Tuesday, June 29, 2010


This is just to share that moxiemittens has included one of my ruby July birthstone rosaries in her Etsy treasury.  She's collected some great vintage and antique items, and somehow the rosary does seem to go with them.

Back in to edit -- oops, guess I should have posted a picture,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Franciscan Crown - the stem

It's safe to say I sell more Franciscan Crown rosaries than anyone else at Etsy. They make up about half the sales through my Etsy shop. I've seen a couple of other sellers offer one or two of them, but they seem to think that all you have to do to make a Franciscan Crown is stick two more decades onto a "regular" rosary. That's not really true. The stem should be set up differently from the Pater-Ave-Ave-Ave-Pater pattern of a five-decade rosary, because it's used differently.

When praying the Franciscan Crown, you start immediately with the decades. The stem is used at the conclusion, instead of at the beginning as with a regular rosary. There are two sets of two prayers each prayed on the stem:

1. Two Aves which, with the 70 already prayed during the decades, commemorate Mary's 72 years on earth. (No, I have no idea who decided that Mary spent 72 years here, or whether that's historically true, but I do appreciate the symbolism of it.)
2. An "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" for the intentions of the pope.

So the traditional pattern for the stem of a Franciscan Crown rosary is: Ave-Ave-Pater-Ave (four beads). This is the pattern I use.

There's a more "modern" way of setting up the stem that uses: Pater-Ave-Ave-Pater-Ave (five beads). To my mind, the extra Pater bead confuses things. It's the pattern I was first introduced to, and I could never figure out how to use the stem - I'd just follow the instructions of what prayers to pray without worrying about the beads.

Not long after I started making rosaries, I happened across a pamphlet on the Franciscan Crown written in 1954. I was glad to see that the traditional pattern that I use for my Crowns was the only one mentioned. If you look at a variety of Franciscan Crown rosaries, you'll undoubtedly find some that use the newer pattern, and it's not incorrect. But setting up the stem as it is on a regular Catholic rosary is - incorrect, that is.

Here's a close-up of the stem of my most recently made Franciscan Crown, available for purchase in my Etsy shop. The Ave beads are small silver leaves and the Pater beads are the larger rounds.  

Note that because the stem is used at the end of the prayer, the pattern of beads leads away from the center rather than towards it:

Here's a picture of the entire rosary:

And, because I think it's pretty and it gives an idea of the variety available, here's the Franciscan Crown I made just before that one:

And here's a close-up of its stem, showing the beads in relation to the center and the crucifix:

There's a lot more to say about the Franciscan Crown, but that's all for now.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Couple of Medals Commonly Used as Rosary Centers

First of all, let me say that I'm not claiming any of this is official Catholic Church teaching. It's just what I've picked up by hanging around for 50 years or so. If you know your medals, you don't need to read this. If they're a bit of a puzzle to you, read on.

I've finally gotten our local religious goods store to carry some scapular medal centers. Scapular medals are often worn - as medals - by people who want to wear a scapular but don't want the cord or ribbon showing at inopportune times. We're specifically talking about the brown (Carmelite) scapular here, as that's the most common one - and the only one I know of that has a more-or-less official medal equivalent.

A scapular medal has an image of the Sacred Heart on one side and an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the other. I'm trusting that most people who make rosaries know an image of the Sacred Heart when they see one (although I'll be posting one farther down this post, for a different reason). But Our Lady of Mount Carmel can be a bit tricky to recognize. Some centers will help you out by supplying the title, either in English or Latin (or French, or Italian...). If you see "Carmel" anywhere in the inscription, you're almost certainly looking at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. But some don't give you a label. Recently, in the course of doing my regular photography for my Etsy shop, I managed to get a really good picture of that often too-tiny-to-decipher image:

 If you look closely, you can see that both Mary and the Child Jesus are holding scapulars. That's a dead give-away. Usually the images are too small/unclear to be sure of that, but take a good look at the general outline of the image. When you see a similar outline, and Jesus and Mary are both wearing crowns, it's a safe bet that you've got Our Lady of Mount Carmel. If there's an image of the Sacred Heart on the other side, you have a scapular medal center.

(A note that I have seen at least one statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel where Mary and Jesus were not wearing crowns, but I've never seen such a medal or rosary center.)


Another medal that often shows up as a rosary center is the Miraculous Medal. This can take many forms and some of them are quite lovely, such as "open gate" and "open arbor" styles. There are two things necessary to qualify as a Miraculous Medal center.

First, you need Mary in this pose (No, Mary doesn't need to be standing on her head... I've learned that Blogger rotates my photos sometimes because it's not "compatible" with my camera. It often turns them sideways, but this is the first time it's flipped one):

Then, on the back, you need this inscription (thankfully, this one's right-side-up):

Here's an example of a smaller, "open" style Miraculous Medal center:

The reason this can get tricky is that you sometimes have the front of the medal:

But something else on the back (this one is an image of the Sacred Heart):

So, in this case, you don't have a Miraculous Medal, even though this closed oval is the version of the image that we're most used to seeing there. What you have is an image of Our Lady of Grace, with the Sacred Heart on the other side.

Here's another version. The front of this center has Mary in a perfectly valid pose for a Miraculous Medal (turned sideways):

But on the back, we have - Mary's back:

So, again, we have Our Lady of Grace, but not a Miraculous Medal.


There are a lot of other rosary-center images we can talk about, but these two are the only ones I can think of that incorporate specific, more-or-less official medals. Have I forgotten any?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Matched Set

I love mahogany obsidian. I had a Franciscan Crown made out of the stones, but it sold months ago and I haven't had any in my shop since. But now I have two Catholic five-decade rosaries of mahogany obsidian (the larger of the two also has some red tiger eye, which is a great color match and adds some luminosity). I purposely made them as a matched set, with the same center and crucifix, but because of the stones used the two are very different in size and weight. So I'm thinking of them as a "his and hers" set, with the larger, heavier one for "him" and the lighter one for "her" - although, really, both of them could be used by either sex. Not wedding rosaries, probably, because of the dark brown and black coloring, but they'd be perfect for a couple who want to add a new level to their prayer together.

I thought about selling the rosaries only as a set, but I realized that as a single person I'd be unhappy if I weren't given the chance to buy just one of them, so they're listed separately in my Etsy shop. But I'm offering a 25% discount if someone purchases them together - details are in the Etsy listings for the two rosaries.

As with most of my creations, these probably won't be repeated. So if you and your spouse would like them - or you know a couple who would - this is your chance.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Okay, so I was reading this article about how you shouldn't blog just about your successes, but also about works in progress and even your failures. And I realized I had something sitting right in front of me that fit both categories.

So here it is. I'm going to have to take this rosary apart and restring it again (might not be so bad if I hadn't had to do that once already for a similar reason).  Can you tell why?

How about with a close-up of the problem area?

Yep. At the ends of the wire: two spacers on the left side and three on the right. And I know exactly how it happened. After I'd started stringing, I decided that there should be three spacers at the ends instead of two, telling myself that I'd have to remember to go back and put another one at the beginning of the wire before I fastened it. Well, guess what?

There are advantages to making rosaries with beading wire instead of the traditional individual links, but one of the disadvantages is that it's all or nothing. Once those crimp beads are fastened to the rosary's center, there's no way to fix anything except by taking the whole thing apart and redoing it. And, of course, I didn't notice the two/three discrepancy until the moment after I'd crimped it together. The "tornado" crimps I use are strong little things: once they're on, they're not coming off (which is usually a good thing).

So what's the big deal? Why not just leave it the way it is, put on the stem, and forget about it? One reason is my perfectionistic streak - the same thing that won't let me send out a letter from my day job that has a grammar mistake (I'll argue with my boss about a grammar point rather than do that). Another is that it really does make a difference. If someone were to hang that rosary on a hook, etc., it wouldn't be straight. The "Our Father" beads on one side would be out of synch with the ones on the other side:

A minor thing? Sure, in the overall scheme of the universe or the coming of the Kingdom. But a big enough deal that I'll be taking this rosary apart and redoing it... again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


On my Tolkien-related website, I define a geek as "Someone who's passionately interested in something most people pay little or no attention to." I've been a Tolkien geek for over 40 years now. I'm also a geek when it comes to religious trivia (although I'd claim that some of it isn't trivial). I'm especially geeky for things that have historical reasons behind them, such as why the saint's day for Martin of Tours is celebrated like a feast even though it's officially a memorial.

This leads into my saying that there's one thing John Paul II did that really bugs me: adding the luminous mysteries to the rosary. Not that I have anything against the mysteries involved. But it cuts the rosary loose from at least some of its historical moorings, and I think that's too bad. There's a reason that the rosary had a total of 15 decades with ten "Hail Mary"'s in each. That's 150 "Hail Mary"'s. There's something else that's a set of 150: the psalms. An early purpose of the rosary was to serve as a substitute for praying the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) for people who were illiterate - which was most people in those days. Those who could read would pray the 150 psalms contained in the Office, and those who couldn't would say their 150 Ave's. Tacking on another 50 "Hail Mary"'s loses that historical connection. It's probably a problem only for geeks, but I think it's too bad. Dominicans have traditionally used fifteen-decade rosaries (I've thought about making a Dominican rosary but it's a bit daunting). I'm hoping they haven't gone to twenty.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Picky, Picky

While putting a particular rosary together the last couple of days I realized I didn't like it all that much. I'd planned it out ahead of time, but the reality didn't live up to the idea.

My first thought was "List it anyway. Maybe someone will like it better than you do." But it isn't on par with most of the other rosaries I have listed. My second thought was about all the trouble of taking it apart and hopefully finding new ways to use the different components. My third thought was of all the rosaries I already have in my Etsy shop and how "building inventory" isn't a big worry right now. Why list something I don't love?

So you won't be seeing this rosary in my shop - as one rosary. You might see parts of it in several rosaries, or you might see it as a necklace (which actually could work well).

How about a couple of pictures of my latest rosary that I do love? The small beads are kyanite and the large ones are south sea pearls: 

More pictures and a full description are here
On to something else...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rubies for July

Don't worry, I don't plan to talk about my new items in every post. But I need to learn how to attach and link photos on the blog, so I'm going to post a couple of rosaries I've made using the July birthstone, ruby.

The first uses genuine rubies - very small rondelles - as accent beads.

The second is made of glass beads of a deep ruby color:

Oops. Got that one sideways. I must not have uploaded the correct picture. Well, I'm off to my day job now so will have to worry about that later!

I'm waiting for some materials in order to make a rosary with ruby Siam cathedral beads. Hope to have it done before any July birthdays roll around.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Anglican (Ecumenical) Rosary

The Anglican Rosary (also sometimes called an ecumenical rosary) is a fairly new development, having been started by a small group during the 1980’s. There are no set prayers, with each person deciding on his or her own how to use the beads, but there are booklets available with suggested prayers. (I don’t have any, but “prayerbedes” on Etsy does, I believe.)

The main feature of the rosary is the symbolism of the beads. There are four groups of seven beads each; each group is called a “week”. There are four “cruciform beads” that separate the weeks; when the rosary is opened as a circle, these beads form the shape of a cross (that’s the reason you often see the rosaries displayed that way in photos). On the stem of the rosary is one “invitatory bead”, which is used at the start of prayer. If you add up the numbers of all of these beads…

(4x7) + 4 +1 = 33

…with 33 representing the years that Jesus lived on earth.

Finally, at the end of the stem is a cross.

Some rosary-making points:

The cruciform beads are something like the Catholic rosary’s Our Father beads in that they separate groups of beads and are normally larger than the beads used for the “weeks”.

The invitatory bead sometimes matches the cruciform beads and sometimes is a special bead that’s larger than the cruciform beads. I’ve done it both ways, depending on what beads I have to work with. (My “most hearted” Anglican rosary has a large carved sodalite stone as its invitatory bead: http://www.etsy.com/listing/44054861/anglican-rosary-ecumenical-rosary-blue )

The cross can be of any type but is normally not a crucifix. I’ve made one custom-ordered Anglican rosary where a crucifix was requested, but I wouldn’t use one unless it was specifically asked for.

One thing I like about making Anglican rosaries is that they can be made on one continuous strand of wire. I usually make them when I know I’ll have time to do the entire process all at once, from start to finish.

I’ve found a couple of construction methods online, but because they put the crimps in places I didn’t think looked right I’ve come up with my own. After beading the weeks and three of the cruciform beads, I thread both loose ends of wire through the fourth cruciform bead, crimp them together just below the bead, cut off the excess of one end, and use the other end to make the stem.