Talisman

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This article is about the object. For other uses, see Talisman (disambiguation).
The Talisman of Charlemagne, also a reliquary, said to have been found on his body when his tomb was opened

A talisman is an object believed to contain certain magical properties thought to draw good luck to the possessor, or offer the possessor protection from possible evil or harm.[1]

According to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a magical order active in the United Kingdom during the late-19th and early-20th centuries, a talisman is "a magical figure charged with the force which it is intended to represent." The Order also cautions that one must take great care in creating a talisman, making sure that the physical item's symbolism closely represents the intended purpose of the talisman. The Order notes that the forces depicted by the item "should be in exact harmony with those you wish to attract, and the more exact the symbolism, the easier it is to attract the force."[2][unreliable source?]

Etymology[edit]

Christian talisman (Breverl), 18th century

The word comes from the Arabic word talsam (طلسم), from an alteration of late Greek telesma (τέλεσμα), "completion, religious rite",[3] itself from the word teleō (τελέω) which means "I complete, perform a rite".[4]

Preparation of talismans[edit]

Traditional magical schools advise that a talisman be created by the person who plans to use it. It is also said that the person making the talisman must be well-versed in the symbolism of elemental and planetary forces. For example, in several known medieval talismans, geomantic signs and symbols were used in relation to planets—symbols which are also frequently used in geomantic divination and Alchemy.

Other features with magical associations—such as colors, scents, symbology, patterns, and Kabbalistic figures— can be integrated into the creation of a talisman in addition to the chosen planetary or elemental symbolism. However, these must be used in harmony with the elemental or planetary force chosen so as to amplify the intended power of the talisman. It is also possible to add a personal touch to the talisman through incorporating a verse, inscription, or pattern that is of particular meaning to the maker. These inscriptions can be sigils (magical emblems), bible verses, or sonnets, but they too must be in harmony with the talisman's original purpose.[2][unreliable source?]

Use of talismans in medieval medicine[edit]

Lea Olsan writes of the use of amulets and talismans as prescribed by medical practitioners in the medieval period. She notes that the use of such charms and prayers was "rarely a treatment of choice" [5] because such treatments could not be properly justified in the realm of Galenic medical teachings. Their use, however, was typically considered acceptable; references to amulets were common in medieval medical literature.

For example, one well-known medieval physician, Gilbertus, writes of the necessity of using a talisman to ensure conception of a child. He describes the process of producing this kind of talisman as involving "writing words, some uninterruptable, some biblical, on a parchment to be hung around the neck of the man or woman during intercourse."[5]

Examples[edit]

Zulfiqar[edit]

Zulfiqar was frequently depicted on Ottoman flags, especially as used by Janissaries cavalry, in the 16th and 17th centuries. This version of the complete prayer of the Zulfiqar is also frequently invoked in talisman of the Qizilbash:

شاه مردان،
شیر یزدان،
قدرت خدا،
لا فتى إلا علي،
لا سيف إلا ذو الفقار،

Shah-e-Mardan,
Sher-e-Yazdan,
Quwat-e-Khuda,
Lafata illah Ali;
La Saif Illh Zulfiqar.
"Leader of men-at-arms,
The lion of Yazdan,
Might by the most high (God),
There is none like Ali
; No sword like Zulfiqar".

A record of Live like Ali, die like Hussein as part of a longer talismanic inscription was published by Tewfik Canaan in The Decipherment of Arabic Talismans (1938)[6]

Seal of Solomon[edit]

Seal of Solomon
Main article: Seal of Solomon

The Seal of Solomon, also known as the interlaced triangle, is another ancient talisman and amulet that has been commonly used in several religions. Reputed to be the emblem by which King Solomon ruled the Genii, it could not have originated with him. Its use has been traced in different cultures long before the Jewish Dispensation. As a talisman it was believed to be all-powerful, the ideal symbol of the absolute, and was worn for protection against all fatalities, threats, and trouble, and to protect its wearer from all evil. In its constitution, the triangle with its apex upwards represents good, and with the inverted triangle, evil: the triangle with its apex up being typical of the Trinity, figures that occur in several religions.

In India, China and Japan, its three angles represent Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer or Regenerator. In ancient Egypt, it represented the deities Osiris, Isis and Horus. In Christianity, it represented the Holy Trinity. As a whole it stands for the elements of fire and spirit, composed of the three virtues (love, truth, and wisdom). The triangle with its apex downward symbolized the element of water, and typified the material world, or the three enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and the cardinal sins, envy, hatred and malice. Therefore, the meaning of the two triangles interlaced, is the victory of spirit over matter. In the early cultures that contributed to Western civilization, it was believed an all-powerful talisman and amulet, especially when used with either a Cross of Tau, the Hebrew Yodh, or the Egyptian Crux Ansata in the center.[7]:19-20

Talismanic Scroll[edit]

This object, a Talismanic Scroll dating from the 11th-century was discovered in Egypt and produced in the Fatimid Islamic Caliphate (909-1171 C.E.) It resides in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)[8] along with a number of other Medieval Islamic amulets and talisman that were donated to the museum by the Abemayor family in 1978. About 9 inches by 3 inches in size, the miniature paper scroll contains a combination of prayers and Qur'anic verses, and was created for placement in an amulet box. This block print bears Kufic, the oldest calligraphic Arabic script, as well as Solomon's Seal, a star with six points has been identified in a large number of Islamic art pieces of the period. Block printing was utilized as a technique through which to mass-produce talisman scrolls, hundreds of years before block printing was incorporated into European societies.[9]

Swastika[edit]

Main article: Swastika

The swastika, one of the oldest and most widespread talismans known, can be traced to the Stone Age, and has been found incised on stone implements of this era. It can be found in all parts of the Old and New Worlds, and on the most prehistoric ruins and remnants. In spite of the assertion by some writers that it was used by the Egyptians, there is little evidence to suggest they used it and it has not been found among their remains.

Both forms, with arms turned to the left and to the right, seem equally common. On the stone walls of the Buddhist caves of India, which feature many of the symbols, arms are often turned both ways in the same inscription.[7]:15

Uraniborg[edit]

Main article: Uraniborg

The Renaissance scientific building Uraniborg has been interpreted as an astrological talisman to support the work and health of scholars working inside it, designed using Marsilio Ficino's theorized mechanism for astrological influence. Length ratios that the designer, the astrologer and alchemist Tycho Brahe, worked into the building and its gardens match those that Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa associated with Jupiter and the sun. This choice would have counteracted the believed tendency of scholars to be phlegmatic, melancholy and overly influenced by the planet Saturn.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Campo, Juan E. (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. New York: Facts On File. p. 40. ISBN 1438126964. 
  2. ^ a b Gonzalez-Wippler, Migene (2001). Complete Book Of Amulets & Talismans. Lewellyn Publications. ISBN 0-87542-287-X. 
  3. ^ https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/talisman
  4. ^ "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, τελέω". Perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  5. ^ a b Olsan, L. T. (1 December 2003). "Charms and Prayers in Medieval Medical Theory and Practice". Social History of Medicine. 16 (3): 343–366. doi:10.1093/shm/16.3.343. 
  6. ^ Savage-Smith, Emilie (2004). Magic and Divination in Early Islam. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 125–177. ISBN 9780860787150. 
  7. ^ a b Thomas, William; Pavitt, Kate (1995). The Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems. Kila, Montana: Kessinger Publishing Company. ISBN 9781564594617. 
  8. ^ "Talismanic Scroll". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  9. ^ "Talismanic Scroll | The Met". Metmuseum.org. Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  10. ^ Kwan, Alistair (1 March 2011). "Tycho's Talisman: Astrological Magic in the Design of Uraniborg". Early Science and Medicine. 16 (2): 95–119. doi:10.1163/157338211X557075. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Talisman at Wikimedia Commons
  • Forshaw, Peter (2015) 'Magical Material & Material Survivals: Amulets, Talismans, and Mirrors in Early Modern Europe’, in Dietrich Boschung and Jan N. Bremmer (eds), The Materiality of Magic. Wilhelm Fink.