Published 2021-10-25
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The Rosary - The Secrets Around The Sign Of Rebellion In The Catholic Church

Without a doubt, when most people think of the rosary beads, their minds automatically think of the Catholic church. Yet prayer beads had been used in many different religions and their practice dates back thousands of years. However, in most recent years the rosary has not only been used as a religious symbol but also as a symbol of selfhood and even as a fashion statement, which in itself has caused a lot of controversy among the Catholic Church. Which legendary pop singer had brought wearing these beads as fashion into the mainstream media and what exactly is their origin? Read on to find out the origin of these simple brayer beads and why at times they had caused so much controversy.

Prayer Beads - Not Just In Catholicism

Prayer Beads - Not Just In Catholicism

The idea of praying while using beads, which are often separated by a chain-link or a knot is common in many religions and cultures. The art depicts the use of the beads from as early as 1600 B.C yet they are mainly associated with the Catholic faith yet many other Christian groups also use them. In the Catholic faith, however, the beads consist of the Hail Mary, Our Father and Glory Be prayers and it is an important part of the religion. The Buddhist and Hindu religions also use prayer beads called “Mala” or “Japamala” which are made of different materials such as seeds of rudraksha (stonefruit, the dried stones of which are used as prayer beads by Hindus), as well as seeds from the Tulsi plant. With each bead, a mantra is repeated. Such beads are also present in Islamic cultures where they are called Misbaha or Subha. While praying some worshippers to recite the 99 canonical names of Allah while others repeat the three verses of his glorification and praise 33 times each. They are also common gifts for spiritual pilgrimages such as the Hadj to Mecca. But how did some use it as a symbol of selfhood? Read on to find out.

Prayer Beads - Not Just In Catholicism 1

Rosaries & The Chicano Youth

One of the earliest moments that rosaries had appeared in popular fashion happened in the ‘30s and ‘40s Los Angeles. That was when the Chicano youth, who were known as pachucas or pachucos, wore rosary beads in part to proudly highlight their Hispanic heritage. The American-born children of Mexican migrants were victims of systematic racism and segregation by white America and they were also often considered “not really Mexican” by their first-generation Mexican-American peers. So to them, wearing rosary beads connected them to their past, while also helping them adopt a new language and style. And it was this style that had evolved into cholo/chola culture in the ‘60s. Though in some cases, rosaries had also signified gang affiliation, with beads of different colors representing the different gangs that the members belong to. But to others, it was worn as a symbol of protection and reflection of Latinidad.

Rosaries & Goth and Punk Cultures

From the Mexican-American youth of the ‘30s and ‘40s to the late ‘70s when rosaries had made an appearance in both goth and punk subcultures. They often wore the prayer beads as a rejection of conservatism, and sometimes as a way to critique the stranglehold that puritanical values held on American and British cultures. Author of Encyclopedia Gothica, Liisa Ladouceur ad said that despite the fact that there is no overarching religion for goth culture, many are drawn to the imagery of the sacred, such as early-medieval artworks, the Mexican Day of the Dead altars, Celtic crosses, and others including the rosaries. As she also revealed the Catholic imagery, in particular, is appealing is because of its overly dramatic beauty. Though of course, that didn’t sit right with some members of the Catholic church, as did the goth culture as a whole, due to negative connotations that some had with the subculture and Satanism. But how did celebrities use such symbols and what was so controversial? Find out on the next page!

Rosaries & Celebrities

When the punks and the goths had popularized the rosary as a fashion accessory, slowly music artists had also taken to wearing them. Some who had used it as such or in imagery in their music were Christian Death’s frontman Rozz Williams, members of the group Bauhaus and Depeche Mode. But while the punks & goths and the Pachuco’s had embraced wearing the rosary in one way or another, the notion didn’t enter the mainstream until the early ‘80s. Specifically in 1984 when none other than the Queen of Pop Madonna herself wore rosaries in her “Like A Virgin” video.

Madonna - Rosaries & Religious Imagery

The singer had described her relationship with the prayer beads as a “security blanket” as they symbolize the Catholicism that she grew up with and became a part of her religious branding. All aspects of the religion were incorporated into her act, from her name to her album title “Like A Virgin” to her pursuit of icon status. She was also the first to use mainstream culture and the first to be seen through videos with rosaries. Many had claimed that she was transgressive and that she normalized wearing the rosary outside of a religious statement. That in itself generated a lot of heat from the church and its followers who had claimed that Madonna’s use of religious imagery in such a way was “blasphemous”. Though in most recent years, while people still stand up against such imagery in pop culture, for example, fashion such as the 2018 Met Gala, yet it has become much more popular. But if you want to know how they use of rosary beads was rebellious in its own way when they were first introduced to the Catholic church, then be sure to read on until the end.

The Rosary - Early Origins

As we mentioned before, while art depicts the use of prayer beads to as early as 1600 BC, the first recorded use of the word “rosary” did not appear until 1597 AD. Though of course the roots of its use are found far earlier. For example, third-century Christian hermits and monks in Egypt, who were known as Desert Fathers, had used stones and later prayer robes to keep track when praying the 150 Psalms. When the various forms of “the Jesus Prayer” became popular it became common practice to say it like a type of mantra while counting beads. The same was also used for the “Our Father” prayer which was prayed 150 times, using a string of beads to keep track.

Rosaries & The Chicano Youth

Rosary - The Legend

While the exact origin of prayer beads is unknown especially given that it has been used throughout many different cultures and religions, where the rosary used by the Catholic church is concerned, there is a legend of its origin. According to it, Saint Dominic of Osma (circa 1170 to 1221 AD) who had founded the Dominican Order, saw the Virgin Mary in a vision. According to various recountings of this legend, in the vision, Mary had told Dominic to use the rosary as a spiritual weapon against the Albigensian heresy, which later sparked the Albigensian Crusade. But in what way was it seen as a sign of rebellion? Read on to find out.

The Rosary - A Sign of Rebellion

With the use of the rosary becoming more popular, its use became known for meditations and prayers to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary and because of this, they were seen as a symbol of rebellion, as in the 16th century, the Protestant Church considered worship of Mary to be idolatry and an act of heresy. As a result, the Catholic Church had “strongly supported the rosary” in order to counteract the reformation of the doctrine and practices. And later, as Catholic missionaries spread “the word of God” throughout other parts of the world such as Mexico, other parts of Central and South America, and the Philippines, they had also spread the worship of the Virgin Mary and the significance of the rosary beads for prayer.

Rosaries & Goth and Punk Cultures

The Rosary - Modern Times

Besides it being seen as a fashion statement as some in recent years, the rosary has become a symbol of the Catholic faith. To this day people gift rosary beads as a rite of passage and as symbols of protection. It has also become more common to see people wear prayer beads outside of the home as a representation of their spirituality, though not only. And so, an item that was once thought of as transgressive by the Protestant Church has now not only became something like a fashion statement but also as a symbol that signifies transgression in fashion and the music industry.

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Rosaries & Celebrities
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