Update 3/4/17: Please visit my shop on Etsy to see my selection of handmade Goddess rosaries and prayer beads!
I have been fascinated by rosaries since I was a child. I grew up Protestant, but had several Catholic friends and was drawn to the lovely statues, artwork, and rosaries that they had in their homes. I was taught that these things were “idolatry,” but they looked like fun to me!
As a young adult I considered converting to Catholicism, and one of the first things I did was purchase a rosary and learn how to use it. At first, praying to Mary felt wrong, and yet it was so comforting to have a Blessed Mother to turn to. As the beads slid through my fingers and I repeated the prayers, I became still and calm, and I loved it. But I never could fully commit to Catholicism, or Christianity—I was still searching.
Eventually I discovered Paganism, and the Goddess, and in the Goddess I found what I had been searching for—it was the Blessed Mother all along!
About nine years ago I found a book that drew my love of Goddess and my love of rosaries together: Pagan Prayer Beads: Magic and Meditation with Pagan Rosaries by Clare Vaughn and John Michael Greer. The book offers complete instructions for making rosaries using flexible beading wire. They also include ideas for a variety of rosaries made for different purposes as well as prayers to use with them. This book started me on my journey with Goddess rosaries and prayer beads, and I’ve been making and using them ever since.
If you are interested in working with rosaries and prayer beads, I have a selection available in my Etsy shop. However, as with all magical items, making your own makes it extra special and powerful.
The easiest type of rosary to make is strung on flexible bead stringing wire. Full instructions for making this type of rosary are given in the Pagan Prayer Beads book mentioned above, and you can also find tutorials for stringing beads on YouTube or in beading books from the library. If you have a local bead shop, they may also offer basic bead stringing classes. Bead stringing requires an initial investment in a couple of specialized pliers, but once you have them you are set for a lifetime of bead stringing.
One of my favorite types of rosaries are knotted rosaries. They have a lovely, flowing feel as they move through your fingers. These are pretty simple to make, too, and are strung on silk or polyester beading cord. I learned to make this style by taking a pearl knotting class at my local bead shop.
Creating knotted rosaries is a meditation in itself, as you string each bead and tie each knot. They are a pleasure to make and to use.
The third style of rosary, wire-strung, is probably the most challenging to make, but they are very beautiful and have a unique feel as you use them.
I started making wire rosaries this past year after getting the basic instructions from Lunaea Weatherstone’s book Tending Brigid’s Flame (which I highly recommended!). I already had experience working with beads and wire, so I was able to make these relatively easily, but if you are completely new to beading taking a basic wire working class at a bead store would definitely help you get started. There are also quite a few websites and YouTube tutorials for making wire-strung rosaries as it is one of the most common styles for Catholic rosaries.
In Part 2 of this series, I’ll share some things you’ll want to consider as you design your prayer beads, and in Part 3 I’ll cover how to use your prayer beads as well as some of the prayers I use with mine.
Note: I use the words rosary and prayer beads interchangeably. Some people prefer “prayer beads” because “rosary” sounds too Catholic. Choose whichever word works best for you!
- Pagan Prayer Beads: Magic and Meditation with Pagan Rosaries by Clare Vaughn and John Michael Greer
- Fire Mountain Gems: a great source for beads, wire, tools, etc. if you don’t have a local bead shop (but it is much easier to choose beads in person, so shop local if you can!)