The use of a representation of the Hand as a talisman can be traced back to at least 800 years B.C., when it was used as a charm against enchantment. Many varieties of the Hand exist; in some the elaboration is very marked, each device representing some particular charm.
Life size models of these Hands were supposed to guard the house against all influences of magic and evil, and smaller replicas protected their wearers from every description of harm.
The extended thumb and first two fingers, the third and fourth fingers closed, is a position still assumed during the Benediction in some Christian Churches to-day.
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The charm bracelets consist of three bronze charms, a jade charm, and three glass beads, strung on thin black cord and secured with a slider made of two amber-yellow beads. There are many variants, but here are some of the typical charms found on them.
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The Thai name for a penis amulet is palad khik, which means “honorable surrogate penis.” These small charms, averaging less than 2′ in length, are worn by boys and men on a waist-string under the clothes, off-center from the real penis, in the hope that they will attract and absorb any magical injury directed toward the generative organs. It is not uncommon for a man to wear several palad khiks at one time, one to increase gambling luck, for instance, another to attract women, and a third for invulnerability from bullets and knives. With the exception of styles # 7 and 15 shown below, women in Thailand do not generally wear palad khiks, nor is there a Thai equivalent of the vulva amulet for them to use — although a circular disk amulet called a chaping is worn by young girls to protect their genitals from evil forces.
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A Gau (also spelled Ghau or Gao) is a Tibetan Buddhist amulet container or prayer box, usually made of metal and worn as jewelry. As a small container used to hold and carry powerful amuletic objects, the Gau is culturally equivalent to Latin American package amulets, African-American conjure bags or mojo hands, South American charm vials, and American wish boxes.
Because they are worn as jewelry, Gaus are made of metal and are often ornamented with semi-precious stones, but they vary enormously in style according to the taste of the designer. The one shown here is a contemporary clamshell-hinged Gau from Nepal, decorated with a double dorje design and a small piece of red coral. It is made with a ring at each end. One of the rings is the hinge, the other is the box’s opening catch, so this Gau can be strung sideways or hung as a pendant on a cord, either alone or among other beads and charms.
As used in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and Mongolia, the Gau box usually contains a written prayer or a sacred yantra diagram such as the kalachakra. The prayers and yantras are usually hand inscribed or block-printed by a priest and they are always blessed before use.
Since the late 20th century, when trade with central Asia increased, Nepalese Gaus have became increasingly popular with eclectic practitioners of magic in Europe and the Americas, especially those who make their own talismans or prepare amulets for clients. Although perhaps not properly respectful of the Gau’s original spiritual function as a holder for Buddhist prayers, these Western mages and root workers — and i admit that i am among them! — find it intriguing that, when empty, the beautiful jewelry-like Gau boxes of Nepal are just the right size to hold a King Solomon pentacle seal and a variety of plant or mineral materials. Best of all, because Gaus are not flat like European or American lockets, their interiors are voluminous enough to hold the assorted symbolic objects that comprise a typical hoodoo “bottle spell,” albeit on a miniature scale. Thus we find modern root-workers and pagan witches using Gaus as holders for amulets designed to provide magical protection or to draw love or money or increase the wearer’s gambling luck.
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Alligator teeth and alligator feet are regularly used in African-American mojo bags to increase gambling luck. The teeth of other species of animals — including badgers and bears — are also considered lucky for gamblers, as are such natural curios as rattlesnake rattles, bat hearts, rabbit feet, nutmegs, buckeye nuts, Lucky Hand roots, five-finger grass, John the Conqueror roots, and lodestones dressed with magnetic sand.
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