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Yesterday, [livejournal.com profile] joycebre and I made a foray into some of Giambattista della Porta's hair dying recipes (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] falzalot who provided the braid to experiment with).

We made homemade lye* and quicklime. That was cool. We tried a few abbreviated recipes, without much success. That is, the recipes went together fine, but I haven't seen any changes in hair color. The recipe with the saffron and honey smells fabulous, though. I have locks of hair soaking in just lye and just quicklime and haven't seen any changes in color despite 20 hours in the baths.

We'll be shopping before we try again, to see get some of the herbs and such we didn't have this time around**.

I have seed on the way to grow some of the plants. I have a suspicion that the fresh celandine, for instance, will give us a good hit of yellow. Who knows? Perhaps we'll find that they were putting yellow pigments atop their hair color, rather than bleaching and coloring as we do today.

Let's do some more science!

* By the way, home soapmakers, I have about a gallon of lye. If you need some, let me know.
** We'll skip the recipe that calls for Gold Litharge. It turns out that's just a fancy way of saying lead oxide. We're not keen on the saltpetre, vitriol, sal ammoniac, and cinnabar recipe, either.

Date: 2013-04-22 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] joycebre.livejournal.com
vitriol is sulfuric acid. I suspect some of these recipes are used only for sabotage. Who would do this?
Lemon juice for this win, I think.


Date: 2013-04-22 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] joycebre.livejournal.com
Lye to turn hair blond
Take four celemines of vine-shoot ash, and one pound of ash of the lees of white wine. And add in a pot of rainwater, and put it over a fire that boils. And when it boils, take it off the fire and leave it to sit. And as it is sitting, add a flask of that lye, and put with it licorice and French soap, and put it to the fire that boils. And skim the head with this lye. And wash with the other from the pot, or if not, it is the lye to wash the vine-root ash and elm ash. And if you want to the hair to grow quickly, throw in with those other ashes, ashes from ivy roots.
From the Manual de Mugeres

Re: also

Date: 2013-04-22 09:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] joycebre.livejournal.com


1) For coloring the hair so that it is golden. Take the exterior shell of a walnut and the bark of the tree itself, and cook them in water, and with this water mix alum and oak apples, and with these mixed things you will smear the head (having first washed it) placing upon the hair leaves and tying them with strings for two days; you will be able to color. And comb the head so that whatever adheres to the hair as excess comes off. Then place a coloring which is made from oriental crocus, dragon's blood, and henna (whose larger part has been mixed with a decoction of brazil wood) and thus let the woman remain for three days, and on the fourth day let her be washed with hot water, and never will be removed easily. 2) Let cabbage stalks and roots be pulverized and let pulverized shavings of boxwood or ivory be mixed with them, and it should be pure yellow. And from these powders, let there be made a cleanser which makes the hair golden.


-After leaving the bath, let her wash the hair with a cleanser such as this: take ashes of burnt vine, the chaff of barley nodes, and licorice wood (so that it may the more brightly shine), and sowbread. Boil the chaff and the sowbread in water. With the chaff and the ash and the sowbread, let a pot having at its base two or three small openings be filled. Let the water in which the sowbread and the chaff were previously cooked be poured into the pot, so that it is strained by the small openings. With this cleanser let the woman wash her head. After the washing, let her leave it to dry by itself, and her hair will be golden and shimmering.

Re: also

Date: 2013-04-22 09:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] joycebre.livejournal.com
Part 1, Chapter XXIV: How to make the hair golden blond, no matter how black or white it is, making it pale yellow without losing its colour for a long time, and retaining it in its entirety, and making it grow in such a way as to be that colour right down to the root, just as it is to the very tip.

Take a pound of twigs of the wood called fustet, ground to a fine powder, half a pound of box-wood shavings, four ounces of fresh liquor, four ounces of nice, dry, yellow orange-peel, four ounces each of celandine root and papaver, two ounces of the leaves and flower of glaucium or guelder-rose [?], half an ounce of saffron, and half a pound of paste made from finely ground wheat flour.
Boil it all up in some lye made with half pounded ashes and then pour it all out [through a strainer?].
Next, take a large earthenware pot or jar, and make ten or twelve little holes in the bottom.
Then afterwards take equal quantities of sacred ash [?] and pounded wood-ash and put them in some large wooden mortar or something of the kind, as you please, and sprinkle them with the said concoction while pounding them vigorously for the best part of a day.
Keep doing so until the ash is fairly hard, and while pounding it add a little rye- and wheat-straw, continually pounding it so that it soaks up most of the concoction.
Then take the said pounded ashes and put them in the said pot or jar, and in each of the holes in the said pot stick an ear of rye that passes out to the exterior and make alternate beds of straw and ashes until the said pot is full, but leave a little room for the rest of the concoction.
Then, towards evening, position another pot or jar to collect the lye that dribbles out of the holes along the ears of rye.
When you want to use it in the morning, go and see what has oozed out, sponge it up and apply it to the hair by wiping.
And at the end of three or four days you will have hair that is as golden-blond as a golden ducat.
But before you put it on your head, wash it with another good lye, because if it were greasy it wouldn't take so easily.
And you must understand that the contents of the present recipe are sufficient for one or two years, and are sufficient, if used properly, for the needs of ten or twelve women, for only a little of the liquor is sufficient to colour the hair quickly and easily, and there is no need to wash with anything other than this for a woman whose hair was black as coal to become quickly blond, and for a very long time.

(Traité des fardemens et confitures, English translation by Peter Lesmesurier, http://www.propheties.it/nostradamus/1555opuscole/opuscole.html)
and finally
The only primary source I know of about the Celts liming their hair is by Diodorus Siculus, who tells us the Gaulish warriors lime-washed their hair and then combed it back from the forehead to the nape of the neck so that it looked like a horse's mane.

Date: 2013-04-23 03:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] falzalot.livejournal.com
I am very glad I gave you some cut-off hair and didn't volunteer the stuff on my head. ;-)

Date: 2013-04-23 04:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] helblonde.livejournal.com
Me, too. Trying this many experiments would have taken days!


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