Malas have ancient roots and traditions that can support us in our modern lives.
Mala beads are showing up in mainstream culture a lot these days. They are beautiful; they are intriguing; but trends can often fail to acknowledge the origin and the intended purpose of a thing. Like sugar skulls or sacred geometry symbols, meaningful items can become popular without people knowing or understanding much about them. So I love when people ask “where do malas come from and what are they for?”
Mala beads originated around 3000 years ago in India. They were used by both Hindus and Buddhists for a specific meditation practice called Japa. Japa literally means “to recite” and refers to the mantras that monks, yogis, and spiritual seekers repeat for a deep and focused meditation. Japa Mala is Sanskrit for “meditation garland.” Pretty straightforward –
Malas are strands of beads used in a meditation practice. Yet they hold so much more power and symbolism.
Malas are made by hand, by an individual human being who strings 108 beads onto a cord and then ties an overhand knot between every bead. The process of tying the knots imparts energy into the mala, like weaving a loving/healing frequency into the strand itself. The knots also create space between the beads – space to breathe, space to rest a mantra, space to observe the stillness. When all the beads have been knotted and the two ends of the mala are ready to meet, the mala maker uses symbolic knots to acknowledge universal feminine and masculine energies uniting in balance and harmony. The knots before and after the guru bead are intended to honor a mentor or spiritual teacher and/or to seal the mala’s unique energy for the life of the mala.
The Guru bead is the larger bead below the main strand. It is the 109th bead and is not counted as part of the 108. It’s also where the tassel hangs in a traditional Mala. This special bead is the symbolic Guru or holder of wisdom. It may represent an actual teacher who introduced you to meditation, or who gave you a mantra or blessing to use in your practice. It may represent the wisdom you are seeking and gathering along your path. Sometimes, the guru bead is seen as the library that holds your prayers and intentions.
The tassels are one of the most alluring parts of a Mala. They can be cotton, silk or synthetic, horse hair, raffia, etc.. They can be short, long, bushy, slender, graceful, wild — anything really. In a traditional Mala, the tassel is integrated into the entire piece and holds everything together with the final two knots inside the tassel. Symbolically, the strings of the mala unite and run through the Guru and then the tassel, representing our connection with Spirit and with one another.
The malas I create are made with authentic gemstone beads (and sometimes rosewood). The abundance of crystals and their enormous range of energies lets me fine tune a Mala’s energetic frequency to support the desired feelings or intentions of the person I’m making it for. I blend the gemstone information with the energies of different color rays because most people have strong personal meanings associated with colors.
This mala is called Creative Bliss and was commissioned by an amazing visual artist. She wanted to reinvigorate her childhood love of painting. She desired to feel enough trust and confidence in herself to make a bigger mark, literally, on the world. She wanted to share her gift in a way that brought her greater joy, freedom and prosperity. To support her desires and intentions, I chose stones that would encourage confidence, creativity, and self-compassion as she transitioned from working full time for an art studio, to establishing her own solo career.
Chrysoprase is a talisman of growth and development that aids new business ventures and stimulates creativity. Ruby Zoisite supports finding a new life path and manifesting your true self. It also lessens the impact of external influences (nay sayers) and inner urges to play it safe (the inner voice saying you’re not good enough). Pink opal soothes and supports during life transitions and encourages exploration of art and beauty. Green Aventurine manifests wealth, boosts opportunity and invites success! Lastly, I chose a Rose Quartz Guru bead to promote self-compassion and self-love, and to inspire a love of beauty in herself and others. Rose quartz also heals wounds of the heart and issues of worthlessness that can challenge the artistic entrepreneur.
I am delighted to report that since receiving her mala last year, this artist has painted more murals and had more fun and freedom with her work than she has in a decade. She has received an abundance of opportunities to create colorful, uplifting paintings that have graced the city of San Francisco throughout the pandemic. Her exposure has skyrocketed with press and social media coverage and she continues to be filled with creative inspiration and bliss.
To purchase the Creative Bliss Mala or view others for purchase please connect with me on Instagram @creativesoulway or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about a custom mala designed to support your dreams and desires!
Written by: Michelina Matarrese. Michelina is a Coach, Reiki Master, Artist & Musician adding color and creativity to San Francisco and beyond. Her malas are viewable on Instagram @creativesoulway.