May 14, 2022
My sister sent a text to all our family wondering if anyone could identify the string of beads she found at her house. She did not recall buying them and since she had just downsized our mom’s house, she thought they may have come from there. When mom and dad traveled, they often bought a similar trinket for each of the kids, but none of the other sibs had one. Several made suggestions and most thought they might be some sort of prayer beads (Buddhist? Tibetan?). The family spent most of the day yesterday having to worry about the beads and what they might represent. I finally looked them up on Google.
When I looked online, I found Greek Worry Beads (kombolói) are a string of beads meant to be manipulated with your hands that are used to pass time in Greek and Cypriot culture. Unlike the prayer beads used in religious traditions, worry beads have no religious or ceremonial purpose. Worry beads may be made from any type of bead, although amber, amber resin, and coral are preferred as they are thought to be more pleasant to handle than beads made from non-organic metal or minerals. Worry beads have several uses in Greek culture. They may be used as an amulet to guard against bad luck, to quit smoking, or to simply pass the time. The beads usually have an odd number, which is often a multiple of four plus one bead, or a prime number. A fixed bead and a shield serve as the head to separate the two threads and help the beads flow freely. The beads end in a tassel about two palm lengths long. This is what she had.
In Greek culture worry beads are usually handled in either the “quiet” or “loud” method. The quiet method is to start at one end of the thread near the shield, and to pull the thread forward using that hand’s thumb and the side of the index finger until one of the beads is reached. Then the cord is tipped so that the bead falls and hits the shield. This is repeated until all the beads have been tipped and then the user starts over. The loud method divides the beads into two groups with the shield and a small number of the beads on one end and the rest of the beads on the other. The space between the beads is laid between the index and middle fingers with the palm facing the torso and the end behind the hand is swung up and forward, so it makes a noise when it hits the other beads. Greek culture considers it polite to use the quiet method indoors, while the loud method is used outside, and especially in the cafes that line the streets.
THOUGHTS: Once the worry beads were identified my sister remembered watching the men sitting in the cafes playing with their worry beads. In modern Greek, kombolói is derived from kombol (knot) and loyio (collection), and is alluded to be short for the phrase, “in every knot I say a prayer.” While worry beads no longer relate to prayer, the etymology indicates kombolói evolved from the Greek word for prayer rope. Not knowing what the beads were caused worry among my family. When we identified the beads, the worry was lessened. At the beginning of the pandemic worry was the only way to deal with the unknown virus. We now know what the virus is, and how to avoid or treat it. Having less worry does not mean to not take precautions. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.