Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Exhibition of Amulets and Talismans

If you happen to find yourself in London between now and February 26th of next year, here's an interesting exhibition that's going on at the Wellcome Collection. It's called "Miracles and Charms" and includes various amulets and talismans collected around a century ago.

Once carried around in the pockets of Londoners, the 400 quirky objects were amassed about a century ago by an Edwardian banker and amateur folklorist, who collected curious objects from sailors, costermongers (fruit sellers), and "mudlarks", children who once scavenged along the muddy banks of the River Thames.

"The objects themselves look ordinary but are actually extraordinary when you look at them carefully. They are a slice of life and there is something wonderful about them," head of public programmes at the Wellcome Collection, Ken Arnold, said.

I wish I could make it there myself, as I would enjoy having an opportunity to check and see how much magick is still present in the various objects after so many years. I've often wondered how much difference various materials make in terms of how long such a charm will last, and a collection like this provides a decent sample set.

In addition to four-leaf clovers and horseshoes for luck, the collection includes some more peculiar charms, inspired by folklore, ancient belief systems and a fear of witchcraft.

Mole feet would prevent cramps, a shrunken sheep's heart pierced with nails would protect cattle from witchcraft, and delicately carved hands from coral and shell were believed to avert the gaze of the evil eye.

The other question, of course, is the degree to which these objects work as advertised. Living traditions generally do a fairly good job of passing on effective lore, but at the same time a little scientific investigation couldn't hurt.

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5 comments:

Simon Tomasi said...

Thanks for the heads up about the exhibition. I'll try to go along and take some photos. The people at the Wellcome Trust have had some very interesting and quirky exhibitions in the past :-)

J.C. said...

That sounds great. Unfortunately I live in Chicago. I would love to see more exhibits of this nature. Tabatha Cicero gave a presentation of some very rare Tarot cards this past weekend, including the initiating tarot of the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, which I really enjoyed.

Gordon said...

Fingers crossed it's better than their 'hallucinogens' exhibition. That was rubbish.

But hey, it's free and they have a really cool bookshop and afterward you can cross the road and drink in this weird cement cube that got turned into an okay cocktail bar.

Always find the upside. :)

Simon Tomasi said...

The exhibition on talimans and charms was interesting for a brief visit. The permanent Medicine Man exhibit had some stranger talismans although fewer in number.

Ananael Qaa said...

Thanks for the update, Simon!

The full review of the exhibition can be found here.