An amulet (from Latin amuletum; earliest extant use in Naturalis Historia [Pliny], meaning “an object that protects a person from trouble”), a close cousin of the talisman (from Arabic طلاسم tilasm, ultimately from Greek telesma or from the Greek word “telein” which means “to initiate into the mysteries”) consists of any object intended to bring good luck and/or protection to its owner. Potential amulets include: gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants, animals, etc.; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—(Latin, “go back, Satan“), to repel evil or bad luck.
In antiquity and the Middle Ages, most Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Orient believed in the protective and healing power of amulets or blessed objects. Talismans used by these peoples can be broken down into three main categories. The first are the types carried or worn on the body. The second version of a talisman is one which is hung upon or above the bed of an infirm person. The last classification of talisman is one with medicinal qualities. This latter category of item can be further divided into external and internal. In the former, one could, for example, place an amulet in a bath. The power of the amulet would be understood to be transmitted to the water, and thus to the bather. In the latter, inscriptions would be written or inscribed onto food, which was then boiled. The resulting broth, when consumed, was assumed to transfer the healing qualities engraved on the food into the consumer.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims have also at times used their holy books in a talisman-like manner in grave situations. For example, a bed-ridden and seriously ill person would have a holy book placed under part of the bed or cushion.
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