Kompolói (κομπολόι, pronounced koboloi) are Greek 'worry beads' (far left) and the name is derived from the medieval word κομβολόγιον made up of the two words κόμβος ('knot') and λόγιο ('collection') which comes from the Greek expression, 'se kathe kompo leo' (literally 'in each knot he says') and links this fidget device to the komboskini, the prayer beads or knotted prayer ropes of the Orthodox monks.
However, whilst resembling a rosary, the kompolói no longer has any religious significance.
Kompolói come in all sizes (the usual length is approximately two palm widths) and with varying numbers of beads - though always an odd number. There is also a 'head' composed of a fixed bead (παπάς, 'priest'), a shield (θυρεός) to separate the two threads and help the beads to flow freely, and a tassel (φούντα).
A variation on the kompolói (above near left) is a single strand of beads - sometimes only two - that is known as begleri or mpegleri, derived from the verb mpeglerizo meaning 'I roll the dice'.
According to a Greek website (curiously advertising itself as 'A Taste of Greece - without the Travel'!):
So, now you know - although I have to say, I have yet to see any 'independent' Greek women demonstrating their skill with the kompolói...
The kompolói, or coboloi and was first introduced by the Turks. From the Turks it became popular, as an accessory at the hands of the dignitaries and sovereigns as symbol of force, wealth and power.
Soon kompolóis became popular among the common people as means for meditation and companion in lounging and to calm the pain. Because kompolói is a accessory able to cover various human needs, it passed to the hands of antisocial elements. For them it became symbol of independence, freedom and reactive and rough behaviour.
The above, in addition to the intensification of the production and the rhythms of life after the second World War, lead to the decay of kompolói, since the new conditions and ideologies created societies of people struggling to success and survive.
In our age, when rhythms of life are exhausting and stress, shopping, drinks, smoking, depression and antidepressant drugs have become a matter of everyday life, kompoloi makes a dynamic come-back and offers many solutions to the 'dead ends' of contemporary life. Because kompolói is:
o A way of giving up bad habits, such as smoking, nervousness or comfort eating, or biting our nails
o A jewel, when it is strung with valuable beads made of amber, semi-precious stones or precious metals
o A remedy, when it is made of semiprecious stones, which radiate a health-enhancing energy
o A piece of art, when it is designed with high standards of aesthetics
o A collector’s item, as it can be rare, beautiful, and precious
o A symbol of strength, power, when it is artistic and precious
o An amulet, when it contains symbols of our beliefs and good luck
o A psychotherapist, because the massage to our fingers can relax our neural system
o A home decorative for our the furniture, table and the walls
o A joy for our senses, with its purling beads, silken touch, vibrant colours, and the magical scent of amber and aromatic wood
o A personal trainer, because we can use it to train our fingers' skills
o An heirloom, redolent of our forebears’ lives and the tales they told, and bearing the story of our own lives forward to generations to come
o A medium between man and God, because it can be used as a rosary to count prayers
o A symbol of wealth; it points out that we have plenty of free time
o A reflection of our personality, as it reflects our ego, in the same way as our car or our house does
This is why we are not exaggerating if we say "show me your worry beads and I’ll show you who you are". Indeed, kompoloi is not just a fashion fad: it is a necessity! It is the jewel of men and the symbol of independency for women. Instead of smoking cigarettes one after the other, or yelling out angry vocals, lets keep or fingers busy with our favourite worry beads.
Nikolas Glinatsi and his fiancé, Eleni, gave me a kompolói and a beglari as a going-away present this year...
Whilst I have 'played' with Greek worry beads for a number of years, I am far from accomplished, so here's Nickolas' father, George Glinatsi, demonstrating how to do it properly.
First, here's how to handle your kompolói...
And now the beglari technique...
Hmmm... Well, I guess I'll just have to keep practising and hope I can show some improvement before next year!
Images: Brian Sibley / Movies: David Weeks © 2008