"Magic medicine bowl, inscribed with verses from the Quran, water drunk from this is supposed to relieve the pains of parturition. (Mahomedan)     Mirzapur, N.W.P., India."

The charismatic power of the written word to cure illness is attested to in various cultures and practices.  In West Africa, for instance, it is common for those suffering from various illnesses to have a specialist write a prayer on a wooden board created for this purpose, which was then washed off with water which the patient was then expected to drink.  The Scottish explorer Mungo Park tells an anecdote about watching such a treatment, and tells that the patient proceeded to lick the board dry so as not to waste any of the magical power of the writing. 

Similarly, in traditional Chinese medicine, when a physician was unable to acquire the proper compounds to cure a disease, it was a common practice to write the name of the affliction which a patient was suffering from upon a slip of paper, which was ingested as an expedient treatment in and of itself. 

Medicine bowls inscribed with magical or holy texts, and used for the treatment of illnesses apparently date back to Babylonian times, though clearly the nature of the text inscribed changes with the culture of the times. 

Also, you just can’t beat the Pitt Rivers Collection for dated Colonialist cataloging.  “Mahomedan.”  Silly Imperialists, that’s not what you call Muslims anymore.

growhousegrow:

Hand of Glory
“The Hand of Glory is the dried and pickled hand of a man who has been hanged, often specified as being the left (Latin: sinister) hand, or else, if the man were hanged for murder, the hand that “did the deed.”
According to old European beliefs, a candle made of the fat from a malefactor who died on the gallows, lighted and placed (as if in a candlestick) in the Hand of Glory, which comes from the same man as the fat in the candle - would have rendered motionless all persons to whom it was presented. The candle could only be put out with milk. (In another version the hair of the dead man is used as a wick, also the candle is said to give light only to the holder.) The Hand of Glory also purportedly had the power to unlock any door it came across. The method of making a hand of glory is described in “Petit Albert”, and in the Compendium Maleficarum.
[Image: A ‘Hand of Glory’ at Whitby Museum, the story of which is available here]”
Via theoddmentemporium.

growhousegrow:

Hand of Glory

“The Hand of Glory is the dried and pickled hand of a man who has been hanged, often specified as being the left (Latin: sinister) hand, or else, if the man were hanged for murder, the hand that “did the deed.”

According to old European beliefs, a candle made of the fat from a malefactor who died on the gallows, lighted and placed (as if in a candlestick) in the Hand of Glory, which comes from the same man as the fat in the candle - would have rendered motionless all persons to whom it was presented. The candle could only be put out with milk. (In another version the hair of the dead man is used as a wick, also the candle is said to give light only to the holder.) The Hand of Glory also purportedly had the power to unlock any door it came across. The method of making a hand of glory is described in “Petit Albert”, and in the Compendium Maleficarum.

[Image: A ‘Hand of Glory’ at Whitby Museum, the story of which is available here]”

Via theoddmentemporium.

(Source: Wikipedia)

(Reblogged from invisicollege)

Just to demonstrate the variety of wards people have used to defend themselves from the Evil Eye, here’s a whole case from the Pitt Rivers Collection!

"Cast-brass hand amulet against the Evil-eye.  Fixed to the saddle of a cab-horse’s harness.     Naples     Pres. by R. T. Gunther, 1923"

Belief in the Evil Eye can be found in multiple cultures around the world, and dates at least as far back as the 3rd or 4th millennium BCE.  The term is often used synonymously with any form of curse or malefaction, though it can also imply an inherent power, either in all people or in practitioners of the “dark arts”, to bring misfortune of all kinds on their fellows through the simple casting of an envious gaze.  In some extreme instances, it is believed that a simple compliment can carry the noisome power of the Evil Eye (leading some to cover their children in filth to avoid complimentary comments and covetous glances).  Work animals and livestock were common targets of the Evil Eye, as clear living symbols of someone’s good fortune and livelihood. 

The people of Naples have traditionally held a strong belief in the Evil Eye, or malocchio.Various wards against this misfortune were adopted in the area, including sprigs of rue, holy invocations, and specific hand gestures.  The Sign of the Horns (index and little finger extended and pointed downwards) was commonly used to dispel bad luck, and this can be seen reflected in the curvature of the middle and ring fingers of this brass amulet.  The hand motif as protective talisman may have been influenced by the popular Islamic talisman, the Hand of Fatima.

"Bone wand used by the celebrated ‘devil doctor’ Kootay to summon spirits, &, with the assistance of a live mouse, to detect persons who had caused illness by witchcraft.

Haida, Q. Charlotte  IS.

Rev. C. Harrison coll… Purch… 1891.”

The wand of a sgaaga, poorly translated as “devil doctor,” made from the rib of a sea lion and carved with zoomorphic images.  This wand was given to Rev. Charles Harrison by one Kootay, a medicine man of the Haida, an indigenous nation of the Pacific Northwest of North America.  These wands are known as spirit charmers, and were used to summon useful spirits in the forests, to compel the spirits of the dying to enter into the bodies of animals, and to verify whether a disease was caused by poison or ill advice.  After giving this spirit charmer to the Reverend, Doctor Kootay came often to consult it, and expressed his concern that without it spirits would eventually cease to assist him.  Rev. Harrison, in an impressive show of dickishness, sent the wand to London to ensure just such a thing. 

Wa skull & skin of… mammal (?herpestes) used by native ‘witch-finders’ to detect persons who have caused illness by witchcraft.  The accused then undergoes the muave poison ordeal.  Likoma, L. Nyassa, C. Africa.  dd. Rev. J. Hine-1891”

This skull is probably of a creature from the Mongoose family.  The usage of this skull in detecting witches is unclear, though the long, strap-like thong attached to the skull suggests it may have been used like a pendulum, directing the witch-finder by its swinging motion.

Witches among the Zambezi people are believed to use man-eating crocodiles to do their bidding, as well as cause disease and accidents.  Witch-finders, having established visual evidence of witchcraft, would compel the accused to drink a poisonous liquid known as muave, the composition of which has never been revealed to outside sources (though there are trees in the region with similar poisonous compounds as the Tanghina, the tree used in the poison ordeals of Madagascar).  If the stomach refused the liquid, the accused was considered innocent.  Even chiefs were not excused from this practice, and often the ordeal would be called for by the accused to establish their innocence.  If a witch confessed instead of undergoing the ideal, the witch-finder could either call for the witch’s death, or rub black powder into cuts in the witch’s scalp, thus tattooing them and all members of their family. 

zaimph:

Austin Osman Spare’s scrying stone at the Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle

zaimph:

Austin Osman Spare’s scrying stone at the Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle

(Reblogged from victoria-vacuus)

"Bullock’s heart pierced with large nails & thorns, found in a chimney, Shuteshill Farm, Chipstable, Somerset, 1892; placed there to cause harm to someone by ‘witchcraft.’  E. B. Tylor coll.  dd Lady Tylor.  1917."

Rounding out the Sir Edward Burnett Tylor donation is this bull’s heart.  The usage of this heart seems to be almost identical to that of the magical onions previously discussed.  These hearts would be “stuck through with pins which are to be hung up in chimneys of country cottages, with the idea that, as the heart shrivels in the smoke, so the victim will shrivel away; and as the pins stuck through and through penetrate deeply, so pains and disease and agony and death will go to the person to be attacked,” in the words of Sir Tylor.  This heart was found with the thorn-stuck toad, also previously discussed.  Ellen Ettlinger reminds us in her article ‘Documents of British Superstition in Oxford’ that “as well as an image of clay, a beast’s heart serves malefic sorcery, and this custom too is manifestly of immemorial antiquity.”

rhea137:

via dominickbradydonutsareforever: (Excerpt via the Flickr site)

“Tibetan ritual human skull cup. Skull cap is hinged to reveal a bowl underneath for ritual use. Decorated with nickel fixtures and semi-precious stones.

The bowl is the real human skull of a Tibetan monk. These are used by lamas during New Year’s celebrations to drink a concoction made of human blood and wine.” —Tibetan ritual skull cup

(Reblogged from invisicollege)

"An onion, with a name written on a piece of paper, the whole stuck with pins, & used in sympathetic magic.  Somersetshire   E.B. Tylor coll.  d.d. Miss Tylor, 1921"

The magical onion.  The parchment has the name John Milton written upon it (not pictured), clearly the target of the sympathetic magic.  This piece is also from the collection of Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, an anthropologist of the Royal Academy.  The end of the wire is hooked, to allow the object to be suspended.  The writings of Sir E. B. Tylor make clear the provenance and usage of this piece.  Apparently John Milton was a shoemaker in Rockwell Green.  In an ale-house, where a group of men were gathered to drink, a strong gust of wind blew several objects from inside the chimney, including the onion above.  These objects bore the names of several men who were particularly hated by the Publican, including a magistrate who was a strong advocate of temperance (the ancient enemies of all bar-keeps).  By stabbing and roasting these onions, the publican hoped to eliminate his enemies.  While the magistrate survived to live a long life, probably due to the timely retrieval of this charm, his wife died a year later of a fever.  The publican-magician disappeared after the discovery of his harmful onion-fetishes.

"Object, said to be a toad, stuck with thorns for witchcraft purposes; found with the heart here exhibited.  1892.  E.B.T. coll.  d.d. Lady Tylor 1917.  1917-53-601"

This thing literally oozes magic.  I’m guessing it’s from the British Isles, like other pieces from Sir Edward Burnett Tylor’s donation to the Pitt Rivers Collection (note the onion above the toad, from Somersetshire, the archaic name of Somerset County).  That being said, nails driven into objects to imbue them with magical power, or activate that power for good or ill, is a practice that can be seen in various cultures, from Somerset to the Congo.

Pitt Rivers Collection

An associate recently had the opportunity to visit the Pitt Rivers Collection at Oxford University in the UK.  This is exciting news, as I will be posting images and descriptions from the collection.  I’m going to be posting a lot of museum pieces here, and I do so in good faith.  The important thing to keep in mind about magical artifacts is that their power is, by and far, charismatic.  Without proximity, they’re only neat to look at.  So if you want to feel any mojo, you’re gonna have to go to the collections and pay admission.  Now, I’m not advocating heists of Ifa bowls and votive offerings (the loss of Dr. Dee’s shewstone was a big enough loss to the world at large), but maybe you’ll get a little mojo to rub off just by being there.

tagaoth:

An incantation bowl or demon trap from Nippur depicting an owl headed demon- possibly Lilith.

tagaoth:

An incantation bowl or demon trap from Nippur depicting an owl headed demon- possibly Lilith.

(Reblogged from invisicollege)
The Chernigov Grivna, an 11th century talisman from the Ukraine.  Believed to have been created for Prince Vladimir Monomachus, this gold-cast disk would likely have been worn as a pendant or as part of a headdress.  This piece combines Greek and Old Church Slavonic, showing the transmission of magical practices from the Late Antique Mediterranean to the Slavic north through the influence of the Byzantine Empire.  The reverse, pictured here, depicts a modified version of the “hystera” motif, a stylized representation of the womb as a gorgon’s head.  In Russia and the Ukraine, these amulets came to be known as “Zmeeviki,” or snake amulets.  The obverse shows St. Michael, the archangel.  Christian and magical motifs find expression on the same surface.  This piece is in the collection of the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Chernigov Grivna, an 11th century talisman from the Ukraine.  Believed to have been created for Prince Vladimir Monomachus, this gold-cast disk would likely have been worn as a pendant or as part of a headdress.  This piece combines Greek and Old Church Slavonic, showing the transmission of magical practices from the Late Antique Mediterranean to the Slavic north through the influence of the Byzantine Empire.  The reverse, pictured here, depicts a modified version of the “hystera” motif, a stylized representation of the womb as a gorgon’s head.  In Russia and the Ukraine, these amulets came to be known as “Zmeeviki,” or snake amulets.  The obverse shows St. Michael, the archangel.  Christian and magical motifs find expression on the same surface.  This piece is in the collection of the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.