Waist beads have existed in various regions of African cultures for centuries and have even been depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Waist beads, which are typically worn at all times, often serve as symbols of sensuality, fertility, femininity, spirituality and rites of passage, passed down from mother to daughter. Some waist beads include energy crystals and charms as well.
Adornment: Waist beads help women embrace and honor their sexuality. They make women feel beautiful and help with a positive body image, self-love and acceptance.
Intimacy: Waist beads are also worn for seduction and can provoke desire. Wives would often lure their husbands with the rattle of beads or use them as a means to communicate their fertility at certain times of the month.
Weight Management: The practice of wearing several waist beads over time will help to keep the waist small and accentuate the hips. They can be a good tool to measure weight gain and loss.
Celebrations: Throughout several countries in Africa, waist beads have been used to adorn girls in celebration of how they have matured. Traditionally, mothers adorned their daughters with waist beads during their first menstruation as a rise of passage into womanhood.
While the colors in African waist beads are open to interpretation, some traditions equate certain qualities to various hues:
Blue: knowledge, healing, peace, truth, harmony — a cooling color symbolizing faith, devotion, deep insight.
Green: prosperity, hope, harmony, healing and ripening, encouraging the wearer to love nature and be generous, humble and self-controlled.
Red: self-confidence, vitality, sexual energy, passion, courage.
Yellow: wisdom, knowledge, clarity, increasing awareness and calming nerves.