Were redheaded infants ever systematically murdered?

I remember a throwaway line on a sitcom years ago, I can’t remember which one, where a couple of characters were arguing. Person A says something snarky to Person B, who replies with something like “And if you were born in a different time, they’d have killed you for being a redhead”

Apparently, the belief was that redheaded people are associated with the devil, and thus needed to be killed. I’ve always just took that at face value but now I’m kind of wondering if that was true at all.

Considering the nature of the infraction, lets keep this to Western and Christian nations (since there probably aren’t a lot of redheaded asians or black people). Were redheaded babies ever killed due to a misguided belief of demonic association?

There are numerous times throughout history that Redheads were killed for being redheads. I can’t find any references for “at birth” but several time periods where redheads were purged.

Eqypt had a few periods where they ritually sacrificed redheads.

Europe, during the witch hunt years, burned them at the stake, etc…

And in 2003 a guy in Britain was stabbed for no other reason than the red color of his hair.

A teacher of mine was in Africa with the Peace Corps. His wife had red hair and some people there thought she was a witch.

Red hair is statistically unusual. People with prominent unusual features are often subject to witchcraft accusations in cultures where there is belief in witches. But it’s a far cry from “redheads can be witches” to “kill the redheads, all of whom are witches.” I’d like a cite for the assertion that redheads were any more likely to be killed in the European witch executions than other hair colors. I’d have thought grey / white (i.e. older) was the most likely color.

ETA: I hit reply to Bijou Drains’s post because I wanted to mention that in many sub-Saharan African societies, just about anybody is vulnerable to witchcraft accusations, and though the punishment can be a severe beating or exile or death, it is just as often a ritual de-witching.

Just as a practical point, an awful lot of redheads are bald at birth. You wouldn’t know they were redheads for a few months (or, as in the case of our friend B, a year or so).

The poor Ginger people: http://greensboring.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=11768

This is actually quite topical – last month, some local middle school students got in trouble for promoting “Kick A Ginger Day”.

Albinos, including rufous albinos such as the Nguenguerous in Cameroon, are frequently targets of persecution in African society–perhaps more so than in “Western and Christian nations” in modern times…
http://ospiti.peacelink.it/anb-bia/nr368/e04.html e.g.

Albinos’ parts, blood, etc are considered an aphrodisiac or other medicine in some parts of the world.

In the 16th century a necessary ingredient in poison was the fat of a redheaded man.

Was it earlier this year that they were abducting people(I don’t recall any specific traits targetted) in peru (or somewhere in that area) to kill them and boil their fat to sell as age-defying lotion?

Gotta love people who can look at other people and wonder how much they’d be worth parted out.

It might have been a LISTED ingredient in ONE poison, but “a necessary ingredient in poison” takes it too far. (And it could only be necessary magically, not chemically). Is there any evidence that such a poison was actually made?


I’d have been remiss to correct the information provided in the cite - it would make the citation invalid.

Things have certainly changed. Some of the sexiest women I’ve known were natural redheads with creamy white skin. Apparently most men agree because there’s a lot of successful redhead models and actresses. Before all the plastic surgery, Nicole Kidman used to be stunningly beautiful.

Hard to imagine they were shunned in earlier times.

That citation does not need any help with being invalid.

pan1, you’ve made some pretty incredible claims in this thread:

Please provide some credible source for these or stop posting them.

So you think the information is suspect, but you don’t want to correct it because it will turn out to be false? And you post it anyway? It’s no better than a weird facts list that gets posted on the internet. Even the commentators on the blog post are calling it garbage.

You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair. People who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble is.

Aren’t the majority of redheads of Irish ancestry? I recall reading somewhere the genes that cause red hair came from that region.

I suspect pan1’s information ultimately comes from a line in a Jacobean drama, Bussy D’Ambois by George Chapman. Wikipedia dates it to 1603–4, other sources to 1607. In any case, only a few years after the website’s “late 16th century.” The line in question is III.ii.18 (15–18 given below), referring to flattery:

O tis a subtle knaue; how like the plague
Vnfelt, he strikes into the braine of truth [Version B: man],
And rageth in his entrailes when he can,
Worse than the poison of a red hair’d man.

This is literary rather than culinary or chemical, and it suggests the “poison” is a metaphor for something, perhaps a fiery temper. Certainly not a literal poison.

The only medieval or early modern sources I can find about red hair suggest that it was viewed as unlucky, and (one source) that it was a medieval belief that a child conceived during menstruation might be deformed, one possibility being red hair and freckles.

Red hair is a regressive gene that has been present since Neanderthal and early Homo Sapiens. It is associated with pale skin and freckles. Although it is now common in Northwestern Europeans it is not thought to be original to there. Here is one quote that may be suspect, because it starts out by saying that red hair is very rare in Scandinavia. Which must be BS.


I married a Norwegian-American woman who has hair the color of fresh peeled carrots. Bright red/orange. She gets asked sometimes about what brand of dye she uses and just says ‘thats how it grows’. Her brother married another red head and they are creating more of them. All I know is that they are not people to be messed with.

And the required Wiki;


Ok, I linked to a Wiki thread about red hair that had a section on ‘Gingerism’ as if this were a sort of racism against red haired people. Sorry, I think that is a South Park creation. But I don’t know.

I think I will ask Cecil to get to the ‘roots’ of this hair matter.

Was this even true in England? I can’t imagine people would have wanted to kill Queen Elizabeth I…or her father King Henry VIII who obviously had red or at least reddish-blond hair, judging from his portraits.