Did you know that rosaries get their name because they are traditionally made of, well….ROSES! Imagine that! And to think–most of us assumed that all rosaries are made of plastic beads. Today there are certain orders of nuns in the Catholic tradition who still specialize in this delicate craft.
Of course, generously providing rich material for dedicating prayers and offerings has been a gift of roses which long predates the Church. Our human love affair with the rose people stretches as far back to the very beginning of relations between humans and roses. I consider roses to be not only an ally, but a rightful ancestor of my line.
Many of you have seen the rosary I use in ritual, and asked me to post instructions on how I made it. I’ve promised that I would post this while the roses are still in bloom, so you can try making one yourself.
I harvested the petals for this rosary from the rosebush that my mother planted in my garden, which makes my rosary that much more precious. My mother’s people have worked with roses as an ally for a very long time, and my grandmother’s name is Rose. Plus, fittingly, I am posting this on my mother’s birthday. May these roses and this post be a blessing to my maternal lineage.
I harvested a medium sized basket of rose petals while the rose bush was in full bloom. Make sure to spend some time admiring these petals, drinking in their beauty, taking deep whiffs of their soft fragrance, praying to be more like them: velvety, colorful, generously abundant, and quite skillful at communicating their (thorny) boundaries.
I put the rose petals in the food processor and grinded until they became a gorgeous pinkish pulp. In days of yore, rosary makers chopped and mashed in a mortar and pestle instead of a machine.
Then I put the rose pulp in a saucepan with just a splash of water, and cooked them gently on the lowest of low heat, for most of the day. Be gentle with these beauties!
Then I put the cooked rose pulp into a piece of muslin (actually, I used an old-fashioned handkerchief. But muslin or cheesecloth would work, too) and squeezed over a bowl to catch the emerging liquid. Make SURE you save this incredible “rose milk” to use for any number of amazing recipes. I used it to make some heavenly blackberry-rose popsicles, by adding honey, blackberry juice, and milk. Oh how I savored these treats! Probably ranks up there as one of t”he most amazing things I’ve ever put in my mouth.
Then I shaped the rose “clay” into beads and stuck them carefully on pins so that the holes ran directly through the center, and set them to dehydrate in the sun. They shrink by about half, so make sure you plan for that in choosing the size that you want your beads to be when dry. Also, make sure that the pins you use are thick enough that you’ll be able to fit some strong cord or string through them. I think the pins I used are upholstery pins.
Each day, I made sure to rotate the beads up and down on their axes, so that they didn’t stick to the pins as they were shrinking down. I live in a relatively cool, moist climate in the Pacific Northwest, so they took about a week to dry. But things may go alot faster if you live somewhere with very hot summers.
When all dry, I made sure to put them on a strong piece of cordage, because they are very precious, and I wouldn’t want to lose any beads! I prayed for each of them as I slid the needle through, and rubbed each one with rose essential oil–an intoxicatingly sacred task. It’s best to keep these beads dry, so I keep them in a special pouch and container when not using them. Needless to say, I don’t wear them out in the rain!
Compared to the finely-crafted creations of the Catholic nuns, my rosary came out a bit crude. But it is an amazingly special and powerful ritual tool for me, nonetheless. Even though it’s not traditional for Catholics to wear their rosaries, I do like to wear mine in ritual sessions, and anytime I feel I need extra protection. I’m very grateful to share this with you, and highly recommend this process to you if you want to work more intently with roses.
Big gratitude, Familia Rosa!