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amulet (ămˈyəlĭt), object or formula that credulity and superstition have endowed with the power of warding off harmful influences. The use of the amulet to avert danger and to dispel evil has been known in different religions and among diverse peoples. Like the talisman and the charm, the amulet is believed to be the source of an impersonal force that is an inherent property of the object rather than the manifestation of a deity working through that object (see fetish and taboo). Although amulets are most often worn on the body, hanging from the neck or strapped to the arm or leg, they may also serve as protective emblems on walls and doorways (e.g., the Jewish mezuzah). Sometimes the amulet consists of a spoken, written, or drawn magic formula, such as abracadabra and the magic square, or of a symbolic figure, such as the wheel of the sun god and the Aryan swastika. In many cultures the teeth, claws, and other parts of an animal are believed to communicate their properties to the wearer. Although belief in amulets is very widespread in primitive societies, it has survived in modern civilization. Common superstition has endowed such things as the rabbit's foot with the property of being able to bring good luck. In some modern religious practices, amulets such as the Jewish phylactery and the Christian cross are more strictly related to ritual and serve as personal reminders to the wearers of their relationship to God.
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A talisman reputed to have the power of causing the stars to fall from heaven. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The word "talisman" is from the Greek root teleo, meaning "to consecrate." A talisman is a man-made object endowed with magical power, often used for purposes of protection. A rosary, St. Christopher medal, or crucifix are all, in effect, talismans. The most potent of magic is that done for a specific purpose by the person most concerned. Therefore, the normal, store-bought crucifix or St. Christopher medal are too general and nonpersonal to be as effective as they might be. However, as talismans they would certainly be more powerful if constructed from scratch and could be made even more potent by a ritual consecration, as the name implies.

Pierre de Bresche, in Traité des Talismans (1671), said: "A talisman is nothing else than the seal, figure, character, or image of celestial omen, planet, or constellation; impressed, engraved, or sculptured upon a sympathetic stone or upon a metal corresponding to the planet, by a workman whose mind is settled and fixed upon his work and the end of his work without being distracted or dissipated in other unrelated thoughts; on the day and at the hour of the planet; in a fortunate place;

during fair, calm, weather and when the planet is in the best aspect that may be in the heavens, the more strongly to attract the influences proper to an effect depending upon the power of the same and on the virtues of its influences."

De Bresche makes an important point when he says, " . . . by a workman whose mind is settled and fixed upon his work and the end of his work . . . " In other words, in making a talisman, the maker must concentrate on the engraving or drawing he is doing and must also concentrate on the "end" or purpose for which the talisman is being made, to the absolute exclusion of all else.

A talisman can be of any shape and of virtually any material. Many are constructed on parchment or paper. Others are engraved into metal, the metal specifically chosen (as de Bresche mentioned, above) according to the talisman's purpose. For example, silver is the metal of the Moon, so silver would be used to make a talisman for the purposes connected with the Moon: dreams, theft, or merchandise. To go a step further, it should be made on a Monday—the Moon day—and also made in the hour of the Moon, which would be the first hour of the daylight or the nighttime hours (see Planetary Hours).

The metals associated with the days of the week and their properties are as follows:

Sunday—Sun—Gold: fortune, hope, money.

Monday—Moon—Silver: dreams, merchandise, theft.

Tuesday—Mars—Iron: enemies, matrimony, prison, war.

Wednesday—Mercury—Mercury/Aluminum: debt, fear, loss.

Thursday—Jupiter—Tin: clothing, desires, honor, riches.

Friday—Venus—Copper: friendship, love, strangers.

Saturday—Saturn—Lead: building, doctrine, life, protection.

According to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a talisman is "a magical figure charged with the Force which it is intended to represent." It is so charged by inscription and consecration. The inscription can, as mentioned, be written or engraved. For inscriptions written on paper or parchment, the ink is often handmade and the pen is a quill made from a feather. The consecration is completed when the paper is sprinkled with salted water and held in the smoke of burning incense.

What is put on the talisman is the most important part of the ritual. It can be a word or words, or it can be a sigil or traditional design. Many medieval talismans show geometric designs in combination with magical symbols. Following the doctrine that the more energy you put into the making of the talisman, the more powerful it will be, any writing is usually done in one of the magical alphabets, which require a great deal of concentration to use. The sigils can be constructed from such things as magical squares, again giving greater power to their meanings. Great care has to be exercised when constructing magic squares. When drawn on parchment,

the squares should be marked in black ink with the numbers or letters in red ink. All should be drawn with the parchment set up so that the maker's shadow does not fall on the parchment. The red lines should not touch the black anywhere. As with all magical items, it should be appropriately consecrated before use.

The first step in making a talisman is to determine precisely how it will be used. Will it be for protection, to bring love, for healing, to gain power, or for some other purpose? Once the need has been determined, that need must then be reduced to a single sentence. From there, the Witch or magician can decide which of the planets and the days of the week would be most appropriate for that purpose. For example, Tuesday is appropriate for matrimony, while Friday is appropriate for love. Thursday is good for desires. Which of the three would be best suited for the talisman? Will it be affecting a new love, the desire for love, or a state of marriage that already exists?

Once the proper sigil has been determined and applied to the talisman, and it has been personalized for the one who will use it, the object must be consecrated before it can be used. So long as it is worn, it will continue to work and to attract the required forces from the universe.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an object superstitiously believed to possess the power to bring good fortune to its owner. Primitive peoples often placed their faith in talismans—amulets or charms—to compensate for their weakness in the struggle against nature. Vestiges of this faith in talismans have survived in such superstitious or religious practices as placing a horseshoe above the entrance to one’s home, and wearing small icons, crosses, or amulets.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


amulet with which Saladin cures Richard the Lion-Hearted. [Br. Lit.: The Talisman]
See: Charms
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a stone or other small object, usually inscribed or carved, believed to protect the wearer from evil influences
2. anything thought to have magical or protective powers
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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