Talisman vs. Amulet

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Talisman vs. Amulet

Postby Draco Magnus » Wed Jan 18, 2006 1:43 pm

93.

I'm curious to find out the origin of these two terms: Talisman and Amulet. If anyone knows the etymology. I'm aware that Crowley himself wrote about talismans, but I don't remember him ever mentioning amulets.

The internet dictionary doesn't give any satisfying answers, so I thought it appropriate to attempt to address the subject here.

93, 93/93.


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Re: Talisman vs. Amulet

Postby Jim Eshelman » Thu Jan 19, 2006 1:20 am

whitewolf wrote:I'm curious to find out the origin of these two terms: Talisman and Amulet. If anyone knows the etymology.

In English, there isn't much difference, and the main difference in their origins is that one comes from Latin and the other from Greek.

Talisman traces to the Greek telesma, from telein, "consecration ceremony" (and, a step further, from telos which leads off in numerous directions). So, basically, a talisman is something that has been consecrated.

Amulet is from the fairly obscure Latin amuletum. As far as I can tell, one is just the translation of the other - amuletum means "amulet." (My Traupman only shows it going English-to-Latin, not Latin-to-English.) Since I don't really think this means "something for the wife," and even less think the origin is "on the mule," I don't have a good guess about the origin before that. (Many references give the same reference to Pliny using it to mean "something worn as a charm against spells, disease, etc." - but that just means that he used amuletum to mean "amulet.")

A bit of trivia on the subject: amuletum is the biological term for the species of plant we call the four-leaf clover, a popular "lucky charm." (Indescribably delicious!)

T. Witton Davies disputes the conventional etymology, and proposes that amulet comes from the Arabic himlat, "something carried." You might want to read his worthwhile scholarly tracing of amulets through history: http://www.searchgodsword.org/enc/isb/v ... p&x=13&y=9 or http://bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseact ... SBE/ID/490
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Postby Draco Magnus » Thu Jan 19, 2006 6:02 pm

Thanks for the link. It gave some insight into the amulet, and I personally beleve the term probably does begin to be used before Roman times. Does the root "am" or "amu" appear significantly in either Arabic, Greek or Egyptian? Does Qabalah help here?

From a practical standpoint, and based on the standard definitions given, it appears that amulet is reserved solely for warding off evil things, and for protection (a banishing function). Whereas, the talisman is consecrated with some sort of formula of power, for one purpose or another (invoking).

I take it this is what is generally agreed?
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Postby Jim Eshelman » Thu Jan 19, 2006 6:24 pm

If it's Arabic, then the root is ham, not am - as mentioned above. If it's Arabic, then the root likely means "something to carry around."

But "amulet" is apparently a much more modern word, of the two.

whitewolf wrote:Does Qabalah help here?

In the Latin Qabalah Simplex, amuletum = 94 as do the following words and phrases:

ALPHA ET OMEGA - Alpha & Omega; First & Last, Beginning & End; name of the Mathers-loyalist post-scism Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (A.'.O.'.)
EREMITOS - Hermit
SUMMUS - Uppermost, supreme, highest, top of, greatest, consummate, most distinguished (masc.)
FLAMMA RUBRA - Red flame (v. CCXX 3:38)
SOL PATER - The Sun is the Father
VITRIOL - Vitriol; also, an important alchemy notariqon
VOLCANUS - Vulcan (cf. 100, Vulcanus)

From a practical standpoint, and based on the standard definitions given, it appears that amulet is reserved solely for warding off evil things, and for protection (a banishing function). Whereas, the talisman is consecrated with some sort of formula of power, for one purpose or another (invoking). I take it this is what is generally agreed?

No, I wouldn't agree at all. What you say tends to be true by etymology, but not in practice. In practice, the two words are totally interchangeable. (Talismans are definitely as much banishing or protective as invoking!) In casual language, "talisman" tends to be used more often by ceremonial magicians and "amulet" by folk magicians, but I don't know that there is a hard line there that serves anyone.
Last edited by Jim Eshelman on Fri Jan 20, 2006 12:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Draco Magnus » Fri Jan 20, 2006 11:29 am

93

Thanks Jim for the clarification and analysis. I appreciate it.

The smiley face above is unintentional, right?

93, 93/93


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Postby Jim Eshelman » Fri Jan 20, 2006 12:07 pm

Yes, thanks for pointing it out - I disabled it.
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