Through his­tory

In­cred­i­ble charms and amulets

All About History - - CONTENTS -

Hu­man Heart 12th-13th cen­tury

This shriv­elled hu­man heart was found in­side its lead, heart-shaped case lined with sil­ver, known as a ‘cist’, in county Cork, Ire­land, back in 1863. In some cases, par­tic­u­larly if the man or woman was wealthy, the heart was re­moved from the body af­ter death and buried sep­a­rately. It is be­lieved that the heart dates back to the Mid­dle Ages, and could have been used for rit­u­als of de­vo­tion, magic and love. Such love magic was used to bind one per­son to an­other ro­man­ti­cally, for ex­am­ple in times of love sick­ness.

John Dee’s Pur­ple crys­tal 1582

This pur­ple crys­tal be­longed to John Dee, the fa­mous oc­cultist who served as an ad­vi­sor to Queen El­iz­a­beth I. Dee was known for his in­ter­est in div­ina­tion, par­tic­u­larly af­ter his ca­reer at the royal court be­gan to dwin­dle. He would read me­dieval magic texts to learn about rit­u­als to sum­mon an­gels, as well as to de­ter­mine suit­able stones that would al­low him to com­mu­ni­cate with spir­its. Though Dee hoped to gain knowl­edge that would help mankind by con­vers­ing with an­gels, he also ex­pressed his wish that they would help him un­cover trea­sure.

Prog­nos­ti­ca­tor c. 1500

In line with Me­dieval un­der­stand­ing, this in­stru­ment used to de­ter­mine the most aus­pi­cious time to con­duct blood­let­ting in pa­tients. The prog­nos­ti­ca­tor cal­cu­lated this ac­cord­ing to the po­si­tion and move­ments of the Moon, and the 12 signs of the zo­diac are also en­graved all the way around it. As­trol­ogy had a big in­flu­ence on medicine and by the end of the 14th cen­tury, physi­cians in var­i­ous coun­tries were legally obliged to con­sult the po­si­tion of the stars be­fore pro­ceed­ing with an op­er­a­tion.

mir­ror of floron 16th cen­tury

An­gels were not the only su­per­nat­u­ral be­ings in­volved in mag­i­cal div­ina­tion, as some peo­ple tried to sum­mon demons. The idea was to trap a de­mon in a glass, stone or mir­ror, where they would be forced to an­swer ques­tions. This magic mir­ror is as­so­ci­ated with the de­mon Floron. To work, a magic mir­ror was sup­posed to be made from pol­ished steel, in­scribed with the names of an­gels, and the maker had to be chaste and clean to suc­cess­fully trap Floron. Be­yond di­vin­ing se­crets of the past, present and fu­ture, magic mir­rors were also used in rit­u­als as­so­ci­ated with love and heal­ing.

“The idea was to trap a devil in a glass, stone or mir­ror, where they would be forced to an­swer ques­tions”

cer­e­mo­nial sword Late 16th cen­tury

Though this sword dates back to the 16th cen­tury, the rock crys­tal reli­quary in the han­dle ac­tu­ally dates back even ear­lier. Rock crys­tal was pop­u­lar be­cause of the strong be­lief in the power of nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and it could be used to hold relics since the sa­cred frag­ment in­side could be vis­i­ble and would trans­mit its power of pro­tec­tion to the per­son who held it. This sword was ac­tu­ally a cer­e­mo­nial weapon and given as a gift for a be­trothal or mar­riage – as it is adorned with the Bour­bon coat of arms, it was pos­si­bly a gift given to Princess Hen­ri­etta Maria for her mar­riage to King Charles I of Eng­land.

Pop­pet 1909-1913

The use of pop­pets, small ef­fi­gies be­lieved to be­witch the peo­ple they rep­re­sent, has long been as­so­ci­ated with witch­craft. This par­tic­u­lar one is made of stuffed fab­ric and is wear­ing an Ed­war­dian style black dress, with its head skewered by a small stiletto dag­ger. Dolls like this one were used to cause in­jury and death, with the idea that in­juries made to the pop­pet would cor­re­spond to the per­son it sym­bol­ised. The prac­tice of stick­ing pins into a rep­re­sen­ta­tive im­age or ef­figy was a com­mon rit­ual of malev­o­lent magic.

coral Brooc 1600-1800

This bright coral brooch de­picts the Archangel Michael de­feat­ing the devil and is a pow­er­ful im­age of good tri­umph­ing over evil. As coral was a nat­u­ral ma­te­rial, it­was be­lieved to pro­tect against harm, there­fore mak­ing it an ideal choice for this brooch. To have a lucky charm or tal­is­man was not un­com­mon and in fact they still per­sist to this day, as the be­lief that an ob­ject can of­fer the owner con­fi­dence, con­trol and pro­tec­tion can be phys­i­cally and men­tally com­fort­ing.

Barn Door 17th cen­tury

Carved into this barn door are var­i­ous hex­afoil mark­ings, which were most likely in­tended to pro­tect the barn against witch­craft. These in­scrip­tions were de­vel­oped from the hu­man need to pro­tect prop­erty and of course, a be­lief in magic. Apotropaic charms such as these mark­ings were made in con­sul­ta­tion with cun­ning folk, oth­er­wise known as folk ma­gi­cians, who would visit homes to of­fer their ad­vice. These charms usu­ally con­sisted of ge­o­met­ri­cal shapes or re­li­gious mono­grams carved into sup­ports of the home, such as on the beams or on lin­tels, to pro­tect

them from witches.

witch’s lad­der 19th cen­tury

This ‘Witch’s Lad­der’ was found in the roof of a house in Som­er­set where, ac­cord­ing to 19th and 20th cen­tury ar­ti­cles, a pur­ported witch lived. It was be­lieved that this witch used it as a metaphor­i­cal lad­der, per­haps to gain ac­cess to a house or to cast a curse on some­one. How­ever, his­to­ri­ans to­day be­lieve that this ob­ject was ac­tu­ally a sewel, a tool for driv­ing deer. For years, it has been la­belled as a ‘Witch’s Lad­der’ at the Pitt Rivers Mu­seum, be­cause the cu­ra­tors at the time wanted to iden­tify it, pro­vide an ex­pla­na­tion and put it on dis­play.

Bull’s Heart un­known

If an an­i­mal such as a cow or a sheep was be­lieved to have died as a re­sult of witch­craft, then its heart may have been cut out and stuck with pins, nee­dles or even thorns. Af­ter­wards, the heart would ei­ther be hung up to roast over a fire or placed in­side a chim­ney, where it could smoke and shrivel and sub­se­quently cause pain to the witch’s heart. This par­tic­u­lar one is a bull’s heart that was pierced with iron nails and thorns be­fore it was smoked. Al­though pierc­ing pop­pets was deemed an act of witch­craft, pierc­ing an­i­mal hearts was not con­sid­ered in the same vein, since it was in­tended to harm witches.

This rare charm could be up to 900 years old.

Dee’s pur­ple crys­tal was sup­pos­edly given to him by the an­gel Uriel

This brooch of Archangel Michael was found in Italy This pop­pet was found in Ex­mouth, Devon

This pierced bull’s a heart was found in Hill chim­ney at Shutes Farm, Som­er­set

This sword is dec­o­rated with sym­bols con­cern­ing the longevity and fi­delity of love

This ex­act pur­pose of this ob­ject re­mains un­known

This 17th cen­tury calf shed door is from Lax­field, Suf­folk

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