The origin of women wearing waist beads can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians in the 19th century. Many women back then adorned their waist with different and colorful waist beads as it was believed then that it made them feel desirable.
Waist beads or beaded waist chains are traditional accessories made from various materials such as glass, bones, shells, cowries, charms, stones, crystals on a wire.
So many cultures and traditions have reasons for being attached to wearing waist beads. In Ghana, girls may be presented with waist beads as a token of their coming-of-age into womanhood. The beads tell people what class a woman is in, her economic status, and fertility. In countries like Malawi and Zimbabwe women use their beads while pregnant or to seduce their husbands.
In Nigeria, due to differences in people’s cultural and religious beliefs, some see waist beads as something diabolic and fetish. I could remember someone once told me that some waist beads contain jazz and once you swim that ocean, you are hooked for life, another also said it helps prevent her from getting pregnant, but even with all this some see wearing of waist beads as mere fashion. Waist beads can be worn by both males and females.
Among the Yoruba tribe waist beads also called “ileke” are used for various spiritual and beauty practices such as for healing, as a symbol of love, as a rite of passage, for fertility, weight control, and sexual allure. The Igbos call waist beads “Mgbaji” in their culture it is believed that waist beads possess some mystical powers, to ward off evil. The Hausas call waist beads “jigida”. The Ogonis in Rivers State refer to beads as Loo, its uses range from covering the private parts of a woman to adornment as a sign of affluence. The beads are a measure of value to the Ogonis and are also worn by the bride as part of her bridal rites. To the Kalabaris, the waist bead has the power of transforming an ugly woman into a beautiful maiden once it is worn.
Waist beads come in different colors, shapes, and size which signifies different meanings depending on the culture for example
- Red beads signify self-confidence, vitality, sexual energy, passion, courage.
- Blue beads signify knowledge, healing, peace, truth, harmony, loyalty, devotion.
- Black beads signify protection, energy shielding, decisions, grounding.
- Green beads signify Abundance, fertility, nature, and prosperity.
- White beads signify Light, truth, and purity.
- Yellow beads signify Energy, joy, and happiness.
- Gold beads signify Good health, power, and wealth.
- Brown beads signify Earth and stability.
Other than the most common reasons why women wear waist beads here are some other interesting facts too
1. Just as women were jewelry accessories, some women also love to adorn themselves with beautiful waist beads to beautify their bodies.
2. Some women wear waist beads because they believe it makes them look attractive and helps stair up a deep emotional response from the opposite sex.
3. Some women use them as a provocative tool which makes them irresistible and turns their husbands on sexually. The woman takes pleasure in knowing that she is wearing something special and beautiful which will please her lover.
4. Back then waist beads were seen as a measurement tool. Some women wear waist beads to keep track of their weight because waist beads don’t stretch When you gain weight, the beads will sit higher on the waist or feel tight. And if you were to lose weight, the beads will feel loose and fall further down to the hips.
5. In some tribes waist beads are used for fecundity purposes eg The Lagidigba in Yoruba or palm nutshell beads signifies multiple births, it is believed that if a woman wears it she will have greater chances of giving birth to many children.
6. It is also believed that waist beads are worn as a symbol of protection from evil spirits and curses.
7. Some believe that waist beads can be used for birth control when laced with charm.