Ritual Bead Necklace


Ritual Bead Necklace

Amami Ōshima Island

Second Shō dynasty, Ryūkyū kingdom, 19th century

Crystalline quartz and blue stone (comma-shaped bead)

全体 長さ84 ; 勾玉 頭径2.7 尾径1.7 ; 小玉編部 長さ49


This is a ritual bead necklace. The part resembling a kimono sash is draped over the back, while the section that goes around the neck is threaded with a series of large, round crystal beads and a large, green, comma-shaped magatama bead. Green, yellow, and white glass beads are also woven in band-like designs across the part that hangs over the back. In the Ryukyu kingdom, an independent kingdom that mainly encompassed modern-day Okinawa prefecture, female shamans called 'noro' used to pray to the gods for the safety and prosperity of the Ryukyu people. During these rituals, the shamans wore necklaces like this. The name for these necklaces in the local language contains the word 'butterfly.' Some say this is because the triangular pieces of cloth hanging from the back resemble butterflies, while others say the name reflects the Ryukyu belief that butterflies were spirits or the souls of the departed. Crystal and magatama beads are common to East Asia, but this kind of bead necklace for female shamans is unique to Ryukyu culture. These necklaces and other unique artifacts probably emerged from the exchanges between the Ryukyu kingdom and Japan, the Korean peninsula, and China.  

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