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11 Totally Unfounded Things People Believed About Redheads

Updated March 30, 2020 266.7k views11 items

If there's a redhead in your life, you're probably not wondering if they're a witch, a vampire, or an alien. But beliefs about redheads historically weren't so accommodating. Legends and myths about people with red hair can be found in the ancient - and sometimes present - cultures of countries like Egypt, Germany, and Greece, among others.

The real science behind red hair is a mutation of the gene known as Melanocortin 1 Receptor, or MC1R. Red hair is a recessive trait and the rarest of all hair colors, seen in fewer than 1% of people in the world. The uniqueness of redheads can build their mystery and allure. Famous redheads include beauties like Julianne Moore and Lucille Ball, as well as influential men like Ron Howard and Prince Harry. 

Clearly, any myth about redheads probably deserves a little scrutiny. Before you accuse your red-haired acquaintances of hellfire-stealing or having no soul, take into consideration these outlandish myths about redheads from history. 

  • The Ashes Of Redheads Burned Alive Fertilize Fields

    In the early 20th century, Scottish anthropologist and folklorist James Frazer's book The Golden Bough stated that red-haired men in ancient Egypt were burned alive as sacrifices for the god Osiris. Their ashes were then scattered across the fields using winnowing-fans.

    He suggests that Egyptians did this to fertilize their fields and to increase their harvest or possibly to make the corn turn red or golden as it grew.

  • Redheaded Women Are Witches

    Photo: Franz von Stuck / via Wikimedia Commons

    In Medieval Christian Europe, red hair was often associated with witches and witchcraft. 

    Between 1500-1660, it's believed that as many as 80,000 suspected witches were slain in Europe during a period of extreme witch hysteria.

  • Redheads Don't Have Souls

    Photo: Dante Gabriel Rossetti / via Wikimedia Commons

    The legend that redheads don't have souls and can actually take other people's through eye contact was made even more well-known by South Park. There have also been rumors that red-haired people sold their souls to the devil to spread sin and serve the Dark Lord.

    Redhead Mikey Kittrell became known as the Gingers Have Souls Kid and a YouTube sensation after recording an angry video message to fight these beliefs. 

  • Redheads Bring Good Luck

    Photo: Janis Rozentāls / via Wikimedia Commons

    Some superstitious people believe that rubbing the head of a redhead will bring good luck because the hair color is so rare. 

    In Poland, it's said that if you spot three redheads at the same time, you will win the lottery. And, in ancient Rome, red-haired enslaved people were more expensive, partially due to the belief that they would bring their owner good fortune.