Origin of Waist Beads

Waist beads are believed to have begun in Egypt many years back. These waist beads were known as girdles. The Egyptian women mostly wore waist beads, and it was seen as a status symbol. The tradition of wearing beads gained prominence in West Africa by the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria.  It was used to signify the celebration of sensuality, femininity, womanhood, sexuality, healing, protection, fertility, wealth, and body shaping.

The beads were worn either under or over their clothes. Those women who wore their beads under their clothes only allowed their lovers to see them. It was a symbol of purity and sanctity between the lovers. They were also used to foster the sexual desire of their partners. The rattling of the beads was also used to announce a woman’s fertility.

It was said that the women of the Yoruba tribe had at one point in time laced their waist beads with fragrances and charms in a bid to become more attractive and alluring to the opposite sex.  That was a long time ago, but although they still wear waist beads, it seduces men. The act of wearing waist beads for the seduction of men has become the primary reason why some of the women still wear them. Waist beads were and are still regarded as lingerie for African women. 

In some cultures in West Africa, the waist beads are seen as a rite of passage for their daughters. The older women in the society will adorn their daughters with the waist beads at the start of their first menstruation. It was seen as a symbol and ceremonial rite of passage into the world of womanhood.

Waist beads were also seen as a way to measure the body shape of women. The women wore the beads around their waists to gauge if they had gained or lost weight. The beads were suitable measurement tools because they were inelastic and unable to stretch.  Whenever the beads felt too tight, they knew immediately that they had gained weight, and when it was too loose, the women knew they had lost weight.

The person who usually made the beads was a person of high spirituality. They were typically made up of shells, stones, pearls, which were picked to have intentional statements. The beads a married woman would wear for her husband will be different from those a single lady would wear and different from a very young girl transitioning into womanhood.

The colors of beads vary, and they have different meanings and significance. The purposes and importance vary from culture to culture, tribe to tribe, etc.  In some cultures, green could mean healing, blue could mean peace and harmony, red could mean passion and sexual energy, and yellow could mean wisdom and knowledge. 

Women of different sizes and shapes wear it, and it is not limited to a particular body type. A woman's beads carry potency and power with it traditionally.  It is gaining popularity now, and it has gained prominence in the United States. Its origination is primarily embedded in the age-old tradition of some parts of Africa with diverse meanings and significance.