The Mystery, The Legend, The Erotic: A History of Waist Beads in W Africa

“The erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough”, Audre Lorde ‘Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power

“It is the beads that makes the buttocks to shake”, Yoruba adage

Waist beads are an ancient accessory and symbol of feminism throughout Africa. They have been used on the continent in civilizations such as ancient Egypt. The beautiful adornment combines lewks, spirituality, healing, femininity and culture, all in one sacred package.

Image of dancers wearing waist beads, found in Egyptian tomb walls

Waist beads have varying uses in different African cultures. Many of them claim waist beads act as an aphrodisiac. They are said by the Yoruba culture to attract males and bring on all the sexy feels! The Yoruba priestesses or Orisha devotees use them to protect themselves against ill-willed marine spirits attacks and alternatively, some women also use them with charms to ward mermaid spirits away from them.

For some cultures, they are medicine, being worn to fight cramps and heal womb ailments. In Benin, waist beads are used for protection against spiritual and physical attacks. Some also wear them to ensure their husband will not cheat on them. They can be indicators that the wearer is a spiritual being, as well as symbols of sensuality or virginity.

People in traditional Ghana also used waist beads to hoist tree bark, which, when beaten, would become soft, like tissue, and be used as underwear. Women used them to keep their menstrual cloth in place.

In Akuapem culture of the Eastern Region of Ghana, the waist beads, or ahene, are used for bragoru, a rite of passage when a young woman gets her first menstrual cycle. The elder women in the family bathe her and dress her with the beads. Then they blow the Gongon drum to call people from the town to come and see the young women dance as a way of advertisement for male suitors. The young girl then receives gifts and money. The ahene as adornment was used exclusively for women. If a male wore ahene around his arms that meant he was an okonfo / priest, Ohene / Chief or an odunsifo / herbalist. Nowadays, because Christianity has corrupted many traditional practices, the bragoru is not done as much, mainly in the villages.

It has been said that in traditional times in Ghana women would use them to attract men; when the beads rattled it would evoke certain chemical reactions in men’s brain that would excite them sexually. Some wear their beads higher around the waist and some lower. In Ghana, most women wear them a bit loose around the waist so the beads will rest just on top of the vagina. The Krobo tribe of Ghana are known for their bead craftsmanship and usage. They have multiple elaborate festivals for young women during their rites of passage. They use beads to commemorate different phases of life including birth, puberty, pregnancy, marriage and death. They are also used when enstooling a Queen Mother/ King and installing a priest/ priestess.

Waist beads are given to baby girls when they are first born so they develop deep curves. They are also used as weight monitors. In the Yoruba culture, waist beads are combined with charms and fragrances to act as birth control. They also symbolize how many children a women has had, whether she has had twins, triplets or other multiple sets of children at once.

Some cultures say only your husband should see them. Women wear different beads at various times to send signals to their husband, like specific ones to say she is on her menstrual, that she is sexually excited, usually the crystal, glitter ones, or when she does not want to have sex.

The different colors that the beads come in are infused with healing qualities. Get into this #ColorTherapy , okurt!

Orange: Sunny, warmth, emotional expression, joy

Blue: Serenity, wisdom, loyalty

Brown: Connected with the soil of the earth, groundedness

Pink: Compassion, love, charm, tenderness

Yellow: Creativity, energy, lightness, personal power, mental wellness

White: Purity, cleanliness, rebirth

Grey: Security, reliability, maturity

Silver: Glam, sleekness, high status

Red: Passion, survival instincts, physical strength

Black: Strength, protection

Green: Nature, health, wealth

Purple: royalty, spirituality, luxury

Gold: Royalty, wealth

They are seen as symbols of nobility, femininity and affluence. Throughout different cultures in Africa, beads are known to host spiritual power and influence, making men who ‘can’t get it up’ suddenly ‘rise to the occasion’. In addition, it shows beauty, royalty, is used for weight monitoring, rites of passages, to help deepen curves, appreciate and adorn the body. They represent nobility, femininity and affluence.


Measure the beads around your waist to your preference, whether high on the waist or low around the top/middle of the waist ( with the beads hanging just above your v line). Remove some beads if you have to, tie the strings from each end together tight (2 or 3 times), cut off the excess and enjoy! You can shower in them, sleep in them, etc.

Purchase your gorgeous, authentic, handmade Ghanaian waist beads here!

Contact Asiedua’s Imprint for your personal order!

One thought on “The Mystery, The Legend, The Erotic: A History of Waist Beads in W Africa

  1. Pingback: Thinking about Repatriating to Ghana? Here are Some Tips – Bringing Unity to the Community

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