Religious Charm Bracelet, Anyone?… Anyone?

By Wendy Thomas Russell | July 19, 2012 | 24 comments

Okay, I suspect you guys are going to make fun of me a little bit for this, but, hey, what the hell.

So, let me preface this by saying that, growing up, my mother had a charm bracelet she wore on special occasions. I was FASCINATED by this bracelet, which strung together all kinds of little golden goodies symbolizing some of my mom’s greatest memories. There was a child’s ring, a graduation cap, a locket. But my favorite charm was a little money box containing the tiniest folded-up dollar bill I’d ever seen in my life. A little door on the top opened and closed, and I must have opened and closed it hundreds of times. That bracelet mesmerized me. I remember asking (often) what all those symbols meant to my mom, where they came from. What’s more: the bracelet was so darn pretty — and jangly. Very jangly. That was definitely a draw.

So fast forward, like, 25 years, and I’m in a bead shop for no apparent reason (I do not make jewelry and have no interest whatsoever in beadwork), and I happen upon what can only be described as a fuckload of religious symbols. There must have 200 different kinds in this shop. Most were Christian (I live in America, after all), but some other religions were represented, as well.

So I got this hair-brained idea to, you know, make a charm bracelet for my daughter, Maxine.

Okay, before you go off half-cocked, hear me out. Here was my thinking:

1. It’s important to me that Maxine knows about religion in general, not just the one religion most prevalent in her culture. By stringing all these symbols together, side by side, I’d be putting all major religions on par with one another — with none of them more (or less!) significant than the next.

2. I’d like for Maxine to recognize religious symbols and have some sense of their back stories. It’s a challenge sometimes, though, to introduce the basic concept of religion without, you know, boring her to tears. I figured if Maxine had a bracelet with religious symbols in her jewelry box, she might drag it out every once in a while and look at it. If I got lucky, maybe she’d even ask a question or two.

3. As you know, I love the idea of celebrating religious holidays with kids — rather than shying away from them, or even secularizing them. I see holidays as an opportunity to demystify religion, but also to promote religious literacy and religious tolerance. Symbols (the dreidel for Hanukkah or the Buddha for Vesak Day, for example) are fantastic memory aids. A bracelet, I thought, could come in kinda handy.

So there, in this cheesy bead store, I decided to go for it. With no trouble at all, I found a Star of David, a little dreidel and a charm imprinted with Mary and the baby Jesus. I also found  the Buddha and a yoga guy and about a million crosses — both with and without the crucifixion. I knew I wanted the former because the crucifixion is such an interesting (and ghastly) image, it can’t help but be compelling. Carting all this stuff around definitely got the bead lady’s attention. She asked me if she could help, and when I told her what I wanted — “to make an all-religions charm bracelet” is how I put it — she immediately got on board, tracking down the “Om” and yin/yang symbols to add to my pile

When I got home, I got out my pliers and put it all together.

The bracelet isn’t nearly finished — there are so many other religious symbols out there! — nor is it as pretty, heavy, classy or valuable as my mom’s. But it’s a start. And it jangles real nice.

So what do you think, guys? A good idea? Potentially helpful? Or a total waste of money?


  1. Naitik Patel says:

    I love it.. Seriously.. I want to buy it.. is there any online store that I can buy it from it?

  2. Laura says:

    *smiles* I love it…would like to know where you got the charm bracelet that honors all religions…as I would love to get one. It is exactly what I have been looking for…
    Blessed Be ~

  3. Pamela Lynn - says:

    Hi There,
    I love your bracelet idea…
    when my children were little, I also wanted to raise them with the basic knowledge of all culture & religion, teaching them the best I could that there are many difference people in our world. I wanted to them understand that there is also good & bad in all & that acceptance is what is needed.
    & to always remember Kindness leads the way…
    Although I personally, was raised in the United Church of Canada, from a very young age I was a rebel, so to speak, full of whys & because of what I refer to as what seems to be an inborn passion for this (spark within) which is how I refer to this god word…:-),I could not get enough of study to learn about them , & this has continued throughout my life & I still hold this passion today.
    I could not ever have raised my children that only one way is correct or one culture the best I do not believe thats myself.
    Therefore rather than prayers at bedtime, it was a bed time story of one of the futures & their lifestyles & religion etc. At holidays we spoke about the other what the other religions were doing at this time & did crafts etc..

    so I believe your bracelet is a great conservational piece !
    Thank you :-)

    • Love your insights, Pamela. You said your children are no longer little… how do they view religion now that they’ve grown? I assume your open-mindedness has passed on to them. Have they experimented with faith at all, or felt no need? Thank you!

  4. Amy says:

    How about a “Happy Human” Humanist symbol, too? :)

  5. VERY inspired. I was trying to think of small ways to inspire religious tolerance for my children. This is one idea I will be using! :0)

    • Yay! There are so many symbols, and I love the idea of incorporating nonreligious symbols, as well. Maybe a charm of E=MC2 (Einstein was an atheist), or a simple heart (Love is all you need), or even a picture of your little one (The most important person to believe in is yourself)… The options are endless! Please send me a picture when you’re finished!

  6. Jamie says:

    This reminded me of my charm bracelet. It must be at the bottom of my jewelry box covered in tarnish. I did love the jingle, jangle. Hmm. How am I going to clean that bad boy? The one you are making is very beautiful. I love the different styles and ages of the pieces.

  7. Karen Loe says:

    Hey, what about the “A” of atheism?
    Then again, maybe an atom?

    I love the idea, though. Go for it!

  8. Stacey says:

    I love this idea. I have made pagan rosaries, but I haven’t explored mixing religious symbols. Now I want to make one for myself! Also, you may want a Pentacle to represent Wicca or a Goddess charm to represent Pagan beliefs.


  9. S.K. says:

    I think it’s a great idea…but you’re missing one of the top five largest religions…Sikhism. You’ll need to find a Khanda. :)

  10. I like the idea – but wouldn’t it make more sense to earn each of these bangles for learning about a particular faith or belief? Plus – I have a son – can’t imagine him wearing anything like this. LOL

    • A reward system for learning? Hmmm. You could definitely do it that way, but I wouldn’t advise that. Number one, I don’t think the charms would hold all that much value to a child. And second, I think kids are better off learning for the sake of learning, not so they can get something out of it. (They get enough of that in school!) I’d rather kids be genuinely interested in religion, rather than motivated by an external reward. The challenge for us parents (and the point of the bracelet, really) is to make this stuff interesting!

      Thanks for your input, though!

      P.S. I think this could totally work with boys. They wouldn’t have to wear it. You could easily make it into a bookmark by taking off the clasp.

  11. Beautiful! At my church, there are tapestries hanging in the sanctuary with all the world’s religious symbols. It feels very inclusive. If I saw this bracelet, I would buy it immediately.

  12. Ty Hatfield says:

    Love your story and the gift of the bracelet!

  13. Rich Wilson says:

    If this cost you any money, then you’re not looking in the right places for charms.

  14. Alan Magree says:

    First off, you’re missing the most important religious symbol of all, and the very one that so piqued your interest many years ago. The dollar bill. Secondly, I would add some milagros because they are unusual and jangly. And finally, it’s a damn good idea, the bracelet, and Maxine can participate by adding items that are meaningful to her.

    • So sweet! (So unlike you, Alan.) I love the idea about asking Max to add her own charms. And I’m def. on the lookout for nonreligious/philosophical symbols as well. And, oh, but the dollar bill. You are a man after my own heart, Alan Magree.

      Now stop stalking me.

  15. Edward says:

    Cool! So lets start sending Wendy any charms we come accross! ;-)

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Due out March 31, Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious offers a well-researched look at a timely subject: secular parenting. With chapters on avoiding indoctrination, talking about death, vaccinating kids against intolerance, dealing with religious baggage, and getting along with religious relatives, the book offers a refreshingly compassionate approach to raising religiously literate, highly tolerant and critically thinking children capable of making up their own minds about what to believe. The book may be pre-ordered by visiting Brown Paper Press.

      Natural Wonderers is my new blog published by the Patheos faith network. An extension of my previous blog — Relax, It's Just God — Natural Wonderers offers stories and advice on raising curious, compassionate children in secular families.
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