I don’t think I’m alone in this, but as a kid, I honestly believed in a kind of inherent magic in the world. My mom, a product of the New Mexican desert where ancient Native beliefs collided with the New Age influx of people post WWII, taught hard sciences courses during the day but routinely saged our rooms before bedtime. I devoured folktales and various legendarium chock full of small but mighty items with different names. Call them talismans, totems, or fetishes, the dictionary has many names for them. But they have a similar purpose: to imbue the holder with their magic.
I had an old medicine chest in which I reverently placed my treasures. It was a motley collection of things ranging from pieces of wood and rocks found outside, gifts from my grandmother, and special treats from my friends and family. I would hold them in my hand, feel them become warm until they emanated their own heat. I would impart my own resources upon them to gain the magic I felt in them.
It’s funny to say that, as I reflect back on how I revered these items then, my usage hasn’t much changed. As an adult, the items in my collection are different – more stones and crystals alongside some items that still feel like they hold power to me – but I still find comfort in holding them in my hand. It’s not particularly because I feel like I’m superstitious, but I am, like Michael Scott, a little stitious.
Matther Miller, in a post for Shondaland, speaks of these items as a physical place to hold our beliefs.
“We have beliefs that are temporal, but that are invisible. That’s why they’re beliefs as opposed to physical evidence.
So, where can our beliefs be housed, not so we can just talk about them but so we can have physical evidence of those powers and beliefs?
What we do is take those beliefs and all of the things in a belief system and we put them into objects.”Robert Dancik, Amulets and Talismans: Simple Techniques for Creating Meaningful Jewelry
These items can also enhance their own reputation by serving as a reminder of our goals and desires. For example, let’s say that by wearing a gold ring, it will help you become financially successful. When you wear the ring, you’re reminded of that goal of financial success. Your mindset changes around it, and – maybe unconsciously – you’re looking for those opportunities to turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But that isn’t the function of every item, of course. And some people hold that dabbling in talismans or items like these is not something to be taken lightly. Ultimately, the power that the item has in your life is dependent on the emphasis you place on it.
What talismans, totems or fetishes do you have in your collection?