An amulet is an object whose most important characteristic is the power ascribed to it to protect its owner from danger or harm, according to Wikipedia. Throughout history, an amulet could be any object — a stone, a plant, an artificial production, or a piece of writing — which was suspended from the neck, or tied to any part of the body, for the purpose of counteracting poison, curing or preventing disease, warding off the evil eye, aiding women in childbirth, or obviating calamities and securing advantages of any kind.
The word "amulet" comes from the Latin amulētum, meaning "an object that protects a person from trouble". Amulets are different from talismans as a talisman is believed to bring luck or some other benefit, though it can offer protection as well.
The custom developed for people to have on their persons pieces of paper, parchment, or metal discs inscribed with various formulae which would protect the bearer from sickness, the "evil eye," and other troubles. The use of inscription as a means to ward off evil spirits stemmed from a belief in early times in the holiness and in the power of words.
Amulets in Ancient Egypt
The Egyptians believed in the protective and regenerative powers of amulets and used them in both daily life and funerary rites, as their powers could defend the wearer from malevolent forces. In ancient Egypt, amulets might be carried, used in necklaces, bracelets, or rings, and—especially—placed among a mummy’s bandages to ensure the deceased a safe, healthy, and productive afterlife.
Egyptian amulets functioned in a number of ways. Symbols and deities generally conferred the powers they represent. Ancient Egyptians frequently wore jewelry imbued with symbolic meaning and magical properties. These potent objects, known today as amulets, were worn on the body in way that is comparable to modern bracelet charms and necklace pendants.
Amulets were an important part of ancient Egyptian material culture for millennia. They invoked the powers of gods, goddesses, and other magical forces. Because they were desired by people from all social classes, the materials used to make amulets were quite varied, ranging from costly precious stones and metals to the much more common and accessible materials.
Amulets in Ancient Rome
Bulla, an amulet worn like a locket, was given to male children in Ancient Rome nine days after birth. A bulla was worn around the neck as a locket to protect against evil spirits and forces. it was made of differing substances depending upon the wealth of the family. The bulla of an upper-class boy would be made of gold. Other materials included leather and cloth.
A lunula was a crescent moon shaped pendant worn by girls, the equivalent of the boy's bulla. Girls ideally wore them as an apotropaic amulet (from Greek apotrepein "to ward off" from apo- "away" and trepein "to turn", intended to turn away harm or evil influences). In the popular belief the Romans wore amulet to protect themselves against evil forces, demons and sorcery, but especially against the evil eye.
Amulets in Islam
In the world of Islam, they bear Qur’anic inscriptions as well as images of prophets, astrological signs, and religious narratives. Many Muslims believe that an object that is inscribed with the word God (Allah) will protect the person who reads, touches, or sees it and that the word of God has the power to ward off evil.
The surface of a talismanic object can be covered with prayers, signs, numbers, and decorative motifs, and the object is carried in a pocket, or rolled and placed in an amulet case; some talismans are worn as clothing. Talismans that contain inscriptions with the names of prophets and religious figures have the power to protect an individual from hardship and danger by acting as conduits between these holy figures and anyone carrying the talisman.
Amulets in the Talmudical Age
The use of amulets was very extensive in the rabbinical period; that is, from about the first century B.C. until about 600 of the common era. They were worn sometimes with covering and sometimes without. The amulet itself, it appears, might consist either of an article inscribed with the name of God, with a Scripture passage or the like, or of the root of some herb. Grains of wheat wrapped in leather sometimes served as amulets.
The most frequent form of amulets, however, was a small metal plate suitably inscribed. Children, owing to their feeble powers of resistance, were held to be much exposed to the danger of magic fascination; they were, therefore, protected by means of knots, written parchments, etc., tied round their necks. Usually, at least among men, amulets were worn on the arm; but exceptionally they were carried in the hand. Women and children wore them especially on neck-chains, rings, or other articles of jewelry.
Faith in the virtues of amulets was almost universal in the ancient world. A wide selection of stones, either to be set in rings, or strung together in necklaces, were often used with reference to their reputed virtues as amulets.
From earliest times, man has tried to protect himself from misfortune by the use of objects which he considered holy or otherwise potent. One of the ways of doing this was to keep the object close to his person, frequently wearing it as an article of clothing, or as an ornament.
It was felt that the evil spirits which cause misfortune would not dare to attack one so protected. It has been suggested that this desire for protection is the source of man's habit to adorn himself with jewelry and other ornamentation.
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