chafe the wearer. This discomfort acts as both a penitential act and a constant reminder of faith, helping one to resist the temptation to sin. For added pain and injury to the wearer, some hairshirts even had metal spikes. The only believers who typically wore these modified hairshirts were the most contrite (or those who wanted to appear to be such).

History Of Wearing Hair Shirts

Originally, these garments were known as cilices, in a reference to the Latin word cilicium, meaning “covering made from goat’s hair.” Early shirts irritated the skin because they were made of sackcloth or coarse animal hair, and later designs added more uncomfortable elements like thin wires or twigs. Devout members of society and the Church adopted the custom after seeing hair shirts worn by several biblical characters as expressions of their religious faith. The term “cilice” is now more broadly used to describe any item worn to increase discomfort.

Between Fat Tuesday and Easter is a period called Lent. It’s a crucial time for a lot of Christians all over the world. For those of us who participate, Lent frequently entails undertaking some kind of fast as an act of penance, whereas for those who don’t observe it, it may appear to be a time when seafood goes on sale and Easter candy and eggs start to appear in stores. Fasting is a common practice these days, and it often involves giving up things like caffeine, meat, or social media. (The latter is something that I’m tackling alone.)

Most likely the sackcloths mentioned in the Old Testament were the earliest hairshirts. People who were in mourning wore these rugged clothes. However, since cutting oneself is against Jewish law, they would have only made the wearer uncomfortable. Hairshirts have been worn for centuries by ascetics, clergy, nuns, friars, monks, and pious laypeople. One was on when Thomas Beckett was murdered, Thomas More wore one while he was held captive in the London Tower, and Charlemagne was buried in one.

Although hairshirts are frequently associated with the Middle Ages, members of different Christian denominations still wear them year-round. Small pieces of sackcloth may be distributed to parishioners as a reminder that Lent is a time of penitence and piety, and hairshirts may occasionally be used as altar cloths. Even in the fictional country of Westeros, hairshirts have spread: Particularly in George R.R. Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire and Members of the various fictional religions wear hairshirts in the television show Game of Thrones. I wonder what the first ascetics would have thought if they knew that their act of penitence had become a part of the culture.

What Is A Hair Shirt An Ultimate Guide
What Is A Hair Shirt? An Ultimate Guide

Tradition Of Wearing Hair Shirts

The practice of “mortifying the flesh” includes the custom of wearing hair shirts. Mortification can involve as little as denying oneself pleasures or as extreme an act as the self-flagellation practiced by medieval flagellants during the plague. This is allegedly an outward demonstration of faith that also serves to train the soul by purging it of sin and encouraging pious, obedient conduct. Most Christian sects no longer practice extreme mortification, but some devoted Christians still place a high value on more moderate forms of mortification like fasting. See more about Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt

Examples Of Wearing Hair Shirts

Here are some examples of hair shirt as a noun:

Uncle Harvey is such a hair shirt. I would rather drink soup from a toilet than hear another one of his “back in the day” tales.

Merv thought yoga was a hair shirt until he tried it and enjoyed how limber he felt afterward.

Here are some examples of hair shirt as an adjective:

Carla felt so guilty about murdering her gardener that she chose to live a hair-shirt existence. She donated her possessions to a charity, relocated to the desert, and subsisted there by consuming spiders and rats.

Getting healthy doesn’t mean living a hair-shirt lifestyle. Merv enjoyed eating vegetables, and his yoga class provided him with plenty of dates.

The End

A hair shirt is a rough, next-to-skin garment designed to cause discomfort and constant awareness of the shirt’s presence. Some Christian religious orders, as well as people who felt repentant about particular deeds or their lifestyles, have worn such clothing in the past. Although their usage is rather limited today, the phrase is frequently used metaphorically, which is why someone may say they are “wearing a hair shirt” when they engage in another form of self-imposed penance.

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