A hat is a head covering. It can be worn for protection against the elements, for ceremonial or religious reasons, for safety, or as a fashion accessory. In the past, hats were an indicator of social status. In the military, they may denote nationality, branch of service, rank and/or regiment.
Hats have been around for a very long time. It is impossible to say when the first animal skin was pulled over a head as protection against the elements and although this was not a hat in the true sense, it was realized that covering your head could sometimes be an advantage.
One of the first hats to be depicted was found in a tomb painting at Thebes and shows a man wearing a coolie-style straw hat. Other early hats include the Pileus, which was a simple skull cap, the Phrygian cap, which became identified later as the ‘liberty cap’ given to slaves in Greece and Rome when they were made free men, and the Pestasos which comes from ancient Greece and is the first known hat with a brim.
Although women from an early stage were always expected to have their heads covered by veils, kerchiefs, hoods, caps and wimples, it was not until the end of the 16th century that women’s structured hats, based on those of male courtiers began to be seen.
Since their invention, hats have come and gone as status symbols, uniforms and fashion statements as well as being functional sports and protective headgear.
So what about those things you see an Orthodox Priest wearing? Well to begin with for your pleasurable reading, here is a brief history of Clergy headgear.
For many centuries, head coverings in the form of hats and veils have constituted an integral part of the normative “street dress” of the clergy of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Differing forms of head coverings may be used in different settings depending upon the formality of dress required. Head coverings of bishops, hieromonks and hierodeacons follow monastic traditions that may be different from the customs observed by priests and deacons who live in the world and serve parishes. Aside from the bishop’s miter, head coverings are not liturgical vestments properly speaking, but rather part of the monastic or clerical “habit” (i.e. identifying dress worn outside divine services). However, in certain settings formal head coverings may be worn by priests and deacons on some occasions during divine services either with or without liturgical vestments. The different ethnic traditions within the Orthodox Church have different styles and colors of hats and differing customs as to what hats are to be worn in particular venues.
Ecclesiastical awards are a means for recognizing and rewarding the clergy and laity for their efforts and achievements for Orthodoxy. These efforts may be in any of many different areas, and the exact criteria and system of awards will vary somewhat between Orthodox jurisdictions. These are seen as a means of rewarding people for their contribution to Orthodoxy, whether pastorally, theologically, academically, administratively, spiritually, socially, educationally, or by missionary or charitable works.
For an Orthodox Priest, there are two main head coverings that may be awarded. They are:
Purple Skufia: A skouphos (also skufiya, skufia, or skoufos) is an item of clerical clothing worn by Orthodox Christian monastics (in which case it is black) or clergy, sometimes specifically awarded as a mark of honor (in which case it is usually red or purple). It is a soft-sided brimless cap whose top may be pointed (Russian style), flat and pleated (Greek style), or flat with raised edges (Romanian style).
Kamilavka of violet color: The kamilavka (Russian: камилавка), in Greek: Kamilavkion (καμιλαύκιον), kalymmavkhion (καλυμμαύχιον), or kalymmavchi (καλυμαύχι)), is an item of head wear among the clerical clothing worn by Orthodox Christian monastics and clergy. As with most items of Orthodox vestments this head wear developed from the clothing worn at the imperial court of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) empire. The kamilavka is worn during church services. The kamilavka is a hat in the form of a rigid cylindrical head covering. In appearance it is similar to a stovepipe hat without a brim. The appearance and use of the kamilavka/kamilavkion varies among the different traditions in the Orthodox Church.
A Deacon may be awarded a Kamilavka of violet color—The award is by decree of His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus not earlier that ten years after elevation to protodeacon. It is worn during Divine services (removed as prescribed by the Ustav) as well as during official and solemn events.
All ranks of the clergy wear the kamilavka. These are normally taller than the Greek style, become wider as they rise, and are flat on the top. The kamilavka with the epanokamelavkion (veil) permanently attached, called a klobuk, is worn by monastics, both men and women. As bishops must be monastics, they also wear the klobuk. All monastics, both those who are ordained and those who are not, wear black kamilavkas with a black veils. As with the Greek tradition, hierodeacons remove the veil when they take part in church services, and hieromonks do not.
While bishops, as monks, wear the klobuk, that is a plain black kamilavka with a black veil, the klobuk of higher ranked bishops differ. The veil for archbishops has a jeweled cross on the from of the veil. Metropolitans wear a white veil over their kamilavka, with the same cross as do the archbishops.The head dress for the Patriarch of Moscow differ more significantly. He wears a head covering called a koukoulion, a white conical head covering, instead of the kamilavka, with the monastic veil.
For non-monastic clergy, the kamilavka, of different colors, can be received as awards. Married deacons awarded the honorary rank of protodeacon wear a colored kamilavka, usually purple or red, as do archpriests. Archdeacons, however, continue to wear the black kamilavka.