Amulets and Talismans: Mindful Healing

Four Simple Words

Amulets and Talismans:  Lucky charms, protective totems – tangible symbols that focus our thoughts on a specific idea or intention
Mindful: focused attention on the present moment
Healing: to restore, to make whole

Starfish amulet - mindful and healing.

Created during a mindful practice, this student amulet was created from a starfish – symbolizing safe travel over troubled waters.

 

The creation of amulets and talismans has the power to lead us into a mindful approach to healing. Amulets and talismans are simply physical objects that are believed to have powers to cause good things to happen. When we create these, we step into the realm of self-inquiry, slowing down into the moment before us. In engaging our hearts and our hands, our rough edges are soothed and the still, small voice within has the opportunity to speak. Engaging with visual language allows us to experience our inner lives in a rich, heartwarming way. The act of getting lost in the process gently allows us to let go of things we no longer need and wander into the land of renewal and healing.

 

 

Roots of the Tradition

Prehistoric Cave Paintings are found all over the world - Indonesia, Africa, Europe...

Prehistoric cave paintings are found all over the world – Indonesia, Africa, Europe, South America, and even the United States.

 

Humans have always needed a little help from time to time in coping with the complications of our unpredictable earthly lives. It is fascinating to ponder how our communication methods have evolved and how the role of creating things has played in that development. Somewhere along the way, there was a need for a visual symbolic language, and we’ve been fine-tuning it for over 50,000 years. Why we make art can lead us into numerous interesting conversations, but my feeling is that we needed visual reminders to guide our thoughts and questions of what it is to be human. Our ancestors’ dynamic hand paintings are found throughout the world, held within protected caves. We can understand these ancient symbols as visual messages yearning to connect with the realm beyond, reaching for what is beyond physical.

Amulets and talismans were birthed out of this longing to connect with forces outside ourselves, forces that could comfort and guard us from the dangers of life. All cultures and spiritual traditions have them. For the ancient Egyptians, it was the protective Eye of Horus; for Christians, it’s the cross. Healing Icons favors ones from Tibet.  

In the middle east this amulet is symbolic of the protective hand of God - a Hamsa

In the Middle East, this amulet is symbolic of the protective hand of God – a hamsa.

Beautiful moss covered cross

I happened upon this moss-covered cross tucked inside a tiny cemetery in Little Switzerland, NC.

 

 

 

Ancient Egyptian amulet for general protection and good health.

The Eye of Horus, an Ancient Egyptian amulet for general protection and good health.

 

 

 

 

I’ve always been especially fond of the ones from Egypt.

1958 - My Grandma O in Egypt. Tales of her trip fascinated me as a kid and carried forward...

1958 – My Grandma O in Egypt. Tales of her trip fascinated me as a kid. As a teen and young adult, I loved the treasures of Tutankhamen. It was one of my first introductions to amulets and talismans.

 

Magical Jewelry – Amulets to Wear

Egyptian necklace

My mom died a few years back, and while going through her things, I found “the magical Egyptian necklace.”

The gifts that my grandmother brought back from her 1958 Egyptian journey mesmerized me as a kid. I coveted one particular necklace. It was a replica of an ancient artifact. Grandma O explained with great detail the meaning and magical qualities assigned to each of the stones. Even though Mom’s necklace was not constructed from these actual stones, her mother was quick to point out that color itself carries the same vibrational energy. My Grandma O was way ahead of her time!

As I learned from her, carnelian enhances your creativity. Turquoise helps you understand and trust yourself. Gold fills you with energy, like the sun.  “The ancient peoples believed that all things from the earth carried their own unique life force,” she explained, “and when you wear this necklace, these qualities will settle into your spirit.” Every time my mom wore this magical necklace, I swear something shifted in her.

For many ancient cultures, wearing jewelry was not just about adornment. You selected your jewelry by the kind of energy you needed for that specific day. It was believed that metals, stones and gems carried specific symbolic characteristics. Tiger’s Eye = Courage. Garnet = Hope. Amethyst = Cleansing.

 

Of course, there were and always will be naysayers, but my Grandma O quoted Albert Einstein with an ever-present twinkle in her eye:

 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

 

My power totem.

My Carol Talisman to fight off my annoying  impostor voice.

 

I have several pieces of jewelry that I have assigned different attributes. My “powerful strength” totem is a turquoise pendant that belonged to a dear friend of mine. She died of cancer after a fierce battle over a decade ago. Her husband could not bear clearing out her belongings, so he invited her closest pals to. We gathered, told stories and remembered Carol, all leaving with a few things that held her energy. When I chose this pendant, along with her well-worn horse-riding cowboy boots, I had no idea how much I would cherish these totems.

When fearful insecurities strike, like they have been while filming Creating Brave®, I wear my Carol Talismans and call in her essence, which is a strong communicator of truth and justice for all. Interestingly, she was a judge, and I seriously doubt that she had any idea that turquoise held associations of wholeness, truth, and communication.

Many times, we are drawn to objects for reasons of which we are not aware, but if we trust the call of the senses, life expands.

 

The Call of the Senses

As a visual artist, I have always had a sensitivity to the energy, the life-force, of objects. Thus, I am a collector of  all kinds of random things — bones, feathers, rocks, rusty bottle caps, wasp nests, seed pods, bits of moss, worn pieces of sea glass, bottle green, reflective bits of mica, a butterfly wings, olive and peach pits… The act of collecting is an ongoing ritual, soothing my edges, bringing glimpses of harmony, joy, and elation into the thunderous roar of life. I collect while I am out walking, a daily mindful practice of mine.

A hammered metal coaster is my collection plate for the things I find. It rests on my desk. A small ceramic Virgin of Guadalupe that I stumbled upon in Peru sits on this coaster alongside a tiny metal meditating Buddha that I picked up in World Market. They welcome my found objects and provide a holding space for them until I have discovered the story they are telling.

My collection plate, holds my offerings. Another great find while I was clearing out my mother's possessions, my childhood 4 leaf clover amulet.

My collection plate holds my offerings. You can see another great find while I was clearing out my mother’s possessions — my childhood four-leaf clover amulet.  I loved wearing it on a small gold chain. Curiously, I do not remember when I stopped. I’m glad she kept it.

One of my most profound teachers, Walter Nottingham, emphasized that things are not “its”; they are “thous.” Whether nature-made or human-made, all things possess mana – a spiritual energy that has the power to inform us about our lives. Think of them as ordinary oracles. This is one of my guiding principles:

Whether these physical symbols are to protect, to empower, to calm, to bless, to bring good fortune, peace or serenity, they are amplifiers, helping lead us into the power of mindfulness, and closer towards harmony, quietude and tranquility.

Ordinary Oracles

Open, spacious, and inclusive — by observing nature, I feel all these things. When I listen to what is calling for my attention, I am never disappointed, quite often surprised, and most often, my world becomes brighter because of these ordinary oracles. The physical stuff of life — the things that exist on this planet — are open to us for contemplation. All amulets and talismans start here.

Clover Patch just waiting for a mindful sit down.

Clover patch just waiting for a mindful sit down. Do you see any “four-leafers?”

 

When is the last time you plopped yourself down beside a green cluster of clover and focused all your mindful attention on finding one of these rare “four-leafers?” I am lucky enough to live across from an empty lot filled with clover, and I actually do sit from time to time and gaze. Getting lost in the hunt is a form of meditation for me and keeps me locked into the present moment.

Mindful activity - collecting four leaf clovers!

Four-leaf clovers collected and glued onto a wall in her bedroom. How cool is that!

 

Reconnecting with that joyous feeling of discovering these hidden treasures does wonders for my well-being. I was reminded of this a couple of years ago when my daughter was getting married to a wonderful young man whose family lives in Philadelphia. My husband and I had traveled up for a weekend of festivities, and the last thing I expected to reconnect with was my love for four-leaf clovers. There in our bedroom, collaged directly on the wall, were dozens of these good luck totems! When I asked Steve (my son-in-law) about it, he casually remarked that his sister, Meagan, did “it” during high school. Well, I thought this was super cool on so many levels. One, that their parents Vicki and Tony were okay with creating art directly on the walls; and secondly, that four-leaf clovers graced this teenager’s room instead of pop culture icons. This elegantly simple, playful statement was amulet-making in its purest form.

 

 

Mindful Creating

In our upcoming e-course, Creating Brave®,  we will explore some approaches to making amulets and talismans. We hope you will join us.

In the meantime, take a look around the next time you go for a walk. Pick some things up. Begin a nature-and-found-object collection.

Enchanted Dandelions showing off the Circle of Life - Birth, Growth, Death, Rebirth. Potential elements for a mindful amulet or talisman.

Enchanted dandelions showing off the Circle of Life – birth, growth, death, rebirth. Potential elements for a mindful amulet or talisman.

 

Simple objects bound together hold joyous surprises. After you try your hand at a few, sit them down and have a conversation with them. There is no wrong or right way to do this. Just do it! Combine your finds together into a fun amulet, a protective talisman, or a power totem. Suspend your rational mind and dive in. Let the process lead you. Bind several things together with a bit of thread, yarn, ribbon, or wire.

 

Student amulet of healing

Student amulet. Word associations are made with the gathered materials and then are linked together in “free verse” or affirmations.
Stone = solid foundation
Mica = time to reflect
Rosemary & lavender wrapped in gauze = healing
Red felt = passion
Purple thread = wisdom
I will take time to reflect, gifting myself a solid foundation so that I can heal and move with passion into knowing my own wisdom.

 

You might notice that you already have some unintentional collections. Look in your cabinet drawers — sometimes the most mundane things hold the most interesting information. Don’t discount things like rubber bands, paper clips, old keys, buttons, hammers, fishing hooks, etc. Everything is full of symbolic meaning. Play with it all and have fun.

What do you collect? Can your collections have a conversation with each other? What would one of those seashells that you picked up while you were walking on the beach say to the rock that you picked up while in the mountains? What would the butterfly wing you found on your patio say to the moss-covered stick you picked up in your driveway? Think about the characteristics of the objects you collect. Think of them as Thou’s, not It’s.

What are some of your everyday amulets and talismans?

If you daringly and spontaneously create amulets and talismans, take a snapshot with your phone and email them to me at [email protected] Next month, I’ll share your creations in next month’s blog post!

3 Comments

  1. Donna McGreevy on June 26, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    I love the connections between inanimate objects and those people or events that are most important to us. Some of those connections are apparent, while others are revealed in time.
    I don’t wear or even own much jewelry. I’ve never been that interested. However after I read your article about amulets and talismans, I realized there is more to my few favorite pieces than I realized. Almost every day I wear a small charm that my sister gave me which to her looked like and represented a life preserver. She gave my sister who was her bone marrow donor a gold one, I got the silver for being the backup donor. The reminder of our bond is a comfort to me.
    Almost forty years ago my Dad brought me a gift from Hawaii. It is a handmade beaded necklace featuring a beautiful round piece of abalone. It has always been my go to dress-up necklace even though it’s not fancy or bejeweled. Inspired by your “Carol talisman” I researched the healing properties of abalone. It’s no wonder I feel a connection to it…I found out it has calming and soothing properties as well as healing for arthritis and heart issues -and an even more meaningful connection with my Dad.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on June 27, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      What wonderful insights Donna. I will include your poignant story in our next month’s blog and include the photo. Thanks for sharing!

  2. mirta on November 2, 2018 at 6:07 am

    A quite complete and interesting post, helps us a lot on the subject, although we have specifically talked about the stones that are amulets. Definitely a super cultural and educational post.

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