Talismans are artefacts, object, design, or symbol that are believed to be endowed with magical or supernatural power, and to bestow it to their possessors. Talismans are frequently confused with amulets which are objects which passively protect the owner from evil and harm.
Talismans have been discovered in all historical periods. The Egyptians and Babylonians used them when attempting to alter the forces of nature. In the Middle Ages, holy relics and other objects assumed the value of talismans in attempts to cure illnesses. Some thieves converted severed hands of thieves into talismans (see The Hand of Glory) to assist them in their trade.
Many magicians sought the assistance of talismans which they made in elaborate ceremonies which were conducted during periods of auspicious astrological signs. During these rituals they recited incantation to conjures the desired spirits who imbued the talismans with magical power. The talisman most sought after was the elusive Philosopher's Stone, which the alchemists thought would transform base metals into silver and gold.
Grimoires, especially in magic, offer instructions on the making of talismans. Many talismans were inscribed on precious stones or parchment under auspicious astrological signs. Talismans were made for many endeavors such as getting rich, winning at gambling, falling in love, prevention of sudden death, improvement of memory, and even making a good speech.
An example is the talisman belonging to Catherine de Medici, queen consort of Henry II of France which she constantly carried. It was a medal allegedly made from metals that were melted together during favorable astrological signs, and also added in was human and he-goat blood. Although the original was broken at her death, a copy exists in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.
On one side of this medal is engraved the god Jupiter, the eagle of Ganymede and a demon with the head of the Egyptian god Anubis; on the other side is a Venus figure believed to be Catherine flanked by demons. She believed the talisman conferred upon her clairvoyance and sovereign power.
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