Habit, religious

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Habit, religious. Distinctive dress worn by members of religious orders. In W. Christianity, these are usually white (Cistercians), brown (Franciscans), or black (Dominicans). In addition to the main garment, it usually includes a girdle (often with three knots for the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience), scapular (a long piece of cloth worn on the shoulders and hanging down back and front, symbolizing the yoke of Christ), and a hood (for men) or veil (for women).

In E. Orthodoxy, the different habits reflect different stages in the monastic life. A beginner wears the proschema, with an inner and outer cassock-type garment (rason), with a leather belt, a round cap, and sandals. The next stage may substitute a cloak (mandyas) for the outer rason, which in any case will be fuller; a wooden cross is worn. The final stage introduces something like a scapular (analavos) which is decorated with representations of the instruments of the Passion. There may also be a hood or cowl (koukoulos).

In E. religions, the equivalent of the religious habit appears with varying degrees of formality. In the Buddhist saṅgha, a three-part dress was adopted: the lower body is clothed in the antaravasaka (a kind of sarong); the uttarasaṅgha or cīvara in Thailand (a length of woven cloth) surrounds the upper body; and the saṅghati or kaṣāya (a patchwork cloth to symbolize poverty) is worn over the left shoulder. Kaṣāya (‘earth coloured’) refers to the ‘impure’ (aged or faded) colour of the cloth, in contrast to pure (bleached) white: it is the yellow dye used to create this effect which leads to the characteristic ‘saffron robe’. For the Japanese habit, see SANNE.

Taoist ritual functionaries wear a cloak (chiang-i) which has on it symbols of the cosmos with which the ritual is making connection.

In Judaism, the specialized garments of the Temple functionaries ceased with the destruction of the Temple. A rabbi has no specialized ritual role, and therefore wears the same ‘religious habit’ in the synagogue as any other man in the assembly: tallit (prayer shawl with zitzit, tassels), tefillin (phylacteries), and kippah or yarmulke (skull-cap).

Among Sikhs, formal dress requirements apply only to amritdhārī Sikhs (see FIVE KS), but some customs have also established themselves.

For Muslim veiling, see HIJĀB.