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The ground henna plant mixed with other oils and natural substances dyes the skin and can be used to make beautiful body designs. This practice is called henna body art. Throughout history, humans have used henna in many different ways, and for reasons ranging from the romantic to the spiritual. The henna plant is indigenous to Northern Africa and the Middle East. It is cultivated today in Pakistan, Morocco, Iran, Australia, China, England, and France. The henna plant itself is very similar to a rosebush, yet very musky in scent. Henna is still harvested by hand. The henna leaves are used in many applications, but most often for body art.
Some experts maintain that henna body art dates as far back as the Neolithic era. Most likely, it was first cultivated in South-Central Asia because so many other plants that provide food and/or are used to stain the skin have originated there. Many ancient cultures make references to henna, such as the Greeks and the Certs, but the best documented uses of henna body art lie with the Egyptians. They used henna to polish the nails and stain the hands, feet and hair.
Throughout history, the staining of the hands and feet with henna has been used as tool for female bonding. Women in northern Africa use the henna art to ward off evil spirits, while moroccan women adorn their bellies in their seventh month of pregnancy to ensure health to mother and child. Indian and Moroccan women use the henna as a symbol of love and devotion for their weddings. In times of crisis or life-altering events, henna has been and still is being used as a way to bond women together. The art of body painting signifies personal growth and self-help by showing the individuality of the body for most women. This is why body painting is used at birth, death, and everything in between to signify transitions.
The use of henna has transcended all religions whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Pagan. Women, men, and children or all beliefs use it for the same reasons of adornment, beautification, and empowerment.