No Hair Behind


Ages ago, in a land far from here, the world was a magical place. People could become animals, like swans or horses, and an animal might really be human inside.

Whitehorse hill, Uffington, Oxfordshire, England
Whitehorse hill, Uffington, Oxfordshire, England

The gods appeared as humans or animals according to whim, and Nature was our Mother. The Fates spun, wove and cut the cloth of our lives while Destiny danced with the stars. Fortune, or Luck was also a woman (although not always a lady) and sometimes took the form of a mare, as was her habit from time to time.
And in those days it was commonly said, “You must grasp at Fortune as she comes, for she has no hair behind.” The idea being, you would have to be swift to catch this one whether she arrived as woman or pony. There would be no chance of capture once she passed you by. It must have been easy to tell that this was no regular horse.
The part of a horse’s mane that falls between the ears is called the forelock. For a man to tug on the hair at the front of his head was done first “for Luck” or as a sign of respect to the goddess of Fortune. The tipping of a man’s cap was an evolution of this same signal. Over time, the observance remains a sign of respect, but few remember why.

French Babette carrot
French Babette carrot

In the first century A.D. Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet.” Modern language hopes opportunity will stand at the door like a salesman with the patience of a savior. But Seneca may be right, chance is fleeting and opportunity rarely pauses long enough to knock.

Today that means the sun is shining and my bones are strong enough to get out in the garden again. And just in case Fortune does swing by, maybe she will pause a while for a tasty carrot or two…

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