Quite frequently I am asked about the various, factory-made talismans and amulets that I offer. Sometimes people ask things like “What is this one for?” or “What can I wear to attract money?”, “Which one is for love?”, etc.
But the situation that I get most often and which never fails to surprise me, goes like this. The person holds up a few items that have captured their interest. Let’s say they are interested in an amulet for protection, something to keep them safe from the Evil Eye or curses, or violent people, etc.
They ask if the amulets in question have already been magickally charged. They also ask what the difference is between a talisman and an amulet, or the difference between a charged item and a non-charged item.
So, I give a very brief explanation of my take on that. I tell them that any object can be used as either a talisman, or an amulet. An amulet repels things and a talisman attracts. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stone, a cloth, mojo bag of herbs and roots or if it’s a highly-detailed metal, planetary, Angelic talisman.
It doesn’t matter if you wear it on your neck, keep it in your pocket, or leave it in a special box at home. What matters is what it’s designed to do, it’s intended function.
I show them a few of the stock, off the shelf items and tell them how they might charge it for themselves. I also explain what types of talismans, amulets and mojo hands that I custom make for my clients. I talk about what types of ritual, astrological timing, symbolism and ingredients (herbs, resins, etc… if any) that I would incorporate.
I cite typical prices for making an item that the client will later charge on their own, or for something that I have charged at the first available date, versus something that I sat down and careful scoped out an astrological election for.
What comes next is the part that’s important. The customer then holds up the cheapest item and says something to the effect of “Can’t I just get this? Isn’t this just as good?”.
It’s not the customer’s fault. The fact is, we live in America, and Americans are by far the least magickally educated people on Earth. Most of us grew up in families where magick was never talked about, it just wasn’t discussed and so there is no frame of reference.
A huge part of my role here at the shop is to just teach, so I remind myself that this person is inexperienced in these matters and my job is to explain. One of the most beautiful things that we offer here, is not something we sell at all, but rather it’s a non-judgmental environment, in which people can come and ask questions and learn. So, I remind myself of that… and then go into my little, pat spiel about consecrating/charging amulets, versus using them, “as is”.
My personal penchant for teaching is to use the Socratic Method, which is to teach by asking questions and leading to an obvious conclusion, one that will hopefully serve the client as well as possible.
So, I ask something like “Are you a police officer?” or maybe “Are you a black belt in martial arts?”. Nine times out of ten, the answer is no, so it’s a safe example to use. Once they say “No”, I ask “If you had to walk through a really bad neighborhood, do you think that wearing a policeman’s uniform might provide you a little extra safety, even though you are not an actual police officer? What about if you wore a t-shirt that said you were a proud black belt at the local martial arts training academy?”.
This illustration always hits home right away and they say “Yeah, I guess that might keep you a bit safer” and they sometimes follow that with an understanding smile that lets me see the lightbulb has flicked on.
I follow up immediately with “Yes, it will most likely keep away the people who would beat you up, rape, mug or murder you. However… what’s better? Having the uniform or having the skills and the training to back up what that uniform advertises?”. Of course the response is “Well, having the training is better”.
I nod and go into “Yes! So, having one of these amulets for protection is better than nothing; it’s like having the uniform. It will probably be an effective enough rouse to frighten off the low-level thugs, the type that readily run from police, or people who they perceive as being more powerful than themselves. They may cross the street to avoid you”
“But what about the seriously deranged, dangerous sociopaths? The ones who are not afraid of police or martial artists? What about the type who carry guns and consider it a badge of honor to kill police?”.
We quickly reach an agreement that no police uniform or Karate gi (uniform) is going to substitute for actual skill, at least not against a determined attacker. So, just having the outfit… you’re screwed. Time to up your game.
“So let’s think of ritually charging our amulet as gaining some of that all-important skill, that police training or gettin’ yourself some badass, Kung Fu mojo. Now, you may run up against a psycho and you still have a real threat here, but now you have some actual weaponry, not just a Halloween costume that is all smoke and mirrors.
If your amulet is tied to a protective Deity and ritually consecrated to them, then you have some real firepower”.
I know that if it was me, walking through the mean streets at night, my first choice would be to have a gun, some heavy-duty fighting skills to draw on and a uniform that broadcasts “Don’t Tread On Me”. But if I don’t have that gun, I still want my skills and my uniform. And if I can’t have my skills, then I still want my uniform!
We can think of a stock, uncharged amulet as being the uniform. The charging/consecrating of that amulet is having some skill to make the outfit mean something and finally, choosing a great astrological election on which to consecrate the amulet and having all the right tools and magickal skills to do it up right… well, that my friends, is your handgun. Even no, you can hear Dirty Harry, asking if you feel lucky?
So, are these things equal? Is one just as good as another? Nope. Definitely not. However, that does not mean that just a stock amulet is totally useless. Many magicians will tell you that uncharged, a talisman or amulet is simply a dead, lifeless object, and nothing more. In fact, I used to say the same thing. I no longer feel that way.
Now, I look at it like this. A stop sign is a signal to the mind of a driver. Hell, it makes a definite statement to people who are just walking by! They may not care. They might speed past it in their car, or they might spit on it as they walk by. The sign is no guarantee that the command will be obeyed. Some folks just don’t listen to anybody.
But the point is, the stop sign sends a message to the brain that somewhere, there is an “authority figure”, who made a decree that everyone must stop and look both ways, yield the right of way, etc.
At this spot in the road, you gotta cease for a moment and obey the law. And the implication is that if you ignore this law, there will be a penalty. Whether that is a ticket, a warning or swift and painful death, it doesn’t matter. The law is the law. Do as you are told.
If there happens to be a Highway Patrolman, lurking in the bushes, nearby that stop sign, then that particular situation carries far more weight. Chances are, if you blow by at 60mph, he is going to bust you and bust you hard. Now, you might have a beefed up race car and some serious driving skills, but you will still have a situation to deal with. You won’t just waltz away, unscathed; you’re now involved in a high-speed pursuit. The law was guarding this little patch of the road.
Also, we could be dealing with the gun-toting, mafioso psychopath, who is more than happy to have a shoot out with the police. So, there is still no guarantee that justice will be served, here. There are no guarantees about anything in life. Anyone telling you otherwise is selling you something that you don’t need.
But in our rather delinquent example, if our bad guy decides to stop and get into a gun battle, at least the cop has a gun, too. If he’s not caught too off-guard, then he stands a fair chance at coming out on the winning end of things. So, we have a literal, fighting chance.
Another important point (in my opinion) is that most people are basically law-abiding… to some extent, anyway. Even if they know for a fact there is no cop, they will stop. They will usually stop, even if they otherwise rude, cantankerous and disagreeable blowhards.
So, if you have a house on a dangerous corner and the city hasn’t put up an official stop sign, is it going to help stop accidents if you take things into your own hands and put up a stop sign, yourself? Of course! Just don’t get caught!
The point is, that the symbol will do a lot of the work. Beyond that, you need law-enforcement to do the rest.
Respected occult author Lon Milo Duquette suggests in his writings that this plane, the plane that we humans live on, is made up of physical matter and symbols are merely ideas. They are just things in our heads. But on the astral plane, the place where Spirits, Angels, Demons, Gods and the dead live, their plane of existence is like a mirror, where symbols are solid and physical matter is of little to no importance. Symbols, to them, are everything.
This tells me that an amulet can have say, a symbol of the planet Mars and the names of various entities associated with that planet, Angels if you will, and the mere mention of this Mars… this God of War and His Angelic Host, will send lower-level spooks running. If it doesn’t, then it’s because they are either too stupid to know who Mars is, or they are like spiritual sociopaths, who just don’t care. That doesn’t mean that Mars is not strong. It means that the entities who don’t quiver in fear are simply shut-off, like John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer.
For people (or entities) like that, we call in the SWAT team. Even so, they are still too crazy to be truly afraid. But that doesn’t mean we just give up. It means we make sure we have access to the SWAT team! We invoke the Lord of War! Having a potent Mars amulet is like having the SWAT team on speed dial. It does not mean that you are totally safe from every possible misfortune, but it does mean you have some cards to play.
Most people will go blissfully unaware through life, never needing talismans or amulets. However, I’ve met a remarkable number of folks who were never even interested in magick and yet fell under someone’s magickal attack or had direct problems from a Spirit.
The times they are a changin’. Books of spells are now carried at the most popular book stores, all over sites like Amazon and easily accessed for free on a million different websites and blogs.
Magick is making a very strong surge in popular consciousness these days and as such, it’s becoming more and more something that the average person needs to be at least partially informed about. These days carrying some sort of apotropaic (protective) charm is almost common sense.
I say that because even on the psychological level alone, you want people to think you have an edge, that you have friends in high places. Even if you don’t believe personally that such friends exist, you are plainly aware that many people do. If you can psyche them out by making them think you are too protected to mess with, it might act as a sort of rape whistle, buying you just enough breathing room to avoid their attention.
You may not believe in spells. If you don’t, then you won’t be worried about any real danger there. Still… you obviously don’t want anyone obsessing over you, day and night, acting like Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy. It’s just plain creepy. So, a well-placed amulet just might make them think twice.
It also might buy a bit of edge for even the most skeptical mind. A hardened atheist will usually agree that if you are in a moment of crisis and it feels appropriate to say a prayer, then there is certainly no harm in it. They’ll be quick to state that it won’t do any good… but it won’t hurt anything.
Also, they usually know about the power of the unconscious mind and the placebo effect. So, they are often willing to join the others in saying the proverbial foxhole prayer, if only to buy a moment of comfort, a space in which to regroup and do the difficult work ahead. If it’s good enough for the atheist (give the right circumstances) then why not you and me? Certainly as Pagans, sorcerers and ceremonialists, we can get behind the idea of a quality talisman or amulet, well-charged, well-placed and well-cared-for.