Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why Are We So Fascinated With Beads?



Winterflower Blue Polymer Clay Beads by tooaquarius
Beads have been found by archaeologists in every part of the world, proving their significance in various cultures. Beads were the first artifacts found that didn't relate to hunting and the daily necessities. They date back as far as 40,000 years ago, and were considered symbolic and sacred. They have been made from pebbles, shells, seeds, teeth, claws, clay, glass and more. Glass became an important material in bead making around 3400 years ago. In 1626, Peter Minuit used glass beads to purchase Manhattan Island from the Indians. Not only have beads been used as money, historians claim thatbeadwork also signified rank or social status.

The word bead comes from the Anglo Saxon words bidden (to pray) and bede (prayer.) Prayer beads are known world-wide, and help the user recite prayers and keep track of the sequence and number of the prayers. Worry beads, also common around the world, help with decision-making. 
Beads play a major role in many traditions all over the world. The exchange of pearls began hundreds of years ago, and many beads were used as a form of communication. Zulu tribes used different patterns and colors for specific messages and symbols. Certain beads told whether the wearer was single, engaged, or a new mother. In some cultures, you could not marry unless you were wearing beads. Beads continue to be used today as talismans to protect the wearer against evil, and as amulets to bring wisdom and fortune. We wear certain gemstone beads for their healing powers and to signify birth months. 


Vintage West German Ruby Red Glass Beads by picklevalentine


Have you ever wondered how a domestic animal who has never been introduced to “the wild” resorts back to its native instincts in certain situations? Is it possible that the same principle applies to our fascination (or “addiction”) to beads? I think it’s possible that the significance of beads is etched in our history, our culture. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. Now I’m off to the bead shop to feed my addiction………..happy beading!

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