The Panagia's Garden

Many Western Christians are familiar with the "Job's Tear Rosary." These are rosaries made out of a tear-shaped seed, and supposedly this is the type of rosary that Mother Teresa preferred. A number of years ago, however, I discovered an Eastern Christian tradition of using this type of seed to make prayer ropes. Here is the story. Legend has it that as the Theotokos stood weeping at the foot of the Cross, a plant bearing tear-shaped seeds sprung up where her tears fell.


Some time later - perhaps a few centuries - a certain monk became distraught because he could not tie a prayer rope. Try as he might, he made no progress trying to figure out the complex knots. In his distress he called upon the Theotokos. She appeared to him and asked him why he was so distraught. He explained that he could not tie a prayer rope and thus could not keep his prayer rule because he would lose track of the number of prayers he'd prayed.

The Theotokos took pity on him. She revealed this plant to him, taught him how to plant it and care for it, and then taught him how to string the tear-shaped seeds together to form a prayer rope. Since then these seeds have been known in the East as the "Tears of the Panagia."




For me, these seeds are very personal. Upon discovering that there is an Eastern tradition of making prayer ropes using the "Job's Tears" or "Panagia's Tears," I immediately endeavored to start making them. But before I pursue that part of the story, let me backtrack and explain how these little seeds first came into my life.

My mother used to make rosaries. She loved making rosaries. If she wasn't making a rosary of wire and glass or ceramic beads as a gift for someone, then she was making "mission" rosaries to send overseas. She taught my brother and sister and I to make rosaries. She taught some of my cousins to make mission rosaries and, while she was battling cancer, they would come over to visit her and to make mission rosaries with her. Rosary making was more than a hobby for her. It was a calling.

I remember one day after daily Mass my mother was talking with a fellow parishioner about rosary making. He mentioned these seeds called "Job's Tears," talked about how they are natural beads, explained that Mother Teresa loved to pray with a Job's Tear rosary, and said that these plants are astonishingly easy to grow. Although they are technically a tropical plant, they were growing like weeds over at his farm (this would be in rural Indiana). In the end he gave us some of the seeds to plant and he also gave my mother a couple of zip-lock bags full of these seeds.

Sadly, that same year we had a very bad draught. Despite the fact that these plants are very hearty, even they could not survive the months and months of no rain. They did sprout up and bear a couple of seeds, but not enough to use for anything. But still, we had the sacks of seeds the gentleman had given us. We could use those to make rosaries.


Fast forward nearly two decades (hah, rosary pun) and here I am struggling to find a supplier for these seeds, or even the seeds themselves so that I might plant them. I prayed to the Theotokos to help me honor both her and my mother by making prayer ropes out of these seeds. 

After awhile my wife and I moved from Virginia back to my home area (Greater Cincinnati). About a month ago we were over at my dad's house for dinner. He asked me to go get something out of the storage room upstairs. So I trotted up the steps to grab whatever it was we needed. The storage room is filled with mom's "crafty" things. Sewing machines and sewing tables, craft books, knitting supplies, fabric, you name it. I found what I'd come in for and turned to walk out the door. 

Glancing over at a corner as I was leaving the room I noticed all of mom's rosary making supplies boxed up. Curious as to what was left I began to rummage through the boxes. As I'm rummaging I discover not only the two bags of the Job's Tear seeds that had been given us so long ago, but also found string for tying the seeds together, and tools for tying the knots in the cord! I was so excited that I snatched all of it up and, after the visit was over, hurried home to try my hand at stringing these seeds together. Since then I've been able to find not only a bulk supplier for these seeds, but a source for viable seeds so that I can start to grow my own.

About a week ago (Palm Sunday) I planted my first batch of the Panagia's Tears in a couple of little porch-type planters. I'm calling it the "Panagia's Garden" and dedicating that little "garden" to both the Theotokos and to the memory of my mother. God willing, and through the intercession of the Theotokos and my mother, these plants will grow and bear fruit.

In the meantime I have a small supply of these seeds hollowed out, I've strung up a number of prayer ropes, and if I run out of seeds I've found a place to buy them in bulk.


I am offering these "Panagia's Tears" prayer ropes for sale if anyone is interested. I only plan on making 33, 50, and 100 "knot/seed" ropes with these seeds. I've found that at 100 knots/seeds the rope is starting to get rather long, and anything larger than that would be completely unwieldy. Along with the seeds, I'm using olive wood beads from Bethlehem as the divider beads and olive wood crosses from Jerusalem as the Cross. I've chosen to use these items from the Holy Land, the place where Christ dwelt, as a reminder that the Word became flesh. This gives us a connection to the place where Christ was born, where he lived and preached, where he suffered and died, and where he rose again on the third day. In stringing the seeds together, I also tie a small knot between each seed for spacing and durability purposes.

I will have more photographs of these prayer rope on my "Photos" page. Below, however, is a photo of one of my Panagia's Tears prayer ropes that I made for a dear friend of mine.

7 comments:

  1. Phillip — Thank you for the beautiful prayer rope made with Panagia’s Tears. I love the way the smooth seeds feel in my hands.The rope is sturdy, but is flexible and folds up nicely in my pocket. I showed it to friends at the Pascha service last night and they all thought it was lovely.

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    1. Kim, as always your encouragement and support mean a great deal to me. God bless you. :)

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  2. Christ is Risen!
    This is absolutely beautiful...as is the special meaning behind them. God bless!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. Please keep me, a poor sinner, and my little family in your prayers. :)

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  3. Hi, I'm new to your site and I love it, very educational. Love the rosary, how much are you selling the 30 beads for. You can email me at bicyclequeen67@gmail.com if you want. Thank you I'm in North Carolina

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  4. Good morning from Manila! I would like to order at least 3 pcs. I hope you made again. If you can email me to johanna.d.diaz@gmail.co.? God bless you always. And how do I order? Thankfullness :-)

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  5. Good morning,
    Would you consider making a 64-beads rosary? I am an Ethiopian Orthodox and would love to have one. I will check in again here. Thank you.

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