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
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
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.
I’ve always been especially fond of the ones from Egypt.
Magical Jewelry – Amulets to Wear
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!