This textfile is copyright (c) 2000 Pwyll. All rights reserved. This work may not be edited or altered in anyway, and may not be distributed in any form other than electronic transmission.

The purpose of this lesson series is to provide a generic grounding in the study of "occult arts and sciences." This is the fourth lesson in the series and will discuss the discovery, manufacture and use of amulets and talismans. As with other lessons in the series, questions of theology and/or philosophy will be avoided as much as possible in favor of a basic, generic understanding of the processes involved.

Footnotes will be indicated by a number in parentheses and are hyperlink enabled.


AMULETS & TALISMANS

The terms "amulet" and "talisman" are often used interchangeably today. While this is not, in and of itself, "bad," it can be considered technically incorrect--either way, it's not a point worth arguing. The fact is that amulets and talismans can, for the most part, be used for the same purposes and the differences between them are purely technical and often blurred. This textfile will, however, consider them separately for reasons of simplicity and accuracy.

An amulet is an object that contains magical properties as an inherent part of its existence. The most famous of these would be a four-leaf clover, the most lauded among neo-pagans would be the so-called "holey stone," "mother stone" or "goddess stone." As long as it is found rather than manufactured, and is carried on your person, no other work or charging is required for its properties to manifest.

A talisman is an object, traditionally worn around the neck or wrist (though carrying in a pocket is a common modern practice), specifically charged and/or manufactured to provide some sort of magical effect. The most famous of these would be a rabbit's foot--'laudable' talismans differ greatly from tradition to tradition, but some of the most well known would be medals of Saints, rune jewelry, pentacles, etc. Whether the base object is found or made, the fundamental power of a talisman is imbued by effort and intent.

AMULETS

Amulets are both easier to discuss than talismans, and more difficult to explain in a generic context. The reason for the former is that amulets are things that inherently contain power--you simply have to be "lucky" enough to find them. The reason for the latter is that what actually constitutes an inherently magical object differs dramatically depending on your philosophical beliefs. We will attempt to discuss some "cross-cultural" amulets in the interest of simplicity. A good example of an amulet, in the form of a 'good luck charm,' is the four-leaf clover.

There are various methods by which the 'rules' governing the effectiveness of a four-leaf clover manifest. The oldest wisdom says that a four-leaf clover only brings luck to the person that finds it, that the clover must be carried on the person to be effective, that it cannot be protected (i.e. encased in something to ensure its physical integrity), and that the luck is gone as soon as it loses one or more of its leaves. Today, however, buying one in a store constitutes finding it and encasing it in anything from waxed paper to plastic simply ensures that it will be effective so long as you own it. These extremes represent a continuum which depends upon whether you think that this particular amulet represents a manifestation of luck (the act of finding one actually brings you the luck [or represents the luck you are currently having]); the clover itself contains or represents luck and therefor inherently carries it regardless of the conditions surrounding its discovery and maintenance; or some combination of these.

Amulets are, being inherently magical, generally tied directly to the religious and/or philosophical path you have chosen--you will have to look to that path to discover what is an amulet, and why.  It would be safe to say, though, that anything you find that speaks to you at the time you find it would be inherently magical for you, regardless of the religious/philosophical mandates of your path.

TALISMANS

Talismans are easy to explain in a generic context: anything that is made or charged for a specific purpose (such as protection or luck) and is carried on the person is a talisman. They can be difficult to discuss generically, however, as the whats and hows of talisman manufacture depend, for the most part, on one's definitions of how and why magic works. The manufacture of a talisman can range from simply marking an object with a specific symbol to having an object blessed by a religious authority to complicated incantations performed over several days, weeks, or months. There are no truly cross-cultural talismans but commonly recognised ones include the rune necklaces available in nearly any bookstore or gift shop, the saint medals of the Roman Catholics, and the lamens of the goetic magicians of the medieval period.

For the modern occultist, whether mystic or magician, a talisman is generally an object upon which is scribed a symbol and over which various degrees of ritual are performed.

Finding and Manufacture

There are fundamental similarities across systems that can improve the effectiveness of finding amulets and making talismans. Not all necessarily apply to every system, but unless your particular school of thought specifically declaims any of these practices, they should be helpful.

Finding Amulets

The general attitude of paying attention to your environment, including the ground upon which you walk, with the expectation of finding something will be effective--even the expectation of finding specific objects will greatly increase the "chances" of finding one or some. And if you are looking for a specific object, such as a four-leaf clover or holey stone, find a place one is fairly likely to appear (such as an open field or woodland path), relax and center yourself, and watch the ground with the expectation of finding one. The Zen practice of Walking Meditation is particularly effective.

Also remember that you will not always find something every time you look. This is not a failure, it is simply the manifestation of magic in action--whether it is your subconscious, the gods, or the universe, something is telling you that it is not the right time to find that for which you are looking.

Manufacturing Talismans

Even the general aspects of making talismans can vary greatly from one system to the next, so you will have to look to your chosen path for anything regarding specific instructions for making talismans, but the most basic form of talisman is simply a sigil drawn on a piece of paper and is fairly universal.  Before we discuss the construction of simple talismans there are a few things that are nearly universally helpful.

SIGILS

Sigils are often employed as either symbolic names for entities or as protective signs, though there are other uses. Whatever the use, the main function of a sigil is (arguably) to act as a trigger for the subconscious. The vast majority of books on magic (whether religious or 'secular' in nature) include sigils, signs or magical symbols relevant to the particular system about which the book is written. Any of these can be useful, but since the purpose of this web site is to provide a background for people who either do not have access to these books or do not wish to follow a particular system, we will go over the two most common ways of creating sigils.

The two main uses for sigils are for protection and projection. The first covers a variety of intentions, from protecting one from random evil to controlling and containing something one has "called up." The second, projection, covers mainly the act of "sending out" energy to attain a specific (or general) goal. "Projection" will be covered in a later lesson as it can be dangerous for anyone not yet practiced in the basics of magic.  Sigils can be extremely effective when used as, or in conjunction with, shields and wards, though a basic proficience with the fundamentals of shielding and warding should be mastered before adding the use of sigils.

Monographic Sigils

The simplest method of constructing a sigil is to write down what you want it to do phonetically (write it down the way it sounds), cross out all repeated letters, and combine the remaining letters into a single design. The phrase should be as simple as possible and should not be more than one sentence, if it is a complete sentence. The best way to explain the method is by example-- since we are mainly concerned with personal protection at this point, we will create a monographic sigil to "protect me from harm":

1) Write it phonetically:        protekt mee frum harm

2) Remove all repeated letters:  protek m fu ha

3) Combine into a single design:
(three different ones, to show diversity)
Pictographic Sigils

The easiest way to make a sigil is to simply draw a picture of what you want it to do. It should be as simple and symbolic as possible, so drawing skills are not necessarily an advantage, as too much detail can ruin the effectiveness. Using our current example of creating a sigil for use in a ward or shield, you could simply draw an image to represent yourself (or a person in general) surrounded by a circle; you might even include arrows surrounding the circle and pointing outward. You could draw an image between two shields. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination--just remember to make the sigil symbolic rather than purely illustrative. Below are examples of possible images:

 


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