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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Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work.

16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily.

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Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

13 thoughts on “The Meaning of Milagros

  1. Dearest Jean, I adore your Wednesday posts and read them…RELIGIOUSLY! 😉 Speaking of religiously, I have a tiny suggestion about today’s blog. You write that:

    “Traditionally, these charms were used in Latin America and some European countries as religious petitions to saints and deities”

    Actually milagros ARE used…not “were.” The traditions are still very much alive. 😎

    Blog on,

  2. Thanks, Mary! You’re absolutely correct. It’s a great tradition and I’m glad it’s still alive. I’m also thankful that my old friends are reading on Wednesdays (especially my old writing/editing buddies in order to catch my slip-ups!).

    Shelley-I buy my milagros when I’m traveling in the Southwest–I find many bead shops carry them there. Otherwise, there are great sources online. Just type “shop milagros” into your favorite search engine and you’ll be bowled over!


  3. Hi Jean,
    I use milagros all the time in bracelets and necklaces with a religious or spiritual theme. My latest is called “Blessing Bracelet.” It has ten large beads of Kingman turquoise separated by ten milagros and tiny crosses, and incorporating little bits of spondylus shell. Each milagro represents a blessing for which I am thankful–there is a little praying woman, a hand with heart, a hand with a cross, a sun, a moon and star, a flaming heart, and a tiny sleeping baby. Because there are ten beads, the bracelet can be used to pray a decade of the Rosary. I have friends in California who collect milagros and recast their favorites in silver and bronze, so I always have some around to work with.

  4. Jean, darn right I’m reading, especially on Wednesdays! (but not to catch errors 😎 I usually get the blog in my inbox so rarely venture out to the website to say how much I enjoy your posts, especially the photography info awhile back.

    Bead on! Mary 😎

  5. Dear Jean, I second Mary’s comments wholeheartedly! And Mary, I have enjoyed your designs and beading articles for years. RE milagros:since I have contact with Asian cultures here in Hawaii, I want to tell you about their amulets. In the Hindu pantheon, Ganesh is one most revered as the” clearer of the path and patron of new beginnings” He is an elephant headed human and the story goes that as a baby he was beheaded and his mother(wife of a god) made such a fuss that her husband said OK! He will have the head of the next animal to come along, which was an elephant! I have several brass castings 1inch or less high in various poses. The cutest is the baby Ganesh in a Hindu equivalent of a diapercrawling across the floor. Another Indonesian casting much the same size is a goddess (whose name I forget) combing her hair… which causes the rain! And then there’s Rahu-who-causes-eclipses. Less than 20mm high, his mouth gapes WIDE open as he holds the sun in both hands. My astronomer friend just loved it and takes it with her when she does observations on Mauna Kea. He had to be wire wrapped which was hard to avoid obscuring details.
    I like the idea of making copies as Rahu took me a year to find!!
    Hugs to all Janet

  6. Dear Jeank I am new on these bead forums and have been beading for 9 years self-taught. I have had a fascination with milagros. There is a small art gallery in Ojinaga, Mexico where I buy mine. Type in Fausto’s Art Gallery and will be lead to his website where he sells his milagros. thanks for the ideas. Christina L

  7. Dear Jean, I hope you can help me! I accidentally deleted the pattern you used for your family reunion. Was it a’ Survivors’ pattern? It used beads, macrame, and cording. I am in charge of crafts for our reunion next June and would like to recreate your experience. Could you somehow resend me the pattern? I really liked it because it was gender neutral.

    An avid reader and beader,
    Christie K

  8. Hi Christie- Glad you liked that pattern! You can find any of the blogs you receive via email right on this site. That particular blog was posted on August 13–just hit the “BLOGS” button above and scroll down to that date. Good luck!

  9. Dear Jean: I have found milagros online at the bead goes and chevron in north Carolina. There is a store in Phoenix, named suenos that also sells them. Just type milagros jewelry into your search engine, or Google it and you will find quite a lot of places that sell them. Thanks, Beadbug

  10. Hi, I am new here, I am from Mexico city and work with Mazahuas. I’ve read your comments about milagros and I would like to tell you what I’ve found out about this mystic people. Mazahua jewelry includes elements like birds, hearts, silver “tears”, hands which they combined with natural semiprecious stones like jade, colored quartz, lapis, etc. Hands are for friendship but when combined with a red bead represent the girl wants more than friendship, cute hey? Heart is for love and drops or tears represent water, maybe tears?
    We’ve learned so much and are helping to keep this tradition alive since new generations find jewelry “boring”.

    Thank you, hope you find my experience interesting. Tita Rubli

  11. Hello my name is Monica and I live in Taos new mexico and really beleive in the power of Milagros “Miracles” I purchased at the Harwood museum in Taos “A woman and a suitcase” Milagro for my adult daughter trying to get out of an abusive relationship, no sooner did she receive it she found the strength to end the relationship completely, and out of the state where she was living and has had no contact with creepo since.