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An amulet (from Latin amuletum; earliest extant use in Naturalis Historia [[[Pliny the Elder|Pliny]]], meaning "an object that protects a person from trouble"), a close cousin of the talisman (from Arabic طلاسم tilasm, ultimately from Greek telesma or from the Greek word "telein" which means "to initiate into the mysteries") consists of any object intended to bring good luck and/or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include: gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants, animals, etc.; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—(Latin, "go back, Satan"), to repel evil or bad luck.

Talismans in the Abrahamic religions



In antiquity and the Middle Ages, most Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Orient believed in the protective and healing power of amulets or blessed objects. Talismans used by these peoples can be broken down into three main categories. The first are the types carried or worn on the body. The second version of a talisman is one which is hung upon or above the bed of an infirm person. The last classification of talisman is one with medicinal qualities. This latter category of item can be further divided into external and internal. In the former, one could, for example, place an amulet in a bath. The power of the amulet would be understood to be transmitted to the water, and thus to the bather. In the latter, inscriptions would be written or inscribed onto food, which was then boiled. The resulting broth, when consumed, was assumed to transfer the healing qualities engraved on the food into the consumer.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims have also at times used their holy books in a talisman-like manner in grave situations. For example, a bed-ridden and seriously ill person would have a holy book placed under part of the bed or cushion.

Judaism

Amulets are plentiful in the Jewish tradition, with examples of Solomon era amulets existing in many museums. Due to proscription of idols, Jewish amulets emphasize text and names—the shape, material or color of an amulet makes no difference. See also Khamsa.

The Jewish tallis (Yiddish-Hebrew form; plural is tallitot), the prayer shawl with fringed corners and knotted tassels at each corner, is perhaps one of the world's oldest and most used talismanic objects. Some believe it was intended to distinguish the Jews from pagans, as well as to remind them of God and Heaven. An incorrect conjugation of the plural form (with Ashkenazi pronunciation), "tallisim," is very close to the term "talisman;" however, this is an incorrect etymology as the word talisman is of Greek origin.

A little-known but well-worn amulet in the Jewish tradition is the kimiyah or "angel text". This consists of names of angels or Torah passages written on parchment squares by rabbinical scribes. The parchment is then placed in an ornate silver case and worn someplace on the body.

Christianity



The Catholic Church, and Christian authorities in general, have always been wary of amulets and other talismans. However, the legitimate use of sacramentals, as long as one has the proper disposition, is encouraged in traditional Christianity. For example, the crucifix is considered a powerful apotropaic against demons and fallen spirits, and rosaries or St. Christopher medals are frequently hung on rear-view mirrors of vehicles in Christian cultures as a way of invoking God's protection during travel.

Lay Catholics are not permitted to perform exorcisms but they can use Holy water, blessed salt and other sacramentals such as the Saint Benedict Medal or the Crucifix for warding off evil.

Crucifix

The Crucifix is one of the key Sacramentals used by Catholics and has been used to ward off evil for centuries. The imperial cross of Conrad II (1024-1039) referred to the power of the cross against evil. Many of the early theologians of the Catholic Church made reference to use of the sign of the Cross by Christians to bless and to ward off demonic influences.

The crucifix is still widely used as an talismanic sacramental by Christians. In Christian culture, it is considered to be one of the most effective means of averting or opposing demons, as stated by many exorcists, including the famous exorcist of the Vatican, Father Gabriele Amorth.

Medals

A well-known amulet among Catholic Christians is the Saint Benedict Medal which includes the Vade Retro Satana formula to ward off Satan. This medal has been in use at least since the 18th century and in 1742 it received the approval of Pope Benedict XIV. It later became part of the Roman Catholic ritual.

Scapulars

Some Catholic Sacramentals are believed to defend against evil, by virtue of their association with a specific saint or archangel. The Scapular of St. Michael the Archangel is a Roman Catholic devotional scapular associated with Archangel Michael, the chief enemy of Satan. Pope Pius IX gave this scapular his blessing, but it was first formally approved under Pope Leo XIII.

The form of this scapular is somewhat distinct, in that the two segments of cloth that constitute it have the form of a small shield; one is made of blue and the other of black cloth, and one of the bands likewise is blue and the other black. Both portions of the scapular bear the well-known representation of the Archangel St. Michael slaying the dragon and the inscription "Quis ut Deus?" meaning Who is like God?.

Holy water

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (number 301) specifically refers to the use of Holy water for "protection from the powers of darkness". Catholic saints have written about the power of Holy water as a force that repels evil. Saint Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church who reported visions of Jesus and Mary, was a strong believer in the power of Holy water and wrote that she used it with success to repel evil and temptations.

Islam

Muslims also wear such amulets, called Ta'wiz, with chosen text from Quran. The text is generally chosen depending on the situation for which the amulet is intended. Generally however, usage of amulets and other talismans is considered superstitious among more radical Muslims.

Amulets and talismans in folklore

Amulets and talismans vary considerably according to their time and place of origin.In many societies, religious objects serve as amulets. A religious amulet might be the figure of a certain god or simply some symbol representing the deity (such as the cross for Christians or the "eye of Horus" for the ancient Egyptiansmarker). In Thailandmarker, one can commonly see people with more than one Buddha hanging from their necks; in Boliviamarker and some places in Argentinamarker the god Ekeko furnishes a standard amulet, to whom one should offer at least one banknote to obtain fortune and welfare.

For the ancient Scandinavians, Anglo-Saxons and Germanmarker and currently for some Neopagan believers the rune Eoh (yew) protects against evil and harm; a non-alphabetical rune representing Thor's hammer still offers protection against thieves in some places.

Deriving from the ancient Celts, the clover, if it has four leaves, symbolises good luck (not the Irish shamrock, which symbolises the Christian Trinity). In the celtic tradition a bag made from a crane skin (called a crane bag) symbolised treasure, a wheel symboled the sun, a boat also was a sun symbol, but also a death symbol (to the land of the dead), the raven was a symbol of death, the head was a symbol of wisdom as was the acorn and a well.

In Tyrolmarker, it is believed that small bells make demons escape when they sound in the wind or when a door or window opens. Amulets are also worn on the upper right arm to protect the person wearing it.

Some forms of Buddhism have a deep and ancient talismanic tradition. In the earliest days of Buddhism, just after the Buddha's death circa 485 B.C., amulets bearing the symbols of Buddhism were common. Symbols such as conch shells, the footprints of the Buddha, and others were commonly worn. After about the 2nd century B.C., Greeks began carving actual images of the Buddha. These were hungrily acquired by native Buddhists in India, and the tradition spread.

During the tumultuous Plains Indians troubles in mid-19th century America, the Lakota Tribe adopted the Ghost Dance ritual, created by a Paiute Indian living in northwestern Oregon. Black Elk, the great Lakota Holy Man, received instructions on how to create a talismanic shirt that would protect the Lakota from the Greedy White Man's bullets. Tragically, the shirts failed to offer the Lakota any protection.

In addition to protection against supernatural powers, amulets are also used for protection against other people. For example, soldiers and those involved in other dangerous activities may use talismans to increase their luck. Carlist soldiers wore a medal of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the inscription ¡Detente bala! ("Stop, bullet!").

See also



Notes

  1. Tewfik Canaan, "The Decipherment of Arabic Talismans," The Formation of the Classical Islamic World 42 (2004): 125-149.
  2. Rosemarie Scott, 2006 'Clean of Heart' ISBN 0977223450 page 63
  3. e encyclopedia of Christianity By Erwin Fahlbusch, Eerdmans Publishing, 1999ISBN 0802824137 page 737
  4. Boston Catholic Journal
  5. Lea, Henry Charles (1896) A History of Auricular Confession and Indulgences in the Latin Church Philadelphia: Lea Brothers & Co.
  6. Ann Ball, 2003, Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices OSV Press ISBN 087973910X page 520
  7. Thoms O'Brian, An Advanced Catechism Of Catholic Faith And Practice, Kessinger Publishers, 2005, ISBN 1417984473, page 151
  8. Tessa Bielecki, Mirabai Starr, 2008 Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life ISBN 1590305736 pp 238-241


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