About: Waist Beads
Waist beads are body adornments traditionally worn by women in and around Africa which have a number of representational meanings. Generally, they serve as a physical expression of self in the form of beads neatly threaded along stringing material to be wrapped between the waist and hips.
There is much folklore surrounding the origin of waist beads, but it’s generally believed to come from west African tribes across countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. In Ghana, the Krobo tribe were said to believe the Bodon bead was a living entity as it was grown from the ground and had the ability to breathe, reproduce, and bark at the approach of danger. These beads quickly became a trade with Benin, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Timbuktu, India and more, leading to integration of their styles and meanings.
Despite differences in folklore pertaining to the origin of waist beads, they are found in the history of almost all African tribes and were used at rites of passage, which are transitions between one stage of life to the next, usually consisting of pregnancy, birth, puberty, marriage, and death.
The use of waist beads in ancient Khamit (Source: Sacred Woman – Queen Afua).
Over time many uses of waist beads have been passed down generations, whilst others are relatively new, and some just didn’t make it. The use of waist beads is entirely down to the individual and what they choose to do with their beads. Some of these uses include:
-To hold menstrual loin cloths (Historically)
-To shape the waist
-To track weight loss/gain
-To beautify the body
-To represent a promise
-A reminder of something sacred
-To be in touch spiritually with the womb
-Accessorise an outfit
-Represents becoming a woman(puberty rituals)
-Represents being a woman
-Spiritual womb protection
-Emotional and mental strength
-Cultural expression through flags
A common misconception is that only women of African descent can wear waist beads, but this is simply not the case. Traditionally, waist beads were used to signify a new passage of life, particularly when a young woman is becoming an adult, and when a woman is becoming a mother (whether it’s the first time or not).It’s important to note that African people historically have never been shy with sharing culture and getting people of all backgrounds to understand that they can take part in different cultures and express them, however, it should always be respectfully and in order to do this with respect, you have to do your research. Luckily, information about waist beads is available right here.
To clarify, waist beads are for all women to wear because we all possess feminine energy and have the right to express ourselves and love ourselves for who we are, no matter our race, background, location, shape, size, etc. Wearing waist beads is about expression of character and inner beauty rather than physical beauty because what’s on the inside is who we really are.
It would be impossible to say what waist beads mean, because amongst many uses, there are also many meanings individual to each woman who wears them. Handmaking the waist beads myself is an important part of what cultured waist is because your waist beads should be a source of encouragement and empowerment for you, a real expression of confidence and so by making them with genuine love and the dream of a world full of confident women, I hope that they each find love for themselves.
As with many foreign traditions there is much superstition revolving wearing waist beads, including their suitability for children. Waist beads have been a symbol of womanhood and thus fertility going back generations, therefore some argue that they are not suitable for children because it encourages sexual activity, however it’s important to note that wearing waist beads is less to do with sex and pregnancy than it is to do with fertility and creative power. It helps to harness energies within women leading to the creation, not always of babies, but also of ideas and thoughts. For this reason, yes, waist beads are suitable for children and are still gifted to girls when they begin their periods as a symbol of this power to create.
There is much speculation over how waist beads should be worn, with some arguing that they are private and should never be shown, whilst others believe they can be shown and are an expression. Neither of these are wrong. The beauty of waist beads lies in it’s individuality on each different person, so there’s no correct way to wear them, rather women are encouraged to wear them however is most comfortable to them.
They can be worn around the waist or the hips which helps when keeping them private. There’s variation in the fitting of the waist bead, so they can be tight and stay upright against the skin, loose and hang off the body, or fitted and be just on the skin comfortably –the difference is exact size, a size up or a size down.
Finally, there has been some confusion over the material of waist beads and which to choose. Cultured Waist offers elastic and string & clasp options for waist beads which essentially determines their flexibility. Elastic waist beads stretch and allow for comfortability in physical change, i.e. if you’re bloated, they move with you rather than constrict you. They are able to stretch up to 70% of their original length and therefore are a good option, particularly for pregnant women.
String and clasp waist beads are made with thread and secured at the end with clasps for tying around the waist. They are beneficial specifically when tracking weight gain or loss because as you lose weight, they become looser and hang low, but as you gain weight, they become tighter and move up the body.
Traditionally waist beads were made with a wire like material, close to string that is sometimes responsible for shaping the waist, depending on how tight the beads are.
If you have any questions, feel free to use the live chat, email email@example.com or dm @culturedwaist on Instagram. Please feel free to share your thoughts and information about waist beads!