Discovering the Benefits of Praying with Prayer Beads

One of my handmade rosaries (available in my Etsy shop).

I had an interesting experience last week. I haven’t been using my prayer beads as regularly as usual over the past few weeks, but I always have a rosary or two beside my bed. As I climbed into bed one night last week, I felt the urge to pick up my rosary and pray, even though I really wasn’t feeling very spiritual that evening. But as soon as I picked up my beads and started repeating the familiar prayers, I felt…calm. Centered. Connected to Goddess. It was like all of the prayers I had prayed with my beads were still contained within them, a sort of magic that transported me into a space of connection with and devotion to Goddess, just by picking up the beads and repeating the prayers I have prayed so many times before.

This wasn’t a flashing lights and trumpets kind of experience, it was a quiet and gentle, but it was still profound. First, it showed me the benefit of regular spiritual practice. Our spiritual practice isn’t going to be filled with sparkles and fairy dust every day, but some days it will. And when we are in a difficult or dark place, turning to those practices we have done so many times before can help us find our connection to the Divine again, can help us find the spark of light in the darkness. There is a kind of muscle memory in our practices that helps imprint the good experiences we have had while doing them in the past, and sometimes just by going through the motions, we can move ourselves back into the experience of those positive moments again.

I have had a similar experiences while knitting or cross stitching. It seems that when we are doing something repetitive and engaging our hands in the process, our minds retain information and experiences more easily. I actually had an organic chemistry professor in college who encouraged us to knit or crochet in class because he thought we retained the information better than when we were furiously trying to take notes. Often when I’m working on a needlework project, and pick it up again, I’ll have vivid memories of what I was watching or listening to the last time I worked on it.

In a bit of wonderful synchronicity, the radio show “To the Best of Our Knowledge” did a whole episode yesterday on handwork, and how doing things like knitting and drawing can help us become calm and better retain information. I also found this study showing the physical benefits of repetitive prayers and mantras.

I think the reason I love working with prayer beads so much is that it combines both repetitive prayer and the tactile sensation of moving beads through our hands—a two-for-one combo of practices that are known to help us move into a calm, centered, meditative state. It’s no wonder that using prayer beads is a popular practice in so many religions.

Some days praying with my beads is just routine. Some days my mind wanders and I have trouble focusing. But by repeating the practice, I realize now that I’m creating a bit of magic for myself that can help me through the difficult times in my life. I’m creating a connection to Goddess that is there for me when I most need it. Sometimes just picking up my beads and holding them makes me feel better.

What spiritual practices do you use, and how have they helped you through the challenges in your life? I’d love to know!

Goddess Rosaries & Prayer Beads Now For Sale in My Etsy Shop!

A selection of the Goddess rosaries & prayer beads that are currently available

My Etsy shop is now open! Yay!

Whew, it was a lot of work getting it set up, learning the best ways to take and edit photos,  and figuring out the Etsy site (which is actually pretty user-friendly). I am grateful for all of the wonderful people who have made Etsy-related YouTube videos and written tutorials.

However, now that it is all setup and ready to go, I can get back to making more rosaries and prayer beads! Yesterday I was determined to take the day off from obsessing about my shop, but I was itching to make some prayer beads for myself using some of the aqua beads pictured in the top right of the photo above.

My aqua pocket prayer beads.

I love them! I have been carrying them everywhere with me since I made them. So, I decided I need to make some more pocket-sized prayer beads to add to the shop. That’s my task for today, and hopefully they will be up in the shop tomorrow.

Please let me know if you have any questions about my shop or the products offered. I’d also love any feedback you might have like suggestions for colors or other items you’d like to see. Feel free to contact me here or convo me on Etsy.

Bright blessings to you all!

Catching Up

teteatetes

These tete-a-tetes were the first flowers to bloom in my yard. They are so cheerful!

I can hardly believe that it has been a couple of weeks since I last posted. I once had someone say to me, very matter-of-factly, “Well, you know, time is speeding up.” I’m starting to believe it!

This past weekend I attended a Women’s March “huddle” here in town. I was so excited that one was organized in my town, which tends to be pretty conservative. Over 50 people showed up, mostly women, but there were a few men, too. It was so nice to realize that there are other people in my community that care about the same issues I do! I’m strongly introverted, and tend not to be a “joiner,” preferring one-on-one interactions to groups, but I loved the energy of this meeting and am looking forward to seeing what comes next.

During the huddle, I also learned that there is a Red Tent group that meets here in town every month, and I plan to attend that next week. It isn’t easy to  move out of my comfort zone, but I really do enjoy meeting new people, and I have been wanting to find ways to connect with like-minded local women. There is hope for this introvert yet!

I have also been doing a lot of reading, focusing mainly on the women’s spirituality books I’ve been collecting lately. I especially enjoyed Barbara Ardinger’s A Woman’s Book of Rituals & Celebrations. I have a blog post or two coming soon that were inspired by ideas in this book.

The main thing that has been keeping me busy lately is creating Goddess rosaries and prayer beads to sell. My rosary posts are by far the most popular posts on my blog, and I absolutely love creating rosaries, so I decided to start selling them for people who want to work with prayer beads, but don’t want to create their own. I’ve been beading every day as well as trying to figure out the whole business side of things. This weekend I’ll be working on the art that will go in the pendants for each rosary. I plan to open my Etsy shop around the beginning of March, and I’m really excited. This is turning out to be a lot of fun!

You may also have noticed that the name of my blog has changed. I had chosen “The Verdant Way” several years ago, but was never completely happy with it. It isn’t the easiest name to say, and I get a lot of blank looks from people who aren’t sure what “verdant” means, since it isn’t in common usage these days. I spent a couple of weeks tossing around new names, and one night as I was drifting off to sleep “Earth Water Spirit” popped into my head. I got up and wrote it down and lived with it for a few days, growing to like it more and more. Amazingly, the domain name was available, and it just felt like it was meant to be!

So that’s what’s been going on in my life the past couple of weeks. I have a lot of ideas and projects taking root right now, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you as they begin to bloom (yep, I had to use a spring metaphor—’tis the season, right?). Are you feeling new ideas and projects stirring inside you as spring arrives, too?

Goddess Rosaries and Prayer Beads, Part 3: Prayers

(This is the third post of a three-part series. See Part 1 for information on rosary styles and Part 2 for rosary design ideas.)

Update 3/4/17: Please visit my shop on Etsy to see my selection of handmade Goddess rosaries and prayer beads! 

Once you have purchased or made a Goddess rosary, it is time to use it! But how? The true answer is—any way you want to, really! There is no one right way to use your prayer beads, so please use the information below as a starting point, but allow your own creativity and intuition to guide you to find the best way for you to work with your beads.

First, let’s look at the anatomy of a traditional-style rosary. I have made up some names for the sections of the rosary to make this explanation easier, but you can call them whatever you’d like.

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Anatomy of a traditional-style rosary.

Starting on the pendant, you can say a prayer that you’ve created to begin your rosary prayers, or you could dedicate your prayer session to a particular goal or purpose, which is what I usually do. You might say, “I dedicate these prayers to creating peace and understanding between people in our country,” or “I dedicate these prayers to healing my anxiety.” Your purpose can be different each time. I usually choose something intuitively that seems most important to me at that moment.

On the introductory beads, you can pray the same prayer that you will use on the main beads, such as the “Gracious Goddess” prayer below. You could also invoke earth, sea and sky, or Maiden, Mother, and Crone. I like to use what I call “presence prayers” on these beads, which I first discovered on Lunaea Weatherstone’s website, and I believe were originally inspired by a prayer to Mary in the Carmina Gadelica. Basically, you say, “I come into your presence, thou…” and fill in the blank with whatever inspires you. For example you might use: Mistress of Magic, Foundation of All, Bright Lady, Goddess of Wisdom, She Who Binds Up Broken Hearts, etc. If “thou” doesn’t work for you, feel free to leave it out.

On the center bead, you can use the same prayer you will use on the transition beads, such as the “Our Mother” or the “Glory Be” prayers below. I usually use the “Glory Be” prayer on this bead.

On the main beads you have two options. Traditionally you would repeat the same prayer, such as the “Gracious Goddess” prayer below, on each bead. I find this works best for creating a meditative, trance-like state. However, if I really want to focus on the words of the prayer, I will say one line of the prayer slowly on each bead. You’ll notice that the “Gracious Goddess” prayer has nine lines and my rosary has nine main beads in each section, so I say one line on each bead. My Sophia rosary has seven main beads in each section, and my “Sophia Prayer” has seven lines.

sophia

Sophia rosary.

On the transition beads, you can use a prayer like “Our Mother” or “Glory Be” or you can do another presence prayer, which is what I have been doing most often lately.

You continue in this pattern until you reach the center bead again. This is usually when I say the “Our Mother” prayer, and then I honor the Maiden, Mother, and Crone on the introductory beads, give thanks to Goddess on the pendant and then I’m finished.

If you are just starting out and this all seems confusing, you might want to sketch your rosary and indicate which prayers you want to pray on each bead.

If I am using a more simple rosary that does not have transition beads, etc., I usually just pray the same prayer on each bead all the way around. So on my Brigid rosary I would choose a Brigid prayer below and repeat it on each bead. On my amethyst rosary I often say the “Evening Prayer” on each bead.

Below are some of the prayers I use most often, but I can’t encourage you enough to write your own prayers, because then you will be praying what is in your heart. Your prayers don’t have to be poetic masterpieces. My “Evening Prayer” was written spontaneously one evening and isn’t particularly beautiful or grammatical, but it works for me because it came from my heart.

If you do use prayers that other people have written, feel free to edit and change them as much as you need to for them to feel right for you. If you feel silly saying a certain phrase, or a part of the prayer doesn’t ring true for you, change it! There are very few prayers that I use just as they were written, I almost always end up editing a line or two to make them work for me.


Prayers

Gracious Goddess
Gracious Goddess,
Your presence blesses us,
Your love surrounds us,
Your power sustains us,
All of creation sings your praises.
Holy Mother, Creator of All,
Thank you for walking with us,
Today and always.
Blessed be.

Glory Be
Glory be to the Great Mother, to the Mystery, to the Oneness of All,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
Love without end.
And so it is.
(This was inspired by the Christian Doxology prayer, which I always loved the rhythm of.)

Our Mother
Our Mother, in whom we live, move, and have our being,
Blessed be your many names.
From you all things emerge, and unto you all things return.
Open our hearts, that we may be filled with compassion.
Guide us, that we may walk with wisdom.
Help us to know our connection to all things.
For you dwell among us, within us, around us,
And we are blessed by your grace, your power, and your love.
And so it is.
(The first and third lines of this prayer come from a traditional Feri prayer, but the third line is also part of the Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente, and I also discovered that both these lines are found in the Bible, too—well, except for the “Mother” part!)

Evening Prayer
Mother, please hold me, soothe me, calm me,
For in you I find my center, and in you I find peace.
May all who suffer find solace in you this night.
Blessed be.

Sophia Prayer
Hail Sophia, Lady of Wisdom,
Blessed are you and all your works.
Illuminate our minds with your wisdom,
Kindle our hearts with your love,
Help us to walk in peace and unity
With you, with each other, and with all of creation.
Blessed be.

Brigid Prayer One
Brigid,
Excellent, exalted One,
Bright, golden, quickening flame
Shine your blessing upon us
From your eternal lands,
You, radiant fire of the sun,
You, healing waters of the well.
(By Erin Johnson, from Brigit: Sun of Womanhood, edited by Patricia Monaghan. I added the last line.)

Brigid Prayer Two
The mantle of Brigid about me,
The memory of Brigid within me,
The protection of Brigid keeping me
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness,
This day and always.
Blessed be.
(By Caitlin Matthews, adapted from her poem “Blessing for Hearth-Keepers”)


May your prayers always be heard, and may the presence of the Divine dwell with you always. Blessed be!

Goddess Rosaries and Prayer Beads, Part 2: Design Ideas

(This is the second post of a three-part series. See Part 1 for information on rosary styles and Part 3 for prayers to use with your rosary.)

Update 3/4/17: Please visit my shop on Etsy to see my selection of handmade Goddess rosaries and prayer beads! 

When designing your own Goddess rosary or prayer beads, the options are truly endless! But there are a few things you can consider to help narrow down your options and decide what materials to use and how to design your rosary.

Rosary Purpose

First, decide what you want to use your rosary for. You can make one to honor a specific deity, to honor an element, or all of the elements, to pray for world peace, to pray for healing, or to honor a particular aspect of the Goddess such as the Maiden, Mother, or Crone. If you are currently focusing on an aspect of personal growth, such as overcoming an addiction, healing depression or anxiety, or working on self-love, you could make prayer beads to assist with that work.

You can also make a general set of prayer beads with no particular focus. My set of amethyst prayer beads serve this purpose for me, and I have used them with a variety of prayers and for many different purposes over the years.

amethystsm

My amethyst rosary made with amethyst and agate beads and silver spacer beads.

Design Choices

Once you’ve decided on your focus, you can choose your design. Do you want to make a more traditional style of rosary with a dangling pendant and several sections of beads (called “decades” on a Catholic rosary) divided from each other by larger transition beads? My Guadalupe rosary follows this pattern.

guadalupe

My Guadalupe rosary, made with glass beads and citrine transition beads.

You can also make a simple string of beads, separated by smaller spacer beads, with a single pendant, like my Yemaya rosary, or my amethyst rosary above. You don’t really need spacer beads if you are making a wire-strung rosary, but for other types of rosaries they help separate the larger beads, which are the ones you will be using for your prayers. They are also a nice way to add other colors or contrast to your rosary rather than having one long string of all the same kind of beads.

yemaya

My Yemaya rosary, made with pearls and blue glass pearl spacer beads.

A pendant acts as a signal of the beginning and end of your prayers as you use your rosary, but you don’t have to use a pendant at all. I made the Brigid rosary below from instructions in Lunaea Weatherstone’s book Tending Brigid’s Flame, and she designed it with no beginning or end. You simply start praying and stop when you feel finished, which can give a meditative, trance-like quality to your prayers.

brigid

Brigid rosary, made with glass and metal beads.

Beads

The beads you use can add another layer of symbolism to your rosary. You can use crystal or gemstone beads that correspond with the qualities of the deity you are honoring, or represent the purpose for which you are creating the rosary. I used lapis lazuli beads for my Sophia rosary, as lapis lazuli is associated with wisdom, and pearls for my Yemaya rosary since Yemaya is associated with water. If you were making a rosary for self-love, you could use rose quartz beads, or an elemental rosary could use four different stones each associated with one of the elements.

sophia

My Sophia rosary, made with lapis lazuli and faceted clear glass transition beads.

Glass beads are also a good choice, as they have a neutral energy, and you can choose colors that are symbolic to the purpose of your rosary. For example, I added blue glass pearls to my Yemaya rosary since her traditional colors are blue and white. You could use fiery red or gold glass beads for Brigid, or green and brown glass beads to honor Gaia. Wooden or clay beads might also be a nice choice depending on the purpose of your rosary.

When choosing beads, if you plan to make a rosary with different sections (like my Guadalupe or Sophia rosaries), be sure the transition beads that divide the sections are different enough in size, shape, and/or texture that you can feel the transition when you are praying with your eyes closed. Another option is to add extra spacer beads between the main beads and the transition beads so you can feel the change.

Number of Beads

The number of beads you use can also be symbolic. I consider three to be a Goddess number, and I often use multiples of three in my rosaries. My Guadalupe rosary uses nine beads, three times three, in each section. Seven is a number sacred to Yemaya, so I used 21 pearls for her rosary, seven times three. Seven is also sacred to Sophia, so I created her rosary using three sections of seven beads each. I’m sure you get the idea!

Pendants

As for pendants, you can use charms that you find at bead stores, or large gemstone beads. Etsy is a great source for pendants and charms. Don’t limit yourself just to charms sold for jewelry-making, also take a look at pendants sold as necklaces, or use a pendant from a necklace you already own but never wear. Many bead and craft stores sell pendant-making kits in which you can place your own printed image, which might be a good choice if you have an image of your deity that you would really like to use.

You can also sculpt your own pendant, like I did for my Sophia rosary. I used Activa Premier air-dry clay. I have had great success with it—it hasn’t shrunk or cracked, and it is incredibly lightweight and strong once dry. I often carry my rosary in my pocket and it is still in great shape. The clay can be painted with acrylic paints once dry. It’s a bit hard to tell from the picture, but I painted my dove with white pearlescent paint.

Final Thoughts

Making your prayer beads with a design, materials, and other symbolism that is important to you makes them very special, but don’t get overwhelmed. A simple string of beads is just as meaningful and useful as the most elaborate rosary. For many years my simple set of amethyst prayer beads was all I used, and though it is worn and the silver spacer beads are tarnished, it is still very special to me.

In the Part 3 of this series, I will share the ways that I use my prayer beads and some of the prayers that I use.

Happy rosary-making if you decide to give it a try! If you do, please share pictures with me here, or tag me on Instagram—I’d love to see them!

Goddess Rosaries and Prayer Beads, Part 1: Rosary Styles

rosaries

A collection of some of my rosaries.

(This is the first post of a three-part series. See Part 2 for ideas for designing a rosary and Part 3 for prayers to use with your rosary.)

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.

goddessrosary

One of the first rosaries I made, strung on flexible wire using amethyst and silver beads.

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.

brigidrosary2

A knotted rosary made for Brigid, using green glass, carnelian, and quartz beads.

yemayarosary

A knotted rosary made for Yemaya, using freshwater and glass pearls.

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.

guadaluperosary

A wire-strung rosary made using glass beads (that look like turquoise) and citrine beads. The Our Lady of Guadalupe charm is from ClarissaCallesen on Etsy, whom I discovered when Joanna Powell Colbert shared her own beautiful rosary made with this charm.

sophiarosary

A wire-strung rosary to honor Sophia, made with lapis lazuli beads, faceted glass beads, and a dove charm that I sculpted from air-dry clay.

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!

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