Jewellery helps to protect the wearer and keeps evil at a distance. In earlier blog posts we have looked at the colour red and how renderings of animals and the skies work their magic for the wearer. Let’s have a look at some of the other ways in which jewellery functions as amulet or talisman!
Sounds and smells
For starters, many jewellery items produce sound. Bells and dangles tinkle, rows of coins jingle, sets of bracelets clank, hollow anklets rattle with small stones inside. These sudden sounds startle evil and chase it away.
Pleasant fragrances are associated with good, benign powers, while everything odorous and smelly is associated with malevolent entities. Jewellery that holds fragrance or even alludes to it, is considered a powerful advantage to have on your side. For example, glass bottle stoppers set in silver are worn in Oman for several reasons. Glass bottles held perfumed oils or scented water, and its stoppers are closely associated with these fragrances. Translucent, colourless glass also doubles as an imitation of crystal, itself a material that was highly prized because of its beneficial capacities.
Words and numbers
Ever since the origin of writing, written spells have made very powerful amulets, and in societies where not everyone was literate, the art of writing was often regarded as having mysterious powers. These written amulets could be verses from the Quran or specifically calculated formulas. They would be rolled tight and inserted into a tube to be hung around the neck, and with this practice, we find one of the most familiar shapes in jewellery explained: the amulet container. It is called by a variety of names, like hirz or higab, and is shaped like a tube, box or triangle. Some of these can be opened, especially older ones, but in most cases, it can’t. That does not mean it is any less powerful: the shape itself invokes the amulet that would have been stored inside. With these pendants, we could say that the function has been transferred to the form. Besides texts, numbers also carry specific meaning. This is most visible in the magic square: a design in which all rows, columns and diagonals add up to the same number. The most widely used square is the arrangement of the numbers 1 through 9 with 5 in the middle, that reads 15 in all directions. One example of this square is visible in the silver amulet featured here.
Materials as well carry meaning beyond simply being attractive. Not just the colours are chosen for a reason, the particular capacities of individual materials are of importance as well. Amber, for example, is said to carry the warmth of the sun and is worn around the neck to prevent throat diseases, but its slight electrostatic charge when rubbed makes it an excellent material to attract the love of a husband. Agate is considered beneficial for a series of illnesses, dependant on its colour. Grey agate is used for complications in the neck area, white agate guarantees milk production in young mothers, and yellow agate is effective in the treatment of stomach pains.
These are just a few examples: with these I hope to have introduced you to how jewellery is closely interwoven with magic, creating a sphere of protection and blessing through all the senses expanding itself all around the wearer.
This post is based on my book Desert Silver.