Saturday, June 30, 2018

Rosaries and Rose Beads

The Rose, by Ann Mayhew, illustrated by Michael Pollard, includes "myths, Folklore and Legend." Ann writes, "The rosary is believed to have originated in the Orient, and is used as a devotional aid in many religions. ...In the East, Rose-beads are still made. Dried rose petals are crushed to powder, moistened with rose water and formed into pellets, which are strung, dried and polished, ready for use." 
This is essentially the process I came to, after much experimentation! 
My grandmother Mary grew and used herbs. My mama had a Rose bead necklace grandma Mary made 20 or 30 years before I was born! Sadly, I never knew my grandmothers Mary Irel and Minnie Vestella, so was fascinated by anything I could learn about them. Mary's younger sister Mattie gave me a "wagon train rose" with fragrant petals, this may well have been the rose my grandmother used making beads! 

My first attempt to make rose beads, using a recipe from 'American Girl Magazine,' looked rather like raisins, as the instructions included simmering, but not mashing! 
Next go - round, I simmered my petals as instructed, "an hour a day for three days," then ran the mash thru the foley mill my mom used when making jelly. 

Several years later, I began whirring my mash in a blender or food processor, with much better results. The outer necklace is one I made by that method 50 years ago, while in my teens. I used little brass beads and stung them on nylon line from the fishing supply (my dad was a fly fisherman), as we didn't have a bead shops. 
In an herb class in the late 80s, our teacher Glen Nagle suggested storing dried herbs whole, then whizzing a small batch of "crispy dry" herbs in an electric seed/coffee mill when ready to use. He mentioned setting your drying racks in a car on a warm day for that "crispy dry" state.
Ah- ha! I could do that with the rose petals, as I generally used a combo of fresh & dried petals for my beads. Viola! The inner necklace, strung with rose quartz, is about 30 years old, the outer was made with the dried petal method.
Making Rose Beads
This is a wonderful, meditative process, and well suited to Intentional Creativity! Put inn favorite chants or music, say prayers as you stir the mash, form beads, string a Rosary or make a necklace.
Dry: Remove the extras: stamens, hips and greenery, dry and store the petals (powdered or whole) in Jars or tea tins. Add "potpourri herbs to help preserve the fragrance: small amounts of cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, ground nutmeg, cardamom... Other good additions are some lavender flowers and a few rose geranium leaves. If you have roses saved from a special bouquet, you may wish to add some of these petals to your beads. Keep thoroughly dry petals in closed containers, till ready to process.
Powder: Make sure your petals are crispy dry when you whizz them in an electric coffee/herb/seed grinder in small batches. You can grind a bit of lavender and rose geranium leaves along with your petals or not, as you please. Pick out any lumps. You can use a wire mesh to sift, and regrind the coarser bits. I usually prepare a cup or so of rose powder, and store in glass jars or tea tins.
Tisane: Steep Rose petals, lavender, & rose geranium leaves with favorite spices (cinnamon, cardamom & nutmeg, or perhaps Garam masala) in hot water 10 minutes when you're ready to make beads.Bold You want it to smell rosy, so don't overdo with the spices. Rose geranium leaves aide having a lovely rose fragrance! 
Tisane, mash simmering, tin with rose petal powder

Cook: A small electric potpourri crock pot (thrift store!!) is ideal for the heating & mash making process. Mix some of your rose tea with 1/2 cup - a Cup of your powdered rose petals, stir, turn on the pot, and let it simmer an hour or so, stirring occasionally, adding more tea as needed. 
Allow your mash to cool a bit, then put in the food processor, and whiz (you may need a bit more liquid) Scrape the sides well, and return your mash to the pan or potpourri pot. Allow to sit overnight, and reheat the following day. 
Jude the Obscure
My original recipe said, "simmer the petals an hour each day for 3 days." Now, I may just do two rounds, but it is easy to have it simmering daily for awhile when you're painting! 

Scrape the sides and stir occasionally, and add more tisane (herbal tea) as needed, you don't want it soupy wet. If it gets dry, scrape the sides and add a bit more tisane. If it's too wet, add more rose petal powder.
Pour some tisane for yourself as well - ahh 

You can put the mash in the fridge for a few days at any point, or freeze it if you can't make the whole batch into beads! 

Fresh petal Method: If you'd like to use fresh petals, or a mix of fresh and dry, collect at least a dozen roses, discarding the hips and centers. The more fragrant, old fashioned or David Austin roses are best, and dry some for storing your beads. Add fresh or dried roses from a special corsage or bouquet if you wish.

Simmer in a little water (with a few spices like powered cinnamon) or Rosy Tisane for an hour (a small crockpot is good for either method), stirring occasionally. When the petals are wilted and transparent, grind in a mortar and pestle, food processor or blender, till you have a consistency like applesauce or a "smoothy." Return your sauce to the crockpot or pan, and simmer for another hour or so, adding a bit more tisane as needed. Blend again, and simmer once more. If you're using a crockpot, turn it on low and occasional scrape the sides.
Beads: The word bead comes from the Anglo Saxon word bede, a prayer or invitation to "bid spirit to
Rose beads and necklaces in potpourri
enter." Rosary comes from the Latin rosarium, Rose garden or rose bed. 

In 1990, I was at an Earth Day gathering, wearing my "new style" Rose Bead necklace, and a Native American man was speaking about praying with the flute, the hollow allowing breath, allowing spirit and sacred sound to flow. And the space in beads.
I (after arguing with my guides!) spoke into a lull in his words, adding the meaning of bead, "to bid spirit to enter." After, he asked where that word came from. I replied, "Anglo Saxon, like most of our words." He nodded, and invited me to pass my necklace around the circle.
Making beads is like playing with clay! Allow your petal mash to cool, and take a small amount  from the pot. You want a 'playdough' consistency. Squeeze a lump together, and using two fingers, roll the ball in the palm of your hand. Make about twice as big as you want your finished bead - they'll shrink! 
Beads drying
Yes, it's messy! But oh, so sweetly fragrantSqueeze out moisture if you need to, and have a bit of the tisane in a small bowl to dip your fingers, or use rosewater, as they do "in the East." Scrape residue off your hands and drop it back in the pot. Smooth your beads again as you go.
I make several size beads, as I like to string in patterns of 3s & 5s, with a larger bead in the center. Set the beads on small dishes to dry for a day till slightly firm, before piercing with a large needle. (if any break, just drop back into the 'mash', or add a bit of tisane, knead and form new beads)
Pierce with a "carpet needle," or sewing needle for smaller beads, and string on waxed carpet thread, hemp cord, or fishline for drying. Put about a dozen beads on a string, & place them back on the plate or hang from pushpins along the edge of a shelf or above a door. You don't want them close to heat! (They'll dry too fast and fall apart!) Turn them on the string every few days till they have shrunk and dried. You can leave them on their strings till you're ready to string them. Stir them
My original instructions suggest using all white and yellow rose petals for paler beads, like the outer necklace from a friend pictured bellow, strung with pearls and glass beads. Mine usually end up dark. 
If you want to insure they are dark, "add a rusty nail while they simmer." I store the strings of beads & finished necklaces in tins & jars with rose potpourri, a few whole roses & sprigs of lavender. If you wish, you can rub them with a silk scarf to polish the beads.

I don't add essential oil to either my rose beads or potpourri, as the roses retain their natural fragrance beautifully! My mother was fragrance sensitive, and could wear natural rose beads, but not those with a bit of essential oil! Rose geranium leaves are a great addition. As they have a natural strong rose fragrance.
Stringing a Rosary: from The Rose: each tradition calls for a specific number of beads. 
  • India: Buddhists use a rosary of 99 beads
  • China and Japan, 108
  • Mohammedan: 108
  • Greek: 100
  • Russian Orthodox: 103
  • Catholic: 165 (15 sets of 10 "hail Mary," 15 large: Pater Noster)
If you have a rosary from one of these traditions, you can use it as a model. String as you would other beads, in a way that is pleasing to you. This is a wonderful time to say prayers/set your intention for the prayer beads. Tiger tail is great for stringing actual necklaces with clasp closure, and natural stones, pearls, glass beads can be added in patterns. Let our your beads on a piece of felt or necklace tray to preview your pattern.
You could also make a prayer bracelet, stringing fewer beads.
When teaching a rosebead class, I buy small tins at the thrift stores, & make a bag or sprinkle potpourri in the bottom, to gift the students. The beads smell more fragrant when worn, as your body heat warms them. Just keep them dry, & they'll last a long, long time.
I've written earlier on making Rose Beads here.
This is a great tutorial on making rose beads, with a number of photos at various stages! 

Have you made rose beads? Do you have a favorite pattern, or combination of beads?