Russian Chotki and Greek Komboskini
There is some uncertainty about who invented the Komboskini / Chotki, some believe it to be Saint Abba Pachomius the Great who lived from 292 A.D. to 348 A.D., other believe it to be Saint Anthony the Great who lived from 251 A.D. to 356 A.D.. We do not know for certain who invented it, both Saints are magnificent and wondrous. Our favourite Saint is Anthony so we believe it to be Saint Anthony The Great. You can read more about St. Anthony here.
And in that honour we continue, ever since Saint Anthony The Great has invented the Orthodox prayer rope it has been in use in Orthodox religion and prayer. Every Orthodox country has its own name for the prayer rope. For instance in Russia and neighboring countries its called a Chotki. In Greece people call these prayer rope Komboskini or Komboloi, the first being the dominant form. Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia call it Brojanica, and in Romania it’s called a Matanii or Metanii.
“So what are these Komboskini and Chotki?”
“What happens to me when I wear it? Do I get some special powers? Will I be winning each poker game from now on? Is luck gonna follow me where ever I go? No people, unfortunately by wearing this bracelet you will not become Superman or Superwoman. On a side note, it is special though… it is not just an Orthodox bracelet or necklace, it is a guidance tool. It helps you to keep count during prayer. That is its original purpose from day one (it does not matter who it was Saint Pachomius or Saint Anthony both had the same reason for inventing it, for counting prayers).”
To recap, Orthodox Christians use prayer bracelets, and prayer necklaces to count the times you recite a prayer and to keep their concentration during prayer. With that, the most known prayer that is used with the Komboskini / Chotki is the Jesus Prayer (“Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a Sinner!”).
Ok.. but why are they so popular? Although the Komboskini / Chotki does not have any superpowers, they are very special. Starting with the special knot, each knot has 7 interlocking crosses and depending on the form has 33, 50, 100, or 300 knots. These bracelets and necklaces are painstakingly handmade in Orthodox Churches/Monasteries it takes hours to make one. During this process, the Chotki / Komboskini are blessed and purified. You can understand that this makes these bracelets and necklaces very desirable, also by non-religious people. Which is OK, it’s good that people are wearing such a special object. It will only have a positive effect, bringing religion closer to people.
The Komboskini / Chotki are available in many different colors and variations. The variations being knotted crosses and cross metal beads with the depiction of the Holy Mary (Theotokos). You will also see them with normal plastic beads in the color black or light blue.