For 5,000 years, the lawsonia inermis (the henna plant) has been an integral component of marking celebrations in ancient cultures. It is said that the elaborate markings of henna began in the North African deserts.
The medicinal plant
— containing properties that are said to cool the body
— was crushed into a paste and applied to the entire foot and hands to keep body temperature low. Over time, as women tired of bright red hands and feet, they began to design the henna markings, placing one large dot in the center of the palms and building from that center artful tattoos.
In Moroccan villages, henna was historically applied to provide “Baraka,” a barrier guarding from “the Evil Eye,” which was believed to bring misfortune to villages. In Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia, henna has many purposes stemming from ritual and religion to the preservation of tradition.
The “Night of Henna,” one of the most famous practices still occurring in Morocco, is a familial ceremony that prepares a bride for consummation. It is intended to offer a bride the womanly wisdom of both her mother and her husband’s mother. The ceremony marks the transition of a woman as daughter in her father’s house to wife in her husband’s house.
Described in ancient art, you will see henna decoration on queens and goddesses as well as depicted in celebrations and ceremonies portraying animal sacrifice, circumcision, and marriage. Henna has been used for thousands of years to tell millions of stories.