Susan red string

7 Reasons to Wear a Red String

I am very fortunate. I have an interesting circle of friends and acquaintances from all walks of life. Americans who are Asian, Hispanic and black, and people on almost every continent and dozens of countries that my husband and I know from work and travel. They are Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Jews; young, old and in-between; and religiously observant and not.  Yet as diverse as they are, I have found that they all have one thing in common: Universally, they notice the simple red string around my wrist and ask me about it.

It’s rare to be able to say, “I have a personal FAQ”—but I do. And it’s “Why are you wearing a red string?

My response is as interesting and compelling to my friends and acquaintances as their wide-ranging histories and cultural practices are to me.  But more significantly—my response always inspires the same reaction from each and every one of them.

Read on to see what they say.

This is my response when they ask me why I wear a red string around my wrist:

“I wear this red string around my wrist as a talisman because it is thought to have magical powers of protection.  It is said to ward off misfortune and attract good luck. It’ a tradition associated with some of the most observant forms of Orthodox Judaism and Kabbalah.  While I am not Orthodox, I believe in its power.”

The string is made from thin red wool, and I am sure it is not a coincidence that it is such a vibrant and vital shade of this powerful hue. I wear it on my left wrist, nearest to my heart. Seven tiny knots secure it. My husband, Shelly, wears one as well. And as part of this ritual, you must never cut off the string. It has to fall off the wearer on its own accord, at which time a loved one ties another red string around the wearer’s wrist.

My last red string stayed on my wrist for exactly one year to the day.  And the one I am currently wearing is approaching that benchmark, and I am curious to see how long it will last.

In fact, the custom of wearing the red string dates back to biblical times, as it is mentioned in Genesis 38. But today, thanks to many celebrities who have embraced this tradition (such as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mick Jagger and dozens more), it is most associated with Judaism’s Kabbalah (the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible).

After I explain the meaning of the red string to someone, I always get the same seven questions, which in truth make it clear anyone can embrace this practice. So I am sharing them with you, dear readers, in the event that you want to embrace this tradition.

  1. Do I have to be Jewish to wear a red string?
    No.  Anyone can embrace this tradition. The red string represents an article of faith in a number of different beliefs.  
  2. Do you have an extra red string to tie on my wrist?