Skip to Navigation Youtube Instagram

" Seek the truth and run from

those who claim to have found it "

after André Gide

Do you have a Charm?

March 29th, 2018

The Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland. Photo by Kallidan

I was recently asked by the Horniman Museum in London to write some text for them about their collection of charms which will soon go on permanent display, together with a cloutie tree which visitors will be able to use as a wish tree. As always with any writing project you learn something new. I discovered that Yoko Ono has created an extraordinary ‘wishing well’ in Iceland which projects light high up into the sky, carrying with it the wishes visitors have made to her artwork ‘Wishing Trees’. You can watch a video of her talking about this below. After you’ve read this post, do let me know via the comment box if you have a charm or amulet. Does it have a story attached to it? Do you carry it with you, or does it stay in a special place in your home?

Here’s what I wrote for the museum:

Charms, amulets and talismans may seem to be just quaint relics of former, more superstitious, times. But scratch the surface of our modern hyper-rational world and there they still are – in the lucky charm bracelets for sale in jewellery shops, in the way wishing wells and trees continue to be used. How come we still turn to charms? We might not believe that throwing a coin in a well or tying a piece of cotton to a tree will make our wish come true, but still we do it, and a little part of us secretly hopes that by some miracle we will get what we want.
It is the most natural thing in the world to wish for healing, safety on a journey, the relief of material or emotional distress, for love, for peace on Earth. By utilising a charm our minds are able to channel our desires through something tangible – something we can see and touch. This activity comes so naturally to us that by 2007 nearly half a million people had written wishes on cards for Yoko Ono’s art installation ‘Wish Tree’, and these were buried beneath a wishing well of powerful lights called the Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey island, Iceland. The monument projects a pillar of light up into the sky at certain times of the year, such as the Winter Solstice, and the words ‘Imagine Peace’ are inscribed in 24 languages around the walls of the well.
Virtually any object could be seen as a talisman to bring comfort in times of distress: feathers, stones, sea shells or leaves found at special times, prayer beads or rosaries, an old photograph of a loved one long gone, a locket of hair. But certain objects were often favoured as charms: stones with holes in them, and the feet of animals such as rabbits, moles and birds were common. Charms seem ubiquitous – it is likely that no culture exists without them. In some cases one particular object is adopted universally within a culture – like the waving cats of China that bring good luck, or the saint’s relic, a piece of human bone, that is sealed within or beneath a Catholic altar. In other cases, the charm is uniquely personal, meaningful and useful only to the person who found or fashioned it. But for many, throughout history, charms, amulets and talismans would have been obtained from professional charm-merchants – often known in Britain until the early 20th century as ‘cunning men or women’ – who would sell objects they claimed had protective or healing powers. Many were charlatans, to be sure, but some would have believed in the work they were doing as they cast spells or sung magical invocations over their charms. After all, the word ‘charm’ comes from the Latin carmen – a song or incantation, and by singing over the chosen object, the cunning person believed they were awaking its magical properties, which would then begin to influence whoever held or carried the charm. Whether the influence was in reality psychological – triggering the placebo effect in the charm’s owner – or whether a magical force had indeed been unleashed is up to the reader to decide!

8 Responses to “Do you have a Charm?”

  1. I wear a small goddess, holding a moonstone, necklace on a silk ribbon all the time. I found it (her) at a little shop in the French quarter of New Orleans, called The Bottom of the Cup. At the time (20 something years ago) it was very novel, tho now the design is fairly mainstream. I love the charm itself, though I also cherish the memory of having been in that tiny, faintly mildewed smelling shop in that wonderful city, so very full of mystery and magical music. .

  2. Great article phillip thank you for posting it👍😎 and yes i have an amulet -it’s a small glass vile of green sparkly faerie dust!!! With a fae image on the front.a good friend of mine who is a cherokee shaman!!! He taught me how to connect with them .the fae here in the states are very particular about revealing their self to us humans.but they sense my love for mother earth !!!💚 their always around the mighty oaks and the lavender in my herb garden🌿

  3. The only “Charm” I wear is my Awen symbol that was purchased by my good lady wife from Kristopher Hughes at GCG 2017… It stays around my neck at all times only to be cleaned weekly and then put straight back on again… I feel its warmth, strength and inspiration, along with the closeness of my wife no matter where I am. I have had people recognise the symbol and asked if I am a Druid … To which I answer yes indeed, and a long conversation regarding the symbol and its meaning then continues. I wear my wedding band at all times as this represents the commitment and love I have for my wife and family… I feel that these two “Charms” represent everything in my life, from having a life long partner and the understanding and wisdom of a culture that was thought to be lost to the history books, yet here it is in all its glory in OBDO…Peace and Blessings /|\

  4. I seem to be gathering charms and talismans to myself recently, but I have a small, gold cross with a tiny diamond at the center which I’ve worn all my life. A psychic was shocked by the energy it carries and informed me that many women had worn it. I have no memory of how I came to have it. I assume it came from my mom. Nevertheless, I wear it always.

  5. I have a permanent ‘charm’ I decided to have tattooed on my foot.
    I can add others to it if I want – & I’ll never lose it 😊
    It’s a tattooed ankle chain with my chosen sigil, for protection. I love it & it’s always with me!
    I live on my own now & used to really struggle with feeling safe & it’s like this little token rubber-stamped me feeling safe again wherever I was.
    And yes, it holds a bit of a longer story maybe for another time.

  6. Yes, I do, and I’m wearing it on a ribbon around my wrist at the moment. Hopefully this is not revealing too many details, but it’s the same item that is described in the second part of the exercise on p. 237 of the Bardic course. I see it, touch it, and remember.

  7. Yes. Rowan berries strung on red silk( should be cotton but all cotton has polyester in it these days…), made afresh every year from berries taken with permission from trees of my acquaintance. The traditional words don’t rhyme anymore ( English pronounciation has changed over the centuries ) but I still use them with some of my own words chanted over every berry as they are strung. By every door, my bed, my car, and my computer ( well we live in modern times!).

  8. Yes. I wear a necklace with a Awen pendant, a pentagram pendant, and my grandmother’s engagement ring (when it’s not on my finger).

    I only ever had one grandparent and she was a very special lady. Before she passed she asked me to take care of her engagement ring. Which she had been faithfully wearing the last 40 years after her husband passed on. Ironically we have the same ring size.

    The two pendants represent my beliefs and faith as a wiccan druid. They are always there to provide inspiration, strength, protection, and focus to name a few.

    I often get weird looks and confused questions on what the Awen symbol is and why am I wearing a symbol of evil (the pentagram). Always happy to answer these questions and clear up misconceptions.

    Only time I’m not wearing this necklace is when I’m wet or dressing up and need to wear a necklace to match.

Comments are closed.