The Magic of Jewels and Charms
The Curious Lore of Precious Stones
By George Fedrick Kunz
Amulets of Primitive People and of Modern Times
|THE folk-lore tales of the settlement called Milpa Alta, in the Federal District, Mexico, not far from Mexico City,
have preserved many legends from old Aztec times, as this community was originally settled by some noble Aztec
families, fortunate enough to escape with their goods from the Spaniards at the time of the conquest by Cortes. In
several of these legends the chalchihuitl (a green stone, often nephrite or jadeite) is mentioned. Thus it is said
that when some minor divinity sees fit to confer upon a man or woman the endowments of a tlamdtque or ''sage,''
he gave warning of this in a dream, and the truth of the vision was confirmed when, during the ensuing day, the
dreamer found on the ground within his enclosure idols of chalchihuitl, or fragments of obsidian, which were
believed to have fallen from the sky, this usually occurring during a rainstorm. Evidently the rain had washed them
out of the earth or volcanic ash in which they had been buried. These objects were immediately picked up and preserved, as they signified that the person whose dream had thus been verified was admitted to the companionship
of the gods. There appears to have followed some initiation ceremony to render definite the consecration of the
chosen tlamatque, and this was to be connected with a fiery ordeal, the. traces of which in scars or severe bums,
and sometimes even in the loss of eyesight, served to recommend the "sage" to those seeking his aid. This was
called for in cases of illness and also for the finding of hidden treasure and for predictions of the weather. In
to effect cures, the tlamdtque made use of pieces of jade as talismans, fortified by elaborate exorcisms and prayers.1
Among the lower classes of the Mexican Indian population of Milpa Alta, to cure diseases the aid of a tepo pohque
(one who purifies the disease) is sometimes called in. This once very general custom is, however, gradually falling
into disuse. The progress of popular scepticism is illustrated by the half -apologetic tone in which this is explained
in the words: "If he does no good, he will do no harm, and besides he is so cheap." The healer may be either a man
or a woman. One of the most important helps is a chain of chalchihuitl beads. After invocations of the various
appearances of Christ and of the Virgin chronicled in local tradition, and of the patron saints (for these Indians are devout Roman Catholics), the healer chooses out a chalchihuitl bead with which he pretends to extract the "air"
from the sick person. He successively touches with it the patient's temples, the sides and top of the head, the
stomach, and lastly the affected part, at the same time forcibly drawing in his own breath, producing thereby a
peculiar noise. The use of the stone is sometimes supplemented by that of two eggs, one being held in each of the healer's hands. A different type or form of chalchihuitl is used for each different disease, and as a final operation
the affected part is moistened with alcohol, and then "massaged" with the stone, bathing with a hot decoction of
herbs being also resorted to in some cases.2
A characteristic object secured in the Province of Chiriqui, Republic of Panama, is a singular amulet of a fine
quality of green translucent jade (jadeite). This is fashioned into a conventional representation of a parrot with a
1 Professora Isabel Kamirez Castafieda, "El Folk-Lore de Milpa Alta, D. P., Mexico," in Proceedings of the International Congress of Americanists, XVIII Session, London, 1912, Pt. II, London, 1913, pp. 352-354.
2 Ibid., pp. 356, 357.
disproportionately long beak. The details of tlie bird-form are but roughly indicated, what is supposed to represent
the head and body being but a trifle larger than the beak. In the region of the neck, marked by a peripheral incision, there is a hole through which a cord for suspension was probably passed. The type resembles that of the Chiriquian
gold parrots, and differs from that of the amulets of Las Guacas, Costa Eica. As a much larger number of jade
objects have been found at this latter place than occur at Chiriqui, it has been conjectured that the common source
was a deposit of jade somewhere in Costa Rica.3 Chiriqui has also yielded a plain, highly-polished amulet of pale
green jade; the front is convex and is traversed by a groove; a small hole has been pierced near the top to facilitate suspension.
The South American Indians had a class of stone love-amulets, representing more or less clearly two embracing
figures. It was claimed by their magicians that these had not been cut or fashioned in any way, but were so formed
by nature, and were endowed with the power of attracting to the wearer the love of the chosen object of affection.
These special amulets bore in the native language the names of huacanqui and cuyancarumi. They were said to
be found buried in the earth where a thunderbolt had descended, and were thus a particular class of the so-called "thunder- stones," and a high price could be obtained for one, more especially if the owner had to deal with a
woman. A characteristic specimen, presumably from Ecuador, is of black serpentine.4
3 George Grant McCurdy, Ph.D., "A Study of Chiriquian Antiquities," New Haven, Conn., 1911, p. 42, figs. 45 and
49; Mem. of the Conn. Acad, of Arts and Sciences, vol. iii, March, 1911.
4 R. Verneau and P. Rivet, "Ethnologie ancienne de I'Equateur," Paris, 1912, vol. vi of Mission du service
Geologique de I'armee pour la mesure d'un arc de meridien equatorial en Amerique du Sud, 1899-1906, pp. 222,
223 Plate XIII, fig. 4.
The Araucarian Indians of Chili and Argentina, who occupied a region 1000 miles in length, bordering on the
Pacific Ocean, according to facts communicated by the Rev. Charles Sadleir, had their medicine women, instead
of medicine men. These women carried with them a quartz crystal (as did many of the medicine men of the Indian
tribes) or a rolled fragment of quartz found in the river beds.
They affirmed that this crystal had been entered by a mighty spirit who dwelt in one of the great volcanoes which existed, in that region (called pillan in the native tongue). This spirit inspired the medicine-woman with a knowledge
of what she should tell those who came to her for advice or for forecasts of the future.
A medicine-woman will never show the crystal, because, as the abode of a spirit, it must not be seen. While it is to
be supposed that the services of these "doctoresses" are not altogether gratuitous, the Araucarians as a general
rule detest gold, although they willingly accept silver. This preference for the less valuable metal is due to the
traditions handed down to them from the time the Spaniards persecuted their ancestors for the gold they owned,
or were thought to own.
These Indians have a peculiar belief in regard to the nature of the soul, which they regard as a dual being formed
of a superior essence, or spirit, which they call pullu, and an inferior essence, or soul, to which they give the name
An agate charm in the shape of a dog's head was found in the Valley of Mexico. The material used here was a
banded agate with a rich stain in the centre. The great variety of markings presented by these stones rendered
them especially attractive for use as amulets, since fancy could easily trace designs and figures of symbolic
significance calculated to secure success or protection.
Of all quaint ideas in amulet making and naming, none
is stranger than that of employing for this purpose artificial eyes from Peruvian mummies. Originally eyes of the
giant cuttlefish (loligo gigas), they were used by the ancient Peruvians to replace the natural eyes of the dead
because these substitutes were more durable. Of course the rather grew- some source whence these mummy-eye amulets were secured, bringing them measurably in touch with a sort of necromancy, made them all the more sought after by the superstitious natives. An example from a mummy found at Cuzco, Peru, was exhibited by the writer in
the Folk-Lore Collection at the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893.5
A strange animal figure from the Pueblo Bonito ruins, rudely carved out of stone and having a band composed of
pieces of turquoise set about the neck, was undoubtedly an amulet. Two depressions in the stone where the eyes
should be indicate that these were of inlaid turquoise. In spite of the imperfect form of this object, it gives evidence
in some of its details to the skill of the native artist who executed it, especially in the care he has taken to protect
the soft stone from the attrition of the cord used for its suspension, a piece of bird-bone having been introduced into
the perforation near the neck, and the ends of the hole countersunk and filled with gum into which a piece of
turquoise was set; one of these caps still remains in place. Frog forms, entirely of turquoise, also appear in Pueblo Bonito, several tadpoles and frogs of this material having been found in the burial-room explored by Mr. Pepper. Sometimes the form is barely indicated by the protuberant eyes and a slight incising which marks the place of the
The Pueblo Bonito ruins in New Mexico have furnished
5 George Frederick Kunz, "Folk-lore of Precious Stones," Chicago, 1894; reprint from Memoirs of the
International Congress of Anthropology; see p. 269.
6 George H. Pepper, " The Exploration of a Burial-room in Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico," Putnam Anniversary
Volume, New York, 1909, pp. 229, 230, 236, 237.
some very effective examples of turquoise inlaying by the Indians of an earlier time who dwelt in this region. The
symbolic forms, the precious material used for the inlays, and the labor and skill expended in the execution of
certain of these works, indicate that they must have been regarded as amulets. Perhaps the finest inlaying-work
is shown in the turquoise decoration of a fragment of bone of peculiar shape, having alternate bands of jet with a chevron-decoration of interlaced triangular pieces of jet and turquoise.
Another of these jet and turquoise amulets is a frog, the body being of jet and the protruding eyes of turquoise;
about the creature's neck runs a band of turquoise mosaic. Still another of these relics is a square plaque of jet
with an in-laid turquoise at each of the four comers; two of these inlays have fallen out.6a
The history of the turquoise, a stone which has been mined in Persia for thousands of years, and has long been
prized as one of the most beautiful and attractive of the semi-precious stones, has been very fully and ably treated
in an exceedingly comprehensive monograph recently published by Dr. Joseph E. Pogue.7 This valuable and
interesting work contains extracts from all the older and more modern writers on the subject, and also describes
the stone fully from a mineralogical point of view, besides discussing it from the historic standpoints.
So highly was the turquoise esteemed among the Pima Indians of southern Arizona, that the loss of one was looked
upon as a most ominous event, portending for the owner a serious illness or physical disability, which could only be
cured by the magic rites of a medicine-man. When one of
6a George H. Pepper. The plate is from the "American Anthropologist," New Series, vol. vii, pi. xvii.
7 The Turquois. A Study of its History, Mineralogy, Geology, Ethnology, Archeology, Mythology, Folklore and Technology." By Joseph E. Pogue. Third Memoir, vol. xii, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D. C,
1915, 162 p., plates 22, 4to. 23
those "worthies is called in to avert the impending misfortune, his favorite remedy consists in placing a piece of
slate, a turquoise and a crystal in a vessel filled with water, the liquid being administered in regular doses to the threatened victim. The threefold remedy, comprising a specimen of the lost stone, is supposed to outweigh and counteract the probable evil influences of the lost turquoise alone.7a
The magic power that dwelt in these Indian fetishes was named oyaron in the Iroquoian tongue, and each person
or kindred was believed to have a special oyaron which exerted a controlling power over their good or evil fortune.
The material object in which this entity would take up its abode was determined in a peculiar way. When a youth
had attained maturity, he was intrusted to the charge of an old man who took him to a far-away lodge in the
wilderness. Here he had his face, shoulders and breast blackened to symbolize his lack of spiritual or occult enlightenment. He was then compelled to fast for a considerable time and was instructed to carefully note his
dreams, and if he should have an exceptionally vivid dream regarding any specific object, to tell his guardian of it.
The fact was then duly reported to the wise men of the tribe, who decided whether the object was the chosen abiding place of his oyaron. This having been satisfactorily determined, an object of the kind was sought out and was
preserved and treasured by the one to whom it had been assigned in the vision. Perhaps the familiar spirit might
have elected to dwell in a calumet, a pipe or a knife, or else in some animal, plant, or mineral form.8
The Midewiwin, or, as it is sometimes erroneously called, the "Grand Medicine Society" of the Ojibway Indians,
7a Pogue, "The Turquois,'' citing Russell, "The Pima Indians," in 26th Annual Report of the Bureau of Amer.
Ethnology, 1904-1905, p. 112.
8 "Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico," ed. by Frederick Webb Hodge; Smithsonian Inst., Bur.
of Am. Ethn., Bull. 30, Pt. IT. p. 178; Washington, 1910.
an association composed of shamans, whose supposed powers are much in request among these Indians of the northwest.
Two other classes of medicine-men exist among them to a very limited extent, the Wabeno, "Men of the Dawn,"
and the Jessakid or "revealers of hidden things." The members of this latter class, who operate singly, are
regarded as very dangerous and generally malevolent sorcerers, having the power to call evil spirits to their aid,
and are even believed to practise the fearful art of drawing a man's soul out of his body, so that he either becomes insane or dies. The turtle is regarded by the Jessakids as the abode or symbol of the mightiest spirit. However, the Mides, members of the Midewiwin, are far the most numerous, and it is to them that the Indian looks for help and health. While they usually "treat" their patients in their own abodes, when the disease fails to yield to the might
of ordinary incantations and spells, the assistance of the great magic stone in the Medicine Lodge or Midewigen
must be resorted to. For this purpose the sick person is carried thither and is laid on the ground constituting the
floor of the lodge, so that the diseased part of his body may touch the stone. In addition to this magic stone, which
is set in the ground near the entrance, three magic wooden posts rise up, one behind the other, and at the end
opposite the entrance is set a painted wooden cross, the base of which is cut four-square, each side having a
different coloring, namely, white, for the East, the source of light; green, for the South, the source of rain which
brings the verdure; red, for the West, where the red glow of the sunset appears and whither the spirits of the
departed wend their way after death, and, lastly, black, for the cold and pitiless North, the origin of disease, famine
9 W. J. Hoffman, "The Midewiwin, or Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibway"; 7th Report of the Bureau of
Ethnology, 1885-86, Washington, 1891, pp. 149-300, with many illustrations.
The various adjuncts of the sorcerer's trade are carefully preserved by the Mide or Jessakid in his medicine bag.
A good specimen of this was made out of the skin of a mink, Putorius vison, Gapp., and adorned at one end with
two fluffy white feathers.10 Often a flat, black, water-worn pebble will be one of the great treasures in this sack.
The virtues of a stone of this type are said to have been put to a curious test on the person of a Jessakid at Leech
Lake, Minn., in 1858. The man offered to wager $100 that if he were securely tied up, hand and foot, with stout
rope, but having his stone resting on his thigh, he could remove the bonds without assistance. The wager was taken
up and the test duly applied; the Jessakid being left alone in his tent tightly and firmly bound. Before long he called
out to those on the watch outside the tent that search should be made for the rope at a certain spot nearby. This
was done and the rope was found with the knots undisturbed, while the Jessakid was to be seen calmly seated on
the ground, smoking a pipe and still bearing his magic black stone on his thigh.11
French missionaries of the early part of the eighteenth century reported that the Indian wizards of some of the
northwestern tribes would take a pebble the size of a pigeon's egg, and mutter over it certain conjurations. This,
they assert, caused the formation of a like stone within the body of the person who was to be bewitched.12 The
medicine-men of certain Canadian tribes of this time were not content with muttered conjurations in treating their patients, but would not infrequently resort to the charm supposed to be exerted
9 Loc. cit., PI. XI, fig. 7, opp. 220.
10 W. J. Hoffman, " The Midewiwin, or Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibway"; 7th Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1885-86, Washington, 1891, p. 277.
11 L'Abbe Banier and I'Abbe Mascrier, " Histoire generale des ceremonies, moeurs, et coutumes religieuses de
tons lea peuples du monde," Paris, 1741, p. 101.
by dancing and howling before tlie sick person. The nervous shock produced by a combination of such grotesque move-
ments and discordant cries might well "rouse" the patient, and perhaps had sometimes good effects in restoring
An interesting use of the Eontgen rays to detect hidden amulets is noted by Stewart Culin. It was conjectured by
Mr. Gushing that some pieces of turquoise, conceived to be the hearts of fetichistic birds, were concealed beneath
the heavy wrapping of brown yarn that binds the finger-loops of the prehistoric throwing stick in the Museum of
the University of Pennsylvania. This object was too valuable and too fragile to permit of its examination, and
therefore the Rontgen rays were used, disclosing the presence of four stone beads, presumably of turquoise, as
Mr. Gushing had indicated.13
As the Point Barrow Eskimos are so largely dependent on fishing, they especially favor amulets or talismans
referring to this, and in many cases the peculiar power of the talisman is accentuated by giving it a specially
significant form. Thus, from Utkiavwin was brought a piece of dark crimson jasper two inches long, rudely
fashioned by chipping into the form of a whale, and also a similar figure made from a water-worn quartz pebble.14 Another Point Barrow amulet consisted of three small fragments of amber, carefully wrapped up and placed in a cottonwood box 11/2 inches in length. This box was cleverly made of two semicircular pieces of the wood, the flat
faces having been hollowed out so as to leave space for the amber. They were then bound together by loosely
knotted sinew braid.15
A black jade, adze-shaped, that may have served as a fisherman's talisman for the Point Barrow Eskimo, was
brought from Utkiavwin. It measured 5.1 inches in length,
13 Free Museum of Science and Art, Bulletin No. 4, Jan., 1898, p. 183 (with figures).
14 John Murdoch, " The Point Barrow Eskimo," 9th Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1887-88, Washington,
1892, p. 435.
15 Ibid., p. 439, fig. 426.
and was slung with a thong and whalebone, so that it could be suspended. Its weight is so considerable as to make
it somewhat burdensome for wear on the person, but as one of these Eskimo wore a stone weighing two pounds
suspended from a belt, the jade artefact may really have been worn in this way. The form suggests that of a sinker,
as was also the case with the two-pound stone, and it may have earned its repute as a talisman from having been
used in former times by some exceptionally fortunate or skilful fisherman, in the belief that it would transmit his
good luck to anyone wearing it.16 An artefact of somewhat similar form, 1.4 inches in length, and made of red
jasper, came from the same locality; this was slung in a sinew band for suspension.17
The native Greenlanders of a couple of centuries ago had a great variety of amulets, and Hans Egede, in his
Description of Greenland, notes these "Amulets or Pomanders" which the natives wore about the neck or arms,
the materials being of the most heterogeneous kind, pieces of old wood, old fragments of stone, bones of various animals, the bill and claws of certain birds, and many other objects whose form or associations had suggested the possession of a magic potency.18 A similar account of old Greenland amulets is given by David Crantz, another
early author, who even asserts that some of the amulets were so grotesque that the natives themselves occasionally laughed at them. In the absence of any more definite talisman, recourse was sometimes had to the expedient of
binding a leather strap over the forehead or around the arm.19 Possibly, however, some
16 Ibid., p. 438; see fig. 425.
17 Ibid., p. 439.
18 Hans Egede, "A Description of Greenland," London, 1745, p. 194 (Eng. trans.).
19 David Crantz, "The History of Greenland," London, 1767, vol. i, p. 216 (Eng. trans.).
talisman was hidden beneath this strap, or else it may have been designed to serve as a point of support for an
amulet that had been taken off at the time the traveller saw the strap.
Animal amulets, that is to say, amulets for animals, are in use in the Arctic regions, one class of these being stones
that have fallen from a bird-rock. These the Eskimo attach to their dogs, proceeding upon the theory that as these pieces of rock in falling from a great height have traversed the air with tremendous rapidity, they will communicate
the quality of fleetness to the dogs.20 This transmission of an acquired quality of the stone to the person wearing
it is shown in other instances, a favorite amulet with the Eskimos being a piece of an old hearth-stone. This is
believed to give strength to the wearer, because the stone has so long endured the attacks of fire, the strongest
and fiercest element. Such fragments of stone are often worn by Eskimo women, who wrap them up in pieces of
seal-skin, making in this way a decoration to be worn on the neck.21
Not only does the medicine-bag of an Eskimo medicineman serve to guard his trusted amulets and talismans, but
some of these wonder-doctors claim to be able to draw within it the soul of a sick child, so as to keep this soul
hidden away from all harm and danger. In fact, the opinion has been expressed that many personal amulets have
owed their repute to their supposed power as soul-guardians, the owners' souls having been transferred to the
material body of the amulet, which is more easily concealed and kept out of the way of injury than is the human
body, the tabernacle of the spirit.
A trace of this belief has been found by some in the term batte ha-nephesh, used by Isaiah (chap, iii, ver. 20).
These feminine adornments are called "perfume boxes" in the
20 Kasmussen, "The People of the Polar North," Philadelphia, 1908, p. 139.
21 Ibid., p. 139.
Revised Version, but the literal meaning is "houses of the soul (or life)." 23
The natives of southwestern Australia regard shining stones with so much veneration that only sorcerers or priests
are believed to be worthy to handle them, and so great is the faith in the innate power of such objects that any
ordinary native does not dare to touch them and cannot even be bribed so to do. For the preservation of the virtue
of these stones it is considered essential that no woman shall be permitted to touch them, or even to look upon
them. A particular form of talisman is made by winding lengths of opossum yam about a fragment of quartz, of
camelian, of chalcedony, or some other attractive stone, and thus forming a round ball about the size of a
crochet-ball; these are worn suspended from the girdle. Talismans of this type are very highly prized for their
supposed power to cure diseases, and in case of illness a tribe which is not provided with one will borrow it from a
more fortunate tribe.23 White quartz is used by the natives in New (South "Wales, Australia, for the manufacture
of a charm to cast a spell over an enemy. This charm is called muli, and consists of a fragment of white quartz to
which a piece of opossum-fur has been gummed; it must then be smeared with the fat of a dead body and placed
in a slow-burning fire. It is confidently believed that the person over whom the spell is cast wastes slowly away
Jade carvings of an exceedingly peculiar type are the hei-tikis (neck-ornaments) greatly prized among the Maoris
of New Zealand. The grotesque representation of the human form here realized by the native carvers, the
22 J. G. Frazer, "Balder the Beautiful," London, 1913, vol. ii, p. 155.
See also by the same writer, "Folk-lore in the Old-Testament," in Anthropological Essays, presented to E. B.
Tyler, Oxford, 1907, pp. 148 sqq.
23 Sir George Grey, "Journals of Two Expeditions of Discovery," London, 1841, vol. ii, pp. 340, 341.
24 Bonney, Journ. of the Anthrop, Inst., vol. xiii, p. 130.
these objects, treasured up as heirlooms, with the personality of some renowned ancestor, the story that the
special portraiture to be made was sometimes communicated in a dream or vision, all this induces the belief that
in former times, though perhaps not at the present time, the Maoris looked upon their hei-tikis as amulets, or
possibly even as fetiches.25
The Dowager Queen Alexandra is said to greatly value as a talisman a pendant consisting of a nugget of massive
gold surmounted by a figure of a hunchback, executed in green enamel. The nugget is hollowed out and opens
when a secret spring is touched; within appears a heart-shaped ornament made of New Zealand jade. The story
runs that this jewel was given to his mother by the late Duke of Clarence, the elder brother of the present King
The popularity in England of these queer hei-tiki amuulets, made from the punamu or "green-stone" (nephrite)
of New Zealand, has been ascribed by many to the wearing by Queen Alexandra of ornaments made of New
Zealand jade, and to the report that every member of the "All Blacks," an almost invincible English foot-ball team, carried some little trinket made from this material while he was engaged in play. The popular faith in "lucky jade"
was further corroborated by the story that Lord Rosebery had on his person a jade amulet when his horse Cicero
won the Derby and that Lord Rothschild was wearing such an amulet as his horse St. Amand carried his colors to
victory .27 When we consider to how great an extent popular enthusiasm is excited in England by her great and
classic horse-races, we
24 For further details concerning these strange ornaments, see the writer's
25 "Curious Lore of Precious Stones," J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and London, 1913, pp. 87-90.
26 Fernie, "Precious Stones for Curative Wear," Bristol, 1907, p. 39.
27 A. E. Wright and E. Lovett, "Specimens of Modern Mascots and Ancient Amulets of the British Isles,"
Folk Lore, vol. xix, 1908, p. 293.
need not hesitate to believe that these reports did much to render jade amulets generally fashionable.
An old Polynesian legend recounts that jade was brought to New Zealand from a distant land by a certain Ngahue,
who sought by this means to save the precious material from an enemy who coveted it. He settled at Arahua, on
the west coast of the middle island, and in this region he found an eternal and safe resting place for his jade, which
he valued above all things.28 This legend has often been adduced as a proof that the New Zealand jade was
brought from other countries, but as it proceeds to state that Ngahue made neck and ear ornaments of this
material, there is at least as great probability that we have here the supposed origin of the hei-tiki ornaments, and
that the legend testifies to the popular belief that the art of making these objects came to New Zealand from
The quasi-magic character of New Zealand jade (nephrite) in the eyes of Maoris of the olden time is proved by
the fact that certain superstitious restrictions were established in regard to the cutting of nephrite, one of these
being that no woman should be allowed to approach the jade-cutters while they were engaged in their task. For the
drilling of holes in jade implements or amulets the cord-drill was employed, and the surface of the object received
its polish by rubbing it with a piece of sandstone, after it had been roughly fashioned, by chipping, to the desired
form. The toughness of jade is such that infinite patience and long-continued effort must have been necessary to complete any ornament or implement under these primitive conditions.29
A curious and characteristic jade artefact, known as nhouet or koindien, is found among the natives of New Cale-
28 Grey, " Polynesian Mythology," London, 1855, p. 132.
29 Elsdon Best, "The Stone Implements of the Maori," Dominion Museum Bulletin, No. 4, Wellington, New
donia. This is a more or less circular disk of jade, with a cutting edge. In most cases this disk is attached through
two perforations to a straight cylindrical handle, having a slit at the upper extremity into which the jade disk is
introduced. The lower extremity has an ovoid termination, or else it is set in a cocoanut shell, usually covered with
the integument of a pteropod. Attached are pendants of beautiful marine shells, and sometimes the cocoanut shell
is filled with small pebbles so that it can be used as a rattle. These nbouet were originally used as cleavers to cut
up the dead bodies for the cannibalistic orgies, and this use seems to have been thought to impart a kind of
talismanic virtue to the objects, for they eventually became insignia of the chiefs of the native tribes.30
The ornament most highly prized by the natives of New Caledonia is a necklace of perforated jade beads. One of
these necklaces, in the rich collection of Signor Giglioli, contains 122 jade beads, somewhat larger than peas;
another necklace comprises eight beads alternating with small shells of the oliva, a species of mussel. As a
pendant hangs an oudip, or slung-shot, of steatite.31 Necklaces of this kind are called peigha by the natives, and
the high esteem in which they are held probably arises from their supposed talismanic powers. The jade ornaments
or artefacts found in the neighboring Loyalty Islands have all been brought from New Caledonia, and we are told
that so great was the value placed upon them that the natives of the Loyalty Islands often traded their young girls
in exchange for objects made from the greatly coveted jade.
From a Fijian mission teacher at Groodenough Island
29 Giglioli, "Materiali per lo studio della Eta, della Pietra," Archivio per I'Antropologia e I'Etnologia, vol. xxxi,
pp. 79, 80; Firenze, 1901.
30 Ibid., pp. 82, 83.
comes a tale of a magic crystal. Many years ago some Europeans embarked in a boat manned by two Fijians to
visit one of the smaller islands of the group. After they had landed and gone off to explore the island, one of the
Fijians said to the other: "You look after the boat while I take a look around." He had not gone far when he saw
two strange men, one of whom fled at his approach; the other he seized, holding on to him fast, although dragged
along for a con- siderable distance until after scrambling up a hill the strange man finally loosed himself and disappeared in the hollow of a tree-trunk. For some time the Fijian lay in a trance, but awakening from this he
found his way back to the boat. In the course of the afternoon the strange being appeared to him suddenly and told
him "to go back to the tree, where he would find a small stone wrapped up in a piece of calico.''
This he duly sought and found; it proved to be a crystal, like glass. In? the night time the man or spirit again
appeared and strictly enjoined the Fijian not to let anyone see his crystal but told him that if he wished for anything
he only had to look into the stone. The possession of this treasure earned a wonderful repute for the Fijian as a medicine-man, as when any sick person sought for help one look into the stone revealed the proper remedy for the disease. All this time, however, no one had been allowed to see his crystal, or to suspect the source of his wisdom.
At last his fame reached the ears of some European doctors, who called him in to help them in their hospital work,
and while he was at the hospital two young men came in and asked him to prescribe for a sick friend. The Fijian consented, but, unluckily for him, the men saw him take out his crystal and look into it before prescribing the
treatment. They told this to the doctors and the man was locked up for two years, his crystal being taken away
from him. The mission teacher who related the story
believed that Sir J. Thurston, at this time governor of the islands, had secured possession of the confiscated
It is rather difficult to determine in what proportions truth and fiction are represented in this tale.
The doctrine of sympathy finds an echo among the natives of Melanesia. In the Banks Islands, for instance, if a
native comes across a piece of coral to which the action of the waves has imparted the form of a loaf of bread, this
will be taken to signify that such a coral has an affinity with the bread-fruit tree, and the native will bury it under
such a tree in the confident expectation that its fruit-bearing quality will be enhanced thereby. Chance may perhaps seem to prove the truth of his belief, and in this case he will permit his neighbors to bury stones near his own, so
that somewhat of its virtue may pass into them.33
To have one's life depend upon the safe preservation of a talisman may not always be a blessing, as appears in a
Kalmuck story. A Khan who owned such a talisman thought that he had concealed it so effectively that no one
could find it, and hence he did not hesitate to make the discovery of its hiding-place a crucial test of the skill of a
wise man who came to visit his court. The sage proved equal to the emergency and found the talisman while its
owner was asleep, but was so rejoiced at the successful accomplishment of the task that he very irreverently
clapped a bladder on the sleeping Khan's head, who was so much enraged at the in- dignity that he ordered the
wise man's immediate execution.
However, the latter quickly made use of the magic power over the Khan's life that the possession of the talisman
gave him, and cast it down so violently as to break it. No sooner
32 "Folk Lore," vol. xxiv, No. 2, July, 1913, Story sent to R. R. Marett by Mr. D. Jenness of Baliol College,
33 Fraser, "The Golden Bough," Ft. I, "The Magic Art," London, 1911, vol. i, p. 164.
had this happened than blood spurted from the Khan's nostrils and death overtook him.34
Agate amulets still find favor in Spain, a number of interesting examples having recently been acquired in that
country by Mr. W. L. Hildburgh, many of them being offered for sale in small stalls, both in the capital, Madrid,
and in other of the Spanish cities.35 In- a number of cases these amulets are milky white agates, this hue
recommending their use as lactation amulets. In one specimen, however, secured in Seville, the agate showed
seven concentric white stripes, probably indicating that it had been used as a charm against the Evil Eye as well
as to favor the secretion of milk.
For the latter purpose, in lieu of agate, white glass beads are often sold, a dealer in a small stall in Madrid having
in his stock a string of fifty such beads which he sold one by one to the women who had faith in their efficacy;
agate beads of combined grayish, reddish and white coloration are also to be found.
Quite an ambitious type of these popular amulets is figured by Mr. Hildburgh (PI. i, p. 64, fig. 7). This is a triple
pendant, with chain attached for suspension, the upper part being an agate grayish-white and reddish, probably
rendering it at once a lactation amulet and one serving still another use as a woman's amulet. The middle of this
pendant was of blue glass banded with other colors, and the terminal was of black glass, spotted blue, yellow and
red; both of these glass objects are supposed to have served against the Evil Eye. Thus this particular amulet
combined a number of virtues.
Coral is a favorite material for amulets in Spain as in many other lands, being shaped for this purpose as a "fig-
34 J. G. Frazer, "Balder the Beautiful," London, 1913, vol. ii, p. 142; citing B. Julg, "Kalmuckische Marchen,"
Leipzig, 1866, No. 12, pp. 58 sqq.
35 W. L. Hildburgh, "Further Notes in Spanish Amulets," in Folk Lore, vol. xxiv, No. 1, March 31, 1913, pp.
63-74; 2 plates.
hand" or into some other of the diverse forms to which a certain symbolic significance has been given. One
amulet of rock-crystal is reported, which may have been taken from some old reliquary; this was used against the
Amber also, in its way as generally popular as coral, is freely used in Spain by the makers of amulets; being
generally given the form of beads. The wearing of these is regarded as very effective in the case of teething
children. For some reason or other, a preference is given to facetted beads, in spite of the risk that the sharp edges
may irritate the sensitive and delicate skin of an infant.36
Some of the "fig-hand" amulets made and sold in Madrid are of jet, the peculiar hand form being in many cases
so highly conventionalized as to be barely indicated. These are believed to be efficacious not only against the Evil
Eye, as the other amulets of this form, but also for the preservation of the hair. When worn for this purpose the
women of Madrid are said to carry them upon any part of the person, but those of Toledo place them in the hair
itself, so that the desired effect may be more immediate.37
In southern Russia amulets enjoy high power both among Jews and Christians. Especially are they valued for the
protection of children and for the cure of their diseases. An imitation wolf's-tooth, made of bone, set in a ring, is
one of these amulets; however, while such imitation teeth are used, the natural teeth are greatly preferred. As an
amulet against the Evil Eye the wing-bones of a cock will be used.
This malign influence is held in such awe by the common people that they do not even dare to use the word "evil"
of it and call it "the good eye." Carnelian beads purporting
36 W. L. Hildburgh, "Notes on Spanish Amulets," Folk lore, vol. xvii, 1906, pp. 454-472. See Plate VIII, fig. 29,
opp. p. 462.
37 W. L. Hildburgh, "Further Notes on Spanish Amulets," in Folk Lore, vol. xxiv, No. 1, p. 66, March 31, 1913;
one of those amulets is shown in Plate I, fig. 4, p. 64.
to have been brought from Palestine command what is regarded as a good price, three roubles being paid for a
single one; these are great favorites with the Jews more especially, one of their supposed virtues being to
The religious fervor of the Russians is illustrated by the character of the amulet said to be constantly worn by the
Czar as a protection against the dangers which hourly threaten him. This is a ring in which is set a piece of the
True Cross, the sacred material which was believed to lend a mighty potency to the famous "Talisman of
Charlemagne." A less venerable belief is said to render the Czar superstitiously careful to see that an ancestral
watch in his possession is always kept wound up, for a family legend tells that should this watch ever stop the glory
of the reigning house would pass away.39
Of bone amulets there is a great variety. Among those used in the British Isles may be noted a hammer-shaped
type, fashioned out of a sheep's bone, worn by Whelby fishermen as protection from drowning; similarly shaped
bone amulets find favor with some London laborers as preventives of rheumatism. This is the type of Thor's
Hammer, still popular with the Manxmen. The strange resemblance of the os sacrum of the rabbit to a fox's head
has recommended its use as a talisman, or luck-bringer, and a London solicitor is stated to have owned an example which he had mounted as a gold scarf-pin, the likeness to an animal head being brought out still more by the
insertion of onyx eyes.40
The talismanic power of the turquoise is still credited in provincial England, for in the counties of Hampshire and
Sussex it is believed that when two persons station them-
38 S. Weissenberg, "Sudrussische Amulette," in Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie, 1897, pp. 367-369.
39 From Jewellers' Circular Weekly, Feb. 5, 1913, p. 153.
40 A. B. Wright and E. Lovett, "Specimens of Modern Mascots and Ancient Amulets of the British Isles,"
Folk Lore, vol. six, p. 295, Plate V, fig. 1.24
selves on opposite banks of a frozen stream or pond, on a Christmas Day, and each one slides a turquoise to the
other over the ice, both of them will be blessed with good fortune for the following year and will prosper in all their undertakings. If the stream or pond were at all wide, the fact of having accomplished this feat successfully might
indeed be taken as proof of considerable dexterity, and might perhaps indicate that one who could succeed in this
little exploit had a chance of making his way in more important matters.
The natural markings on agate pebbles often present designs having some special symbolical significance, and
could then be looked upon by the superstitious as amulets of notable power, much exceeding in efficacy those
artificially formed. A strange instance in illustration of this is an agate pebble picked up not long since on Newport Beach, Rhode Island. This stone is clearly and definitely marked with the mystic Chinese monad, a device that is
widely known in the United States from its adoption as a symbol by the Northern Pacific Railroad.
A limestone pebble with peculiar markings is in a private collection in New York. This somewhat resembles in shape
the famous magatama jewel of the Japanese, and the markings suggest that, like the latter, it may have had a
phallic significance, or at least one connected with the worship of the reproductive powers. The markings indicate
an attempt to figure an undeveloped being, and possibly the object was intended for use as an amulet to facilitate parturition.
The prevailing reaction against the purely materialistic beliefs so generally accepted a score or more of years
ago, finds expression in a marked tendency toward a renewal — in a greatly modified form, of course — of the
old fancies or instinctive ideas touching the virtues of gems. Thus one modem writer at least was bold enough to
suggest not long since that "the efficacy of charms and precious stones may
be recognized and placed on a scientific basis before many years are passed."41
The belief in the hidden powers of precious stones was used as the theme of one of Hoffman's novels, ''Das
Fraulein von Scudery." Here the hero, Eene Cardillac, is represented as a man for whom the possession of
precious stones has become indispensable, and who is happy only when he can handle them and watch the play of
light and color emanating from them. They exert a kind of hypnotic influence over him, and so intense and
absorbing is his devotion to them that he even resorts to murder rather than part with
one of his darling stones.
In the course of a meeting of the English Folk-Lore Society, one of the members expressed the opinion that the
revival of interest in amulets and talismans and in all sorts and kinds of "mascots" was largely due to the articles
printed about such things in certain of the daily and weekly papers. These items, put in a taking way and read with
avidity, more especially by those who were already predisposed to a belief in the mythical or magical, served to
spread these fancies far and wide throughout the land. The president of the society. Dr. Gaster, in closing the
discussion, said that "from his experience the modem belief in amulets as aids to luck was genuine and widely
One of the latest Parisian oracles on mystic subjects, the Baroness d'Orchamps, says that emeralds should not
be worn by women before their fiftieth year, although men may wear this gem without danger at any age. Sapphires,
on the other hand, may be worn by both sexes at all times, since they have a potent influence for good luck. Hence
41 See A. E. Wright and E. Lovett, "Specimens of Modern Mascots and Ancient Amulets of the British Isles,"
Folk Lore, vol. xix, 1904, pp. 288-303; citing Bratly, "The Power of Gems and Charms," London, 1907.
42 A E. Wright and E. Lovett, "Specimens of Modern Mascots and Ancient Amulets of the British Isles,"
Folk Lore, vol. xix, p. 303.
speculators, and indeed all who hope for a favorable turn of Fortune's wheel, should look with favor on this stone.
As medicinal gems, the ruby and the moon-stone are especially recommended ; the former for chronic headaches
and the latter for the manifold forms of nervousness. Lastly, the diamond, if worn on the left side, wards off evil influences and attracts good fortune. The unjustly maligned opal is asserted to be robbed of all power to harm if it
be associated with diamonds and rubies.
Many of the members of the French nobility are the owners and wearers of talismanic ornaments of one kind or
another. A powerful combination of such ''life-preservers'' is credited to the Duc de Guiche. On his right hand he
wears three curiously chased rings, one on the first finger, the second on the middle finger, and the third on the
One of the rings is set with a sardonyx engraved with the figure of an eagle, the second ring bears a topaz on which
has been graven a falcon, and the third ring shows a beautiful coral bearing the design of a man holding a drawn
sword in his right hand. Both the stones and the special designs engraved on each one are in accord with the oldest
traditional lore in regard to talismans, and the stones themselves are those indicated by the date of the duke 's
birth and by his baptismal name. While such an array of finger-rings would hardly appeal to the taste of an
American man, the fashion of wearing an appropriate series of rings has met with considerable favor among our American mondaines, and certainly has the merit of lending an individual significance to the rings selected for
The magnificent star-sapphire set in the hilt of the richly chased and ornamented sword given by the Greeks of
America to King Constantine of Greece, on Easter Day, 1913, just before the recipient succeeded to the royal
43 St. Louis Democrat, 1905.
may be looked upon as a talisman designed to assure good fortune and long life to the sovereign, as well as
prosperity to the state over which he rules. This sword, which was made by Tiffany & Company, is even more noteworthy because of its artistic merit than on account of its intrinsic value. Another talismanic embellishment of
the sword is an inlaid didrachm of Alexander the Great (356-323 b.c.); it is a well-known fact and one frequently recorded by ancient and medieval writers, that the coins of this monarch were often treasured up as amulets or talismans.45 In the present instance, indeed, the charm, if charm there be, should work most effectively, as we can imagine no more appropriate guardian of the present ruler of Greece than the greatest hero and the mightiest
conqueror the Greek race ever produced.
This sword was presented to His Majesty Constantine XII, King of the Hellenes, by the Greek residents of the
United States, to commemorate his defeat of the Turks at Salonika and Janina. By these victories of the Greek
armies under King Constantine, who was at that time the Crown Prince of Greece, the Greek people of Macedonia
and Epirus were liberated from the Turkish yoke, and these rich provinces were added to the Greek crown. The Committee of Presentation consisted of Mr. Caftanzoglu, Charge d 'Affaires of Greece in Washington; Mr. D.
Vlasto, editor of "Atlantis"; Dr. Breck Trowbridge, president, and Dr. T. Tileston Wells, vice-president of the
Society, of American Philhellenes, with the cooperation of Dr. George F. Kunz, a member of the council of the
The green variety of microcline, a potash-feldspar, is known as the ''amazon-stone." It is found at Amelia Court
House Virginia, at Pike's Peak, Colorado, at Eockport,
45 See the writer's; "The Curious Lore of Precious Stones," J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and London,
1913, p. 125; also pp. 68, 96.
Cape Ann, and in the Ural Mountains in Russia. It has recently been proposed as the stone for the Suffrage party.
This amazon-stone could be cut in little beads of a beautiful pale green and after appropriate mounting they could
be worn suspended by a ribbon from the button-hole. As the stone is inexpensive it ought to meet with favor among
the hundreds of thousands who are aggressive in their advocacy of this cause.
Among the many persons of our day who still have or had a lingering faith in the efficacy of amulets, may be
mentioned the late actress, Mrs. Annie Yeamans, who left special directions in her will that a little amulet attached
to a gold chain which she constantly wore, should be left on her body and buried with her. We may call this
superstition or sentiment, as we will, but there seems to be an almost invincible tendency to associate something
of those dear to us and lost to us with inanimate objects that may have been theirs, and the memories called up by
some simple trinket show that psychologically a certain power really does exist in such objects. The sentiment they awaken is only in ourselves, and the impression that awakes it as well, but the presence of the inanimate object
actually conditions the awakening of the feeling. Thus we can scarcely deny to amulets a certain inherent quality
in this respect.
Often some strange, quaint, or bizarre design seen in the shop of a dealer in antiques will make a peculiar and
individual appeal to the observer, and will be chosen by him as his personal amulet, as though fate had destined
the object for his special use. So we are told that Mr. Augustin Osman, the artist, secured possession of a singular
gold ornament representing a human skull; upon it was figured in opals the word "Ave.'' On the first night after the acquisition of this object, the artist had a vivid dream, in which the impression was conveyed to him that he would
good fortune as long as the golden skull remained in his possession. Evidently the opals took nothing in his opinion
from the luck-producing quality of this grewsome ornament; indeed, it seems more probahle that they added to it.
A curious modern talisman is the work of M. Charles Rivaud, who has frequently exhibited splendid specimens of
artistic jewelry at the Paris Salon; this talisman cleverly combines artistic merit with a dash of African magic. It is
a slender bracelet composed of interlaced spirals of oxidized silver and gold; around the circlet is twined a hair
taken from an elephant. Among the tribesmen of the Soudan the hairs of this animal are believed to be endowed
with great talismanic virtue; indeed, they enjoyed a similar repute among the ancient Romans. Whether this belief
was due to the idea that the wearer of the hair was assured a mighty protection, typified by the enormous strength
of the elephant, or whether to the fact that the elephant was with some peoples a divine symbol, we cannot easily determine.
The opal has long since emerged from the slight cloud of disfavor due to a most erroneous fancy that it was in some
way associated with ill-luck. This idea, possibly in its origin explainable by the comparative fragility of the gem,
found a consistent and earnest opponent in the late Queen Victoria, whose influence did much to make opals fashionable. Of late years they have became favorite bridal gifts, the exceptional variety of color in the beautiful examples from the White Cliff mines in New South Wales, having also contributed to the renewed popularity of the stone. A parure of these opals was not long since bestowed upon the Empress Augusta by Emperor William of
Germany, and one of the finest Australian opals is a treasured possession of the Duchess of Marlborough.
A very attractive example of symbolic jewelry has lately been made by a jeweler's firm of Besangon, France.
ornament is composed of three keys, to which are given the respective names, Key of Love, Key of Good Fortune,
and Key of Heaven. They are to open up for the wearer the treasures of true love, of wedded bliss, and, finally,
of paradise. A legend from the time of the Crusades suggested the form of this pretty jewel. Mourning the
departure of a knight on the long and perilous journey to Palestine, a Provencal maiden wandered through the
woodland, seeking peace and consolation in its quiet recesses. As she passed along the leafy pathways, she all unconsciously gave utterance to her longings and fears in softly spoken words. All at once a bright light beamed
about her, and a radiant fairy advanced toward her and gave her an ivory casket in which lay three jewelled keys, masterpieces of the goldsmith's art.
The first of these, the fairy assured her, would open the young knight 's heart to receive her image; the second
would open the church door to admit her, a happy bride; and the third, when life's journey was o'er, would unlock
for her the gates of Paradise.
On the deservedly popular watch bracelets, things of beauty as well as utility, the precious stones used for
decoration are sometimes selected for the significance of the first letters of their names when read in sequence.
The following example may be noted:
In this way any name or endearing epithet can be prettily expressed.