The Magic of Jewels and Charms
The Curious Lore of Precious Stones
By George Fedrick Kunz
Amulets: Ancient, Medieval and Oriental 331 - 347
AMULETS: ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL, ORIENTAL
private collection in Paris. Empress Eugenie is stated to have worn it at the time of the birth of the Prince Imperial,
and to have further shown her belief in the mystic, or magic, virtues of the talisman by sending it several years
later to Biarritz, that it might be kept for a time in the sick-room of M. Bacciochi, when he was prostrated by
illness in that city.23
An Anglo-Saxon treatise on the medical art, from the beginning of the tenth century, the original manuscript of
which was owned by an Anglo-Saxon leech named Bald, as testified to by an entry on the title-leaf, gives the agate
a prominent place as a talismanic and curative agent. More especially is its power over the demon-world
Indeed it is asserted to serve as a sort of diagnostic of demoniacal possession, the words being: "The man who
hath in him, secretly the loathly fiend, if he taketh in liquid any portion of the shavings of this stone, then soon is exhibited manifestly in him that which before secretly lay hid. ' ' Less unfamiliar to those acquainted with the early literature on the subject are the statements that the wearers of agates were guarded against danger from lightning,
and from venom. The liquid "extract of agate," taken internally, also produced smooth skin and rendered the
partaker immune from the bites of snakes.24
An extremely strange type of amulets found occasionally in Gallic sepulchres are disks made from human skulls.
It appears to be a well-ascertained fact that the operation of
22 Dictionnaire d'Archeologie Chretienne, ed. by Dom Fernand Cabrol and Dom H. Leclercq, Fasc. xxv, Paris,
1911, cols. 696-698, with cuts of the talisman taken from those given by E. Aus'm Weertht to illustrate a paper in
the Jahrb. des Vereins der Alterthumsfreunde im Rheinlande, vols, xxxix-xl, p. 265-272, Plates IV, V, VI, Bonn,
1866. The original photographs were taken by express permission of Napoleon III.
23 Emile Ollivier, "L'Empire Libfirale," Paris, 1897, vol. ii, p. 55.
24 Rev. Oswald Cockayne, "Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England," London, 1865, vol. ii,
p. 299 (Bk. II, cap. 66 of the "Laece Boc").
trephining was performed at this early date, almost if not quite exclusively in the case of infants, and it is believed
principally for the cure of epilepsy. If the child survived the operation its skull was thought to have acquired a
certain magic power. This idea had its rise in the belief that epilepsy was the result of an indwelling evil spirit, so
that if the disease disappeared as a result or sequence of the operation, this evil spirit was believed to have made
his way out through the aperture. On the eventual death of one whose skull had been successfully trephined, disks
were sometimes cut just on the edge of the opening through which the possessing spirit had slipped out, leaving as
a trace of his passage some of his diabolic but still potent virtue.25 That the superstition regarding these cranial
disks lasted well into the sixteenth century, even among some of the educated, is proven by the fact that on a
bracelet which belonged to and was worn by Catherine de' Medici, one of the talismans was a piece of a human
Attention was first called to the strange amulets taken from the human skull by the operation of trephining, by
M. Prunetiere, at a meeting of the French Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Lyons in1873. 26
The specimen he then exhibited came from a sepulture in the department of Lozere. This particular example
showed a break on the edge, and M. Paul Broca has conjectured that a small piece may have been chipped off, so
that it might be pulverized and administered as a powder to persons suffering from disease of the brain, a
treatment favored by those who doubted the generally-believed supernatural origin of
25 Renel, "Les religions de la Gaule avant le Christianisme," Paris, 1906, p. 97.
26 See Paul Broca, "Sur la trepanation du crane et les amulettes craniennes de I'epoque neolitique," Revue d' Anthropologic, vol. vi, 1877, pp. 1-42, 193- 225; and also his "Amulettes craniennes et trepanation prehistorique"
in the same Revue, vol. v, 1876, pp. 106, 107.
epilepsy, and suspected its source in some lesion of the brain or of the meninges. For this, of course, no more
efficient remedy could suggest itself, according to the old sympathetic theory of medicines, than a powder made
from the skull of one who had been an epileptic. These skull-amulets have been unearthed in neolithic burials in
various parts of France, a considerable number having been found by M. de Baye and others in the department
of Marne; a specimen was also found in an Algerian sepulture by General Faidherbe.
The great Greek physician Hippocrates of Cos, a contemporary of Plato, advised that resort should be had to the
operation of trephining in many cases of injury to the head, and that the ancient Hindus were to a certain extent
familiar with it as a method of treating diseases of the brain appears in one of the Buddhist recitals from a
Here it is related that Atreya, master of the King of Physicians, Jivaka, when appealed to for help by a man
suffering from a distressful cerebral disorder, directed the man to dig a pit and fill it up with dung; he then thrust
the man into this soft and savory mass until nothing but his head and neck protruded, and opened his skull. From
it was drawn out a reptile whose presence had caused the malady. Jivaka seems to have been in consultation with
his master in this interesting operation, and is said to have later extracted a centipede from a man's skull after
making an aperture therein with a golden knife.27 In neither of these cases, however, do we have any hint that
disks or fragments from the human skull were used as amulets.
A ghastly object much favored in France in the Middle Ages, as it was believed to give the owner the power to
27 Kumagusu Minakata, "Trepanning among Ancient Peoples," Nature, Jan. 15, 1914, pp. 555, 556; citing Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910, vol. xiii, p. 518, and E. A. Schiefner, "Tibetan Tales," trans. Ralston, 1906, p. 98.
cover hidden treasures, was the so-called main-de-gloire, or "hand of glory," which was the desiccated hand of
one who had met his death by hanging.28
A remarkable talismanic bracelet owned by Catherine de 'Medici was set with a skull-fragment and with a
representation of a "main-de-gloire.28 This is described in the catalogue made in 1786 of M. d'Ennery's collection.
The settings of the bracelet, ten in number, comprised the following objects, to each of which was probably ascribed some special significance and virtue.29
An oval "eagle-stone" (setites), on which was graven in intaglio a winged dragon; above this figure was the date
1559, the year in which the bracelet was composed and that of the death of Catherine's husband, Henri II.
An octagonal agate, traversed by a number of tubular apertures, the orifices of which could be seen on either side
of the stone.
A very fine oval onyx of three colors, bearing graven on its edge the following names of angels: Gabriel, Eaphael,
A large oval turquoise with a gold band.
A piece of black and white marble.
An oval brown agate, with a caduceus, a star and a crescent engraved in intaglio on one of its faces, and on its
edge the name Jehovah and certain talismanic characters; on the other face were figured the constellation
Serpens, the zodiacal sign Scorpio and the Sun, around which were the six planets.
An oblong section of a human skull.
A rounded piece of gold on the convex side of which was
28 Pierre Lacroix, "Sciences et Lettres au Moyen Age," Paris, 1877, p. 250.
29 Martin, "Histoire de France," vol. x, Paris, 1844, p. 451, note. From a communication of Pierre Lacroix, citing
as authority: "Catalogue des tableaux, antiquites, pierres gravees, etc., etc., du cabinet de feu M. d'Ennery,
ecuyer," by Remi and Miliotti, Paris, 1786.
graven in relief the "hand of glory" (main-de-gloire); on the concave side appeared the Sun and Moon done in
A perfectly round onyx, bearing graven in the centre the name or word "Publeni" ; this possibly designated the
original Roman owner of the stone.
In the opinion of a German writer of the eleventh or twelfth century, the amethyst, if worn by a man, attracted to
him the love of noble women, and also protected him from the attacks of thieves.30 This stone was always prized
because of its beautiful color, even though it was never so rare or costly as some others. Some authorities assert
that the amethyst induces sleep.31 Perhaps this was one of the means by which the stone cured inebriety, as it
enabled its votaries to sleep off the effects of their potations.
As testimony of the belief in the efficiency, remedial or talismanic, of precious stones prevalent at the opening of
the fifteenth century, may be noted the presence among the manuscript books of Marguerite de Flandres,
Duchesse de Bourgogne, of a work listed as follows: ''The book of the properties of certain stones." It was
carefully enclosed in a crimson velvet covering.32 Incidentally it is a rather interesting fact that at this early date,
1405, we find in Duchess Margaret's little library two Bibles in French and a separate copy of the Gospels also in
that language. This serves to disprove the popular idea that translations of the Bible into the vernacular were in
distinct disfavor with Roman Catholics before the era of the Reformation. Of course until the
30 Birlinger, "Kleinere deutsche Sprachdenkmaler"; in Germania, vol. iii (1863), p. 303.
31 Cardani, "De subtilitate," lib. vii, Basilese, 1560, p. 473.
32 Inventaire des Wens de Marguerite de Flandres Duchesse de Bourgogne, Bibl. Nat., coll. Moreau, 1727; on
fol. 96 of transcription in author's library, from the collection of M. E. Molinier.
invention and use of the art of printing there could be no wide diffusion of such translations.
The jacinth is described by Thomas de Cantimpre as being a stone of a yellow color. "It is very hard and difficult
to cleave, or cut; it can, however, be worked with diamond dust. It is very cold, especially when held in the mouth." Among many other virtues, it protects from melancholia and poison, and makes the wearer beloved of God and
men. It also acts as a sort of barometer, since it grows dark and dull in bad weather and becomes clear and bright
in fine weather.33 Cardano says that when the weather was fine the stone became obscure and dull, but when a
tempest was impending, it assumed the ruddy hue of a burning coal. It also lost its color when in contact with any
one suffering from disease, more especially from the plague.34
As a result of his study of precious stones, Cardano was induced to affirm that they had life, but he gravely states
that he had never noted that they possessed sex (a common belief in his day), although "as nature delights as
much in miracle as we do, some may be so constituted that they are almost distinguished by sex.35
The beautiful sapphire has always been a great favorite with lovers of precious stones and to it has been
attributed a chastening, purifying influence upon the soul. Even Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, wherein
precious stones are rarely mentioned, takes occasion to write as follows of the sapphire: "It is the fairest of all
precious stones of sky colour, and a great enemy to black choler, frees the mind, mends manners." 36
33 Konrad von Megenberg's old German version "Buoh der Natur," ed.
by Dr. Franz Pfeiffer, Stuttgart, 1861, p. 449.
34 Cardani, "De rerum varietate," lib. v, Basilese, 1557, p. 100.
35 Cardani, "Philosophi opera quaedam," Basilese, 1585, p. 330.
36 " Anatomy of Melancholy," Bk. II, § 4, i, 4.
The poets have sung the praises of the turquoise. In Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, when the "amorous
Jessica" made off with her father's jewels, Shylock particularly bewails the disappearance of his turquoise, crying
out that he would not have lost it for ''a wilderness of monkeys.''
The poet Donne, also, writes of this stone and draws attention to its sympathetic quality in these words:
As a compassionate turquoise that doth tell,
By looking pale, the wearer is not well.
That Queen Elizabeth clung fondly to life is well known, and it is said that she trusted much in the virtues of a
talisman which she wore round her neck. This was a piece of gold engraved with certain mystic characters. The
statement has also been made that at the bottom of a chair in which she often sat, was the queen of hearts from a
pack of cards, having a nail driven through the forehead of the figure.37 Could this have been a spell of witchcraft
used against her hated rival, Mary of Scotland?
The belief that turquoise changes its hue with the changing health of the wearer leads an early seventeenth century
author to offer it as a symbol of wifely devotion, saying that "a true wife should be like a turquoise stone, clear in
heart in her husband's health, and cloudy in his sickness." Although a more prosaic explanation than that of occult
sympathy has been proposed for this asserted change of hue, we need not therefore reject the more poetic fancy.38
Among the believers in the virtue of amulets must be counted the French religious philosopher, Pascal. After his
death in 1662 there was found, sewed up in his pourpoint, a piece of paper bearing a long and very strange
37 Agnes Strickland, " Lives of the Queens of England," vol. vii, pp. 770,
38 Alex. Nicholes, "A Discourse of Marriage and Wiveing,'' 1615, H'asl. Misc. II, 180; cited in Lean's Collectanea,
vol. ii, Pt. II, Bristol, 1903, p. 641. 22
At the top was a cross with rays, a similar cross being drawn at the bottom of the text. This began with the
Monday, November 23, the day of St. Clement, pope and martyr, and of others in the martyrology.
The Eve of St. Chrysogone, martyr, and of others. From about half-past ten in the evening until about a half -hour
Then follow a series of ejaculations and short religions sentences, and toward the end, after the name of Christ,
thrice repeated, the words:
I have separated myself from Him, I have fled from Him, denied Him.
and finally the prayer that this separation might henceforth cease. The original text is said to be in the Bibliotheque
Rationale in Paris with the MS. of the "Pensees."
Pascal is stated to have always kept this amulet on his person, removing it carefully from the lining of an old
garment and putting in a new one, when this was assumed. The strange introduction referred to a vision of fire
which he had had on the night in question, and this has been explained as resulting from a severe nervous shock
he had experienced six months before, when driving along the banks of the Seine.
As the vehicle neared Neuilly the horses took fright and ran away, dashing toward the edge of the bank; just on the
brink the reins broke and the horses plunged down into the river, leaving the carriage in which Pascal was sitting
on the edge of the precipice. This shock impressed him so vividly that he would often see the precipice before him
as distinctly as though it were a reality. In any case the matter is of interest as showing that one of the most gifted
men of the seventeenth century was a believer in amulets.39
39 P. Lalut, "L'amulet de Pascal," in Annales med. psycli., I ser., vol. v, pp. 157-180; and P. E. LittrS, "Medecine
et medecins," Paris, 1872, pp. 95-97.
The giving of corals to new-born infants was expressly forbidden in 1708 in the bishopric of Bamberg, because of
the superstition connected therewith, although Christian painters of the fourteenth century often represented the
child Jesus as holding corals in his hand. The persistence of the superstition as to the Evil Eye and the belief that
coral safeguarded the wearer therefrom, have impressed many cultured Italians of our day, and even so able and
clear-headed a statesman as prime minister Crispi is said never to have gone to a parliamentary sitting without
having with him a coral amulet.40
Some characteristic Hindu amulets figure the god Jagannath (Lord of the World), or associated divinities, and also
symbols related to the worship of this form of Krishna.41
In the month Joyestha (May- June) his world-renowned temple at Puri in Orissa is thronged with pilgrims from all
parts of India, and on the great festival day his image and those of his brother Balarana and of his sister Subhadra
are taken out of the sanctuary and placed in an elaborately decorated ear, which is drawn through the streets of the
city. The readiness of fanatical believers to sacrifice their lives by casting themselves beneath the wheels of this ponderous car, has made the expression "Car of Jagannath" almost a household word, freely used by those who
know little or nothing about Hindu religion. The English Government has long since put a stop to these reckless
and useless martyrdoms.
Many of these amulets are made of a black steatite. One represents Krishna (Jagannath) standing and playing
on a flute, another figures this avatar of Vishnu with his wife
40 Die Religion in Geschiehte und Gegenwart," ed. by Friedrich Micliael Schiele, vol. i, Tubingen, 1909, col. 455.
41 Enrico H. Giglioli, "Di aleuni ex-voto amuleti, ed altri oggetti litici adoperati nel culto di Krishna, sotto la forma
di Jagan-natha a Puri in Orissa," Archivio per I'Antropologia, vol. xxiii, pp. 87-89; Firanzi, 1893.
Radha. A curious series presents Jagannath, Balarana and Subhadra; the unnaturally large heads of the figures
and the truncated crowns and legs are explained by the fact that the group was called from the trisala of a tope of
a Buddhist temple erected at Puri in the third century b.c, the Hindus of a later time having utilized this relic of a
former faith for gods of their ethnic religion. There are also a number of stamps, incised with emblematic figures
such as a shell, a sankha wheel, a serpent, two footprints, etc., so that the corresponding seal may be impressed
in colored clay upon the arms of the faithful in the sanctuary of Jagannath.
Many of the amulets bearing the double footprint, emblematic of Vishnu (Krishna- Jagannath), are arranged in
groups of five, all being perforated so that a group can be suspended on the person.
The footprints' are explained by a curious legend to the effect that when a dispute as to superiority arose between
the gods of the Trimurti, Brahma, Siva and Vishnu, the selection of a test to decide this was left to Bhrigu, one of
the ten patriarchs. He approached Brahma without saluting him; this infuriated the god, but he restrained himself.
Approaching Siva in turn, Bhrigu failed to return the god's salutation, which so enraged him that he raised his
trident to slay the insulter, and was only prevented from doing this by the timely intervention of the goddess
Parvati. Nothing daunted Bhrigu pursued his test, and, finding Vishnu reposing with his head in Lakshmi's lap, he kicked the divinity to arouse him. Vishnu, however, instead of losing his temper, quietly arose; saluted the rash patriarch, and even thanked him for the reminder, and craved his pardon that he had not immediately greeted him, asserting that the kick (which must have been most vigorously administered if it left two footprints) had left on his breast a mark of good augury.
A fine presentation of the style of jewels worn by the
Maharani of Sikkim, a full-blooded Tibetan by birth, is offered by a portrait of this queen done in oil by Damodar
Dutt, a Bengali artist, in 1908, while the Maharani was sharing the captivity of her husband at Darjeeling, where
they had been sequestrated by the British authorities for many years. The elaborate and rather oppressive
headdress is a typical adornment of the queens of Sikkim; the broad bandeaux are composed of pearls, and a
brilliant color effect is produced by the rows of alternating corals and turquoises.
The gold ear-rings have a turquoise-inlay, in concentric rings, and from the queen's neck hangs a long necklace of
coral beads, separated at intervals by large spheres of amber; a coral bracelet and two rings, with coral and
turquoise setting respectively, complete the very effective, if not especially costly, jewelry.42
Jade girdle pendants having a talismanic quality were in great favor during the period of the Chou dynasty
(1122-249 B.C.). The typical girdle pendant of that time was a seven-jewelled one, each of the combined ornaments being made of some one of the choice varieties of jade. These adornments consisted of a top-piece or brooch,
whence depended a circular central plaque (yu), flanked by two square ornaments (ku) ; below followed a centre-ornament of segment form, on either side of which was a bow-shaped jewel. The girdle ornaments were rich in
symbolic significance, the rhythmic swinging of the jades caused a musical note whenever they came in contact with
one another, or with any metallic object; as love-trinkets they had the most fortunate meaning; as indications of
office they gained consideration and respect for the wearers of high rank, while for those of
42 Berthold Laufer, "Notes on Turquois in the East," Field Museum of Natural History, Publication 169;
Anthropological Series, vol. xiii, No. 1. Chicago, July, 1913 ; see text opposite frontispiece plate.
less distinction they were so differentiated as to become marks of the respective craft or vocation.43
In Siam the girls ' heads are shaved, with the exception of the top of the head, where a knot of hair is allowed to
grow. On the fourteenth anniversary of the girl's birthday this "top-knot" is cut off, the operation being
accompanied by a solemn religious ceremony, to mark and consecrate the event, which denotes the passing of the
girl into womanhood.
On this occasion, the members of the family gather together all the jewels they can secure for the adornment of the "new woman," and where they are not wealthy enough to provide brilliant and rich ornaments from their own possessions kind friends will always be found ready to supply the deficiency.
In the case of the Siamese girl figured in our plate, and of a girl companion, the Queen of Siam herself acted as
fairy godmother to the extent of furnishing from her own private treasures a costly and suitable decoration. The
gems and ornaments worn were worth $20,000 and are said to have filled a small steamer-trunk.44
In a favorite form of white jade amulet, the stone is cut flat and is then inlaid with rubies in gold settings, so
disposed as to indicate a flower-form. Jade amulets of this type are found in China and in various parts of northern
Asia, and are believed to guard or free the wearer from palpitation of the heart.45
Flowers fashioned from precious stones make most attractive ornaments, and by their variety of coloring can be
worn with almost any costume. A celebrated beauty of London society has a number of pansies of different colors,
43 Berthold Laufer, "Jade, a Study in Chinese Archaeology and Religion," Chicago, 1912, pp. 194 sqq.
44 Communicated by Dr. Charles S. Braddock, formerly physician to the court of Siam, under date of February 13,
45 Hendley, "Indian Jewellery" London, 1909, p. 27; Plate XV, Figs. 112, 113.
one made of rubies, another of sapphires, still another of emeralds, and so on through the range of colors. In this
way she always had a pansy according in color with that of her gown. As bridal gifts these jewel-flowers are most
appro- priate, more especially when the lady-love bears a "floral name" such as Violet or Rose.
Coral ornaments of all sorts are in great demand in Tibet, and a fine piece of this material will bring about $20 an
ounce, and is therefore literally worth its weight in gold.
The Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, who visited Tibet in the latter half of the thirteenth century, already noted that
coral was in high favor there and that coral necklaces adorned the necks of the women and also those of the idols
in their temples. The love of personal adornment is very strong among the Tibetan women, and those in any way
well-to-do load themselves with a mass of jewelled ornaments, great pieces of amber, coral and turquoise
constituting the principal gem-material. The favor extended to coral, apart from the religious significance of red
as symbolical of one of the incarnations of Buddha, may perhaps have an esthetic basis as well, for red or pink
affords a pleasant contrast to the dark complexions and hair of the Tibetans.46
Much more prized, however, than coral is the beautiful blue turquoise, which not only serves for purely ornamental
use but is freely employed in the decoration of religious objects, such as the curious "prayer wheels" so
indispensable a part of Tibetan ritual.
The talismanic quality of this stone is an important element in its popularity, as it is supposed to bring good fortune
and physical well-being to the wearer and to afford protection against contagion. The Tibetans share in the quite
general belief that the turquoise will grow pale in
46 L. Austine Waddell, "Lhasa and its Mysteries, with a Record of the Expedition of 1903-1904," London, 1905,
pp. 347, 348.
sympathy with the present or prospective fortune and health of the person wearing it, and as a loss of color is
considered portentous of coming evil, such stones are gotten rid of as soon as possible to be- replaced by those of
a brighter hue. The dealers who buy up for a trifling sum these discolored turquoises often treat them with a dose
of blue dyestuff which superficially restores the color, and it is stated that many of the soldiers of the British expeditionary force to Tibet in 1904 were at first deceived into buying these vamped-up stones, but they soon discovered the deception and were more careful later on. Turquoises are also believed to guard against the Evil
Eye, and a quasi-sacred character is lent to some especially fine specimens by setting them in the foreheads of
statues of the Buddha or other religious images.47
The women of Tibet are said to prize most highly as amulets pieces of cloth adorned with turquoise or coral, which
they have acquired from the Lamas, who by the imposition of their priestly blessing have endowed these objects
with a peculiar sanctity in the eyes of the Tibetan devotees.
Another amulet favored in this far-off land is a small metal box of gold, silver, or copper, and encrusted with
"Within are enclosed little scrolls inscribed with mystic characters to conjure evil spirits and thwart their
malevolent schemes for the tribulation of mankind.
An ingenious, if rather far-fetched explanation of the supposed power of coral to avert lightning and hail is given
by Fortunio Liceti. In his opinion, coral, being of a warm quality, overcomes the coldness of the atmosphere, which
produces lightning by the attraction of contraries, and hail by its own quality. This is a specimen of the attempts to
find a plausible physiological reason for the powers of gems, the
47 Ibid., pp. 348, 349.
writers never for a moment hesitating to accept the popular beliefs in this respect.48
Among the Bhots of Landakh in the western part of Tibet, a large piece of amber or agate is often worn by the men suspended from the neck as an amulet. Here as in so many other parts of the world, the amulet is believed to
acquire especial efficacy when worn in this way, as it comes in irmnediate contact with the person of the wearer.49
A very singular manner of using precious stones as talismans is noted in Burma.50 There are certain talismans
called hkoung-beht-set, which are inserted in the flesh beneath the skin. They are usually of gold, silver, or lead,
or else of tortoise shell, horn, etc., but sometimes they are rolled pebbles and occasionally precious stones. "We
are told that ts'hen a prisoner is found to have such talismans on, or rather in his person, the jailer cuts them out
lest they should be used to bribe the guards. The talismans owe much of their supposed power to inscriptions in
mystic characters, and they are so highly favored that some of the natives wear one or more rows of them across
For the Japanese, rock-crystal is the "perfect jewel," tama; it is at once a symbol of purity and of the infinity of
space, and also of patience and perseverance. This latter significance probably originated from an observation of
the patience and skill required for the production of the splendid crystal balls made by the accurate and painstaking Japanese cutters and polishers.
The belief of Mohammedans in the Evil Eye claims the authority of the Prophet to the effect that "the ain (eye)
is a reality." The Arabs also designate the Evil Eye as
48 Fortunio Liceti, De annulis, cap. 19.
49 Hendley, " Indian Jewellery," London, 1909, p. 59.
50 H. Shway Yoe, "The Burman: His Life and Nations," in "Indian Jewellery," by T. H. Hendley. The Journal of
Indian Art and Industry, Jan., 1909, vol. xii. No. 105, p. 143.
nuera, "the look," and nafs, "breath, or spirit." It is not commonly regarded as the result of a definite malevolent
intention, but rather as an effect engendered by envy at the sight of anything especially beautiful or attractive.
Indeed, sometimes the bare expression of great admiration is supposed to produce evil results, as is illustrated by
the assertion that when a man, on seeing an exceptionally large and fine stone, exclaimed, "What a large stone !"
it immediately broke into three pieces.
In the Sahara, the horns of oxen, and sometimes their skulls with the horns attached, are set over the entrances
of dwellings to protect the residents from this dreaded influence; in Tunis and Algiers, boars' tusks are also used
in this way. However, the most favored weapons of defence are the outstretched fingers of the hand, sometimes
but two fingers, but more often all five. The gesture of holding out the fingers toward the envious person is
frequently accompanied by the utterance of the words: Khamsa f, ainek, "five (fingers) in your eye!" The number
five has thus acquired such a special significance that Thursday, as the fifth day of the week, is looked upon as the appropriate day for pilgrimages to the shrines of those saints whose protection against the Evil Eye is believed to
be most potent.51
The Arabs of Arabia Petraea believe that when anyone casts longing and covetous eyes upon any animal belonging
to another, part of his soul enters the animal and the latter is doomed to destruction if it remains in the possession
of the rightful owner. The same idea prevails in the case of a child whose possession is envied, or who is unduly admired.
Where the identity of the one who has cast the spell is known, there is a fair chance of rendering it harmless if a
piece of the guilty one's garment can be stolen and the animal or child rubbed with it. The virtue of coral as a
51 Edmond Doutte, "Magie et Religion," Alger, 1909, pp. 320 sqq.
from such dangers is generally believed, and almost every woman, child, mare and camel, wears or bears a coral
amulet of some kind. A special variety of amulets against the Evil Eye, worn by equestrians, are small, smooth
flint-stones, gathered at a spot where two valleys unite; and, for horses, protection is believed to be afforded by a
ring of blue glass or blue porcelain, suspended from the neck. Another queer superstition among these Arabs
regarding the Evil Eye is that if a child yawns, this is supposed to be a sign that he has been smitten by the evil
spell, and the mother is advised to place glowing coals on a plate, strew alum over the coals, and bear the plate
around the child.52
Over the entrance gate of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, may be seen the representation of a hand, and this is regarded as having been figured there to serve for a talis- man against the Evil Eye,53 just as some of the Arabs
are still wont to paint or figure a so-called "Fatima's Hand" on doors or door-posts for a similar purpose. The idea
which has been advanced that the "horse-shoe arch" had some connection with the belief in the luck-bringing
quality of the horse-shoe, is, however, scarcely to be admitted as an explanation of this most characteristic feature
of Moorish architecture.
51 Alois Musil, "Arabia Petraea," Wien, 1908, vol. iii, pp. 314, 315.
52 Lean's Collectanea (by Vincent Stuckey Lean), vol. ii, Pt. I, Bristol, 1903, p. 468.