My kind of bling


An example of my idea of “bling.”

Sometimes I wear this necklace (re-strung by me!) of beads from ancient Indo-Tibetan and Native American cultures. At center is a dzi (decorated agate), flanked by red coral, turquoise, and copal or “lesser amber” (semi-fossilized tree sap! ). These beads were each gifted to me over several years in the past by various teachers and other beloved spiritual friends.

Personal adornment pieces of this kind,—that is, items that have a private personal value, not one based on a financial market system, trendy fashion-driven tastes, or other arbitrarily-perceived and artificially-contrived material worth, are the only type of jewelry I like to wear or care to own. They are my kind of “bling.”

In my case, as with many other people with similar tastes in this regard, such items are worn for spiritual &/or physical & mental health benefits; and because they are material artifacts (sometimes even “tools”) of ancient cultural heritages in which such items are cherished in connection with an ageless tradition of spiritual enlightenment and knowledge of natural healing and medical science; and/or because such items hold a personal aesthetic and/or “sentimental” value. That is, the value is personal and both physiological while also somewhat “symbolic,” rather than necessarily being determined by “popular” &/or commercially-driven “market/fashion” trends (which of course are also symbolic!).

Beads and other personal adornment jewelry items made of these and similar kinds of traditional precious and semi-precious “gemstones,” metals, and other mineral and organic elements, have been worn for thousands of years among millions and millions of Hindus, Buddhists, and people of other traditional cultures, for their spiritual and medicinal benefits (& sometimes aesthetic value). It’s also definitely true, however, that within traditional societies, such articles also have served as items of barter-based economic-units, in lieu of paper and coin money printed and minted by government agencies, and thus are often prized for their financial value. Relatedly, they thus also become traditional signs of material/social prestige when worn as articles of traditional “fashion” apparel and adornment display. So, traditionally, they are at once spiritual and physical medicine items, objets-d’art for aesthetic pleasure, and social status display-items of wealthy “conspicuous consumption” (anonymous regional folk parallels of haute couture designer-label fashion jewelry), the equivalent of literal lumps or wads of cash itself worn as adornment — i.e., “bling” in all senses of the term.

But my interest in wearing such pieces is completely removed from the regional-cultural context of economic and “fashion” concerns. Most of my “spiritual bling” (amulets, and malas, that is, rosaries, and related items), I wear as necklaces or bracelets. Necklaces I almost always wear tucked under my shirt, and bracelets are often at least half covered by sleeve cuffs…. Almost no one ever notices them, and if someone does, only very rarely comments or asks questions about them. I don’t wear these things to display them, and in our cultural/social/regional setting, virtually no one who does notice them would thereby assume that I must be among a moneyed-elite, or that I know or care about fashion! On the other hand (so to speak!), so many people in our society these days—women and men, young and old, — do wear wrist malas and/or bead bracelets derived from malas, that there is perhaps almost nothing particularly noteworthy about seeing someone wear such an item.

Occasionally, however, a glimpse of some piece I am wearing will prompt a friendly vocal response, usually from someone who either recognizes an item for what it is, or else is favorably curious in a polite and kindly manner. Although I don’t wear my semi-private blingy things for such purposes, I’ve found these responses which they occasionally prompt from folks to be a delightful second-level benefit. I’ve met some very interesting people and made some good acquaintances through observant strangers striking up conversations based on their noticing a mala or other spiritually-significant item I am wearing. I consider this a very rich kind of “good medicine-blessing” in and of itself. I’ve never had any rude responses.

All the beads in the necklace shown in the photo were given to me with blessings from one or another of my spiritual teachers or other saintly persons I have met over the years. Other than the turquoise, they each were once parts of various Indo-Tibetan (Hindu and/or Buddhist) malas (rosaries).

Beads and other articles made from such natural materials have been cherished and utilized for thousands of years in India, Tibet, and trans-Himalayan cultural areas as sacred/medical aids to spiritual growth and physical health. Much of traditional Asian knowledge of the spiritual and physical benefits of gemstones and other minerals and related semi-precious substances comes from the ancient Indian Vedic civilization, especially the traditional natural medical and health system known as Ayurveda. Traditional Tibetan medicine is basically a slightly modified version of Indian Ayurveda. I’ll leave interested readers to their own research impulses for learning more about the role of malas/rosaries in Indo-Trans-Himalayan cultures, and about the spiritual and physical healing properties of precious metals and gemstones, as well as of “stones” such as turquoise, amber/copal, coral, and dzi (decorated and undecorated agates).

I’ve called these beads (mostly) Indo-Tibetan and/or Trans-Himalayan. It is in such cultural regions that the “raw” materials for most of these beads were actually fashioned into beads. However, most of the raw stones come from other areas.

The dzi in this necklace is from the ancient Indus-Saraswati River Valley Civilization of India. When given to me, many years ago, it was strung as the guru/witness bead on a mala (rosary) of Himalayan rock crystal (clear quartz) beads. The crystalline structure of agate is extremely close to that of quartz crystal and has a very similar vibrational frequency and effect.

The coral beads were also once part of a mala, and were probably originally traded from the Mediterranean, which is the ultimate regional source of most of the world’s genuine red coral. In recent decades, most red coral banks have been destroyed through non-sustainable commercial mass extraction practices and by general environmental degradation of marine systems. There is virtually no known red coral still growing in the world today. The “amber” (copal) beads — prehistoric solidified tree sap! — were also once part of a mala of 109 beads. They probably came to Tibet by way of the historical Zanzibar-India trade route from root deposit-beds within copal tree groves in Africa. Most of the world’s more fully-fossilized pieces of amber originate in the Baltic Sea region, traded from there across Europe and Asia for thousands of years.

These particular turquoise beads come from ancient Native American spiritual/cultural tradition, rather than Asian tradition. They were given to me by a Navajo (Diné) traditional elder. They are from the elder’s ancient family mine. Intriguingly, turquoise and coral (and various natural coral “substitutes”) are particularly prized for their subtle healing properties both within Tibetan and related Himalayan cultures, and within Navajo and Pueblo Native American cultures—one of several mysteriously parallel “trans-global” correspondences!


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