Henna Tattoo: A pretty safe tradition

Spotlight on the beautiful arabesques of henna tattoo, ancestral Moroccan tradition.

I wanted to try the henna tattoo. It must be this girl crossed on the terrace of a café plugged on the Corniche in Casablanca, with sublimely adorned hands… These beautiful photos discovered online… In Casablanca, I know where to go. I often walked past these women, near the witch market, who draw pretty arabesques on the hands of other women. But no question of doing anything. Some clarifications are necessary.

What is henna?

In the beginning, henna is a plant that grows in desert regions. In Morocco, it is mainly found in the region of Azzemour. From this plant, we shoot a powder. Mixed with a small bowl of water and a spoonful of lemon juice or orange blossom, or rose water, or eucalyptus essence, it gives a paste that is warmed slightly to fix its color. And the trick is done! Henna paste, of green color, is a natural dye.

Chemical substances are sometimes added to make it black. Of course, it is essential to avoid applying this paste on its skin: it can cause allergic reactions or even serious burns… I have read on forums amount of tourist complaints after henna tattoos “natural black”.

And for the tattoo, how do we do it?

To draw on the skin these very varied motifs, a brush or a plastic cone can do the trick, but it is often a syringe without needle that one uses. No inlay under the skin! Henna tattooing, if tolerated by Islam, is because it applies to the upper layer of the epidermis. Once laid, the drawing should dry for about an hour. Its color evolves gradually to finally take orange hues.

What is appealing is the painless and temporary character of this tattoo: it only remains visible for two to three weeks. Nothing irreparable, therefore, if one quickly regrets his audacity.

Why do we get tattoos in Morocco?

Henna is used in most family celebrations and religious ceremonies. It is in this case applied in the context of a specific ritual and ancestral rules. The most common practice is the application of henna on the hands and feet of the bride at the wedding ceremony. A week before the religious wedding, during an evening between women, the bride, dressed in a green dress, is tattooed her hands and feet by a professional, a nekacha. Veiled, seated on cushions embroidered with gold thread and accompanied by her Ladies of Honor (mother, sisters, Cousins, friends), she prepares for her wedding night.

Because the drawings of the henna tattoo are loaded with symbolic. The Khamsa, or Fatima’s hand, protects against the evil eye. Animals – Aries, lizard, snake or fish – are symbols of fertility, harmony, abundance and serenity. Geometric motifs are also widely used and they each have a meaning (fertility, eternity, etc…), as are numbers 3, 5 and 7. It’s a message that the husband can read on his wife’s hands.

At birth, a henna-based coating is applied to the baby’s navel to bring richness and happiness. But also because Henna is a good healing.
It is also popular in Morocco for its medicinal properties. In a poultice on the hair, it strengthens them. Applied to the nails, it protects them.

The motivations are therefore both medicinal and aesthetic. But one thing is for sure: Henna tattoo delivers a message.

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