Charms and amulets are objects or practices that are believed to possess great magical or mystical powers. They could be symbols or objects displayed in the desired place. It is not uncommon for people to use the terms amulet and talisman interchangeably. Well, a talisman for protection is more or less an amulet with an engraved image or symbol. Historically, people believed that wielding these amulets would bring them good fortune, allow them to become one with nature, cure certain ailments or ward off evil. Let’s delve in deeper and tell you more about the different charms and their mystical uses.
In Britain and parts of Europe, it is believed that chimney sweeps bring good luck. The origin of this charm is clear but it is said that over 200 years ago, a fearless chimney sweep rescued King George III from Runaway horses. The King was so thankful that he took off his hat & bowed to the humble chimney sweep.
He later sent for the chimney sweep when his youngest daughter was married. From then on, the tradition was born. To date, chimney sweeps have a mystical significance, particularly in weddings. In fact, some couples go as far as hiring a chimney sweep-complete with the brush, top hat, and a soot-smeared face as a way to attract good luck!
The Gold Angel
Around 1665, a deadly disease known as scrofula began to spread. Natives believed that only the touch of a powerful monarch could cure this ailment. From 1500 onwards, a more concrete cure for scrofula emerged that proved effective in healing the sick. The Gold Angel is a metallic coin hung around the diseased individual’s neck by a ribbon to symbolize a token of the Angel’s sacred favor. The coin also meant that the angel had the best desires for the victim and wished him a speedy recovery.
Thomas Costland is an excellent example of an individual in history who benefited greatly from hanging the gold angel amulet around his neck. He enjoyed perfect health until he removed the amulet from his person, resulting in ailments and afflictions that reduced his quality of life. Once he strung the gold angel back on his neck, his afflictions were no more, and he lived in good health until his last days.
Another potent charm is the sigil, an engraved circular metallic disc. Ancient Paracelsian cosmology believed that astral magic coupled with the study of the stars could reveal the cure for many illnesses that afflicted the people and guarantee them victory over their enemies. Natives of early modern England also shared the belief that the stars held the answer to their problems. Manufactures got to work creating these sigils using their knowledge of astronomy and made them such that people could wear these amulets around their necks
Charms and amulets are not just restricted to artificial objects such as coins and precious metals. Some amulets, such as a caul, occurred naturally and were said to bring health and good fortune to those who wielded them. For those wondering, a caul is a tissue-like membrane enclosing a fetus’s head at birth.
Cauls became famous in the nineteenth century, and people believed that any child born with a caul would not be capable of drowning. Midwives got wind of this belief and started making money off of selling cauls. By 1920, sailors would buy cauls for as much as £20 whenever they could because they believed a ship with a caul would never drown or capsize at sea.
However, cauls were not as durable as their artificial counterparts and needed special protection. John Offley’s daughter was born with a caul around her face, head, and shoulder. He preserved it in a bedazzled gold enamel locket, which you can find in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Out of eighty thousand births, only one of the children was born with a caul, making this amulet extremely rare and desirable.
The hag stones amulet consists of eleven stones tied together with a wire. These stones contain natural holes, making it easier to thread a wire or strong thread through the middle. The natives in Europe would hang hag stones at the heads of their beds for hundreds of years to ward off nightmares and encourage peaceful sleep.
Scholars believe that the practice of using hag stones was already prominent by the seventeenth century. Since the stones prevented witches or hags from visiting the sufferer at night and causing them to experience nightmares, it was only fitting to call the amulet hag stones.
You might be surprised to know that animals also benefited from using hag stones to alleviate their night terrors. Some individuals would hang these holed stones in horses’ stables at night to prevent their horses from waking up frightened and sweaty in the morning.
Whelk shells are believed to symbolize good luck and health. Soldiers would carry left-handed whelk shells during the First World War to increase their chances of survival and healing on the battlefield. One of the first people to carry this amulet was a Billingsgate fish porter in London between 1850 and 1920, who most likely valued this piece because it was an anomaly in nature that inadvertently sparked their curiosity.
These are just a few charms and mystical amulets around the world. In a nutshell, charms and amulets have been part of humanity throughout history. They are still used today to attract good luck, strength, health, longevity, and other forms of positivity!