Thursday, February 03, 2005

Bad, bad rosaries

Well, of course there's really no such thing as a "bad" rosary from a spiritual point of view. If it allows you to count your prayers and has the right number of everything, and if it's not so ugly or uncomfortable or heavy that the owner avoids using it, then it's certainly just fine for devotional purposes.

But I discovered a couple of weeks ago that I need to start collecting a few "bad" rosaries.

Let me explain. I taught a very successful rosary class a couple of weekends ago for people who portray various characters (real or ficititious) at Renaissance Faires. One of the sorts of things I wanted to do was to show them what kinds of modern rosaries are, and are not, reasonable approximations of what you'd find in 16th-century England.

Well, I have several examples of *good* rosaries for this purpose. But on the theory of teaching good design by showing people examples of bad design (see the Web Pages that Suck website, for instance), I wanted to show some examples of rosaries that were too modern to be suitable or otherwise "wrong" for a 16th-century person to carry. And I discovered that I didn't have any.

I don't, for instance, have a glow-in-the-dark plastic rosary. In fact, my search criteria for interesting rosaries to look at on eBay specifically exclude any with the words "plastic" or "glow."

I actually don't think I have any rosaries with plastic beads at all, and I should, if only to demonstrate that they never look convincing, even when they're trying to imitate wood or pearls or other plausible substances. They don't look right, even if you don't touch them, and they're not heavy enough to hang right, either. And of course the baby-blue plastic ones are Right Out.

I also don't have any examples of rosaries whose beads are all right, but whose cross, medal or other parts are so stereotypically Art Deco, or 1960s, or postmodern, that they just about radiate their identity with those times. I really want at least one of those because it's a concept that's hard to explain without examples.

I don't even have an example of beads made out of rose petals. Now this is something I really ought to be able to remedy, since there's a jar of actual rose-petal paste, made from the roses around my house, sitting in my freezer waiting for me to get around to doing something with it. Failing that, they certainly aren't hard to find for sale. (My reasons for believing these are a modern invention are on the Paternoster-Row website.)

Most of the more complex modern glass or porcelain beads I can find seem to have Chinese faces, lots of silver foil, relentlessly cheery flowers, or aggressive-looking raised dots and spines on them. I noticed this particularly when I was looking for a suitably medieval "many-colored bead" recently for another project (of which more anon...). This is not to even mention the recent fad for beads with rhinestones .

On the other hand, I see that one can now make a rosary of glass beads shaped like frogs, owls, horseheads or pigs, should one wish to do such a thing. Shades of the medieval beads shaped like daisies and shoes.

And I'd love to have a rosary with beads made out of modern polymer clay -- just for fun, if I can find one that's affordable. Unfortunately for my pocketbook, they tend to be Works Of Art and priced accordingly.



Blogger Michelle -garnerville said...

Hi, I enjoyed reading Paternoster Row website regarding the rose rosaries. I have read on an site that they date back to mid-evil times. The Paternoster site says it began in the 1920's. I'll have to do some research and figure it out. Good luck on your mission to find your rosary examples!

6:41 PM  
Blogger Chris Laning said...

Not all websites are created equal, of course ;)

I have heard it *said* that rose-petal rosaries are medieval by many people, but considering that I have found absolutely no evidence for it, I'm very much inclined to think it is the process of wishful thinking.

And if the site refers to the Middle Ages as "mid-evil," it's misunderstanding something there. The word is "medieval" (with an "a") and there is nothing "evil" about them!

As one of my friends says, "Is there 'sand' in your sandwiches? Are there 'witches' in your sandwiches? Then there's no 'evil' in medieval!" I think that's a good way to remember it.

1:40 PM  

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