Amulets & Talismans for Beginners: How to Choose, Make & Use Magical Objects, by Richard Webster
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738705047, 251 pp. (incl. appendices, suggested reading, notes and index), 2004
Webster opens with a charming story from his boyhood, when he first encountered a lucky horseshoe nail worn as a protective charm by a farmer. Many of us have heard of or experienced a similar tale: a first awakening to the idea that inanimate objects can bestow fortune upon their owners.
He goes on to define talismans as ‘objects designed to give specific power, protection, encouragement, and energy to those who wear or own them. The important thing to note is that talismans always provide specific benefits to their owners and are usually made for specific purposes’.1 Whereas amulets are said to be distinctly different from talismans in that they are ‘intended for more general purposes and usually provide protection from danger’. Webster states that ‘while talismans are active, amulets are passive, reacting to events in the wearer’s life rather than specifically creating something’.2 Lucky charms apparently ‘combine the qualities of both amulets and talismans. They are active like talismans and generalized like amulets. Charms are intended to attract good luck and good fortune to whoever owns them’.3 Rather confusing, as it sounds more or less the same to me. Fortunately, he allows that it can be ‘sometimes difficult to say if a certain magical object is an amulet, lucky charm, or talisman.’ Further noting that ‘in fact, it is not at all unusual to find one object performing all three functions depending on the beliefs of its owner’.4
Brief overviews of several traditional talismans and amulets are given, as well as examples for making and charging magical objects, including numerous associations, with numerology, colour, stones, horoscope and birthday month gems, both ‘traditional’ and modern, quabbalah, seals, Pythagorean magick squares and numerology – all within a fixed framework, though he notes that one can also choose what resonates well. Webster even includes a spin-off of the Spare method for sigil making, though he seems to miss the entire point of the exercise point in saying that ‘it makes no difference what you do with the letters, just as long as the message is instantly recognizable to you, whenever you see it’.5 In fact, in the Spare method it is fundamental that one forgets the meaning of the sigil for it to take seed in the subconscious mind, even to the point of leaving the finished sigil aside for days, weeks or even months. Further, it contains methods for charging and purifying amulets as well as destroying them once they’re no longer of use.
It is an easy to use guide and brief history of popular magickal objects, if a bit vague at times and somewhat repetitive. There’s not a lot going on creatively with it; it relies heavily on ‘tried and true’ methods with an allowance for minor intuitive tweaking. Despite these criticisms, it is a decent introduction to talisman and amulet creation, and would make good start for a beginner interested in the basics.