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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The use of amulets, objects believed to have magical or supernatural powers that will protect the wearer from some evil, have been common among people in all religious traditions since ancient times. They have generally been distinguished from talismans, objects designed to accomplish goals desired by the object’s possessor, although in practice, amulets and talismans are difficult to distinguish. Amulets come in all shapes and sizes, indicative of the many cultures from which they derive and the spectrum of uses for which they are employed. They are often used in conjunction with specific magical formulas, prayers, or devotional activity.

In the premodern world, amulets were often associated with the spirit entities that were seen as freely populating the world. They were seen as the home to spirits, and often as a protection from the actions of evil or mischievous spirits (demons). Amulets could thus protect someone from illness, injury, impotence, or various mental disorders deemed to be caused by demonic possession or obsession. Relative to the social order, amulets were seen as providing protection from the wrath of neighbors, arrest, unfavorable decisions in court, and downturns in business.

In the West, a magical strain remained after Christianity came into dominance, especially at the popular level, and sacred objects were frequently viewed as having talismanic value. In some European cultures, concern with the protection from the veil has been strong, and amuletlike objects designed to protect one from the evil eye remain popular. However, Protestants attacked many of the magical elements remaining in Roman Catholicism (including the assigning of amulet-like efficacy to sacred objects, such as the relics of saints). Later, during the Enlightenment, amulets were largely relegated to the dustbins as superstitious objects and driven out of mainstream use.

With the revival of magic in the nineteenth century, amulets, shorn of much of their pre-scientific association with spirits and demons, began to make a comeback, at least within the magical community (admittedly a very small community relative to the total population). However, in the decades since World War II, not only has the Western Esoteric community expanded greatly, but cultural and religious practices from a variety of cultures where amulets remained popular have been disseminated by immigrants and the forces of globalization. Amulets of all varieties have become available from practitioners of Western Esotericism (especially Neo-paganism and ceremonial magic), practitioners of various Eastern and Middle Eastern religions, and commercial establishments supportive of both.

Today, amulets are generally seen as objects that contain or focus cosmic magical power, rather than the abode of spirits or demons. At the same time, ancient amulets have become popular items worn simply as jewelry or decoration.


Andrews, Carol. Amulets of Ancient Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.
Budge, E. A. Wallis. Amulets and Superstitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930.
Elliot, Gabrielle. The Creations of Talismans, Amulets, and Good Luck Charms. Macclesfield, Cheshire, UK: New Wiccan Publications, 2000.
Pavitt, William T., and Kate Pavitt. The Book of Talismans, Amulets, and Zodiacal Gems. Detroit: Tower Books, 1914.
Vinci, Leo. Talismans, Amulets, and Charms: A Work on Talismanic Magic. New York: Regency Press, 1977.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
She laid one finger on her mouth and concealed the amulet in her bosom.
thief!] that sets the serai ablaze of nights; but he looked more carefully, and, hand on amulet, drew his own conclusions.
Yes, I replied; and the charming thing is that they deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth, which is simply that, unless they give up eating and drinking and wenching and idling, neither drug nor cautery nor spell nor amulet nor any other remedy will avail.
It was also required of him that he should partake of their exercise of constantly ascending an endless flight of stairs; and, lest his legs, unused to such exertion, should be weakened by it, that he should wear upon one ankle an amulet or charm of iron.
Apart from the historically and culturally significant physical objects showcased, the exhibition featured photos and short videos that demonstrated the importance of the amulets to the Filipino people, as well as the rituals related to them.
Sukkar -- PPP senior leader Khurshid Shah has said this is the only government which is running on magic, sorcery and amulets.
The Egyptian archaeological mission uncovered as well a number of clay pots, amphorae, plates, amulets and scarabs carved in gold and faience, in addition to bronze coins dating back to the Ptolemaic era.
Between March 12 and April 12, travelers who visit any of the 'information stations' - set up at 26 participating business entities in the capital of Taiwan - and ask questions or make purchases, will receive limited-edition good luck amulets, said the Department of Information and Tourism of Taipei.
People who want to be lucky in the year of the pig should stay away from charms and amulets that may be laced with toxic chemicals, an environmental and health watchdog warned on Monday.
"Some lucky charms and amulets that are supposed to attract energy, health, fortune and happiness are unluckily contaminated with cadmium and lead, two highly hazardous substances that belong to the WHO's list of 10 chemicals of major public health concern," Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition, said.
EcoWaste Coalition has warned the public specifically the "luck seekers" from purchasing Feng Shui charms and amulets that are laced with dangerous levels of cadmium and lead, two highly hazardous chemicals.