A strand of carefully chosen beads and charms can provide a group of symbolic objects to fill your mind and heart with associated images, memories and thoughts…[they] satisfy something very deep in the human psyche – the need to touch, handle, feel with our fingertips.
— from Pagan Prayer Beads: Magic and Meditation with Pagan Rosaries by John Michael Greer and Clare Vaughn
First today, I need to clear up any confusion or misunderstanding (ah, yes — good old Mercury retrograde)!
Please let me remind you that my intention in this topic is not to teach the art and craft of how to string beads. I am not even remotely qualified to do that! Luckily, you can find tons of great information all over the web, at your local crafts shops and best of all in the wonderfully inspiring and pragmatic book by John Michael Greer and Clare Vaughn, Pagan Prayer Beads.
You will find that it is easy and fun to make your own prayer beads, and I hope you will.
But my purpose here is that we are beginning a gratitude journey, using my own beads. If you’d like to make some, too, it’s a beautiful practice. But my real intention is that I would like us to make together a harvest spell-prayer of thanksgiving.
That said, here are a few more logistical tidbits for creating your beads, so you can work on them over the weekend if you’d like. But please know this is not meant to be a comprehensive “how-to.”
First, you will need a starter bead, which will be unique and will represent your main intention. On my prayer beads, the starter bead is not a bead at all, but is the bisque Goddess figure. I hold my starter in one hand the entire time I circle through the other beads, as she keeps me grounded in my main intention.
Of course, you will want to have a bead that represents each part of your prayer. It is helpful to lay out all your beads in order before you start stringing. To make this easy, keeping the beads from rolling all around, you can always go to a craft store and buy a beading board. These are really great if you think you might get hooked and start playing with all sorts of beading projects. However, a plastic tray with shallow sides, overlaid with a piece of cloth with a bit of nap to it (like velvet or flannel) works pretty well, too.
To finish your beads, you will want a crimping bead. If you are making a circle, your crimping bead will be on the finishing end next to the starter bead. This is not complicated, but you might want to go here for the easy instructions. Unless you are looking for an excuse to, you do not need to feel obligated to run out and buy special pliers; regular ones can do a pretty good job. But you will have a much sturdier result if you crimp the end.
Lastly, you are going to want some spacer beads, which give your fingers room to easily hold the beads that represent the parts of your prayer.
I changed the look of my spacer beads in the places where I have sections, such as the four seasons, or the Triple Goddess. Other parts in my prayer beads, however, are “stand-alone.” Actually, when I made my beads, I didn’t really give this a lot of thought, so my spacers tend to change a bit randomly.
In fact, I would never hold up my beads as a shining example of how to make Pagan prayer beads. While they were made in sacred space, it was a slightly chaotic, boisterous, happy group exercise of about twenty people at Witchcamp on a hot, muggy August morning. So although I prepared by writing down my intention and prayer, and then organized my beads after a fashion, precision and artfulness were not my primary focus at the time (and maybe I love them even more for this).
However, if you would like to see some far more beautifully organized examples, I would direct you again to Donald Engstrom-Reese’s website. Not only does he share his own beads, scroll down the page and click on the links to the other gorgeous prayer bead examples he offers, from other groups and locations.
On the page dedicated to his own daily beads, if you follow along with his explanation, scrolling up and down, you can see what each bead means, and the rhythm he created in his Prayer Poem. It starts with the big African bone bead near the center that has the string ends next to it. It first snakes down and to the left; then it wraps around along the bottom going back right; then circles up along the top, going right to left; then ends at the big spotted African bone globe again.
As I say, mine is not nearly this well thought-out, complex, or poetic.
But as a part of my daily devotional practice for seven years, it has become a powerful weaving that I hope you will also find inspiring in the days ahead.