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Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology


Objects which possess magical or supernatural power of their own which is transmitted to their possessors.   Talismans are frequently confused with amulets which are objects which passively protect the owner from evil and harm.   Usually the solitary function of talismans is to make possible powerful transformations.

Talismans can be any object, design, or symbol believed to be endowed with Magickal powers.   The item is active in that it, and of itself, bestows this Magickal power upon the one who possesses it at the time.   For example, this is the reason why the Excalibur was of such importance in Arthurian lore.   The sword gave King Arthur Magickal powers.

In Magick, however, the talismans can be endowed with its supernatural power only by the forces of nature, by God or the gods or by being made so in a ritualistic way.   Among talismans are precious stones for they each possess their own Magickal or curative powers endowed by nature.

Talismans have been discovered in all historical periods.   The Egyptians and Babylonians used them when attempting to alter the forces of nature.   In the Middle Ages, holy relics and other objects assumed the value of talismans in attempts to cure illnesses.   Some thieves converted severed hands of thieves into talismans (see HAND OF GLORY) to assist them in their trade.  

Many alchemists sought the assistance of talismans which they made in elaborate ceremonies which were conducted during periods of auspicious astrological signs.   During these rituals they recited incantation to conjures the desired spirits who imbued the talismans with Magickal power.   The talisman most sought after was the elusive Philosopher's Stone, which the alchemists thought would transform base metals into silver and gold (see ALCHEMY).

Many Grimoires offer instructions on the making of talismans.   Many talismans were inscribed on precious stones or parchment under auspicious astrological signs.   Talismans were made for many endeavors such as getting rich, winning at gambling, falling in love, prevention of sudden death, improvement of memory, and even making a good speech.  

An example is the talisman belonging to Catherine de Medici, queen consort of Henry II of France which she constantly carried.   It was a medal allegedly made from metals that were melted together during favorable astrological signs, and also added in was human and he-goat blood.

Although the original was broken at her death, a copy exists in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.   On one side of this medal is engraved the god Jupiter, the eagle of Ganymede and a demon with the head of the Egyptian god Anubis; on the other side is a Venus figure believed to be Catherine flanked by demons.   She believed the talisman conferred upon her Clairvoyance and sovereign power.

see also: AMULETS

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One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc
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