An African Secret to Seduction, Protection and everything in between.
Photos courtesy of Waist Beads by Sewra | WaistBeads.com
The waist bead, commonly known as “Baya” in Mandingo (“Bine-Bine” in Wolof or “Affléma” in Akan) is a bead ornament worn around the waist.
Recognized amongst women to be the ancestor of sexy lingerie well before the likes of Victoria’s Secret and La Senza, this accessory is still used as a seduction tool amongst many of its virtues. Indeed, these little waist ornaments can be spotted in various places in the world and obviously speak a universal language.
The waist bead comes in all shapes and sizes; whether carved from glow-in-the-dark plastic beads, precious minerals or valuable metals, they always speak something for someone.
In this article, I will try to expose some of the west African secrets behind this seemingless piece of jewellery and share with you a simple tips to make your own. If you’re just not that crafty, don’t worry, there are many options online to suit your taste.
Why waste beads?
Historically, waist beads have been encountered in ancient Egypt art.They can be traced back around the 11th century in West Africa. Made from different materials including cowry shells, the beads were used as an exchange currency amongst tribes. As times evolved and even more materials were brought into the continent from the foreign lands, they were used in trades with foreigners; in fact, it is said that glass beads were once used to pay for slaves.
Within the tribes of west Africa, the first traceable tribe to use the Baya as we know it today is the Yoruba tribe around the areas of Nigeria and Ghana. Made of coral beads, they were considered to stem from the source of life and were believed to be a gift from Mother Nature, preserving the young woman, providing birth control and protecting the expecting mother. Today, Ghana is known to be the world capital of bead making.
Nowadays, be it a handmade clay bead waist ornament or an 18 carat gold waist chain, the Baya seems to be recognized as a powerful tool in a woman’s life.
As I’m about to describe, there are legitimate reason this simple accessory stood the test of time and still exists on the market today.
Fashion statement or show of wealth?
In some places, Bayas are worn on top of clothing, particularly the larger beads which are worn on top of a traditional woven or Ankara fabric cloth. Depending on the materials used, they are generally a sign of serious wealth and a display of family status at important events; each woman wants to showcase her family’s power by displaying this valuable piece of jewellery that defines at once social status and femininity.
To this day, within the Akan people and the Yoruba people for instance, a suitor would bring a set of beads as part of the dowry to obtain the hand of his future wife during the traditional wedding ceremony.
Lingerie of centuries past
There’s no denying, waist beads can be sexy. And the idea of a perfectly shaped bead rolling on a curvaceous body blessed with smooth skin, indirectly massaging two bodies during a close encounter is even sexier. Our ancestors must have realised the power of this accessory to have brought it into our present times. This instrument of seduction, often sprayed with perfume or dipped in incense to ensure a complete romantic experience helped enhance the hips of a woman by defining her waist.
Photos courtesy of Waist Beads by Sewra | WaistBeads.com
In modern fashion, no matter what your shape is, there is always a style in which a belt is used to define your womanly figure; the only thing that varies is its position and size. The Baya is intended to sit naturally on the transition between the narrower part of your mid-section and the point where it becomes wider. Some are blessed with a Coke bottle figure and the Baya serves as a ornament, others have straighter lines and the Baya, like a work of art, defines these almost invisible curves.
The Magnons of Mali (holder of women’s secret) reveal that Bayas were recommended to women on their wedding night to be able to seduce and keep their husbands while keeping the bad “gins” out of their marriage thanks to its protective powers. It’s almost as if the Baya was a magic wand and the man was caught in a spell that gave him eyes only for his woman.
To take this further, the Baya was also a communication tool. It could be worn in one or many rows around the waist, and traditional marriage counselors have shared that the Baya was used as a messenger between a man and his woman: when the husband noticed his wife wearing multiple bayas, almost like an invitation it was an indication that he should prepare for a long night of passion.
Honey, do I look fat?
These beads don’t lie. Many women wish in 20 years they’d still look like they did when they first met their significant other (or close). But soon, as the stresses or married life and children set it, weight gain is more common than not.
We would like someone to warn us that we are gaining weight in a disproportionate manner but that honesty often has a toll on our ego and self image. Some people even go as far as eating some more to ease the disappointment associated to that kind of honesty, making matters worse.
Being rounder in moderation is seen as attractive but that had to be balanced with remaining young-looking, vigorous and beautiful, which is no easy task.
In a world with no scale or annual doctor’s visits, the baya was an instrument which also served to keep your weight on check and your body on point: if the beads get too tight, that weight is too high- honestly, no judgement, no hard feelings.
This is an even stronger tool when you use the non removable Baya: once it’s tied to your selected waist size, you have to break it to go any fatter or lose the weight. How much better does it get?
As part of its multiple purposes, Bayas made of certain materials (usually stones such as obsidian), generally recommended by the local traditional healer, were also believed to ease the various discomforts, pains and side effects associated to teething and periods.
As a matter of fact, the Baya is a version of the world renowned teething necklace that can now also be bought online.
In West Africa to this day, many parents still believe in the power of the Baya. Although there is no scientific research proving this, centuries of use may just be a sign there’s something more to it; the Baya may be the solution to the choking concerns widely expressed by fearful parents desperate to try the teething necklace to ease the pains and discomforts experienced by their precious babies.
Boy or girl?
Where I’m from, if you went to the village, people did not feel the need to dress up a child under 2. Indeed, with temperatures regularly neighboring 40 to 45 degrees Celsius, it was fair for clothing to be optional and the little ones were free to roam around the yard virtually wearing only their underwear.
In addition to this, both girl and boy in that age group had a shaved head or very short hair probably again due to the heat or because it was just easier to manage for mothers.
Besides, I’ve actually heard of an old wives tale stating that baby hair was not a good thing to have on a child (but that’s another topic).
In order to differentiate boys and girls and to start shaping their behaviours through encouragement or reprimand in a world where a boy and girl were destined for specific roles in the household, the little girls wore Bayas and had their ears pierced while baby boys had bead necklaces.
The chain against all evils
In toddler aged children, the Baya (just as the bead necklace worn by the boys) served as a protective tool from ill-intentioned individuals and bad spirits that would wish harm to a striving child.
Holders of women’s secrets known as Magnon in Mali, say that the waist beads are often worn by young women to protect them from evil spirits and bad karma. In some ethnic groups, the waist bead is part of the calling of a young girl into womanhood.
All this being said, this waist bead definitely has its secret powers. I’ve had mine for a few years and alI I’m going to say is you have got to try it.
You can custom make your own (sign up to our blog and stay posted for an instructional video on that topic) or just make your life easy and buy them online. If you do go the ready made way, make sure you check the size against your waist size, it’s generally the root cause of all disappointments aside from color and poor quality.
If you’re wondering which way to go, Waist beads by Sewra offers a beautiful selection of waist beads for all tastes!