Archive for the ‘Making Prayer Beads’ Category

Today – April 16, 2009 – The News Hour with Jim Lehrer did a long feature story on Bead For Life. Some of you may remember that I held a Bead For Life party in my home last year and between sales there and among my friends and husband’s co-workers, we raised over $1,000 for this organization that benefits Ugandan women. The founder prefers “empowerment” to “charity” and after watching the segment, I can see why. They have helped so many people rise out of poverty, and many of them have now purchased houses built by Bead For Life, paying for them with beads! You can watch the segment on the NewsHour’s website, above.

The feature was excellent and I highly recommend you watch it. Then consider holding your own Bead For Life party, or just order a bag of paper beads from them from which to make a set of prayer beads. You can read entry I wrote about an Anglican rosary I made with my Bead For Life beads here, with pictures.

I want to ask everyone’s patience over the next two weeks, as my husband and I are frantically getting ready for a month-long trip to Italy (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). My time for blogging between now and when we go may be limited, as I also have to finish up a bunch of work before we can go. Oh, and clean my house. Drat. My husband has some work in Italy and a conference and I am tagging along. Once there, I will blog from all of the places we visit – Turin (as in “The Shroud of”), Trent (as in the “The Council of”), Venice (as in “The Merchant of”), the Cinque Terra (I got nothin’ here), Florence (as in “A Room with a View” of), Siena (as in the Crayola crayon “Burnt Siena”) and, lastly, Rome (as in . . . . “There’s no place like . . . “). I will take prayer beads, use prayer beads, seek out prayer beads and otherwise just have a darned good time. I like religion, so you can bet I’ll be blogging about some great places of faith.

So if I don’t write before I get to Italy, please understand. But just you wait til I get there!!!!

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Several months ago, I posted a link here to a great radio story I heard on National Public Radio about Gadadhara Pandit Dasa, a 36-year-old Hare Krishna monk and Hindu chaplain at Columbia University. I loved the story, which was kind of a day-in-the-life feature, and was thrilled when a photo accompanying the story showed Pandit praying with prayer beads.

I sent a link to that post to Pandit in New York, and he sent me a lovely reply and agreed to a phone interview about his prayer beads and how he uses them. We talked last month.

Pandit was born in India and raised in the U.S. in a Hindu family where prayer beads were a part of everyday life. His parents had a temple room – a room dedicated to family prayer and worship – where there were several sets of japa malas – Hindu prayer beads – made from the wood of the neem tree. “It was a very commonplace thing for us,” he said. “There were always a few of them in the temple room and you just pick one up and use it to chant the mantra that you were chanting.”

In the 1990s, Pandit became affiliated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and became a priest there in 2004. During his time of study and initiation, he was given a mala by his spiritual teacher. Before presenting him with the gift, his teacher first prayed on the beads, chanting with a special intention for Pandit’s own spiritual journey on each of the 108 beads. “This sanctifies them and establishes my relationship with my spiritual teacher,” Pandit said. “I really feel that my spiritual life is protected and guided by him, and when I hold those beads I feel that they are very sacred and special because they were given to me by him on the day I officially made a commitment to a certain kind of spiritual practice.”

Pandit’s mala is made of wood from the tulsi, or tulasi, tree, a tree sacred to Lord Krishna, who Hare Krishna devotees revere as God. To pray, he sits cross-legged on the floor and holds the first bead between the thumb and middle finger of his right hand and recites the Hare Krishna mantra, sometimes called the “maha mantra,” or great mantra, on each bead:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare

The prayer is taken from one of the Upanishads, a sacred Hindu text, in which the god Brahma describes these 16 names of Krishna as able to destroy evil. You can hear a recording of the Hare Krishna mantra here.

The Hare Krishna mantra is supposed to be prayed out loud, not silently. “Our understanding is that the name of Krishna will enter the ear and purify the heart,” Pandit said. “So that is our meditation, the sound vibration.” Pandit said he chants the mantra softly to himself. “Others may just hear a murmuring, but I am doing it so that I can hear it.”

Pandit prays with his beads for two hours a day everyday, beginning at 5 a.m. He carries his beads everywhere in a small cloth bag that he keeps with him. He prays with the beads everywhere he goes in New York City – on the streets, in the subways and on the buses. “What happens is the hand goes in the bag and they are being fingered in the bag. A separate strand of 16 counter beads hang off the bag and you move a bead after each round.” 108 x 16 = HOW MANY prayers a day.

Pandit said there is an underlying prayer to the chanting of the mantra which he described as “Krishna, please engage me in your service.” “That is the mood in the heart,” Pandit said. “And we are to chant with the intensity of a child crying for its mother.”

Pandit has his own website, http://www.nycpandit.com. I want to thank him for all his time and for sharing these great pictures.

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June is the month of weddings (yeah – I was married in May) and so I thought some of you out there might be interested in making a special set of prayer beads for the brides-to-be in your lives.

As I have a friend getting married soon (yeah – not in June) I decided to make her a set. I combed through my bead supplies and this is what I came up with:

Almost everything you see here came from my local independent bead store, Berkeley’s ab-fab Baubles and Beads. The cross is made from mother-of-pearl shell with a nice pinkish hue overlaying the white. The oval beads and the pentagonal bead are also a highly polished mother-of-pearl. I know I paid less than a dollar for each of those – I think. There are two tubes of seed beads, a size 11 white to go between the beads on the circlet and a size 8 white seed bead to go on the stem. These bigger seed beads have holes large enough to take the two strands of flexible beading wire I will use in the stem. And I am using small daisy wheels with a silver finish.

The only thing I got elsewhere are the faceted crystal beads that make up the main part of the prayer beads’ circlet. These I bought at a local antiques flea market. I think I paid about $20 for a vintage necklace that had about 50 or 60 of these iridescent, aurora borealis faceted beads. I looooooove them and still have enough left for a bracelet and some earrings. Or another set of prayer beads!

My bride-to-be friend is a not a Catholic, so I decided to make her an Anglican/Protestant form of prayer beads. But as I was stringing them, I decided to do something a bit different – to create my own form of prayer beads, a kind of hybrid between the Anglican/Protestant form and the Catholic rosary. I made the circlet of the prayer beads in the Anglican/Protestant format, with 28 weeks beads, divided in four groups of seven, divided by four cruciform beads, which represent the arms of the cross. But on the stem, – which, in the Anglican format, traditionally has a cross or other terminal charm, an invitatory bead – I decided to add three additional beads, like the Catholic rosary stem’s three Our Father beads. I decided these will represent the three major marriage vows: to love, to honor and to cherish. I will create or find three special prayers to give her for these three beads.

I encourage you to feel free, whenever you make prayer beads, to break away from the traditional forms if you are comfortable doing so. You can turn this same set of bridal prayer beads into an Anglican/Protestant rosary by subtracting the three extra beads from the stem, and you can make it into a traditional Catholic rosary by adding more beads.

If you have my book, Bead One, Pray Too, you can find directions to make this kind of prayer bead set under “Intermediate Anglican [or Catholic] Rosary” on pages 127-128. If you don’t have the book, you need bead stringing skills that include crimping. That’s about it.

You will need:

flexible beading wire, size fine (I like Softflex)

1 crimp bead big enough to hold 4 strands of flexible beading wire

crimping tool

4 oval cruciform beads

1 pentagonal invitatory bead

31 faceted crystal beads, approximately 6-8 mm

10 small silver daisies or other spacers

size 11 white seed beads

size 8 white seed beads

Begin with the circlet. String one daisy spacer, one cruciform, one daisy, 3 size 11 seed beads, *one faceted bead, two size 11 seed beads.* Repeat between * and * until 7 faceted beads are strung. String 3 size 11 seed beads, one daisy spacer, one oval cruciform bead, one daisy spacer, 3 size 11 seed beads, one faceted bead, two size 11 seed beads. Repeat in this fashion until all oval curciforms and all but THREE faceted beads are strung. End with three size 11 seed beads and bring working end of wire back down through the first oval cruciform bead and the two daisy spacers on either side of it.

Now string the stem. On BOTH STRANDS OF FLEXIBLE WIRE, *string 3 size 8 seed beads, one faceted bead. *Repeat between * and * until all three faceted beads are strung. String three size 8 seed beads, one daisy spacer, the invitatory bead, one daisy spacer and three size 8 seed beads. String the crimp bead and the terminal charm. PULL THE FLEXIBLE WIRE TAUT. String both ends of flexible wire back through the crimp bead and the next three size 8 seed beads. Crimp and clip flexible wire close to beads.

If you need a tutorial on crimping, see my blog entry from yesterday.

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Just a quick post today as I have to go down to San Jose and cover those pesky Presbyterians for Religion News Service.

This came in my inbox today – a tutorial on how to use crimp beads from Beading Daily. Crimping is deceptively simple – only need one bead and one tool and two movements, but it is somehow hard to do properly. I thought this tutorial and its accompanying pictures were quite good and should help those of you who make the intermediate and advanced prayer beads in my book, Bead One, Pray Too.

In the next couple of posts, we will make a set of bridal prayer beads (it is June, after all – at least for a few more days) and I’ll tell you about the Bead for Life party I had last Saturday.

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The Sea Ranch, Monday morning . . . .

This morning, sitting in the window overlooking the ocean, I got out the packet of paper beads I ordered last month from Beads for Life. I am going to hold a Beads for Life party in June and I couldn’t wait till then to see what they were like, so I ordered a packet of loose beads. I brought them, and some other supplies, to The Sea Ranch with me so I could make a set of prayer beads with them.

First, I separated the more than 100 beads into colors – pinks, reds, yellows, oranges, green, blues and multi-colored beads. I decided I’d like a set of prayer beads where each section – weeks for an Anglican version, decades for a Catholic version – would be a different color. For the uncounted connector beads, I chose a size 8 seed bead that is yellow with small red stripes.

For the terminal charm, I chose a kind of cross that I purchased at Baubles and Beads I don’t know how long ago. It is a cross with four equal arms and has cut outs inside it. It’s kind of a Jerusalem cross. It is made of jade, I think, or some other pale green stone. I really must start keeping better records of what I buy because I forget after I get things home. I thought it would be nice because it is stone would give the paper prayer beads some heft. Also, its color reminds me of the color of waves when the light shines behind them – a kind of pale bottle green.

I decided to make a basic Anglican rosary (page 122 in Bead One, Pray Too), but there were enough beads in the packet that I could have made a basic Catholic rosary (page 125), too. But as the paper beads are all elongated, stringing the 59 counted beads a Catholic rosary requires would have given me an extremely long set of prayer beads. So I chose to go with the Anglican rosary’s 33 counted beads so the final set of prayer beads would be more manageable.

Then I just threaded a needle, strung the beads in the pattern of the Anglican rosary. I put one uncounted connector bead between each of the weeks beads and three uncounted connector beads between each set of weeks and the cruciform beads. Then I tied a surgeon’s knot (Bead One, Pray Too, page 125) and ran the thread tails back up through the beads. What do you think? Here is a picture of my new prayer beads draped on a Buddha statue that sits in the garden of the house we rented. I love it. I love the colors and the feel of the beads – both light and heavy at the same time. I cannot wait to have my Bead for Life party and hope I can encourage my guests to try their hands at making a set, too.

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As I wrote in an earlier post, a couple of weeks ago I attended the national conference of the Prayer Quilt Ministry in Dallas, Texas. The two-day meeting had talks, field trips and break-out sessions. One of those sessions was on making prayer bead bracelets and was conducted by a beautiful young woman named Allison, owner of Beading Dreams bead store in Dallas.

Allison brought with her perhaps a dozen baskets in which she had placed scores and scores of small, pastel-hued organza bags, each of which contained the components of a prayer bracelet – beads, charms, flexible wire, a clasp and a couple of crimp beads. In two separate sessions, she demonstrated how to string beads, measure the resulting strand to one’s wrist and close it off with a crimp bead. The bags were organized by the color of beads they contained and Allison very helpfully described the spiritual and healing properties of each color on the label of each bag . . . .

As a thank you for helping her set up and tear down (and also cause she’s just a doll!) Allison gave me one of the kits and I brought it back to California with me. When I opened it, I found inside a half-dozen small silver-colored charms – a couple of crosses, one that said “Faith” and one that said “Love” and, I was excited to see, one of a woman sitting cross-legged in meditation. There was also a full handful of purple and blue glass beads. Best of all was that Allison included a strand of Softflex that came with a lobster claw clasp already attached at one end with a crimp bead! She had done half my work for me, enabling me to immediately begin stringing beads without having to first get out my tools and attach the clasp! And imagine my joy when I discovered that all the charms came with split rings already attached. No getting out that awful tool that is supposed to open split rings, but ends up breaking my nails instead. A crimp bead, a jump ring and a small card printed with instructions for assembling the bracelet completed the kit.

I got right to work (or play!) with the beads. I happen to be a person who likes order and routine – probably one of the main reasons prayer beads, with their regularity and rhythm, appeal to me in the first place. So I automatically began stringing them in a pattern: one round bead, one long bead, one round bead, one charm, repeat. I was done in seconds. SECONDS.

Three beads, one charm. I love the symbolism inherent in this pattern of 3 and 1. In Christianity, I see the Trinity and the one God. In Buddhism, it can mean the Triple Gem and the oneness of all things. In Wicca and other forms of Neo-Paganism, I see the three stages of a woman’s life – the maiden, mother and crone and the Goddess. In the New Age framework, I see the body, mind and spirit and the one being. I know there are many more.

How to use this prayer bracelet? Because of the pattern of beads I used, I can take the bracelet off my wrist, hold it in my right hand, and say three repetitions of one prayer on the beads and one repetition of a second prayer on the charm – and repeat all the way around until I hit the clasp. I can say three Hail Mary prayers on the beads and The Lord’s Prayer on the charm, or I can say one of the prayers of Julian of Norwich – “And all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well,” combined with the Jesus Prayer. I can pray anything on this prayer bracelet. That’s the beauty of it.

There’s a link to Beading Dreams at the top of the page. Allison has a lot of these prayer bracelet kits and I am sure she would love to send them out to readers of this blog. Giver her a call or drop her and email and tell her you saw her prayer bracelets on my blog. Happy Beading!

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bahai-pb-components.jpgFirst, let me apologize for the rotten pictures here. If anyone knows how I can get these pictures to appear on the blog in a larger size, please leave a comment in the space below. Okay . . .

Last week, I posted about Baha’i prayer beads – what they are and how they fit into that faith. This week, I set out to make my own set of Baha’i prayer beads.

First, I gathered (see picture above):

19 8 mm round and flat blue glass beads

5 10mm square and flat green glass beads

1 12 mm pink bead

46 pink Japanese seed beads, size 8

18 green Japanese seed beads, size 6

8 blue Japanese seed beads, size 8

2 large silver spacers

2 crimp beads

1 jump ring

1 gold star charm

Softflex fine beading wire

1. LEAVING THE SOFTFLEX CONNECTED TO THE SPOOL, pull out about 2 feet of Softflex. String 1 crimp bead, 2 pink seed beads, 3 green seed beads, *1 blue glass bead, 1 pink seed bead, 1 green seed bead, 1 pink seed bead.* Repeat between * and * until all blue glass beads are strung.

2. String 3 pink seed beads, 1 green seed bead, 1 large spacer, 1 12 mm pink bead, 1 large spacer, 1 blue seed bead, three pink seed beads.

3. String 1 green glass bead, 1 pink seed bead, 1 blue seed bead, 1 pink seed bead.”* Repeat between * and * until all green glass beads are strung.

4. Finish with three blue seed beads, 2 pink seed beads and a crimp bead. Catch star charm by bringing Softflex back through crimp bead and the next4 or 5 beads on the strand. Crimp crimp bead and cut excess Softflex.

5. Cut Softflex at other end, leaving a 3-4 inch tail. Add jump ring. Catch jump ring by bringing tail of Softflex back through crimp bead and 4-5 beads on the strand. Crimp crimp bead and cut excess Softflex.

When you are done, it should look something like this:

bahai-pb-mine.jpgOn my set, I used some things I had lying around the house, including the 12 mm pink spacer bead, which came form an old vintage bracelet I bought at a flea market. I could not locate a real nine-pointed Baha’i star as quickly as I would have liked, so I used a five-point star. I will make a trip to Sagrada in the next week or two and get a real Baha’i star there. I also left a place at the other end of the strand for a tassel by adding a jump ring. Look for that to come, too.

Okay – now you all try and send me some pictures!

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Eariler this week, I posted about going to see my friend Carolyn become a Catholic after 40 years of attending the Catholic church.

baubles_beads.jpgAs a gift to commemorate her baptism, confirmation and first communion – taken all in one ceremony the night before Easter – I promised to make her a Catholic rosary, so today we went to Baubles and Beads, the fabulous Berkeley bead boutique, and Carolyn picked out the components of her gift.

We had a great time. Carolyn bounced from one side of the store to the other, working her way between the wall of semi-precious beads and the wall of strung glass beads. She had her copy of “Bead One, Pray Too” open before her to the page that has a drawing of a Catholic rosary. We pulled out a lot of different beads to see how they would look – did she want shells for some of the beads? No. Did she want a circular mother-of-pearl donut instead of a crucifix? No. There were a million possibilities – a million potential prayer beads.

Carolyn had received two other rosaries as gifts last week, one of stone (handmade by a church member – YEAH!!!!) and one of wood (purchased in Italy and blessed by the Pope). So this time, she went for pearls and crystals. First, she chose the decade beads – the 53 beads on which Catholics say the “Hail Mary” prayer – a strand of smooth, round Swarovski 6 mm. pearls in a cool grey color. Next, for the six “Our Father” beads, she chose some 8mm. round faceted Swarovski crystals in a color I would describe as smoky quartz. We were almost done – but what about the “findings”? She picked out 12 small silver colored bead caps to set off the Our Father beads and a silver colored Celtic cross for the terminal charm. To join the rosary into a circle, she decided not to go with a traditional medal, but to use a decorative triangular finding. The last thing we chose were some size 11 Japanese seed beads in a light gray color – almost translucent – to join all the other beads together.

I made Carolyn leave so I could buy her beads without her seeing the price (CAROLYN – STOP READING HERE!!). It came in at about $25 – a very reasonable amount for a gift, don’t you think? And there will be enough beads left over that I can make a second Anglican rosary or a bracelet or even a wire-wrapped necklace. Prayer bead making doesn’t have to break your bank.

So, I am home with Carolyn’s beads and will soon put them together. Stay tuned.

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