What Are Waist Beads & How to Tie Them?

Ileke, jigida, giri-giri, whatever you know them as waist beads, have held an effective place in African tradition since time immemorial.

These beads strung on fine fishing lines or carefully threaded ropes have adorned the waists of countless African women. Whether hidden under clothes, peeking out at intervals, or carefully arranged to show over clothes, the mesmerizing sounds these beads make as the wearer moves and their vibrant colors keep our eyes glued.

Adorned with these beads, the allure of the beaded woman is difficult to miss.

What Are Waist Beads?

Made from beads, small pieces of glass, metal, and sometimes cowries, pierced and strung together, these beads come in different sizes, colors, and lengths.

Waist beads hold deep cultural importance peculiar to the different African societies. Worn by women or sometimes men, these beads are viewed as a sign of femininity, fertility, sensuality, and spiritual well-being.

Different shapes and colors of beads have different meanings in different societies and send messages depending on who wears and sees them.

The Traditional Significance of Waist Beads

In some African societies, female children are adorned with waist beads by their mothers once they get their period to mark their rite of passage into womanhood. These beads symbolize the female child’s transition from childhood to adulthood, evidence of her fertility and sexuality.

In some cultures, these waist beads signify purity and are only to be removed by the bride’s husband on their wedding night. Traditionally, waist beads are considered private, not to be noticed by anyone except the wearer’s partner. 

It is their closeness that provokes one’s desire for another. These beads are occasionally laced with charms and fragrances, which are irresistible to open sex. Also viewed as traditional lingerie, wearing waist beads during intimacy is believed to enhance the sexual ventures of the wearer and her partners. 

Adding precious stones to these waist beads enhances their healing properties, treating ailments and enhancing issues like love and balance. 

A more physical significance of the waist bead is that it serves as an apparatus for body shaping. They keep wearers apprised of even the slightest change in their weight, weight gain, or loss. While they don’t pull, they either roll up or break as the wearer gains weight. It is also thought that wearing these beads from a younger age improves the fine curves African women are known for.

Traditionally, most waist beads are worn under clothing and are deemed a private affair. More recently, they have been used as fashion accessories, worn over dresses and under crop tops, showcasing each strand’s beauty. 

However many you choose to wear, one thing’s for sure, regardless of newer alternatives like chains, waist beads have and will always remain highly significant in African tradition. 

How to tie waist beads

If you’re interested in wearing waist beads, here are a few suggestions on how to tie them properly:

– Choose where on your waist you would like to wear them

– Cut a piece of string or thread that is almost twice the length of the desired final length

– Tie one end of the string around the sooner bead and then make a loop with the other end of the string

– Place your fingers through the loop and then hold onto both ends of the string as you tighten it around your waist

– Add additional beads to the string as expected, spacing them evenly apart

Once you have your waist beads all tied on, you’re willing to start enjoying all their benefits!

Waist beads’ color meaning

The colors of waist beads have effectiveness and meaning. Here are some of the most expected colors and their meanings:

Red: passion, energy, strength

Black: power, elegance, mystery

Gold: luxury, extravagance, wealth

Green: fertility, new beginnings, growth

Blue: tranquility, serenity, peace

Purple: royalty, luxury, sophistication

Most people prefer waist beads in colors that correspond with their own personal style and personality. Wearing waist beads in colors that express your own unique qualities can help to empower you and make you feel more confident. Select waist beads that make you feel beautiful and special!

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