December 4, 2012

By Gabrielle.

Religious jewelry makes such a statement, don’t you think? And whether the charms are delicate or over-sized, whether it’s a whisper or a bold declaration, I find myself sucked into the wearer’s story every single time. I guess I’m a fan of believers!

What about borrowing religious symbols from other faiths? Mixing an evil eye or hamsa talisman with a Star of David or a cross or Buddha, for example. To me, this is like borrowing the best of beliefs, which feels nice when I see it happen and when I see it in action.

Tell me: Do you wear your faith? Beyond your daily kindnesses, that is!

Evil eye necklace available here.

P.S. — As a Mormon, I enjoy wearing a little covered wagon charm on Pioneer Day to honor the earliest members of my religion who crossed the Plains at great sacrifice.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Martha December 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I love your comment about being a “fan of believers.” I too am a fan, I just haven’t ever known how to state that before now.


2 Elizabeth T. December 4, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I wear a very small and simple diamond-shaped notched cross I got in Ethiopia. When I bought it and put it on the last day I was there, the guide who’d been with us through the trip told me, “You are much more handsome this way.”


3 Design Mom December 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I picked up a cross in Ethiopia too! Also on my last day. : ) I just shot photos of it and can’t wait to share a post on the souvenirs I picked while there.

I agree with your guide: Ethiopian crosses made everyone look handsome.


4 tori December 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I am Mormon as well and I like to “borrow” the mezuzah from the Jewish religion. I have a mezuzah pendant that I wear on a necklace. I love the words of the shema traditionally held within the mezuzah.


5 Design Mom December 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm

My grandmother was Jewish and I’m always embarrassed of how little I know about Judaism. I’m off to look up mezuzah…


6 Jeanette December 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I love wearing a CTR ring; it helps remind me to strive for goodness!


7 tere December 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I wear everyday a silver scapulary, which has a story of love and salvation behind it for us catholics. I feel protected and at home with it, wherever I am. It has a Sacred Heart on the side that goes next to your own heart and a Mother Mary on the other one. It’s a big statement, and I like that too.


8 Angela December 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Hmm…not so sure about “borrowing” sacred symbols that don’t belong to your faith. An evil eye might be one thing, as I’m pretty sure it’s more of a talisman and not a sacred symbol, but a dream catcher or Star of David is a little different. People from both of those cultures have been persecuted (and executed) for their faiths.

This stuff can cross the line to cultural appropriation pretty quickly.


9 sara December 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I agree, as a Jew it makes me feel weird. Learning about the culture and the traditions, sure. But borrowing a belief feels weird. Maybe its because we aren’t a proselytizing culture, I don’t know, but it just rubs me the wrong way a little bit.


10 Aryn December 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I agree with you!


11 Design Mom December 5, 2012 at 5:09 am

I wonder how often the “borrowing” comes about in the form of a gift. I’ve been given jewelry gifts with religious symbols (not from my own religion) on 3 separate occasions.

Obviously, the gift-givers had no issues with me wearing their symbols, though it’s clear others *would* be bothered.


12 spages December 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm

I am a former Mormon who wears a hamsa, a star of David, a crescent moon, a Buddha and a cross daily on my necklace(s). To me, it is a wonderful reminder of where I have been, both physically and spiritually, and where I hope to go.
Since I don’t really have “a” faith, but rather an amalgamation of what I *hope* to be true, these symbols have come to represent what I hope God is.


13 Lisa December 5, 2012 at 12:54 am

Although Im not religious, I wear a beautiful silver Lion of Judah around my neck. I bought it in the silver market in Addis last winter and it keeps me close to the country I love and my daughters history.


14 Design Mom December 5, 2012 at 5:10 am

I’m not familiar with the term “Lion of Judah”. Off to look it up.


15 Lisa Scott December 5, 2012 at 7:09 am

A Christian symbol dating back to Solomon and Queen of Sheba. Strong national symbol of Ethiopia, as it represents their history, particularly for Orthodox Christians. Also translated into the reggae movment when the rasafarian saw Haile Salassie, as a desendent of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba, as the returned Messiah.


16 Aryn December 4, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Evil eyes and Chamsas are Jewish symbols, as well. Actually, Chamsa is even the Jewish word for it – Muslims call it the hand of Fatima. In Yiddish, we call evil eyes “Kein ayin hara” which means “no evil eye,” but of course it gets shortened to just “ayin hara” or evil eye.

I would be a little weirded out if a gentile or a Jewish religious symbol – maybe not the Chamsa or ayin hara – but a star or mezuzah has a much deeper significance.


17 Design Mom December 5, 2012 at 5:18 am

The tricky thing with symbols is that the same ones are used by multiple cultures and religions — sometimes with totally different meanings.

You’ll laugh, but I just remembered the Rosslyn Chapel that is apparently covered in all sorts of symbols — which I first read about in The Da Vinci Code. (I know, I know. It’s a blue chip historial source. : ) Does any one know if the Rosslyn Chapel really is covered in symbols?

In the St. George Tabernacle, one of the very oldest Mormon buildings, there is a very big “all seeing eye” at the head of the chapel that used to kind of freak me out as a child. I’ve never seen it used in any other Mormon architecture.


18 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay December 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I have a necklace with the Flaming Chalice on it. It is the symbol for Unitarian Universalists. It is the sign of us making a covenant one to another to live our faith’s teachings. At the beginning of each service we say words for the Lighting of the Chalice. The Chalice is extinguished at the end of the service when we Go In Peace… to bring our light to the greater world.

I do think we need to be mindful of what others’ symbols mean to them. Mindful being the key. Let’s not do the Victoria Secret thing and dress like Native Americans for “the look”. If you have genuine respect for the culture and beliefs of any religion that is a different story.

As some have pointed out- just as religious teachings tend to have more that is similar than different so do the symbols that arise from those religions.

Sometimes a symbol can be the gateway to understanding.

As they say at the end of our sermons in Church. Amen, and may it be so.


19 Design Mom December 5, 2012 at 5:18 am

The Flaming Chalice sounds beautiful, Pamela!

Speaking of Native Americans, my oldest brother is a Navajo and I grew up in a mixed-race household. My parents spent many years of their careers working with Native American tribes in New Mexico, Alaska and Southern California, and our house was full of jewelry, artwork, rugs, artifacts and other Native American cultural items. In many cases these were gifts, in other cases they were purchases in support of a tribe or community.

I can imagine that if a stranger had visited our home they would have assumed we were trying to appropriate another culture, but that certainly wasn’t the case.

The Victoria Secret instance is a great example of cultural borrowing gone bad, but I feel like most of the time I witness borrowing, especially among individuals, there is an earnest story behind it.


20 Huda December 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I’m Muslim and I make it a point to not borrow any religious-belief-laced jewelry or sculptures from other religions for many reasons. I don’t get the point of wearing something that I don’t believe in, and I’m also not sure if it would offend people from another religion, y’know? Even though I have no issues with non-Muslims wearing Islamic architecture or calligraphy inspired jewelry or clothing :)


21 alli December 5, 2012 at 12:04 am

fascinating discussion…. i agree, it’s inappropriate to ‘borrow’ symbols from faiths which practice beliefs that you do not practice- even when it’s done in what we think is a respectful way. i think it’s a bit culturally naive. i recently spoke to an indian woman living in america who said that it’s offensive when people absentmindedly get henna tattoos without honoring the culture from which they come, including but not limited to, like another poster said, the persecution, trails, and hardship they have been through… when we adopt a symbol and no other pieces of a culture or religion we are almost pretending that the rest doesn’t exist. in some cases, like with the indian woman, the symbolism is beautiful- henna is worn by women getting married as a symbol of the strength and love in their marriage. but, when young women who aren’t hindu apply henna to themselves without thinking, they disrespect the deep and meaningful relationship and symbolism that henna has to hindu women. in the same respect, imagine if a non-mormon decided to wear undergarments for an arbitrary reason unrelated to the reasons that a mormon wears them, EVEN if they believed that the original reason was nice… it feels kind of icky, no? by doing that, my relationship and decision to wear undergarments feels less meaningful.


22 Design Mom December 5, 2012 at 5:34 am

Those are two interesting examples. With the henna, we’re talking about a tradition that’s practiced by millions of people over hundreds? thousands? of years. Some of those people consider henna tattoos sacred. Others offer them up at festival booths. It seems like a good opportunity to think the best of people and assume that someone experimenting with henna isn’t trying to disrespect a culture or religion.

As for Mormon underwear, I find it a less relevant example because it’s not an outward symbol. If a not-mormon was wearing the underwear, no one would have any idea simply because it’s worn under clothing. Would I feel icky if I knew they were? I’ve been thinking about that, and no, I guess I wouldn’t. I’d feel curious, but not icky. That said, I can think of many friends who *would* be uncomfortable with it.


23 courtney December 5, 2012 at 8:44 am

It’s not a religious symbol, but I wear an Celtic Tree of Life necklace to symbolize my Irish heritage. I also have been given or have bought quite a few Claddagh rings or bracelets over the years.


24 mary December 5, 2012 at 8:50 am

Awesome discussion. I don’t often accessorize myself, bu after major disaster’s happen, I tend to pull out my silver saint/devotional ‘charms’ and wear them on a simple chain as a reminder to say extra prayers.


25 Tricia December 5, 2012 at 11:58 am

Wearing potent symbols from other cultures makes me uncomfortable. I would want to be sure to do so in a way that was in keeping with how that particular culture approaches those symbols. I’m not really one for judging other people, so others should do what they’re comfortable with.

But, if you choose to wear here’s an example to think about: If I see someone wearing a chai necklace, a star of David, or a mezuzah, my first thought is going to be that they, like me, are Jewish and that Judaism is very important to them. That’s the message they’re sending. If, instead, they say that they just think it’s pretty or that it goes with their outfit or something similar, that is inevitably going to tell me something about their respect for me and my religion.

So, be aware of the messages you are sending.


26 Tricia December 5, 2012 at 11:59 am

“But, if you choose to wear SYMBOLS FROM ANOTHER CULTURE, here’s an example to think about:”

I left out some words there.


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