This all started with a thought.
And the thought was: I miss my rosary. I should make prayer beads.
It was a stunningly terrible idea. My hands don’t work too well. It’s taken a while. But what can you do when an idle thought becomes an obsession, one that has now been all-consuming since Lughnasadh? As idle thoughts are wont to become.
The rosary was my first serious connection with the mystical. Mary is a rather complex force in my life. I grew up Protestant – Pentecostal, in fact, with all the speaking-in-tongues and falling over that any growing girl could scoff (at). I never touched the mystical that way, though I knew plenty of people who did. Yet it was mostly weirdness to me, with an occasional side order of bonkers. I liked the singing (mostly). I was Puritan in my piety. I prayed a fair bit. I faithfully sought the mysteries – I thought they had to come eventually. But I didn’t experience anything numinous until years later.
And then the sudden, majestic holiness of an Anglo-Catholic* church: its haughty rafters, its cryptic prayer-chapel nooks, its brilliance in a hundred liturgical colours. I exchanged the babble of tongues for the exultation of silence, the raspy guitars for the furtively whispered Hail Mary, the gushing clamour of prayers for the aching loneliness of choral music, the distant Father God for a very immanent Queen of Heaven, incarnated in a glorious statue that wore its own rosary – and a veil at Advent. The first time I touched that rosary (golden calf of an idolatrous people), the sheer, illicit physicality of it, I knew what Julian of Norwich meant when she said “For in man is God, and God is in all.”1
(Catholicism. Gateway drug to Paganism!)
Mary still has a place on one of my altars. We don’t talk much anymore. Ever full of grace, she moved aside so I could find the gods of my ancestors. Mostly, she’s now just a small Russian icon by a little white candle. A reminder.
But sometimes the Queen of Heaven decides she’ll have a moment of my time, thank you. Like, say, when I started writing this nice light post about beads.
It’s only fair. Really, she was the first deity I ever encountered.
These prayer beads are not Mary’s rosary. They were made to honour the depths of the sea of the dead, the endless reaches of the hills of the daoine sídhe, the blazing heights of Caer Arianrhod. These days my gods are truly immanent.
But they are not the Ones who taught me how to pray.
Be it unto me according to Thy word.
C is also for Cat, so have a Merlin bonus picture.
*Anglo-Catholicism is an English form of Catholicism. It has Roman Catholic roots, but there’s no pope (lots of Mary, though). It’s a very beautiful tradition, and it kept me in the church for quite a few years after I’d have left otherwise.
 Juliana, & Wolters, C. (1982). Revelations of Divine Love. Harmondsworth: Penguin.