In Namibia, Waistbeads Are More Than Ornaments

BY CLEMENCE TASHAYAMusicians_and_dancers_on_fresco_at_Tomb_of_Nebamun

EENHANA, Namibia — Waistbeads date back to ancient Egypt, where painting of dancers wearing the beads appear on tombs walls, according to a former educationist, historian and now a pensioner here in Ohangwena region.

The tradition has since spread through several continents and centuries to include women in various cultures, including Namibia. According to Meme Paulina Omaholo, this cultural practice is also in the United States of America. Waistbeads have a number of different purposes and perhaps even more different styles. She says waistbeads can be very simple or incredibly elaborate. Beads can be of any size and material, including glass stone, clay and sandalwood or other material. Some African women add fragrant oil to their beads, Omaholo notes, while mostly the Namibian Oshiwambo women add gems and crystal to add healing properties.

Most Oshiwambo cultures wear at least two or more strands of waist beads, although an even number of strands brings bad luck in some other cultures in Namibian regions such as the Damara/Nama, Silozi and Tswana tribes. African women have traditionally worn waistbeads beneath their clothing, yet other cultures proudly display the beads over their clothes or on bare midriffs.

Waistbeads can serve as a symbol of femininity. The beads were an integral part of all African women initiation lodges and ceremonies in the old dynasties, according to the Oshiwambo tradition and culture. Young females began to wearbeads when they started to menstruate, marking their passage from girlhood to womanhood. “The beads may have also served as a kind of belt onto which the ‘monthly cloth’ was attached,” Omaholo adds.

In other areas, waistbeads are gifts to young women about to marry, according to Omaholo. “Women of other regions in Africa wear the beads while pregnant or use the beads in foreplay to entice their husbands as in the Zambezi region here in Namibia and as well as in Malawi, Zambia and other parts of Angola and Zimbabwe. Others start to wear the beads as young girls after receiving a set as a baby gift.

African folklore gives waist beads special powers, Lungowe Simataa from the Zambezi region says. The beads, worn to define the waist, help hold their shape. They also serve to help women hold onto their mate. Protection is another function of the beads, as they encircle the body and close off the circuits of energy. “Wearers are thus protected from obsessive thoughts, negative spirits and even vampires,” Simataa adds.

Ornamentation is a major role for waistbeads. In the Zambezi region and other cultures in West Africa, the beads served to transform women into “walking charms,” she says. “Since beads were considered money all over Africa, waistbeads were both ornamentation as well as dowry in matriarchal societies. A husband-to-be would give his bride to be a set of waistbeads accompanied by beads for her neck, arms, wrists and ankles.

Throughout parts of the world, Simataa notes, waist beads were worn for aesthetics, largely considered an item of beauty.

Waistbeads have a long history in Africa and they have also filtered into other cultures. Belly dancers in Far Eastern cultures have embraced the beads as have women of Islamic cultures. They prominently display the beads during their dances, while some wear them beneath their clothes.

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Whenever I work with mother-of-pearl I feel very fortunate. I love its smooth texture, its creamy color and delicate iridescence. Mother-of-pearl, like many substances that come from the ocean, has  long been associated with wealth and abundance, peace and patience. Pearls are the adornments linked to Auset (Isis), Venus and Aphrodite, goddesses of moon and water, revered for their great feminine beauty.

Pearls symbolize innocence,  motherhood, patience, personal integrity, love, money, protection and luck.

I have a special affinity to mother-of-pearl because I associate it with Auset, who was known in ancient Khemet as The Great Mother, queen of the gods and mother of Heru.  I saw Auset myself depicted on the walls of the tombs during a trip to Egypt. With a baby at her breast, an ankh over her head and a fierce look in her eye, she reminded me that we may live in different times, but we are her daughters, still commanding respect for our bodies and our children.

Mother-of-pearl also conjures up visions of Yemaya, the beautiful African goddess of the sea. Yemaya is an orisha of the Yoruba religion. Africans brought their beliefs in Yemaya/Yemoja and other deities with them when they were captured and brought to the shores of the Caribbean and Americas. Yemaya represents  the ocean and everything in it. She is the essence of motherhood and  protector of children.

In India, pearls are worn in ensure happy wedded unions. In China, they are associated with dragons and good luck. In some regions of Europe, it was believed that pearls drew to its wearers the female characteristics of creativity and nurturing. In the South Pacific, they are worn by swimmers as protection shark attacks.

Wrap and Soul mother-of-pearl African waist beads carry the energy of the folklore of these people. Out of  respect, the waistbeads are always crafted with charms that are symbols of the sea and beads to enhance the pretty ivory color. Some  mother-of-pearl waist beads are also surrounded by lapis lazuli, which is the deep blue stone of Yemaya.

Select your own mother-of-pearl waistbeads now!

Rose Quartz

Rose quartz is the crystal of love and romance, and not just because of its pretty, pale pink color which is associated with calm, beauty and feminine energies. Rose quartz stimulates the heart chakra from which all human emotion flows, the center health and wellness. When the heart chakra is properly balanced, you will experience peace, focus, kindliness and compassion for others.

Rose quartz, a clear translucent stone, is best known for its ability to improve self-love, attract love, and improve fidelity in marriage or existing relationships.  In her book, “Sacred Woman.” Queen Afua recommends the use of rose quartz  during rituals for sacred relationships, and she associates the stone with Maat, the Khemitan guardian of wisdom.

In ancient lore, rose quartz  was soaked in elixirs which women drank for a more youthful, beautiful appearance.  It has been used in human adornment for over 4,000 years.

Above all, it is the stone of universal love and forgiveness.

Sankofa waist beads

Wearing  Wrap and Soul rose quartz waistbeads is a wonderful way to infuse your aura with the energies of this powerful stone.

Quartz is the second only to fieldspar in abundance within the earth’s crust. Rose quartz gets its distinctive color from traces of  titanium, iron, or manganese. Other semi-precious quartz-based gemstones include amethyst, citrine and smoky quartz.

Rose quartz is  found throughout the world, including the USA. But the best examples of this stone are found in Brazil.

For more rose quartz waist beads go to  Wrap and Soul.