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What is an Amulet?

An amulet.
A St. Christopher medal worn on a bracelet as an amulet.
Amulets in Japan are silk pouches with prayers inside.
An amulet may be referred to as a talisman.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2014
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An amulet is an object, usually worn, that is considered to have powers that will protect the person. In many cases, it is the same as a talisman; but a talisman may be carried, where an amulet is usually worn. Both are considered to be protection against some form of evil and are common to numerous cultures ancient and present. Faith in the protective object was often greater for many in past times, however, when more folkloric beliefs were accepted.

The modern person wearing an amulet, such as a Catholic wearing a cross, may not believe the object protects him or her from evil. He or she generally displays the cross as a symbol of belief and reminder of Christ. There is great variance, however, and some people, especially those who follow Wiccan or astrological practices, may take the wearing of a protective charm quite seriously.

In Ancient Egypt, the amulet might depict gods, hieroglyphics, or certain revered animals, carved out of precious stones. These were generally worn during life, and kept on after death for protection in the afterlife.

Later, early Scandinavians used a rune in the shape of Thor’s hammer to ward off evil from witchcraft. The early Celts might have worn a four-leafed shamrock, or metal or stone carvings of the wheel or a boat. The three-leafed shamrock is actually Christian in origin and signifies the holy trinity.

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Each astrological sign has a stone that is significant, and many believe that wearing the appropriate stone gives one luck or wards off danger. The stone may be worn as necklace or ring. Amulet stones differ depending on which horoscope a person is basing his beliefs upon. For example, Chinese astrology differs significantly from Greek astrological signs and beliefs.

The object does not necessarily have to be stone or metal. Belief in vampire lore in Hungary often had villagers wearing garlic as a necklace because it was thought to repel the creatures. Further, in many medieval countries, people wore bags with herbs that were thought to ward off sickness or to cure illnesses.

In modern Japan, many wear an Omamori amulet. This is a small bag made of silk that has prayers written in paper on the inside. Some believe the Omamori protects the wearer only so long as he or she does not open the bag. It may have different prayers depending upon the wearer’s needs. Pregnant women might wear a special one, as might scholars or people who travel frequently.

Specificity of the amulet still exists in present day. For example, many police officers wear a St. Christopher’s medal, as he is the patron saint of people who help. Others may wear a medal showing St. Michael, the patron saint of police officers. Further, some police officers may wear a St. Jude medal, since he is the patron saint of hopeless causes.

Though there is little scientific evidence that an amulet actually protects the wearer from danger, many still find comfort or have great faith in the protective ability of such objects. Others wear them without really thinking of them as protective, and instead, they have simply become part of the “uniform” of a particular job. Some non-believers still believe in hedging their bets, particularly when it comes to wearing patron saints. While they aren’t sure the amulet will work, there seems no harm in a little divine protection.

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Discuss this Article

anon227720
Post 5

I wear the St Michael medal. He sends me positivity from time to time and protects me from Lucifer and his demons and it's all because of our Lord Jesus Christ so don't hesitate to get yourself a St Michael medal.

anon178523
Post 4

I am a Christian and I believe in the power of the saints. I always wear a St. Christopher medal to keep me safe from all harm. St. Christopher is known as the patron saint of travelers and motorists, but he doesn't just protect them, a St. Christopher medal will protect anyone who wears it from harm and injury. The medal invokes the intercession of St. Christopher for the protection of the wearer. However, I do not think of this as a talisman or amulet or even a lucky charm. To do so would mean that the medal has some kind of occult significance, which it doesn't.

The St. Christopher medal has no power in itself. Its power derives from the fact that it is a conduit of God's grace and is in itself a prayer to God. On the back of my St. Christopher there is a prayer: "St Christopher, protect us". Thus the medal invokes the intercession of St. Christopher and the medal is therefore a prayer to God in itself. By wearing the St. Christopher, you are basically asking St. Christopher to pray to God on your behalf, for your protection and safety. Thus it is not an amulet or talisman, but a holy item that invokes the blessings of God himself.

Unfortunately, a lot of people these days merely wear a St. Christopher as an item of jewelery and don't pay any attention to it's religious significance. The medal is treated merely as an accessory to fashion, as a decoration. This saddens me as I think that a St. Christopher is something to be treasured, valued and treated with great respect as it is the image of a holy saint and therefore a sacred item.

I always wear my St. Christopher faithfully and I do believe that it protects me and keeps me safe, and there are also many motorists, soldiers and police officers who also swear by the medal and it's power to protect the wearer from all harm.

ysmina
Post 3

There is a festival in India called Raksha Bandhan. On this day, sisters tie a thread on their brother's wrist to protect them from harm or from evil -- the thread is symbolic of the protective love and bond between a brother and sister.

I order the amulet online every year because they make such unique ones. My mom and my aunts say that they used to make it themselves and many people still do.

I was in India one time during Raksha Bandhan and it was really funny because I saw some girls tie amulets to some of their male friends. The girls were doing this because they knew these guys liked them but they didn't share the same feelings. Tying the thread made them their brother, so they were sending a message at the same time. Isn't that really smart and funny?!

candyquilt
Post 2

In Islam also, wearing protection amulets with prayers inside is a common thing. It's usually a small metal or silver triangle box. Prayers are written and placed inside and it's worn as a necklace.

I think that wearing amulets and talismans has more to do with culture than religion. In fact, truly believing that an object can protect you is kind of like putting that object in place of God, at least in Islamic view. It's a requirement of the religion to believe that God is the only protector and none else.

I think the habit of wearing amulets was something that existed before the Islamic era and it continues today as a cultural tradition. I imagine that most other religious amulets are the same way.

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