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 native Greenlanders of a couple of centuries ago had a great variety of amulet, and Hans Egede, in his Description of Greenland, notes these “Amulets or Pomanders” which the natives wore about the neck or arms, the materials being of the most heterogeneous kind, pieces of old wood, old fragments of stone, bones of various animals, the bill and claws of certain birds, and many other objects whose form or associations had suggested the possession of a magic potency.
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A characteristic object secured in the Province of Chiriqui, Republic of Panama, is a singular amulet of a fine quality of green translucent jade (jadeite). This is fashioned into a conventional representation of a parrot with a disproportionately long beak. The details of the bird-form are but roughly indicated, what is supposed to represent the head and body being but a trifle larger than the beak.
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An Anglo-Saxon treatise on the medical art, from the beginning of the tenth century, the original manuscript of which was owned by an Anglo-Saxon leech named Bald, as testified to by an entry on the title-leaf, gives the agate a prominent place as a talismanic and curative agent. More especially is its power over the demon-world emphasized.
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In southern Russia amulets enjoy high power both among Jews and Christians. Especially are they valued for the protection of children and for the cure of their diseases. An imitation wolf’s-tooth, made of bone, set in a ring, is one of these amulets; however, while such imitation teeth are used, the natural teeth are greatly preferred. As an amulet against the Evil Eye the wing-bones of a cock will be used. This malign influence is held in such awe by the common people that they do not even dare to use the word “evil” of it and call it “the good eye.”
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