As part one made clear, prayer beads are used in many faith and cultural traditions and have been very a very long time. They are used in different ways though most frequently as an aid to focus and concentration during prayer and contemplation.
Polytheists and pagans are often attracted to the idea of prayer bead use because these tools themselves are attractive. Colorful beads, soothing textures, and meaningful imagery all combine to create an object that invites touch and engagement. Do you experience the sensation of “grabby hands” when you see a string of prayer beads? That’s OK – that’s supposed to happen. 😉
Let’s say you have a string of prayer beads that you bought because you liked the way they looked. You have the desire to use them but just aren’t quite sure how to get started. What kind of practice is best for you? How can you make your prayer beads work? These questions are quite common among new prayer bead users, especially those who don’t have a background in their use.
Since prayer beads are often used as focus during prayer or worship, let’s first identify what you wish to focus on. Is there a beloved Power you would like to pray to? Is there a situation that you want to send good energy towards? Is there a Power that you would like to get to know better? Identifying the subject of your focus is the very first step.
“But,” you might say, “I want to focus on Loki and Kali and my friend’s cat and people without jobs and also dolphins and maybe I need a new bike and…”. Hang on, let’s just deal with one focus at a time. You *can* use your prayer beads for all the things you wish to focus on, but it’s best to address one concern at a time. If you want, you can also have a separate set of beads for each topic; for instance, you might have a set of beads for Loki, one for Kali, one for sending healing energy to animals, one for helping people, and one for helping yourself. No matter whether you have one set of beads or many, the first step will always be selecting your focus and then sticking to it.
Just for this example, let’s say you want to get to know Loki a little bit better. When it comes to Powers – deities, spirits, ancestors, and any other entity – names matter a great deal. You can use their name to get in contact with them. Calling their name with respect and love is the first and greatest magical formula of all. They *will* notice and they’ll respond – when they’re ready.
The very simplest (and arguably best) way to use your beads in this imagined scenario is to repeat Loki’s name on each bead. As you say His name, recall His stories, attributes, titles, and so forth. Hold on to that feeling as you repeat the name. You can repeat His name out loud, under your breath, just by moving your lips, or in your mind. I recommend saying the name softly to yourself, just loud enough to hear. This will help keep you focused.
Simply keep going until you finish the whole round. Then you can stop and do it again later. You can repeat this cycle of prayers multiple times a day if you’re really dedicated or you can aim to do it a few times a week. It really doesn’t take very long. You can do multiple rounds in one sitting, if you like (I personally aim for two).
You can make each name a little more complicated if you like. You can recite His name multiple times on each bead, or recite a group of names (for instance, you might say, “Loki, Lodur, Lopt” on each bead). You could recite a title on each bead along with a name – “Loki, Mother of Witches, Father of Monsters”. You could include a word of praise on each bead – “Loki; hail!”.
A simple prayer is ultimately best when you are just getting started. Using names and phrases already fixed in your heart and memory will prevent forgetfulness and will help you focus on the purpose of your prayers rather than on trying to remember what you wanted to say.
Next time, I’ll talk about some ways that you can apply the recitation of prayers to your practice. Though there are many different ways that you can do this, it always comes back to the same thing: fixing your mind of the thing you care about and then celebrating it with your words.