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Various talismans in the window display of a specialty shop in Porto .
This ivory female figure is an amulet mu po from the Cameroon grassland , Bamunkung. It was supposed to protect the wearer from witchcraft, which was believed to be the cause of disease, misfortune and death. In mask dances, the dancer wore the amulet on his body.
An ancient Egyptian amulet of the dwarf god Bes from the permanent exhibition of the Indianapolis Children's Museum.
Roman amulet with male genitalia, 1st to 4th century AD, approx. 4.5 × 2.7 cm

An amulet is a wearable object to which magical powers are ascribed, with which it is supposed to bring luck (energetic, sacramental effect) and protect against damage ( apotropaic effect). It is also known as a talisman because of its auspicious quality and mostly larger execution . With its magical effect, the amulet has parallels to the votive offering. While the votive offering is typically deposited in a suitable place, the amulet is used to be carried on the body or in a bag. Apart from its intended magical aspect, the amulet can also be worn visibly as a piece of jewelry or as a sign of belonging to a mostly religious community.


The exact etymology of the word is unclear. The Latin term amuletum , from which the German word is borrowed from the beginning of the 18th century, can be found several times in the Naturalis historia Pliny the Elder (1st century AD) and is removed by various authors on amoliri , to turn away 'returned. Other scientists have suggested an origin from the Arabic root ḥ-ml (حمل ḥamala 'wear'), against which Johann Gildemeister arguedin the magazine of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft . Possibly there is a relationship with the Greek-Latin amylum or amulum (starch flour)as a (health- promoting or harm-averting ) 'food made from starch'.


Amulets are worn on the body (often also as jewelry ) or in clothing, stored in vehicles or in the dwelling or hung around the cattle . They can be made of a variety of materials and are intended to passively protect the wearer.

Even in prehistory, people hung the remains (teeth and claws) of their prey. They should give the wearer the strength of the animal.

Amulets were used in medicine , as protection for pregnant women, against the evil eye and - for example nutmeg - as love spells and against a variety of diseases. The animistic idea works on the amulet that magical forces act on the human being, which he can counteract with the amulet.

Amulets are known in all cultures. Shells or pearls and special stones such as amber and rock crystals have been used since the Stone Age . In Celtic settlement remains , polished, pierced skull fragments (amulets?) Were found during excavations.

For the Arabs , amulets are leather bags with sewn-in paper on which a Koranic sura or a magical sign is written. They spread the Islamic blessing power of baraka . According to popular belief, non-ferrous metals, especially copper and brass, have an amulet-like positive effect .

The belief in the medical effectiveness of amulets experienced a heyday in Europe, especially from the early modern period to the 17th century, and can be found in Paracelsus , Marsilio Ficino , Cornelius Agrippa and Giordano Bruno .

Cultural variants

The following are considered amulets:

Understanding in Christianity

The Baghdad mathematician, philosopher and doctor Qusta ibn Luqa ( Qusṭā ibn Lūqā al-Baʿlabakkī ) was a Melchitic Christian of Greek descent and, in his work on the value of amulets, made belief and human imagination responsible for their effect as early as 900 . He denied occult or astral properties. In Europe , the Christian church also turned against superstition in the Middle Ages , which also included amulets. However, this did not prevent popular belief from clinging to amulets with a Christian reference.

High church men also have good luck charms. For example, 15 adder-tongue trees are recorded in the Holy See's treasury inventory from 1295 . When Prince-Bishop Anselm Franz von Würzburg , a lifelong fighter against superstition and witchcraft, died after a stroke on February 9, 1749, an amulet made of sheet brass was found on his chest, on which a pentagram and some magic formulas were engraved.

See also


Web links

Commons : Amulet  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Amulet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Ludwig Karl Weigand : German Dictionary: First Volume: AL , 1878. P. 47
  2. z. B. Friedrich Ludwig Karl Weigand: German Dictionary: First Volume: AL , 1878. P. 47; Alois Walde , Johann Baptist Hofmann : Latin etymological dictionary . 1910, p. 38
  3. z. B. Johann Christian August Heyse : Foreign dictionary . 1870, p. 42; James Yates : Amuletum , in William Smith (Ed.): Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities . 1870, p. 91
  4. See Johann Gildemeister: Amuletum. In: ZDMG 38, 1884, pp. 140-142
  5. Richard Wünsch : Amuletum. In: Glotta. Volume 2, Issue 3, 1910, pp. 219-230 ( digitized version ).
  6. MR Baldwin: Toads and Plague: Amulet Therapy in Seventeenth-Century Medicine. In: Bulletin of the History of Medicine. Volume 67, 1993, pp. 227-247.
  7. John WS Johnsson: The Muscat nut, a cosmetic-erotic amulet. Volksmed. Investigations sent to the third internat. Med. hist. Congress, London, 1922. In: Proceedings of the Third International Congress of the History of Medicine. London, 17.-22. July 1922, pp. 225-232
  8. ^ Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio (2005), p. 53.
  9. Manfred Ullmann : Medicine in Islam (= Handbook of Oriental Studies , 1st section, supplementary volume VI, 1). Leiden / Cologne 1970, pp. 126–128.
  10. Friedrun R. Hau: Qusta ibn Luqa al-Ba'labakkī. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1210.
  11. ↑ Adder tongues. In: Eugen von Philippovich: Curiosities / Antiques. Klinkhardt & Biermann, Braunschweig 1966.
  12. ^ Manfred Brauneck : Religious folk art. DuMont, Cologne 1979, p. 301, ISBN 3-7701-0967-8 .