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Waistbeads 101: History & Why Women Wear Them

Brief History

Waistbeads are an African tradition of wearing decorative beads around the waist or hips (similarly to a necklace) which were popularized by the Yoruba tribes of West Africa. It is believed that waistbeads may have originated in Kemet (Angient Egypt). Waistbeads were made from small beads and charms made from glass, wood, crystals, shells or other materials strung on cotton thread that was then tied around the body.

Tomb of Nebamun Kemet wiastbeads
Look closely...the nude dancers appear to be wearing waistbeads in this scene taken from a Kemet tomb

Worn by women of varying age, the significance and meaning of the jewelry is unique to the different tribes and cultures of Africa. Traditionally, the beads were worn as a sign of wealth or status, for rites of passage, for spiritual or physical healing, and to attract the opposite sex. In some cultures, waistbeads were worn under clothes and were only for a woman's partner to see.

Now that we've gone over the a bit of the history of waistbeads, let's talk about some of the reasons women in Western culture are wearing them now.

Body Awareness

Wearing waistbeads is a great way to track your weight in a body positive way. Stepping on a scale can be nerve wrecking especially if the number isn't moving in the direction you want it to. With waistbeads, if you gain weight, your waistbeads will roll up or feel tight. When you drop pounds, your waistbeads will roll down and eventually fall off. It has, also, been said that waistbeads may help shape your waist and hips without the waist trainers!


For some African American women, wearing waistbeads can be a way to connect to and celebrate African culture and ancestors from which we came.

Spirituality and Healing

The different colors and charms used to make waistbeads have different representations and meanings which makes them a great tool to utilize for your spiritual journey. Choose beads and charms that compliment what you would like to work on. For example, if you feel you need protection, choose black beads as black is a color that represents protection. Be sure to have your beads set with intentions and blessings if they are for spiritual use and healing.

Chakra lavabead waistbeads
Chakra waistbeads for balancing and healing the Chakras

Celebration of Womanhood and Feminity

What better way to honor and celebrate your divine feminine energy than with jewelry? Waistbeads have a way of making you feel beautiful, girly, and sexy in the skin you're in. Waistbeads can help you feel more attuned to your womb, which is regarded as the most sacred place on Earth in some cultures.


This one is pretty self explanatory. Some ladies just want to complement their outfit or swimsuit with a gorgeous set of waistbeads.

What's your favorite reason to wear waistbeads???

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