At the foot of the Babia Gora Mountain lies the longest village in Europe – Zawoja. It is inhabited by Babia Gora highlanders. In the past their main occupation was shepherding, nowadays there is only one shepherd’s hut and a few cows in the area and this tradition is in danger of being forgotten.
This region has always been difficult, poor and demanding. Shepherding and mountain farming demanded hard work, skills and strong body and mind. The harvest was earned only with hardest work. Sheep and cows were grazed here, honey was collected and flax was grown, mostly for clothes and linseed oil.
The highlanders of Babia Góra come from the Wallachians, an ethnic group from the Balkan Peninsula. From here you can still find there an exotic beauty type for Poland: dark hair and complexion. Well with my black hair and swarthy skin, in this folk costume I look almost like a native highlander from Babia Gora region.
How did highlanders care about their beauty? In a natural way only! Healthy diet (eating sauerkraut, herbs, groats, little meat, periodic fasting), cold spring water and outdoor activity. Regional products such as honey, dairy products, linseed oil and lanolin could have been used for cosmetic purposes, but they haven’t, unless by accident – when natural lanolin* smoothed the skin of someone’s hands while shaving sheep for exapmple. Highlanders didn’t have skin care that high on their list of priorities.
Honey was considered sacred because bees were considered sacred insects. So wise of them! Any use of sacred honey for purposes other than food would therefore be considered a profanity.
So highlanders of Babia Gora did not use any cosmetic rituals. Except for the pure water, they did not use any other oftheir natural riches in the skin care. Their natural beauty was mostly emphasized by the outfit and hairstyle. Of course, the style changed with the marital status. The unmarried women used to show more hair and had other colours of corsets: like blue and green, married women dressed in black and covered their hair with scarves. The face used to be illuminated not with a highlighter but with colourful beads.
As we read in old documents and analize folk songs, what mattered most was person’s character and whether he or she could sing and dance well. Men if they could, more long hair, braided like robbers who impressed them a lot. For girls, the attraction was greatly enhanced by their skills: milking a cow and baking bread. There were also curvy, feminine shapes in fashion, which were additionally emphasized by multiplying petticoats under the skirt.
*Lanolin is a natural cosmetic raw material, in other words, the fatty base of sheep, wax, which additionally (apart from wool) protects sheep's skin from getting wet, cold or overheating.*