AMULETS

AMULETS. In Greek phylakterion something that protects or periamma or periapton something hung within around the neck or arm or leg, in Latin phylacterium or amuletum. According to the belief of those who used them, an amulet was an object endowed with a power in our terms a magic power which protected from misfortune, sickness, the evil eye and evil spirits. Ordinarily they were used to protect people; some, however, were thought to protect a house or even a city. Amulets were produced primarily by specialized artisans out of a variety of materials: hard stone, amber, coral, metals, wood, animal bones, fragments of clay pottery, parchment and papyrus. Magic power was attributed to some of these materials themselves e.g., agate, coral, amber. Other than the material, what made amulets effective were images carved or painted on them gods or demons, often zoomorphic, and esp. inscriptions containing, besides apotropaic formulas, meaningless series of letters and or names of gods. Amulets were used from time immemorial, in various cultures. Many pious Jews, respecting the law prohibiting the depiction of human beings or animals or pronouncing of the name of God, would wear as an amulet a small sack or box containing a piece of parchment or papyrus with biblical verses written on them. The Talmud mentions the practice of wearing amulets, esp. while at prayer, on the forehead and on the inside of the left arm, at the level of the heart. In the period of the Roman Empire, texts carved or painted on pagan amulets often contained elements taken from the Jewish religion names of God and of archangels, angels and seraphim. This was because in antiquity the Jews were known as powerful magicians. In a special category of amulets were so-called gnostic gems. These amulets were made of jasper esp. green jasper with vivid red marks or hematite so-called bloodstone. Images of demons and gods, clearly syncretistic, were carved on their surface, as well as inscriptions, mostly in Greek, containing meaningless words and the names of gods. Often the God of the OT is mentioned by the name Iao a Gr. spelling for YHWH or Sabaoth, or there is a depiction of the Egyptian god Khmun in the form of a serpent with a lion’s head, or Hecate, or Serapis accompanied by Cerberus. The relationship of these gnostic gems with gnosticism itself is often unclear. The ecclesiastical authorities, synods and fathers of the church disapproved of the use of amulets. Many Christians used them regardless, continuing a centuries-old tradition. Used esp. were amulets with biblical verses written on them passages of psalms, esp. Ps 90; Is 6:3; the prologue of John’s gospel, the Our Father see Lord’s Prayer. Often but not necessarily magic signs, names of demons, etc. were inserted within a verse. The presence of these elements makes it difficult in many cases to establish whether a particular amulet was used by a pagan, a Jew or a Christian. Large numbers of amulets consisting of pieces of parchment or papyrus with writing on them have been found in Egypt, not because the use of this type of amulet was a specifically Egyptian practice, but because Egypt’s climate favored the preservation of these materials. The link between amulets and magic notwithstanding, the fact that many Christians wore pieces of parchment or papyrus with biblical verses can be considered a manifestation of a personal devotion not opposed to the Christian faith. The boundary between religion and magic was blurred in such cases. B. Bonner, Studies in Magical Amulets Chiefly Graeco-Egyptian, Ann Arbor 1950; F. Eckstein – J.H. Waszink, RAC 1 1950 397- 411; J. van Haelst, Catalogue des papyrus littraires juifs et chr- tiens, Paris 1976; M. Naldini, Testimonianze cristiane negli amuleti greco-egizi, Augustinianum 21 1981 179-188; J.G. Gager, Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World, New York – Oxford 1992, 218-282.One Stop Occult Shop – Amulet: Win Male or Female of Choice travelquaz

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