Waist beads are made from different kinds of wooden, bone, crystal, glass, and metal beads adorned around the stomach or waist. They can inform of a single or multiple strands. The waist beads hold different significance among different communities; the majority uses them for aesthetic purposes. The origin traces back to Africa, where the beads had significant cultural importance. They were worn for protection, femininity, rites of passage, intimacy, healing, and during child naming ceremony. Very few people maintain the culture of wearing beads due to traditional reasons. The main focus nowadays is on the aesthetic value of the beads.
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Among the different types of beaded accessories, waist beads have become the most common accessory among women. They come in attractive color combinations and designs that make them a beauty to behold. The existence of the waist beads dates back to the 15th century. The majority of the scholars state that it began in Egypt, where women would wear the waist beads as a status symbol. At that time they were referred to as ‘girdles.’ The beads would be passed across different members of the family and certain beads would be associated with different families.
In west Africa, the waist beads were popularized by the Yoruba tribe. The Yoruba were commonly found in Ghana and Senegal. Among the Yoruba, were sub-tribes like Krobo, Ashanti, and Ewes. In these communities, the waist beads were a symbol of protection, femininity, intimacy and as a rite of passage. The mother would pass the beads over to their daughters once they were of age. This would make some girls eagerly wait for that time so that they would get the chance to wear the waist beads. The waist beads are made using different materials to symbolize different meanings. The colors used also have different roles in terms of having different meanings. The waist beads also bear different names among the different communities in Africa. The Igbo call it mgbaji while the Yoruba's call it bebeji. In Africa, the beads are highly valued due to their cultural significance.
Recently, the waist beads have acquired a lot of popularity among people of the west. Most of them are buying beads for beauty purposes. People also use them for weight awareness. For women intending to stay in shape and avoid any weight, waist beads are a perfect solution. When one gains weight, the waist beads become tight on the waist. Ideally, the waist beads do not stretch, hence with the additional weight; they will feel tighter on the skin. As a wearer, this will alert you on the weight gain and hence you will take appropriate measures to lose the added weight.
In some cases like bloating, one can get waist beads with adjustable strands. In the modern age, women have started using waist beads as a means to attract and seduce men. Over the years, the waist beads are becoming more popular and common among different cultures. The trend has seen most people starting to adapt to the cultural significance of the waist beads.