The Bejewelled Amulet | An Artefact of Time-Tested Ubiquity

Jewellery in itself has a certain kind of magic. It connotes and represents something far more valuable than a fashion accessory of adornment. It possesses a symbolic and even personal value that far surpasses its tangible value. Jewellery can represent wealth, power; and in some cases, even carry a ritual significance.

Small personal amulets and talismans have been found in archeological digs all over the world; dating back thousands of years. An amulet, which is also known as a talisman, is an object–either natural or manmade–that is believed to be endowed with special powers to protect or bring good fortune.

The Egyptians believed that diseases stemmed from both supernatural and natural causes. In ancient Egypt, amulets were abundant and many were inexpensive, which made them available to nearly everyone. Hanging, binding or wearing an amulet was–and still is–said to protect the wearer.

Amulets often carried more than one meaning and more than one possible function. They were worn as charms against evil, disease witchcraft and misfortune. Amulets do not need to have letters, words or even symbolic representations; but, they often do.

The term amulet is interchangeable with the word talisman that has its roots in the Arabic áš­ilasm; which comes from the ancient Greek telesma. It means: completion, religious rite and payment. The underlying connotation is that a talisman needs to be initiated by an incantation.

Nearly all amulets are believed to have power over the evil eye and disease, but many of them are specifically directed towards a particular ailment. Throughout the centuries, people–both lay and learned–have always been divided over the use of talismans. Popular opinion, however, always remained in favour of their use.

While now generally considered a branch of alternative healing that is no way a substitute for medical services, the ubiquity of the talisman lives on. If not as talismans, then, at least, as a beautiful piece of jewellery.

The oldest known crucifix in Sweden. Image Credit: The Swedish History Museum

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