a display by Jim Burklo in the courtyard
of the USC University Religious Center
The word “bede” in Anglo-Saxon means “prayer”. Beads have been used for prayer for millennia, all over the world, in many religious traditions.
The Hindu mala is a necklace of 108 beads. Each bead is fingered while repeating a mantra. The Buddhists use mala beads in a similar fashion.
The Muslims may have copied the use of beads from the Hindus and Buddhists. They have a rosary of 99 beads, each one marking one of the names/attributes of Allah – with a head bead for Allah. An alternative form is 33 beads, used 3 times to complete the 99 names. The Bahá'í faith uses a similar rosary.
The Catholic Christians may have copied the Muslims in creating rosary beads. “Praying the rosary” involves a series of prayers marked by five “decades” of beads, with a cross at the head of the necklace.
Martin Lonnebo, a Swedish Lutheran bishop, created a bead bracelet called “pearls of life” as a means of meditation. It's a modern Protestant Christian expression of the long, interfaith tradition of rosary beads.
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California