"We are stardust. We are golden and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." – Joni Mitchell for Graham Nash
Whether we like it or not we all have to deal with negativity. It can come in the form of a bad mood, heavy traffic, spilled coffee or harmful intent. For eons humans have been protecting themselves against such happenings with good luck charms and protective amulets. Any symbol or object can be protective if the individual carrying it believes it to be so. My main source for this list was Barbara Walker’s, “Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects.” If you have any interest in Symbols and religious iconography this book is a must!
Bell ~~ The ringing bell was used by many cultures long before bells topped church steeples. The sound of the bell was thought to scare of evil spirits as far as the echo traveled.
Circle ~~ An undeniiably feminine shape the circle has been a symbol of safety since time immemorial. As a feminine symbol it was first used to represent the moon which was associated with woman’s mensus and therefore the womb.
Crosslet ~~ This and other four-way designs were used to represent the four corners of the worls as well as the four seasons and all other groups of four in nature. The small intersecting lines on the arms of the equalateral cross are representative of blocking the path of evil. The term, ‘crossed out’ originated with this and similar motifs.
Dragon’s Eye ~~ The dragons eye was drawn to call the triple Goddess for protection. Each side of each triangle represents an aspect of the Goddess. Thus the dragon’s eye, as a whole, represents both the triple Goddess & her nine fold form.
Earth Square ~~ Similar to the early cross drawings this symbol was said to call on the protective powers of the earth’s four corners, the four guardians‘, four external elements, four seasons & so on.
Flower of Aphrodite ~~ This flower was drawn or carved on a stone then worn by pregnant women to invoke Aphrodite. She would then protect the wearer from miscarriage, through labor & childbirth.
Horns ~~ Hollowed horns were used in much the same way as bells to dispel unseen evil forces with their sound. An example of this ancient practice is even referenced in the Bible when the walls of Jericho were brought down by the blowing of trumpets. The horns dispelled evil by invoking the Christian God.
Horseshoes ~~ Since the domestication of horses humans have been dependent on the graceful animals in both work & play. It’s no wonder the horseshoes were symbols of protection. Hung over doorways horseshoes were arcs no evil could pass. Christianity suppressed the meanings of many ancient symbols. This protection symbol was fortunate enough to survive, albeit in the form of a good luck charm.
Hex Signs ~~ The traditional Dutch hex sign was originally a witch’s sign. The witches advertised their ability to heal the sick or deliver babies or share knowledge by placing a hex sign on or near there front doors. As witchcraft was demonized the commoners took over the witches sign & used it’s supposed magic powers to protect themselves against witchcraft.
Lucky Numbers ~~ The most popular of all lucky numbers are three, four & seven. Initially the number three was representative of life. Everyone of us is born a child, helpless & dependent. Grows to a contributing adult & then to a wise elder. These three phases of life are represented over and over in Goddess iconography as Virgin, Mother & Crone. This theme was later repeated in Christianity’s triple God as the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Four was considered representative of the whole; a complete number in & of itself. It is represented in the four corners of the earth, the four winds & the four external elements. The number seven has long been considered sacred. As a combination of three, representing divinity, & four, representing the whole.
Lucate Cross ~~ This four way, equilateral, cross was a protective emblem for Shamans long before the birth of the Latin cross. The crescent moons, or horns were said to protect the wearer from evil.
Mezuzah ~~ This is an ancient form of the prayer box. Typically made of metal this box was affixed to the wall or door on the outside of the house. In it people stored prayers & magic incantations written on small scraps of paper. This ancient tradition was & is still practiced by many of Jewish faith. The words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 & 11: 13-21 are often recorded & kept in the box as magic words.
Penelope’s Web ~~ Not only was this a powerful symbol of protection but it was also symbolic of interconnectedness. When the majority of humanity lived in small village’s it was of utmost importance that all members of the micro-society got along & contributed to the whole. Penelope’s web is a visualization of that very idea.
Penelope, Queen of Ithaca, was the powerful and shrewd wife of Ulysses (see, Ulysses and his Companions Avoid the Charms of the Sirens). Ulysses was gone for years, many believed him to be dead. So Penelope was approached by opportunistic suitors. She promised to take one of them as her new husband (king) as soon as she finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law. Every night she unraveled the work she had done that day to avoid choosing. This was the ‘web of Penelope’.
Pentacle ~~ A protective amulet with anything drawn, etched or carved on it. A five pointed star drawn with one line has been equated with many pre-Christian ideologies. Any form drawn with one line was special to believers of reincarnation. Birth to death, repeatedly, on an unbroken path. The five points of the pentacle are representative of the entire cosmos broken down into five elements: water, wind, earth, fire & spirit.
Phylacteries ~~ A heart shaped lodestone with an image of Hecate was worn in the forehead held in place by a leather thong that tied at the back of the head. The image was said to invoke the Goddess Hecate & therefore protect the wearer. Alternately one would wrap a longer thong around the left arm seven times & hold the charm in the hand. The left arm was wrapped because of it’s closeness to the heart & being on the feminine side of the body. The strap was wrapped seven times because of the numbers significance. Combining three elements created a triple charm for added protection. This practice is still evident in the Jewish faith placing scripture into boxes worn the same way.
Protection Cross ~~ This equilateral cross is much like the Lucate Cross. The four arms protect the bearer from attack in any direction. Each arm is crossed three times, twice by horns & once by the crescent.
Scarlet Pimpernel ~~ This flower was planted around the doors & along the paths leading up to the house. The five petals, of this flower & others, were said to resemble the pentacle & so the flower was said to have the power to ward off evil.
Seven Pointed Star ~~ The seven pointed star was a symbol of the seven holy sisters who would keep your secrets safe. It was drawn as a protection emblem during medieval times when a practitioner of the old religion conducted her prayer work. The star was said to protect her sacred place, secret knowledge, ancient faith & keep her safe.
Shamrock ~~ The three leaved clovers were held sacred as a protective force long before the advent of Saint Patrick. The people of Ireland associated the three leaved clover with the Goddess in her three forms: virgin, mother & crone. The symbol was so much a part of the cultural heritage the new Christian faith could not eradicate it & so adopted it as a representation of God in his three forms: father, son & spirit.
Sheila-na-gig ~~ These statuettes with a prominent genital display have been carbon dated as early as the stone age. They were representative of the mother Goddess & therefore offered her protective qualities wherever they were placed. Life flows from her yoni & her love protects her children. The Christian equivalents are statues of Mary. From her womb was received the savior & through him, redemption from sin.
Sistrum ~~ In ancient times, & even now in some Native American traditions, this rattle was used by Shaman to dispel negative energy before healing or magic working. The modern religions don’t believe in the power of a rattle but the practice remains. New mothers teach their babies, worldwide, to shake rattles. The joy expressed by the infant may be what drew humans to the belief of dispelling negativity in the first place.
Utchat ~~ This ancient Egyptian symbol was a version of the all seeing eye. Appearing in many cultures throughout the ancient world, the all seeing eye, was believed to repel negative energy and oppose the evil eye. From this ancient line of thought sayings like, “if looks could kill” emerged.
Weave ~~ Any woven image was given credit as a provider of protection. With no start or finish, no path or doorway the image was impenetrable and could block the passage of evil.
Wheel ~~ One of the most ancient of symbols the wheel was a major component in revolutionizing humanity. This technology made one man capable of the work of five. It led to civilization & the taming of nature. Based on the circle, a protective shape in it’s own right, the wheel was also used as a calendar. The days turned into months, months into years & years into lifetimes. The wheel doubled the protection any object offered. It was placed on shields, homes, crests & even sword hilts.