An amulet is a power object intended to prevent or eliminate danger and harm. The word amulet is believed to derive from the Latin amuletum, meaning a method of defense. It is etymologically related to the word ammunition.
Amulets may have general powers (an iron horseshoe allegedly protects against all manner of harm) or very specific power (a millstone in the farmyard allegedly keeps poultry safe). Amulets come in many shapes, sizes, and forms.
* Amulets may be written: seals and sigils scripted onto parchment banish demons.
* Amulets may be found in nature: pebbles and seashells with natural holes reputedly ward off poverty.
Many amulets are associated with specific spirits:
* Amulets may transmit a spirit’s protective power: thus the Italian amulet known as the mano fica (the fig hand) radiates the power of Mania, Goddess of Ghosts; wearing this fist-shaped amulet or posting it on a wall allegedly banishes ghosts.
* Amulets may protect against a spirit: written Kabbalistic amulets featuring seals and magical words of power protect infants against the goddess Lilith.
* Some spirits—like Japan’s Daruma and Maneki Neko or Thailand’s Golden Boy and Nang Kwak—are most commonly accessed in the form of amulets: their very images serve as powerful amulets. (See their individual entries for specifics.)
The words talisman and amulet are now often used interchangeably, but originally a talisman was a power object intended to draw good fortune (a lucky charm, in other words), while an amulet was to protect and ward off harm. Thus, images of Thai goddess Nang Kwak serve as a talisman to attract wealth, while amulets bearing the image of Medusa protect against harmful magic spells.
Amulets and talismans are essentially two sides of a coin: a fertility talisman is used to achieve desired conception, while the corresponding amulet wards off infertility, prevents miscarriage, and banishes the malicious spirits who prey on pregnant women. The most powerful power objects simultaneously perform both functions: lucky talismanic and protective amuletic.