Amulets and Talismans

Book of Shadows

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Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman,
before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.
- John Quincy Adams


Talisman

The word Talisman is derived from the Greek work Teleo, which means to consecrate. A talisman must be charged with a magickal purpose. The Talisman, by strictest definition, is always prepared for a definite reason, time or event with exact symbolism the nature of which is attractive. The more specific the better.

But here is where the lines blur between Amulets and Talisman. If natural is the first definition of an Amulet and consecrated is the first definition for a Talisman. What of simple unconsecrated religious icons purchased and never blessed - a Bridget’s Cross, a star of David, the hand of Fatima, a Triple spiral, the eye of Horas, Thor’s hammer, a St. Christopher medal, or a pentacle - which seems on the surface - no different than a wedding ring or a train token which are made amulets by virtue of their valued for personal reasons. But these “amulets” are an exception. All are worn with an implied historical use of protection. For that reason and that they are never used for another purpose - to gain money or love or a more specific goal like getting pregnant with a son and not a daughter - they are considered Talisman, not Amulets.

Yet Talisman can be shamanistic, a spirit bag or mojo bag with the appropriate elemental symbols, stones, feathers, shells, bones, herbs, tied together and enchanted to effect a particular goal, These too are talisman and no longer amulets, because a magickal person with skill and knowledge combined the right elements at the right time to effect a specific change.

The better definition of the word Talisman is exampled by the elaborate consecrated charms used for a particular purpose, most often based in Ceremonial Magick and Alchemy -like the Invictus Alchemy - to master the magickal arts, to attract love, to attract money, or to preserve one’s safety in travel.

Runic charms were popular and easily carved into stone or wood to like today, stamped into silver to charm a goal. To the left, are three runes, the first with the rune Tyr, used to insure victory, the second a glyph composed of several runes to attract love, the final one a more elaborate runic talisman to attract love.


My Wedding symbol was a talisman. The wolf and sword symbol was a construct of the wolf pin I wore which represented what I brought to the marriage as the person and my husband’s sword represented his offering to me in marriage. These symbols will never mean anything else at any other time. My husband drew the picture and a rubber stamp was made and consecrated from that.

Two wedding talisman were blessed during the ceremony. Two charms - a flame representing the Sun/Masculine Divine blessing Danny and a chalice representing the Moon/ Feminine divine blessing me. Both charms played a role in the ceremony...the flame pendant during the candle ceremony rested under the Solar Deity candle. The chalice pendant sat at the bottom of my silver Full Moon chalice in which we shared during the wine ceremony. We wore the charms the entire first year we were married as a blessing on our us and our marriage.

My Handfasting cord was also woven as a magickal talisman. It’s colors were our wedding colors, burgundy (love, passion) green (life, prosperity) ivory (light, devotion) plus, gold (longevity) and silver (protection). Cords used in a Wiccaning/Paganing ceremonies have colors woven for specific talents, hopes or characteristics of a particular child. It is then hung over his/her bed for protection.

The couple who were the Heralds at my wedding married two years later and my husband designed their invitations. On it we designed wedding cross that was a marriage talisman - a Celtic cross to represent her Celtic Christian path but with Chinese characters running down the Latin part of the cross representing His Chinese/Buddhist path. The symbols meant good fortune, love and blessings.



Amulet

An Amulet, according to Pliny is an object that protects a person from trouble. I tend to lean toward gifts of nature as amulets like an animal claw or tooth, a feather, a rabbits foot, a dried leaf, a shamrock, or a Holey Stone. These are not created or consecrated for a magickal purpose. They simply have intrinsic magickal abilities to protect or to bring luck.

Some of my earliest amulets were these four stones I picked off the beach at La Jolla. We had attended my “cousin” S.D.'s wedding (the son of Mother's dear friends C&E D.) the day before. Mother and foster brother J.G. had come from Vegas while I was still living in Lancaster, California. We spent the night in La Jolla and left the day after. The sky was restless and the ocean was calling both Mother and I. I walked to the shore and wrote a blessing in the sand for S.D. & his new wife and let the tide take it. And I looked down and some of the prettiest colored rocks were just lying there. Green for luck, red for love, white for peace and yellow for joy. The color attributions that my mother had taught me.

This leaf is from the Cottonwood tree that grew by the lake on the ranch. Under this leaf I committed myself to a magickal life. Under the tree that bore it, I dedicated my first tools. I had many a full moon ritual under that tree and in that lake. This feather was a recent present deposited on my welcome mat. I often find feathers as there are so many birds that nest in our trees. But this one was special because someone had to actually stand on the doormat to leave it because we have a deep overhang. Such a personal present has to be blessed.


An amulet can be a manufactured thing and is where Amulets begin to overlap the thin line that separates an amulet from a Talisman. A wedding ring becomes a protection amulet infused with love and memory, a coin left to one from ones grandfather can be a lucky amulet, a pair of socks can be lucky for a baseball player, or even the lucky catch of a rock star’s guitar pick can become an amulet. My husband’s Metallica guitar pick became a safety in travel amulet (along with a hematite stone) when he was traveling so often for his company. The Queensryche pick and one that my brother in law, J.R., caught at a Corrs concert are also lucky pieces. These things not having been made for a magickal purpose become amulets to those who see the intrinsic magick within them. This little bone handled knife is only two inches long and was intended to be a toothpick, but I put them in my Home Protection Witch Bottles.

Amulets differentiate themselves from Talisman since they are used for general purposes: almost always for either protection (to ward off danger or evil) or to draw good fortune to the bearer. They are often not intended to that purpose by the maker or nature, but are judged so by the bearer of the amulet for whatever intrinsic magick one has the perception to sense or the sentimentality to value.

A green stone on it’s own is a good fortune amulet, carve it with the word “Prosperity” or cut Futhark runes into a hematite stone like Raido, to insure safety in travel; Uruz, to draw strength, and Ehwaz, to attract or strengthen a friendship and the amulet becomes more than it is usually defined, but not quiet a Talisman. A coin can be marked with an attraction symbol on it in hopes of becoming rich someday. These are still Amulets, and not Talisman unless they are constructed and consecrated for the purpose of a specific event - this horse, winning this race, on this day, at this time.

The Aventurine prosperity stone above was a commercial product done in a general manner and without much magickal insight. It was by chance that this word found this stone, because the word “prosperity” was also written on Picasso Jasper, Sodalite, Onyx, Bloodstone and Pink Quartz and a dozen other stones - along with the words love, success, magic, beauty and the like. To me however much I like the stone, it is an amulet, until I work it as a Talisman. If I take the stone, incense it, oil it, incant over it for the purpose of carrying it on Tuesday at 3:30 while going on a job interview...it’s a talisman.

Often, a token becomes an amulet to the bearer because it ties them to a person or moment in time that is precious. The power of that memory becomes tied to the token. With time a precious token can magickally become the essence of that moment or that person. Again the barer, not the creator decides the magickal value of the item. This is how ordinary items intended or unintended -become amulets. We expect that a piece of jewelry, a worn baseball mitt, a pocket watch or other item that held emotional value for one becomes a precious amulet after one is parted from the original owner.

One of my first amulets was given to me by my childhood sweetheart, D.H. I loved him as much as a 14 year old was able. He was of German descent and he had a German coin cut in half and drilled for each of us to wear. I kept it to remind me of him, our affection, and the young woman I once was, who thought the sun rose and set in his blue eyes.

Mother used to wear a Philadelphia train token on her necklace of holy medals (of St. Anthony, St. Christopher and St. Patrick). Along with those, mother wore the talisman, my adopted sister, S.S.G & I had made for her in the mid seventies - the key chain charm that would will the Chalice ranch into being, and the home she would call Tres Santos inscribed on the back. It was carved with a chalice and set in the center with a garnet - her birthstone. Long before we knew the magickal purpose of giving garnets to secure that we will meet our loved ones in another lifetime, we bonded with Mother in giving this gift. These five charms, three from her Catholic roots and the other two representing magickal connections to her past and to her future are a perfect representation of Mother’s philosophy as a blend of Christian and Pagan.


© 2004-2012 Ardriana Cahill

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