The Horned Kichka headdress

Horned Kichka. The headdress of the women of the Ryazan Province. Researchers of Russian costume believe that the horns on the headdress appeared in pre-Christian times
The fabulous female costume with a horned kichka was formed in the Meshchersk forests, where meeting a horned elk or a slender roe deer was not a rarity. The woman whose head was crowned with this unusual headdress seemed to be the mistress of these places, guarding, like a goddess, her native land, given to her by the sacred animal, the patron of her family. Even the name of some parts of the costume tells about its connection with the images of animals – “the horny kichka”, “the hoof” (the middle part of the kichka), “the wings” – two embroidered strips of fabric coming down from the collar to the back. So there was a belief that her native land, her deities helped her to “turn into” a moose or a bird if she had to save her life or the life of others. This costume is imbued with the spirit of ancient legend, and in the image of the woman, its mistress, one can see the features of the Polovtsians, who once plagued the Ryazan lands.
This headdress is a whole ensemble of elements. The quilted thick canvas kichka on the lining was the basis of the design. A “snur”, a braided thick cord with a wide tassel decorated with large beads, was attached to it at the back. It went down along the back, being a symbol of a pagan deity-animal. The front part of the attire, using inserts of hard materials, such as birch bark, was given a shape of horns, hoofs or shoulder blades. The ears were protected from evil eye and slander by putting a cord with amazingly beautiful tassels, threaded from silk and beads, on top of tassels. This element of the attire was called “under the earpieces”, next to which “cannons” – balls of white goose down – were often placed. The back of a woman’s head was covered with a semicircle of kumach with a linen lining fabric, decorated with gaffes, black cord, sequins and ribbons – “pozatalnik”. From this semicircle descended a rectangular net threaded of large multicolored beads (white, blue, black, yellow and cherry), which covered the neck and part of the back. The mop was the headdress of married women, so the headpiece covered all hair, which, according to ancient beliefs, had magical powers. When a woman got married, she became a member of a foreign clan, and in order not to bring bad luck to her husband and his kin, she had to carefully hide her hair.
In the past, a woman’s costume was full of sacred meaning and the patterns and interlacing of flowers and ornaments on it told both about the life of people and destinies of an entire nation. The costumes were a kind of code to understand who a person was, where he came from, what class he belonged to, what his social status was and what he did. But except this information in a suit there was also a secret of birth, a secret of being. This knowledge, which came from the pagan Rus, was cherished by the folk art for several centuries.
The horned kichka was worn by young married Russian women, replacing it in old age with a hornless one. Slavic married women for a long time tied the kerchief so that the ends stuck out on their foreheads in the form of small horns. Like the horns of the young moon, they symbolized the time in a woman’s life when she could give her husband heirs. Therefore, the horned kichka can be regarded as a ritual recognition of the link between a man and the goddess of fertility. In addition, the headdress protects its owner from the evil eye and evil spirits.
The headdress varied depending on the age and marital status of the woman. On the wedding day, after the sacred act, when the girl “turned” into a woman, there was a rite of “plaiting”. The bride’s girlfriends braided the braid. They divided her hair in two and braided it into two braids, laying them with a crown on the back of her head. The semantics of the ritual shows that the girl has found her mate and united with her for the continuation of the family. She wore a low headdress (“kichka maludukha”) with hardly a horn. After the birth of the first child, the young woman, having proved her fertility, wore a horny kichka or a high, spade-shaped headdress. The longest horns were on the kichka of the oldest woman of the family. Over time, this tradition was lost and wedding costumes acquired high “horns”.
The horned headdress was first mentioned in a document of 1328. The kika was the attire exclusively of married women, in connection with which it was called the “crown of marriage”. Kikis were especially common in the Tula, Ryazan, Kaluga, Orel and other southern provinces.
The wearing of the kika began to be persecuted by the Orthodox clergy in the 19th century, peasant women were forced to wear kokoshnikas, and the pagan kichka was abandoned. Documents have survived, from which it follows that the priests were strictly enjoined not to allow women wearing the kike not only to receive communion, but also to enter the church. This was the main reason why by the beginning of the 20th century women from the southern provinces of Russia began to wear mere polovonikas and shawls, while kikas could be seen only rarely. In the Voronezh region the kichka was preserved as a wedding attire until the 1950s.

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