Encyclopedia Article


The portion of epidermis, or skin, that covers the dome of the human head, from the hairline above the brows back to the nape of the neck. In many cultures, historically the scalp has been harvested from slain enemies as proof of their death. Scalps can also be removed from living victims, who may or may not survive the process.

In curing ceremonials, such as the Navajo Enemy Way, the scalp referenced in some versions of the ceremony is actually a token object representing an enemy. The Enemy Way is a ceremony performed to cure people from illness caused by coming into contact with an "enemy," typically someone or an experience outside the Navajo culture and traditional lifeways. The symbolic scalp is collected during a ritualized warpath during the ceremony, brought to the place of healing without being touched, and kept out of sight until it is time to be destroyed.

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"Mohawk, Etu-Toolo, Helsinki, Uusimaa, September 21, 2013" by Oona Räisänen is licensed under CC BY-SA.

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