Friday, August 12, 2016
Appalachian Blessing Bracelet
When I was young, I had a great aunt, on my dad's side that made me one of these and taught me about blessing beads. I will not even put her name on this because her family are a little strange. They are kin but they are strange. This great Aunt, (actually she was my GREAT GREAT Aunt) would have been known as a granny woman, or in many unsavory minds a granny witch. Which is no more the truth than anything.
She was a very religious woman and a healer. She went to church every time the doors flew opened. She knew how to draw fire from a burn and stop blood with just a Bible verse. She was very close to watching nature. She said crows brought messages and would count them. She saw signs in everything around her, and wasn't uncommon her predictions came true. She was ostracized by many in the family as having something other than Christian but these same people called on her when they were sick. I think they were afraid of something they didn't understand.
When I was about 10, before she became really ill, I had to stay with her overnight. I'd never met her before that time. Got to visit with her just a few times after that. But I learned a lot just roaming around her and my uncles house and listening to her talk.
One visit, I didn't want to stay with her. I was being a typical kid. To amuse me, she showed me a bracelet she was wearing made of pearls and shell beads and asked me if I wanted to make one. If I stayed with her we would make one. She called it, "A Blessing Bracelet" and told me how it worked. I stayed with her that afternoon and made one. I wore it about a month before I broke it. Forgot about it for many, many years.
When I worked at Wolf Creek Indian Village they sold these cedar berry bracelets that reminded me of the blessing bracelet my Aunty made me. I bought them too and sort of used it like a blessing bracelet but broke every one within a month of buying it. I'm rough on jewelry.
When I first became ill and had to resign my job, I made myself another Blessing Bracelet because I thought I needed it. It was an uncertain future time for me....figured I needed all the help I could get. You can see in the picture above, I'm wearing my blessing bracelet. I've worn it for over 4 years now. It's made with a strong wax string. I made it the day I had to sign my resignation letter.
So I thought.....this should be shared. It's not just the making of the bracelet but how it WORKS.
The bracelet is made the old way, when there were no clasps. You string your first bead with a long tail. I use two, five, two combination of E beads. Two for the strongest moons, new and full. You end your beading with two and when tied together makes what I call the 4 directions beads and where I start from every time I use the bracelet. The five are for the ancient beliefs of the five seasons in a year. And it's made to your size so I can't give you a number of beads.
You measure your string around the widest part of your hand with your fingers outstretched close together and your thumb open. That's how many beads you will need. You tie it to the long tail of the beginning bead in a knot.
To put it on, you place it over your fingers and press your thumb inward and roll it on your wrist.
How IT WORKS.
First of all it's made to you so you can't sell it. Besides selling anything like this makes it not work.
There are sections so you can choose to count by the 2 beads, the five beads or individual beads beginning at the four.
The first way to use it is praying. YOU NEVER PRAY FOR YOURSELF. You pray for others you know are hurting or have difficulties. Going around the bracelet as much as you need or as many times you need. You can also pray for your enemies. My Aunty warned me about this. She quoted a Bible verse about praying for your enemies. If they are truly out to cause you harm for no good reason or evil intentions, praying for them to be blessed heaps coals of fire upon their heads. If they are just being ignorant of what they are doing they might be blessed with understanding. If they are truly righteous and not trying to cause you any harm and you call them an enemy, the coals come back on YOU.
If you don't believe in God I guess you can use it to send good thoughts to people and bring them into remembrance that someone may be worse off than you at the moment.
Second way it's used is when you are depressed or in despair or think you lack something. You use it to count your blessings on the individual beads. You can see, you can walk, you can talk, you can write, you have clean sheets and coffee this morning....what ever you are blessed with at this moment.
What happens when I count my blessings?...One I realize whatever I think I'm lacking I really don't need or two, I'm already blessed with something that will get me what I need.
That afternoon making my first one, she made me recite my blessings. I'd come up with one and she'd say, "What else?" I'd say, "I don't know, I can't think of any more!" She'd say, "You thankful for your shoes so you don't have to walk barefoot in the snow?" And it went on that way until my parents returned. Turns out I had a lot I never thought of. She died a few years after that. At her funeral I noticed she had hers on and was buried with it. I wonder how many of her family knew what it was?
Last week was the first time I'd shared this. Kind of thought I'd be thought nuts to say what it really was or to wear it but now it's just a part of me and what I do. Got me through the last 4 years!!! Thank you Aunty, wherever you are!
I am the Appalachian Heart Wood Blogger. I am interested in saving the history of our Appalachian region as well as our placement into the future. I am a 9th generation Appalachian woman on my father's side and 11th generation on my mother's side. One grandfather is recorded in these mountains in the English records in 1753. We have been here a long, long time. Our language, our culture is celebrated yet changing. My blog called Appalachian Heart Wood is where I will expound my take on all this change and how our roots run deep in Appalachian history and culture.. I might also from time to time expound on the politics of the day in Virginia. Follow me on Twitter @AppalHeartwood