Pagan Prayer Beads, Part Two

This is part two, see part one here.

Once you have some simple ideas under your belt for using prayer beads, you can move on to more complex ideas. They are of course great for repeating simply mantras over and over again, but what about the beads that have multiple sections, or sections with differing numbers?

In the last post I briefly touched on the ideas of sacred numbers. Expanding to a more complex format for meditation, often incorporates these sacred numbers and using them in different ways. For example if you have a set of beads with 4 sets of 9 beads, 3 sets of 3 divider beads, and a lead in section of 3 beads,  you may wish to use the 4 sets as the four directions, elements, etc. So one each bead in each of these sets you would say a short prayer or mantra appropriate to each element. As you come to the divider sections, you may repeat an opening or closing, or a gratitude prayer on each one. So that might look like this:

Lead in section: (breathing and spending as much time on each step as needed)

  1. I am grounded in my practice. I am grounded in my breath. I am grounded in my body.
  2. I am centered in my practice. I am centered in my breath. I am centered in my body.
  3. I am aligned with the earth. I am aligned with the axis mundi. I am aligned with the central star.

Then the first set of 9:

  • In the east I align with the prosperity in earth. Through this wisdom I know. (9x)

Then a divider section:

  • Within and without, I learn the wisdom of the elements. (3x)

The second set of 9:

  • In the south I align with the power in fire. Through this wisdom I will. (9x)

Then repeat the divider section.

The third set of 9:

  • In the west I align with the peace in water. Through this wisdom I dare. (9x)

Then repeat the divider section.

The fourth set of 9:

  • In the north I align with the protection in air. Through this wisdom I am silent. (9x)

Then you can continue around as many times as wanted, or complete the meditation by using the lead in beads in reverse.

  1. I am aligned with the earth. I am aligned with the axis mundi. I am aligned with the central star.
  2. I am centered in my practice. I am centered in my breath. I am centered in my body.
  3. I am grounded in my practice. I am grounded in my breath. I am grounded in my body.

 

This gives you 9 (3×3) recitations for the divider section, 9 for each element and an opening and closing. That is just one example of course, with just one possible format. The possibilities and combinations are endless. But it is important that once you find one that works well, you keep repeating it. The power of meditation beads lies in repetition.

If you wish to repeat the cycle multiple times without using the lead in beads some people like to flip the beads over in their hand and go back the other way counting on them. Other will use the connector to act as another divider section, making for a seamless round of repeats. It is all about how you want to use them.

Sacred numbers and their meaning vary from culture to culture, and practitioner to practitioner. You should find what each of the base or prime numbers mean to you. There are a lot of books out there full of ideas for you to start with, but I think the most meaningful comes from applied life experience and an understanding of your own culture’s mythos.

For me, I have associations with the numbers 0-10. However 0 won’t be applicable to a number of repetitions. I don’t really have many associations with the ‘double’ numbers such as 11, 22, 33, 44, etc. Some people do.

  1. The self, the monad, the singular point. An idea, beginning.
  2. Duality, opposites, cancellation. A line, force before form.
  3. Triad, form, the plane. Relationships, community, flow.
  4. Grounding, stability, stasis, protection, fortification.
  5. Dynamic, movement, humans, divine spark, centering.
  6. Balance, rotation, harmony.
  7. Path, plan, journey, transition.
  8. Manifestation, double fortification.
  9. Action on all three planes (from and Indo-European idea of here, above and below), 3×3, flow of the flow, divine harmony.
  10. Completion, end, full set. everything grounded and ready to begin again.

These are just my ideas. They have influences from all sorts of things; math, study of dimensions, tarot, etc. Develop your own that makes sense within your worldview.

Also remember the ideas of applying these when we talk about repetitions. So if we take a 6 idea (harmony and balance) and repeat it 3 times (community, relationships) we would be using the numbers to develop a community of harmonies and balances, lots of already balanced people or things coming together to make a new community. But conversely if we take a 3 idea and repeat it 6 times, we would be developing a harmony of community, taking an existing community and bringing it into harmony. Subtle difference, but I find it does make a difference when using the beads for casting or other work.

One of my favorite uses for witch’s beads, especially if they have a clasp, is to enchant things. I like to tie or string the item to be enchanted onto the beads. So the beads can spin through or by the object being enchanted. So for example I might take a ring and slide it onto the strand of beads. Then let it hang at the bottom as I rotate the beads through my hand, and repeat the spell or enchantment while counting the beads.

I encourage you to come up with different ways to use your beads. Explore the magic of math, and incorporate it into your meditations and casting. I would love to hear how you do that, your own associations for numbers, and some ways in which you’ve used your beads. Especially if it was something I didn’t cover! I’m always looking to learn.

Pagan Prayer Beads, Part One

I’ve been making a lot of sets of prayer beads, based on all sorts of formulas. I am totally loving it! The use of a strand of knots or a strand of beads for a counting charm, or for counting prayers is nearly universal. Something small, and in the hand is a common human invention. It has, however, become ubiquitous as a Catholic (which means Universal) rosary. So much that there is a specific style of jewelry called a rosary chain.

Rosary Chain
A rosary chain is when each bead is strung on its own wire with an eye or loop on either side. These are hooked one to another without the use of additional jump rings.

Rosaries, and other meditation beads such as malas, become powerful tools in and of themselves, absorbing the emotions and energy of thousands of prayers and mantras said over them over time. Here are some prayer ideas to go with them:

Many folks in heathenry and paganism are loathe to incorporate Christian practices into their own practice, and I can completely understand why. However, as with so many other things, the idea of using a counter to keep track of prayers is much older and more widespread than the Christian practices.

Here I offer some prayers, mantras, and other ideas to go with the use of pagan prayer beads.

Pagan Prayer Beads
Three 9 count sections, separated by 4 seasons, and lead in with 3 beads for Land, Sea and Sky.

I’m kind of partial to the number 9 in my prayer beads. Oðinn hung on the tree for 9 nights, there are 9 worlds in Norse mythology, Heimdall has 9 mothers (along with numerous other occurences of 9 maidens or mothers in folklore), and the so many other ways in which 9 shows up as a mystical and sacred number. It is 3×3, and expresses a rhythm that feels like the rhythm of the earth to me.

Prayer beads may be used to say a mantra at each bead, or as a way to count breaths for meditative practices (among many other uses). For breathing, I enjoy the count of breath in 4, breath out 5. I also like breath in 2, hold for 2, breath out for 3, and hold for 2. The breathing out being 1 beat longer allows for me to completely empty my lungs, leading to deeper breathing and hence deeper, more solid trance states for me. Find a rhythm that works well for you.
A 9 or 10 bead count set lends itself wonderfully to spellcasting and using the traditional 9-knot charm:

By knot of one, the work’s begun,
By knot of two, the aim is true,
By knot of three, my words shall be,
By knot of four, the power’s stored,
By knot of five, the work’s alive,
By knot of six, the work is fixed,
By knot of seven, the truth is given,
By knot of eight, my will is fate,
By knot of nine, the work is mine.
(So mote it be, or other closing for the tenth bead if needed)

You could change the wording from “knot” to “count” or “step” or whatever works for you. When it comes to raising power or meditation, it is pretty personal.

Many prayer beads and rosaries have an introduction section that sticks off the main section. These are usually composed of a charm (in cases of Catholic rosaries this would be the crucifix), 3 or 4 beads or sections to count, and then the connector to the main body of the beads (known as a station on a Catholic rosary). There are many ways to view these beads and use them in your practice.

For sets with 3 lead in beads they may be seen as:

  • Maiden, Mother, and Crone
  • Mother, Father, and Child of Light
  • Land, Sea, and Sky
  • Grounding, Centering, and Alignment
  • Son, Father, and Sage
  • Body, Mind and Spirit or Physical, Mental, and Spiritual
  • Gods, Ancestors, and Self/Folk
  • and so many more combinations.

Some of the lead ins have 4 beads:

  • Earth, Air, Fire, Water
  • North, South, East, West
  • Inner, Outer, Lower, and Higher Selves
  • Home, Family, Work, and Self
  • any associations with the four elements
  • and many more

And some even have 5 beads:

  • Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit
  • North, South, East, West, Center
  • Opening up the first five chakras

With any of the lead in sections, you may use them for deepening breath work, and inducing opening stages of trance. I personally tend to hang out on these opening beads, repeating my entire breathing and deepening routine on each bead. This gives me a nice, solid trance state from which to work. And later associates in my mind these beads with the idea of a deep stable trance state.

Now, move onto the connector. For some people this may be a place to say a special opening prayer, or set the intent for the work ahead. It may also be seen as something like a guru bead on a mala, something not to be counted or prayed upon. The guru bead is often said to represent one’s teacher(s) both physical and spiritual, and so you allow them to be your doorway and connection, but you do not count on them, as it would be like stepping on them, or using them inappropriately. The important thing is that you find a reason and a meaning behind the action you choose to take. Meditation beads are a tool, and they are there to serve your practice.

Next is the body of the meditation beads. These are usually divided into sections, each with a certain number of beads. Some have 3 sets of 9, 13, or other. Some have 5 sets of 10. And some, like zen malas have a pattern of 7, 14, 66, 14, 7, or some other pattern of beads.

You may have purchased or made your beads with a set form in mind, or simply because they appealed to you. I suggest to start with that you simply work with your beads simply. Go around once, repeating the same thing for each section. After you’ve spent some time handling and working with them, you can begin finding more complex patterns and establishing your own patterns.

 

More on that in Part Two.

An Encyclopedic Friend

 

Do you have one of those people in your circle of friends who seems to know all the odd trivia? They have an answer for everything, and odd little bits to insert into any conversation.

I am one of those people. I get random phone calls, emails, and instant messages asking various questions all day. It has always intrigued me where these questions come from, and why the person is asking. Now, I do not claim to be the omniscient being of fancy. On occasion I don’t know the answer, so I go look it up. Then I know for the future.

Some of the questions I have answered today:

What is tiramisu?

Well, only heaven on a plate. It is an Italian cake dessert. You take lady fingers and dip them in coffee, then layer them with marscapone cheese (whipped with cream and egg yolks). Drip the whole thing over with a chocolate liquer and sprinkle with cocoa powder. Here is a recipe.

How many miles in a league?

About three and a half. The calculator says precisely 3.45233834 miles.

What is entropy?

Entropy is why ice melts, and ice baths stop cooking vegetables. It is a thermodynamic principle that causes heat to seek a level, like water seeks a level due to gravity. Cold is only an absence of heat, so when something hot comes into contact with something cold, the heat evens out with both bodies becoming the same temperature. Since heat is simply the presence of molecules vibrating or moving at a higher frequency, the transfer of energy at this molecular level spreads out the heat, and tadaa! entropy.

What is the difference between a cigar and a cigarillo?

Cigarillos are sort of like little cigarette sized cigars. They are wrapped in whole tobacco leaf like a cigar, not paper like a cigarette. They are much smaller than cigars though and are known on the continent as seven minute cigars. Cigarillos are however often machine made, where as a good cigar (and who wants a cheap cigar?) is rolled and packed by hand. Since cigarillos are often smoked like cigarettes, they are packaged similarly and are not stored in humidors. They are a lower quality product that a cigar, and the price reflects that. But they are closer to a cigar than a cigarette can ever hope to be.

How is ozone made?

Ozone is when there are three oxygen atoms together in one molecule. Oxygen, which is two oxygen atoms in one molecule floating around in the stratosphere is struck by ultra-violet rays (at the right velocity and angle), this splits the molecule into two free oxygen atoms, which then attach to existing 2 atom oxygen molecules, hence producing ozone. Ozone is naturally made and destroyed in the stratosphere. Without pollution, the planet maintains a balance of creation and depletion that keeps the ozone layer fairly consistent, but not constant. As the thickness and concentration varies based on the location and temperature.

and What does skullcap do?
In short answer, it grows. But you probably mean more than that. Medicinally speaking it is considered antispasmodic, slightly astringent, diuretic, nervine, sedative and strongly tonic. It has been used to treat various problems of the nervous system including epilepsy, insomnia, anxiety, delirium tremens, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquillizers, and neuralgia. It is also used for calming and relieving stress, promoting suppressed menstruation, relieving breast pain and encouraging expulsion of the placenta. Due to its strong action on the uterus it is not recommended for use during pregnancy, as it can cause abortion. Use with caution, causes giddiness, stupor, confusion and twitching, in excess.

Magically speaking Skullcap is used for love, fidelity, and attracting money. Fidelity is an interesting use here, as it is the sort of ‘stay with me, or pay the price’ kind of fidelity. I include attracting money, as it is given as a traditional association, but I much prefer bay leaves and lodestone for that myself. For its use in love magic, it is a stupor of love, being lost in a glamour and a haze. It is most often used for sleep and connection with Mercurial entities. Providing you are only using a pinch, and have other appropriate herbs, I do like a bit of skullcap in my dream pillows. Especially if they are for prophetic dreaming. And, it goes great in small doses in incense designed to put you in touch with the Mercurial spirits. Combine with mugwort for such uses.

But, who really needs an encyclopedic friend like me around these days with google?