An amulet (from Latin amuletum; earliest extant use in Natural History [Pliny], meaning "an object that protects a person from trouble") or a talisman (from Arabic tilasm, ultimately from Greek telesma or from the Greek word "talein" 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 or simple stones, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants, animals, etc.; even words said in certain occasion.
Amulets and talismans in folklore
Amulets vary considerably according to their time and place of origin. Nevertheless, religious objects commonly serve as amulets in different societies, be these the figure of a god or simply some symbol representing the deity (such as the cross for Christians or the "eye of Horus" for the ancient Egyptians). In Thailand one can commonly see people with more than one Buddha hanging from their necks; in Bolivia and some places in Argentina the god Ekeko furnishes a standard amulet, to whom one should offer at least one banknote to obtain fortune and welfare.
Every zodiacal sign has its corresponding gem that acts as an amulet, but these stones vary according to different traditions.
An ancient tradition in China involves capturing a cricket alive and keeping it in an osier box to attract good luck (this tradition extended to the Philippines). Chinese may also spread coins on the floor to attract money; rice also has a reputation as a carrier of good fortune.
Turtles and cactus can cause controversy, for while some people consider them beneficial, others think they delay everything in the house.
Since the Middle Ages in Western culture pentagrams have had a reputation as amulets to attract money, love, etc; and to protect against envy, misfortune, and other disgraces. Other symbols, such as magic squares, angelic signatures and qabalistic signs have been employed to a variety of ends, both benign and malicious.
In Afro-Caribbean syncretic religions like Voodoo, Umbanda, Quimbanda and Santería, drawings are also used as amulets, such as with the veves of Voodoo; these religions also take into account the colour of the candles they light, because each colour features a different effect of attraction or repulsion.
Perfumes and essences (like incense, myrrh, etc.) also serve the purposes of attraction or repulsion. Popular legends often attributed magical powers to certain unusual objects, such as a baby's caul or a rabbit's foot; possession of these items allegedly endowed their magical abilities upon their owners.
In Central Europe, people believed garlic kept vampires away, and so did a crucifix.
The ancient Egyptians had many amulets for different occasions and needs, often with the figure of a god or the "ankh" (the key of eternal life); the figure of the scarab god Khepri became a common amulet too and has now gained renewed fame around the Western world.
For the ancient Scandinavians, Anglo-Saxons and Germans and currently for some Neopagan believers the rune Eoh (yew) protects against evil and witchcraft; 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).
Corals, horseshoes and lucky bamboo also allegedly make good amulets.
Figures of elephants allegedly attract good luck and money if one offers banknotes to them. In Arab countries a hand with an eye amid the palm and two thumbs serves as protection against evil. Compare hand of Fatima.Small bells in India and Tyrol make demons escape when they sound in the wind or when a door or window opens.
Another aspect of amulets connects with demonology and demonolatry; these systems consider an inverted cross (not an upward cross, which drives demons away) or pentagram in downward position as favourable to communicate with demons and to show friendship towards them.
The Christian Copts used tattoos as protective amulets, and the Tuareg still use them, as do the Haida Canadian aborigines, who wear the totem of their clan tattooed.
Museums display many curious amulets, but one need not go far to see one, because they have never lost their influence on people of every nation and social status. We can see amulets in jewellery, fairs of artisans, shops, and, if we look carefully, even in our own homes, maybe on ourselves.
The need for amulets arose with the human race and the need of people for help and protection not only against supernatural/preternatural powers but also against other persons.
War and other dangerous activities make the participants try to get the most luck they can. Carlist soldiers wore a medal of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the inscription 'Detente bala!' ("Stop, bullet!").
Followers of the Native American cult of the dance of the spirits believed that blessed shirts would protect them from enemy bullets as well. Unfortunately, this belief regarding the blessed shirts was shown to be disastrously incorrect when the group was massacred by the U.S. Army at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. History has shown several times that amulets which are meant to protect against bullets should be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism.
The word talisman also describes a number of consecrated magical objects used in Hermeticism.Instuctions for how to create a talisman can be commonly found in Grimoires. These talismans, sometimes called pentacles, were usually either made to protect the wearer from various influences of disease and other forms of danger or to protect the wearer from demons and to seal a certain demon under the users control.
A common version of the later talisman is known as the Seal of Solomon. This became an extremely important talisman due to the legend that Solomon used demons to create Solomon's temple and was protected by a seal sent by God (although the earliest accounts describe this seal as a ring (see Testament of Solomon, later innovations were made by various ceremonial magicians and authors of other grimiores where they have described the seal as a ring or a talisman or both. Although usually with the ring providing general protection from spirits and the ability to command them while various talismans will be used to bind a particular sommoned demon, angel or spirit.)
These Talismans usually require very complex operations involving a noble metal, on which is engraved various seals, words, and/or graphs which have to be engraved during a certain day, hour, and astrological occurrence. For example, on one side of a talisman may appear a Magic Square while the other side has a symbol of astrological Sigil and the name of an angel or phrase in Latin, Greek, Hebrew or invented scripts such as Malachim, Theban, or Alphabet of the Magi. After the operation has been fulfilled, it is said to be blessed appropiately to protect to wearer appropiately.A jinx forms the opposite of an amulet.
The male bird headed being looks much like the Egyptian God Horus - resurrection and rebirth. The female with wings speaks the alchemy of consciousness. The amulets above were found in an ancient burial tomb in close proximity to an ancient pyramid located in the Mississippi River Valley. According to legend, this was the burial tomb of a High Priest and Priestess who inhabited that ancient city well over 30,000 years ago. They were laid to rest together so they might share the same union in the after world that they shared on the Earth plane. The strength of their union and concurrent time of death was indicated by the symbolic placement of their hands, one holding the other's.