Is Henna In line with the Christian Faith?
By: Liberty Lomonaco ~
This is a great question henna artists get from Christian clients wondering if they are going against their biblical faith and law. At Mehndi Madness, our answer is that Henna is a pure natural plant used since the Roman Judea era and the plant itself is referenced in the Old Testament of the Bible within Solomon’s Song of Songs.
Let's unpack this a little more; studies from Greek and Roman botanists from the era have recorded the plant growing in and around Egypt and Judea during the time of Jesus. The records showed they studied its properties to find henna was useful as a medicine, perfume, and hair dye. However, nothing is concrete on whether it was used as body art during this time or if Jesus himself was aware of the plant.
Now after examining that the henna plant was actually in the area and was used for some of its properties, we can look at the biblical phrasing used for the plant. In Solomon’s Song of Songs 1:14, “My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms / In the vineyards of En Gedi,” is referencing the flowers that bloom on the henna plant. The flowers hold a beautiful fragrance that was used to make perfume, during the time. In context this verse is about the romance and sexuality associated with the henna fragrance more than the dye properties of the plant. Solomon’s Song of Songs is known for using allusions to bodily love and sexuality throughout the text, so we can assume that the henna fragrance was seen as a symbol of one’s love. Therefore, if henna is connected to love and showing one’s love for another it could have been used as body art at marriage ceremonies, since it is known to have been used in marriage ceremonies in Africa and Asia during the same biblical times. But there is no reference of this.
Another note about this verse is that it has been looked over by Theologians and Biblical literature scholars over the years and have seen the henna flower as a symbol for Jesus and the love his followers have for him. This interpretation of the verse comes from early Christians going back to medieval Europe, where I doubt they knew much of henna and its components, but understood it enough to see it as a symbol for Jesus. Saint Bede, a well known Anglo-Saxon monk wrote, “the Lord, who had been a bundle of myrrh in his passion, became a grape-cluster of Kopher at the resurrection,” drawing on the Hebrew word for henna, Kopher, that can also be used as ‘an atonement or propitiation’, and apply it to Jesus, ‘the propitiation for our sins’ and how he had atone for them.
Now let’s bring this back to modern day, we know that the henna plant was grown and used in Roman Judea by the Jewish community during Jesus’ time and that by wearing henna it can be a symbol for one’s faith and a reminder of the qualities that Jesus possesses. Now the only argument is that the Bible says not to ‘mark’ the body (Leviticus 19:28), which a lot of believers see as getting a tattoo and any other permanent markings. However, since the application of henna doesn’t puncture or permanently scar the skin, henna in moderation should be acceptable. I say in moderation because the prophets that wrote the Bible specifically New Testament disapprove of excessive adornment and warn of being immoral if modesty is not preserved.
Overall, from the evidence and research, Mehndi Madness would say Henna is in line with Christianity and encourages faith in one’s self. However, if that wasn’t enough to cease all worries, hopefully this does:
As the daughter of the founder of Mehndi Madness, I’ve grown up wearing henna almost every day of my life. That being said, I also went to a heavily Christian middle and high school. I rarely had any issues or complaints about being disrespectful or having unchristian ideals because of wearing henna. Some Christian faculty were unaware of henna and didn’t know the properties and history of henna, but after explaining and showing the meaning it has to so many communities, I was never asked to not have henna or conceal it for school or chapel.
At Mehndi Madness our goal is to spread awareness and acceptance about henna and that extends to people and their faiths and how henna affects them. We hope you find this information insightful and compelling to show your faith and personality through henna!
*Cyprus, Kopher, and Camphire also mean henna but in other languages.
Gill, John. An Exposition of the Book of Solomon’s Song, Commonly Called Canticles. Edinburgh: Thomas Turnbull, 1805.
Holder, Arthur. The Venerable Bede: On the Song of Songs and Selected Writings. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2011.
Lawson, R. P. Ancient Christian Writers: The Song of Songs, Commentary and Homilies. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1957.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Dallas, TX: Brown Books Publishing, 2004.