Monday 18 September 2023

Amulets & Talismans: How We Protected Our Children

Humans have always wanted to protect their children from harm, and in the past people regularly used amulets and talismans for magical help. 

I took this photo at the Victoria and Albert Museum's jewellery hall, which displays items from the ancient past to the present day. It shows rings, bracelets and pendants made to help children survive the various problems of growing up. As well as practical objects to make teething more comfortable there are things offering magical protection. 

From the top left are:

  • An Ancient Roman ring depicting a phallus, which was then considered protective. (I've blogged more about that here.)
  • A 17th century English child's ring inscribed with wth words: "This spark will grow."
  • A Byzantine child's bracelet with a cross.
  • A baby's rattle with a wolf's tooth from 18th century Germany. The sound of the rattle was thought to deter evil spirits while the tooth was to help with teething.
  • A 19th century coral pendant. Coral was thought to ward against the evil eye.
  • An 18th century child's bell, which would have been worn to ward agains the evil eye.

Many of the historic objects on display in the jewellery hall were intended to be magical or symbolic as well as being lovely to look at.  I'm going to be blogging more in future about amulets, talismans and charms, including some more photos I took at the V and A.

I shared this picture today because it was my great niece's Christening at the weekend. It was a church service, as my niece is Christian even though she isn't particularly religous. It shows that even today many people still want the best for their children in ways that are spiritual or magical as well as practical and beautiful. I should add that even though I'm pagan I was happy to attend the church service. I just kept silent during the bits where the congregation was asked to affirm Christian faith.

The jewellery hall is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL.

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