Departure for the Crusades included many varied ceremonies in and around western Europe. From receiving Crosses, scrips and staffs to wild going away parties for the more wealthy Lords and landowners, others were quite stoical in nature. They took place behind closed doors without anyone taking notice.
One such person was an Irishman and poet “Muireadhach Albanach O Dalaigh” who embarked on the fifth crusade between 1217-21. He recorded in verse how he had allowed his hair be grown for a number of years that he may cut it off as an offering to God for his sins. It was a considered to be a sort of Crusaders tonsure.
Great till tonight my share of sins/this hair I give you in their place. . . Four years has the whole head of hair/been on me until tonight;/I will shear from me its curled crop: my hair will requite my false poems.The Penguin book of Irish poetry, ed. P. Crotty (London 2010), pp. 125 – 6.
The act itself has all the reminiscence of the old Nazarite vow found in the book of Numbers of which Samuel, Samson and John the Baptist partook. Part of the vow was to grow ones hair until the vow had reached its end, at which stage you could cut it off.
It’s interesting to read the varied accounts of what types of ceremonial celebrations Crusaders took part in prior to the journey. It is even more interesting to know that, although Crusaders didn’t settle here in Ireland, some that formed their ranks were of my own Irish ancestry.