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Komboloi: The favorite stress reliever, pastime, and amulet in the Greek and Cypriot cultures. Komboloi, just a simple string of worry beads one falling on the other on the string as the player manipulates it with his/her hands but with a big tradition.
(Photo from www.tokompoloi52.com)
The etymology of the komboloi has two main versions. One version is that the word is derived from the word “kompologion” whose two composites are kombos (knot) + logos (selection), thus alluding to the step-by-step counting and selection of the beads as one plays with the string. The second (but less frequent) etymology derives from the two composites kombos (knot) + logos (say) and comes from the religious culture, as a short phrase meaning to count down the prayers. This is not random though.
The use of komboskini (from where the new kompoloi is supposed to have evolved according to the second etymological version) has been invented by the monks in the famous Mount Athos during their practice of praying when they used to tie knots to a string for each prayer they would say. However, contemporary kompoloi does not imply any religious references.
Good and original Kompoloi beads are made of natural materials including coral, amber or amber resin since it is largely considered that organic materials work and react better with the hands of the players than the nonorganic materials.
When it comes to the uses of kompoloi, there are various ways to play and is mostly up to the user to decide which is the most relaxing way to use it. There is the quiet and the loud way which is the most common. However, kompoloi has also been used in the past as a musical organ accompanying “rebetiko” (old Greek urban music) and as part of a ritual in the wedding night in some communities.
In the past, it would be used exclusively by men and it would create a negative image if a woman was seen using it. As a sign of masculinity and of the everyday working man, you would only hear its clicking noises as beads were falling on each other, in kafeneia (cafes where only men go) and village squares in rural areas where men used to gather. Nowadays that both sexes use kompoloi, it would not be peculiar to see it at any possible place from student cafes to hotel receptions.
Kompoloi has extended its uses and its importance as an anxiolytic pastime has been given particular importance in today’s hectic times. Some people use it to fight stress away while others use it as a strong ally in the fight against smoking. Some others just use it because they like the sound and how the fingers glisten through the beads while some think it is a nice fashion statement to carry it around.
The most amazing thing about the culture of Kompoloi is that we now have the World Kompoloi Museum in Pelion which was established in 1998 by Mr. and Mrs. Evangelinos.
There, you can see and explore an amazing collection of kompoloi made from various kinds of materials including amber and mastic amber.