The Meaning of Milagros

Muchos Milagros

Beading Daily reader Gloria writes, “Jean, I live in Arizona where I have access to muchos milagros. How do you use them in your beading? Please advise.”

Well, I just had to jump on this one because as I’ve mentioned before, I love milagros! Milagros is the Spanish word for “miracles.” In the bead world, milagros are small metal charms that come in a wide variety of shapes. Traditionally, these charms were used in Latin America and some European countries as religious petitions to saints and deities, somewhat like votive candles at a church altar. Each charm symbolizes a prayer, hope, or wish. People pin individual milagros to the fabric draped over the statue of a saint or sometimes set them out in a shrine; others carry the charms with them to remind them of the prayer for healing or gratitude.

The charm shapes used represent the particular needs of the petitioner. They are used for their face value (for example, a leg charm could be used for healing a broken leg), but there are other traditional meanings, too. Here are some of the qualities assigned to common milagros:

  • Heart: love, joy, longing, passion, worry
  • Arm: work, strength, touch, embrace
  • Leg: strength, support, movement, travel
  • Hand: work, strength, creativity, creation, help
  • Eyes: vision, insight, intuition, vigilance
  • Woman’s/man’s head: mind, thought, spirit, knowledge, wisdom
  • Girl/boy: pregnancy and birth, innocence
  • Praying woman/man: faith, humility, female/male saint
  • Sheep: community, faithfulness, peer pressure
  • Pig: abundance, eating
  • Horse: work, speed, travel, journey
  • Mule: work, travel, stubborness
  • Bull: strength, anger
  • Dog: dog, protection, loyalty
  • House: home, protection, family

I really like the look of these little miracle charms, as opposed to other, more commercially slick charms. Their sometimes crude, sloppy look comes with how they’re made—fast and cheap, poured into metal molds. Their appearance lends a folk-art feel that’s really hard to achieve with more high-end materials. I incorporate them in the same places I might use any other charm. Since they come with their own special meanings, I feel the piece in which I use them will carry those meanings, too, making the piece more unique, especially when I’ve made it as a gift for someone.

How do you use milagros or other special objects in your work? Share your ideas online!

Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!

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