Worry beads or komboloi, kompoloi (Greek: κομπολόι, IPA: [ko(m)boˈloj], bead collection; plural: κομπολόγια, IPA: [Kombologia]) is a string of beads manipulated with one or two hands and used to pass time in Greek and Cypriot culture. Unlike the similar prayer beads used in many religious traditions, including the Greek Orthodox komboskini, worry beads have no religious or ceremonial purpose.
Modern Greek κομπολόι is derived from κομβολόγιον < κόμβος “knot” + -λόγιο “collection”. It is sometimes said that it is short for the phrase σε κάθε κόμπο προσευχή λέω, “in every knot I say a prayer”- κόμπο “knot”-λέω “say” > κόμπο-λέω > κομπολόι. This etymology accounts for the fact that κομπολόι evolved from κομποσκοίνι, the Greek word for prayer rope. Also our name “Kombologia” > kombo-logia in Greek (κόμπο – λογια).
Worry beads have several uses in Greek culture, including:
- relaxation, enjoyment, and generally passing the time
- as an amulet, to guard against bad luck
- used by people who wish to limit smoking
- as a mark of power and social prestige. This is especially true in the case of expensive Komboloi.
Many prominent Greeks were users and collectors of worry beads, including Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and business magnate Aristotle Onassis.
Worry beads may be constructed from any type of bead, although amber, amber resin (such as faturan), and coral are preferred, as they are thought to be more pleasant to handle than non-organic materials such as metal or minerals.
Greek worry beads generally have an odd number of beads (often one more than a multiple of four, e.g. (4×4)+1, (5×4)+1, and so on, or a prime number, (usually 17, 19 or 23) and usually have a head composed of a fixed bead (παπάς “priest”), a shield (θυρεός) to separate the two threads and help the beads to flow freely, and a tassel (φούντα). Usually the length of worry beads is approximately two palm widths.
Worry beads can be handled in many different ways.
The threads are then switched back into the space between the index and middle fingers by holding the threads between the thumb and the side of the index finger. This is repeated rhythmically, creating a louder clicking noise than the quiet method. Another method is to hold all of the worry beads in one hand and roll them against each other, creating soft clicking sounds.
As musical instrument
Worry beads used as musical instrument, related to rembetiko. The sound emitted using a drinking glass and rubbing with the lip against the worry bead, which suspended from one button.
Representing the traditional komboloi from Greek and Cypriot culture, the komboloi that our Fathers and Grandfathers were holding and playing, with respect and honor. We like to pass this tradition to younger ages.