It will be no surprise to learn that I LOVE stories and I especially love stories about tradition and what connects people to their roots. So when I had an opportunity to learn more about the roots of henna traditions, I jumped at the chance!
Our local henna community hosted an expert on older motifs and styles of henna and the push to maintain authenticity in the face of a shrinking globe and an increase in interest in the folk art.
People have some pretty romantic ideas about the uses of henna around the world: there is no evidence to suggest that henna has been used for 5,000 years to adorn the body. There IS evidence that it was applied to Egyptian mummies. We also know that henna has been used for 400 years in Jewish culture. Sorting truth from apocrypha can be a challenge.
A really good resource for historical perspective is Noam Sienna's blog Eshkol HaKofer.
In our survey we touched on the much more tribal roots of roots in Rajasthan, Mauritania, Senegal, Niger, and Sudanese. And even cooler we took a look at how motifs are defined by the techniques used to get the henna on the body: extruded, slathered, tape resist, syringe. The LOOK of the end result is unique to the way the henna is applied.
The design on my hand is designed to emulate West African henna done with tape resist, but I used the tool I'm most comfortable with: the henna cone.