One of the best things my Mama ever did was to let me borrow her hips through this life. And because i’m a woman of virtue, these hips don’t lie. And furthermore, to do right by my mama’s sweet gift, a few years ago I began to adorn myself with waistbeads.
I made my first strand while sitting on my Iya’s living room floor in Tallahassee, FL. The strand was white and several shades of blue, and clasped seven cowrie shells. Perhaps it was subconscious intention that had me to string the energy of Yemonja into my first set. As mother of the sea and protector of the womb, I soaked the strand in ocean water before tying them on myself. And there they would stay for over a year, never removed until the day they broke more than a year later.
I always enjoyed hand crafts, and became finger nimble with beadwork when I was just a child. So waistbeads became my young adult handicraft. Waistbeads aren’t just cute summer camp crafts like flower bracelets or limp string necklaces. Each strand clasped around the waist of the woman has a purpose and an intention, a purpose as unique as each bead. If Orion has a belt, why can’t I?
Around the world, some waistbeads are a sign of fertility. Others serve as a spiritual defense mechanism, or protection. Some for adornment or celebration. Some for enticement. Bodychains may be what’s hot in the streets, but waistbeads aren’t a fad, sported by women of many countries, cultures, and colors. I began with that one ocean-inspired string years ago, but my embellished arsenal grew into symbols and stories that encompassed each of these meanings and more. My beads became a part of me.
Beautiful, simple days are those spent in nothing but those beads, sipping tea, journaling, and dancing to smooth music. Some days are alarming, like going to the restroom to find that a strand has popped, scattering rouge glass beads across a tile floor; on days like this, a broken strand could instruct you to slow down, or perhaps serve as a omen of something more (depending on the reason for wear). Sultry days are those when your lover first discovers them, or influences their clinking syncopation during love sport. I like those days 😀
My favorite strand of beads wasn’t even mine. One year at a Kwanzaa festival, I was selling beads as a vendor when a woman approached me requesting a very intentional set. “I want something that represents Yemonja,” she told me. We discussed the strand for a few days, and I worked on it for two weeks before delivery; it included clear quartz, aquamarine, and howlite, I believe. I told her that the strand was to be very personal – a healing strand. Beads to be worn on contemplative, solitary days where she could be at peace with herself. She thanked me and went on her way. One year later at the same Kwanzaa festival, I was a fresh iyawo in my all-white, and found the same woman there. She was so excited to see me, confessing “I wore the beads one time…and became pregnant that night!” WTF have I done?! The woman, over 40 years old, said that instead of celebrating, she and the father had become embarrassed to be such old parents. She then said that the baby felt it wasn’t welcomed, and she had a miscarriage. Oh shit… She thanked me again and again for making the beads, but confessed that she was too afraid to wear them again. I don’t blame you.
The best advice for creating your waistbeads:
- Listen to your heart – you know what you need. Create your own pattern.
- Use upholstery thread, like this kind found at Amazon.
- Sit your project on a white towel. This will help you to locate and catch rogue beads!
- Double-up your thread. Measure it out around your waist, leaving plenty of extra for loss of length in reinforcing, looping, etc. Make sure you leave plenty on the ends to tie.
- You can use a clasp, or not. If you choose to, add the clasp BEFORE you begin the project. Reinforce after completion with a drop of superglue or clear nail polish.
- Hold the beads for the given pattern in your hand, and string from your hand. Don’t worry about mixing colors together. This is MUCH easier than trying to strand bead-by-bead.
- For extra small seed beads, use a super thin beading needle like these on Amazon.
- Feel free to add crystals or charms for extra intentional energy, just be sure to research the energy and clean the stones before giving them a new home around your womb. When choosing stones, consider what you want the purpose of the strand to be? Then research those properties for the right stone. (How do you clean stones? Leave in a bowl of spring water, and leave overnight in moonlight. Drink the water the next day.)
- Make sure to reinforce your additional adornments with extra thread looping.
- If you wish, feel free to charge your strand once completed. Leave to soak in ocean or spring water, or even leave it in the moonlight!
- If your beads ever break, don’t panic! Catch what you can, and meditate on the reason for the break. You could very well simply be done with that energy.