Question: Are sacred garments used in other religious traditions?

Table of Contents

Question: Are sacred garments used in other religious traditions?

Latter-day Saints and early Christians are not the only religions who use an article of clothing to remind them of important religious principles

Other examples include:


1. The use of the "scapular" in various monastic and other devotional orders in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions:

A scapular (from Latin scapula = shoulder) is a length of cloth suspended both front and back from the shoulders of the wearer, that varies in shape, colour, size and style depending on the use to which it is being put, namely whether in Christian monasticism or in Christian devotion.

The monastic scapular is part of the garb, the habit, of many Christian religious orders, of both monks and nuns, at least since the time of St Benedict. In its basic form it is a shoulder-wide floor-length piece of cloth covering front and back, and worn over the traditional tunic or cassock, almost like a sleeveless surcoat, traditionally in the case of some orders even during the night. It is the equivalent of the analavos worn in the Eastern tradition. From its mention in the Rule of St Benedict it may be argued that according to his mind the purpose of the scapular is solely of a spiritual nature, namely like an "apron" to be a sign of the wearer's readiness to serve, in this case that of the workman in the service of God. This understanding of the purpose of the monastic scapular as a purely symbolic apron is supported by the fact that monks and nuns, when engaged on some manual labour, tend to cover it with a protective apron or carefully tuck it up or throw the front length back over their shoulder to prevent it from getting in the way and possibly soiled and maybe even damaged….

In various Christian traditions the term scapular is also applied to a small devotional artifact worn by male and female non-monastics in the belief that this will be of spiritual benefit to them. The Roman Catholic Church considers it a sacramental. It consists of two small squares of cloth, wood or laminated paper, bearing religious images or text, which are joined by two bands of cloth. The wearer places one square on the chest, rests the bands one on each shoulder and lets the second square drop down the back. Some scapulars have extra bands running under the arms and connecting the squares to prevent them from getting dislodged underneath the wearer's top layer of clothes. In lieu of it, the "scapular medal" may be worn. [1]


2. The Jewish "tallit kattan" (or "tallis kattan") which is separate and different from the "tallit/tallis gadol" (the Jewish so-called prayer shawl). The "tallit/tallis kattan" is an undershirt made sacred by fringes in each corner. Wearing it is a matter of Jewish law (see, for example, Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 9:1). While a "tallit/tallis gadol" is worn during most morning prayers, the "tallit/tallis kattan" is worn every day, throughout the day.

3. The Sikh are obligated to wear breeches, known "kacha", as part of the Five Ks which Sikhs wear to distinguish themselves (the others being a steel bangle ("karha"), not cutting the hair and preserving it with a turban ("kesh" (hair) or "keski" (turban)), dagger ("kirpan"), and comb ("kanga").

4. Zoroastrians wear an undershirt known as "sudra," which is obligatory for Zoroastrians initiated into the faith. There is a special pocket to remind the person to fill his/her day with good deeds.

5. In Islam, those performing the hajj wear special clothing:

During the Hajj, male pilgrims are required to dress only in the ihram, a garment consisting of two sheets of white unhemmed cloth, with the top draped over the torso and the bottom secured by a white sash; plus a pair of sandals. Women are simply required to maintain their hijab - normal modest dress, which does not cover the hands or face.[8]

The Ihram clothing is intended to show the equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of Allah: there is no difference between a prince and a pauper when everyone is dressed the same. The Ihram also symbolizes purity and absolution of sins. [2]

Notes

  1. "Scapular," on Wikipedia (accessed 14 December 2008). Internal references silently removed. (italics added) off-site
  2. "Hajj: Preparations," on Wikipedia (accessed 14 December 2008). (italics added) off-site