Sailor’s Knife Lanyard Knot As Is Used On An Eastern Orthodox Prayer Rope

The knots used on prayer ropes compared to the Sailor's Knife Lanyard knot.

The knots used on prayer ropes compared to the Sailor's Knife Lanyard knot.

I was searching through the void one day, looking for something new about knots. I ended up on a site that gave the directions for tying the knots on an Eastern Orthodox prayer rope — their version of a rosary. Making them out of knotted cords makes sense to me — they would be cheaper and easier to make. The materials are whatever is to hand; it is the blessing and prayer which make them holy. They also have all the other virtues of knots tied on a cord: inexpensive, practically unbreakable in the normal sense, and made to your desired specs. You can make them as plain, or as fancy, as your humility or pride demands.

The only thing that puzzled me was how they tie the knots. It is like a single- handed version of Cat’s Cradle. They drape the cords over their hand, and then use a very involved weaving pattern. After I had tied two of them using their method, I took a closer look — they are structurally identical to the Sailor’s Knife Lanyard knot (ABOK # 787 — also called the Two Strand Diamond knot). This is also the same basic structure as the Chinese Button knot (ABOK # 599). It is the method of tying them that is unique, at least to me. It might be that this was done purposefully as a form of meditation. It might be that this was done as a form of sacrifice of personal time and labor. It might be they never asked a sailor how he did it. I have no idea, and no way to find out. The video file I saw wasn’t attributed to anyone I could ask, and had been stripped of all identifiers. This may have been a side effect of trying to shrink the file for the net.

The two knots on the left / lower end were tied by meticulously following the original video. After examining the knots, I decided that the sailor’s method was better for me. I then tied the next two knots for comparison, using the Ashley given method. I can not tell any difference between them. The doubled knot ( the last one on the right / high end) is evidently how they join the loop of beads to the dropper with the cross.

It is amazing what you can learn on the net. If anyone could explain the reason for the involved knot tying method used to make these I would be happy to post it. After all, if you take some out, you should occasionally put some back.

There is now an additional post on this subject. I tried to pass on the answers/ideas that some people had given me in response to this post. I also tied a 10 knot sample of imitation prayer cord with the Sailor’s Knife Lanyard knots as closely spaced as beads would be — this in reponse to one of those ideas.

Thank you for stopping by to see my site. I do hope you profited from it — in either pleasure, or knowledge. If you see any way to make it better, please let me know. Stop by again some time; I’ll be just as happy to see you then, too:


Published in: on October 30, 2009 at 1:50 AM  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. thanks for posting this! I’m not an expert in knots, but I have made Orthodox prayer ropes with that “single handed cat’s cradle” method. It takes awhile to do one knot, but once you learn, it becomes faster. The knots are usually slid close to eachother, with no gap between the knots. Are you able to do this with the Ashley method you referenced? Your photo shows gaps, so I was not sure? Do you find the Ashley method faster and easier?

    I don’t know the history, but suspect that it did originated as a form of meditative practice as you say. The ropes were traditionally made by monks, and used for the repetition of the Jesus prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”. I suspect the same prayer is also recited when making the ropes.

    • First I would like to thank you for visiting my site, and also for leaving a comment. These are both appreciated; the fact that it is a positive comment just makes it a little more so.

      Now to the knots; yes you can make them as close as you desire. I tend to tie my knots very tightly — I have made a closely spaced series of these knots that felt more like a wooden dowel than cordage. I do find the Ashley “sailor’s in-hand method” to be faster, much faster. That may only be because I have tied so many of them that way over the years; it may just be thats the way my hands/brain work the best.

      The meditation theory is a shot in the dark, it is however a shot based on hearing a sound in the darkness before I shot. I am familiar with other processes that were used as a form of concentration/meditation (or just to keep idle hands busy) by different societies. The Japanese were probably my first exposure to this concept, with “moving zazen” Zen meditations. That being said, many different versions of this concept have been used down through the years.

      I would still like to hear from anyone who has first hand knowledge of either the tying method, or any possible mental practices.

      Thank you again for writing.


  2. Hey, I tie Orthodox prayer ropes, and you are both right to some degree. A legend in the Orthodox tradition teaches that St. Pachomius (the founder of monasticism) would tie knots to count his prayers (this was before beads were used such as the rosary). But according to the legend, the Devil came each night and untied the knots to confuse and discourage the saint. So and angel (or Christ) came to teach St Pachomius the method of tying the prayer knot. According to the tradition, the knot contains seven crosses, that is seven crosses go into the tying to the knot. The Devil could not untie the knots any more because he is vanquished by the sign of the cross. So the method is one of devotion and meditation. However it is also an intangible and invaluable piece of Orthodox Christian Tradition. God Bless.

    • Thank you for visiting my site, and a special additional thanks for leaving a comment.

      I realize that because the origins of this knotted prayer rope are hidden behind centuries of time, we may never know what/how the original practitioners thought. I am however open to input about what modern people believe about that time.

      I am also curious as to what the present day beliefs and practice are. Is there some ritual attached to the “single handed cats cradle” method of tying, or is this just accepted practice? Do different people, or groups of people, use different tying methods? There is so much that is not apparent to someone who’s only connection with these prayer ropes is an interest in knots. As some computer I once saw on TV said “More Input …… Need More Input”.

      Thank you again for your comment. Does anyone else have additional information they could share? If so please sing out — we would like to hear from you:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: