If you’ve read the Bible, then you’ve probably come across the phrase “gird up your loins.” I’ve always thought it was a funny turn of phrase. Loins….heh.
Back in the days of the ancient Near East, both men and women wore flowing tunics. Around the tunic, they’d wear a belt or girdle. While tunics were comfortable and breezy, the hem of the tunic would often get in the way when a man was fighting or performing hard labor. So when ancient Hebrew men had to battle the Philistines, the men would lift the hem of their tunic up and tuck it into their girdle or tie it in a knot to keep it off the ground. The effect basically created a pair of shorts that provided more freedom of movement. Thus to tell someone to “gird up their loins” was to tell them to get ready for hard work or battle. It was the ancient way of saying “man up!”
While I’ve had a vague notion of what it meant to gird up your loins, I’ve always been curious how exactly you do it. So we did some sleuthing and found these instructions on the Historyzine Podcast and turned it into an illustrated guide for your enjoyment and edification. In case tunics ever come back in style, you’ll now know how to gird up your loins and get ready for action.
Yea, now go forth. Gird up your loins and fresh courage take, my brethren.
1. The tunic wouldn’t allow you to do heavy labor or fight in battle, necessitating the “girding” of one’s loins.
2. First, hoist the tunic up so that all the fabric is above your knees. This will give you mobility.
3. Gather all the extra material in front of you, so that the back of the tunic is snug against your backside.
4. Once the excess fabric is gathered in front, pull it underneath and between your legs to your rear. This feels much like a diaper.
5. Gather half of the material in each hand, bringing it back around to the front.
6. Finally, tie your two handfuls of material together, and you’re all set for both battle and some hard labor. Go forth, be ye men, and gird up your loins!
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Illustration by Ted Slampyak