IN 2009, I MADE MY FIRST MALA.
From March of 2014 to October of 2015, I undertook a specific type of mala making practice in preparation for the blood moon. A mala is a string of 108 hand-knotted beads. I completed 18 malas as traditionally guided and all were made in the prescribed way. These are special malas because they are Blood Malas. Normal malas do not take so long to make—they can be completed in as little as a few days. Blood Malas must be prepared in advance of a Blood Moon.
More about the process and the malas is below.
WHAT IS A MALA?
A mala is a string of 108 beads with one central bead denoted the Guru bead or Sumeru. Malas are used as a tool to help focus the mind on meditation, to calm anxiety, to infuse a feeling of peace into your life, to create routine and to affirm your goals.
Malas are made from a variety of beads and string. Beads can be made of precious and semiprecious gemstones, wood, clay and other materials. The string can be made of silk, nylon or other fibers. Traditionally, malas are hand knotted. This means that between every bead, a knot is tied. This knot protects the beads.
I source my beads from sustainable artisans with a preference towards those that employ women workers, and I only use silk thread.
HOW IS A MALA COMPLETED?
The first step in mala making is to source your beads.
Different bead types are associated with a number of things: specific challenges, emotions, astrological signs, health conditions, doshas, chakras....the list goes on. Beads should be sourced from reputable makers and the most ideal beads are made by hand. Imperfections from bead to bead are OK. Care should be taken in learning about where your mala beads are coming from: where are they made? who makes them? do the employees receive fair treatment and compensation? where are the materials mined from?
The second step is to choose your stringing material.
Silk is regarded by many to be the best choice for a special mala that receives regular use. It's important to research where your silk comes from. True silk is made by silkworms and most of these creatures live in terrible conditions. You do not want to have a mala made from materials that come from negative conditions. Other stringing materials include cotton thread and nylon thread. Anything that is stringable works! I use responsibly sourced silk.
The third step is to identify the underlying purpose of the mala.
Some people want a mala targeted towards a specific goal—they might want to improve health, reduce anxiety, remove negative relationships, gain clarity, feel supported, etc. Other people want a mala to aid them in their spiritual practice so they may want it made from materials and colors which support their spiritual journey. Some are made through a Jyotish (Vedic Astrologer) to help support their chart. Others choose a mala based on personal reasons (i.e. your Mother always wore pearls and your daughter's favorite color is blue, so a pearl mala strung with blue silk may be particularly meaningful to you). And others choose a mala by feeling alone—sometimes, you see a mala and you just know that it's the one for you. In the case of the Blood Mala, these are made to align with specific events.
The fourth step is to have the mala made or purchase a completed mala.
People who make malas should be trained in the traditional process. Anyone can make a mala, and if you are a spiritual or faithful person in any way, it can be a meaningful traditional art to participate in. For what some may regard as 'true' malas, you want someone to make it who has been taught by someone else who has been taught—it's a tradition that gets passed on from teacher to student. There are certain chants that are said at various stages of the mala making process, and there are certain actions that should happen to the mala in various states of its construction. A 'true' mala takes a minimum of 30 days to make.
The fifth step is having it blessed.
There are many ways to go about this part. Your mala maker should have had it blessed before selling it to you, and you may elect to have it blessed within your own faith tradition as well. You could have your priest or religious advisor bless your mala, or you could ask your spouse and children to bless it. You can take it to your yoga studio and ask for it to be blessed. You can smudge it. You are a unique person with a unique mix of traditions and people in your life. Consider what is meaningful to you.
WHAT IS A BLOOD MALA?
A Blood Mala is made in a way that is a little different from traditional malas. All of the above steps happen, but with a Blood Mala, there is a bit more to it. The mala making process began for these Blood Malas in March of 2014. The process of construction was broken down and different parts were timed to coincide with each lunar eclipse.
To make a Blood Mala is a mitzvah. It's a form of spiritual service, and in Eastern traditions it is also viewed as a way to honor your teachers. To have been engaged in such a long process for so many months was deeply meaningful to me. I respect all traditions (secular to religious) and participating in more time-intensive rituals is meaningful to me. The world we live in is very now, now, now.....to start work on something with the understanding that it won't be complete for 18 months is definitely the opposite of that. I found it to be a great balance. Mala making is very, very old. While it's certainly not a skill I could put on my resume, it's something I am so glad to have been taught, and something I am very glad I undertook. I look forward to the day when I can pass this tradition down to my children.
Only 18 Blood Malas were made. They took a lot of work and definitely tore my hands up! :) I make them the traditional way: knot by knot, and solely by hand. I do not use any automation tools.
These 18 malas reached completion between the third and fourth eclipses and all sat under the final lunar cycle leading up to the Blood Moon on September 27, 2015. All of the malas received the appropriate vedic chants and the specific actions that were required at the prescribed times. Mid-way through, I also prepared 12 additional malas that were distributed between the second and third eclipses under the tetrad. These are all out in the world!
Mala making is very much a form of meditation. Sometimes, you will have a teacher assign you a mantra. Sometimes you will be told to recite it every day for a year....or for many years. For me, the making of these Blood Malas took many, many months and I have now 'completed' this meditation!
I hope that yours brings you good feelings, happiness and peace. I hope you will ensure your Blood Mala gets passed down to someone else at the end of your time with it. And, I hope you will stay in touch with me if you choose to steward one of these sacred objects.
There are 18 Blood Malas available
18 Available Malas
WHAT IS A BLOOD MOON?
A Blood Moon is the fourth in a specific series of lunar eclipses.
On September 27—28, 2015, a Supermoon Lunar Eclipse took place that was the fourth in a Tetrad of Lunar Eclipses. The first three taking place on April 15, 2014, October 8, 2014 and April 4, 2015.
This was the last Blood Moon that will occur for nearly 20 years. The next will not be seen until 2033.
HOW DO YOU USE A MALA?
For those familiar with a rosary, you use a mala in much the same way—using each bead to guide you through prayer or meditation.
You should always treat your mala with respect. You hold it in your right hand being sure to keep the beads from touching the floor. Starting at the guru bead, hold a bead between your middle finger or ring finger and thumb. You recite a prayer, word, mantra or phrase on each bead, until you move through all 108 beads.
Many practitioners of yoga are given a mantra from their teacher. They would recite that mantra when using their mala. Other people choose to say a favorite prayer, or an affirmation. If you've ever worked on your Dharma Statement, you can choose to recite that. It's also ok to count, or just use each bead as an opportunity to create a list of all the good stuff in your life. :)
Whether you choose to say "Amen", "Om," or anything else, you are using your mala just as you should.
Many people use their mala in the morning, before or after a yoga practice or during other times that are convenient in day-to-day life. If you have a spiritual teacher, you can ask them for guidance here.
Using your mala should make you feel good, feel peaceful and feel supported.