Dressing bohemian style often attracts certain curious minds, and hence; interesting conversations. I confess, having played that card on purpose. Last time, it was my “eternal knot” pendant, it’s a pretty small and simple piece of beautiful work. Intertwining lines in an endlessly looping knot carved on a white stone. I have a whole collection of these little ones with various Buddhist symbols carved on stone and bone. I call them “ice breakers”.
Here’s a good one while I waited for my bird at Toronto Pearson Airport.
(Eyeing up my pendant)
“What does that mean”?
It is called an eternal coil. In Buddhist mythological symbols, it signifies how everything is connected. Wisdom and compassion make a full circle.
Yea (ice breaking smiles)
“ Are Buddhists Bohemian?”
Well...it’s not a rule but some are, but that has nothing to do with Buddhist symbols incorporated in bohemian jewelry.
“How come? And why the Buddhist symbols then?
The modern bohemian culture, especially when it comes to dressing up, incorporates ideas and elements from Romani people. These were cash strapped common folks and artists with no permanent homes or countries, always on the move. In the west, we witnessed a big cultural shift during the sixties, famously known as the counterculture movement. People in western countries didn't leave their homes to hit the road never to return, but borrowed heavily the idea of freedom from obsessive materialism and control. There was lots of sewing, knitting, putting oneself to use for things of emotional values put far away for far too long. There was this strong urge to connect to each other, to the earth and skies. This is where oriental philosophy comes in with concepts of spiritual freedom such as Moksha and Buddhism.
The looping lines you see on my pendant signify the eternal union of wisdom and compassion. That being said, this doesn’t necessarily mean that I am a Buddhist or even a religious person. I am just self-aware that I have a strong Bohemian side which pines for love, compassion, and wisdom.
“No kidding!” This pendant of yours must be rare and expensive then?
No, not at all. On the contrary, it's fairly inexpensive. There’s a saying that, “If it doesn’t fit a bohemian pocket, it ain't bohemian”. Why should compassion and wisdom be rare and expensive? Also, one cannot buy either with a fat wallet. Apart from symbolism in bohemian jewelry, what makes it so special is the labor of love. It’s not only in the Spiritual message it carries, but also in how it’s expressed. This handmade piece I’m wearing comes from Kathmandu. You’d be surprised how many artists make these fine pieces in the Kensington market in Toronto year around too. They use ordinary material but with their art and passion, turn that material into something personal. A piece of jewelry with personal engagement starts right from the time someone started collecting beads for the string to make a pendant and continues to one wearing it; Journey continues with understanding the meaning, connecting, and becoming part of this endless chain.
“ Is it like you have to go to India and live in an Ashram for half a century to cleanse yourself of worldly dirt before buying yourself a couple of those (pointing to the pendant)?”
That would be Lovely! but not compulsory. I bought myself cowboy shoes without spending half my life at a countryside stable (I wish I could have!). I wanted these shoes to flaunt my Cowboy side sometimes, and they look super cool. Same goes for bohemian clothing and accessories too. It shows my alignment with the bohemian lifestyle, even if I am not a 100 % non-conformer. Maybe you're a Free Spirit or carry a Bohemian Soul without consciously knowing that.
“I feel it, yes. I had my doubts but I kinda knew. I love the Bohemian vibe but all the work behind spiritual initiations and history? Nah! I want to travel light. How do you shop for Bohemian stuff? Do you read sacred scriptures and go looking for the right kinda stuff or you find something first, then invent the scriptures?”
Now that is the closest I’ve ever been to getting caught. Apart from these pendants and bracelets carrying spiritual reminders, I have another dozen bohemian jewelry pieces in my wardrobe which don’t attend to the Spiritual needs but are unique in a way that they are witness to the labor of love. Take this pendant for example; a ruler and bottle opener wrapped in leather. I might not take it off to open a bottle or measure something but this is heck of creativity, turning ordinary into extraordinary. This is exactly what these artists on the move were doing. Making use of ordinary stuff available and turning it into something beautiful. The idea is; less is more. It could be a mantra or an ordinary piece of wire twisted to make a ring. These artisans have vision and skills. It’s about applying yourself and engaging in the creative process. It also portrays the sheer capacity of human beings to salvage mundane stuff around them, to create spiritual wealth.
“Now that sounds inviting. What other peculiar props do you have under your hood? and what would you suggest when I decide to jump the wagon?”
Welcome to the club! My first advice will be to start slow and small. Invest your time in research before you start investing in your wardrobe. Learn how different elements in the bohemian style sit together to make one theme. There’s a whole range of accessories in pocket-friendly bohemian jewelry. Make cocktails of your own. Let the shoes, bracelets and earrings talk. If you decide to go with an earthy linen dress, see what jewelry can add color. If you want to wear a bangle or a pendant with a mantra or spiritual symbol on it, a jute or cotton bag would be a nice fit. There are no rules but you’d have to work really hard to convince me that an office briefcase with bare-feet crochet would nail it. Visit thrift stores, places like Kensington market Toronto often. You never know what piece of art is waiting for you on a good day. Build it up slowly and flaunt it proudly. Let the conversation begin! Sow the seeds and let it grow!
- June 16, 2020
- Mrityunjay Awasthy