It is not by accident that they were called the plague of the 20th century – they have become so common that they no longer cause any surprise in people who wear them. Talisman patterns can be found in newspapers, books and shops and lately on the walls of our buildings. What are these mysterious objects and why do they attract so much attention?

The words “amulet” and “talisman” come from Arabic: the former is derived from hamila(t) which means a pendant, while the latter comes from tilasm which has the same meaning. Amulets and talismans are often distinguished by the function they fulfill: with the former, the protective role is more important, consisting in warding off evil spirits and hostile powers, while with the latter an ability to ensure general happiness and luck in all kinds of endeavors dominates.

And so, a pendant in the shape of a heart stands for love, three circles are supposed to ensure peace, while Thor’s hammer is for striking people hostile to us. There are many “props” of this kind. They often bear the signs of the zodiac and other ornaments for a greater and more permanent magical strength …

Why are Christians not allowed to wear amulets and talismans?

Because it is against the word of God – the First Commandment: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deut 5:6-10).

It must be remembered that sporting objects meant to symbolize magic or suggest a connection to supernatural forces approaches the sphere of the occult. Magic and occultism, in turn, are not mere superstition, something of no consequence. For they are an appeal to demonic forces to influence the course of one’s life and that of one’s relatives for one’s own benefit. Although magic has various forms, its effect is always the same – distancing man from God, making him sin, and bringing about his spiritual death. Even if the intention is noble, and the amulet is to be a medium of good, it is a betrayal of the teaching of the Church:
“All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity” (CCC 2117).

Why do people turn to amulets?

There are two reasons: esthetic and intentional. The first one may consist in a simple wish to wear an original ornament. In the latter case, however, the meaning symbolized by the ornament is known and is thus consciously accepted. It is rather common knowledge what the reason for such conscious choice is: a man usually wants such attributes of happiness that the world can offer. These are wealth, power, wellbeing, pleasure or recognition. They make a man foster an illusion about finding the road to full satisfaction and permanent happiness on this earth beyond one God. Hence, people detached from godly values look for good and happiness in illusions insidiously offered to them by all kinds of charlatans promising paradise, beauty, fame and love according to the words of the Scriptures: “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:6-8). The Scriptures warn against bowing down to Satan who promises riches on this earth and right away, too.

Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. (CCC 2117)

Young and old people of all walks of life want to be happy right away and ensure a living for themselves for the rest of their lives. Some are stricken by an illness, others go through family disagreements, and still others are disenchanted by the lack of love. All these troubled people find “magicians” who peddle their services in overcoming them. Many people are not fully aware what magic is and that taking advantage of it may have very dire consequences indeed.

A cross or a medallion which we wear shows our faith and is supposed to be a sign of our desire to live a life in agreement with the Gospel

Can the consequences really be so bad?

An exorcist, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, gives many examples of demonic possession and misfortunes of people making use of magic. This is what may happen if you enter enemy territory and engage in enemy power even without any evil intent. Mothers often came to see the priest about freeing their children from Satan. Earlier, they carried them to sorcerers. They recommended wearing certain ornaments which looked like meaningless pendants but the ensuing bad consequences later showed them to be instruments of witchcraft. According to Father Gabriele, magic material is magnetized, in particular all kinds of medals, the symbols of which are catalysts of energy. According to a sorcerer, they have a special heavenly power, especially when the sorcerer prepares them for somebody else and carries them with himself for some time.

Additionally, amulets represent characteristics of a person whom they are supposed to protect against evil. Sorcerers are asked for such talismans by unhappy people whose love remained unrequited or who suffered some misfortune. They do not realize that such objects carry a particularly harmful charge which may harm not only the person involved, but also his or her family members. Trinkets, in turn, though they are not charged with harmful phenomena through magic rituals, are related to the sin of superstition. Wearing such objects – not only by children, but also by adults – often causes anxieties and irritation at those close to us. These, in turn, generate a desire to seek help in magic practices or get amulets which might render the inner enemy harmless (after all it came upon invitation, didn’t it?), the cause of many illnesses and misfortunes.

For me it’s only an ornament and nothing else!

OK, you can say that, but we do not know the provenance of these objects and our knowledge of the spiritual side of our world is not deep enough to be sure about this. Our intentions may be innocent but this is not necessarily true about the intentions of the people who made the ornament. Besides, there remains the question of public outrage – our ignorance of the meaning of a given object does not prevent others from decoding its meaning with which we will be identified later.

And what about wearing religious medallions? Aren’t they a kind of talismans?

Absolutely not! A talisman or amulet are believed to work on their own but it is necessary to constantly keep them on you. Whereas, religious objects which we wear are an expression of our faith. […] What makes a difference is the Source of power. In a religious medallion, it comes from the faith in God, while behind talismans, the power of demons stands. This makes a fundamental difference. So a cross or a medallion which we wear shows our faith and is supposed to be a sign of our desire to live a life in agreement with the Gospel. On many occasions, the Church emphasized that this practice was worth cultivating and might enrich liturgy; the practices of the pious are supposed to follow from the liturgy and lead to it. Under the Code of Canon Law (can. 1166), blessed objects represent the prayer of the Church and are counted among sacramentals.

When you ask the Lord to bless such objects do not forget that he above all expects us to bear consistent witness of life. Let our life bear out the truth expressed by a cross or a medallion, the truth that Jesus Christ is our Lord, yesterday, today, and forever (cf. Heb 13:8).

Based on articles by
S. Jadwiga Cyman CSSE and
Fr. Grzegorz Daroszewski