Henna Painting

A few years ago, I had an uncle who took a trip to India. He asked if there was anything special that I wanted him to bring back, and I said "YES! Can you bring back 'real' henna stuff? Like stencils and maybe some instructions?" Well, I got a slightly stinky present that Xmas. It was a henna kit, and the eucalyptus oil had leaked, hence the strong smell and slightly sticky contents. A friend and I took a Saturday and each painted a hand. What a long ordeal, but really fun and funny. The tips of my fingers were bright orange for almost six weeks afterwards! It was a bit clumsy, but then again, merely my first experiment with this ancient art form.

Mehandi, or Henna Body Painting

People throughout India, Africa and the Middle East have been painting their bodies with ‘mehandi’, the plant we know as henna (or mehndi), for the past five thousand years. In general henna is used as a blessing or lucky charm. It is used in ceremonies surrounding marriage and birth most frequently, being applied to the feet and hands in elaborate patterns. The stains range in color from light yellow/orange to black and can last for up to a month depending on recipe used, skin type and area of application.

Henna paste is applied to the skin either by dabbing it on gently or by squirting it into thin lines. Everything from thin wooden toothpicks to tiny paper cones to plastic syringes are used to get thin, controlled lines. Henna stains quickly so any errors or blotches must be dealt with immediately. Once the henna is applied to the skin, it must be kept moist in order to impart its stain to the skin. A lemon-sugar paste is daubed on over the henna. Depending on your patience, and the desired intensity, henna should be kept on the skin as long as you can stand it. Brides who paint with henna usually go to sleep the night before their wedding with their hands and feet wrapped, the theory being the longer the henna stain lasts, the longer the marriage will last.

Lots of people say “isn't there some sort of trick to henna?” Yes, and practice is the one that most folks underrate. After that it's sift your henna, and make sure the environment you apply the henna in and your skin are as warm as you can make them to promote the endothermic reation.

Rae with applied henna
Check out this body art!

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