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Beaded Belts
By Earthwalker

Question on Beaded Belt and Symbols. I keep seeing a Beaded Belt of shell beads; first on a guide, on a table, and in air amongst other places. The belt I see is about five to six feet in length and about three inches in width. It is meant I believe to be worn over a shoulder or place in front of one in prayer. The belt is white to off white beaded shells with a design in a light shade of purple. In the center, if looking at it spread out length wise, is a diamond shaped pattern. This would sit on top of the shoulder. There is a 4 to inch space followed by two lines across the width on either side of the diamond pattern. There is another short space about 3 inches followed by triple triangles; the base of which lies horizontal to the two rows of bead and perpendicular to the length. The points of the triangle are touching the base of the next in its center. The points of the triangle face the extremes of the belt or downward on both sides of the shoulder if it were to be worn. This pattern of three triangles is on both sides of the double rows of beads and is again followed by a 3" space and a double row of beads. On the remainder of the length after a space at the beginning and the end is a single line centered in the middle and about 9" length and is repeated on both sides. The remainder of the length on either end is white to off white shell beads and all designs are observed from beads made of a light purple. There is some type of beading in the same white shells that forms an open curve finishing each end.

If anyone has any general knowledge about Beaded Belts, the symbols, and your thoughts on the appropriateness of making one, I would appreciate it if you could share the knowledge or thoughts. Most things on the web seem to discuss wampum belts as contracts but this doesn't seem to carry the same feeling it seem more personal and there is not much about the spiritual aspects of Beaded Belts.

Fascinating, EW. All the beadwork knowledge I have is African and although some portions of this sound familiar it's not enough to feel right. You don't have any feeling where in the world this design comes from?

No idea either, except in blanket weavings and quilting, those symbols do mean things, I'm just not up on bead symbols... except perhaps the shell beads need a bit of defining, please? Are they mother of pearl flats or rounds? Or are they like Pooka shells where the whole shell is the bead? The only thing I can suggest is to look at Pueblo (Navajo, specifically) blanket weaving patterns. Might also look at Zapotek patterns.

Earthwalker, I'm not familar with the design you describe although I have been beading for many years. In fact it was my grandmother who taught me each bead sewn or strung is a prayer, so the wearer carries with them many prayers. There is such a variance on beading it can be difficult interpret a particular pattern especially if it is meant as a personal "gift." Interestingly enough, some of the patterns I've created, have come to me in dream time. I hope you are able to create this beautiful image I have of what you described.

Hello Earthwalker, Belts, as a rule, are worn by women as a shield. Men tend to make shields and put them on poles outside their lodges but the women bead belts instead and wear those. The symbols on the belts are the symbols of their Medicine. So what these symbols represent to you are going to be in some way reflecting your own abilities and knowledge. Certainly if you are being shown a belt like this it would be appropriate for you to make your own. I've not heard of them being worn over the shoulder as you describe however that's not to say they couldn't be. I've just never seen it. The fact that shells are incorporated in the patterns may reflect a coastal tribe that would be near water where shells could be found. Often they are used as smudge bowls, and in relation to Water Medicine or the Earth Mother. If you feel this is a Prayer Belt you may want to use it in such a way and as Lotus indicated, often the beading is done with many prayers attached to it. No NA craft is taken on simply for pleasure when it comes to the costume or tool aspects. They are always prepared in a sacred manner. White is sacred, purple is often used to represent the passion of the spirit. The diamond shaped pattern would be significant to you, but from our Symbology Library we have this information:

“The diamond is the lasting symbol of purity and incorruptibility, due to its form in nature as a stone that cuts all but cannot be cut itself. This interpretation, however, most likely came as a result of the "drawn" diamond, which represents two triangles joined at the base. The two triangles represent Man (downright) and the Universe (upright), or the Microcosm and the Macrocosm, emanating from God. The symbol reminds us that Man is within the Universe and the Universe is within Man; the goal is to unite the two such that they become inexorably linked -- one whole, which is to say, God. Adopted by mystics and alchemists as the symbol of achievement -- or perfection -- it came to represent what was believed to be the lifestyle necessary to achieve such a level of Unity: One that was both pure and uncorrupted. From there arose the notion that a stone with similar qualities must be the very physical embodiment of the drawn Diamond. The symbol reminds us that we must travel through the Tree of Life to become reunited with the Kether (the crown or God).”

As for the 4 to inch space followed by two lines across the width on either side of the diamond pattern. Where you find two lines you find two worlds...physical and spiritual, or again it could be the symbol of water if they are wavy. The triple triangles probably represent the Trinity in some form. As well they represent the emotions: intuition, feelings, desires and impulses; love, passion, and friendship; love of family, friends and groups; love of arts, crafting, and creating. The double rows of beading most likely indicate breaks in the shield itself...different statements between them. You mentioned that at the beginning and the end is a single line centered in the middle and about 9" length and is repeated on both sides. I would think this would represent the path walked. As for the beading in the white shells that forms an arched finish to the ends, that could be the Moon or Bridge to Spirit in some way and again, I can only stress that what the symbols say to you would be above and beyond the general symbology. If this triggers recognition for you then you will have an inner sense of it, a knowing what's right or doesn't quite fit. Hope it's helped a little.

I remember reading somewhere that triangles pointing down were an ancient symbol for Mother Earth. Tripling them would accent their feminine energy, perhaps, as Cinn suggested representing a Trinity of sorts...maybe Maiden, Mother, Crone? It may be a Prayer belt...I'm not really familiar with them. But your description of possibly being worn on the shoulder gives me the feeling that it may be a symbol of initiation, much like a minister or deacon wears a stole signifying ordination. Coupling the diamond, as Cinn describes it as a symbol of Unity, and the triangles as a symbol of the Feminine Trinity, seems to fit this, to me. Also, the shells then would add to the Feminine Mother Earth energy. Seems a powerful symbol for an Earthwalker initiate! But, as Cinn said, your own interpretation is what matters here! These were just my thoughts.

Two Crow, No I don't have any idea where this design comes from. The diamond shape has the meaning of union to me but i wasn't sure of it in this case nor do I know what the remainder of the design means. I have not known nor can I find something like it in any of the books I have seen nor on the web so far. I have seen the triangle pattern on a male NA guide where it was woven into a shirt at the shoulder and came down the shirt to the hem. The color in this case was white and blue. I was just hoping it was a common design and someone could explain it. like the meaning to a song I have been given at times one just finds the answer. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Treasa, I will look and have looked at the Navaho designs and haven’t found an answer yet . However I will continue to look and will look at the zapotek designs as well. The beads are slightly elongated and although white and light purple are variegated in color. much like mother of pearl but they are beads not whole shells. I actually found a websites that has ones made to look like the shelled beads since they are prohibitively expensive. Thank you for the suggestions.

Lotus, Thank you Lotus is does feel like it is something that should be made in a sacred fashion and it seems that it wouldn't be upsetting if I pursued making this. I have never done beading but would probably use as the twine a natural jute twine. I found shell like beads similar to these made from the Quoque. The purple is darker than I normally see but it may be as close as I can find. It seems to me to be a good project to work on during the winter sitting by the fire and is easily picked up and put away during busy work weeks. I think it would also keep idle hands busy while journeying.

Some day if I ever retire, I will attempt to paint some of what I seen as well but the time is not right as of yet. When I lived in NYC before my children were born I studies Batik painting with Joytrindra Roy. I love the technique and his works. His works were shown in the Met in NYC. He went back to New Deli, India to run an art museum. My favorite work was one of the Ascetic Beatles (wandering spiritual musicians of India). He was a very special man and as we all sat, painting wax on cloth, on the floor of his studio we all knew then without words that each brush stroke somehow had special meaning as well. We were sharing different cultures through a universal art form. I think beading is something that can more easily be worked into daily life than batik painting and look forward to it as long as I am not breaking any taboos. If that was the case I would just keep it in mind. I am glad you have received patterns in the dream times as well. and am looking forwards to the longer nights to initiate this project. The design I have seen is fairly simple so it shouldn't be too hard to recreate for a beginner. Simplicity or abstraction is something I do appreciate and is common to all that I have seen. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Do you have any pictures you might want to share of your work. I know I would love to see them. What colors do you usually see in dreams for your bead work? Thank you for sharing your grandmothers teaching that each bead is a prayer. To make a belt using 0.5mm by 0.3mm beads if I calculate correctly would require about 3000 beads. I would wonder if Spirit would be sick of me if each bead was a prayer; may be an offering for balance and union of earth would be appropriate. It seems the softness of the colors represent a blending towards unions and there is balance in the overall design as well. Thank you!!

Cinnamon and Stardreamer, I think there is a lot to digest in your comments so I cannot comment extensively. I never thought of the belt as a shield which does makes sense. The division as represented by the two lines (non-wavy) also makes sense as it show a times where there was separation from unity in terms of the physical and spiritual paths. IN order to understand one must move through opposites. Movement seems indicative of the triangles and Stardreamer it could be through equal stages of life (child adult, elder) or through the trinity ( unseen, seen and communication between) and possibly both one representing the physical stage and the other representing the spiritual phases. It suggests that all paths are sacred (white back ground), shows balance of the two, and the eventual union of the two even through separation was needed to yield a singular path of union. I think it interesting whenever I see this pattern usually woven male guide the colors are white with burgundy and blue patterns; yet, on the belt I see purple ( balance of blue and burgundy). I therein do think this is about balancing and blending two to one. Possibly a union of the blue road and red road??? Thank you both for shining light on this project.

The Wisdom of Flying Geese In the Spring, when you see geese heading North for the Summer or South in the Fall, flying along in "V" formation, you might be interested in knowing what scientists have discovered about why they fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in "V " formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

Basic Truth #1-
People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.

Basic Truth #2-
If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are heading in the same as we are. When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. Basic Truth #3- It pays to take turns doing hard jobs, with people or with flying geese. These geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. Basic Truth #4- We need to be careful what we say when we honk from behind. Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead, and then they launch out on their own or with another formation until they catch up with their group. Final Truth- If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other, protect one another and sometimes make new friends who seem to be going in our direction. Author unknown www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/geese.html FlyingGeeseBlock.html Amish Diamond The Center Square, Bars, and Diamond in the Square designs were the most common in the early Lancaster Amish quilts. The Diamond in the Square pattern was also known as "halstuch." It seems the border triangles reminded Amish women of the shoulder cape worn over their dresses (halstuch) which has a triangle shape in the back where it is fastened.


(just a couple quilt related symbologies for you)

Jimmy WhiteBear:
Diane, Sounds Like Wampum beads which are made from Quahog shells. The pattern I am not familiar with but it vaguely sounds Mohawk/Iroquios. I don't possess any Mohawk patterns Myself but if you are ever down in the Whinchdon mass area, stop by "SilverHawk" at the junction of 140 and 12. They deal very heavily in wampum belts and might be able to help you out. I can't think of their website right now. But I think it is "Wampumworks"

They do carry Glass wampum, (imitation) of course and they are a lot cheaper. There are other places that carry real wampum, might be a little cheaper but not by much. My thought was that they might be able to tell you what kind of pattern your describing. Working with Wampum is not easy especially the glass wampum because it cuts the Sinew. Have to be extremely careful and learn how to do quick repair and damage control when beading. End product is always nice though. Remember, when beading, each bead is a prayer!...

Jimmy, Thank you for the information. I'll need to take a ride down there; according to map quest it's only about 60 miles from home. Their jewelry looks absolutely beautiful and the free form shells are interesting. To be honest though the quohog shell beads are $2- 5 a piece and if I need 2-3 thousand beads; well, it would not be affordable. It is amazing what went into creating these beads. It is n wonder why wampum is so precious. They had some great chili and chowder recipes for quahog as well. Might try them as well but shell fish in VT isn't the same as fresh from the sea. I did find some imitation beads that look similar.//home.cshore.com/waaban/wampum.html. The sight is in Connecticut. Have you ever used this place? Since this will be my first attempt at beading it might be a good staring place. I will look at Mohawk designs. Thank you for the direction.

Thersa, Thank you for your thoughts on the designs. The triangle seem to envelop movements. I will need to look at the Amish designs as well but I don't think it is Amish. The designs I have seen when I lived in Pennsylvania have a different feel to them than do these designs. to me the Amish designs fell fanciful and cute. These designs are very plain and simple but somehow have a more subtle or expansive feel to them. I cannot put it in better words than that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Earthwalker, I will take some pictures to share. I love to bead and as well as being a creative craft, I consider it a spiritual exercise. I find myself transcended, much like a meditational experience and Native American beading techniques are my favorites.

“Batik painting with Joytrindra Roy I have never tried Batik painting but have seen the work of others, incredibly beautiful and very soul stirring. In particular, the veining that appears throughout the design unifying colors and composition catches my eye.” It's a wonderful medium Earthwalker and I wish you much joy and success in following this craft when the time is right.

Jimmy, I will remember. Mohawk designs do feel familiar. Then again I grew up in the Mohawk Valley in NY. When I go down to the store I will take the design and see if they can correlate any of this design to known ones. The triple triangles did remind me of the Great Tree of Life design but much smaller and I cannot indicate why they would run in opposite direction except that the next stage is one path. I am sure understanding will come in time. Thanks for all of the help. As you and Lotus both mentioned, I like the fact that each bead is representative of a prayer, but then again I question. Isn't all of life a prayer? Does there need to be a disassociation between life and spirit for there to be prayer?

Lotus, Thank you for sharing your beading pictures. You are so talented in these crafts. I loved the circular (rosetta) patterns as well; they are so intricate. For now though. I think a simple design is about all I would want to tackle. Therein my draw more or less to wampum, I think.

Jimmy WhiteBear:
It didn't click until this morning but Triangles for some of the eastern tribes represent mountains and mountains represent the Sacredness or Respect for the Ancients or ancient ways. I have a beaded Tobacco pouch with this symbol on it. it is not a complete triangle. It is a Mi'kmaq pattern that represents "One who respects the Ancients " Some of the Iroquios nation has the triangle, 2 small, 1 large, 2 small, representing the Iroquios Confederacy of 5 Nations. The Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga (sp) Onandaga and I am sorry but the last one escapes me.

That belt was carried to Counsel signifying the Confederacy. Back then it was made with Real Wampum. Today, copies are made with the Glass wampum. Other Belts where made as "Story Belts" or belts that kept a record of one’s life time achievements. Example would be, Birth, first hunt, marriage, birth of a child and so on. I know Silver Hawk has or had a few of these for sale that not many could afford but beautifully made. Hope that helps,

Bear, Thank you. I look forward to seeing belts.


Jimmy WhiteBear:
LOL Thank you!

Earthwalker, I added a photo of the type of thing you are talking about to the top of the page above. These can be called sashes or bandoliers, as well as belts. They are longer than a belt that goes around the waist. Some are beaded and others are woven.

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