Thursday, April 16, 2009


Detail of amulets, talismans and charms from one of my earlier totems.

Amulets, talismans and charms. From snakeskin pouches holding ancient Ethiopian prayer scrolls to Bamana hunters tunics festooned with tiny leather parcels; Christian Crusifixes to the Hand of Fatima; rabbit foot charms to the saint christopher medals so many of us have worn at some stage in our lives; then there are the old favourites such as charm bracelets and the silver charms found in christmas puddings.

There is always some overlap in the meaning of the three words...amulet, charm and talisman. Shiela Paine in her book Amulets says.... "An amulet is a device, the purpose of which is to protect, but by magical and not physical means."

"A charm is something believed to bring good luck, health and happiness. In so doing it might also be expected to protect from bad luck, sickness and misery, but protection is not its primary function."

"A talisman is something thought to be imbued with some magical property. It can both protect, and radiate power, and is often used in ritual."

Details from past totems I have carved. The central figure is the Healing Goddess.

This morning I revisited Keith Lobue's website and discovered he has started a blog.

Telling the bees by Keith Lobue (The title refers to the old folk practice of telling the bees of a loved ones death; it was believed that the bees were attendant to the soul of the departed.)

Keith Lobue writes about his work using found objects.
"Many of these objects are centuries old, and they lead me to create works that seem to have been conjured from a rather improbable past. Presenting themselves as scientific instruments or devices of divination, these assemblies appear to have some particular function. Without that utility, however, these pieces are left with a sense of mystery; of questions yet to be answered."

Requiescat by Keith Lobue

Susan Lenart Kazmer is another artist whose work intrigues me.

Talisman by Susan Lenart Kazmer

"Recently I have considered another dimension utilizing found objects. Picking up a piece, holding it and contemplating it, I let the object lead the way as to what direction the finished piece will emerge. The magnitude of energy carried with the found object from their previous lives can be seen felt and touched. When you close your eyes and hold the object in your hand you can feel whether the user has enjoyed, neglected, or cherished it. Fear, happiness, struggle, and strength are also feelings embedded in an object. My job as an artist is to take the found object and present it in a new and unexpected way. Combining these energies in recycled objects is indeed creating a contemporary talisman." - Susan Lenart Kazmer
Talisman by Caroline Soer

Caroline Soer created this delicate drawing of an Omani necklace in her collection. It is called a kirsh kitab (coin or disc with writing) and was worn by women throughout Northern Oman not only to offer protection, but also to bring gladness and cheerfulness to life. Read the post about it here.

Pocket Divinity, pewter sculpture by Malaki Blunt

Malaki Blunt creates small sculptures to carry in one's pocket as a reminder of one's connection to the divine. He refers to them as "A talisman, an amulet, a meditative friend". If you happen to wander over to his blog look out for his "Murder of Crows", pocket sculpture.

Warrior of light (protection for Obama) by Adriene Cruz

I found this talisman on Fiber Focus a wonderful blog full of textile and fiber art.

Ethiopian prayer box beads from Africa Direct

One of the most intriguing aspects of these prayer box beads is that they have probably survived a hundred years of wear and traveled through at least 3 continents. How exciting is that? I wonder what the history behind them is. Who wore them? What is their story?

Inuit amulet cluster, ivory and sinew


  1. These artworks are beautiful magical symbols . Love your mysrerious totems!

  2. Thanks for another wonderful and thought provoking post.

  3. If ever a person needs inspiration your blog is the one to come to, as I do. You always seem to think out of the box which seems to open doors for me. Namaste

  4. Very intriguing. I am drawn to the overlapping meanings, and the origins of these meanings - how did different cultures independently attribute power, luck, protection etc. to jewelry?

    Of course, wealth (and the display of it) was one contributor, but I also wonder if in the act of ornamentation, people raised their heads a little higher and radiated energy and power... and still do.

  5. You find the best artifacts Robyn. I also love the totems in the previous post too!

  6. Every time I come here I am in amazement at what a wonderful teacher and inspiration I have as a friend! The Keith Lobue quote seems like such an apt description of your own found object/collector totems Robyn!

    Speaking of which, we must talk ... I have a friend coming to Durban this summer. (And I also FINALLY put up photos of Argentina!)

  7. the pewter pocket sculptures! BAM! I wouldn't mind one of those in my pocket! also loved the pics showing, wv is petsh! fetish pieces for your pets!

  8. B&W, they are all mysterious though aren't they?

    Thanks Chris.

    Lisa, such a sweet thing to say, thank you!

    Beverley, I suppose they needed something portable...easy to stitch to clothing, put in pockets or hang around necks etc....something small and easy to carry. It was inevitable that the objects would progress to jewellery in all cultures.

    Thanks Leslie.

    Heather, you say the sweetest things! I will be over to see your photos in a sec.

  9. Jeane, I was so excited about the pocket sculptures too!

  10. What a great post, Robyn! Such a fascinating subject and some really amazing Talismans you've found. Honoured that you've used my illustration too!! I've got other Omani Talismans and amulets - will get around to posting a piece about the jewellery soon, I hope!

  11. I love how much research goes into each post & the diverse examples you pick out and put together. You , Robyn are a complete inspiration. I LOVED the 'Ethiopian prayer box beads'. There is a lot of very similar silver jewellery worn here in India.

  12. Fabulous series of images and the interesting and mystical thoughts that you have brought to the fore makes me reiterate that you are indeed "The Indiana Jones of the internet" Thanks for sharing Robyn.

  13. You have to spend so much of your time researching all of these wonderful finds - so grateful for that - thank you Robyn.
    I had an special amulet made for my son when he was born, intending on giving it to him when he turned 13 - it was stolen in a robbery - I think about it often as the prayer inside was designed by a "mystic" and specific to my sons name - i wonder who has it and what affect, if any, it has on them - his initials were engraved on the outside of the box.
    interesting things to ponder...

  14. Wow! Beautiful Talismans and very complex. These magic Symbols are very unique. Thank you!

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  16. Each one of these is fascinating and intriguing!

  17. You have a beautiful and fascinating blog, Robyn. I'm sending a link to my art jeweller friend in Australia.

  18. Robyn, you are such a fount of fascinating information! I never tire of my visits here (though I have to be prepared with a bit of spare time to explore the excellent links you include).

    thank you for another wonderful post!

  19. Fascinating post! And you found such wonderful examples as well.

  20. I always love to pop over to read your posts... they are always amazing!
    I absolutely love your Healing Goddess...she spoke to me straight away.
    Interesting the interpretations of talismans, charms and amulets, they are all wonderful.

  21. Robyn, I've just looked through the pictures on your post. The talismans, esp the cross shaped ones are pretty mind blowing. I have to come back and read about it...

  22. I love your ability to find a common thread in so many different artistic styles. Your blog is such a visual treat, as is your work.

  23. Caroline, I'm looking forward to your post on the other Omani talismans.

    Thanks Vineeta, I could say the same about you. Your blog is packed with wonderful eyecandy!

    T&S, I'm very happy with that title, thank you!

    Judy, the amulet you had made for your son sounds very special. How upsetting that it was stolen.

    Lucky Charms, thank you for commenting. I love to hear what people think of all the different pieces.

    Bindu, glad you enjoyed them.

    Robyn, thanks so much !

    Michelle, I worried that this post was too long but didn't want to leave any of these pieces out. They are all so intriguing.

    Seth, aren't they all wonderful?

    Thanks Jacky,I enjoyed the search.

    Priya, Keith Lobue's work is so intriguing. Go and have a look at his site. You'll be blown away.

    Kerri Jean, thanks so much!

  24. i was here days back, and so taken away by the links, i never got back to speak...

    this might be one of my favorite posts! Its so close to the power of words for me, the spirit engagement... love the found object jewelry too.

    Your healing goddess, do you ever know her by the name of Baubo? I once embarrisingly did an oral ta;k about her, connected to a figure in Toni Morrison the novelist's work... thanks for teaching me again!

  25. "Who wore them? What is their story?"

    Those are the really fascinating questions about them...the imaginings of their histories.

    Blunt's pocket sculptures are simply cool...speaking as someone who frequently carries buckeys in his pocket!

  26. Fascinating as always Robyn. I have been reading your blog, wallowing in the gorgeousness and following your links when I should have been doing my drawings for my blog...ha ha.

    But as William Henry Davies put it....What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stop and stare.

  27. So rich in culture and history... the things that artist create to tell their stor... how you create your own pieces... all here to light fire to my senses. Roxanne

  28. Mansuetude, I discovered Baubo, the belly goddess, when I read Women who Run with Wolves. Thank YOU for remining me. I must read it again!

    Cynjon,aren't those pocket sculptures divine!!!

    Cathy, I bet there's a very good quote about too much stopping and staring too. That's my problem when I get onto the internet.

    Roxanne, thank you.

  29. Hi Robyn,

    Thank you for including my work on your blog. You've singled out some pretty amazing objects here, and I'm glad to be among them.

    I've wanted for several years to come to South Africa to teach workshops. If you know of anyone willing or capable of organizing this, please drop me an email - it's a part of the world I've always wanted to explore!


    Keith Lo Bue

  30. that amulet book is lovely, a continual source of inspiration. I wonder what our 21st century ones are?

  31. Grrl, that would be a whole other post!

  32. Keith, it would be a dream come true to have you teaching in South Africa. I'll nose about and see if the art and craft society have any ideas.

  33. The magic power of amulets, mascots and talisman is described by Desmond Morris in a very interesting book, the copy I have is in Flemish, a language that sounds like Afrikaans.

  34. Wim, yes I do recognise words in Flemish, Dutch or German that sound like Afrikaans though I am not fluent in Afrikaans since English is my home language.

    Amulets, glad you enjoyed the post.

  35. Absolutely amazing. I was looking over the web for information on amulet bags (joined an Amulet Bag swap)to get some ideas and came across your blog. Thank you so much for sharing with us.