Origins of the Komboloi - Every Bead is a Prayer
The use of rope strung beads originate from the East, where people of faith would use them to count prayers. This is why the numbers of beads is always so specific - 108 or submultiples (54, 27, 18, etc). An example is the Catholic Rosary which is normally a multiple of 10, as the "Ave Maria" prayer is repeated ten times. Another example is the Orthodox Komboskini, (a knotted rope bracelet), which usually has 33, 50 or 100-180 knots, depending on the specific prayer that the monk was doing to remember counting.
Counting The Pain Away
The Hellenic Komboloi does not require a specific number of beads. The only requirement, is that the number of beads is odd (15,17,21 etc).
The Greek people, don't use the Komboloi as tool of prayer, they more use it as a meditative and stress relief practice. For men of the previous centuries, the komboloi was not only a game for passing time... It was a companion, a way of expressing oneself. To witness hearing the slow and flowing rhythm of the beads hitting each other, would be a sign of peacefulness and tranquility. On the contrary, a fast, smashing sound would indicate nervousness, anger or irritation.
The Right Komboloi
The length of the Komboloi is very important. When the piece is split in half, the two sets of beads form on each side of the string. The Komboloi should be able to be swung over the index finger and meet the other half of the strand.
Back in the day, people preferred the gap between beads to be much greater, 4 fingers worth or so. Now days, shorter komboloi's are more "in fashion" and easier to carry around. Our Komboloi here at Lithos are typically made with a three finger string gap, touching onto the traditional design with some modernized elements!
The only key design element though, is the odd number of beads. That "odd" bead creates a half circle at the bottom of the string. That is the essence of the Komboloi game. While playing it, we let go of the beads, two at a time, starting from the top, letting them meet that single bottom bead. When we reach the half way mark, we can either swing the whole piece over and start again, or go to the and and then restart.
The very first Komboloi were created with whatever material each region had on hand. Seeds, stones, wood or amber are some of the most typical medium used. Even Mastic resin or corals have been used in the past. Traditional Hellenic Komboloi where made with amber or semi precious stones.
At Lithos, we have tried keeping this important and unique cultural tradition alive! I myself remember being a little child, sitting with my grandfather and repairing his komboloi, or going through his collection of many many komboloi's, acquired at different places and times. My first Komboloi was purchased a few years back, at a mountain monastery in Northern Greece and has been with me everywhere i go since - Even at times hanging from my car rear view mirror!
We love making interesting Komboloi designs and of course using semi precious stones and crystals! Recently we started creating begleri as well. The begleri is a short version of the Komboloi, normally with 2 or 4 beads. Easy to carry and super fun, The begleri has received world wide attention in recent times due to it's stress and anxiety relief as a fidget toy.
No matter what you choose to have for yourself, always remember the history and story behind these pieces. It is always a great honor to be able to share with you as well as raise awareness about parts of my Hellenic tradition.
Shop our huge range of Komboloi Worry Beads - All handmade in Melbourne, Australia with natural resources by us at Lithos Crystals!