“Different types of talismans and amulets help protect from illness, calamity, and death and provide a channel for great opportunities for success and abundance.”
You may already be familiar with different types of talismans and amulets. Still, these two words are among the most mysterious in the English language because of their strong associations with the supernatural and the realms of myth and legend.
The term “amulet” has always been associated with defense from harm, whereas “talisman” takes us to the depths of Eastern mystery. It makes us think of magnificent rings and swords and the heroes destined to complete their missions because of something they were given, found, or won. A universe like One Thousand and One Nights awaits us in these dreams!
And if you’re fascinated with creating talismans and amulets of your own at home, be sure to check out Xinar’s super extensive collection of 925 sterling silver charms, especially these collections: Pendants & Lavalier, Spiritual and Ritual Charms, and Zodiac and Celestial Charms.
Where Did All These Types of Talismans Come From?
But if we observe the world around us, and especially if we like traveling to different places, we all will discover that different talismans and amulets have been used in various contexts for ages. Moreover, this practice is not limited to tribal or animist societies.
Whether a hand or a tooth, a gris-gris, or a holy medal, these items can be found in every religion practiced by humans. And despite our best efforts to convince ourselves otherwise, faith in their benefits remains strong in the modern era. For example, taxi drivers in the Far East commonly hang talismans from their rearview mirrors, whereas Europeans are more likely to keep Saint Christopher medals in their vehicles.
Talismans are sold at Japanese temples and are sometimes used as an entry ticket instead of money.
There is no shortage of lucky charms and different types of talismans worldwide. From the four-leaf clover to the May Day lily of the valley, there is a wide variety of lucky charms to choose from. For example, in Japan, New Year’s Day is spent in temples buying hamaya, arrows believed to have the capacity to ward off evil spirits. An excellent good luck charm is a boat depicting the seven lucky gods (Shichifukujin); other examples are the Inu-Mariko, a paper-maché dog that not only brings luck but also aids women in childbirth, and the Akabeko, a paper-maché cow or bull that can avoid calamity. The hangman’s rope or a swallow’s heart in Europe; the heart of a hero or a brave man in Manchuria; “the semen of the god Wodan,” a name given to Neolithic artifacts in Alsace; these are only a few examples of the many similar charms that have existed throughout history.
In their countless guises, different types of talismans and amulets are widely used by people everywhere. In France and other nations, a whole section of the media is devoted to advertising lucky charms like medals and crosses.
To understand the role of amulets and talismans in the Middle Ages, it is necessary to 0consider evidence from much earlier. One such amulet was discovered on the body of a man (dubbed tzi) in the Alps, close to the boundary between Austria and Italy. Around his neck, the prehistoric person wore a leather pouch containing various artifacts.
Evidence of their use as amulets can be found in fossilized sea urchins with holes bored in them for hanging at Neolithic sites from the Bronze Age and Iron Age; as late as the last few decades, peasants might be seen wearing them as talismans.
According to Arab mythology, Eve consistently carried the names that might be used to command the submission of demons with her as self-defense. The East and the Middle East are the sources of our oldest historical accounts.
Customers for such items may be found among the Persians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Greeks, and Jews. It’s common knowledge that amulets like the Eye of Horus or Udjat can ward off the evil eye. Other examples include scarabs, knotted ropes, djed pillars, and (curiously) the rings worn by sorcerers in France’s Auvergne region.
Where Did Amulets Come From?
In Varro’s writing, the Latin word amulet appears for the first time (first century BCE). “phylactery” comes from the Greek verb amoliri, meaning to protect or drive away.
The worm refers to a portable and usually small tutelary item like a seal, medal, or figure believed to have protective properties. In the 14th century, the French word amulet came to be.
It was initially a feminine noun but was transformed into its current masculine form in the next century.
There are a plethora of terms for this category of thing.
Items from all over the world, like scapular, Christian relics, and even the African gris-gris, were all well-known examples in the medieval Western world because of the Romans.
The “hand of Fatima,” which is said to protect its wearer from the evil eye in the Maghreb, is only one example of many amulets.
Pliny the Elder, the reasonable and enlightened thinker behind the most extensive compilation of information from classical antiquity, constantly railed against the deeds of contemporaries and magicians.
Multiple references to amulets help us understand that a wide variety of items can serve as protective charms. His usage of the term sphragides, “seal, tablet,” which is more closely related to Greek and Oriental tradition and emerged in the Middle Ages at the end of the thirteenth century—a time when authors of magic and astrology literature commonly referred to seals—is also noteworthy (sigla).
The renowned scholar Pliny used the word “amulet” fewer than ten times in very distinct situations, allowing us to learn about its various elements. He also mentions cyclamen root and basilisk blood, used to make amulets that are said to be effective in warding off witchcraft and bats. Pliny also considers the enormous, notched horns of scarabs to be phylactery, suggesting that they be worn around children’s necks for protection in the same way that amber should. However, he also echoes Callistratus in saying that amber is effective against urinary retention, whether eaten or worn as jewelry.
Spitting is even more incredible, as Pliny claims it can act as an amulet if you spit in your urine or your right shoe before you put it on.
⁹ It’s evident that the concept as a whole has nothing to do with a manufactured product.
The first thing that stands out from Pliny’s narrative is that the purpose of amulets is protection, and the second is that practically anything can be used to make one. Pliny employs the verb alligate, “to tie, to adhere to,” in all its grammatical forms, nearly exclusively to describe the action of wearing an amulet. The Middle English word “carry” comes from the Latin verb gesture.
Magicians had access to a wealth of information about the hidden benefits of the natural world that is reflected in amulets. Pliny gives us only one instance of true magic, which involves using two Greek characters written on parchment, but he doesn’t explain what they imply. In addition, scholars and authors were fluent in the classical period’s literary and linguistic traditions.
Traditional Forms of Amulets
Wrapped in silk or taffeta, these can be worn around the neck or as a bracelet. Bracelets made from oak mistletoe or an elk’s hoof callus are just two examples of the various types of protective jewelry available.
Large medal with a magnetic base between L two crystals, in a gold or silver setting, or a circular shape, with the likenesses of notable people engraved on the circumference. Alternatively, commoners may wear their pentacles enclosed between two pieces of cloth, such as an Agnus Dei or a scapular. They are tucked in at the chest, between the outer layer and the shirt.
The periapta consist of buttons, sachets, or medals with an external piercing and an interior containing powders, animals, or a magnetic substance and are worn around the neck.
Origins of Different Types of Talismans
The Arabic word “tilsam” is the primordial term that eventually gave rise to the universal or blanket term for different types of talismans. A Tilsam refers to an object (stone, ring, etc.) engraved with sacred symbols endowed with magical protective and empowering abilities.
The Greek word telesma, from which the Arabic word tilsam is derived, is a very general term with several possible meanings. For example, Byzantines used it to denote a ghost (scorchio), whereas others used the term to allude to a work of the devil.
The Greek word for “the rite” is the compound télotourgia, from the verb télo, which means “to bring to an end.” Therefore, it would appear that a talisman is an object sanctified, likely by ritual, which endows it with potent and helpful magical power. During the Byzantine era, people thought these items housed numerous devils merged into them through a magical rite known as téleté.
In antiquity, the word “Abrasax” or “Abraxas” referred to a stone with the Greek word “Abraxas” inscribed on the whole or part of one side, frequently alongside a human figure with a rooster’s head and two snakes for legs. The decan Chnoubis of ancient Egypt is another version, with a human head on a serpent encircled by rays. As well as titles like Sabaoth, Adonai, Ostris (meaning Osiris), and Harpocrates, the reverse side is sometimes etched with detailed images.
The Greek letters of “Abraxas” add up to 365 when the name is examined through the lens of numerology. From this name, the 365 spirits (pneumata) and kingdoms were said to have sprung, according to the Gnostics of the Basilidian sect. Abraxas eventually meant any amulet adorned with magical symbols to boost a gem’s curative properties. Ablagatagalba, another word we come across, is a palindrome since it has the same meaning whether read from right to left or the other way around.
Like haunted items (stoicheioména: “inhabited by a stocheio”), the talismans known as telesmata can be broken down into three distinct types determined by their primary function and the method employed to invite the stocheio inside. Two types of talismans will be discussed: those that include helpful demons, such as those built by the Apollonius of Tyana to safeguard a city, and those tied to the lives of prominent individuals or families who are doomed if the talisman is destroyed.
These two categories of talismans have been the stuff of mythology for a very long time. The size and portability requirements for the inhabited object are not strict. An individual or a group possesses it, and it possesses more broad properties.
Talismans make it possible to guard, attack, or produce spectacular consequences. The Palladium, a statue of Pallas, is perhaps the most well-known example in Western culture. It supposedly crashed to earth near Ilus’ tent as the hero constructed Troy. The Trojans considered it a guarantee of their city’s security to have it in their control. During Numa Pompilius, a sacred shield known as the Ancile fell from the heavens and became the Romans’ Palladium. Despite researchers’ continued inclusion of these items in the category of “city talismans,” it is generally accepted that their magical and protective qualities make them amulets rather than talismans because no special preparation is mentioned.
Solomon’s ring, a circular amulet inscribed with two equilateral triangles that cross to form a hexagon and, in its center, the name of God, is another well-known magical artifact.
Numerous stones with engravings of this bug can be discovered in the collections of major museums. For example, Hesychius claims that Pisistratus put a bronze grasshopper atop the Acropolis as a charm against the evil eye.
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