Short Henna Historical
The history and origin of henna is hard to track, with centuries of migration and cultural interaction it's difficult to determine where particular traditions began. There is some historical evidence that henna originated in ancient India as a ceremonial art form. Others believe that Henna was introduced to India in the 12th century. It's been used for at least 5000 years as a cosmetic and for it's natural healing properties. There's also documentation that henna was used in ancient Egypt to stain the fingers and toes of the Pharaohs prior to mummification.
The art form of applying henna (known as mehndi) varies from region to region, this ancient practice has spanned many cultures and traditions. Like all symbols, the varying designs often mean different things to different cultures. It's thus possible to recognize distinctions in cultural style. Arabic designs are generally large, floral patterns on the hands and feet. Whereas Indians (from India) traditionally use fine thin lines for lacy, floral, and paisley patterns which cover their entire hands, forearms, feet and shins; interestingly this is often performed as part of a pre marriage ritual.
Africans and Native/South American Indians tend to prefer bold, large geometric designs done in black. Africans have been known to apply a paste of ashes, ammonia compounds, and other corrosives to get the henna stain from orange to black. This can be poisonous and is NOT a recommended procedure for anyone but a highly trained/experienced professional, severe reactions may result and there've even been reports of deaths. I can only speculate the reason they'd go to such risky lengths is that the natural color of henna (dark brown to dark orange), does not show up well on the dark skin.
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