Monday, January 1, 2018

Talismans: A Forest of Symbols

By Kristy McCaffrey

Welcome to a new year!! I hope you all had a lovely holiday full of good food and festive times with friends and family.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my propensity to purchase trinkets whenever I travel or want to commemorate a significant event. Are you like this?  When on vacation, do you always purchase a souvenir? Or maybe several?

The need to remember a journey, to somehow capture the essence of it—the essence of the place—is a deeply-rooted impulse. Souvenirs can serve as talismans, which to some are nothing more than lucky charms, but to others carry strong energetic undercurrents.

The making of fetishes and talismans is an ancient practice that speaks to the inner life of humans—a way to tap into and feed the soul. In Women Who Run With The Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs states, “Art is important for it commemorates the seasons of the soul, or a special or tragic event in the soul’s journey. Art is not just for oneself, not just a marker of one’s own understanding. It is also a map for those who follow after us.”

Talisman derives from an Arabic word meaning “magic picture,” and is similar to an amulet in that it either brings luck or averts evil. The addition of mystical symbols activates its power. The Latin root for “charm” is the same as for “song”, tying together the idea of a talisman as a magical sound and a magical intention in one.

There is evidence that ancient man wore shells, and animal bones and teeth, as long ago as 40,000 years. Today, jewelry is worn not just for beauty, but also to capture the beliefs of the wearer, a cross being one of the most powerful talismans in use today.

Items such as diamond rings—used today as symbol of love and commitment—were originally used as a protective talisman because of its value as the hardest of all stones. Knights and warriors would place diamonds on sword hilts and shields.

A ghost shirt.
The Lakota people believed that Ghost Shirts were imbued with spiritual powers and were thought to protect the wearer from bullets.

What talismans do you have in your life?


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Diane Garland said...

We've slowed down on the souvenir buying when we go places, but I do look for a special Christmas ornament for my tree. I keep a list with all the ornaments and where we got them from with my decorations and it's a nice way to walk down memory lane and remember the special times we've had. We also buy magnets from everywhere we go. These I've got hanging on my walls in my kitchen. A bit of decoration and again, a nice way to remember favorite places we've visited over the years.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

I'm a magnet collector too. I like how it reminds me of great trips I've been on. I also collect postcards, although I keep most in a box in my closet. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year!!

Andrea Downing said...

I try to collect different things representative of the place I'm in-baskets from Nigeria and South Carolina, weaving from Peru, local metalwork from the Caribbean, and so on. Yeah, I have a houseful and some of it is now put away, but others are forming collections which helps make displays. I think about the people who made them and have (generally) fond memories of the time I was there.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Humans desire to ornament themselves has always interested me! From jewelry to tattoos and piercings decorating our bodies spans all time and geography. I used to collect things on trips like Xmas ornaments, etc. but lately in my life I'm in a place of trying to get rid of stuff rather than collect it! However, I sure did have fun this year buying souvenirs with my husband at Wall Drug. He doesn't usually like the spend money, but he can be really fun to shop with when he's in the mood. The only thing I can think of that falls into the talisman category is that collecting beach glass. I live by Lake Michigan and I've set a task for myself since I was young that I can't leave the beach until I find a piece of beach glass. (I don't know what would happen if the day came I didn't find a piece!). So I have a nice collection of beach glass and it does make me happy to see it everyday on my dresser.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

I do the same thing. I love locally made products, and I like the connection of remembering my visit to that place.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

I love your collection of beach glass. I tend to think objects can carry energy. I think we know by the way they make us feel. I suppose that's why so many of us like to collect objects from the beach, such as shells. It gives our homes a good vibe.