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Luck, Protection, and Magic: Modern and traditional talismans and amulets

The last few years threw some difficult trials at so many of us, and the holiday season can act a reminder of pandemic hardships we've collectively endured and the isolation we've survived. But now we want to fill our spaces, enriched by the company of family and friends, with luck and magic to carry us through the uncertainties of the upcoming new year. Whether you wear religious symbols to call upon your guardian angels or cleanse your auras with crystals and Reiki, we can all benefit from a belief in the gift of universal magic.


When we share gifts, we unknowingly imbue them with all the emotions we feel for the recipients. The objects themselves may have no intrinsic charms aside from those we ascribe to them, but if you've ever experienced a rushing flood of emotion when you receive a thoughtful, personal gift you can appreciate that there is powerful and moving magic in presents. With this understanding of meaningful gifted magic and a strong desire to share luck and protection with our loved ones, we present you with a collection of tradition and contemporary talismans. But don't be put off by the word 'talisman'! Think of these items as beautiful accessories that serve as comforting reminders to your gift recipients of your fondness for them.



 



Last holiday, the father of one of the team members gifted each person in his home one of these bronze totems designed by Yusuke Hayashi and they take our breath away. It was these objects, perfect and personal, that were the inspiration for this feature. Produced by the unfathomably fantastic Otera Kohachiro Shoten, a Japanese shop established in 1867, each animal sculpture within the menagerie collection is a deceivingly heavy, tactile talisman that one can carry with them as their spirit animal or guarding mascot. Because of their delicate, smoothed forms of cold bronze and their weight (between 20 and 70 grams) the totems call to our touch like sculptural Sirens.



As the collection includes totems that take the shapes of mice, cows, tigers, hares, snakes, horses, sheep, monkeys, birds, dogs, and boars, you can offer everyone on your list a gifted animal that reflects who they are. Whether your loved ones are best represented by reliable bovine, curious simians, flexible serpents, or loyal hounds, they'll be as breathless as we were to receive one of these talismans as a gift; a gift that, we can attest, will make them feel protected, accepted, and simply seen.



 



In his exploration and compilation of folkloric botanical remedies, philologist Thomas Oswald Cockayne records that wood thistle can keep away ill gaincomers: "as long as though bearest it with thee, naught of evil cometh against thee" (1). Rather than pocketing a handful of petals, we recommend this stunning 18k gold thistle necklace by NYC based Doyle & Doyle. A pair of spirey leaves frame a delicate thistle bud, forming a contemporary crest that bestows on the wearer an unspoken strength and protection.

Thistle represents protection and nobility, a perfect symbol for the care and sanctuary provided by the New York Humane Society to our animal friends. The net profits of our Heirloom Thistle Necklace by Doyle & Doyle are donated to the New York Humane Society in memory of Sara Campbell. (2)

 



Joanna Tofilo

For another contemporary necklace featuring a botanical talisman, visit Joanna Tofilo and request the date seed pendant.

It may have been the first tree cultivated by humans, who started harvesting its fruit more than 7,000 years ago. [The date tree's] fruit is mentioned in the Quran at least 20 times, ...and twice as many times in the Bible...The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said “few plant species have developed into an agricultural crop so closely connected with human life” [including the] date palm and its traditions ...on UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. (3)

With this recognition of the date's storied, millennial relationship with humankind, it should come as no surprise that cultures around the world ascribe power to this dulcet fruit. Whether you believe it brings lucky, prosperity, wealth, or success or you simply love the dimpled, almond-shaped design of this sculpted seed, we hope you find the same magic intrinsic to dates in this spectacular hand cast, oxidized silver date seed pendant.



 



If the good-fortune-luring power of a single seed feels insufficient, try the Fennel Kissing Seed necklace from Alex Monroe. Handmade in England, the necklace is a delicate, glistening wreath of ornate, sculpted gold fennel seeds. The fragile abundance of the design transports us to Ai Weiwei's porcelain Sunflower Seed landscape. As an art piece, the Fennel Kissing Seed necklace is an idyllic collar and as a talisman, we think it holds the same goodness as the seeds it represents. Many cultures, separated by time and geography, found healing from medicinal fennel and we're confident the aesthetic power of this glorious shower of petal-like seeds alone can heal the tired spirits of those on your gift list.



 



If you are looking to gift a contemporary seed talisman with more visually weight, the handsome, handmade Seed Talisman Necklace from Susan Fauman may be the perfect choice.

Five layers of textured silver represent the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Ether. The inside, accented with rich 24k gold applique, has a place to rest your thumb as you reflect on the seeds you’ve planted and their potential. (4)

The necklace is an invitation for self-actualizing meditation. We introduced this list by saying objects hold only the powers you imbue them with, and this elegant pendant literally puts the power back in your hands, calling on you to remember the depths of your ceaseless potential.




 



Should you decide your loved ones could benefit from the incorporation of real flowers or some other added charms, the Protection Necklace from Āyurituals holds space for all the magic you and they need. A concealed lid at the side of the rippling gold pendant opens to reveal a small cavity where you can slip petals, prayers, love notes, or just positive, encouraging energy that your loved ones can then carry with them over their hearts. Inspired by traditional Ta'wiz amulets and handcrafted by artistans in Jaipur, the Protection pendant is a modern masterpiece with a shimmering undulating surface that distracts passersby from the secret the magic within.




 



Another deceivingly mystical accessory is found in Stockholm at the AWNL studios. While the other talismans on our list offer benefit through good luck and healing, the Starry Night Meteor Bracelet is unique in that it ties us to the universe by touching us with the remnants of space from beyond our orbit.

The design is inspired by Nordic lightchaser, 'I will be following you no matter where you go, as we are meant to be together'. The CZ diamond embedded arch is the day, as the meteorite is the starry night. (x)

The iron core of a planetoid 20 million years older than the Earth, the Muonionalusta meteorite impacted northern Scandianiva a million years ago and rested quietly under the northern lights through four ice ages, only revealing itself to humanity in 1906 when a fragment was discovered 140 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle (x) . If that isn't a story of magic we don't know what is! By gifting this bracelet you are penning your loved ones into the celestial history of this fallen star.



 




While not as rare as fragments of fallen stars, the Eye of Saint Lucia is an uncommon talisman with its own power. The Eye is actually an operculum, a small corneous plate attached to gastropods that serves as a door which, when "closed", covers the entrance of the surrounding shell and protects the delicate creature within. Gastropods discard these tiny doors when they outgrow them and the discs are then turned by the torrent currents of the sea and arrive on the shores of the Mediterranean as smooth whitened ovals, each with a recognizable spiral fractal pattern that emerges, like the rings within ancient trees, as the operculum is grown. Named after the Christian martyr, Saint Lucia of Syracuse, who legends narrate lost her eyes at the hands of persecutors, the shells are said to offer the same defensive shield against the Evil Eye as the more commonly available blue nazar charms of Turkey. Warding off envious ill-doers, the Eyes of Saint Lucia will watch over your loved ones and adorn them with mesmerizing fractals. We especially love these earrings, handmade in the Horabaiza Shop studio on the Balearic Island of Mallorca. Prominently placed on either side of the face, these stunning earrings offer punctuating beauty and legendary shielding from negativity.




 




If you're searching for a nazar alternative with more impactful colour, we recommend the Assyrian Evil Eye Necklace from Evin Jewelry. The design, "inspired by the Mesopotamian ancient culture, stories, and mythology"(x) is a modern manifestation of a traditional talisman. Natural turquoise, nestled in a ribbon of white gold, is carved to reveal two watchful holes that deflect ill will and inspirit any stylistically anhedonic outfits. These apotropaic pendants, featuring the under-appreciated Assyrian motif, are excellent alternatives to ubiquitous nazars and offer a sense of distinctiveness, originality, and power that we simply adore.



 



Following the smooth simplicity of the the Assyrian Evil Eye, the True Reflections necklace offered by Thousand Fibres is nothing less than a treasure. "Hand-carved, cast, plated and finished in the UK", each pendant is an irregular plane, a luminous golden sky defined by the horizon of a single colored band of mercerized cotton thread, a talismanic tongue weaving an incantatory tale of aesthetic design and secouring charm. We could never articulate the magic that surrounds the design as well as the brand has, so here is the spellbinding symbolism as introduced by the Thousand Fibres founder:

As a child, comfort-thumbed ruby-red threads wrapped around my wrist. Hand-tied by my mother, they were secret, silken talismans for the moments we were apart. Second-skin reminders of our connection. It was only when I came to be without them - without her, that I realised just how significant those strands really were. Not only did they weave between us, those vivid red strands crossed continents and cultures, languages and religions - held tight for centuries as amulets for love, protection, courage and connection. And so, we reimagined those threads. Wove them around love-worn gold. And transformed them into meaningful, modern heirlooms in multicolour. Tactile, and talismanic - each piece intended to inspire a sense of belonging; offering comfort, strength, and protection to the wearer. Emblems of the life-stories they weave around. (x)


What better gift than one that illustrates, with a profound depth of love and belonging, the power we find in shared connections?




 




Loren Lewis Cole has an equally mystifying way with words and a similarly spectacular aesthetic. Also made in the UK, these Power of Triangle earrings are

modern windows, paned with cobblestoning triangles in azure blue and ethereal gold that scintillate with white-hot gleam. Stylistically, the design reminds us of a scattering of indigo draped Tuareg, weaving their footsteps through the aureate valleys of Saharan sands. Symbolically, the talismanic pairs call upon the apotropaic force of our internal powers.

The Song of Psyche is whispering to us at the threshold of mundane consciousness, the liminal space between things. These amulets speak to the Psyche within you; the native wilderness of your unique expression, as a reminder to hear her song. (x)



There is always empowering magic in authentic expression, and these transfixing studs inspire us to reject doubt and insecurity and embark on our journeys with boundless joy and a thoughtful, sincere adherence to our personal truths.







 




Next, we're sharing the Belak Pendant from RISZA Jewellery, available at Two Kats and a Cow. Finding inspiration in her ancestral homeland of Dili, Timor, founder Risza designs wearable works of art that are contemporary explorations of traditional and ceremonial Timorese objects—preserving the history, generational knowledge, and understood power of the objects while reimagining their forms in a modernizing light. The traditional Timor Leste belak medallion is one such object. There is no consensus on the symbolism of the belak, whose name means 'disc' in Tetum, referencing its decorated, saucer-shaped design. Worn over the chest, the pendants either embody the moon and impart the powers of this feminine celestial body like coldness, fertility, and passivity or represent the heat, power, and masculinity of the conversely masculine celestial, the sun. Despite scholars' inability to unanimously pinpoint the medallion's allegorical significance, the belak holds a place of prominence as a sacred item in Timor Leste. Today, it is used in the ceremonious rituals surrounding milestones from births to deaths and, historically, belaks, suspended from red threads, were gifted to warriors as offerings of celebration and symbols of victory, bravery and courage (x). For those in our lives courageously fighting battles, a gifted RISZA Belak will manifest the strength and protective force of the Timorese warriors to protect them. Set over the heart, the pendant will shield your loved ones from strife and take lead as they, together, navigate through even the most challenging post-pandemic times.



 



While the Belak pendant was worn over clothing, the semamori amulet was traditionally stitched into the seams of kimonos, offering a force from within "to confer protection and blessing on the wearer" (x). Japan isn't the only home to cultures seeking the magic of charmed tags; sewn sachels of prayer were common throughout history. Those of you who watched Muhteşem Yüzyıl, The Magnificent Century, may remember central character Hurrem commissioning cloth amulets and spells for her garments after discovering their magic sewn onto a blanket that wraped her newborn, a dramatized depiction of a true Islamic practice of the time. But the semamori amulets from Elizabeth Noone of Garden Hill Gallery stand apart as our favorite iteration of textile magic.



A simplistic square background of soft white cloth is framed by an uneven trail of dashes from hand-stitched red thread. Mirroring the sharp creased edges of origami, geometric angular lines of similarly irregular stitching create delicate thread stories, rich with spiritually-significant motifs ranging from the fringed silhouettes of pole boaters to the hexagonally embellished contours of turtles.


We're especially drawn to the flightful directionality of the vector-like crane design which eloquently transcribes the shape of outstretched wings as a fanning, peaked crown of thread that mimics the radiating beams of the sun. An undeniably elegant creature, the sacred and mystical crane, or tsuru, is accepted as a treasured symbol of fidelity, longevity, and luck. There is an intrinsic intimacy in hanging a hand-stitched talisman within the folds of a coat. When gifted, the patch becomes more than a token of good fortune; it is the fingerprint of our love, closeness, and unwavering fidelity. We fully plan on placing one of these semamoris below the collars of the coats belonging to those we care about, to hopefully bring them happiness and luck while serving as a reminder to those we love that we always have their backs.




 



Thinking beyond our persons, the Mystical Orient Silver Amulet necklace from Parisian Minicyn is a an epistle on the magnificence and magic of the natural world. Hand-sawed, semi-ovular charms are stamped by hand, accepting the imprints of palms, birds, elephant footprints, sunbeams, waves, and flora offered by vintage steel stamps that together create mandalic designs around a central orbed bead of pure gold (x). With protection of the planet in consideration, nearly all of the silver used to shape the droplet pendants is reclaimed/conflict free so no earth need be disturbed to create these elegant pieces. This commitment by Minicyn to the appreciation and preservation of our planet engenders each pendant with a karmic positive charge that we're confident shepherds in goodness.




 




We next trade the abstraction of the Amulet necklace for the representational Scythian Stag Earrings. Deer have been considered sacred by cultures for millennia. The German-Scandinavian mythological text Edda venerably employs the deer as the symbol of the universe while Huichol Indians and Mayans proudly referred to themselves as 'people of the deer'. With a sense of natural spirituality formed in the remnants of Paleolithic reverence, Eurasian humans, as early as the 4th millennium BCE, expressed a spiritual deference to the deer through "rock representations and bone-carvings" (x), even ritualistically laying stag horns on the heads of the deceased before burial (x). The design of these earrings, however, was inspired by the more recent semi-recumbent red cervidae design, an emblem of the nomadic Scythians, that dates back to the 5th to 4th century BCE (x). Used on small clothing embellishments and large shields alike (x), these designed stags boast mane-like ribbons of horns that coil along their backs, which are rippled by the topograpahy of taut muscles evoking a sense "rapid motion"(x). Magnificent guardians that connect us to the spirituality of those who walked millennia before us, the ornate, filigreed stags on these earrings guide the wearer through the unknown with luck and prosperity like the Csodaszarva deer that lore narrates led two fleeing brothers, the ancestors of the Huns and the Magyars, through the depths of unfamiliar woods to reveal a fertile landscape where the brothers establish the beginnings of the Scythian nation (x).




 




If the branching horns of the stag are too passively protective, the Damian Brevis Horn Talisman Ring from Angie Marei is a sculptural and aesthetic weapon that stands equipped and eager to defend the wearer from harm and mundande fashion.



Traditional cornicellos, 'Devil's Horn' motifs thought to ward off evil, are perched like vicious, fanged talons on the band of the ring, ultimately resting between the contours of the wearer's hand with an unforced elegance that creates the illusion that the talisman is a natural extension of the hand. The ring is intimidatingly powerful, a sworded halo devoted to your wellbeing as well as a phenomenally chic piece of jewellery. It's the perfect addition to the hands of the people you love, safeguarding the place of your supportive touch when you aren't close enough to take hold of the hand of your loved one yourself.



 


Talismans needn't take the form of jewellery. Our next horned masterpiece isn't designed to be an amulet, but we certainly believe it should be used as one!



Beginning in a small workshop in Via dell'Oche, Scarperia in 1895, Coltellerie Berti offers time-honored craftsmanship and objects that "by virtue of having existed for centuries, [become] witness of civilization" (x). One such object is the Corno Del Madagascar bowl available at Avvenice, each crafted from start to finish "by the hands of a single craftsman" in Madagascar. These artisans use zebu horn that is heated and reheated, molded and pressed, and ultimately polished to astonishing luster by abrading with course sanded paper through moistened ash to shape delicate cups that demand touch. In Madagascar, spiritual leaders sanctify zebu horns to create amulets, filled with charmed herbs and charged, anointed objects, to bring about luck and protection. As consecrated zebu amulets are difficult to come by for the majority of us, consider creating your own contemporary talisman by imbuing these magnificent bowls with your personal magic, encouraging each sip from the rim to serve as medicine for the spirit.




 



Looking beyond the rim of the horned bowl, consider gifting talismanic objects that hold to power to bring goodness to the entirety of a home. In Mexico, we find the Huichol Ojo De Dios, a colourful shield formed from webs of yarn wrapped taughtly around a cross-shaped wooden frame. Each one is a physical prayer, a watchful eye guarding us from mal de ojo, the Evil Eye.

"The [Huichol and Tepehuan] Indians believe that the [Ojo De Dios] is symbolic of the power of seeing and understanding that which is unknown and unknowable. The four points of the central weaving represents earth, fire, air and water- important natural elements" (x)

In addition to the Ojo's powerful protective force, each one is a bold and bright, geometric work of folk art that your gift recipients will be proud to showcase in a place of prominence within their homes.



 


In the home of one of our team member's Azorean grandmother, mirrors were featured in prominent spaces in place of Ojos de Dios. Azorean lore informed the grandmother—referred to as Vovó in Portuguese—that reflections from the mirror, arriving on the walls as gleaming ripples of oscillating light, served as a barrier to the Devil and the forces of mau olhado, the Evil Eye, which growing up we knew as 'the envy'. Not unlike the ziplock bag of water and pennies the Vovó hung in her kitchen to keep away flies, a wall of mirrors facing the front door were the light that shattered the wicked darkness where negativity could creep into the corners of our lives. Not only did this wall create a mesmerizingly dynamic kaleidoscope of sunshine that encircled us with a welcoming brightness when we crossed the vestibule, it also instilled a sense of safety and thoughtful protection that put us at serene ease regardless of the chaos we left behind in the outside world. We hope that the gifted decorative mirror can share this peace and beauty with those on your holiday list.


 


Making a jump to Japan, we end our list with an item explicitly designed for magic. Offered as a prop for magicians performing slight-of-hand, the Omamori by Hanson Chien and Yao is a stunning talisman with an inherent power that extends far beyond the framework of illusions and performance. The essence of the illusion is this: a small wooden tag, observably solid, blank and free of any mirrors or trapped doors, is magically enlivened at the hands of the magician who reveals a secret message housed within the tag—one that is meaningful and unique to the spectator—by holding the charm over a source of light. While you could use this piece to dazzle your loved ones with your magical talents, we prefer sharing the Omamori as a personalized talisman that our loved ones can carry always as each mystical object is suspended from a red cord with which it can be hung on a key ring or wrapped around the handles of bag. Consider how magical it would be to receive this modern and elegant token which holds within it a message left by the loved one who gifted it to you, a message kept secret until you call upon it with the elucidating glance of light. It's a hopelessly romantic gift, and a certainly a charm with intrinsic magic.



While we won't reveal the details of how the magician is able to imprint and change the message within the wood—a true magician never reveals their secrets!— we will tell you that it is easily accomplished thanks to an enlightening series of instructional videos that are included with every purchase so you can be confident that you can successfully personalize the talisman before gifting it!





Regardless of your spiritual affiliations, you can always find and share objects that offer magic. Whether this be a supernatural ability to bring good fortune and keep away ill-doers, or an aesthetic power that can transform and elevate homes and wardrobes, there is an under appreciated magic in the gifts on this list.


Explore the full 2021 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE for even more mystifying gift ideas!




HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

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