GREECE – The Komboloi
Anyone who has already been to Greece will surely have seen men of all ages holding a kind of “necklace” made up of small stones and passing it continuously between their fingers. This object is called komboloi and is precisely a row of pearls passed on a thin string whose ends are tied together and decorated with a finish.
As a first idea, it may seem like just a tool against boredom, an anti-stress or a method to avoid smoking too much. In reality, komboloi is much more, for the Greeks it represents a philosophy; accompanies them in every moment of the day, in moments of joy and pain, relieves them of stress, suffers and celebrates with them.
The komboloi is made up of pearls of different materials (wood, ceramic, glass, bone) and is present in different shades of colors. The most prestigious ones are however those in amber.
It is also called the Greek rosary, but unlike these prayer tools, the number of stones in the komboloi can vary and the pearls can slide along the thread that holds them together.
So even if it has no religious value, it is used to recite the Jesus prayer, repeated for all the komboloi grains. Some end with a cross and others with a tassel, which should serve to wipe away the tears following the prayer of the heart.
The komboloi was at first a symbol of power of the upper social classes: the local gentlemen carried with them a heavy and precious komboloi that ended with a silken end to be caressed.
Then with the passage of time, it has conquered all social classes becoming very popular but still remaining a purely male accessory.
In Nafplio there is the Komboloi Museum, which houses – in addition to a collection of rosaries of different religions – hundreds of different komboloi, from the simplest and cheapest to the most valuable.