Updated: Jan 27
We remain uncertain of the exact origins of strings of prayer beads, but their early use is recorded in multiple cultures throughout history. Prayer beads are fingered to allow the practitioner to keep a count of the number of prayers that have been performed, thus allowing them to focus their attention solely on the prayers themselves.
Likewise, cord, or knot magic, has been a part of the folk and oral traditions of many cultures farther back than we can remember. Knots tied into cords or ropes during the repetitions of chants, incantations, spells, prayers and curses forms the basis of a great deal of magical practice throughout many magical cultures.
The use of knots on prayer cords in Christianity dates back to the 3rd and early 4th centuries. These were primarily devices used for counting prayers such as the Lord's Prayer. From about the year 431, there began an increased use of Marian prayers (prayers to the Virgin Mary) while using these prayer cords, which later evolved into the Catholic Rosary.
The Catholic Rosary
The term Rosary comes from the Latin rosarium "rose garden" and is an important and traditional devotion of the Catholic Church. The modern Catholic Rosary combines prayer and meditation in sequences (called “decades") of the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, Gloria Patri as well as a number of other prayers (such as the Apostles' Creed and the Salve Regina). The prayers are accompanied by meditation on different Catholic Mysteries which are events in the life and ministry of Jesus. This traditional Catholic form of the rosary is attributed to Saint Dominic, though some Catholic writers have doubted this claim.
The early rosaries were a complete circle of five decades, but with no tail or crucifix as has the modern Catholic rosary.
A complete Rosary sequence was prayed for a total of 15 decades, meaning the 5-decade Rosary was prayed three times through. This could be done all at once, or throughout the day (one round of 5 decades in the morning, one at midday, and one in the evening). The completed 15 decades meant that a total of 150 Hail Marys were prayed.
This is why the Rosary was also known as “Mary’s Psalter,” as this was the same as the number of Psalms in the Bible. Being that many people were illiterate, and were incapable of reading the psalms each day, praying the rosary was considered a substitute for praying the Psalms.
The Witch’s Ladder
There is a common practice in modern witchcraft to use a type of rosary called A Witch’s Ladder. This can be a string of beads or a cord with knots. The number of beads or knots used varies depending on the practitioner and their tradition, or the symbolism desired by the practitioner. The Witch’s ladder is used in a similar fashion to other types of prayer beads, as well as being a counting device for incantations, affirmations and chants.
It is interesting to note that the pagan origins of the Rosary are one of the fundamental reasons many non-Catholic Christians cite as being their aversion to the use of the Rosary.
How to work the Witch’s Rosary
The system of Rosary Magic I am presenting here is one that been tried and true for me for decades (pardon the pun); it is one of those practices that gives impeccable results. Everyone I know who has used it sincerely and regularly for a few months has agreed with me. I certainly hope you try it.
In a pinch, a regular Catholic Rosary can be used to work this operation. For my first foray into this work, I purchased a simple Rosary from a local Catholic supply shop, and it worked beautifully. However, I found I really couldn’t relate to having a crucifix on my rosary. It's a tool of my Craft and I wanted a WITCH'S Rosary. I went on my quest. I soon realized that finding a five decade rosary without a crucifix is not so easy to do; so I found someone to custom make a rosary for me.
Some Five-Decade Witch's Rosaries:
You need something to mark where the beginning and end of a Rosary. You may use anything you like at the end of your rosary (even just a simple tassel). Most people like to use some sort of charm such as a pentagram, hexagram, ankh, equal armed cross, Celtic cross, spiral, triskelion, skull, dragon... it can be anything that you like.
One option in creating your rosary is to repurpose a Catholic rosary. You do this by removing the "tail" (the part that hangs off the main circle with the crucifix at the end), and replacing it with a charm or tassel according to your tastes. An experienced jeweler may be required depending on how the rosary was originally constructed.
If you don't want to or can't make or repurpose your own rosary, you can simply have one custom made for you like I did. Etsy is an excellent source for custom made Witch’s Rosaries. We know several Etsy artists who have started producing rosaries to our specifications. You can see their lovely wares here. The Prayers/Chants/Invocations
Being that the early church tended to “borrow” many pagan customs, I saw no problem in “borrowing back” several of them for my magic. A witch tends to use whatever works. I discovered the Witch’s Rosary is a highly effective method of magic that always gives me wonderful results.
I have adopted the earliest forms of the prayers and written them in a manner that is as clear and free of superstition as possible. Also, the earliest known form of the rosary itself is what is called for in this operation: a five decade circle with no tail. These chants and this rosary practice are the closest proximity to their original pre-christian roots that I could come up with.
The Goddess Prayer
The Hail Mary (Ave Maria) in its earliest form was, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” This was a prayer based on two separate pieces of new testament scripture: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;” and, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” The later addition of “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death,” was added later in the 14th Century, along with naming Jesus as the fruit of Mary’s womb.
I see Mary as a clear biblical symbol for Mari, the sea, the womb and the divine mother, the older, more primitive Hail Mary seems to be a carry-over from earlier goddess worship. The form of the prayer I developed for use when using the Witch’s Rosary is thus:
Holy Mother, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. So mote it be.
This is a potent prayer to and invocation of the Divine Mother that gives the practitioner a visceral experience of the presence of the Universal Goddess in a very pure form:
We address her: “Holy Mother”
We name her nature: “full of grace”
We acknowledge her consort: “the Lord is with you”
We acknowledge her universality: “blessed are you among women”
We acknowledge her as the mother of all things: “blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
The God Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer, taken from the New Testament, is one of the simplest, yet most remarkable invocations ever written.
The common prayer is prayed thus: “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”
My version which I use is:
Our Father, in Heaven, your name is sacred. Your Kingdom is come, your will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors. Lead us out of temptation, and deliver us from evil. So mote it be.
It is clear that we are addressing the masculine god form (Chokma on the Tree of Life) in the opening, “Our Father.”
In the bible, the name of something is its nature. It is the nature of the Father in Heaven to be sacred. You could thus very easily encapsulate the opening line of this prayer as “Father Sky, you are sacred.” Try praying the Lord’s Prayer that way and see how it feels. The occult meaning for Heaven or “sky” is not a place separate and distinct from us. It is the realm of the Superconscious, which is within us.
In the next lines, two important Hermetic principles are stated. a)“Your kingdom is come, your will is done” states that Power flows from the causative plane into manifestation; and, b). “On earth as it is in heaven,” states That which is above, is reflected below.
“Give us this day our daily bread” means “fulfill all our needs this day.” We are expressing the fact that we receive the means to fulfill all of our needs on a daily basis. We are not saying, “Give us enough for the rest of this month,” we are claiming our faith in the Power, by stating, “fulfill our needs this day.” We have absolute certainty that tomorrow’s needs will be filled tomorrow.
“Forgive us our debts as we HAVE forgiven our debtors.” Notice the tense we are using in this version. We are claiming forgiveness of all of our own errors, transgressions and mistakes because we acknowledge that we have already forgiven everyone who has been indebted to us on any level. We are simply stating a magical law. We owe no Karmic debts because we have already done our part by forgiving all others; therefore, we can claim forgiveness for ourselves liberally, here and now.
“Lead us out of temptation and deliver us from evil,” encapsulates simply the thought, “give me the guidance in each moment to make the correct choices, and keep my mind, body and actions focussed on that which is for my highest good.”
The basic thoughts encapsulated in our chant are,“Father Sky, you are sacred. Your power is here, now. Your will is done; as is above, so is below. Meet all my needs this day. Forgive all my debts, as I have forgiven all my debtors. Give me the guidance in each moment to make only right choices and right actions; and keep me focussed on only that which is for the highest good.” The Lord’s Prayer is commonly spoken in the royal “we,” however you can see that you may easily pray it in the first person if you desire to, as well. There is no reason you can’t make any prayer, spell, invocation or incantation your own as long as you understand what you are doing and why you are doing it.
The act of crossing oneself did not originate with Christianity. It is a universal method of blessing that is used as a way of grounding and centering and self blessing. The Catholic version of crossing oneself, names the Christian trinity by stating, “In the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.” The trinity of the Christian belief seems also to be something that was borrowed from earlier practices, but was obviously changed and made purely masculine.
To us, the Holy Spirit is Shekinah, who is the Goddess. The Son, is called the “Holy Child,” which denotes the Higher Self, The Son of Man in the Psalms, the Mabon in the Celtic mysteries, Pan in the old Craft, etc. So we relate here to the primitive version of the holy trinity in its original form, which is simply Father, Mother, Child.
I use a method of crossing myself which I find to be quite effective, and in keeping with my understanding of the inner mysteries.
I touch my forehead and say, “I call on the Father.”
I touch my breast, and say, “the Mother,
I touch first one shoulder, and then the other whilst saying, “and the Holy Child,”
I bring my hands together over my heart and say, “Blessed be.”
You may, instead, want to use what is called the Qabalistic Cross:
the forehead: “Ateh" (thou art) the breast: “Malkuth” (the kingdom) the right shoulder: “Ve Geburah” (the power) the left shoulder: “Ve Gedulah” (the glory) bring the hands together over the heart: “Le Olam, Amen” (forever, so be it). In the Qabalistic Cross, the right shoulder is touched first, in the Christian cross, the left shoulder is touched first. There are several reasons for the difference, the most pragmatic being that in Hebrew, one reads from the right to the left, and Latin and German based languages are read from left to right. There may be also Qabalistic significances as well as crossing from the right to the left could be seen as the lightning bolt descending the tree, and crossing left to right could be seen as the Serpent climbing the tree. I recommend that when doing the WItch’s Cross, you try it both ways and notice the difference, if any, that you experience. This way you can make up your own mind based on your experience rather than being told what to do.
The Rosary Spell
The performance of Rosary magic is quite simple. You will undoubtedly notice the great power that is raised when performing the ritual. It becomes more potent the more you practice it. You may notice that you go into an altered state as a result of the repetitive chants. This is a good thing. Just do your best to stay focussed on your goal and also on the meaning behind the words you are chanting, even as you go into a trance. I have noticed that it is most effective when chanted aloud, but if you prefer to do it in silence that is fine as well. Try it both ways and notice the difference you experience between the two.
Begin by dedicating your rosary session to a specific goal: “I dedicate this rosary to perfect harmony in my home,” “I dedicate this rosary to a ten percent increase in my salary,” “I dedicate this rosary to the complete health of my mother’s body,” etc.;
Perform a crossing ritual, or a grounding and centering meditation.
Begin on your first large bead, by chanting one God prayer;
For each of the 10 smaller beads which follow chant one Goddess prayer (10 prayers in all);
Repeat this process until all 5 decades of your Rosary have been completed;
Feel and state gratitude that it is done;
Complete a total of three rounds for the same purpose throughout the day if possible. While three rounds daily is recommended, even one or two rounds per day is remarkably effective.
Take time while reciting the prayers to feel the meaning of each prayer to the best of your ability, but also keep a consistent rhythm whilst chanting.
Take time to envision your goal either during the recitations, just prior and/or after you have completed the rosary.
Perform a final crossing, or grounding and centering.
Feel free to experiment. You may want to use completely different prayers than those given here; or you may be lead to use all Goddess prayers, or all God prayers in a particular session with your Rosary.
In my experience, the Witch’s Rosary as I have presented it here, is one of the most satisfying and highly effective magical techniques I have ever used. I hope you try it and find it to be as much of a blessing in your life as it is in mine.
To purchase a beautiful Witch's Rosary to our Specifications, please see the links to several of our favorite artists whom we support here. Blessed be!