Myths and legends about hair: Samson and Delilah

Of all the legends about hair that have survived to this day, the one that fascinates me most because of the double interpretation it is exposed to is the legend of Samson and Delilah. On the one hand, the character of Delilah can be understood as an evil and unscrupulous woman who is capable of seducing Samson and making him lose all his strength, thus leaving him falling into the hands of his enemies. And on the other hand we can see Delilah as a peaceful woman who manages to defeat the almighty Samson with the single act of cutting his hair.

Chapters 13-16 of the book of judges of the Old Estate of the Holy Bible tell the story of Israel’s most famous judge: Samson. Consecrated from his mother’s womb to be a leader of God’s chosen people, and endowed with superhuman spiritual and physical strength, he was capable of destroying temples and armies with the only power of his arm.

Samson, whose name may well come from the Hebrew word “shemesh” meaning “hair”, was the quintessential mythical strongman, subject only to one condition, to a divine reminder: his magnificent mane must remain intact. Its sheer strength would vanish immediately if it were cut.

But a dangerous enemy lacking weapons and physical strength, a seductive Philistine named Delilah, defeated him. Appointed by the high priest of the Dagon cult to make Samson fall in love and tear his secret from her, she managed to forget his divine mission by revealing the secret of his mysterious gift as proof of love. Delilah cut her hair while she slept, taking away with this act the power of her strength.

Although Samson’s story was the basis for the belief that long hair equals vigor and bravery, the opposite idea has sometimes prevailed: a shaved head as a symbol of strength and combativeness.

Excerpted from Chapter 2 of the magnificent book “Take care of our hair” by Dr. Ramón Grimalt