The purpose of this article is to examine some of the many amulets and thus techniques that were employed by the ancient and perhaps not so ancient Hebrews.
When one looks at Hebrew mysticism, one of the most common devices used was the amulet. The amulet was worn upon the person and/or attached to inaminate objects and animals. The Hebrew word for amulet, "kame‘a", translates as meaning "to bind".
The use of amulets was very extensive during the Talmudic period. Jewish amulets were of two types; that is, they were written, or they were associated with inaminate objects (a rabbits foot isa popular example. Hebrew amulets were often used to heail illnesses and/or for protection, though they were used for other purposes as well. During this time there was no legal prohibition against the use of such charms. In fact, religious rules were instilled to distinguish proper from improper amulets (Mishnah, Shabat 6.2; Babylonian Talmud, Shabat 61a).
In order to seperate the religious aspects of an amulet from its mystical intent, a specific timetable was established in which written amulets were created. This timetable also enhanced the success of such amulets. According to the Sefer Raziel HaMalakh (the Sefer Raziel HaMalakh, "Book of Raziel the Angel" a medieval Practical Kabbalah grimoire, originating from the 13th. century) an acceptable timetable for creating written amulets is as follows:
Sunday, the seventh hour (the day began at about six the preceding evening), Monday, the fifth, Tuesday, the first, Wednesday, the second, Thursday, the fourth, Friday, the fifth and tenth hours.
As to the days of the month, to provide information for those who may have an occasion to use it: amulets may be written at any time during the day on the 1st, 4th, 12th, 10th, 22nd, 25th, 28th; in the evening only on the 17th; in the morning only on the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 16th, 21st, 24th, 27th, 30th; and not at all on the remaining days. These times were seen as opposite of the times when astrological and angelic forces were thought to be in force.
One of the most recognized words in regards to written amulets, is the word "Abracadabra".
Historically, this word was believed to have healing powers when inscribed on an amulet. The word is thought to have its origin in the Aramaic language, but numerous, and various folk etymologies are associated with this word. Many consider that the word “Abracadabra” is actually a Hebrew phrase meaning “I create (A’bra) what (ca) I speak (dab’ra).”
The first known mention of the word was in the third century AD in a book called Liber Medicinalis (also known as De Medicina Praecepta Saluberrima) by Quintus Serenus Sammonicus. He was a physician to the Roman emperor Caracalla. He suggested that malaria sufferers should wear an amulet containing the word written in the form of a triangle.
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A - B - R - A
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A - B - R
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A - B
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A
A - B - R - A - C - A - D
A - B - R - A - C - A
A - B - R - A - C
A - B - R - A
A - B - R
A - B
The power of the amulet, he explained, made lethal diseases such as malaria, go away.
Editors Note: As a matter of note; the word "abracadabra" is often found on Abraxas stones which were worn as amulets, however these particular charms are related to Gnosticism rather than Hebrew mysticism and thus will be covered in a seperate article.
The following is an effective written amulet, against the evil eye and evil spirits, for spiritual grace, against imprisonment and the sword, for intelligence, to be able to instruct people in Torah, against all sorts of disease and reverses, and against loss of property:
"In the name of Shaddai, who created heaven and earth, and in the name of the angel Raphael, the memuneh in charge of this month, and by you, Smmel, Hngel, Vngsursh, Kndors, Ndmh, Kmiel, S‘ariel, Abrid, Gurid, memunim of the summer equinox, and by your Prince, Or‘anir, by the angel of the hour and the star, in the name of the Lord, God of Israel, who rests upon the Cherubs, the great, mighty, and awesome God, YHVH Ẓebaot is His name, and in Thy name, God of mercy, and by thy name, Adiriron, trustworthy healing-God, in whose hand are the heavenly and earthly households, and by the name YHVH, save me by this writing and by this amulet, written in the name of N son of N
[insert mother's name]. Protect him in all his two hundred and forty-eight organs against imprisonment and against the two-edged sword. Help him, deliver him, save him, rescue him from evil men and evil speech, and from a harsh litigant, whether he be Jew or Gentile. Humble and bring low those who rise against him to do him evil by deed or by speech, by counsel or by thought. May all who seek his harm be overthrown, destroyed, humbled, afflicted, broken so that not a limb remains whole; may those who wish him ill be put to shame. Save him, deliver him from all sorcery, from all reverses, from poverty, from wicked men, from sudden death, from the evil effects of passion, from every sort of tribulation and disease. Grant him grace, and love, and mercy before the throne of God, and before all beings who behold him. Let the fear of him rest upon all creatures, as the mighty lion dreads the mightier mafgi‘a. I conjure N, son of N, in the name of Uriron and Adriron. Praised be the Lord forever. Amen and Amen."
Other written amulets are as follows:
An amulet for grace and favor; write upon deer-skin:
Editors Note: The one most commonly used and preferred form of medium for amulets was a parchment made from deer-skin.
"By Thy universal name of grace and favor YHVH, set Thy grace YHVH upon N, son of N, as it rested upon Joseph, the righteous one, as it is said, "And the Lord was with Joseph, and showed kindness unto him, and gave him favor" in the sight of all those who beheld him [Gen. 39:21]. In the name of Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Kabshiel, Yah (repeated eight times), Ehyeh, Ahah (four times), Yehu (nine times)".
To win favor, write on parchment and carry on yout person: "Hasdiel at my right, Haniel at my left, Rahmiel at my head, angels, let me find favor and grace before all men, great and small, and before all of whom I have need, in the name of Yah Yah Yah Yau Yau YauYahZebao. Amen Amen Amen Saleh.
The following is a amulet for the protection of a mother and her newborn child from the dangers of Lilith, a female demon who was believed to pursue and kill mother and infant.
"I command you, holy and pure angels Sanoi, Sansanoi, Semanglaf, Semanglon, to keep all spirits and demons and all evil misfortunes and all Liline and all Liltine away from this newly delivered mother and from this newborn babe; and from the day on which this amulet, on which are inscribed your names, will be placed in this house in which is to be found the newborn, from this day forward remove Lilith and all her followers and all her servants from this newborn and from this house to the farthest reaches. Let her and all the demons with her flee, that she and her followers may never be able to harm this child for ever and ever".
Written amulets were often adorned with magical figures. Among these figures are the pentagram, which is known as the "Seal of Solomon" and the hexagram. The hexagram in particular has been regarde as a symbol of Judaism and is known as the "Shield of David" (Magen David). However this particular symbol has only been incorporated into Hebrew mysticism during the last 100 years or so. The hexagram has in fact been in use by various mystical disciplines/beliefs for centuries. The various Hebrew names of God and Biblical texts were frequently inscribed within the triangles of the magical hexagram.
The various Hebrew names of God and Biblical texts were frequently inscribed within the triangles of the magical hexagram. Other symbols widely employed in Jewish amulets, was a series of figures constructed by joining straight and curved lines tipped with circles. Interspersed among these lines, one will sometimes find circles, spirals, squares and other geometric forms. Some amulets consist entirely of such signs, with no written text included.
Another type of amulet employed by the Hebrew people is the "Zahlenquadrat" (magic square). It was first mentioned by Abraham ibn Ezra (The Wise, The Great and The Admirable Doctor) in the twelfth century C.E. The Zahlenquadrat is a square figure formed by a series of numbers in arithmetic progression. The sum of the numbers in each row or line taken perpendicularly, horizontally, or diagonally, is equal.
The carrying of amulets on the Sabbath posed a special problem to the Jewish religious establishment. The reason being that amulets were considered to fall under the category of "burdens" which were forbidden on the Sabbath. Therefore, only those amulets that had been "approved" could be worn during the Sabbath. To be approved, an amulet had to be used by three seperate people with successful results. Another way for an amulet to become approved was for a professional amulet writer, "ba‘ale shem" (masters of the Holy Name) who had written three amulets, to have their amulet tested by three different individuals with positive results. Also, amulets were not to be taken into bathhouses as they were thought to be the domain of demons. However, an "approved amulet" encased within a leather pouch was permissable.
Editors Note: These principles for approving the wearing of an amulet on the Sabbath can be found in the Talmud. The power of "3" is also evident.
In addition to written amulets, there were various materials used as well (I think we are all familiar with the rabbits foot amulet which is used for good luck). Some of these are as follows:
Red thread: red is a color regarded as anti-demon and anti-evil eye. Red thread was hung on the forehead of a horse to protect him against the evil eye.
During the Middle Ages Jewish children wore coral necklaces to protect them against the dreaded jettatura (a curse of the evil eye).
To obtain a favorable hearing from a judge, get a straw in which there are three nodes, and place the middle node under your tongue in the morning; or place henbane (hyoscyamus) seeds, still in their husks, in your hair above the forehead.
An amulet that gives protection consists of a sprig of fennel over which an incantation has been recited and which has then been wrapped in silk, together with some wheat and coins, and then encased in wax.
A metal plate inscribed with the letter heh (a sign for the Tetragrammaton), is worn about the neck for protection.
A charm that will put an insomniac to sleep is prepared thus: first obtain a louse from the head of the patient and induce it to crawl into a bone which has a hole in it, seal the hole, and hang the imprisoned insect on the patient's neck.
To find favor in people's eyes, carry the right eye or ear of an animal on your person.
Among ancient Hebrew's there was a custom of utilizing a piece of the "Afikomen", (a specially designated cake of unleavened bread at the Passover Seder), as an amulet. One would hang it in the house, or carry it in a pouch, to protect against evil spirits and against evil folks.
To protect a horse from evil influence, a fox's tail or a crimson plume was fastened between its eyes.
Figuratively speaking, the Torah is said to be such an Amulet for Israel.
According to ancient Hebrew lore, the following crystals were listed as follows:
Agate (Shebo) This is the stone of Naphtali ( Naphtali was the sixth son of Jacob and second son with Bilhah), which is the turkiska. It establishes man firmly in his place, and prevents him from stumbling and falling; it is especially coveted by knights and horsemen, it makes a man secure on his mount.
Amethyst (Ahlamah) This is the stone called cristalo; it is very common and well known. It is the stone of Gad, because the tribe of Gad are very numerous and renowned. There is another gem called diamanti which is like the cristalo, except that it has a faintly reddish hue; the tribe of Gad used to carry this with them. It is useful in war, for it buoys up the heart so that it doesn't grow faint, for Gad used to move into battle ahead of their brothers. This stone is good even against demons and spirits, so that one who wears it is not seized by that faintness of heart which they call glolir.
Beryl (Tarshish) This is the yakint [jacinth]; the Targum calls it the 'sea-green,' which is its color. It is the stone of Asher. Its utility is to burn up food. No bad food will remain in the bowels of one who consumes it, but will be transformed into a thick oil. For it is written, 'As for Asher, his bread shall be fat' (Gen. 49:20). . . . Sometimes the sapphire is found in combination with the yakint, because the tribes of Asher and Issachar intermarried. . . . Because the bread of Asher is fat for all creatures, and the faces of stout people are ruddy, the yakint is sometimes of a reddish hue.
Carbuncle (Nofech) This is the smaragd. It is green, for Judah's face was of a greenish hue when he mastered his passion and acknowledged his relations with Tamar (Gen. 38) . This stone is clear, and not cloudy like Simeon's, for when he was cleared of the suspicion of Joseph's death his face grew bright with joy. The function of this stone is to add strength, for one who wears it will be victorious in battle; that is why the tribe of Judah were mighty heroes. It is called nofech because the enemy turns (hofech) his back to the one who wears it, as it is written, 'Thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies' (Gen. 49:8) .
Carnelian, Ruby (Odem) appertains to Reuben. This is the stone called "rubino". Its use is to prevent the woman who wears it from suffering a miscarriage. It is also good for women who suffer excessively in child-birth, and, consumed with food and drink, it is good for fertility. Sometimes the stone rubino is combined with another stone and is called "rubin felsht".
Emerald or Smaragd (Bareket) This is the carbuncle, which flashes like lightning [barak] and gleams like a flame. . . . This is the stone of Levi. It is beneficial to those who wear it; it makes man wise, and lights up his eyes, and opens his heart. Taken as a food in the form of powder with other drugs it rejuvenates the old.
Emerald (Yahalom) This is the stone of "Zebulun"; it is the jewel called perla. It brings success in trade, and is good to carry along on a journey, because it preserves peace and increases good-will. And it brings sleep, for it is written, 'Now will my husband sleep with me (yizbeleni)' (Gen. 30: 20).
Jacinth (Leshem) This is the stone of Dan, which is the "topaẓiah". The face of a man may be seen in it, in reverse, because they overturned the graven image of the idol (Jud. 18) .
Jasper (Yashfeh) This is Benjamin's; it is called "diaspi", and is found in a variety of colors: green, black, and red, because Benjamin knew that Joseph had been sold, and often considered revealing this to Jacob, and his face would turn all colors as he debated whether to disclose his secret or to keep it hidden; but he restrained himself and kept the matter concealed. This stone yashfeh, because it was a bridle on his tongue, has also the power to restrain the blood.
Onyx (Shoham) This is the stone called "nikli" [nichilus, an agate]. It is Joseph's stone and it bestows grace. One who wears it at a gathering of people will find it useful to make them hearken to his words, and to win success.
Sapphire (Sapir) the stone of "Issachar", who 'had understanding of the times' (I Chr. 12:32) and of the Torah. It is purple-blue in color, and is excellent to cure ailments, and especially to pass across the eyes, as it is said, 'It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones' (Prov. 3:8).
Topaz (Pitdah) the stone of "Simeon". This is the prasinum (?) but it seems to me it is the smeralda (?); it is greenish because of Zimri, the son of Salu (Nu. 25:14) who made the Simeonites green in the face. and it is dull in appearance because their faces paled. Its use is to chill the body. . . . Ethiopia and Egypt are steeped in sensuality, and therefore it is to be found there, to cool the body. It is also useful in affairs of the heart.
Crystals were of great importance to the Hebrew religious order.
"And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart when he goeth in unto the holy place for a memorial before the Lord continually" [Exodus 28.29]
Editors Note: Exodus is the second book of the Jewish Torah and the Christian bible.
It was said that the High Priest kept two unidentified crystals within his breastplate called the "Urim" (representing light and excellence) and the "Thummim" (representing perfection and completion). These stones were consulted during matters of urgency.
They would be held before a flickering candle and as the light fell onto one of the 12 stones named below a hebrew letter was assigned to each flicker. And thus it was said that God talked to the High Priest in this manner.
The uppermost holy garment is apron-like and is called the "Ephod". On top of the Ephod there is the square breastplate, with the twelve precious stones. On the shoulders were the two additional precious stones. The blue garment is called the robe, under which the high priest wore a white fine linen woven tunic. On his head is a white fine linen turban. Round the base of the turban is the crown of gold, saying "HOLY TO THE LORD".
Though there is disagreement as to the exact identity of the 12 stones worn on the sacred breastplate, the following 12 are generally accepted as the correct stones. Each stone was assigned to a particular tribe of Israel.
Judah - Sardius (Red) The tribe of Judah was Biblically, initially the only one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel to follow the house of David to found the Southern Kingdom.
Issachar - Topaz (Pale green) According to the Torah, this tribe was founded by Issachar, the ninth son of Jacob, and a son of Leah, from whom it took its name.
Zebulon - Carbuncle (Deep red) Zebulon refers primarily to the people of Holland. In general Israelites settled in that area. A people named Sebulingoi were recorded as being there and this name means "People of Zebulon". Zebulon, in Talmudic Literature, was pictured as a merchant seafarer.
Reuben - Emerald (Green) The tribe was named after the oldest of Jacob's sons born of Leah, his first wife.
Simeon - Sapphire (Deep blue) Simeon was the second son of Jacob by Lia. His name derives from the word from the word "shama", "to hear".
Gad - Diamond (Transparent) Gad was the seventh son of Jacob, and the first by Zelpha, Lia's handmaid. There is also a Pagan Deity who bears the name of "Gad".
Ephraim - Ligure (Dull red) It was Ephraim who formed the House of Joseph. Ephraim, a son of Joseph, received the blessing of the firstborn, although Manasseh was the eldest, because Jacob foresaw that Ephraim's descendants would be greater than his brother's.
Manasseh - Agate (Gray) Manasseh was the older son of Joseph and Asenath, daughter of Potiphera (priest of the sun god Re of heliopolis). Manasseh had an Aramean concubine who bore Machir, the father of Gilead.
Benjamin - Amethyst (Purple) Benjamin is one of the tribes that later became what is known as the Jewish people. The tribe was named after the younger of two children born to Jacob and his second wife, Rachel.
Dan - Beryl (bluish green) The tribe of Dan was named after the first of two sons born to Jacob and Bilhah, the maidservant of Jacob's second wife, Rachel.
The tribe of Dan is suspected by biblical scholars to have evolved from the Denyen, one of the groups of Sea Peoples, the name Dan being a corruption of Denyen
Asher - Onyx (Bluish white) The tribe of Asher was named after the younger of two sons born to Jacob and Zilpah, the maidservant of Jacob's first wife, Leah.
The name "Asher is derived from the Hebrew word "osher" meaning happy.
Naphtali - Jasper (Green) Naphtali is said to be the second son of Jacob and Bilhah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Naphtali.
The Torah states that Naphtali had four sons, who migrated with him to Egypt, with their descendants remaining there until the Exodus.
Editors Note: According to Cornelius Agrippa;
"Thus by choosing an astrologically appropriate moment to make a talisman or other magical object we greatly increase its magical effect. But timing is not the only important factor"
"Yet they bestow more powerful virtues on the images, if they be framed not of any, but of certain matter, namely whose natural and also special virtue is agreeable with the work, and the figure of the image is like to the celestial for such an image...is best prepared to receive the operations and powers of the celestial bodies and figures...Hence saith Ptolemy in Centiloquio, that inferior things do obey the celestial, and not only them, but also their images; even as earthly scorpions obey not only the celestial Scorpion, but also his image, if if shall be opportunely figured under his ascent and dominion."