African waist beads: Age-old tradition makes modern-day statement
A big reason for the modern popularity of waist beads is the sense of empowerment they provide over an area of the female form that’s often a source of physical discomfort or more
Historians believe the African tradition of waist beads may have originated among the Yoruba tribes, now mainly in Nigeria. But the practice is also seen in West Africa, notably Ghana, where the beads signify wealth and aristocracy, as well as femininity. Waist beads are also found in other cultures, and while African and Islamic women typically keep them under wraps, some display the beads over their clothes or on bare midriffs, such as belly dancers in Eastern cultures.
Beads, which are typically worn at all times — even while bathing or sleeping — can serve as symbols of sensuality, fertility and rites of passage, passed down from mother to daughter. There are superstitions about pregnancy and the energies of the Earth. Some see them as conveyors of positive energy and healing. Some wear them strictly for fashion. And still others choose them for the very practical use of weight control — when your beads are getting a little tight, it’s time to back off that blueberry muffin.
An anklet, also called ankle chain, ankle bracelet or ankle string, is an ornament worn around the ankle.Barefoot anklets and toe rings historically have been worn for at least over 8000 years by girls and women in South Asia, where it is commonly known as pattilu, payal and sometimes as nupur. They have also been worn by Egyptian women since predynastic times. In the United States both casual and more formal anklets became fashionable from the 1930s to the late–20th century. While in Western popular culture both younger men and women may wear casual leather anklets, they are popular among barefoot women. Formal anklets (of silver, gold, or beads) are used by some women as fashion jewellery. JJ inAnklets are an important piece of jewellery in Indian marriages, worn along with saris.
Occasionally, anklets on both ankles are joined by a chain to limit the step. This practice was once prevalent in Southeast Asia, where the effect was to give a “feminine” short tripping step. Today, a few Western women follow this practice, but rarely in public. More rarely still, some people wear “permanent” (e.g., soldered) ankle chains and even connecting chains.
While the colors in African waist beads are open to interpretation, some traditions equate certain qualities to various hues:
Blue: knowledge, healing, peace, truth, harmony — a cooling color symbolizing faith, devotion, deep insight.
Green: prosperity, hope, harmony, healing and ripening, encouraging the wearer to love nature and be generous, humble and self-controlled.
Red: self-confidence, vitality, sexual energy, passion, courage.
Yellow: wisdom, knowledge, clarity, increasing awareness and calming nerves.
Source: Creative Waist Beads