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Chapter 2

CHARMS


From ancient times, the general belief existed that unseen hands directed and controlled human destiny. As humanity imagined itself surrounded by spirits of doubtful or evil intent, humankind sought various protective means from the terrors of the unseen world. Although these were convictions firmly held in the past, many traditions relating to them have survived. Despite modern thinking and attitudes, the irresistible attraction to enchantment has prevailed in all human endeavours, constantly reasserting itself throughout the ages. 

In modern times, charms and charm bracelets can be purchased in countless stores and online, with literally hundreds of sites advertising such luck-bringing baubles. In Western countries, charms are for sale, not specifically as protective agents, but as fashionable trinket jewellery, their original meaning lost in the obscurity of commercialism.

In the past, charms were considered to counteract all misfortune and promote good luck. But it was also thought that they could inflict great harm. In 1558, the Church of England condemned all charms, sorcery, invocations, enchantments, and witchcraft as inventions of the devil. But, despite this vigorous ecclesiastic prohibition, most of these practices have survived.

The word charm derives from the Latin carmen meaning ‘song’. Hence, originally, a charm involved only reciting a verse or chant to induce a magical effect. Later, charms were classified into numerous verbal or spellbinding charms, as well as into the various object charms, many of which are still popular today. The meaning of most verbal charms has always been rather obscure and not fully understood which, in itself, lent them an air of magical power and mystery. 

A charm can be perceived as a collective expression describing a formula, a potion, a precious stone, or an emblematic object. Such a charm can repudiate ill luck or inflict misfortune. In other words, a charm can be used for good or evil intent. Any charm, be it a verbal, a spellbinding, or an object charm, was believed to derive its magical efficacy from tapping supernatural powers. In early societies, all charms had a very private character, as they were often kept secret and transmitted solely amongst relatives or close friends. 

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