1. Your books in the past have focused on specific traditions, from the Aurum Solis to the Freemasons. What inspired you to write The Magical Use of Prayer Beads, which details the use of prayer beads for many magical traditions?
Spirituality and religions have been present all along in my life. The Italian side of my family includes several Catholic clergymen. On the French side, everyone practiced the Catholic faith according to the traditional customs. Prayer Beads were always visually present. They were used very often during specific liturgies but also individually. In the devotional life of the faithful, prayer beads are often an important support. I can easily recall my grandmothers using them daily. Then I became involved in initiatic Orders and progressively reached the highest degrees of several of them. In these traditions, magic rituals are used to invoke the divine and to help one's soul rise to the highest spiritual levels. Usually, such progress is the result of regular training and the practice of daily rituals.
Several inner abilities are also used and developed. These include the vision of the aura, out-of-body experiences, magnetism, telepathy, etc. The training taught by serious initiatic Orders involves visualization, pronunciations of sacred words, breathing, meditation, and other traditional teachings. However, in some of these groups, such as the Hermetic and Ogdoadic Tradition of the Aurum Solis, the contact with divinities is a very important part of the path. I am not talking about a pretentious way of trying to invoke their presence. I am talking about a sincere devotion following very ancient attitudes codified by the Western Tradition. Other schools may have the same thing in mind. I have to say that rituals are very important. They help to structure both the practice and the mind. However, complex rituals can sometimes be an obstacle that hide the real core of the spiritual practice. An efficient theurgic technique is not always an addition of fancy magical tools. The practitioner is not making a kind of magical scrapbook; he is trying to achieve a real inner experience. While traveling in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, I realized that prayer beads were widely used by all kind of people. Every time, their state of consciousness was modified in only a few seconds. Their look was turned to the inside and their heart close to their God. I remembered my grandmothers and knew that prayer beads synthetize a simple and ancient tradition. It was time for me to explore within the initiatic and spiritual traditions I knew, what the status of this tool has been and could be.
2. What exactly are prayer beads? Did they originate with one specific spiritual system?
As I just mentioned, prayer beads are a spiritual tool used by believers to pray to their divinity(ies). Simply said, prayer beads are made of a string and a precise number of beads. Religious symbols are usually hung on it. Sometimes prayer beads are made of knots instead of beads, though the function remains the same. A set of prayer beads is initially used to count prayers or any repetitive word used by the believer to pray. The use of prayer beads is well attested in India around the eighth century BCE. Between the third and fifth centuries, the first Christians who lived in the desert of Egypt began to use knotted ropes to count their prayers. Then the practice began to spread in various religions all around the world. It is important to understand that even if prayer beads are used most of the time by believers without any knowledge of theology, philosophy, or magic, these objects are powerful symbols. By their use, everyone can unveil spiritual Mysteries in a simple and efficient way.
3. Why can prayer beads be used for so many traditions, from Hermeticism to Druidism?
We don't know for sure if pre-Christian religions used such a tool. Initiatic traditions usually neglected its use. Magic schools that often focused on invocations and large scale rituals forgot about prayer beads. However, Theurgy, which involves a devotional aspect, never totally lost the understanding of prayer beads. I want to emphasize that the beads are not randomly created and never used according to some vague recommendation. There are several examples in The Magical Use of Prayer Beads illustrating that, but I can give you an example from the Christian tradition. According to the story, in 1751 the Archangel Michael appeared to a Portuguese nun, Antonia d’Astonac. The archangel said, "I want that you recite in my honor and in union with the nine choirs of the angels, nine times one Pater and three Ave's. You will achieve these salutations by four Pater's: the first one to honor me, the second to honor the Archangel Gabriel, the third for Raphael, and the last one for the guardian angel." Anyone interested in the Christian Qabalah will understand immediately what this nun was not able to realize herself. We know that the archangels are invoked in specific directions. We know that the ennead is an important step in the spiritual ascent. We know also that the nine choirs have specific colors and symbols. From this revelation, a full ritual has been developed in the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Cross. Several rituals related to it are provided in my book to be used individually, in couples, or in a group.
What is true for the Qabalistic tradition, Christian and Jewish, is also true for the Hermetic Tradition. The ascent of the celestial ladder starting from the elements, going through the planets to reach the divinity is associated with numbers and invocations. The number eight is present around us in the eight directions of the mysterious octagon. Several mantras and sacred sounds are still used to invoke the divine powers, and prayer beads are an amazing way to achieve such a goal. I have also applied these principles to some of the Western Traditions in which I was initiated in the past: Wicca, and Druidism. The practices and rituals are provided in the book and everyone can use them immediately after opening the book. It is an amazing advantage to be able to use the simplest item to achieve so much.
4. How is it that such small items can become such bearers of power?
Indeed, this is a mystery. However, it is quite easy to progressively unveil it with two simple keys, which are called "Tradition" and "Practice."
The first word, "Tradition," refers to the context related to a specific prayer beads. As any spiritual tradition or religion is composed of divinities, theology, symbols, etc., prayer beads must express these aspects in their design. They are a visible representation of a spiritual world, a real gate to another world. The consequence is the possibility of the user accessing other dimensions by using it in a traditional way. The material used, the colors, the number of beads, everything participates in the building of this magical bond between the user and the invisible powers invoked.
Other aspects are associated that will reinforce this foundation. All that is of course fully explained in my book. I provide, for example, rituals of cleaning and blessing of your prayer beads. This is an important step of preparation that allows you to link this tool to your inner self.
Any object you touch receives part of your spiritual energy. It works as a receptor you are charging, just like you do with a battery. Consequently, it will acquire energy through the use of its own power. Once, I had the chance to touch ritual tools used by a shaman from Mongolia. He died without an heir, and all his equipment was about to be sold. I received a kind of electric shock, and my forearm remained contracted for a while. Prayer beads used regularly can contain an invisible power in a similar way.
You can, of course, choose to buy prayer beads traditionally made, or make your own. In any case, it is good to follow the precise descriptions I provide in the book. According to your tradition and of course your goal, you will be able to choose the ones most appropriate for you.
What is amazing to me is that you can take your prayer beads everywhere. They are small and discreet. Anyone seeing you using such a tool will immediately respect your meditation and prayer. Combining simplicity and efficiency has always been important to me. This is what prayer beads do.
5. You worked closely with Donald Michael Kraig on several parts of the book, prior to his passing in 2014. How did working with Don affect the book?
Meeting Don and working closely with him for my book Rediscover the Magick of the Gods and Goddesses, as well as this one, has been a blessing. He was a very good man and a really knowledgeable practitioner. We spoke about all the parts of the book, but he personally checked the Qabalistic and Hermetic sections. He was very excited by the subject and by the rituals that can be used by couples and in groups. He was a real Qabalist, not just an intellectual. He knew how a ritual works and was able to read Hebrew without any problem. With his help, we avoided the usual mistakes. We elaborated a simple transcription of Hebrew that will allow anyone to correctly pronounce this language. He was very enthusiastic. He was eager to share with me his huge experience in the publishing world and on the spiritual level. I miss him, his advice, and insights!
6. What do you hope readers will take away from The Magical Use of Prayer Beads?
The Western Tradition is full of Mysteries and spiritual treasures. Prayer beads are only one of them. Unfortunately, they have been regarded as old-fashioned religious tools. People interested by Qabalah, Hermeticism, Wicca, or Druidism usually don't know the power and advantages of using this item.
I am confident in the demonstration provided by a direct experience. Anyone using one of the meditations or rituals provided in the book will have a magical and intimate experience. Realizing that simplicity and beauty can help us to ascend to the divine is one of the most beautiful things related to prayer beads. Beginning this journey is simple. It just takes a string and a few beads!