My Kingdom for a Crown:
An Around-the-World History of the Skullcap
and Its Modern Socio-Political Significance
© Most Reverend Antonio Hernández, O.M.D.

An extract from the book
skullcap (skúl’kap), n. 1. A small, brimless, close-fitting cap, often made of silk or velvet,
worn on the crown of the head. 2. YARMULKE. 3. The domelike roof of the skull [the
parietal bone]….

Skullcaps became an obsession of mine when I was ordained a Buddhist priest-- there’s nothing like a skullcap to protect a big, bald head like mine. There were only two skullcap traditions I knew growing up: the Jewish and the Catholic. Other than the Brownie Scouts, the pope, my bishop and a few Orthodox Jews, skullcaps were simply never to be seen anywhere. I am half descended of Spanish Jews who converted to Catholicism and half descended from Chinese Buddhists. I was raised Catholic and trained for its priesthood for many years. You’d think I would have seen more skullcaps around, but no.
In an advanced English class I took in the Fall of 2000, we were assigned a research paper. Of course, I leapt at the opportunity to make my natural inclination to research skullcaps into a research paper topic. I would do a two-parter: first I would deal with skullcap history, then I would outline the contrast in Buddhist, Jewish and Catholic traditions. That was all I knew at the time, and thought there was really nothing much else.
This book grew, over a two-and-a-half year period, directly out of that little ten-page research paper. I simply had no idea what a subject this is! The things I learned!… even my general historical knowledge was significantly improved. What a joyful adventure in scholarship and history the research proved to be. All the skullcap styles, traditions, religions that use them, the sheer antiquity of the skullcap, were all overwhelming and beautiful to discover. In the case of the Jewish skullcap and its impact on modern American law, my discoveries were terrifying.
The general history of the skullcap is breathtaking. It is found among almost all nations and races, and it has played vital roles in history. We will have a chance to explore this history, along with the rich traditions and histories of each country by turn. After this we shall explore the Jewish tradition, which is not really so well known to us in the West; we will see how the yarmulke went from an identifier to an object of ridicule, and later came to affect American Constitutional law. We will take a brief look at a practicing Jewish attorney and what he is doing to preserve the sanctity and dignity of the skullcap tradition. Finally, we’ll see what skullcap history America has to offer, and we’ll examine the construction, sizes, purchasing and maintenance of skullcaps, for the benefit of those who wear them and those who would like to try one for fit. Just before the bibliography, there is a huge glossary of skullcap terms-- another pleasant surprise in the history of skullcaps.

It was the most pleasant discovery of all, perhaps, to learn what an absolutely practical and handsome fashion accessory the skullcap is. As the forerunner of the modern béret Basque, it would have to be so. It offers the perfect protection, warmth, shade (to the head anyway), and an exciting fashion statement. It can be folded almost into any little shape and stowed in the pocket. It can be left on the head when it’s cold-- it is not headwear that is recognized in the "cap-tipping" etiquette. In other words, it is THE perfect cap.

It is so very much my hope that you will enjoy this true adventure through our past, through our very psyches, as much as I did when I first embarked on it. I learned that in this case, both the subject itself and all the attendant lessons were equally powerful. Never has such a simple, seemingly commonplace little item-- and a fashion item at that-- had such tremendous impact on the world. Good reading, and enjoy!

One Nation under Scrutiny
Reverend Antonio Hernández, IBA
Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote a great deal about God, yet he was an atheist.

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