The Myths and History of Red Hair


Red Hair, Russia and the Romanovs

Yesterday I re-read the Cromwell's Head article on this website. The article is about a decade old or so now and I was amazed by how much my views have softened. In it I'm fawning over Cromwell and pretty scathing of royalty in general. My view at the time coming down very much on the side of the Roundheads. However, I've since realised that my judgements were perhaps a little overzealous. How can I know for certain what happened nearly four hundred years ago? And even if I can is it right to favour one side of the argument over the other so heavily?

So I now find myself much more sympathetic to the royalist side. As an English person both Charles I and Oliver Cromwell are part of my heritage. Part of my ancestry in a sense. Just as in a wider sense all of human history is our shared heritage and ancestry.

One of the things that helped me on this journey was the story of the Romanovs. Again, a royal murder, though this time involving children, and occurring just a single century ago. Both aspects giving the events an immediacy, making it much easier to empathise with the tragedy.

Anyway, my personal commentary over with, I'll get on with the focus of this article; Red Hair and Russia. Beginning with the Romanovs.

The Romanovs

The following colour photo shows the Romanov family looking distinctly red-haired. It is of course a coloured photo, so with it originally being black and white we have no real way of knowing if these colourings are true. There are some mentions that members of the family had reddish hair though.

The Romanov Family in Colour

The famed Grand Duchess Anastasia has been described as having strawberry-blonde hair. Likewise, her mother, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, was described as having "red gold" hair. A classic epithet often used when describing the hair colour of royals throughout history.

"Tall she was, and delicately, beautifully shaped, with exquisitely white neck and shoulders. Her abundant hair, red gold, was so long that she could easily sit upon it when it was unbound. Her complexion was clear and as rosy as a little child's. The Empress had large eyes, deep gray and very lustrous."

- Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Vyrubova, published in the 1920s.

Catherine the Great was also said to have had "chestnut-colored hair", and Emperor Paul I of Russia was described as being red-haired. Finally, Peter the Great was described as a newborn as being "with good health, his mother's black, vaguely Tatar eyes, and a tuft of auburn hair".


Interestingly, the name Russia is also said by some to mean red hair, or a red-haired people. With the word being similar to words like rust, russet and rose.

Saint George and Dragon - Russian Icon

The Persian geographer Amin Razi stated; "The Rus: This is an enormous mass of people. Their nationality in its entirety has red hair, tall stature, and white bodies. (...)"

There are also a few interesting Arabic accounts that place a red-haired race near the fabled walls that hemmed in the tribes of Gog and Magog.

"The Two-horned [Alexander the Great] travelled to the region of Gog and Magog. So he got to see a nation with reddish hair and blue eyes." (As-Sa'bi, c. 700.)

"When he terminated the building of the Dam between them and those peoples [of Gog and Magog] he left them and came to a people of red colour and red hair.." (Aragon-Arabic ms. Date unknown.)

The Udmurts

Also in Russia there are a people called the Udmurts, also known as the Votyaks, who are said to be the most red-haired people in the world.

Pieta (detail) by Il Bronzino

"The Votiaks are the most red-headed men in the world, fiery red is the epithet."

- Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (1874).

Dragon's Blood Hair

The Goths, who were said to originate in what is now modern day Sweden, but who spread as far east as the black sea, were also said by some to be red-haired. The Goths were sometimes equated with the Scythians by historians, who occupied the central Eurasian steppe. These people were also at times described as being red-haired.

The seventh century scholar, Isidore of Seville stated that the Goths had hair the colour of Dragon's Blood. A red dye that comes from the Dragon's Blood Tree.

"Now several peoples lay claim as it were to their proper insignia not only in the clothing but also in the body and otherwise. Thus we see the [forelock] tufts of the Germanics, the braided hair-whip and the dragon's blood colour of the Goths, the scars of the Brittons. The Jews circumcise the prepuce; the Arabs perforate the ears; the Getae with their heads uncovered have their hair golden yellow; the Albani have white hair that glistens."

Dye from the Dragons Blood Tree

The Khazars, often equated with the Red Jews of Eastern Europe, also occupied a similar region. These were likewise often portrayed as being red-haired and blue eyed.


In Slavic folklore there are also creatures called Rusalka, that are said to be the spirits of young women that have drown or committed suicide. Similar to mermaids they're sometimes described as being red-haired. The name Rusalka is noticeably similar to the name Russia too, perhaps suggesting a further link.


Madame Helena Blavatsky

The noted Russian Theosophist Madame Blavatsky was also said to be red-haired. Henry Steel Olcott (co-founder of the Theosophical Society) described Blavatsky's appearance as follows;

"From the very beginning my vision was deceived by the red garibaldic chlamys, which H. P. B. was wearing instead of a shirt. She presented a sharp contrast to the darkness of everything, which surrounded her.. Her hair was red, soft, like a silk, and wavy, like Cotswold lambs' wool."

Madame Helena Blavatsky

Madame Blavatsky also mentioned red hair in her works. Stating in Isis Unveiled;

"In India, as well as in Russia and some other countries, there is an instinctive repugnance to stepping across a man's shadow, especially if he have red hair; and in the former country, natives are extremely reluctant to shake hands with persons of another race. These are not idle fancies. Every person emits a magnetic exhalation, or aura, and a man may be in perfect physical health, but at the same time his exhalation may have a morbific character for others, sensitive to such subtile influences."


"The magnetism of a red-haired man, we have found, in almost every nation, is instinctively dreaded. We might quote proverbs from the Russian, Persian, Georgian, Hindustani, French, Turkish, and even German, to show that treachery and other vices are popularly supposed to accompany the rufous complexion."

In The Legend of the Blue Lotus she also wrote the following paragraph;

"A prince who does not know how to die for his subjects is not worthy to reign over the children of the Sun. He will be reborn in a race of red haired peoples, a barbarous and selfish race, and the nations which descend from him will have a heritage ever on the decline."

June 2019

An Esoteric History of Red Hair is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback edition.

An Esoteric History of Red Hair Cover

What did the ancient Greeks and Romans think about red hair?
What does red hair have to do with witches, mermaids and vampires?
Why did so many royals and rulers possess the hair colour?
And why has it always been associated with the concept of otherness throughout history?

This book attempts to chart the remarkable history of red hair. Cataloguing the many famous people that have possessed it, and also speculating about some of the strange and esoteric ideas associated with it.

Paperback Amazon US Amazon UK

Kindle Amazon US Amazon UK

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