Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene: the beauty and message behind Catholic Rosaries

Born and raised a Catholic, it took me many years to realize that people of other Christian denominations and faiths sometimes view certain Catholic practices as outdated, odd, or even hindrances to divine connection.  Starting in high school, some of my friends began to question elements of my Catholicism, such as our reverence of saints and our use of priests for Confession or Reconciliation.   Why was Jesus not enough?  Why did we need patron saints?  Why couldn’t we just ask God directly for forgiveness ourselves, or accept that He forgives everything?

At a young age, such questions were at times confusing and alarming.  I had never before looked at my religion this way, and for the most part I did not feel a personal connection to my answers, which felt more like something I had heard the priest say and then reworded.  If Jesus wanted us to follow Him alone, he would not have left us disciples.  Patron saints serve a guides and reminders of how we, too, can live a holy life.  Priest have a closer connection to the divine because they devote their entire lives to the practice.  These answers made sense… right?

As I grew older and prepared for my Confirmation and, later, independent life in college, I began to seek my own answers to these and other questions.  I felt that, as a woman, I had a strong emotional connection to two female saints, Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene.  Mother Mary, also known as the Virgin Mary, was the mother of Jesus Christ, and is highly revered in Catholicism.  Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, has historically been seen as a former prostitute, thus giving her an often low and degraded status among believers.  I prefer to view her as some contemporaries do, namely as a downtrodden women, sickened, poor, ill, and abused by her society, a woman who was healed by Jesus and given a second chance to live a glorious life.  Viewed this way, Mary Magdalene is a champion of downtrodden peoples, a symbol of female empowerment, a pioneer of women’s rights and recognition who still historically has been given a bad reputation.  In my opinion, where Mother Mary’s struggles reflect those of a pure and innocent woman called to perform God’s duty unquestioningly, Mary Magdalene’s journey is easier to relate to because most of us feel imperfect and flawed and wish for a second chance.  Mary Magdalene’s story offers us that chance for redemption, and Mother Mary offers us the warmth and compassion of a caregiver reaching out to help us in our journey to become our best person.

And here, dedicated reader, is where the rosary enters our discussion.  If you have come this far into my blog post, thank you!  Your reward will be some beautiful pictures.  Here is one, and more are coming, so stay tuned…

African Opal Agate Gemstone Rosary
by Graceful Rosaries

During college, I had the opportunity to study a number of religions outside of my own, which was probably the most beneficial aspect of my entire education. By studying Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Shintoism, Christianity, and other religions, I gained a deeper understanding of my own spirituality as well as my religion’s practices and beliefs how these compared to those in other religions.

Praying the rosary, for example, is above all else a meditative practice. Similar to the cross-legged, monotonous, visualization sort of meditation found in Buddhism, praying the rosary allows one to focus the mind by repeating one phrase over and over again, allowing for a more direct communion with the divine. When praying the rosary, one recites the Hail Mary Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.  However, rather than simply focusing on these words alone, I would argue that one should open up one’s heart, mind, imagination, and soul, and allow their spirit to overflow into their actions, focusing intently on whatever goodwill one wishes to ask for or bestow.  Visualize the success of your prayer, and allow yourself to believe it will come true.  When you open up your mind to learning from those of other faiths, you can strengthen your beliefs and practices with theirs, making yourself a more holistically spiritual person.

Many people today still create handmade rosaries to sell for your prayerful use.  I have one of my own which I made from wire-wrapping gemstones and shells.  The rosary shown above is a beautiful example of a classic rosary, as are the following:

Victorian Snow Sterling Rosary Necklace
by Doro Soucy

Denim Nation Swarovski Crystal Rosary
by Gilliauna

The following artists have taken a spin off from the classic rosary, creating something fresh, unique, and possibly controversial, sometimes using pieces from old rosaries in new ways. I, however, think this a great way to show the world your faith and reaffirm for yourself your spirituality on a regular basis. Check out these designs, all handmade and for sale on Etsy:

Turquoise Jasper Catholic Rosary Bracelet
by Graceful Rosaries

Rosary Necklace Bracelet Wrap Oh Lord Reclaimed Jewelry
by ecoBling Couture

Vintage Rosary Charm Multi Chain Necklace
by Deer Girl Designs

vintage rosary statement necklace
by novella

The true beauty behind a handmade rosary lies in the work that went into each finished product.  When I created my rosary, the hours I spent designing and crafting it felt prayerful, like I was taking as small part in creation.

What are your thoughts on the matter? How do you stay in touch with your faith? What role models in your religion move you? What practices keep you grounded and connected? Share your thoughts here by commenting!

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Have you heard of metal clay?



tree of life necklace
by peaces of indigo

Ever since I started my jewelry business at the end of 2010, I have been looking for different ways to expand my art. I delight, sometimes enviously, over the skills that other jewelry designers have cultivated and employ when creating their pieces. One such jewelry art form that I covet the most is the use of metal clay in jewelry design.

Metal clay, often known by its brand names as Precious Metal Clay (PMC) or Art Clay, was developed in Japan in the 1990s as an eco-friendly way to recycle fine silver and gold. A powder of these recycled fine metals is mixed with organic binders to create a clay. The clay can be molded, shaped into various forms, and set with stones before it drys. When fired, the organic binders break down, causing some shrinkage but leaving behind 99.9% pure silver or gold. That material in turn can then be burnished, tumbled, antiqued, or polished like any other piece of silver or gold. Other metals like bronze and steel are available in this form, too. Pretty fascinating, right?

On my list of future business investments, metal clay takes high precedence. While I dream up various creations to try when my chance to work with metal clay arrives, I like to admire the work of other jewelry artists. Take a peak at these beautiful pieces, featuring fine silver, gold, and two-tone metal clay work, by various artists on Etsy.

Fine Silver PMC Genuine Turquoise Sterling Silver Earrings
by beadinbythesea

Sea Foam Earrings
by saffire jewelry

Bronze Clay and Brass Butterfly Ring – Starburt Pattern
by roundhousejewelry

Silver rose campion flower with ruby center
by SilverBlueberry

Silver Roman Coin, Emerald, Garnet, and Amber Bracelet
by asterrisk

Simulated yellow diamond and 22k gold engagement wedding ring
by peaces of indigo

How to create an “Etsy Mini Widgit” for wordpress.com using HTML

When I was preparing to create my “Soul to Sparkle” blog and had decided to use WordPress.com as my platform, I was dismayed to learn that Etsy Mini is not available in HTML and therefore could not be added to my WordPress.com blog. Furthermore, the Etsy widget that is available through WordPress only works on WordPress.org blogs, which are different and more sophisticated than WordPress.com blogs. So, rather than settle for less than my dream blog, I set out to learn HTML and create my own Etsy Mini Widget for Soul to Sparkle, featuring items from my shop, Jess’s Treasure Chest. Once I had the hang of it, thanks to some free lessons from w3schools.com, I created the Etsy Mini Widget you see over there on the side. Hooray! Success!

So after writing my first post and doing a little seated jig, I was talking with my boyfriend about my nifty little shop banner on the side of my blog. Thanks to his passion for open source software and Linux, he gave me the brilliant and wonderful idea to share this HTML script with you, dear devoted reader, so that you, too, may do a little seated jig of excitement over having an Etsy Mini Widget on your WordPress.com blog, too!

All of that said, here it is:

Jess’s Little Recipe for an Etsy Mini Widget:

Ingredients:

1 HTML script for an Etsy Mini Widget (see below)
6 URLs of items from your shop
6 URLs of corresponding images of said shop items (click on the image of the listing and copy the URL ending in “.jpg”)
1 URL of your shop’s main page
1 WordPress.com “Text” widget, found under “Appearance” on your blog’s dashboard

Method:

1. Copy the HTML script below. Open Notepad or another simple text editor on your computer and paste the HTML script into the document.

2. Highlight the text, “URL OF YOUR SHOP’S MAIN PAGE HERE,” and type the URL of your shop’s main page there.

3. Highlight the text, “YOUR SHOP’S NAME HERE,” and type your shop’s name there.

4. Highlight the text, ” YOUR SHOP’S SLOGAN HERE,” and type your shop’s slogan there.

5. Highlight the text, “LISTING 1 URL HERE,” and place your first listing’s URL there.

6. Highlight the text, “LISTING 1 IMAGE URL HERE,” and place the URL of your first listing’s image there.

7. Copy steps 5 & 6 for listings 2-6 and their respective images, placing them in the correctly named and numbered places.

8. Place an empty WordPress “Text” widget in the location of your choice.

9. Copy the HTML script you just edited with your information and paste it into this “Text” widget’s empty space. (*Note: You do not need to include a title.)

10. Click “Save” in the “Text” widget.

11.  Go to your blog and find your new Etsy Mini Widget featuring your items!

12. Do a little seated jig!

Good luck!  Please comment and let me know how it turns out.

HTML Script: (Copy and paste into your simple text document for editing)

<html>
<body style="text-align:center">
<hr />
<h1 style="text-align:center;font-family:calibri;font-size:22px;color:teal">
<a href="URL OF YOUR SHOP’S MAIN PAGE HERE">
<ins>YOUR SHOP’S NAME HERE</ins></a></h1>
<h2 style="font-family:calibri;color:purple;text-align:center;font-size:12px">
<i>YOUR SHOP’S SLOGAN HERE</i></h2>
<hr />
<p>
<a href="LISTING 1 URL HERE" target="_blank">
<img border="1" src="LISTING 1 IMAGE URL HERE" width="130" height="130" /></a>
<a href="LISTING 2 URL HERE" target="_blank">
<img border="1" src="LISTING 2 IMAGE URL HERE" width="130" height="130" /></a>
</p><p>
<a href="LISTING 3 URL HERE" target="_blank">
<img border="1" src="LISTING 3 IMAGE URL HERE" width="130" height="130" /></a>
<a href="LISTING 4 URL HERE" target="_blank">
<img border="1" src="LISTING 4 IMAGE URL HERE" width="130" height="130" /></a>
</p><p>
<a href="LISTING 5 URL HERE" target="_blank">
<img border="1" src="LISTING 5 IMAGE URL HERE" width="130" height="130" /></a>
<a href="LISTING 6 URL HERE" target="_blank">
<img border="1" src="LISTING 6 IMAGE URL HERE" width="130" height="130" /></a>
</p>
<hr />
<p style="text-align:center;font-family:calibri;font-size:10px;color:blue">
Created by Jess Albrecht of <a href="http://www.etsy.com/shop/JessTreasureChest"&gt;
Jess’s Treasure Chest</a>
<br />Email <a href="mailto:jessstreasurechest@gmail.com?subject=Etsy%20Mini%20Widget">
Jess</a> for one of your own, or find out how
<a href="https://soul2sparkle.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/how-to-create-an-etsy-mini-widgit-for-wordpress-com-using-html"&gt;
here!</a>
</p>
<hr />
</body>
</html>

Jewelry design, beauty, and the spirit?

Jewelry design. Beauty. The spirit. How do these three concepts fit together in one blog?

This is a conflict that I had to resolve before I could write my first post. To be honest, initially my concept for this blog was more of a felt sense or an intuition than an actual mapped-out idea. I did not have words for what I wanted to write about as much as I felt a flicker of emotions and images pass through my spirit. And as I found words to express what I could feel emerging from within me, the critical part of my mind turned on and said, “‘Jewelry design and the spirit?? Are you serious?. Isn’t fashion design a little superficial, rather materialistic, and therefore not “of the spirit” by its very nature?”

Well, Critical-Jess, it turns out the answer is “no.” While the materialism that drives much of our culture and the international fashion industry is not soothing to the soul, the creativity and art behind this industry is an expression that comes directly from the spirit. I know this to be true because of my own experience as an artist, a writer–a creative being. The act of creation brings us closer to our created world and–whether we call it a god or a goddess, Allah, Brahma, God, Yahweh, Science, chi, the universe, or sheer happenstance–to our creator. Each time we create something, we are engaging in creation, imitating the creative acts of the natural world. And that action fuels our spirits, reminds us of who we are and who we can become, and brings us a little closer to understanding the meaning of life.

Right now, for me, that creative expression comes out in the art form of jewelry making as well as though writing. This blog will be dedicated to finding the beauty in art, especially wearable art, and discussing how this art can bring us together, touch our hearts, and make a lasting impact on our spirits.

To start things off, check out this beautiful little piece, a charm bracelet by One Heart Jewelry of Colorado Springs that is a celebration and a symbol of interfaith harmony.

Comment with your thoughts!