The Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems, by William Thomas and Kate Pavitt, , at sacred-texts.com
Talismans of Primitive Races—The Axe—Arrow-head—The Swastika—The Serpent—The Interlaced Triangles.
Amongst primitive races the Axe was the symbol for Chief, God, or Divine Being, and had its origin in the Neolithic or later Stone Age, which ended in Europe about 2000 B.C.
It was doubtless the earliest weapon of prehistoric man, and in addition to its uses as a weapon would have been in constant service in clearing the way when moving from place to place, and in cutting and shaping the wood used in forming his shelters. This being so, it is easy to conceive of its association with strength, power, and utility; and its symbolic use to express these virtues is a logical conclusion, whilst from remains found in various parts of the world it is evident that its use for this purpose was universal, and amongst primitive races the Axe became the recognised hieroglyphic for God, Chief, or Ruler; moreover, as a symbol of power, its place is taken by the State Sword
which is carried before the King at important ceremonies even to the present day.
Amongst the remains of the Stone Age, Talismans formed in the shape of Axe-heads have been found pierced with holes for suspension, and Illustration No. 13 (Plate I) is an example in Slate of the Neolithic period found in Portugal, and its ornament is the Divine in its feminine aspect as represented by prehistoric man, who placed the feminine first in his beliefs, tracing his own descent and his position in the tribe through the Mother.
Illustration No. 16 (Plate I) is of a blue flint Talisman from Egypt; and No. 15 (Plate I) is in Hæmatite, and comes from the Upper Congo, where the natives of the present day regard it as an effective Talisman against disease.
The Arrow-head in its symbolism had a similar significance to that of the Axe, and in Japan flint Arrow-heads were thought to have been rained from Heaven, or dropped by flying spirits. They were very popular in the early days of the present civilisation as Amulets to protect the wearer from disease and to avert the Evil Eye; whilst throughout Europe they were regarded as the product of Elves (Elf-shots, or fairy weapons), water in which they had been dropped or dipped, being considered very efficacious in.
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PLATE I. PRIMEVAL, CHINESE, INDIAN AND THIBETAN TALISMANS.
curing feminine ailments (see Illustration No. 17, Plate I).
The Swastika, one of the oldest and certainly the most universal Talisman known, can be traced back to the Neolithic Age, and it has been found engraved on stone implements of this period. It is to be met with in all parts of the Old and New Worlds and on the most ancient ruins and remains, it thus living through the Ages in active use down to the present time. In spite of its antiquity and the fact that some writers quote it as being in use among the Egyptians, we have not been able to find it, as a symbol used by them, amongst their remains in the British Museum, and authorities whom we have consulted are also unaware of its existence in Egyptian records.
It was used long before its present name was given it, and extensive discussion has been carried on as to whether its correct form is with its arms turned to the left, or to the right, without, as far as we have been able to ascertain, any definite conclusion being arrived at. Both forms seem equally popular, and are so found in all countries; whilst on the rock walls of the Buddhist caves of India they are used in great numbers, with their arms turned both ways often in the course of the same inscription.
In Sanskrit its name means Happiness, Pleasure, Good Luck, Su—good, or well; Asti—being, making it = "Good Being"; and it is still used in India, China, and Japan as an Amulet for long life, good fortune, and good luck.
The illustration shown on Plate I, No. 14 is from a shield of the Bronze Age, the background being of dull red enamel, and the arms turned to the left; whilst No. 18, which turns to the right, is taken from between the feet of a statue of Buddha from Ceylon, and is also commonly found in the footprints of this Deity, sometimes both forms being used in the same impression. In China the Swastika sign is pronounced Wan, meaning a great number, a multitude, great happiness, longevity; both forms are used, but most commonly that which is turned to the left. The Jains of India regard it as a symbol of human progress, the right arm A (Illustration No. 18) representing the lowest stage of life, as protoplasm; the lower arm B indicating the soul's evolution, and through plant and animal life C representing human evolution, and D the spiritual life, the plane on which the soul is entirely freed from matter by the practice of the three jewels, right belief, right knowledge, and right conduct. In their temples at their service of baptism or its equivalent rite, this symbol is traced on the fore,
head of the candidate as a benediction for protection from evil influences. It is used as an emblem of the highest of all, the Almighty maker of the heavens and earth, indicating the Divine Force radiating through the Universe; it is also regarded as a sign of Benediction and good augury amongst Buddhists and all Eastern nations, and as a symbol of the Sun, when represented turned to the left, the Autumnal period, and when turned to the right the Vernal.
It has been identified as the Hammer of Thor, the Lord of Thunder and Lightning, the God of the Air; and amongst the Scandinavians was believed to have dominion over the Demons of the Air, and the coat-of-arms of the Isle of Man—a Swastika formed of three human legs, is a legacy from the early settlers of their race. It may occasionally be met with, having five or six limbs, and is then probably intended to represent the Wheel of the law, or Buddha's Wheel; whilst a three-limbed figure is much used in the Punjaub and other parts of India by the Mohajin Log (the banking, or moneyed class) as a charm which was not only worn, but used as an ornament in their houses, generally over the door.
It is also the symbol indicated by the silent ascetic sitting with arms folded over the breast, the legs crossed, and each foot placed on the
opposite thigh, which accounts for this pose, so familiar amongst the images of the Indian gods.
Dr. Eitel says this symbol was frequently cast on bells during the Middle Ages, and he instances as being still in existence those of Appleby, Scotheim, Waldingham, Bishop's Norton, and Barkwith in Lincolnshire, Hathersage in Derbyshire, Maxborough in Yorkshire and many others.
The fact that this symbol is found universally throughout India, Africa, North and South America, Asia and Europe forms a very strong argument for a common origin lost in the far distant past, and is considered by some writers as evidence of a connection between these continents and the lost continent of Atlantis.
The Serpent throughout all ages has appealed to the imagination of man, to whom its various characteristics afforded opportunities for symbolic expression; from its length of life it has been used as the symbol of Eternity, and as a Talisman for Longevity, Health, and Vitality, and when depicted with its tail in its mouth (this form being particularly noticeable in ancient rings) it indicates perpetual union, whilst to the Aztecs, who used it in this way as a symbol of the Sun, it signified unending Time, ever beginning, ever creating, and ever destroying, and was considered to have great protective and enduring virtues.
When shown coiled, its folds signify succession of ages, and if the tail is hidden, unfathomable antiquity (see Illustration No. 22, Plate I, which is taken from an ancient Japanese example in the British Museum).
In primeval days, serpents of the Python family attained huge dimensions, and would naturally be held in dread and awe by early man; and in all primitive religions we find the belief held that the soul of man passed at death into a serpent to undergo regeneration and renewal, so symbolised because the serpent casts its skin once a year and becomes a new serpent.
To the Eastern mind the Sun in its passage through the heavens formed a curve similar to that of the Snake, and by its progression spirally, with great quickness at will, though without feet and hands or organs by which other animals perform their movements, it was supposed to symbolise lightning or fire, the vitalising principle of life in its good aspect, and, when antagonistic, it became typical of evil and misfortune.
In Egypt the Serpent in the form of the Uræus was worn round the head as a mark of Royalty, and to symbolise Divine Power, Wisdom, and Energy, every tomb of the Kings yet opened has the Serpent sculptured erect on each side of the doorway to guard and protect the body within.
[paragraph continues] It first became a type of the Evil One when this form was assumed by Sut (after killing Osiris) in his endeavour to escape from the vengeance of Horus.
In Indian religions the Serpent is known as Ananta, or endless, a symbol of infinite duration and Eternity; Vishnu, the Creator, is represented sleeping on this serpent whose numerous heads form a canopy over the God, each giving constant attention to his expected awakening, when new creations and a new order of things will be established, and was valued as a talisman for Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding.
Serpents were sacred to the Great God of Medicine because of the idea that they have the power of renewing their youth by casting their skins, hence the wand of Æsculapius is represented as entwined by two serpents, the emblem of Medical Science, and in the temple of Epidaurus, the most important sanatorium of the Metropolis, a large serpent was kept, typical of Health and Vitality. As a symbol, it was used in connection with Ceres, Mercury, and Diana in their most beneficent qualities; whilst Python in monstrous form represented all that was evil.
Solomon's Seal, also known as the Interlaced Triangle, is another ancient Talisman that has been universally used in every religion; but though
it is said to have been the symbol by which the wise King ruled the Genii, it could not have originated with him as its use dates back much further than the Jewish Dispensation.
As a Talisman it was considered all-powerful, being the perfect sign of the Absolute, and was worn for protection against all casualties, dangers, and mischief, and to preserve its wearer from all evil.
In its composition the Triangle with its apex upwards symbolises Good, and with the inverted Triangle, Evil: the Triangle with its apex up being typical of the Trinity that exists in all religions; in India, China, and Japan its three angles represent Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer or Regenerator; in Egypt it represented Osiris, Isis, and Horus, and in the Christian Church the Holy Trinity. As a whole it stood for the elements of fire and spirit, composed of the three virtues, Love, Truth, and Wisdom. The Triangle with its apex downward represented the element of water, and typified the material world, or the three enemies of the soul, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and the cardinal sins, Envy, Hatred, and Malice.
Therefore, the meaning of the two Triangles interlaced, is the triumph of spirit over matter,
and at the commencement of our present civilisation was considered an all-powerful Talisman, particularly when used with either a Tau Cross, the Hebrew Yod, or the Crux Ansata in the centre.
The Illustration No. 23, Plate I, is from an Indian form of the Talisman, and has the Sun's symbol in the centre.