Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
View your shopping cart Shopping Cart | My Account | Help | Become a Fan on Facebook Become a Fan | Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us | Watch Us on YouTube Watch Us | Subscribe to our RSS Feeds Subscribe
Browse ProductsAuthorsArticlesBlogsEncyclopediaNewslettersAffiliate ProgramContact UsBooksellers
ENCYCLOPEDIA
Glossary
What's New
Most Popular
List of Articles

Email Exclusives
Sign up to receive special offers and promotions from Llewellyn.

Get the Latest Issue of New Worlds

January/February 2017 Issue

New Worlds Catalog

Get the FREE app for your tablet and mobile device. Now available in the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store

Also available as a PDF File.

Click for more information about New Worlds or to receive issues via mail.


The Llewellyn Encyclopedia
Print this Term Print this Article

Talisman

This article was written by John Michael Greer on April 01, 2005
posted under Talisman

(Arabic tilsam, from Greek tetelesmenon, "that which has been consecrated") In magical lore, an object charged or consecrated with magical energies for the fulfillment of some specific purpose. Talismanic magic has had an important place in Western occultism since ancient times, and a dizzying variety of objects have been consecrated for various talismanic purposes.

Talismans can be traced in every magical tradition that has contributed to Western occultism. Ancient Egyptian priestly magicians had a wide range of talismanic methods at their disposal. For example, massive stone tablets were inscribed with healing spells and set in basins; those who were sick could pour water over the hieroglyphic carvings, drink the water, and benefit from the magic. More sinister rites were used to attack the foreign and domestic enemies of the Egyptian state; some of these made use of statues of enemy soldiers who were bound or maltreated and then buried in a secret place.

Similar traditions could be found in the magical lore of the busy city-states of Mesopotamia, and the vast palace libraries of Ashurbanipal, the last great king of Assyria, including detailed instructions for a variety of talismanic magical workings. The magicians of Sumer, Babylon, and other Mesopotamian cultures drew heavily on the astrological lore of the region, setting a precedent that has been followed by talismanic magicians ever since.

Ancient Greece and Rome had a remarkable range of talisman lore, including the making of magical statues. A very common form of talismans was the binding tablet—a lead tablet that was dropped in wells, graves, caverns, and other points of ready access to the underworld to carry messages to the powers of the unseen and accomplish various forms of magic, usually hostile.

Talismans in the form now used in magic began to evolve toward the end of the classical period, with Egypt—where the art of writing had never quite lost its magical aura—as one focal point. The Graeco-Egyptian magical papyri, sorcerers’ handbooks from the first few centuries of the common era, include instructions for making a variety of talismanic devices. It was after Egypt fell into Arab hands in the eighth century, though, that Muslim magicians began reshaping the lore they inherited from the ancient world, and evolved talismans of the sort that are still used today.

In this modern sense, a talisman is a piece of metal, paper, parchment, or some other material that can be engraved or written on. It is usually cut into a flat disk, although other shapes are known. Once made and marked with magically effective words and symbols, the talisman is consecrated in a formal ritual, and then concealed and left to do its work.

The methods used to consecrate a talisman vary widely in different traditions of magic. In medieval Arabic handbooks such as the Picatrix, and in many more recent works, the talisman is simply made of a metal with the right symbolism and held in the smoke of a specially compounded incense, then wrapped in silk and put away to work. The range of methods extends from this up to hugely complex techniques of the sort used by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, in which the magician can easily spend two hours reciting conjurations, vibrating divine names, evoking spirits, channeling energies, and putting the talisman through the equivalent of a lodge initiation ceremony. Both these approaches, and many that fall between these extremes, work well in practice.

Talismans, according to standard occult theory, work because their material basis forms a "body" for the energies placed in them at the time of consecration. With this anchor on the physical plane, the talisman keeps on working steadily and mindlessly toward the fulfillment of whatever purpose it was created to accomplish. When a talisman has finished its work, therefore, or when the situation has changed and its energies are no longer needed, it must be ceremonially deconsecrated and the physical form destroyed.

While standard talismans of the type described above remain far and away the most common approach in use among ceremonial magicians, noticeably different approaches can be found among those who draw on folk magic traditions, especially those of American Hoodoo. In this system, a mojo, toby or hand—that is, a small cloth bag filled with magically active substances—may be used for most of the purposes classical talismans might fill. Other traditions draw on various forms of natural magic to accomplish the same things.

Tarot Experience is the second in an innovative and wonderful series. The first was Tarot Fundamentals and the final volume will be Tarot Compendium. This book, like its predecessor, is a whopping 640 large, full color pages, each one with a creative interior layout. The presentation of the juicy content is beautifully executed due largely to the... read this article
The Top Five Country Superstars Who Soared Up The Supernatural Charts
How Money Flows at the Sacral and Heart Chakras
The Rose Phoenix
10 Things You Might Not Know About The Exorcist
Magical Tree Oracle: What Do the Trees Have to Tell You?

Most recent posts:
The Art of Shadowscapes
Art of Shadowscapes Tarot So many people absolutely love Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s gorgeous Shadowscapes Tarot. One of the only complaints we...

Chakra Insight Oracle is One of Ezvid Wiki's 2017 Best Chakra Cards!
The Chakra Insight Oracle is one of Ezvid Wiki's Top Chakra Cards of 2017, coming in at #2! Founded in 2011, Ezvid Wiki was the world's first...

Making the Tarot Your Own
Instead of telling you the one way to read tarot, Your Tarot Your Way embraces the reality that tarot has evolved continuously since its creation...




Journey of Souls Journey of Souls
Case Studies of Life Between Lives

By: Michael Newton
Price: $17.99 US,  $20.95 CAN
Dreamworking Dreamworking
How to Listen to the Inner Guidance of Your Dreams

By: Christopher Sowton
Price: $19.99 US,  $22.95 CAN
The Hearth Witch's Compendium The Hearth Witch's Compendium
Magical and Natural Living for Every Day

By: Anna Franklin
Price: $27.99 US,  $32.50 CAN
Discover Your Master Chakra Discover Your Master Chakra
Reveal the Source of Your Spiritual Gifts

By: Stephanie S. Larsen
Price: $17.99 US,  $20.95 CAN
Discover Your Psychic Type Discover Your Psychic Type
Developing and Using Your Natural Intuition

By: Sherrie Dillard
Price: $15.99 US,  $18.50 CAN