Cultural Use of Beads
Greece and Turkey
There is actually a counterpart for prayer beads and they are found in the Middle East, Turkey and Greece and these are called worry beads or komboloi. They are inspired by Islamic prayer beads and consist of 33 beads. Some have hypothesized that worry beads evolved as a way of mocking people using a rosary bead. They have no specific religious significance countless people use them to calm and rebalance themselves.
Beads of always had a spiritual significance to Native Americans. Net medallions were worn as early as 800 A.D. and they served as talismans against threats. Certain other ornamentation using beads were often a part of healing ceremonies. Native Americans first you see shells and quills for their beadwork. Europeans introduce glass beads and Native Americans incorporated them into their beautiful and colorful work. These tiny beads were called "Little spirit seeds" by some tribes who felt that these were gifts from the gods.
Christian missionaries appear in the rosaries from the early 1600s and the culture blends the symbolism of Christianity with native traditional beliefs. Native Americans bring a spiritual philosophy to their beadwork, believing that the time it takes to make items beautiful honors the spirit world.
African cultures have long prized speeds and they have been an indicator of power and wealth. Africans also use bees to communicate. The love letters of the Zulu tribe manipulate the colors and patterns of beaded offerings to one suitor in order to convey secret messages. In Rhodesia, chiefs gave beads to witch doctors as a tribute to their God. These beads have been known as ambassador beads and are used to elicit the goodwill of the divine. For the Yoruba, beads represent the qualities of spiritual wisdom, the power of God's and the gods themselves. These people believe that using beads and ritual or on ritual objects will enhance their power. They wear the special bead necklaces and whoever wears these special bead necklaces; it identifies them as leaders and enhances their powers. The Masai find beads very meaningful in their culture and their language and there are actually 40 words for different kinds of beadwork.
As you can see there is religious and cultural significance that these beads have held around the world. One can explore the spiritual power of beads in your own life. One can make your own prayer beads something to do in addition to any current practice you may already have.