Amulets for Success and Protection


A very popular form of amulet was one that sought for the bearer prosperity and success, as well as general protection from all ills.[[1]] For example, a generic amulet from Egypt written on a silver lamella and addressed to "Adonaie S abaoth," an appellation for the Jews’ god that was common in magical texts, asks, "Give favor, love, success, charm to the wearer of this amulet."[[2]] Since such amulets would be expected to last longer than a medical amulet that was prep ared to counter a specific problem, it is likely that these charms were more frequently made of durable materials, though indeed similar charms written upon papyri have been found. And, although some of this group of amulets for prosperity and protection commonly included brief invocations like the one on the silver lamella, many made the image of a deity the focus. Carved or molded representations of deities were created in various ways, including inscribed magic gems, which could be carried or worn as a necklace or ring, and metal or wooden statuettes and carved seals which could also be carried or else set up in a place of veneration within the home. Thousands of examples of such amulets have been found. In some cases, the amulet simply show s the divinity without any explanation of the object’s purpose; perhaps such items had been consecrated through rituals, and words were felt to be superfluous. Other amulets, however, also bear brief phrases such as "Isis conquers," or state a wish – "Grant me favor," or "Give me success and victory." The divinities featured and named were from a number of regions: the Greek and Roman pantheons mixed with Egyptian gods, and different holy names from Judaism, and later Chri stianity, were used.

Some amulets, rather than expressing a desire for favor and benefits, sought to avoid various ills and evils. These dangers were sometimes specific threats, but more often were nebulous and ill-defined. The Evil Eye in particular was feared, as w ere spirits that might bring sickness, fear, or even wasting away and death. Numerous gemstones inscribed with commands such as "Guard" and "Preserve" have been found, as have those with more detailed instructions to the owners’ guard ian deities to repel the assaults of foul spirits and other harmful forces.[[3]] Others use symbolism rather than words: for example, a gemstone in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art shows animals such as a lion, dog, scorpion, stag and snake attacking the Evil Eye, a scene which reflects the subject of numerous mosaics created with a similar purpose.[[4]] Such amulets were quite popular, and survived well into Christian times, when they were used to keep the demons at bay.