By Joshua J. Mark
The Ankh is one of the most recognizable symbols from ancient Egypt, known as "the key of life" or the "cross of life", and dating from the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150 - 2613 BCE). It is a cross with a loop at the top sometimes ornamented with symbols or decorative flourishes but most often simply a plain gold cross. The symbol is an Egyptian hieroglyph for "life" or "breath of life" (`nh = ankh) and, as the Egyptians believed that one's earthly journey was only part of an eternal life, the ankh symbolizes both mortal existence and the afterlife. It is one of the most ancient symbols of Egypt, often seen with the djed and was symbols, carried by a multitude of the Egyptian gods in tomb paintings and inscriptions and worn by Egyptians as an amulet.
The ankh's association with the afterlife made it an especially potent symbol for the Coptic Christians of Egypt in the 4th century CE who took it as their own. This use of the ankh as a symbol of Christ's promise of everlasting life through belief in his sacrifice and resurrection is most probably the origin of the Christian use of the cross as a symbol of faith today. The early Christians of Rome and elsewhere used the fertility symbol of the fish as a sign of their faith. They would not have considered using the image of the cross, a well-known form of execution, any more than someone today would choose to wear an amulet of an electric chair. The ankh, already established as a symbol of eternal life, leant itself easily to assimilation into the early Christian faith and continued as that religion's symbol.
ORIGIN & MEANING
The origin of the ankh is unknown. The Egyptologist Sir Alan H. Gardiner (1879 - 1963 CE) thought it developed from a sandal strap with the top loop going around one's ankle and the vertical post attached to a sole at the toes. Gardiner came to his conclusion because the Egyptian word for "sandal" was "nkh" which came from the same root as "ankh" and, further, because the sandal was a daily part of an Egyptian's life and the ankh symbol came to symbolize life. This theory has never gained wide acceptance, however.
Ankh, Djed & Was
Ankh, Djed & Was
The theory of Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge (1857-1934 CE), who claims it originated from the belt buckle of the goddess Isis, is considered more probable but still not universally accepted. Wallis Budge equated the ankh with the tjet, the "knot of Isis", a ceremonial girdle thought to represent female genitalia and symbolizing fertility. This theory, of the ankh's origin stemming from a fertility symbol, is in keeping with its meaning throughout ancient Egyptian history and beyond to the present day. Egyptologist Wolfhart Westendorf (b. 1924 CE) supports Wallis Budge's claim noting the similarity of the ankh to the tjet and the use of both symbols from an early date in Egypt's history. The ankh has always been associated with life, the promise of eternal life, the sun, fertility, and light. Scholar Adele Nozedar writes:
The volume of meaning that can be squeezed from such a simple symbol is awe-inspiring. The ankh represents the male and female genitalia, the sun coming over the horizon, and the union of heaven and earth. This association with the sun means that the ankh is traditionally drawn in gold - the color of the sun - and never in silver, which relates to the moon. Putting aside the complexities of these separate elements, though, what does the ankh look like? Its resemblance to a key gives a clue to another meaning of this magical symbol. The Egyptians believed that the afterlife was as meaningful as the present one and the ankh provided the key to the gates of death and what lay beyond (18).
ANUBIS OR ISIS ARE OFTEN SEEN PLACING THE ANKH AGAINST THE LIPS OF THE SOUL IN THE AFTERLIFE TO REVITALIZE IT.
It is for this reason that ankh figures so prominently in tomb paintings and inscriptions. Deities such as Anubis or Isis are often seen placing the ankh against the lips of the soul in the afterlife to revitalize it and open that soul to a life after death. The goddess Ma'at is frequently depicted holding an ankh in each hand and the god Osiris grasps the ankh in a number of tomb paintings. The association of the ankh with the afterlife and the gods made it a prominent symbol on caskets, for amulets placed in the tomb, and on sarcophagi.
THE ANKH & THE GODDESS ISIS
The ankh came into popular useage in Egypt during the Early Dynastic Period with the rise of the cults of Isis and Osiris. The association of the ankh with the tjet mentioned earlier is supported by early images of Isis with the tjet girdle prior to the appearance of the ankh.
The cult of Osiris became the most popular in Egypt until the cult of Isis - which told the same story and promised the same rewards - dominated it. Osiris continued to be greatly admired but, in time, became a secondary character in the story of his resurrection and rebirth. In the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period, however, it was the cult of Osiris that was dominant as he was the god who had died and returned to life, thus bringing life to others. Isis, at this time, was a mother goddess associated with fertility but was soon joined to Osiris as his devoted wife who rescued him after his murder by Set and returned him to life. The Egyptologist Flinders Petrie writes:
Isis became attached at a very early time to the Osiris worship and appears in later myths as the sister and wife of Osiris. But she always remained on a very different plane to Osiris. Her worship and priesthood were far more popular than those of Osiris, persons were named after her much more often than after Osiris, and she appears far more usually in the activities of life. Her union in the Osiris myth by no means blotted out her independent position and importance as a deity, though it gave her a far more widespread devotion. The union of Horus with the myth, and the establishment of Isis as the mother goddess, was the main mode of her importance in later times. Isis as the nursing mother is seldom shown until the twenty-sixth dynasty; then the type continually became more popular until it outgrew all other religions of the country (13).
Many of the gods of Egypt are depicted holding the ankh but Isis more often than most. In time, Isis became the most popular goddess in Egypt and all the other gods were seen as mere aspects of this most powerful and all-encompassing deity. The cult of Isis promised eternal life through personal resurrection. In the same way that Isis had rescued her husband Osiris from death, so could she rescue those who placed their faith in her. The association of the ankh with such a powerful goddess imbued it with greater meaning in that now it was linked specifically with the great goddess who could save one's soul and provide for one in the afterlife.
THE HISTORY OF THE ANKH IN USE
The importance of the ankh was the instant recognition of what the symbol stood for. Even those who could not read would have been able to understand the symbolism of objects such as the djed or the ankh. The ankh was never solely associated with Isis - as mentioned, many gods are depicted carrying the symbol - but as the djed became linked to Osiris, the ankh fell more into the realm of Isis and her cult.
Objects from Tomb of Thutmose IV
Objects from Tomb of Thutmose IV
By the time of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 - 2181 BCE) the ankh was well-established as a powerful symbol of eternal life. The dead were referred to as ankhu (having life/living) and caskets and sarcophogi, ornamented regularly with the symbol, were known as neb-ankh (possessing life). During the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) the word nkh was used for mirrors and a number of hand-mirrors were created in the shape of the ankh, the most famous being that found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
The association of the ankh with the mirror was no chance occurrence. The Egyptians believed that the afterlife was a mirror image of life on earth and mirrors were thought to contain magical properties. During the Festival of the Lanterns for the goddess Neith (another deity seen with the ankh) all of Egypt would burn oil lamps through the night to reflect the stars of the sky and create a mirror image of the heavens on earth. This was done to help part the veil between the living and the dead so one could speak to those friends and loved ones who had passed on to paradise in the Field of Reeds. Mirrors were often used for divination purposes from the Middle Kingdom onwards.
The ankh was also a popular amulet which was worn in life and carried to the grave. Historian Margaret Bunson writes:
Called wedjau, the amulets were made out of metal, wood, faience, terracotta, or stone and believed to contain magical powers, providing the wearer with supernatural benefits and charms. The potential power of the amulet was determined by the material, color, shape, or spell of origin. Living Egyptians wore amulets as pendants and the deceased had amulets placed in their linen wrappings in their coffins. Various styles of amulets were employed at different times and for different purposes. Some were carved as sacred symbols in order to attract the attention of a particular deity, thus ensuring the god's intercession and intervention on behalf of the wearer (21).
The djed was a very popular amulet but so was the ankh. Although the most common amulet in Egypt was the sacred scarab (the beetle), the ankh was almost as widely used. During the New Kingdom (1570-1069 BCE), when the cult of the god Amun was increasing in power and stature, the ankh became associated with him. The ankh was used in temple ceremonies regularly at this time and became associated with the cult of Amun and royalty.
During the Amarna Period (1353 - 1336 BCE), when Akhenaten banned the cult of Amun along with the rest of the gods and raised the god Aten as the sole god of Egypt, the ankh continued in popular use. The symbol is seen in paintings and inscriptions at the end of the beams of light emanating from the solar disc of Aten, bringing life to those who believe. After Akhenaten's death, his son Tutankhaten (whose name contains the ankh symbol and means "living image of the god Aten") took the throne, reigning 1336-1327 BCE, changed his name to Tutankhamun ("living image of the god Amun") and reinstated the old religion, retaining the ankh with the same meaning it had always held.
The ankh remained a popular symbol even though Akhenaten's reign was despised and Tutankhamun's successor Horemheb (1320 - 1292 BCE) tried his best to erase all evidence of the Amarna Period from Egyptian history. The greatest ruler of the New Kingdom, Ramesses II (1279 - 1213 BCE) employed the ankh regularly in his inscriptions and it continued in use throughout the remainder of Egypt's history.
THE ANKH & CHRISTIANITY
As Christianity gained more widespread acceptance in the 4th century CE many of the symbols of the old religion fell into disfavor and were banned or simply forgotten about. The djed symbol, so closely associated with Osiris, was one of these but the ankh continued in use. Scholar Jack Tresidder writes of the ankh:
Its shape has been variously understood as the rising sun on the horizon, as the union of male and female, or other opposites, and also as a key to esoteric knowledge and to the afterworld of the spirit. The Coptic church of Egypt inherited the ankh as a form of the Christian cross, symbolizing eternal life through Christ (35).
While other vestiges of the old religion slipped away, the ankh took on a new role while retaining its old meaning of life and the promise of eternal life. Adele Nozedar comments on this writing, "Powerful symbols frequently stray across into other cultures despite their origins and the ankh is no exception. Because it symbolizes immortality and the universe it was initially borrowed by the fourth-century Coptic Christians who used it as a symbol to reinforce Christ's message that there is life after death" (18). The ankh as a symbol of eternal life eventually lost its loop at the top to become the Christian cross which, like the ancient ankh, is worn by believers in Jesus Christ in the present day for the same reason: to identify with their god and all that god promises.
1. Joshua J. Mark, “The Ankh,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, last modified September 19, 2016, http://www.ancient.eu /Ankh/.
By Andrieh Vitimus
Recently at a pagan festival, I heard someone say, “I don’t do chaos magic, because I like being a friend to the trees and animals.” This was an elder of the community. Of course I pointed out that this was a horrible misunderstanding about what chaos magic actually is. I myself work with faeries, nature spirits, trees, and many other elemental forces that I might go so far as to call “friends.” So what IS chaos magic?
It is quite possible that no two chaos magicians would agree on this, but even despite that point, chaos magic is generally not what many people think it is. I would argue there is no such thing as chaos magic. There are no sets of techniques that make up chaos magic; therefore it is not a system in and of itself. Chaos magic is an attitude, a philosophy that promotes experimentation, play, and creativity while discarding dogmatic rules. Chaos magic points out that the techniques more than the symbols are what matter and that our belief in a system is actually what makes it work. The attitude discounts the idea of absolute truth and focuses instead on results within the real world. Often chaos magicians would say “Nothing is true, everything is permitted‚” referring to the fact that you can theoretically do anything. The idea is to test different sets of techniques and figure out for yourself whether or not they work. This sort of experiential attitude fosters creativity and inventiveness and puts emphasis on results to “prove” a given set of techniques. Chaos magic is a “meta system‚” which means that it is a theoretical framework to fit other magical systems into, so the practitioners of those systems can more easily have a shared language to foster cross communication and experimentation across the various knowledge sets that different people present.
The word chaos is a tough word for some to swallow. Many people feel that chaos is simply disorder and generally feel that disorder is “bad” and to be avoided. However, the Online Etymology dictionary says the following:
A state of extreme confusion and disorder
The formless and disordered state of matter before the creation of the cosmos
(Greek mythology) The most ancient of gods; the personification of the infinity of space preceding creation of the universe
(Physics) A dynamical system that is extremely sensitive to its initial conditions
(chaos (n.d), 2008).
The term “chaos magic” is generally credited to Peter Carroll. If you read Peter Carroll, you can see that he loves mathematics and physics. The non-linear and mathematical definition of chaos is closer although not exactly what Peter Carroll had in mind; however, in Liber Null and Psychonaut there are references to what seems like point two in the definition. In fact, Peter Carroll often synchronizes many eastern and western ceremonial magic systems in Liber Null and Psychonaut. If we look at one definition of the Tao, we see:
“There was something undefined and complete, existing before Heaven and Earth. How still it was, how formless, standing alone and undergoing no change, reaching everywhere with no danger of being exhausted. It may be regarded as the mother of all things. Truthfully it has no name, but I call it Tao.” (Tsu, 1972)
Definition two of the word and the interpretation of the Tao seem remarkably familiar. Most sensible chaos magicians would not agree that chaos is “destruction and evil,” but would agree to chaos being formless and might even agree that the apparent order of things is merely an arbitrary structure that we perceive. At a quantum level, they might be right (Arntz, 2004). For most actively practicing mature and serious chaos magicians, “Chaos” then is much closer to the mathematical systems of non-linear dynamics or the primal force from which we build the rhythms of the magic. The type of magic, however, follows other similar post-modern tendencies. Post-Modern literature, art and music, quantum physics, chaos mathematics, and other examples all clearly show a movement away from truth. All of these recent developments stress the importance that the observer has in determining the outcome or meaning. It should be no surprise then, that in the greater culture of the west, the similar notion of the impact of the observer is represented in and by chaos magic.
The most telling thing about a chaos magician is their ability to change their beliefs and paradigms at will. This is a complete change of perspective on the world that they live in to be able to see their reality from a different point of view. If you think about it, this would mean one day a chaos magician might be a Christian, while the next week they would be a Buddhist. These two philosophies are radically different in their orientation towards the world and an adoption of either worldview would have implications towards the person’s daily actions and attitudes. Chaos magic will demand that the practitioners be able to meaningfully switch between any beliefs about themselves, others, and religious beliefs. To the chaos magician, beliefs are choices. Belief is the tool that empowers the magic. In practice, this is extremely difficult to do. Chaos magicians have to constantly de-condition their minds to remove old patterns and beliefs and instill new ones. This takes practice, mental discipline, and dedication. Since the idea is that there is no right way or absolute Truth, the practitioner is left with the litmus test of real world results to defend their rituals, techniques, and beliefs. This makes chaos magic, in practice, one of the most difficult, grounded, and demanding magical paths if practiced in the way recommended by Liber Null and Psychonaut (Carroll, 1987). In fact, in my book Hands-On Chaos Magic‚ I provide extensive exercises and techniques to de-condition the mind and facilitate movement past any set of beliefs that a magician would like to get past.
Many of the ideas of chaos magic have, in fact, filtered into the general occult and pagan community. The idea that the words of a ritual are not important but the intent is the most important aspect of ritual is a direct consequence of chaos magic theory. Additionally, the eclectic idea that you can combine entities from different cultures in the same ritual is a practice lifted from chaos magic philosophy. Many of the newer occult books, such as Michelle Belanger’s Walking The Twilight Path and Taylor Elwood’s Space/Time Magic‚ combine a synthesis of different techniques from different cultures to create something new and powerful. I must say, I enjoyed both books, but neither book would have been possible without some adoption of chaos magic theory to loosen the dogmatic bounds of “the right way” and allow for creative magical experimentation. If there is only one way to do something, one truth, these tremendously creative works would not be possible. In fact, while some people take issue with the word “chaos‚” they themselves are using magical theory and techniques derived from early chaos magicians.
In practice, most mature and serious magicians who practice chaos magic find it extremely innovative, revolutionary, and well grounded. Chaos magic forces practitioners to continually change and transform. The reliance on results-orientated magic forces people to get better and get results when needed or re-examine their methods. Although there are a lot of different opinions on the matter, this freedom is really a double-edged sword. Many seem to treat chaos magic as some sort of religion— to the extent that, in their classes, they may even talk about the difficulty of integrating chaos magic with a Wiccan ritual. This completely goes against what is presented as “chaos magic” in books such as Liber Null and Psychonaut. Chaos magicians should be able to have the mental flexibility to take on Wiccan beliefs—or any other beliefs—fully and without hassle. To have difficulty doing so would imply that self work was required. Likewise, chaos magic has taken on sinister reputations because some chaos magicians who will entirely and only work with darker powers and paradigms. Of course, again, this is a limitation against the idea of being completely mentally flexible.
Several people, such as Anton Channing, and occasionally myself as well, prefer to be called just “magicians.” In fact, I originally did not want to call my book Hands-On Chaos Magic at all, because of the negative reputation that chaos magic has gotten both as being exclusively dark and because of the general magical sloppiness that some chaos magicians on the Internet tend to show. It is time to reclaim the word. Chaos magic is not dark or light. It is a difficult magical attitude that offers no certainty, requires mental flexibility, and demands verification grounded in physical results. The flip side of this freedom is that it allows the magician the flexibility to play with the universe and see how the universe responds. Magic becomes entirely a creative act. In Hands-On Chaos Magic‚ all the exercises, techniques, and methods are given to the reader as things that have worked for me as well as others in the past. It is a set of foundational materials to help readers on their own adventures of playing with the universe and to help them develop their own sets of techniques. It is a way to break down various techniques to develop better and more effective magic for themselves. In these uncertain times, people deserve solid methods for developing more reliable and life changing results. Using the attitude of non-dogmatic experimentation, testing, and validation, chaos magic provides a framework to improve one’s results to achieve whatever outcomes you desire.
Arntz, W. (Writer), & Arntz, W. (Director). (2004). What the Bleep Do We Know? [Motion Picture].
Carroll, P. (1987). Liber Null and Psychonaut. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc.
chaos (n.d). (2008, 11 06). Retrieved 11 06, 2008, from Online Etymology Dictionary: http://dictonary.reference.com/browese/chaos
Tsu, L. (1972). Tao Te Ching. (G.-F. F. English, Trans.) New York: Vintage Books.
COPYRIGHT 2009-01-12 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Article Link : Chaos Magic: The Misunderstood Path
By Sandra Tabatha Cicero
Along with astrology and the qabalah, alchemy is considered one of the principle branches of the Western Esoteric Tradition. But while many students are familiar with zodiacal charts and the fundamentals of the Tree of Life, far fewer are acquainted with the basics of alchemy. Too often alchemy is still wrongly caricatured as an attempt by medieval quack-scientists and con-men to gain quick wealth by turning lead into gold, or to dupe others into handing over their gold, only to receive a lump of lead in return while the swindler makes a quick getaway!
The origins of Western alchemy date back to Graeco-Roman Egypt, particularly Alexandria. It was here that techniques of metallurgy and herbal medicine were combined with Greek philosophy, astrology, religion, and mythology to form the earliest Western teachings on alchemy. Medieval authors often called alchemy the "Hermetic Art," suggesting that the origin of this science was none other than the fabled master, Hermes Trismegistos, or "Hermes the Thrice Great," who was said to have written forty-two books covering all manner of knowledge. Greek philosophers, such as Empedocles and Aristotle, first developed the theory that everything in the universe was comprised of the four elements of fire, water, air, and earth. These were regarded as qualities that exist within all matter and not merely the outward expressions of the physical elements. The treatises of alchemy included the physical properties and the magical powers of the elements as well as various material substances in nature.
After their conquest of Egypt in the seventh century, the Arabs absorbed the knowledge of the Alexandrian alchemists. By the middle of the seventh century alchemy had become a mystical discipline. The medieval Arabs carefully preserved the knowledge they had received and safeguarded all manner of Greek and Arabic alchemical treatises, which they brought to Spain in the eighth century. By 1350, several alchemical tracts were being copied in monastic scriptoria.
In truth, alchemy is the occult science of the transformation of matter. It is a philosophical wisdom tradition and a spiritual discipline that touches upon almost every aspect of the human experience. At its core, alchemy teaches that in this divine universe all matter comes into existence from a common substance or fusion of substances. Everything within the cosmos moves toward a state of perfection known as "gold," but only if the component materials are present in the right proportions or degree of purity. The fundamental goal of alchemy is to bring all things, including humanity, to its preordained state of purity and spiritual perfection—a worthy goal indeed.
The work of alchemy was two-fold: the practitioner worked in a laboratory setting to perfect a physical substance, such as a mineral or a plant, often with the goal of making a medicinal substance. This was the alchemy full of experiments and laboratory equipment: furnaces, bellows, stills, alembics, curcurbits, condensers, and glass beakers. Yet in conjunction with this process the alchemist prayed, meditated, fasted, and carried out other spiritual disciplines, so that the work of purification affected not only the substance of the experiment, but also the soul of the alchemist who was conducting it. Alchemists sought to give the quality and purity of "gold" to their own being. They sought to transmute the base materials, or rather the base portions of their own nature, into spiritual gold or divine wisdom. However, the principal interest of many alchemical philosophers was spiritual—many wrote commentaries on the alchemical treatises without practicing the art themselves. Over time, these two aspects of alchemy—practical alchemy and Inner alchemy—came to be seen as separate disciplines.
Unfortunately, the early practical alchemists who penned treatises about their sacred art did not often help their cause; they were so intensively secretive that they tended to write instructions in riddles and parables that did more to confuse than to instruct. The classical texts of alchemy are rich in symbolism and allegory. Some of these treatises contained little more than alchemical prints and illustrations. To guard their work from the profane, alchemists wrote in a symbolic language illustrated with fantastical drawings of dragons and lions, fish and birds, kings and queens, stars and planets, hermaphrodites and unicorns, animals fighting, curious beings, and weird creatures composed of symbols—all of which made little sense to the outsider. As a result, spiritual seekers today are still baffled by the lingo and imagery of alchemy. To many it remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and so alchemy continues to be the most secretive of the magical arts.
Take for example, a cryptic seventeenth-century alchemical engraving of the "Azoth of the Philosophers" used by the Golden Dawn in the Portal Ritual where it is called "The Great Hermetic Arcanum." This diagram shows the massive amount of arcane symbolism that the alchemists packed into such illustrations.
The central face in the diagram refers to the number one, the monad—the synthesis of the many parts united into the whole. The duad is symbolized by the two gender archetypes of masculine and feminine, the Queen of Luna and the King of Sol, to the left and right of the central figure. The triad is portrayed in the triangle of spiritus, anima, and corpus, which are the three alchemical principles of spirit, soul, and body. The number four is depicted by the four elements in the corners of the drawing. The number five is represented by the five parts of the central figure (hands, feet, and head), which are each associated with one of the five elements in the diagram. The number six is symbolized by the points of the two triangles in the drawing. The number seven is shown by the heptagram of the planets. Sol and Luna are the male and female principles, which are separated in nature. Through the alchemical art the two are united and the resulting offspring is the Philosopher's Stone—male and female, soul and spirit—merged into one. In the circle that surrounds the figure, a Latin sentence of seven words is shown: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectifando Invenies Occultum Lapidem, which translates to "Visit the interior of the earth, in rectifying you will discover the hidden stone."
When Israel Regardie wrote The Philosopher's Stone in 1937, he was convinced that the symbols, metaphors, and allegories presented in the cryptic textbooks of medieval and renaissance alchemists were not what they appeared to be. It was his belief that the equipment, techniques, and materials and substances described in alchemical treatises in practical or laboratory alchemy were part of an elaborate smokescreen concocted to hide what he believed alchemy really was—a perfect method of psychological reintegration—spiritual alchemy. To Regardie, descriptions of various substances and laboratory equipment were symbols of the various parts of the human psyche: the sun and moon represented the animus and the anima, the crow symbolized the astro-mental body, the fire of the alchemical furnace alluded to the human libido, the egg of the philosophers referred to the human aura, the dragon symbolized repressed psychic energy and fears, and so forth. Regardie surmised that the goal of the Great Work in alchemy was one and the same as the goal of Individuation in analytical psychology. He sought to decode the enigmatic writings of the alchemists and to share his insights with students of magic and mysticism by publishing The Philosopher's Stone.
In his later years, Regardie gained new appreciation for practical alchemy, but he also knew that his early work in The Philosopher's Stone could provide students with valuable clues that encourage self-refection and spiritual wholeness. Decades after it was first written, students are still finding that this classic text contains precious gemstones of knowledge well worth discovering.
COPYRIGHT 2013-08-12 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Article Link : Alchemy: The Most Secretive of Arts by Sandra Tabatha Cicero
By Richard Webster
When I was writing Amulets and Talismans for Beginners, a friend commented that it would have to be of historic interest only, as no one used them nowadays. He hadn’t noticed all the people who wear astrological pendants, ankhs, St. Christopher medals, and a variety of other charms and amulets. Recently, a funeral director told me that he had noticed a large increase in the number of people who were buried with their favorite amulets and lucky charms. All around the world, the number of people who we charms and amulets is steadily increasing.
There is some confusion about lucky charms, amulets, and talismans, and many people think they are synonyms. In fact, although the differences are sometimes subtle, each is created for a different purpose: a charm is worn to attract good luck; an amulet provides protection from danger; and a talisman is used to attract a particular benefit to its owner.
Charms were originally spoken or sung. The word charm comes from the French charme, which means song. The blessing that a priest gives at the end of a service is an example of this sort of charm. But gradually, people came to the conclusion that spoken words were ephemeral, while a solid object was permanent. Objects that had special significance—such as a splinter that was believed to be from the cross of Jesus—replaced sung or spoken charms.
Almost anything can (and has been) used as a charm. Buttons and coins are good examples. This is because these items are frequently lost, and found by others. Anything that you find can be used as a charm. Small objects that are given to you also make good charms, because of the pleasant connotations they provide. Many gift stores have a selection of small objects that can be used as charms.
Lucky charms are normally carried on the person, but there are exceptions. My grandmother had a metal tin full of buttons. She would shake the tin vigorously whenever she wanted good luck. I have seen St. Christopher medals attached to the inside mirror of many taxicabs. These drivers obviously prefer to have the medal where they can see it, rather than somewhere on their person.br>
The St. Christopher medal is a charm that protects travelers, as St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. A series of failures on the US Navy’s Vanguard rocket project in the 1960s was blamed on the absence of a St. Christopher medal. One was placed on the next rocket, and it performed perfectly.
A four-leaf clover has always been considered a lucky charm. This old Irish rhyme that explains why:
One leaf is for fame,
And one leaf is for wealth,
And one is for a faithful lover,
And one to bring you glorious health,
Are all in the four-leaved clover.
A number of lucky charms have religious significance. Fish have come to symbolize the Christian church, possibly because of the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. However, the Greek word for fish forms an acronym of the initial letters of “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour” in Greek, and this is a more likely explanation. A fish charm attracts wealth and abundance.
The ankh is an ancient Egyptian symbol for everlasting life, and is sometimes known as the cross of life. It provides good luck. It also wards off illness and disease, which means that it can be used as an amulet as well as a charm.
Charm bracelets allow people to wear a number of charms at the same time. Many people have a collection of objects that they use as charms, either singly or together. They do not need to be visible, and can be worn under clothing or carried in a purse, if desired.
Amulets have been worn for protection for thousands of years. Early peoples lived in a world where strange and frightening things occurred that defied explanation. Consequently, amulets were used to protect homes, families, and livestock.
Amulets were also used to protect people from the “evil eye.” The belief that a person or animal could harm another by staring at them with an evil eye dates back at least five thousand years, and ancient clay tablets have been found that describe the damage that the evil eye can inflict. The Sumerian god Ea spent most of his time fighting the evil eye. Even today, in many parts of the world, the evil eye is considered a major threat, and various kinds of amulets are used to avert it.
Amulets were originally natural items, such as an animal’s tooth or a semi-precious stone. However, you can choose anything you like. Medals, bells, keys, and photographs can all be used as amulets. Many police officers in early twentieth-century New York carried St. Jude medals with them for protection. St. Jude is the patron saint of policemen.
Knots make effective amulets because they are believed to catch evil spirits. My grandmother tied knots on all her kitchen aprons to protect both her and the food she was preparing.
Take your time when choosing an amulet. Think about your purpose in wanting one, and how you will wear or carry it. On several occasions, amulets seem to have found me when I needed them. On one occasion, a man I met at an airport gave me a small piece of hematite. I was on my way to see someone to discuss a business proposition. The hematite protected me from his overpowering manner.
Because talismans are intended to provide power, energy, and specific benefits they are often made at times that are believed to be spiritually or astrologically significant. They are frequently made from stone, metal, or parchment as these substances can easily be inscribed with words or pictures to add additional power. Many talismans come from predatory animals. A leopard’s claw, shark’s tooth, or eagle’s feather, for instance, are believed to endow the wearer with some of the qualities of the animal from which it came.
People in competitive fields, such as sport, frequently have talismans to help them achieve their goals. Vida Blue—a famous Oakland A’s baseball pitcher in the 1970s and 80s—had a special cap that became his talisman. Finally, it became so old and faded that league officials threatened to suspend him if he did not change it. Blue got himself a new cap, and ceremonially burned his old cap at a pre-game ceremony.
The most famous talisman is a six-pointed star, made from two overlapping triangles. The upward pointing triangle symbolizes fire, the sky, and male energy. The downward pointing triangle symbolizes water, earth, and female energy. The power of this talisman is such that mystic Arthur Edward Waite wrote: “Nothing was believed impossible for those who possessed it.” (A. E. Waite, The Occult Sciences [Secaucus, NJ: University Books, 1974], 111). As the Star of David, this talisman symbolizes both the Jewish religion and the nation of Israel. It is also known as the Seal of Solomon because King Solomon is believed to have used it. However, it predates his time by hundreds of years.
GEMSTONES AS AMULETS AND TALISMANS
Crystals and gemstones have been used as amulets and talismans for thousands of years. In fact, it is believed that people wore earrings and necklaces before they started wearing clothes. During the Crusades, many soldiers carried talismanic stones carved with runic messages. They also carried bloodstones because this type of stone was associated with Mars, the god of war. The soldiers felt that bloodstones would make them brave in battle and protect them from harm.
The best crystal or gemstone to use is one that appeals to you. It might be a stone that you find, purchase, or receive as a gift. You might like the color, shape, size, or texture of a particular stone. It might be your astrological birthstone. If you sense that it is the right stone for you, you should use it.
I choose most of my gemstones by psychometry. I hold the stone in a loosely clenched fist, or between my cupped palms, and experience the sensations the stone provides. Some stones produce feelings of comfort and peace, while others seem angry and aggressive. Many stones appear to be filled with fun and laughter, but a few appear sad. I choose the amulet or talisman I need by finding a stone that has the right feeling for the purpose I have in mind.
There are many other ways of choosing the correct gemstone, including one derived from your date of birth. You need to create a sum of your month, day and year of birth, and then reduce it down to a single digit. Unfortunately, there is an exception. If you come across an 11 or a 22 as you reduce down to a single digit, stop at that point, as they are called Master numbers. Here is an example for someone born on December 9, 1946
12 + 9 +1946 = 1967
We then add up the 1967: 1 + 9 + 6 + 7 = 23. Finally, we add the 2 and 3 together, which gives us 5.
Here is an example that gives us a Master number: February 29, 1944:
2 + 29 + 1944 = 1975
When we add up 1 + 9 + 7 + 5, we get 22. Because 22 is a Master number, we stop at that point, and do not reduce it any further.
Each number relates to a color:
1. RED: Red stones relate to passion, enthusiasm, and energy. Examples are ruby, garnet, and red jasper.
2. ORANGE: Orange stones relate to close relationships and personal satisfaction. Examples are citrine, carnelian, and orange sapphire.
3. YELLOW: Yellow stones relate to expressing the fun-filled, joyful aspects of life. Examples are yellow beryl and topaz.
4. GREEN: Green stones relate to hard work and accomplishment. Examples are emerald, peridot, and tourmaline.
5. BLUE: Blue stones enhance clarity and perception, and aid in goal-setting. Examples are lapis lazuli, sapphire, and blue tourmaline.
6. INDIGO: Indigo stones relate to caring for others. Examples are sodalite and iolite.
7. VIOLET: Violet stones relate to spiritual truth and the higher consciousness. Examples are amethyst, garnet, and purple ruby.
8. PINK: Pink stones are stimulating and energizing. They enable progress to occur. Examples are rubellite tourmaline, rose beryl, and rose quartz.
9. CLEAR: Clear stones symbolize pure energy. They are nurturing, loving, and ultimately successful. Examples are clear quartz and diamond.
11. SILVER: Silver stones are peaceful and gentle. However, they also possess great power, and provide enormous potential. Hematite is a good example.
22. GOLD: You should use gold when you are aiming high. Gold knows no limits. Examples are pyrite, pyrite-sun, and tiger’s-eye.
HOW TO CHARGE YOUR TALISMAN
Once you have chosen a talisman, it must be charged to fill it with power and energy. Talismans are important magical tools that need to be dedicated to you and your specific goals. The best time to charge your talisman is when the moon is waxing. Bathe and change into clean clothes before charging your talisman. Some magicians prefer to be naked for this ceremony, as it exposes the talisman to more of their personal energy fields.
There are many different ways to charge a talisman, and I have included seven of these methods in Amulets and Talismans for Beginners. The Dedication Method is one of these, and has the advantage of being easy to perform. You will need a room that will not be occupied for several hours after you have charged your talisman. You will also need a table or shelf to act as an altar.
Place your talisman on the altar. Stand in front of it, and thank the universal life force for protecting and guiding you. After this, recite a poem that you enjoy. Naturally, it should be serious in nature. You might choose to write a poem especially for this ritual.
Once you have finished reciting the poem, stare at your talisman for thirty seconds, and then speak to it. Here are the words I use:
I empower and consecrate you for (whatever purpose the talisman is designed to perform). I imbue you with all the powers of the universe to enable you to carry out your task, and I thank you in advance for all the energy, power, and comfort that you offer to me.
Gaze at the talisman for another thirty seconds, and then say “thank you” to it. Spread your arms out wide and look upwards, while saying “thank you” again.
Leave the talisman on the altar for as long as possible. Leave the room quietly, and ensure that the room is not used for at least several hours.
Your talisman is now ready for use. It will serve you faithfully, and the properties you imbued into it will last forever. This is not always desirable and, once your goal has been achieved, you will need to de-activate the talisman. Most of the time, you will be able to do this by destroying the talisman, after thanking it sincerely for helping you. If the talisman can be burned, you can create a small ritual using a candle. Light the candle and stand in front of it holding the talisman in your cupped hands. Acknowledge the archangels in the four cardinal directions by bowing to them, starting in the east, and following with the south, west, and north. Thank the talisman for everything it has done, hold it high in the air for a few moments, and then burn it in the candle flame.
Obviously, you will not be able to do this if the talisman cannot be burned. However, you can still thank it, break it, and then bury it in the ground. If the talisman is made of a valuable substance, such as gold or silver, you can remove the talismanic influences by formally thanking it for three days in a row.
ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS
If you wear a talisman for financial success, your subconscious mind will work toward this goal and bring financial opportunities to your attention. In this instance, it could be said that your belief in the talisman is providing the necessary power to allow the process to work. Certainly, there is no point in wearing a talisman of any sort if you do not believe in it. This is because your skepticism would override the talisman’s programming. There have been instances where this has caused misfortune to whoever wore certain talismans. The famous Hope Diamond caused misery and harm to everyone who owned it.
Experiment with a variety of charms, amulets, and talismans and see what happens. I believe that you will gain more self-assurance, power, and control over every aspect of your life. This is because you will be harnessing the powers of the universe to attract what you want, and to repel what you don’t want. Use them for good, and create the life you deserve.
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