The history of waist beads dates back to antiquity. Many believe that the history began in ancient Egypt where they were called “girdles” and were worn by women as a status symbol. In West Africa, the tradition was made popular by the Yoruban tribe of Nigeria. They are worn as a celebration of womanhood, sexuality, femininity, fertility, healing, spirituality, body shaping, protection and wealth. Yoruban woman are known to have once laced beads with charms and fragrances that would be considered irresistible to the opposite sex. This practice is now less popular, however wearing beads for the seduction of men is still one of the primary reasons some women wear them. Waist beads can be considered as “African Lingerie.”
In Ghana, another West African nation, waist beads were worn as an adornment like the women in Egypt, where the waist beads represent(ed) status and wealth if you were a member of the aristocracy and femininity. In Ghana, however, women are not the only ones who wear waist beads. Babies wear them during their naming ceremonies, teens wear them during puberty “coming of age” ceremonies, and men have been known to commission waist beads, with matching ankle, wrist, necklace, and cuff beads for their brides-to-be. The commissioned beads would be considered part of the bridal dowry and the start of her personal wealth.
Many west African women will tell you that they wear the beads to help “shape” their waists, hence the comparisons with girdles. The belief was that if multiple waist beads were worn over time, the waist would remain small and the hips more accentuated. In a lot of cultures a small waist and shapely hips are synonymous with fertility. Women of all shapes and sizes wore and wear waist beads. Waist beads are not just a “thin” girl fashion trend. Waistbeads are intentionally not meant for show, they were very private and reflected personal expression and individual interpretation, which runs almost completely contrary to the modern-day usage. Traditionally, many women receive their waist beads as young girls and they add to their waist beads and wear them throughout their lives, until death. Once you are connected to your healing waist beads, they become a part of you.
My waist bead experience is fairly new, yet quickly trans-formative. The idea had been floating around in my head for a bit and when the opportune time presented itself, the beads were presented to me. I wanted to make them special and symbolize what my intentions were, for myself on this new initiation. I decided to use semi-precious stones and crystals to aid in the healing aspect and to create a narrative that I could carry with me. I chose Amethyst, aventurine, agate, howlite, jasper, laboradite, quartzite, black network, tiny shells, turquoise,and sodalite. Cleansing, energizing, balancing, prosperity attraction, self-realization, protection, self-honesty, promoting joy, inner stability and strengthening intuition are some of the many benefits of this Molotov crystal cocktail.
The moment I placed them on, I felt activated and it was exhilarating. The cool feel, the sound as they move around, and the visual aesthetic of body adornment has a power that can have a ripple of positive effects. My posture changed as the recognition of this jewelry was like a crown to my womb. My life force, surrounded by all the energy that each stone carries is being affected at a cellular level. Dancing has become a new joy, as the sounds and feeling of the movement becomes intoxicating for me and desired so much. My skin tone on my abdomen has tightened and smoothed as well, adding such an unexpected benefit to the abundant internal changes. Confidence, self-love, compassion, joy, acceptance, assertiveness, awareness and honor was restored. My energy has increased and shifted in a new direction.