This post is for the Hellenion online festival Khalkeia, taking place on Hellenion’s Facebook page today. Thank you to Alexeigynaix for putting the event in motion and running it.
For many in religious communities, strings of beads are a good way to guide your prayers and meditations. I personally like having the connection to the deity who you choose to honor with the beads and keeping that connection close by wearing them throughout everyday life. For me, the prayer beads are both a guide for prayer as well as a reminder that the divine I honor with my work is close at hand and with me.
I normally start working on prayer beads by first deciding what deity or deities to honor with the beads. Do I want to focus on one? On a grouping? Do I want to take time to meditate on a concept? Whichever you choose, that is what you are going to select your beads to represent. Also, it is a good idea to think about the final design length. Do you want a project that is able to be worn as a necklace? Do you want a project that you can wear as a bracelet? Is this project something not to be worn at all but to be simply a tool of worship? Figure these details out before you start procuring supplies because what you acquire will change depending on what you want your final result to look like.
My most recent project has been a prayer bead necklace to honor Zeus and Artemis. For personal reasons, those deities are incredibly important to me and important to have a reminder of them close at heart. I started with one design, going off of beads that I already had at home, but I recently was able to get some better beads for my birthday and used those beads to create a more uniform look. You may prefer the uniqueness of non-matching beads or wish for the uniform look that I eventually went with. The choice is yours. After all, this has to suit you and your worship.
Some people start with a prayer they want to have beads to guide them through and some people make the beads and then design the prayer around the beads. Some people who want a set of prayer beads merely want a reminder of the deity to take with them and some just want to have something to run through their fingers as they pray. What do you want your prayer beads to do?
Once you have decided on the purpose and the general length of the prayer beads, next you need to decide on the materials you are going to make your beads from. Are you going to shell out for Swarovski Crystal beads? Genuine gemstone beads with carefully researched associations? Are you going to just go to the craft store and see what strikes your fancy? All are valid ways to pick out beads for your project. Finding what calls to you to symbolize what you are trying to honor is the most important.
For my Artemis and Zeus necklace, I knew that I wanted to have a focal piece, some pendant or charm that would draw the eye and add a bit of a feature to the necklace. At my local craft store I found a pack of silver-plated metal bear claw charms. This suited me perfectly so I used those for the original and the final result.
I personally prefer alternating beads if I am honoring more than one deity. Here you can see how I have beads that I already had owned, selected to remind me of Zeus (yellows, blues, purples) and Artemis (greens, browns, floral). I used seed beads as spacers between each bead. This is strung on metal jewelry wire and it was long enough that I did not need a clasp. Instead, both ends attach to a single jump ring. I added the bear claw as an afterthought after finding it in the store.
I am not as fond of this design purely from a technical aspect. The perfectionist in me does not like how the bear claw is floating on the seed beads in between the two beads at the bottom and how the necklace abruptly ends in a rather unattractive jump ring. That is why when I went to design the second attempt, what has become the final version of this prayer bead set, I decided to completely rework the design.
Homemade prayer beads honoring Zeus and Artemis by Lyssa Little Bear
In this final set, you can see I used a three-way connector to hold the bear claw, making it unnecessary to have a jump ring at the top of the necklace to fasten it. I used Swarovski Crystals in two different colors and again I used seed beads in between each of the beads as a spacer. I alternated moss green and the cloudy blue/purple beads standing for Artemis and Zeus respectively. Again, this is long enough to wear as a necklace without requiring a clasp.
Sets of prayer beads do not have to be restricted to a single deity or pair. I have made sets to honor single deities as well as a whole group of them. The most important part is that you are happy with the result. If you are not happy with the result you create, the item you made will most likely not get used. It is not bad if you have to take something apart and remake it. That just shows care about the end result!
Using prayer beads will differ from person to person. For my beads, I normally start at one spot that is designated somehow as different from the rest of the strand. In the case of the Artemis and Zeus beads, I start with the bear claw. I have a certain set prayer to get me in the proper meditative headspace to pray. Then I go bead by bead, saying a brief prayer to the Goddess or God that bead represents. It can be as brief as “You are Agrotera, the Huntress,” or something longer and more elaborate. Eventually I circle back around to the bear claw and I end my prayers.
Making prayer beads does not have to be as elaborate as the ones I have made here. You can easily string beads onto a cord and knot it. The important thing is that you are happy with the result and you think it will help you in your work to honor whichever deities your choose.
Have fun and may the Gods of Crafting bless you!