The Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems, by William Thomas and Kate Pavitt, , at sacred-texts.com
Talisman for Wisdom—Buddha's Footprints—The Dorje—Knots—Chinese Talismans—The Trigrams—The Five Bats—The Goose—Stork—Pine Tree—Peach—Lucky Sentence—The Phœnix—The Dragon—Horse Hoof—Siva's Charm—The Money Sword—Red in Talismans—The Lock—Bells—The Tortoise—The Tiger—Pigs—The Black Cat.
Illustration No. 24, Plate II is a Talisman for Wisdom and Perseverance, and is of great power amongst the Hindus; the circle is indicative of infinity, the border of triangles signifies that all nature is subject to the laws of the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; the serpent is the symbol of Wisdom and Perseverance, and indicates that without these attributes the revelation of the higher truths cannot be attained. The seven-knotted Bamboo represents the seven degrees of power of invocation which Initiates must acquire.
Impressions of Buddha's Footprints, another very popular Talisman (see Illustration No. 25, Plate II), are to be met with not only in the form of personal ornaments, but in gigantic proportions of which an example may be seen at the British Museum, beautifully carved and ornamented with
numerous sacred emblems. The most celebrated "footprint" is on Adam's Peak, near Colombo, which attracts from all countries pilgrims who have adopted the religion of Buddha, Mohammed, or the Hindu gods, each claiming it as the Impression of their respective Deities.
Sir Gardiner Williamson says that the Mohammedans of Egypt show a footprint of the Prophet which gives the name to a village on the banks of the Nile—Attar a Nebbee. Herodotus mentions the impression of the foot of Hercules, two cubits in length, on a rock near the bank of the River Tyras, in Scythia. In Italy, tablets dedicated to Isis have been found. From this we gather that this practice of carving footprints on rocks and stone is one which dates from the remote Bronze Age, and that the area over which they are found embraces the whole world.
In Thibet, the Lamaist Sceptre, or Dorje, the thunderbolt of Indra, is greatly valued as a Talisman (see Illustration No. 26, Plate II) . This symbol is prized as a Talisman against Demons, and to bring fruitfulness. Indra, as the deity of the atmosphere, governs the weather and dispenses the rain, sending forth lightnings and thunder against Ahi the demon of drought, whom he overcomes with his thunderbolt, compelling him to pour down the fertilising showers.
Knots are used in India and Thibet as Talismans for Longevity and to avert the Evil Eye (see Illustration No. 27, Plate II), the Knot being considered potent to bind that which is good and precious, and to prove an obstacle or hindrance to that which is evil; for instance, at the time of marriage knots are lucky, and the ceremonies connected with a Chinese marriage include knotted red and green ribbons, which are held by the newly wedded pair, the bride holding the green ribbon whilst the bridegroom seizes the red; and in our own country the true-lover's knot is frequently used in the decoration of the wedding dress; but at childbirth and death, there must be no knots about the person to hamper the coming or going of the spirit.
Chinese Talismans. The origin of the ancient religion of China is unknown, and the faith has been handed down from generation to generation from periods many centuries B.C. It is based on the belief that the Universe was ruled by Divinities arranged in three groups, one ruling the heavens, the second the earth, (having dominion over mountains,) streams, and vegetation, and the third ruling the affairs of mankind. Illustration No. 21, Plate I is a Talisman that had its origin at this period, and was given to the Emperor Fu-hsi, the founder of the Chinese
[paragraph continues] Empire, by a mystical dragon horse which rose from the waters of the Yellow River about 2800 B.C. These Trigrams, known as Pa-kwa, formed the basis of the written characters introduced by this wise Emperor. They are familiar to all Chinese, being worn as a Talisman for long life and to ward off evil influences. The Talisman is made of all sizes and shapes, from large ones on boards, one or two feet square, down to tiny medals for personal wear, no larger than a sixpence. It is also frequently used in circular form, as shown in the central part of the Bat Talisman (No. 20, Plate I), and is known as Tho, the symbol of longevity. The Pa-kwa Trigrams are based upon the ancient theory of the Yang Yin, or two first causes, indicated by the circular figure divided by a spiral line in the centre of the Talisman into two equal gadroons, which represent the Creative principle in its masculine and feminine manifestations; the active principle being Yang, and the passive Yin. This symbol also represents Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon, Light and Darkness, and everything that is in contrast, or positive and negative.
The whole lines in the figures are described as strong in contrast to the short-divided lines, which are weak, the whole representing the two forms of subtle matter which forms the composition
of all things. This Talisman is also a favourite in Japan and Thibet.
Confucianism, advocating the fulfilment of all duties to the utmost of one's power, in accordance with the position in life, socially and officially, ranging from the love of the child for his father to the Emperor's responsibility for his people's welfare, is still firmly believed in at the present time; and the Talisman of the five bats, the Weefuh, is for the five great happinesses that all men desire, Luck, Wealth, Longevity, Health, and Peace. The five bats are frequently used alone, but sometimes, as in Illustration No. 20, Plate I, the Trigrams, or some other symbol, is used in conjunction.
Two Bats signify good wishes; a Goose is depicted as a Talisman for domestic felicity, and a Deer for success and honour in study; a Stork, or Pine Tree, and a fabulous Peach which takes a thousand years in ripening, for longevity and good fortune. Another graceful way of wishing a guest good luck is to depict one of these symbols, or a lucky sentence, at the bottom of his tea-cup, such as "May your happiness know no bounds," enclosed by a border of the five bats.
The Phœnix, like the bird Feng, is a mystical bird said to live 500 or 600 years and then to build for itself in the desert a funeral pyre of dried grasses
and sweet spices. To this it sets fire by fluttering its wings whilst hovering over it, is then consumed, but from the ashes it rises again renewed in youth and in its gorgeous plumage; an idea appropriated by old-established fire insurance offices, the symbol of which is familiar to all.
The Phœnix is believed by the Chinese to uphold their Empire and preside over its destiny; it is also worn as a Talisman for Longevity and Conjugal Happiness; whilst in the mystic sense it typifies the- whole world, its head the heavens, its eyes the Sun, its beak the Moon, its wings the wind, its feet the earth, and its tail the trees and plants.
To the Japanese the Phœnix, or ho-wo bird, is a Talisman for Rectitude, Obedience, Fidelity, Justice, and Benevolence, and they consider it a manifestation of the Sun, its appearance on earth being considered a portent of great events. The torii, a kind of gate elaborately carved and decorated at the entrances of Shinto temples, is erected for the Phœnix to perch upon should it visit the earth (see Illustration No. 40, Plate III). This fabled bird has also played a conspicuous part in British and foreign heraldry.
The Dragon is symbolical of everything imposing and terrible, and forms the Imperial coat-of-arms;
the Emperor's throne being called the Dragon One.
There are three forms of Dragon—the "Lung," or sky dragon, the "Li," which lives in the sea, and the "Kiao," which inhabits the marshes. The dragon is worn for Longevity and Domestic Felicity (see Illustration No. 38, Plate III).
The type of the Dragon was thought to have been the boa-constrictor, until the researches of geology brought to light in the iguanodon such a near counterpart of the dragon that this is now regarded as more probably its prototype. The Lung is represented as a dragon-headed horse which carries on its back the book of the Law. It is very popular in Thibet, where it is known as the Wind Horse; but the Lamas have substituted for the book of the Law the emblems of the three gems (see Illustration No. 31, "Plate II"}), which include the Buddhist Law, and is thus worn by the Thibetans to bring material gain, wealth, and good luck; in this form it is painted on luck-bringing flags, which are hung from the ridges of the houses and in the vicinity of dwellings. The all-potent horse-shoe is not used by the Chinese, but the hoof of a horse has to them the same preservative virtue as the horse-shoe with us. Another charm extensively used in China amongst women, is a small gold or silver triangle bearing two swords
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PLATE 3. CHINESE AND JAPANESE TALISMANS
suspended from the outer angles, and a trident from the centre of the base; on the triangles lucky characters frequently appear (see Illustration No. 39, Plate III). This is undoubtedly an imported Hindu Talisman of Siva, who is regarded as the Regenerator and Controller of reproductive power; and in addition to the acquirement of these qualities, this Talisman is worn for protection against Ghosts and Goblins who are under the control of Siva, and written charms of triangular shape are frequently made for this purpose.
The Money Sword is regarded as all-powerful against ill-luck to the house and against the machinations of evil spirits, and it attracts cash to its fortunate possessor when suspended from right to left above the head of his bed. This Cash Sword is composed of two iron rods along which a quantity of coins, having holes in the centre, are tied with red silk, making a potent charm which is very popular (see Illustration No. 44, Plate III).
For talismanic purposes, Red is indispensable in China. It is interwoven with the pig-tail, and must form a part of children's clothing. Written charms must also be in red ink on yellow paper to be efficacious against the multitudinous ill-omens and evil spirits which seem to surround the Chinaman, and for this reason all Imperial decrees are written in vermilion. One of the commonest
amulets worn by an only son is a small silver lock (see Illustration No. 45, Plate III). The father collects coins from about a hundred different heads of families and has them exchanged for silver, which is converted into a native padlock used to fasten a silver chain round the boy's neck; this it is believed will preserve him from evil spirits, lock him to life, and contribute to his health and longevity.
Bells are also worn by Chinese children to avert the Evil Eye and preserve the teeth.
The Tortoise is regarded as a symbol of the Universe in China, Japan, and India, its dome-shaped back representing the vault of the sky, its belly the earth which moves upon the waters, whilst the great age to which it attains and the endurance and strength of its shell make it a fitting emblem of the longevity for which it is worn as a Talisman. It also repels black magic.
It represents the feminine principle in Nature and, as such, it penetrated to the West, so that in Greek and Roman art Aphrodite and Venus are frequently found associated with the Tortoise, whose virtues or gifts were said by Pliny to number sixty-six (see Illustration No. 36, Plate III).
The Tiger is the god of the gambler in China, and a tiger's tooth is regarded as a Talisman for
good luck in speculation and in games of chance; whilst the claws and whiskers are worn as love charms, and for success and good fortune generally.
Pigs are also considered lucky; and luck-bringers in the shape of little pigs made of gold and silk are worn to attract fortune's favours, but the black cat, which in our own country is regarded as a mascot, is not favoured by the Chinese, who believe it to be a harbinger of poverty, misfortune, and sickness.