Towel word comes from the root "Rush", "ruh". The dictionary Vasmer "ruin" — break, tear, ie towel — torn piece of cloth cut. Woven cloth very long.
In Slavic languages, the root of this value is found in the word, meaning a sheet, shirt, clothes — ruho, junk. They carry the semantics of the integrity of woven fabric. Many famous writing "fear a blank sheet of paper", sorry to spoil it, the same experienced by our ancestors, when torn with difficulty the fabric.
The question is: why is torn, not cut? The fact that the weaving appeared long before the invention of metal knives and scissors. During the Neolithic (New Stone Age) kroili clothes, making an incision with a sharp stone, shell, or a chip, and then tore the fabric by hand. So far it is working in this way with a fine chintz, some vendors and tailors. The fabric is torn exactly shared or cross threads, depending on the direction of the applied force.
Consonance with the word "hand" gives rise to an erroneous interpretation of the word "towel" as a hand towel. However, the items were used for drying, called: utirka, pants, towel, rukoterka, handbrake — rag hanging in the washstand — pieces of fabric small length and less decorated than this towel. About the size of a small hand towel saying goes — one rukoternikom wipe — in the world to rent her. Probably become part utirkami old cast towels — in fact in the old country life woven products never thrown away, and literally wore out the dust.
The real towel with a width of about 35 — 40 cm is the length of 3 — 5 m, richly decorated with embroidery, weaving abusive, ribbons, lace and braid — such decorative items can not wipe hands
However, long-distance relationship with the word hand possible. The analysis of the semantic field of Russian words with the root of "Rush", "ruh" suggests that the original meaning was roughly as follows: violation of any change in the situation or subject by decisive action mainly hands:
Otrushit cloth — cut off;
Do not Rush — do not touch it;
Rushan cereals — to fight, grind, grind;
Ruh — anxiety, alarm;
Collapse — quit, upset, overthrow;
Ruholnya — working hut for crafts, crafts, a workshop, a place for needlework.
In medieval heritage inventories wealthy citizens meet the expression "soft stuff," which translates as "fur". I would add that it is not just skin, but also their products: coats, coats and blankets. Clarification of "soft" implies that there was a strong and junk — probably, household items, which together with furs were personal property.
In this sense, the towel — a product made by hand, too, in its way, "soft stuff."
Towel — the only ritual object of pagan past, which is used without a break in the tradition of national life for its intended purpose — to protect the holy angles shrine, door and window openings, weddings, holidays, funerals his magical images and amulets against the evil eye, lesson — any damage and be home to spirits of the dead relatives.
Wonderful ways to use towels described in the book "Visual Motifs in Russian folk embroidery": "Not less than forty towels had to drop to the wedding. The largest and most elegant, "rukobitnoe" — in agreement groom bride and her parents to marry. And when the day of the wedding, he came for the bride, Jeweled Towelie-pants put the groom in his cap. Towels gifts to the bride bridegroom's relatives, they decorated the wedding train: instead of tying reins wrapped around the arc, placed them along the horse's back. And all those who participated in the trip, as they were "identified": the bride and groom holding a towel in his hands, tying boyfriend criss-cross on the chest, poezzhane — on their hats. During the wedding the rank of the bride and groom put together and tied towels.
Its special role it plays in the maternity and christening ceremonies. When a person dies, a towel tied round his neck, and put in the right hand, covered with a towel and a coffin on towels dipped it into the grave. For forty days after the death of a towel laid out on the windowsill, in the belief that it "rests" the soul of the deceased. And in the days of commemoration towel hung over the window to "come" to his dead parents into the house.