The word "Talisman" has been used in the English language since the 1630's, and is derived from the Arabic word "tilsam", and the ancient Greek words "telesma" (completion, religious rite), "telein" (complete, perform a rite), and "telos" (result, end). Many people have items of personal significance, be those small or larger, carried or worn in some way, that they feel may in some way be important for their protection from harmful or negative situations, or indeed may be responsible for their luck.
For some it may be an item of clothing- some sportsmen might have a "lucky" shirt, or a pair of shorts, socks, or underwear..for others it may be a ring, a necklace, or something else worn or carried, or alternately it may be a ritual regularly observed.
In the paranormal field, we might often hear of protective items or talismans too- I've personally known a few investigators who carry or wear such things, and consider those an important element of protection. So why do some people feel this way?
TALISMANS AND APOTROPAISM
Use of talismans is considered a part of a superstitious mindset.
This particular aspect of the mindset is called Apotropaic Magic, or apotropaism.
Superstition as a belief system has existed for many, many centuries, and we're all familiar with some of the common superstitious beliefs; aversion of the number 13, or of walking under ladders, or of black cats, or breaking mirrors..all of those are considered to bring bad luck. Conversely, we have the belief that carrying a rabbit's foot, or finding a four-leaf clover, will bring us good luck.
The appropriate word for these types of belief in ancient Greece was called "deisidaemonia", which translates as "fear of gods".
For the ancient Greeks, deisidaemonia had its basis in the belief that people, both living and dead, had the power to send bad luck- negative energy- to other people. For the living, this could be done to an enemy or someone who had hurt or offended them in some way, and for the dead, if they had not been granted due respect in death they may choose to haunt those who had wronged them, and punish them by inflicting bad luck.
A talisman, or "Apotropaion" was an object believed to have the power to prevent any such misfortune from occurring. The female figurine, as depicted above, would have been threaded on a necklace, or worn on a sash across the body, often by both women and their children. The crouching position of the figure is symbolic of dances performed by women in ancient Grecian times. These dances were part of religious rituals and were called "Apollonians".
So, the belief in talismans- "lucky charms"- has been around for many centuries..but do these talismans have any actual effect? It's all perhaps to do with perception and belief, and a little smattering of energy, I think. After all, in a roundabout way, both perception and belief can have a measurable and detectable effect on us via the emotional, physical, and thus energetic responses they can induce in us..so perhaps those responses could in turn have an effect on inanimate objects.
I'll be perfectly honest here, in stating that I have no particular belief in talismanic power..but exploring the possible reasons as to how and why they may work, if they were to, is still a journey of interest to me- and perhaps to you, too- so let's have a closer look at Talismans..
FAMOUS PEOPLE AND TALISMANS
A Talisman or lucky charm doesn't always have to be in the form of something worn as an amulet or a piece of jewelry. Upon examining the information, it seems to me it could also be in the form of something worn as an item of clothing, or something else carried upon one's person. It could also be something in the way of a regularly performed ritual, as its word etymology indicates.
Many famous people have carried or worn talismans, or performed rituals for luck- the names I'll mention here are all probably recognisable to you, as these people did achieve a status of great recognition and respect in their fields of choice. Each of them have their talismans; an item, a ritual, that they believe in, for reasons each their own. Let's look at those..and afterwards, let's look at what psychology has to say, and take a little sidestep into electrical fields, before addressing the important questions of how, and why, and what if.
For now though, it's over to the celebs..
*Famous basketballer Michael Jordan is credited with starting the trend in basketball fashion where mid-thigh-length shorts gave way to longer ones. His main motivation for wearing longer shorts, it seems, was that they were a way of covering a pair of University of North Carolina (his college team) shorts, which he wore for good luck.
*Author Charles Dickens carried a compass with him at all times, and always slept facing North. He believed this practice improved his creativity, and his writing ability.
*Fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg tapes a gold 20-franc coin in her shoe for good luck before every runway show. Her Father hid the coin in his shoe during World War 2, and gave it to her when she was a girl.
*Supermodel Heidi Klum carries a bag of her baby teeth with her for good luck (that's definitely one of the more unusual talismans I've heard of!).
*Wade Boggs, former Red Sox slugger and Hall-of-Famer, ate chicken before every game and, even though he was not Jewish, he scratched the Hebrew word for "life" in the dirt before every turn he took batting.
There are many more examples I could relate, of talismans and rituals held dear by famous people, but they all serve to illustrate the same point. On to psychology!..
TALISMANS IN PSYCHOLOGY
A Psychologist who has investigated the role of superstitious behaviours has theorised that they derive from the assumption that there is a connection between our actions and any subsequent events that are, in reality, causally unrelated.
To quote the Psychologist, Kansas State University's associate professor of psychology Don Saucier;
"People believe in superstitions to try to restore some prediction and control to their world. Not knowing what will happen to them is discomforting, and performing superstitious behavior can make people feel a little better about the future."
Therefore, one wears or carries a Talisman or performs a ritual and feels protected, or feels that some benefit has been gained, and they may subsequently perceive that any good things that occur after that behaviour occurred due to that behaviour.
Other Psychologists have conducted some interesting experiments on the efficacy of talismans. An interesting series of experiments was conducted at the University of Koln, Germany, to see how good luck charms and rituals might improve performance. The culmination of the series- the last experiment- is one I think quite applicable here. It involved having half of the group of study volunteers being made to "feel lucky", by having them bring their own personal talismans to the test location.
The results indicated, as they did in the earlier tests, that the subjects who "felt lucky" did better at the set tasks, and were also much more confident going into the task than those who were not made to feel lucky. For my mind, there may perhaps be more to the equation, though..psychology and belief does indeed seem to play a part..but there's always an element of "what if" involved..let's get to that..
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS..AND OTHER POSSIBILITIES
I've asked the questions already, but I guess it's time I get around to trying to explain my thoughts on how, and why, talismans might work..
A 2014 poll showed that around 25% of Americans consider themselves believers in common superstitions. If we were to look at things on a global scale, that figure might perhaps be a little higher.
If someone believes that a talisman or a superstitious ritual brings them luck, it seems they are basically creating a self-fulfilling prophecy; their belief, combined with the energetic output caused by that emotion, and the possibility of that energy being absorbed by their talisman (or alternately by the energetic output involved in the performance of a ritual), boosts their confidence and their sense of self-belief..they are essentially making themselves lucky!
But there's perhaps more to consider too..or at least my mind connected a few other points..
A LITTLE BIT OF "WHAT IF"..
There's another possibility I've been pondering around this topic, and what got me thinking about this was contemplating the stories that are related to "cursed" objects- essentially the polar opposite of talismans.
There have been many cursed objects reported over time- from chairs (The Busby Stoop), to dolls (like Annabelle, and Robert), from cars (James Dean's Porsche Spyder "death car" ) to mirrors (the Myrtles Plantation mirror ), and some of them do seem to perhaps have some strange occurrences centered around them.
This then got me wondering about psychic projection, and psychometry..that might seem a strange tangent to explore, but to me it makes sense..bear with me here..
Psychic projection is essentially psychokinesis, or PK (mind affecting physical matter), and there have been many studies conducted around the concept.
The word psychokinesis was first devised by American author Henry Holt, in his 1914 book "On the Cosmic Relations", (a fascinating read, detailing many exemplary case studies) and is a portmanteau of the Greek words "Psyche" (soul), and "Kinesis" (motion or movement). It's a term used to define the effect our minds (or their externally projected energy) might have on objects external to us.
Psychometry is a term coined in 1842 by Joseph R. Buchanan, an American doctor and professor of physiology. Its etymology is derived from the ancient Greek words "Psyche" (soul) and "Metron" (to measure). It's a term used in psychical research to define the ability shown by some people to know or sense the history of an item, or of its owner, by touching or holding it.
Buchanan posited that all objects have "souls" that retain a memory, and stated, in his 1893 book "Manual of Psychometry- the Dawn of a New Civilization", his opinion as to the process involved in psychometry;
"It seemed probable that if the psychological influence of the brain could be transmitted through a suitable conducting medium, it might also be imparted to objects in proximity to it, and retained by them, so as to be subsequently recognized by one of impressible constitution." (Buchanan, 1893, pp. 25-26)
Presumably this "soul" Buchanan spoke of would therefore be existent partly due to our own emotion and intent, and their resultant energetic output. The energetic output emitted by an individual- which would theoretically remain detectable by others in the form of "information" embedded in an object- would thus form the content of its soul's memory.
When we also examine the theory of Place Memory, which you may know under another name, due to a BBC tele-movie called The Stone Tape, released in 1973, we see there the consideration proffered that when an emotionally significant event (such as a death, or an act of murder or of violence) takes place, the energetic output from those strong emotions is then somehow stored, due perhaps to the electrically conductive properties of certain types of natural materials, such as many elements or minerals. In the aforementioned tele-movie, it was the stone walls of the old manor which were posited to have stored the emotions of past events, which were then released and "replayed" to the surprised onlookers. Could a similar process be involved with talismans?
ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY- COULD IT PLAY A ROLE?
Emotion and intent are forms of energy, and such energy is not isolated to the person from whence it originates- the electrical charges caused by emotions have been measured beyond our bodies, with some notable research having been conducted in depth in the mid 20th century (1944, to be precise) by Harold Saxton Burr (1889-1973), Professor of Anatomy at Yale University, whose 1972 book "Blueprint for Immortality" details his extensive work. This work was furthered by Dr. Leonard J. Ravitz, who also published a book on the subject titled "Electrodynamic Man"
Burr termed these external energetic projections or fields as "L-Fields", and they're also known as electrodynamic fields. In his brilliant book, "The Ghost Studies", author Brandon Massullo describes these as being "in essence, an electric bodysuit" (Massullo 2017, p. 70).
So, if energy from emotion is projected externally of our bodies in the form of electric and magnetic fields, could this energy be absorbed by our talismans?
Some types of natural materials are indeed electrically conductive, due to their molecular composition; when the molecules in the crystalline structure of an element or mineral are spaced further apart, electrical energy can move through the structure with greater ease.
The types of metallic elements and alloys (elemental compounds of different "pure" metals) with the highest electrical conductivity are, in descending order; Silver, Copper, Gold, Aluminium, Zinc, Nickel, Brass, Bronze, Iron, Platinum, Carbon Steel, Lead, and Stainless Steel. The types of minerals listed as having electrically conductive properties includes Pyrrhotite, Graphite, Pyrite, Galena, Magnetite, and Chalcocite.
A LITTLE MORE ON ELECTRICAL ENERGY..
Conductivity is not the only factor that decides the capability of minerals, elements, materials or alloys to absorb, store or conduct electrical energy- the electrical properties known as Pyroelectricity and Piezoelectricity are also contributive factors.
Pyroelectricity describes the capability of a mineral to develop electrical charges when exposed to changes in temperature; some minerals can develop a charge when heated, and others can do so when cooled. Some examples of pyroelectric materials are Tourmaline, ceramic, and dry bone.
Piezoelectricity is the capacity of a material to develop electrical charge when put under stress; Piezoelectric minerals will develop electrical charge when struck or rubbed repeatedly. Some pyroelectric materials can also be piezoelectric, including dry bone, silk, and Tourmaline. Other examples of piezoelectric materials are Quartz and Topaz.
Interestingly, when we look at the types of metals, alloys, or minerals used commonly in jewellery or ornamentation, or indeed in the minting of coins (or in clothing, in the case of silk), many of these electrically conductive materials are an intrinsic part of the composition of those items.
And then when we examine also some of the actions performed with talismans, for example repeated rubbing, or placing them close to or on our skin (as with necklaces or rings), which would cause them to absorb body heat, the possibility that this may cause an object to absorb or develop an energetic or electric charge becomes all the more viable.
If inanimate objects can "store" energy and emotion, projected externally by an individual (or a few individuals) over a period of time, could this explain how talismans can have a positive effect on people? Has a great deal of "I feel lucky" energy been stored within that item due to its conductive or absorptive properties, and thus, through that conductivity, combined with an act of unconscious psychometry, could the item's owner discern that energy each time they wear or carry the item?
In believing a talisman to be lucky, perhaps that belief is projected, in the form of electrical energy, onto the item by its owner..so could it thus actually become "lucky", for that individual, and others who may possess it in future times?..
As with anything of this nature, I can only wonder, and speculate..but that's how many investigative processes start, after all, through asking simple questions..questions such as how, and why, and what if..
Do you carry a good luck charm? Why do you feel it's lucky? Has it ever proven to be so?
Feel free to share your thoughts via comments!