Mehndi: The Art of Henna Body Painting

Cat #: BK-BOOK

Retail Price: $12.00



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About Mehndi: The Art of Henna Body Painting

Back with Henna Tattoo

The first published book on mehndi in the U.S was written by author Carine Fabius, creator of Earth Henna body painting kits. This book comes with dozens of practice exercises and sample illustrations. Inside you will find:

  • Step-by-step instructions on how to apply your mehndi designs
  • Tips from professional mehndi artists
  • History of the art form and a discussion of the traditional uses of the henna plant
  • 140 beautiful photographs and illustrations

See excerpts from the book.

Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press (June 1, 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0609803190
ISBN-13: 978-0609803196
Dimensions: 0.3″ × 5″ × 7.4″

Excerpts from the Book



Henna has been used throughout Africa, India, and the Middle East for thousands of years.

For centuries, mehndi — the art of henna painting on the body — has been practiced in India, Africa, and the Middle East, where the henna plant is believed to bring love and good fortune, and to protect against evil. Mehndi is traditionally practiced for wedding ceremonies, during important rites of passage, and in times of joyous celebration. A paste made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant is applied to the skin, and when removed several hours later, leaves beautiful markings on the skin that fade naturally over 1 to 3 weeks.

Henna Use in the Past

Besides being the key ingredient in mehndi, henna has also been used to dye the manes and hooves of horses, and to color wool, silk, and animal skins, as well as men's beards. Studies of mummies dating back to 1200 BC show that henna was used on the hair and nails of the pharaohs.

Henna Today

Until the art of mehndi became hot news in 1996, henna was mostly used in the United States as a hair dye. Widely recognized now as a wonderful way to dye the skin and to achieve the look of a tattoo, traditional henna uses and application processes have gone contemporary. Although some will always prepare their own henna paste, mehndi kits of varying quality, with foolproof instructions and convenient stencils, can be purchased in many retail and online outlets (including this Web site).



Green portions of this map show areas where henna has been used traditionally for thousands of years for ceremonies and personal adornment.

Practiced for five thousand years throughout India, Africa, and the Middle East, the act of painting the body with preparations made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant, whether it be in preparation for a special occasion or in celebration of a particular event, has always been done with the assumption or fervent wish that the act would engender good fortune, happy results, and good feelings.

Mehndi in India

In the north and western parts of India, the desert areas where the henna plant grows, mehndi (or henna painting) is a very important part of the wedding ritual and ceremony. As the story goes, the deeper the color obtained on the skin, the longer the love between the couple will last; hence the belief that a proper mehndi application is tantamount to a prayer to the gods for everlasting love and a successful marriage.

Mehndi in Morocco

Pregnant Moroccan women in their seventh month seek out well-respected henna practitioners called hannayas in order to have certain symbols painted on their ankle, which will then be encircled with a corresponding amulet. The henna and the amulet are meant to protect both the mother and child through birth.

Once the baby is born and the umbilical cord severed, a plaster of henna, water, and flour is placed on the newborn's belly button in order to ensure beauty and wealth.


henna plant

Click on the image above to view the "Morocco Gallery": a series of photographs showing the areas in North Africa where we have been buying our all-natural, high-quality henna powder from the same farmer since 1998.

The botanical name of the henna plant is Lawsonia inermis. A member of the Loosestrife family, henna originally comes from Egypt, a country that is still one of the main suppliers of the plant (along with India, Morocco, and the Sudan).

Appearance of Henna

Those who have already come into contact with powdered henna are familiar with its undeniably special smell, a powerful and heady combination of earth, clay, chalk, and damp green leaves. In contrast, fresh henna leaves have no odor whatsoever, even when crushed between the fingers.

The henna flower is delicate, petite, and four-petaled, with a profusion of slender and elongated antennas bursting from the center. The red, rose, and white variations of the blossom, which also blooms yellow, cream, and pink, emit a sweet and seductive scent reminiscent of jasmine, rose, and mignonette; hence the name Jamaica Mignonette, as henna is referred to in the West Indies.

Although the plant's primary uses lie elsewhere, the flower's oil has been used as a perfume for many centuries (although its fragrant secret has yet to be popularized in the West).

Properties of Henna

In addition to its cooling properties, several other medicinal properties are attributed to henna. It is used as a coagulant for open wounds; and a poultice made with henna leaves works to soothe burns and certain types of eczema.

Its inherent soothing qualities are also part of the reason why mehndi is traditionally performed on the palms of the hands. Since the palm contains numerous nerve endings, when henna is applied to the area it helps to relax the system.

Finally, henna mixed with vinegar and applied to the head is reputed to heal headaches. Aspirin, move over!

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M. Schulman

This book has good information for those who want to learn about mehndi. The pictures and illustrations are clear. We haven't tried their version of the recipe (for the paste). I think this is a great book for any level mehndi artist.

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J. Gravel

A few years ago, I had a dragon painted on my arm in henna, and after seeing this book in a shop, I thought it'd be interesting to learn more about it, and perhaps give it a go myself. I've not given it a go yet, as henna plants are difficult to locate in this small town, but I feel it's given me a fair background to start with. The book begins with a short history lesson on the origin and uses of the plant and artform. Maps, pictures of the plant and practical applications are interspersed throughout the history and cultural lesson. Indeed, the book is profusely illustrated with many wonderous designs all over the body, focusing mainly on the hands and feet, but there are many designs shown on the arms, chest, belly and back, ranging from very simplistic to extremely complex, both modern and traditional designs from various cultures which use henna art religious and celebratory occasions. Easy to follow instructions are given on harvesting and preparing the plant for use in an easy to make recipe for the paste used to dye the skin, as wells as detailed explanations and diagrams for creation of an applicator, though a store-bought one with a metal tip is recommended, especially for finer, more detailed designs. There are even exercises and techniques listed to help you along before you begin, and over 30 designs and symbols (some with short descriptions of their meaning) with instructions on how to proceed to create some of the beautiful designs illustrated, and application and creation techniques. I would have appreciated a more detailed explanation for the symbols and how they're used in the given culture, but the descriptions are short and superficial. At the rear of the book, there are a few studios listed in the States where you can have henna applied, as well as a short bibliography and some design books suggested for reference, as well as an index and short author biography. A well designed book, I love the pictures, as natural henna only comes in a few shades of brown or red, the black and white pictures don't take away much. If you're interested in giving mehndi a go, this book could give you an excellent start.

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G. Lopez de Dennis

This is a very nice little book, quite primitive but very sweet in its style and explanation of the process and design. There are some interesting photos of different designs and larger skin applications, and the finished work was quite lovely. My only grievance was that the hand-drawn illustrations and designs are somewhat childish looking and skewed, but then again, I'm more of a perfectionist. In the spirit of free-hand artistic expression, I can overlook that factor. Overall, I did enjoy this book and believe many others would find it interesting as well.

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M. elliott

This is a great book, especially for the beginner. It teaches you much about the history and uses of mehndi. It's a very interesting book, for both beginners and people who are somewhat familiar with the practice. Provides you with many different designs and information on both the history of mehndi and the henna herb itself. Not only that but it tells you how to mix henna paste, how to make cones to apply it with, and lots of advice coming from the author's experience. It also has pages of lines and simple drawings to practice to get the feel of applying the tattoos. Over all this is an excellent book, both for refering to and just to read for fun.

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A. Olson

So I absolutely love the art of henna painting, and the beautiful designs that one can create with it. I also really enjoy learning about the history of it's use, which is, to my understanding, female centered in nature, which is neat to learn about, especially how it is used in celebration and to mark special life events. Now while I have dabbled in creating my own henna influenced designs in paintings and drawings, I never really knew much about the technique. Well for x-mas I received an Earth Henna Kit, which is a little starter kit. Everything was fine with it only it didn't really include traditional designs. That is the main reason I was looking for a book on mehndi. But this book is sooo much more! It contains many clear pictures of traditional and creative mehndi designs, some history, and details on how to begin your own designs--even if u have never drawn before, this book gives guidance. I also really like the author's style. Who she is comes through in a lovely way. She makes attempting henna design very approachable. A great little book! Highly recommend!

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S. reynolds

Although I already have the spectacular book Mehndi: The Timeless Art of Henna Painting by Loretta Roome, Carine Fabius' MEHNDI is another must have book. She explains where henna is practiced and where it is not. She gives history of its use and even explains the meanings of many symbols and how they should be used (for those who want to be sensitive to various sacred elements). What I find absolutely WONDERFUL about Ms. Fabius' approach is that she has MORE than 25 pages dedicated to helping one create a myriad of designs. This feature along with professional tips and other great content is what prompts me to give MEHNDI a five star rating. It is very evident this book was not thrown together to make a quick buck. On the contrary, on every page one can get the sense that Ms. Fabius has a passion for Henna, and I thank her for sharing her knowledge

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D. DiLaura

I have just finished this most amazing book! Out of all of the literature about this mystical practice, this book covers EVERYTHING you could possibly want or need to know about Mehndi. I will be using the techniques and patterns enclosed for years to come. Also, purchase and read the other Mehndi book by Loretta Roome - a MUST for Mehndi Specialists!!

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G. Barrois

I loved the book. It gave you step by step instructions and simple exercises to create your own designs.

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C. molina

I recommend this as a first book for any beginner Mehndi reader. This book allows you to decide how far you want to go with Mehndi. The book is quick and easy to read with the bare minimum of history. There are cautions and tips for beginners and general descriptions of several methods of application and types of henna. After reading this, I'm ready to proceed to more detailed Mehndi books with historical facts and symbolic meanings.

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E. Thorne

For anyone who has experimented in henna before, this book just re-teaches the basics. It has a very good and helpful section on the history of henna, some things I'd never read before. For anyone who has had little exposure to henna this is a great book to start with. For those who are looking for more complex design ideas, there are more helpful books. Again, the basic helpful tips are a good place to start.