Amulets & Charms

Hits: 1720



These days Charms and Amulets are worn by all people across all cultural boundaries. There are even found so called "Christian Charms", some representing the "armour of God". We need to ask where do these items come from and what do they represent?

Masonic and Occult Symbols Illustrated - Dr. Cathy Burns (P294)

Another well known Witch, also brags about the protective properties of jewelry. She states:

"Jewelry and metals have their own vibrations and corresponding numbers, and again there is a link with the vibrations and colours of the planets. A favourite piece of Jewelry will take on the vibrations of the person wearing it, especially over a long period, which gives the vibrations time to build up and become forceful. Charms, Amulets and talismans have been worn throughout the ages not as a form of decoration but as a focal point that can be charged with the appropriate vibrations. We are not free from the use of such things even today, for there is an increasing business in the sale of charms, even though now they be only part of a dangling bracelet. It seems that the amulet and talisman are gaining a new lease on life whether or not the buyers and wearers are aware of their significance."

"In the early days, mystical, magical properties were assigned to the star polygons, but their influence is still felt today even if the forms are used only in cheap charm-type jewelry. Pythagoreans regarded the star polygon, derived from the pentagon, as the symbol of health."

"Many people find particular designs appealing but they have no idea what is being represented."

"When you pick up some jewelry, you may well be choosing an item that has been channelled through demons"

 Prisma catalog reveals: "The amulets of ancient times have become the popular jewelry of today. There is a resurgence of interest in the metaphysical attributes of gems and symbols." As explained earlier, an amulet is "a charm ....often inscribed with a magic incantation or symbol to protect the wearer against evil or to aid him"

The Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols - Udo Becker(p16)

A tall stone pillar taperi Amulet - A small object usually worn on one's body. In the world view of magic, an amulet is used by humans as a protective charm (against ghosts, the evil eye, bad luck, illness) and as a good luck charm, whereby the rarity or specific form of the object was probably thought to be a symbolic expression of the coercion of particular powers of fate. Prevalent types of amulets include: the horn, reptiles, spiders, clover leaves, obscene gestures, precious and semi-precious stones, names or letters, conspicuous natural formations, images of saints. The wearing of  Jewelry probably has to do with the original use of amulets. Amulets were already common in prehistoric times and were especially widespread in the ancient Orient and in China. In Egypt, mummies were protected from "death" by Amulets.

Dictionary of American English 1828

AM'ULET, n. [L. amuletum; amolior, amolitus to remove]

Something worn as a remedy or preservative against evils or mischief, such as diseases and witchcraft. Amulets, in days of ignorance, were common. They consisted of certain stones, metals or plants; sometimes of words, characters or sentences, arranged in a particular order. They were appended to the neck or body. Among some nations, they are still in use. 


1. Words, characters or other things imagined to possess some occult or unintelligible power; hence, a magic power or spell, by which with the supposed assistance of the devil, witches and sorcerers have been supposed to do wonderful things.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


Modern scholars are of opinion that our English word amulet comes from the Latin amuletum, used by Pliny (Naturalis Historia, xxviii, 28; xxx, 2, etc.), and other Latin writers; but no etymology for the Latin word has been discovered. The present writer thinks the root exists in the Arabic himlat, “something carried” (see Dozy, Supplément aux Dictionnaires Arabes, I, 327), though there is no known example of the use of the Arabic word in a magical sense. Originally “amulet” denoted any object supposed to have the power of removing or warding noxious influences believed to be due to evil spirits, etc., such as the evil eye, etc. But in the common usage it stands for an object worn on the body, generally hung from the neck, as a remedy or preservative against evil influences of a mystic kind. The word “amulet” occurs once in the Revised Version (British and American) (Isa_3:20) but not at all in the King James Version.

1. Classes of Amulets 

The substances out of which amulets have been made and the forms which they have taken have been various 

(1) The commonest have consisted of Amulets of pieces of stone or metal, strips of parchment with or without inscriptions from sacred writings (Bible, Koran, etc.). The earliest Egyptian amulets known are pieces of green schist of various shapes - animal, etc. These were placed on the breast of a deceased person in order to secure a safe passage to the under-world. When a piece of stone is selected as an amulet it is always portable and generally of some striking figure or shape (the human face, etc.). The use of such a stone for this purpose is really a survival of animism. 

(2) Gems, rings, etc. It has been largely held that all ornaments worn on the person were originally amulets. (3) Certain herbs and animal preparations; the roots of certain plants have been considered very potent as remedies and preservatives. The practice of wearing amulets existed in the ancient world among all peoples, but especially among Orientals; and it can be traced among most modern nations, especially among peoples of backward civilization. Nor is it wholly absent from peoples of the most advanced civilization of today, the English, Americans, etc. Though the word charm has a distinct meaning, it is often inseparably connected with amulets, for it is in many cases the incantation or charm inscribed on the amulet that gives the latter its significance. As distinguished from talisman ( an amulet is believed to have negative results, as a means of protection: a talisman is thought to be the means of securing for the wearer some positive boon.

2. Amulets in the Bible 

Though there is no word in the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures denoting “amulet,” the thing itself is manifestly implied in many parts of the Bible. But it is remarkable that the general teaching of the Bible and especially that of the Old Testament prophets and of the New Testament writers is wholly and strongly opposed to such things.

(1) Amulets in the Bible The Old Testament 

The golden ear-rings, worn by the wives and sons and daughters of the Israelites, out of which the molten calf was made (Exo_32:2f) , were undoubtedly amulets. What other function could they be made to serve in the simple life of the desert? That the women's ornaments condemned in Isa_3:16-26 were of the same character is made exceedingly likely by an examination of some of the terms employed. We read of moonlets and sunlets (Isa_3:18), i.e. moon and sun-shaped amulets. The former in the shape of crescents are worn by Arab girls of our own time. The “ear-drops,” “nose-rings,” “arm chains” and “foot chains” were all used as a protection to the part of the body implied, and the strong words with which their employment is condemned are only intelligible if their function as counter charms is borne in mind. 

In Isa 3:20 we read of rendered leḥāshīm "ear rings" (the King James Version) and “amulets” (Revised Version (British and American)). The Hebrew word seems to be cognate with the word for “serpent” (neḥāshīm; “l” and “r” often interchange), and meant probably in the first instance an amulet against a serpent bite (see Magic, Divination, and Demonology among the Hebrews and Their Neighbours, by the present writer, 50 f, 81; compare Jer_8:7Ecc_10:11Psa_58:5). Crescent-shaped amulets were worn by animals as well as human beings, as Jdg_8:21Jdg_8:26 shows.

At Bethel, Jacob burned not only the idols (“strange gods”) but also the ear-rings, the latter being as much opposed to Yahwism as the former, on account of their heathen origin and import. 

In Pro 17:8 the Hebrew words rendered “a precious stone” (Hebrew “a stone conferring favor”) mean without question a stone amulet treasured on account of its supposed magical efficacy. It is said in Pro_1:9 that wisdom will be such a defense to the one who has it as the head amulet is to the head and that of the neck to the neck. The words rendered in the Revised Version (British and American) “a chaplet of grace unto thy head” mean literally, “something bound to the head conferring favor,” the one word for the latter clause being identical with that so rendered above (ḥēn). The Talmudic word for an amulet (ḳemīa‛) denotes something tied or bound (to the person).

We have reference to the custom of wearing amulets in Pro_6:21 where the reader is urged to “bind them (i.e. the admonitions of father and mother) ... upon thy heart” and to “tie them about thy neck” - words implying a condemnation of the practice of trusting to the defense of mere material objects.

Underneath the garments of warriors slain in the Maccabean wars amulets were found in the shape apparently of idols worshipped by their neighbors (2 Macc 12:40). It is strange but true that like other nations of antiquity the Jews attached more importance to amulets obtained from other nations than to those of native growth. It is probable that the signet ring referred to in Son_8:6; Jer_22:24;Hag_2:23 was an amulet. It was worn on the heart or on the arm.

(2) The Phylacteries and the Mezuzah
There is no distract reference to these in the Old Testament. The Hebrew technical term for the former (tephillīn) does not occur in Biblical. Hebrew, and although the Hebrew word mezūzāh does occur over a dozen times its sense is invariably “door-(or “gate-”) post” and not the amulet put on the door-post which in later Hebrew the word denotes.

It is quite certain that the practice of wearing phylacteries has no Biblical support, for a correct exegesis and a proper understanding of the context put it beyond dispute that the words in Exo_13:9, Exo_13:16, Deu_6:8 f; Deu_11:18-20 have reference to the exhortations in the foregoing verses: “Thou shalt bind them (the commands previously mentioned) for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontiers between thy eyes. And thou shalt write them upon, the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates” (Deu_6:8f). The only possible sense of these words is that they were to hold the precepts referred to before their minds constantly as if they were inscribed on their arms, held in front of their eyes, and written on the door-posts or gate-posts which they daily passed. That the language in Exo_13:9, Exo_13:16 does not command the use of phylacteries is obvious, and that the same is true of Pro_3:3;Pro_6:21; Pro_7:3 where similar words are used is still more certain. Yet, though none of the passages enjoin the use of phylacteries or of the mezūzāh, they may all contain allusions to both practices as if the sense were, “Thou shalt keep constantly before thee my words and look to them for safety and not to the phylacteries worn on head and arm by the heathen.” If, however, phylacteries were in use among the Jews thus early, it is strange that there is not in the Old Testament a single instance in which the practice of wearing phylacteries is mentioned. Josephus, however, seems to refer to this practice (Ant., IV, viii, 13), and it is frequently spoken of in the Mishna (Berākhōth, i, etc.). It is a striking and significant fact that the Apocrypha is wholly silent as to the three signs of Judaism, phylacteries, the mezūzāh and the cīcith (or tassel attached to the corner of the prayer garment called ה, ṭallith; compare Mat_9:20;Mat_14:36 the King James Version where “hem of the garment” is inaccurate and misleading).

It is quite evident that phylacteries have a magical origin. This is suggested by the Greek name phulaktērion (whence the English name) which in the 1st century of our era denoted a counter charm or defense (phulassō, “to protect”) against evil influences. No scholar now explains the Greek word as denoting a means of leading people to keep (phulassō) the law. The Hebrew name tephillīn (= “prayers”) meets us first in post-Bib. Hebrew, and carries with it the later view that phylacteries are used during prayer in harmony with the prayers or other formulas over the amulet to make it effective (see Budge, Egyptian Magic, 27).

In addition to the literature given in the course of the foregoing article, the following may be mentioned. On the general subject see the great works of Tyler (Early History of Mankind, Primitive Culture) and Frazer, Golden Bough; also the series of articles under “Charms and Amulets” in Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics and the excellent article “Amulet” in the corresponding German work, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart. See further the article “Amulet” in Jewish Encyclopedia, and on Egyptian amulets, Budge, Egyptian Magic, 25ff.
charm: Definition. - The word charm is derived from the Latin carmen, “a song,” and denotes strictly what is sung; then it comes to mean a magical formula chanted or recited with a view to certain desired results. Charm is distinguished from amulet in this, that the latter is a material object having as such a magical potency, though it is frequently an inscribed formula on it that gives this object its power. The word charm stands primarily for the incantation, though it is often applied to an inscribed amulet.
A charm may be regarded as having a positive or a negative effect. In the first case it is supposed to secure some desired object or result. In the second, it is conceived as having the power of warding off evils, as the evil eye, the inflictions of evil spirits and the like. In the last, its negative meaning, the word “countercharm” (German, Gegenzauber) is commonly used.

Charms are divisible into two general classes according as they are written (or printed) or merely spoken:
(1) Written charms - Of these we have examples in the phylacteries and the mezūzāh noticed in the article AMULET. In Act_19:13-20 we read of written charms used by the Ephesians, such as are elsewhere called (ἐφέσια γράμματα, ephésia grámmata). Such magical formulas were written generally on leather, though sometimes on papyrus, on lead, and even on gold. Those mentioned in the above passage must have been inscribed on some very valuable material, gold perhaps, or they could not have cost 2,000 British pounds (= 50,000 drachmas). Charms of the kind have been dug up from the ruins of Ephesus. In modern Egypt drinking-bowls are used, inscribed with passages from the Koran, and it is considered very lucky to drink from such a “lucky bowl,” as it is called. Parts of the Koran and often complete miniature copies are worn by Egyptians and especially by Egyptian soldiers during war. These are buried with the dead bodies, just as the ancient Egyptians interred with their dead portions of the Book of the Dead or even the whole book, and as the early Abyssinians buried with dead bodies certain magical texts. Josephus (Ant., VIII, ii, 5) says that Solomon composed incantations by which demons were exorcised and diseases healed.

(2) Spoken charms are at least as widespread as those inscribed. Much importance was attached by the ancients (Egyptians, Babylonians, etc.) to the manner in which the incantations were recited, as well as to the substance of the formulas. If beautifully uttered, and with sufficient frequency, such incantations possessed unlimited power. The stress laid on the mode of reciting magical charms necessitated the existence of a priestly class and did much to increase the power of such a class. The binding force of the uttered word is implied in many parts of the Old Testament (see Jos_9:20). Though the princes of Israel had promised under false pretenses to make a covenant on behalf of Israel with the Gibeonites, they refused to break their promise because the word had been given. The words of blessing and curse were believed to have in themselves the power of self-realization. A curse was a means of destruction, not a mere realization (see Nu 22 through 24, Balaam's curses; Jdg_5:23; Job 31). In a similar way the word of blessing was believed to insure its own realization. In Gen_48:8-22 the greatness of Ephraim and Manasseh is ascribed to the blessing of Jacob upon them (see further Exo_12:32; Jdg_17:2; 2Sa_21:3). It is no doubt to be understood that the witch of Endor raised Samuel from the dead by the recitation of some magical formula (1Sa_28:7).

Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1897 - M. G. Easton M.A., D.D.


One who practises serpent-charming (Psa_58:5; Jer_8:17; Ecc_10:11). It was an early and universal opinion that the most venomous reptiles could be made harmless by certain charms or by sweet sounds. It is well known that there are jugglers in India and in other Eastern lands who practice this art at the present day.

In Isa_19:3 the word “charmers” is the rendering of the Hebrew 'ittim, meaning, properly, necromancers (R.V. marg., “whisperers”). In Deu_18:11 the word “charmer” means a dealer in spells, especially one who, by binding certain knots, was supposed thereby to bind a curse or a blessing on its object. In Isa_3:3 the words “eloquent orator” should be, as in the Revised Version, “skilful enchanter.”