The Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems, by William Thomas and Kate Pavitt, , at sacred-texts.com
The Tau Cross—Aum Ma Ni Pad Me Hum—Indian Talismans—Ganesa the Elephant-headed—Hangman the Monkey God—The Eight Glorious Emblems of Buddha—The Wheel of Life—The Conch Shell—The Two Fishes—The Lucky Diagram—The Lotus—The Frog—The Three Gems.
OF the many and various Symbols and Talismans which have come down to us through the ages, the Tau Cross is one of the most ancient, and is undoubtedly the prototype of all modern crosses; it probably had its origin in the double-axe hieroglyphic used by primitive man, and symbolised the Divine attributes of rule and power appertaining to the single axe as mentioned in the previous chapter, and is still recognised as an emblem of authority in the form of the Gavel, or Mallet, with which the auctioneer conducts sales of property and the chairman controls meetings both in public and in the various lodges of secret societies. Formerly it was also universally worn as a talisman of powerful efficacy to protect its wearer from diseases of an inflammatory nature and against bites of serpents and other venomous reptiles (see Illustration No. 19, Plate I). Moses,
who from his training in the Egyptian temples would be familiar with its symbolic significance, also used this cross, with the brazen serpent attached, to save the Israelites in the Wilderness when they were afflicted by the fiery serpents. This form of cross is to be found in all known religions of both hemispheres, and has ever been regarded as the symbol of eternal life and of regeneration, and in relation to this, John Dudley, writing in 1846, says: "that such deep mysterious meaning was possibly intended by our Saviour dying upon the Cross, giving spiritual life and immortality to all mankind." It was also the mark mentioned in Ezekiel ix. 4 which was set in the foreheads of those destined for exemption from Divine punishment in Jerusalem; and the Tau is conspicuous in various old stained-glass representations of the subject depicted as described in Scripture. A further instance of significance is that it also figured on the roll-call of the Roman Legions, a Tau Cross being placed against the names of all those who had survived the battle, and a Theta against the slain.
The Tau Cross was also the sign adopted by Anthony the Copt, an Egyptian hermit gifted in the cure of Erysipelas (a diffusive inflammatory affection of the skin) and as an Amulet against St. Anthony's Fire, as this disease was subsequently
called, this cross came into great favour, particularly among the Jews, who used it in conjunction with various magical formulas both for Erysipelas and Epilepsy, or the falling sickness, as stated by the Rev. C. W. King. We also learn from Grose that a brotherhood known as the Order of St. Anthony was instituted in 1095 by one Gaston Frank. The friars of this order made it their object in life to minister to those afflicted with St. Anthony's Fire, the relics of this saint being believed to be most efficacious in the cure of this complaint. We are also told that this fraternity wore a black habit with the letter T in blue on their breasts, this symbol being known as St. Anthony's Cross. As this saint was habitually invoked for the cure of Epilepsy as well as Erysipelas, the Tau Cross became regarded as a Talisman against both maladies.
In the Archæological Journal we note the following
"Among Stothard's effigies are those of Sir Roger de Bois and lady, each of whom wears on the right shoulder a circular badge graven with a Tau Cross on which appears the word ANTHON," thus testifying to the fact that Sir Roger also belonged to the Brotherhood, whilst in Ireland to this day St. Anthony's Cross is still used as a charm against sickness.
Aum, the mystic emblem of the Deity, was first introduced into Europe by the translation of the Gita, in which we are told it is forbidden to be pronounced aloud, and in its complete expression is still in universal use as a Talisman throughout Asia. It is usually spelt om, but being tri-literal seems, according to most Sanskrit scholars, better expressed by AUM, or AOM, or AWM, being formed of the three Sanskrit letters that are best so expressed. The date generally believed for its universal use is the thirteenth century B.C. It represents the Hindu Triad, or triform Deity, three in one, A the Creator, U the Preserver, and M the Destroyer, or Transformer, and is the image of the Ancient of Days; and in the Book of the Pitris it is written: "The husband is as ancient as the wife, and the wife is as ancient as the husband, and the son is also as ancient as the husband and wife, and the one that contains all these is called AUM."
The signification of the invocation AUM MA NI PAD ME HŪM (AUM! the Jewel in the Lotus HŪM) is therefore very important, and accounts for the great veneration in which it is held (see Illustration No. 12a, Plate I), and in Buddhism in Thibet, by Waddell, we note that it is stated in the MANI KAHBUM that this charm will bring the greatest happiness, prosperity, all knowledge, and the
means of deliverance from enemies and all evil on earth, whilst the devout firmly believe that as they revolve the magical sentence within their prayer-wheels by day and night they are preventing the series of re-births otherwise inevitable, and that when their lives have ended here they will pass straightway to the Paradise of Buddha, for the
To each of these words is given the distinctive colour of these six conditions of re-birth:
There is also a special Rosary used for the repetition of this charm, composed either of the Conch Shell, or crystal beads; in use, the right hand is passed through the Rosary, which hangs down knotted end up, and the hand with the
thumb upward is carried to the breast and held there. On the first syllable AUM being pronounced, the first bead is grasped by raising the thumb and quickly depressing the tip to reach the bead against the outer side of the second joint of the first finger, during the remainder of the sentence the bead, still grasped, is gently revolved to the right, and on conclusion of the invocation is dropped down the palm side of the string; and with another AUM, the next bead is proceeded with until, on conclusion of each cycle of the rosary, each of the keeper beads are touched, saying respectively,
Om! Ah! Hum!
In countries where Buddhism is practised, particularly in Thibet and India, this charm is depicted on silk flags, flown from lofty flagstaffs, so that when the flag is blown out by the wind the sentence may be wafted to heaven to bring down blessings to the entire district.
The prayer-wheel, which contains this mystic sentence printed on long lengths of silk ribbon coiled on cylinders, is revolved by the Lama priest sunwise, and he is very strict in this observance, believing that the reversing of the prayer would also reverse the results of the invocation.
Aum is recognised throughout India as an emblem of the Deity, carrying with its pronunciation
a thousand good things to the faithful; and a Brahmin teacher when addressing an assembly will use this word when commencing his discourse, and also at the close, so that he may not lose his knowledge and understanding.
Indian Talismans.—In India we find, as in most countries, that Talismans very frequently have religious origins, and representations of the Deities are in common use for the protection of their wearers, as well as for their spiritual and material well-being. A belief in a Trinity of gods is universal, with Brahma as the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Restorer, and Siva the Destroyer or Regenerator. In the course of the developments of the various sects Vishnu, originally regarded as a manifestation of Solar energy, became the supreme god, and the worshippers of Vishnu attribute to him all the qualities of the triune gods, his image and various symbols being amongst the most common of Indian Talismans. He is believed to have ten Avataras, or Incarnations, in which his spirit descended in human form to effect great reformations and to regenerate the world; the tenth incarnation, yet to come, is for the final destruction of the wicked, and to regenerate and purify the world.
Gotama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was Vishnu's ninth incarnation, and his images and
symbols are extremely popular Talismans for protection and good fortune. Buddhism, which was founded about the fifth century B.C., has established itself throughout India, China, Ceylon, Japan, Thibet, and Central Asia, inculcating a very high system of theology, the ultimate end of which is Union with the Divine. The Brahmins place Buddha foremost amongst the gods, as opposed to Brahma of the Hindus.
Amongst other sects, Siva is regarded as the greatest of the gods, and there is much overlapping amongst these beliefs, and numerous minor gods exist, typifying various virtues and gifted with powers and attributes which bring them into intimate relations with humanity, for which reason their symbols and personifications are in common use as Talismans. Talismans of Ganesa, the elephant-headed god, the son of Siva, (who is regarded as the God of Wisdom and Prudence, and the Remover of obstacles,) are always worn when any important undertaking is begun. He is represented with four arms holding respectively a Lotus, a Shell, a Goad or Club, and the Discus or Wheel, and the rotundity of his body is symbolic of his high importance and good standing, and not, as might be supposed, intended as evidence of good living (see Illustration No. 28, Plate II).
Hanuman, the Monkey god, is the most popular
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PLATE 2. INDIAN AND THIBETAN TALISMANS.
form of Talisman for Luck, Health, and Good Fortune amongst the Hindus, and his wonderful exploits are a constant theme of interest from childhood to old age.
He was unequalled in learning, knowledge of medicine, and magic, and his skill and cunning in defeating his enemies were superhuman; he fought for Rama, who was an incarnation of Vishnu, performing on his behalf prodigious feats of valour. On one occasion, whilst fighting against Ravana the King of Demons, his enemies greased his enormous tail and set it on fire, but only to their own discomfiture, for with it Hanuman burnt down Lankā, their capital city (see Plate 2, No. 29). The eight glorious emblems of Buddha are all used as Talismans; they consist of the Wheel of the Law, the Conch Shell, the Golden Fish, the Lucky Diagram, the Lotus, the Umbrella, the Vase, and the Trumpet of Victory.
Buddha at his birth had the marks of two feet upon his head and a wheel, or disc, in his hand, by which symbols the Pandits foretold that he would become a great ruler.
The Wheel of Life was drawn by Buddha in a rice field from grains of rice, to illustrate his teaching that the perpetual succession of cause and effect during life resembles the turning of a wheel; and the symbol is worn as a wheel of fortune, so that
misfortunes may roll by and good fortune come uppermost. The wheel was also used to explain the vision seen by a disciple on other spheres, the five spokes divided the Hells, the place of Animals, Ghosts, or evil spirits, Gods, and men (illustrated Plate II, No. 34).
The Conch Shell was taken from a demon of the sea by Krishna, who used it for a horn (see Illustration No. 35, Plate II), and is prized as a Talisman for oratory and learning, as well as a bringer of wealth, the latter being no doubt suggested by the fact that shells were the current coin of primitive people.
The Fish is the symbol of the first incarnation of Vishnu, who in this form saved Manu from the Flood to become the progenitor of the new race. Because of its fertility it is used as a Talisman for increase of riches, and is illustrated on Plate II, No. 32.
The Lucky Diagram is very common in Thibet, and is worn as a Talisman for Longevity (see Illustration No. 30, Plate II).
The Lotus expresses the idea of superhuman origin, as it grows from the body of the water without contact with the solid earth, and no matter how muddy the water may become still preserves its purity undefiled. It is one of the symbols of Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu, who is the goddess
of Fortune and of Beauty; it is worn as a Talisman of Good Luck and Good Fortune, and as Lakshmi is particularly favourable for children it is worn to avert all childish diseases and accidents, as well as to protect from the Evil Eye (see Illustration No. 33, Plate II).
Frogs made of amber or gilded metal are also frequently worn as amulets by children in Burmah, that they may not decline in health through the evil glance. Brightly coloured ribbons are hung upon houses and attached to the heads and tails of horses to distract the attention of the Evil Eye, and protect the animals from harm, which probably accounts for the origin of the gaudy decorations we frequently see in our own country tied to the heads and tails of fine cart-horses on their way to the fair or horse show.
The Three Gems Talisman (Illustrated on Plate II, No. 31) is to be met with wherever Buddhism is established, and symbolises Buddha His Word, and the Church; it is worn to promote the three virtues, Endurance, Courage, and Obedience, the Buddhist Law.