Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hip-Hop Rosaries and What Not To Wear


Two nights ago, my Partner and I were at PF Changs (yummy, btw) for the first time. The tables in the cavernous dining room were so close you’d bump your elbow on your neighbor’s backside – should you need to wipe your mouth with your napkin. Being so cramped against one’s neighbor gives one a unique opportunity to closely examine the jewelry choices of others. Because, you know, I’m gay, and that sort of thing is like a compulsion I have to indulge.

The couple seated next to us was young, urban, and Hispanic. Apparently, this is important to note, as the guy was wearing rosary beads as a necklace. My partner, who is also Hispanic, informed me that it has become a common practice among young guys to wear these as jewelry. My immediate reaction was one of disgust.

Why? Well, as I told my partner, I think it’s a bit sacrilegious and disturbing when sacred things are secularized. It seems to me that this is just the latest in a quickly growing and tragic trend towards losing touch with the divine. It’s not that I’m against wearing signs and symbols as jewelry. That’s what they’re for. Sigils and talismans and amulets are just as much a part of magic as anything else, and their use in jewelry is as ancient an art as any.

But, rosary beads. They’re not a sign or symbol or sigil or rune. They’re a tool. They evolved from Indian Yogic prayer beads and are used to keep up with the number of times one has said a prayer, mantra, etc. To use them, the practitioner goes around the string of beads, holding each one in their fingers and repeats their prayer or mantra. They’re much older than the Catholic faith, and are a tool for powerful mystic workings and meditation.

Prayer beads are not a necklace.

Wearing a mystical tool that is specifically made for working by the hands is like wearing your cauldron as a hat or slicing up a sandwich with your athame. These are tools that are dedicated to the Gods, and while they may not necessarily have to be expensive, they should always be special and reserved. They should be something that inspires and energizes you when you pick them up.

Sure, the argument can be made that they’re your tools, it’s your personal path, and if you want to drink Mountain Dew out of your chalice while eating a pizza off your pentacle and nibbling on a wedge of cheese you’ve skewered on the end of your wand that’s completely your business. And, that’s fine…to an extent. It’s not doing anything to me or my path, but what’s it doing to you?

No, really, think about it. Sure, maybe the first time you threw on the prayer beads you took a moment to thank your higher power. Perhaps you solemnly asked for protection or veneration or whatever. You might have even pondered the divine for a minute or seven. Then, however, came the second time and the tenth time and the thirty-second time and eventually you’re just throwing on the necklace you always wear with your black hoodie and backwards-turned hat. It’s another piece of jewelry that you own.

It’s like when you say a word over and over again so quickly that it sort of loses its meaning. Go ahead. Try it. Say ‘fork.’ Now say it 20 times in a row. (Stop with the dirty thoughts. The word is FORK!) To me, and this might just be because of my strangeness, when you do this the word just becomes a repetition of sound. When you say a word, especially a nice, concrete noun like ‘fork,’ your brain brings up an image of a fork. But, when you say it over and over again…no picture. Your mind loses focus on the definition, the recall of what that word is supposed to inspire in you.

When we normalize the sacred, when we integrate it so fully into our lives that its original purpose is forgotten to memory, then we lose touch with that bit of divinity the object once inspired in us. And it’s not that I’m saying we shouldn’t wear the icons we consider sacred, but I’m saying that if the purpose of that object is not necessarily to be jewelry, then don’t make it so.

Our altars, however large or small, should be places where, for however much time you can spare, one can consider the divinity within each of us and commune with our higher power(s). Our mystical, sacred tools should be special enough that we only use them to fulfill the purposes of spiritual practice.

And, yes, those tools can be things like kitchen knives if you’re a kitchen witch or a garden spade if you’re a hedgewitch. But, again, the tools have a reserved purpose. The garden spade doesn’t double as a cereal spoon. (Though, that might be due to impracticality more than convenience or the spade's inherent holiness.)

But, back to PF Changs and the young man with the rosary beads. Does he care? Probably not. Does it hurt me or my personal path if he wears them on his neck or uses them as a sex toy? No. However, I see it as a cautionary sign that we are losing something in our modern society. We’re losing the joy, the mystery, the experience of having that sacred experience that comes when we lose ourselves in the original purpose of such things. We are replacing the repetition of mantra with the repetition of matching the black rosary beads with the black belt we’re wearing. We’re actively forgetting our collective history and wiping away the beauty of our myriad cultures.

So, wear your signs, sigils, talismans, etc. Remember, though, that when you do, you’re wearing more than a shiny piece of quartz or a unique design carved on a piece of bone. You’re wearing history, power, and a piece of revealed divinity. Give a nod of thanks to the Gods when you do so, and let’s put the sacred back into our current culture. Though, you can still do so fashionably.

Stay classy Neo-Pagans!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

9 comments:

  1. You are SO right! I've seen those wearing rosaries as necklaces around and secretly thought "how gauche" but not much thought after that... I think like sex and violence in the media, we are becoming desensitized. Great insight!

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  2. Unfortunately the Christian world has been losing a grip on the joy and mystery of their religion for a long time now. They are not encouraged to interact with their deity the way we do, it would be considered blasphemy to do so. Where we consider the tools of our craft to be sacred and a connection to our Gods, many Christians consider their tools to be just window dressing and don't really have any idea what they represent or how they should be used. As sad as it is, I don't think the chruch leaders want their followers to understand how important their tools are or how they should use them. By educating them on the true use of their tools, the church would have to relinquish some of their power and control. After all if that young man realized how close his rosery brought him to his God, he might not feel the necessity of going to mass next sunday. He could use the rosery as a direct connection and leave the middle man (the priest) out.

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  3. Rosaries as fashion isn't really new, though its a trend that's resurfecing. It's always been a "cool" thing to wear if you're into Rock'N Roll (Kat Von D is one example) and I wore a black plastic one back in High School (I'm hispanic, raised in a Catholic island) tho I was constantly called "satanic" - go figure. A lot of people wear their religious and sacred symbols with them all the time, be it an Ankh, or Thor's Hammer, or (if youre brave enough) the Valknut.

    I'm on the fence of this, because i wear a hematite Rosary necklace with an Ankh on it, however I do not use it to pray. However it has the same intent as my Caduceus necklace, since Hermes is my Patron. While I wear mine with a more reverent mind and it's a constant, touching reminder, many times I hide it. I don't think most people put as much study and thought into their faith as I do in my personal life, but that's my assumption.

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  4. what does it hurt? Maybe they need Jesus and it gives them that peace that they've been looking for. Maybe you just can't stand to think that people, regardless, of their actions, still pray and depend on religion.

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  5. I think you *really* missed the point of the article. I love religion. It is a beautiful and, I believe, necessary function of a healthy society. It provides hope, harmony, and healing where no other such social structure would. I am just highly suspect that fashion accessories are truly being used with the same reverence and appreciation that prayer beads are intended for.

    FL

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  6. Sometimes a necklace is just a necklace. Your point is very articulately stated and certainly well supported. It is built. however, on the assumption that the guy in PF Changs was a Christian or, at the very least, ascribed some sacred meaning to the rosary. I personally don't practice Asatrue or Wicca; so when if I were to wear a necklace with the Hammer of Thor or a Pentacle, it wouldn't really have too much significance for me. I respect that the symbol may certainly have meaning for others, but for me it would just be a necklace, a piece of jewelry. The guy in Chang's may have felt the same. I may be incorrect, but I'm guessing that you don't believe that symbols should only be worn/displayed by those who ascribe some sacred meaning to them. If so, then that's a different conversation altogether. This article explores an interesting point and i is well written, nonetheless.

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  7. its a rosary its not that big a deal i dont think you will upset the lord if you wear one maybe people should stop focusing on what others are wearing and mind their own DAMN BUSINESS

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  8. I was noting the new trend of this, and so I investigated being a Catholic and all. I think everyone should go to Answer.com, and they say yes, yes, yes, everyone no matter who should wear it. Unless you worship Satan, do wear it. The devil HATES the crucifix, and cross. Rosaries come with crucifixes. Afro-Americans are very spiritual Christian people, as well as Hispanics. You could be Lutheran or whatever it doesn't matter. Get it blessed if you're Catholic...it will protect you from Satan. If you think I'm nuts, I highly recommend that you check out Exorcism. There is a devil, God and Jesus. It's for real folks. If you're gay, don't worry about it. It is so important to believe. More people are believing in Jesus even Jews. Wear your Rosaries, and kiss that beautiful cross as you say a prayer. It doesn't have to be the Hail Mary. Jesus is for EVERYONE.

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  9. Appreciate your post ! In my opinion, wearing prayer beads and rosary as a jewellery is not wrong. Some people wants prayer beads around them all the time. So they wear it around their neck or wrist. It is believed that these symbols provide peace and healing to the people. We also offer beautiful rosary necklace, bracelets, rings, medals etc.
    http://www.rosarymart.com/catholic-jewelry.html

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