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.

Ramblings on Discipline

Ah, yes the second most scary word in the English language (the first, as we all know is commitment); self-discipline.

(insert creepy music here)

Why is this so hard to get through to people? As a teacher (in adult education), I find it amazingly difficult to convey to my students that they will need to WORK in order to achieve their goals. I mean, they paid for the class, they manage to show up, and bring the required supplies, but once inside the classroom it is suddenly time to whine and complain that this is too hard, and I am not giving them enough breaks!

And even more frustrating is this sense in the larger community. As an occultist, I do happen to keep my finger on the goings on out there in the occult realm. And these days, I am hearing a lot of whining and crying because the ‘elders’ are not handing over the ‘secrets’ to the ‘newbies’ with ease or speed.

This concept is so wrong on many levels. Let us begin with what they call assumptions. Assumption one; there are ‘elders’ and they have responsibilities to ‘newbies.’ So this is not an entirely wrong assumption, there are adepts within the Craft, and they do take on a great burden of responsibility. But, it is not to those coming to walk the path directly, nor are the responsibilities as cut and dry as they might seem. There is no hierarchy that deigns what level you have reached, even as we try to work degree systems, there is much personal variation. Many adepts that could be called ‘elder’ are loathe to take on the name, because they are wise enough to know just how much they don’t know and how far they still have to travel on the crooked path. They are also aware of their priorities, one of the first being to preserve and uphold the Craft. It can not be remade, re-pieced, or torn apart and dissected. To destroy the Craft is about as close as we get to the concept of blasphemy. But yet, we are instructed to keep the Craft alive. That means letting it breathe, feeding it, and letting it grow, without hacking off limbs, or foundational supports. Being a parent is not easy, nor is being a member of a village.

Assumption number two; there are ‘secrets’ and they can be handed over. Yes, there are things we call secrets, however like most lingo in the occult world, this is an allusion. It means these things are secrets or mysteries, because we have no way of explaining or even conveying them. They are simply things that someone comes to as they walk the paths. So, even if we could hand them over, we really couldn’t. And, truth be told, I haven’t come across one yet that wasn’t hiding in plain sight. It isn’t about the acquisition of the secrets, it is about changing the practitioner so they can see them. They were there all along.

Assumption number three; there are ‘newbies’ and they are somehow different from other people on the path. Every one was a babe at some point, everyone was new to this world at some point, and every one is currently discovering something new. Perhaps, we may class these ‘newbies’ as different due to their lack of experience. Which is fine, there is nothing wrong with begin new, or inexperienced. Go out, do some work, get some experience. And viola!, you will have become experienced, and ready to find more experience somewhere else.

And finally, the concepts of ease and speed. These two concepts just do not go with learning any occult discipline (there’s that word again) or craft. It ain’t easy, it is flat out work. It is often harder work than you have come across. It is about changing yourself, and not necessarily in ways you understand at first. And it is anything but swift. The process of transmutation is slow, and often happens under pressure. It takes time. The passage of time is a key component to the concept of traveling or walking a path. I’ve been on this path for over 35 years now and I’m still discovering myself, still learning, still struggling with some things, and still finding my way. And in all that time I have never once found an occult drive-through that served anything worth eating.