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Not to be confused with an amulet, a talisman can take many forms to serve as a means of actively aiding its bearer in some kind of task. Getty Images.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Talismans are one of two common varieties of magical objects, the other being amulets. The two are often confused. Amulets are magical objects that are designed to protect the owner/wearer. Talismans are much more active items, usually designed to assist a transformation or cause something to happen. Thus one might obtain an amulet to protect him- or herself from an enemy, a curse, or a disease. On the other hand, one might use a talisman to find a love, obtain a better job, or acquire wealth.

Like amulets, talismans may be made of different materials and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some common talismans draw on astrological symbolism, while others use the names of angelic or deific figures or words of power. A soldier, for example, might wear a talisman based upon the symbol of the planet Mars so as to bring success on the battlefield, while a talisman with an angelic name could be used to bring healing. One of the most unusual talismans was one utilizing the severed hand of a thief, which would then be used by other thieves as a magical aid in their work.

Textbooks on magic often contain detailed rules for the production and empowerment of talismans. Talismans could not just be drawn; they had to be produced correctly at the proper time, and be energized by a magical ritual. The most difficult talisman to produce was the so-called Philosopher’s Stone, which, among other powers, could assist the alchemist in the transformation of base metals into silver or gold. The use of talismans begins in prehistoric times and continues to the present. They have become very popular in the West as magical religions (ceremonial magic, Wicca, Neo-paganism) have experienced significant renewal. They continue to be used by a variety of older indigenous religions that include magic in their practice and that perpetuate the belief in malevolent magic.


Budge, E. A. Wallis. Amulets and Talismans. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1968.
Ferrell, Nick. Making Talismans, Living Entities of Power. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2001.
Gonzalez-Wippler, Migene. Complete Book of Amulets and Talismans. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1991.
Waite, Arthur Edward. The Book of Ceremonial Magic. 1911. Reprint, New York: Barnes & Noble, 1999.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
The princess, who realized the consequences of such audacity, entreated me not to touch the talisman. "If you do, it will be the ruin of both of us," said she; "I know genii much better than you." But the wine I had drunk had confused my brain; I gave one kick to the talisman, and it fell into a thousand pieces.
Hardly had my foot touched the talisman when the air became as dark as night, a fearful noise was heard, and the palace shook to its very foundations.
Feeling faint, I slipped and fell against the talisman, which broke.
Master Richard himself, thought the groom, was not in his ordinary; for in truth, he carried the hand-bag like a talisman, and either stood listless, or set off suddenly walking in one direction after another with brisk, decisive footsteps.
And having put three or four double pistoles into his pocket to answer the needs of the moment, he placed the others in the ebony box, inlaid with mother of pearl, in which was the famous handkerchief which served him as a talisman.
Widely thought to have magic powers offering protection, good luck and prosperity to those possessing a talisman, Azza Fahmy Jewellery continues to creatively use timed-honored skills and her usual artisan attention to detail, uniquely bringing together carefully selected international talismans.
Berezutski (right) insists Russia will not take Wayne Rooney lightly but claims they have "23 talismans" of their own ready to embarrass England.
The High Magic of Talismans & Amulets: Tradition and Craft provides a fine study of the use of talismans and amulets in Western mystical traditions and uses the author's own collection of medieval manuscripts and his access to the rare book archives of major European universities to provide a complete history of talismans and amulets and all their various uses in both Eastern religion and Western scenarios.
Beautifully illustrated with color photography, Amulets, Talismans & Magical Jewelry: A Way To The Unseen, Ever- Present, Almighty God by clinical psychologist and Jungian, rituals and beliefs.
Hoisted 10m above the ground, the canopies provided shade for visitors and created a peaceful place of rest, and from beneath were adorned by hundreds of suspended talismans.