The Mysteries of Beads

I bought the beads as an afterthought, one day in the enormous central market in Ouagadougou. A wizened older man standing behind the table shoved handfuls of beads at me, some glass, some plastic, some stone, some obviously camel teeth, ground down and carved.

At the time, I knew nothing of the cultural significance of those African beads.

Yet, deep in the history of my own language, “bead” means “prayer.” A Middle English word, trailing through tongues to its present-day meaning of adornment.

To “bid a bead” was to offer a prayer. “Telling the beads,” another saying.

Rosaries.

Misbaha.

Each of these beads bears different markings. I wonder about the intent of the beadmaker, the stories she would tell.

War. Love. Childbirth. Death.

This day, one of hurricanes, wind, rain, fear, terror, I offer up these beads, beseeching healing for Earth.

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