The Book of Talismans and Zodiacal Gems
The Agnus Dei - The Coventry Ring - Ananizapta - Tau Cross - Cross of St. Benedict - Byzantine Ring - Simsum Ring - Abracadabra - Pentalpha, Pentacle, Pentagram, or Five-pointed Star - The Kabala - The Table of Jupiter - The Ten Divine Names - The Planetary Angels - The Agla - Dr. Dee.
The Talisman known as the Agnus dei came into use after the Christian religion had become general; and it is in use at the present day. It consists of a Lamb carrying a flag and cross, as in Illustration No. 129, Plate IX, with the motto “Ecce Agnus Dei” (Behold the Lamb of God). It was made not only in various metals, but in wax, and is believed to possess the virtue of preserving its wearers from the danger of accidents, tempests, and pestilence.
The coventry ring is another good example of a religious Talisman of the fifteenth century, and is illustrated by No. 128, Plate IX. The outside is engraved with a scene representing Our Lord rising from the tomb, with the five wounds arranged on either side, and the following inscriptions:
“The WeU of Everlastingh Life,”
“The Well of Pitty,”
“The Well of Merci,”
“The WeU of Comfort,”
“The WeU of Gracy.”
The Five Wounds symbolise the five senses through which we have the power of wounding Our Lord by yielding to the temptation of the Flesh and the Devil, and in themselves alone were regarded as an efficacious Talisman against all evil. Inside the ring is engraved the names of the Three Kings of Cologne (so named because their relics are preserved at Cologne), or the Magi - the Three Wise Kings - Caspar, signifying the White One; Melchior, King of Light; Baltasar the Lord of Treasures; also in Latin the verse Luke iv. 30, I.H.S.: “Autem transiens per medium illorum ibat” (Jesus passing through their midst went His way.) This text was worn as a charm against danger by sea and land, and especially against dangers from robbers; and to commemorate his escape in the great naval battle off Sluys in the year 1340 Edward III had this same verse struck upon his gold nobles.
The sigil Ananizapta is also engraved inside the ring and has been translated as meaning, “Have mercy on us, O Judge”; it was considered a powerful protection against disease, epilepsy, and intoxication, particularly when associated with the Tau Cross, as in Illustration No. 133, Plate X.
The cross of st. Benedict was another popular charm, worn as a protection against disease and dangers. Each letter stands for a word, the four letters in the angles of the Cross, making the first line, then the upright of the Cross, next the horizontal bar, finally the lettering round the outside, as in Illustration No. 130, Plate IX.
The following is the Latin text and its translation:
1. Crux Sancti Patris Benedicte.
2. Crux Sancta sit mihi lux.
3. Ne daemon sit mihi dux.
4. Vade retro Satana,
Ne suade mihi vana;
Sunt mala quae libas,
Ipse venena bibas.
1. Cross of the Holy Father Benedict.
2. Holy Cross be my light.
3. Let no evil spirit be my guide.
4. Get thee behind me Satan,
Suggest no vain delusions;
What thou offerest is evil,
Thou thyself drinkest poison.
The Ring illustrated on Plate X, No. 132, is Byzantine, and was worn as an Amulet for protection against disease and accident, the grotesque head being against the Evil Eye; the seven radiating spirits symbolise the seven gifts of the Spirit Power, Wisdom, Honour, Glory, Blessing, Strength, and Riches. Round the hoop is engraved the inscription, “Lord preserve the wearer.”
A popular astrological Talisman for good fortune was the formula in which the word Simsum was emphasised as containing the initial letters of each Planet and the Sun in their relative order, Saturni, Jovis, Martius, Solis, Veneris, Mercurii - the whole inscription reading: “Post Simsvm sequitur septuna Luna subest,” which has been translated as: “After possibility follows certainty, the seventh moon is at hand.” The seventh New Moon of our Calendar would fall in Cancer, the Moon’s own Zodiacal house in which she is exalted, or at her strongest, and when there marks a very auspicious time for pushing public affairs or undertaking new business enterprises (see Illustration No. 137, Plate X).
The most famous Talisman, however, of the Middle Ages is the Abracadabra, which, says the Rev. C. W. King, was first mentioned by Serenus Sammonicus, the most learned Roman of his time, and physician to Caracalla. Serenus Alexander, a great admirer of Serenus Sammonicus, ordered the word to be written in the form of an inverted cone, and declares it to be of virtue against all diseases.
“Thou shall on paper write the spell divine
ABRACADABRA called in many a line,
Each under each in even order place,
But the last letter in each line efface,
As by degrees the elements grow few,
Still take away but fix the residue,
Till at the last one letter stands alone,
And the whole dwindles to a tapering cone.
Tie this about the neck with flaxen string,
Mighty the good ‘twill to the patient bring,
Its wondrous potency shall guard his head
And drive disease and death far from his bed.”
The Illustration No. 136, Plate X, is from an example in the British Museum, and the probable origin of this Talisman is that it is a composition of the Hebrew words Ha - Brachab - Dabarah “Speak or pronounce the Blessing”; “ Blessing” standing for “ The Blessed One,” being equivalent to invoking the Holy Name of Jehovah.
Defoe mentions this Talisman as being worn written as described, for a safeguard against infection during the time of the Great Plague, the prescription being that the word Abracadabra be written on parchment and worn for nine days (nine being the number of the Planet Mars ruling fevers and infectious illnesses generally). It was then to be thrown backwards before sunrise into a stream running eastward (the East Wind being also under the influence of the Planet Mars). Another signification given to the word Abracadabra is said to be of Jewish origin, and means “God sends forth His lightning to scatter His enemies,” which sentence occurs in a Psalm of David. It was also believed to have the power of curing the toothache, as an extract from an old MS. in the British Museum contains the following interesting information: “Mr. Banester sayeth that he healed two hundred in one yer of an ague, by hanging Abracadbra about
their necks, it would stanch blood or heal the toothache although the parties were ten miles off.”
Other writers affirm that in order to cure mild attacks of ague it is only necessary to repeat the word Abracadabra, dropping each time one letter, but in severe cases the word was to be written
as prescribed and eaten by the patient!
The pentalpha, pentacle, pentagram, or Five-pointed Star, has always had very mysterious powers ascribed to it, and Rennet, Bishop of Peterborough, says: “When it is delineated on the body of a man it points out the five places wherein the Saviour was wounded, and, therefore, the devils are afraid of it.” No evil spirit could pass where it was displayed, and for this reason it was always used in magic ceremonies to “bind with,” as the spirits of darkness can have no power over the magician who stands within this Pentacle or is provided with this symbol. Audrey says: “It was used by the Christian Greeks (as the sign of the Cross was later), at the heading of MS. and at the beginning of books for ‘goodluck’s sake’.”
In the Middle Ages it was looked upon as a symbol of immense power, and was worn for health and safety, both in the spiritual as well as in the physical sense; and the magical Pentacle in the western window of the southern aisle of Westminster Abbey is one of the emblems still existing to prove that the worshippers of old were deeply read in Occult lore. Eliphas Levi describes it “as the seal of the Microcosm through which Man can command the powers and beings of the Elements and restrain Elementals from evil.” In Illustration No. 134, Plate X, it is shown with the symbols of the Planets and the Sacred Names of God which give it added power and efficacy. Scott, in Marmion, describing a wizard, also alludes to this Talisman as follows:
“His shoon were marked with cross and spell,
Upon his breast a pentacle”;
and in Germany it is still considered a Talisman against the powers of witchcraft.
The Kabala, the source and inspiration of numerous Talismans, came into being very soon after the establishment of the Christian Religion, when the Jewish Rabbis developed a complete science of Divine things, received, as the name implies, by direct revelation, according to which all created things from the highest to the lowest are ruled, through the ten principal names of God, acting first through the nine orders of the Angelic Hosts and blessed souls, and through them to the Celestial Spheres, Planets, and Mankind. Lower degrees of Angels and celestial influences, known as Intelligences, ruling each element, nation, language, animal and vegetable life, atmospheric conditions, emotions and aspirations. The early Christians had great faith and belief in the power of numbers, and their magical formulas were largely composed of letters having numerical values, usually expressed in Hebrew. Sometimes Greek letters were used,
which, combined with astrological formulas, attracted the good influences of the Angels and Intelligences ruling through the Planets, the houses of the Zodiac, their triplicities and degrees.
One form described as the table of Jupiter, which is illustrated on Plate X, Illustration No. 139, contains sixteen numbers which total up to thirty-four whichever way they are added. This, with the Divine names around it, is to be made in a plate of silver when Jupiter is strong, and was
worn for riches, favour, peace, and concord, to appease enemies, and to confer honours and
The Good Spirits were always working to preserve mankind from the machinations of Evil Spirits; the Jupiterian Spirits working especially to preserve Justice and Mercy on Earth. This Talisman may be seen reproduced in Albrecht Durer’s picture of “Melancholy.” The complete set of the Planetary Tables with their Angels and Intelligences, together with full instructions for their making, may be found in the Magus by Francis Barrett.
The ten names of God were used to attract the virtues and powers they represent, or to accomplish some desire signified. The first is the name Eheia, the essence of Divinity, influencing the angelic order of Seraphim through whom the gift of being is bestowed on all things. The second is Jod, signifying wisdom, ruling through the order of Cherubim. The third is Elohim, signifying providence and understanding, ruling through the order of Thrones. The fourth is EL, signifying clemency and goodness, grace, piety, and magnificence, ruling through the order of Dominions. The fifth name is Elohim Gibor, signifying power and judgment, ruling through the Seraphim. The sixth name is Eloha, meaning Beauty and Glory, and has power through the order of Virtues. The seventh name is Adonai Sabaoth, the God of Hosts, triumph and victory, justice and eternity, ruling through the order of Principalities. The eighth is Elohim
Sabaoth, signifying Piety and Agreement, ruling through the Archangels. The ninth is called Sadai, that is, Omnipotent, and has influence through the Cherubim, ruling the increase and decrease of all things. The tenth name is Adonai Melech, signifying Kingdom and Empire, and has rule through the Blessed Souls giving knowledge and understanding.
Very powerful in Talismans were the names of the Angels ruling the Planets, as follows:
Saturn ruled by Zaphiel.
Jupiter ,, ,, Zadkiel.
Mars ,, ,, Camael.
Sun ,, ,, Raphael.
Venus ,, ,, Haniel.
Mercury ,, ,, Michael.
Moon ,, ,, Gabriel.
Names of power were compounded from letters taken from verses of Scripture: for example, the Agla is formed from the initial letters of the words Ate Gebir Leilam Adonai “Thou art mighty for ever, O Lord”; a popular charm during the fourteenth century against Fever, frequently found on rings and brooches of this period. It was used by Dr. Dee, as illustrated on Plate X, Illustration No. 138.