Monday, 18 May 2020

Charms, amulets and face masks - by Lu Hersey

We're now at a point where Covid-19 is unlikely to be going away anytime soon, so (if
you've managed to avoid it so far) you want to feel you have some kind of protection. Looking at the appalling death statistics is very sobering - but sooner or later, we all have to leave home to get food, visit the pharmacy or go to work. There is no vaccine yet - so what do you do?

Tamsin Rosewell (of Kenilworth Books) and I share an interest in folklore, and we were speculating on social media about how long it would be before people turn back to ancient forms of witchcraft, magic and folklore remedies to ward off impending doom. Because it's a subject I research a lot for my writing, I've come up with a few ideas used by our ancient (and not so ancient) ancestors to get you started. I'm only including a very small selection here. Pick whichever you feel most drawn to if you want to make an amulet or charm for yourself (or buy one online if it all looks too complicated).

First off, amulets. People throughout the ages have worn amulets for a variety of purposes, including to attract love, wealth or good fortune, or for protection. Here are a couple of examples of protection amulets, possibly more use than love or wealth if you're worried about catching an illness.

Protective amulet made to the design of Elizabethan magician Dr John Dee's table, filled with complex Enochian magick symbols. He believed the design was communicated to him by angelic forces and would ward off all evil. 

The ankh symbol basically means 'life' - even eternal life, which could be handy. This one in lapis lazuli with reed symbolism possibly represents the life giving Nile. Creating a protective amulet such as an Egyptian Ankh, or a scarab became ritual in itself and could only be made by someone with the power to make it.

Less complicated than amulets are the more folkloric protection charms such as hagstones, which can be found by anyone on the right type of beach. Also witch bottles, which contrary to popular belief, were made to protect a household from ill luck, not curses put on people by witches. Usually placed in the fabric of the building, under the entrance or built into a boundary wall, they were still commonly included in rural constructions until at least the 1960s.

Two witch bottles - the bottle on the left is a modern version (this one was made by Cornish witch, Levannah Morgan) filled with ends of wool from craft makings. (Historically they contained iron nails, urine and hair). It can be placed by the hearth, door or on a window sill. The other bottle is one I found in a crumbling old boundary wall in Cornwall (and cleaned very carefully!) In front of the bottles are hagstones, which are traditionally strung above doorways for protection.

The Nazar eye, a charm to ward off evil, has been made in one form or another for thousands of years. It remains a popular charm today.

Algiz - the Nordic rune most commonly interpreted as meaning 'protection', or 'sanctuary.'  A popular choice as a rune pendant. (This one is part of a rune set  )

Holding faith in ancient talismans and charms might seem quaint, but there are some new, far more dangerous and baffling beliefs already out there. Flat earthers are creationists who think only 'the truth' will save us (whatever 'the truth' is) from the virus. Along with the EDL and the 'there is no virus, it's a conspiracy and the problem is all about 5G' believers (mostly followers of David Icke, who also thinks the queen's a lizard), they've started arranging 'gatherings' of like-minded people across the country. protesting against the lockdown and avoiding any kind of social distancing.

Covering all bases, flat earthers like the owner of this car organise 'gatherings' of like minded people protesting against the lockdown, as they believe the virus is a conspiracy. These 'gatherings' are best avoided by anyone with half a brain.
To cap it all, in Glastonbury (where I live) there's at least one person who thinks playing the bongo drums on Glastonbury tor ALL NIGHT LONG, will do the job of keeping the virus at bay. If he keeps it up and the virus doesn't get him, I might forget social distancing and strangle him myself.

Whatever your opinion on ancient amulets or alternative ways to help ward off illness, it seems most of us can't resist the idea of charms against ill fortune. Even it's as simple as crossing your fingers, or wearing a pair of lucky pants.

However, despite my personal fascination with magical objects, this post isn't intended to stop you using your common sense. I'll be the first to admit that social distancing, plastic gloves, hand gel and a face mask are probably much more effective.
Me, ready to enter Tesco. Stylish face mask, hand gel in bag, sadly no amulet.

by Lu Hersey
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Susan Price said...

Oh good, I'm sorted as I have several hag-stones -- though I know them as 'seer-stones' because if you're gifted that way, you look through them to see the future.

I'll put that rune up above my doorways, to keep Flat Earthers and 5G Truthers away.

Penny Dolan said...

Enjoyable post, Lu!

Meanwhile, looking around at the quanity of objects on the shelves of my work-room - tiny toys, gifts, cards, mementos, art materials and so on - I'm wondering if, subconciously, they form a self-made protective shrine? Can't be the only one, can I?

Katherine Roberts said...

Love this, Lu... though you missed out tin-foil hats for 5g?

Apart from acquiring three dragons, I started making paper cranes at the beginning of lockdown and believe if I make one every day, like the Japanese girl who developed radiation poisoning after Hiroshima, they will keep me alive... if I reach 1000, maybe even my wish to see my friends again over a cup of coffee in a cafe will come true?

On the other hand, Covid19 mainstream news these days seems like a modern form of Voodoo. "You're going to die!" says the witch doctor to a previously healthy person, and what happens? Obviously, I avoid that.

LuWrites said...

Susan - yes, seer stones indeed...just thought maybe the protection element might be more helpful right now! Penny, I think many of us subconsciously build little 'shrines' of protection... and Katherine I wish I'd thought of including the tinfoil hats! Also love the cranes. In a way that's a kind of ritual in itself... ❤️

Anne Booth said...

I love your face mask - and your appraisal of the increasingly imminent danger of the man playing the drums all night made me laugh.