A plethora of metal bead variants originate from Ethiopia; a country attributed with some of the most skilled metal-smiths in Africa. Our Ethiopian Metal Beads here at The Bead Chest demonstrate the skill of such artisans - their aesthetics being smooth, and almost perfectly cylindrical or rotund.
A format of Ethiopian Beads you might not be familiar with, are Ethiopian Metal Prayer Beads. Their ergonomics are very similar in both size and shape to Ethiopian Metal Beads, however Prayer Beads tend to be made of pure metals such as brass, copper, gold or silver. The latter types are very scarce.
The Origins of Prayer Beads
Prayer Beads are often thought to have originated within the Roman Catholic sub-religion of Christianity - the Sarum Rites of the 11th Century said to have born the idea for the "Rosary" or "garland of roses". Prayer Beads are in effect prayer counters - each bead correlating with a line, passage or individual incantation derived from a literary or custom source. The use of Prayer Beads actually goes far further back than the 11th Century. It is believed St. Paul of Thebes and St. Francis of Assisi both adopted a pebble-counter string of beads for prayer.
So, was it the landing of Spanish explorers within Africa around the 15th Century that inspired Ethiopian Prayer Beads?
Rosary Prayer Beads
The Rosary may be the most widely acknowledged type of Prayer counter, however many other religions are thought to have adopted the principle far earlier. The Islamic faith is one that has been central to Ethiopian culture for many thousands of years.
Prayer Beads not dissimilar to the "Rosary" (although bearing up to 66 metal beads) are predominantly used during thanks-giving, repentance and rites of passage - the Eid Al-Fitr, and Ramadan period of fasting primary examples.
Of course, Ethiopia is still inhabited by many indigenous tribes, particularly around the Oromo River region. The Oromo and Amhara tribes in particular still concentrate their faiths upon naturism and holistic spirituality. Although varying by area, the consensus of tribal faiths seems to be that God is manifested within all things living and breathing.
Prayer Beads & Their Meanings
As such, Prayer Beads are utilized to count blessings, and give thanks for individual graces such as animals, plants and minerals of the Earth. It is also believed among some tribes such as the Amhara, there are innumerable spiritual entities within every solid object, be it living or not. In contrast to the "Rosary" whereby each bead resembles a specific prayer, Ethiopian Prayer Beads resemble a particular spirit or God/ Goddess.
Superstition also plays a very real part in the lives of Ethiopian tribes-people, which is why you may have heard the wearing of beads is said to ward off potentially harmful spirits.
Modern Ethiopian Beads
Today, Ethiopian Prayer Beads still carry an abundance of meaning for many faiths, however even those not of religious persuasion wear strings of Prayer Beads, with a brightly colored plume of feathers forming the pendant - a traditional adornment said to bring peace, harmony and good-health to the wearer.
African Prayer Beads
Whether or not you are religiously inclined, Ethiopian Prayer Beads are a truly beautiful variant of African Metal Beads - significantly larger than metal spacers and extremely versatile. Want to bring some peace and harmony to the balance of your own life? Why not check out our White Metal Ethiopian Prayer Beads, and let us know if they work for you?