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Talismans



Objects which possess magical or supernatural power of their own which is transmitted to their possessors. Talismans are frequently confused with amulets which are objects which passively protect the owner from evil and harm. Usually the solitary function of talismans is to make possible powerful transformations.

Talismans can be any object, design, or symbol believed to be endowed with magical powers. The item is active in that it, and of itself, bestows this magical power upon the one who possesses it at the time. For example, this is the reason why the Excalibur was of such importance in Arthurian lore. The sword gave King Arthur magical powers.

In
magic, however, the talismans can be endowed with its supernatural power only by the forces of nature, by God or the gods or by being made so in a ritualistic way. Among talismans are precious stones for they each possess their own magical or curative powers endowed by nature.

Talismans have been discovered in all historical periods. The Egyptians and Babylonians used them when attempting to alter the forces of nature. In the Middle Ages, holy relics and other objects assumed the value of talismans in attempts to cure illnesses. Some thieves converted severed hands of thieves into talismans (see
The Hand of Glory) to assist them in their trade.

Many
alchemists sought the assistance of talismans which they made in elaborate ceremonies which were conducted during periods of auspicious astrological signs. During these rituals they recited incantation to conjures the desired spirits who imbued the talismans with magical power. The talisman most sought after was the elusive Philosopher's Stone, which the alchemists thought would transform base metals into silver and gold.

Grimoires, especially in magic, offer instructions on the making of talismans. Many talismans were inscribed on precious stones or parchment under auspicious astrological signs. Talismans were made for many endeavors such as getting rich, winning at gambling, falling in love, prevention of sudden death, improvement of memory, and even making a good speech.

An example is the talisman belonging to Catherine de Medici, queen consort of Henry II of France which she constantly carried. It was a medal allegedly made from metals that were melted together during favorable astrological signs, and also added in was human and he-goat blood. Although the original was broken at her death, a copy exists in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. On one side of this medal is engraved the god Jupiter, the eagle of Ganymede and a demon with the head of the Egyptian god Anubis; on the other side is a Venus figure believed to be Catherine flanked by demons. She believed the talisman conferred upon her clairvoyance and sovereign power.
A.G.H.


Sources: 4. 29.