|What Is the Purpose of the Kabbalah Red String?|
Followers of the mystical Judaic tradition Kabbalah often believe that wearing a red string tied around the left wrist will ward off the evil eye. According to Kabbalah teachings, the talisman works as a "spiritual vaccination": the red string, being the color of danger, will shield the wearer against danger and negativity. Before Kabbalah red string is sold to followers, it is wound around the tomb of Rachel, a Biblical matriarch whose motherly protection becomes part of the red string's power.
Many cultures have used a red string, ribbon, or cloth as a ritualistic talisman of protection, including the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Chinese; red string also appears in the folk customs of Ireland, Romania and India. Scholar Elly Teman identifies three elements that make the red string such a powerful cross-cultural symbol: the knotting of the thread, symbolizing binding and closure; the circularity of the string, symbolizing sacredness and protection; and the string's redness, connoting blood, earth and courage.
The Kabbalah red string is a type of "segulah," the Jewish term for a protective, healing spiritual act. However, Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky claims that there is no scriptural basis for this particular segulah, citing instead a Talmudic verse that equates the red-string ritual to superstition and idol worship.
The modern red string ritual began in the '30s when those with fertility problems began making pilgrimages to Rachel's Tomb; thus, early on, the red string was used primarily as a fertility charm. This tradition disappeared while the tomb was under Jordanian rule, but reappeared after the Six Day War in 1967, and the string came to mean protection rather than fertility. The Kabbalah string must be wound seven times around Rachel's Tomb to endow it with full protective powers.
In the '80s, the red string became more and more popular as the conditions in Israel grew more and more uncertain; Elly Teman believes that national anxiety is at the root of contemporary usage of the Kabbalah string. Then, in the late '90s, many celebrities (including Madonna, David Beckham and Britney Spears) began wearing a red string as a fad accessory.
By J.C. Tolentino, eHow Contributor