What is the meaning of red string bracelets?

Written by regina m. panis
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What is the meaning of red string bracelets?
(photo via flickr by coty lynn)

Red string bracelets have been spotted on several celebrities, launching what seems like a religious Hollywood fashion craze based on the practice of Kabbalah. This has caused some people to think that the red string is associated only with Kabbalists. But other religions also believe red strings serve a purpose.

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Kabbalah

One of the main texts of the Kabbalah, the Zohar, is thousands of years old. Its roots are in Judaism, but Kabbalah is not a religion. According to Rabbi Yehuda Berg, author of "The Red String Book: The Power of Protection," Kabbalists believe that negative energies can enter people's lives through the "evil eye," which is when someone looks at you with envy and jealousy. Kabbalists' goal is to rid their lives of, protect themselves from and reject negative energy from the evil eye by wearing the bracelet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To be effective, the string must be wool, dyed red and worn on the left wrist. Additionally, it must be cut from a longer string than was wrapped around the tomb of Rachel, the matriarch of the Bible, in Israel.

Dissenting Opinions

In contrast, some Kabbalists have said red strings are a myth. The website for the Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education and Research Institute, the largest group of Kabbalists in Israel, states that, "There is no connection. Red strings, holy water and other products are a lucrative commercial invention created in the past two decades."

Hinduism

In Hindu tradition, sacred red string bracelets are known as "kalava" or "mauli," which translates to "above all." Stephen Knapp, author of the ebook "Basic Points About Vedic Culture/Hinduism: A Short Introduction," notes that the kalava is tied onto a man's right wrist and a woman's left wrist at the beginning of a ceremony. It is worn for and symbolises blessings to the wearer. It also can be used in different rituals of worship (or "puja") to Hindu deities, and can be considered as goodwill to a person who offers it to another. The thread can be referred to as "raksha" or "rakhi" in a ceremony where a sister ties it onto her brother's wrist. The brother wears it as a sign of his sister's love and wishes for protection.

Tibetan Buddhism

Red strings are also associated with Tibetan Buddhism in traditional ceremonies of tying on holy cotton threads. According to an article by Sannyasi Shraddhamurti in the September 2008 newsletter of the Shraddha Yoga Healing Centre, in this ceremony, "This practice restores the natural order of things and brings people closer together." It is rooted in Hindu tradition and has been practised by Buddhists for more than 500 years. During the ceremony, a monk lights the candles of a centrepiece and chants scriptures while guests hold a piece of thread tied to the centrepiece. Afterward, the monk and guests tie the threads onto one another's wrists. The threads' colours carry different meanings. Red represents bravery, white is for friendship, black for sympathy and yellow for faith. The belief is that the body and soul are firmly tied together.

Chinese Legend

"The Red String of Fate" or the "Red String of Destiny" is a Chinese legend. The legend, as noted by Cultural-China.com, explains that two people who are destined to be together are connected by an invisible red string. It is tied around the ankles of the two by the deity Yue Lao, a matchmaker in charge of marriages. The red string symbolises soul mates who will one day marry. Although it is more of an anklet than a bracelet, it represents another cultural belief in red strings.

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