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Pagan Prayer Beads

Updated on April 4, 2014

Different Styles of Prayer Beads

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Meditation and Prayer Focus

At a recent gathering, I got into a discussion with several other women about mediation and prayer, and it wasn't too long before the words "pagan prayer beads" were thrown out in the conversation. It's funny how as a bunch of witches, we had to specify that they were "pagan" but it reminded me that often people don't think of prayer beads as being something a person of Pagan-orientation might use as a spiritual aid.

Each of us who had this conversation had something we'd made by stringing items together, most often including beads. These were items that went beyond the occasional power piece and were things that were used regularly for private spiritual work. The creation and handcrafting of them was frequently cited as being a significant moment of spiritual meditation or awakening and all had become cherished items.

What the strings of prayer beads were made from was as eclectic a mix as you could imagine. Hand-crafted carvings and formed ceramics, given beads and tokens, and found objects all were woven together and connected. One woman especially made sure that all the beads she strung together felt distinctly different as well as looking different from each other. She often used her prayer beads as a mediation aid when she couldn't sleep and her beads were all identifiable to her by touch in the dark. Many of her beads represent friends and family for which she says prayers and she knows every single person's bead the instant she touches it.

How to Knot a Bead String

How Prayer Beads Are Used

Christian prayer beads are called rosaries, and they are necklaces that incorporate prayer beads and a cross. Buddhists also have prayer beads, and there's are carved from fragrant wood and strung on a red string to be carried or worn on the wrist. There are even Muslim prayer beads called Misbaha, and they are used to count the names of Allah. Many traditions and cultures made every day necklaces or ritual jewelry that represented prayers or mantras.

The bead work as a memory tool, which each most often representing a type of prayer to be recited. By feeling along the string of beads, the person can focus on the saying or thinking of their prayers and the beads do the automatic counting or tracking of recitations for you. With each bead you feel, you can say a mantra or a prayer, or think of an affirmation or a key word to focus your mental state or intentions.

Share Your Experiences with Prayer Beads!

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    • deblipp profile image

      deblipp 6 years ago

      I was surprised when the book "Pagan Prayer Beads" was first published; it seemed an unlikely subject. But I have been persuaded that this is a great topic for Pagan study.

    • profile image

      Multiman 6 years ago

      While not a pagan myself, Orthodox Baha'i, we use prayer beads, and I found your article enlightening.

    • CutMePretty profile image

      CutMePretty 7 years ago from DURHAM!

      I don't use beads, I do make beads out of rose petals and lavender as they have significance to my love life and lavender boosts anything you do. However I find prayer beads to be a little too much when it comes down to ritual.

    • profile image

      Emmie 7 years ago

      I love prayer beads!

      I made some for myself just a few days ago. I included items that were given to me by other Pagans, items dedicated to my ancestors and spirit allies, and a parts of a bracelet made for me by a WW2 veteran. I also included a small feather found on a nature walk. The beads themselves are gemstones.

      Prayer beads are great and I hope all those reading who decide to make some have fun in the process!

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina_writes 7 years ago from Dartmoor

      Love all your witchcraft hubs. It's a subject I'm interested in learning more about, and into which I have dipped over the years. More please!

    • Windwitch212 profile image

      Windwitch212 7 years ago

      Well written and an excellent article. thank you.

    • River_DragonWolf profile image

      River_DragonWolf 8 years ago from Oklahoma City

      This was great! I saw the book "Pagan Prayer Beads: Magic and Meditation with Pagan Rosaries" at a book store a few weeks ago and I was positively drooling over it.

      Thank you for your wonderfully informative article!

    • profile image

      nasheed 8 years ago

      interesting hub.

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 8 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      These Pagan prayer beads seem very personal and unique...I'm hunting some down - or - since they're so personalized, I'm with Pagan Crafter above and am going to select my next beads very carefully with this hub/prayer beads idea in mind.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 8 years ago from NW Indiana

      Interesting and informative material. Thanks for sharing.

    • Trsmd profile image

      Trsmd 8 years ago from India

      The possibilities would seem almost endless here, and prayer beads have been around for a long long time.I personally don't use them, but I used to.

    • profile image

      kudzufire 8 years ago

      cool. I find prayer beads fascinating.

      Angel blessings.

    • Pagan Crafter profile image

      Pagan Crafter 9 years ago from Over the Rainbow

      I love this hub. It's inspiring me as a crafter to consider making my own string of prayer beads. I especially loved the part about the woman who knew each person's bead by touch, they were that distinctive. That is an idea I'd love to incorporate into my own, and will give my search for new beads a good deal of meaning. :) Thank you so much for writing this!

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Really something I never knew about! I have been familiar with the Rosary, and Muslim beads, but never the 'Pagan' variety. Very nicely written with lots of good links to further explore! :)

    • relache profile image

      Raye 9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Jason, calling them "prayer beads" should be safe for just about any variation and situation.

    • Jason Stanley profile image

      Jason Stanley 9 years ago

      Thanks, I've only seen them on people and didn't think to ask, or feel comfortable asking, about them.

    • relache profile image

      Raye 9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      "Mala" is from Sanskrit and Sufiism is part of Islam. Although many Western writers refer to Sufi prayer beads as "mala' the correct Sufi name for them is "Tasbi."

    • Jason Stanley profile image

      Jason Stanley 9 years ago

      Prayer and meditation are often used as one, but by some are considered quite different. In my tradition, as in many, we say that prayer is when we talk to God and Meditation is when we listen to God.

      The talking is easy - just start talking and express your wish. The listening is a whole different story - quite the mind so the chatter and natural talking shuts up and you can listen with your full being; heart and soul. Quieting the chatter of what is often called the “monkey mind” from jumping all over the place can be quite a challenge when not used to doing it. That is where prayer beads can come in.

      I greatly appreciate that you included the Christian prayer beads in your discussion. Most people either chose to forget or most likely never though of the fact that the rosary was initially a meditation devise that helped the user clear the mind of worldly issues by repetition of a memorized set of prayers. Equally, most non Catholics forget, or don't realize that at one time all Christians were either Catholics or Essines (which is no longer recognized by any Christian church tradition) so in that sense all Christians today come from the tradition of using prayer beads.

      It is much like the "pagan" ritual of walking the labyrinth. The New Thought tradition Unity church in Dallas and another in Austin that have had labyrinths for many years have been joined by a large and conservative Baptist church in Waco and a progressive Episcopalian church in Dallas. Both of these mainstream Christian churches now have permanent labyrinths on their property. Labyrinths are for a meditative walk, just as beads are often used as an aid in meditation.

      I'll end with a question. Are the beads worn on the wrist by the Sufi what you would call the Mala?