Archive for March 19th, 2009

All thisĀ  reading about Ireland and the many faiths there has given me a major case of wanderlust. Alas, I will not be going anywhere til May when my husband and I are off for a month in Italy (yes, you may hate me) where he has a conference and some other work. So I decided to do something I should have done months ago, but for some reason (hmm, work, house cleaning, needy dog, life in general) just never got around to – sharing with you all the fantastic prayer beads my eldest son Shawn and his girlfriend Cecilia brought back to me from their 5-month trip through Europe, the Middle East and China.

I think one reason it has taken me so long to show these beads here is it just seemed a huge task – they sent back and brought back so many from so many countries! But this morning, I thought, why not just do it in parts? So today, I want tp share with you some prayer beads Shawn brought back from the first six weeks of his trip, which he made with another classmate, through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. So here goes . . . .

Turkey – Here is a set of Muslim prayer beads, alternately called a subhah or a tasbih, depending on the culture,

Turkish prayer beads

Turkish prayer beads

that came from Istanbul, Turkey. Does anyone know what they are called in Turkey? I am thinking “tasbih.” Along side it, you see an evil-eye bead that he also brought me. I love this collection, because it tells you a lot about the faith and practice of this country – Turkey is still a secular country, but it has a growing religious fundamentalist political party. The people there – mostly Muslims – can be very devout (thus, the subhah), but they are also superstitious (thus the evil eye bead). If you have my book, you can find a description of the history and use of both of these kinds of beads on pages 8-10. I was lucky enough to travel in Istanbul and western Turkey 15 years ago and I remember seeing these blue eyeballs everywhere. Kinda creeped me out. Not this one, tho.

Syria – Shawn went to Syria next, where he had a wonderful time in bazaars and out in the desert, too. I guess he did not find any proper prayer beads, as he brought me these two necklaces. Neat, huh? Look at the arrowhead-like thing on the brown one. I suppose I could use that for a terminal charm.

Syrian beaded necklaces

Syrian beaded necklaces

Jordan – Next came Jordan and three sets of tasbih, each with different and interesting tassels. One

Jordanian prayer beads

Jordanian prayer beads

has coins, one has little metal balls, kind of like bells, and one has little metal drops. I do not know if there is any significance to these kinds of tassels. Anyone know? Also, notice that the prayer beads on the far right – the white ones – have some kind of writing on them. I am sure it is Arabic – anyone know for sure? Can anyone tell us what it says? If you have an Arabic friend, please forward this blog entry to him or her and clue us in. I am dying to know.


Arabic writing?

Prayer beads from Israel Israel – And here we have the first set of Catholic rosaries of the trip. Both are made from olive wood, very common to Israel, and both have a little window behind the medal that contains something it tells me is “terra Jerusalem” – the soil of Jerusalem. It’s kind of reddish in color. Pretty neat. He also sent two sets of subhah, these both with silk (or silk-like) tassels. Both are made from some kind of hard plastic or resin.

Here’s a picture of the “terra Jerusalem”:"Terra Jerusalem"

“Terra Jerusalem”

Egypt – OOPS. I forgot to photograph Egypt. We’ll have to save that for the next entry.

So, aren’t these very cool? Do any of you readers have rosaries or other forms of prayer beads from this part of the world that you could share a picture of or a story about?

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