Women of Color are reclaiming and embracing the Indigenous African Sacred Feminine Wisdom of our Ancestors
Nowadays, wearing Waistbeads and having waistbead making parties is on the rise. More and more, women of color are finding themselves interested in and compelled to indulge in this ancient custom. This piece is for the many Sistahs who ask me about Waistbeads. Now you can have all the information I have on it in one place. It’s so Empowering for women of color to have things that are for us by us. Wearing Waistbeads for Women of Color in the Diaspora is not only an adaptation of personal style but an act of rebellion against the Western culture of deprecating our health, rejection of Westernized Standards of Beauty and an Embracing and reclaiming of our Ancestral wisdom and Divine Femininity.
Wearing Waistbeads is Ancient and customary on the continent Africa
Not all tribes practice the same ideology around wearing Waistbeads. Tribes wear Waistbeads for various reasons and some at certain times only. It is said that wearing Waistbeads may even date back to Ancient Kemet (Egypt)
Some traditions around wearing Waistbeads include:
1.) Signify the birth of a girl child.
2.) PROTECTION~ To protect the spirit of the child during pregnancy
3.) Puberty Rites, the onset of menses.
4.) Marital Rites~ Each elder Woman that has given birth, takes a bead off of a strand she has worn for years and they create a strand for the bride to be. This brings her fertility, blessings and protection.
I learned of a Sacred Beading practice that is traditional in our Native ‘American’ culture. It’s practiced inside of a special ceremony for Mothers to be called a Birth Blessingway. I was exposed to this ritual by a friend and local Midwife of Color, Nilajah Brown. In this Beading ceremony, each person presents the Mother to be with a bead and an accompanying virtue that bead represents. Then a strand is created and she wears it to Empower and Uplift her during childbirth. It is clear that we brought our traditions from the Motherland with us to what is now called the Americas long, long ago.
Pictured above: I am installing beads onto my baby niece Keniyah that my Sister Brina (her Mommy) made for her. Keniyah felt so beautiful and special.
5.) MEDICINE~ In case a woman’s health was poor, she might wear Waistbeads that have been imbued with prayers and herbal medicines.
6.) FERTILITY~ to promote fertility and correct womb disease
7.) AWAKENING ~ to heighten intuition, self realization and connection to the higher/ inner self, the goddess within.
8.) ADORNMENT & BEAUTY
9.)SEXUALITY~ worn to increase sexual energy
10.) STRENGTH~ worn around the hips which is the center of gravity in our bodies
11.) SUPPORT~ allows her to support her neutral spine, promotes good posture
12.) ENHANCED MOVEMENT ~ heavier beads are worn around the waist and hips to enhance movement during dance
13.) WAIST TRAINING ~ how the fit of her Waistbeads change let’s a woman know wear she is in terms of her figure and fitness. It was thought that wearing the strands from the time one was a baby would keep the figure in tact through awareness of the body.
14.) MENSTRAL~ worn simply to tuck the menstral cloth in, to keep it secure.
15.) VIRGINITY or CHASTENESS~
16.) STATUS/ AFFLUENCE~
Various names for Waistbeads
Mgathe’ ~ Kenya
Jigeda, Bebedi, Mgbaji~ Nigeria
Girl- Giri, Yomba, Ileki Idi, BinBin etc ~ other tribes throughout the Africa
Womb Beads~ This is the term I use in my business, though I often use “Waistbeads” because that’s what people are most familiar with
Men wear Waistbeads too
In Kenya, in the Masai and Kikuyu tribes, boys ages 11-13 wear Waistbeads commemorating their Rites of Puberty. In some tribes the Men are not circumcised until later in life and they wear Waistbeads during and around their ceremony.
In Zambia, the Chief/ King wears a bulky waistbead belt during the rainy season
ceremony when the village floods.
In Namibia and Benin men wear Waistbeads as well.
On this side of the Diaspora
I was first exposed to Waistbeads some time around 2008 although I cannot remember the exact moment. I do remember seeing a sister named Serwa who was making beautiful strands of waist beads. I make it a part of my practice to pay homage to those who went before me, so I pay homage to her ✨🙏🏾✨...I soon made myself a strand and I incorporated gems and semiprecious stones and it was really magickal. Shortly thereafter I’m Egan making and selling custom strands. I had my first waistbead making Party for my birthday in 2010 at my studio in Fells Point.
“The aesthetic value of Waistbeads cannot be understated. I watch sistahs light up when their beautiful Waistbeads are installed. We need this kind of sacred feminine reminder of the divine beauty and majesty we carry.”~Kenya Jah-Afiya OyadaraOsuntola
Magickal Healing Properties
Waistbeads are imbued with magickal Healing properties either from prayers or actual medical herbs and oils rubbed on them. Some can afford to used heavy intricate trade beads, while others may adorn with cowrie shells which actually were used as currency at a time. Also the particular colors used give certain energy.
As for us in the diaspora, we are using all kinds of stones and crystals in our Waistbeads as we have access to a plethora of materials from all around the world. The strands we make tend to be very colorful and intricate.
We really need this medicine
Even if it’s only subconsciously that we are aware, the fact is that we really need this medicine. As women of color, our Wombs are the ones constantly under attack, our fertility rights are being hijacked, we are being sold hysterectomies and unnecessary c-sections, wholesale. Chemicals are being put in hair products that give us ovarian cancer just to name a few of the intentional attacks we are under. As a facilitator of the reclamation of our Indigenous Wise Ways, it is my duty and devotion to play my part to restore the wisdom that has been stolen and stripped from us. We are being restored to our rightful glory...to the Divine Feminine Goddesses we are.
(Waist) Beading Rituals: The Sacred Transfer of Ase’
Let’s add this Sacredness back into our lives. As with the women in Kenya, and how they women of the village pass on beads from their fertile wombs to the womb of the bride to be, let us create our strands and have in mind that we will pass beads onto girls and women in our families and villages. Maybe not only during Marriage Rites but other times as well. We really have to be clean in heart, mind and spirit to bless someone with something that has been on our person for years. This challenges us to live our Iwa Pele and practice gentle character and integrity.
I will be sourcing some larger beads so that we can make these strands that we will wear with the intention of one day sharing a bead here or there. ✨💛✨
Update: Wednesday June 5, 2019, 3:13 am
Waistbeading as Family/ Art Therapy
Healing Ancestral Trauma/ Bringing Presence
I am seeing that Waistbeading gatherings will be very therapeutic for especially my female family members. Growing up, my family would dread the fact that during so called holiday gatherings, I wanted to talk about what was really going on with us all. They saw my desire to talk about our patterns, family history and ailments as burdensome and so I learned to mostly just keep it light at those times, with a few sprinkled moments of depth here and there because I can’t just go out like that! 😂 Anyway, obviously there are tremendous ills in my family of all kinds and not acknowledging them has definitely contributed to their unchecked perpetuation. There is/ has been rampant Shame, leading to rampant Alcoholism and Domestic Violence, Rape and Molestation just to name a few and sadly and unfortunately this is commonplace in the families of most people of color that I know. It’s like some of my relatives are in such pain that they can’t bear to talk about anything that might touch on it. I’m proposing that we connect over waistbeading. The aforementioned ritual of passing on beads to other family members can be infused into the Waistbeading ‘party.’
As people of color, in the diaspora, it is of utmost import that we find ways to deeply connect with our own selves and each other void of forced and/ or willfully (or passively) accepted Westernized customs, which tend to dishonor our Indigenous legacies and destroy our physical vitality.
I’ll let you all know how it goes 😉 If you feel inspired to, please send me some positive energy ✨🙏🏾✨
Care of your Waistbeads
It’s important that you keep your beads energetically clean. If you have been sad or angry in them, then take them off and cleanse them. You can take them to a river or smudge them with Sage or douse them in Florida Water etc. The point is to be aware which points to another benefit of wearing Waistbeads, Mindfulness.
Wearing Waistbeads promotes Mindfulness and encourages Presence
Get your Waistbeads
Private Waistbeading Session~ Book time to come into the boutique and make your own strand over Tea. Or, you can make an appointment to come and shop my selection in person.
🌻Shop AfroGoddessMagick on Etsy🌻
You can also have your own Waistbead Party and get your ticket for FREE (a $50 value). It’s easy just invite at least 5 people and once they all register, your registration is FREE! Would you like to add waistbeading to your event? Graduation, Bridal, Birthday...ask me how ...Or you can just come to one of my quarterly parties!
🌻My Sistahs In Waistbeading🌻
check out the broader Community
🌻 Waistbeading and Body Positivity🌻
“I started wearing Waistbeads almost 3 years ago, and at that time I didn’t see many thick women featured in Waistbeads. I’d I did, I couldn’t relate to them because they usually had flat tummies or no stretch marks or rolls. So I began making them for myself, and then for a few of my friends. One day I was trying on an outfit in Lane Bryant and the young lady who was helping me saw my Waistbeads and literally almost broke onto tears, asking where I had gotten mine from. She had been wanting some for a while but couldn’t find any that came in her size or the price would be more expensive. I told her that I would make her some. When o delivered her beads to her she was so happy. Asked me for a card. I ain’t heave one because it was truly just a hobby and something I
loved doing. Anyway, I heard spirit whisper to me that I needed to be a little more official, so later that year in December 2016 I opened my Etsy Shop. And the rest is history in the making 🌻”
Kirigo~ Kenyan Native, Natural Hair Coach, Griot of African Culture, Yemoja Devotee
The African Waistbeads: Meaning Significance Andy Uses https://answersafrica.com/the-african-waist-beads-significance-and-uses.html
Waistbeads by Serwa
Nilajah Brown ~Midwife, Shopkeeper at Flourish, Fellow Waistbead Party Facilitator
The Iyami (the Mothers), Yeye Osun, Yeye Oya and Yeye Yemoja
Our African Ancestors
Our sistahs and brothers in/ from Africa who preserve the culture and share it with us. Much love and gratitude 💛
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