What are Amulets and Talismans?

Although amulets and talismans are some of the most commonly used magickal items, there remains much ambiguity as to what exactly they are and how they differ. Today we will briefly explore the most common definitions, how useful they are and how they differ, in order to arrive at a clearer understanding of these staples of magickal practice.

There are three common definitions for amulets and talismans. The first, the most common dictionary definition, is that they are synonymous and refer to any item which exerts an ‘occult influence,’ such as protection or good luck.  A second definition popular among some magickal practitioners is that an amulet is used against certain influences, such as an amulet against illness, whereas a talisman is used for a specific influence, such as a talisman to attract love. Finally, a third definition favored by other practitioners is that an amulet is natural, such as a stone or herb (worn in a ‘medicine bag’ for instance), while a talisman is man-made, such as a pressed metal disc with symbols on it.

Now, since these three definitions are all in common usage, it cannot be said that one right or wrong, but it can be argued as to which is most useful. First of all, there are contradictions between the definitions; so, we cannot just accept them simultaneously and move on. A single example will illustrate this. Take the stone carnelian, which is traditionally worn for courage. According to definition one, it is both a talisman and an amulet; definition two would say that it is a talisman because it is for courage, while definition three would say that is an amulet because it is a natural stone. So, which is it?

Since practitioners (i.e. those who actually use talismans and amulets), prefer the second two definitions, we will assume that there is some reason for differentiation between the two terms and move quickly past definition one. Now, as for definition two, this definition is often contradicted in the traditional literature. For instance, The Key of Solomon, one of the primary texts of Renaissance talismanic magick, lists many different talismans which are explicitly used against certain influence, such as “the sixth pentacle of Jupiter” which is used against earthly dangers. Also, whether an item is for or against something is often only a matter of phrasing. For example, an “amulet” against danger could just as easily be considered as a “talisman” for protection. Given these contradictions to the source material and the issue of phrasing, the second definition is not particularly useful.

Coming now to definition three, the natural vs. man-made dichotomy, consider a rune stone, tiger’s eye, for instance, which is engraved with the rune Uruz. Is it an amulet or a talisman? Well, in that tiger’s eye is a natural material, it is an amulet, but since it is inscribed, it is also a talisman. Since all natural materials have their own magickal properties, and since all symbols, likewise, have their own properties, it is useful to be able to differentiate between the “amuletic” and “talismanic” properties of a thing. In the instance of our tiger’s eye Uruz, it has the amuletic properties of tiger’s eye, being confidence and willpower, and the talismanic properties of Uruz, being virility and power, among other things. In this case, we can say that the amuletic and talismanic properties are harmonious. This allows us great subtlety and layers of definition. It also puts amulets/talismans on a spectrum; a stone or herb is obviously an amulet and a sigil or symbol is obviously a talisman, but where they combine, we can say why it is both and how these layers may affect one another, and whether they are harmonious or discordant. Clearly, this is the most useful of the three definitions.

By Adam Schaab, Arch-Minion


“Now, that which is the subtle essence—in it all that exists has its self. That is the True. That is the Self. That thou art…”  (Chandogya Upanishad)

The Upanishads are texts in which the central concepts of what would come to be called Hinduism were first set forth.  Karma and rebirth as well as the concept of Brahman as the One Reality and the means of realizing oneself to be this Ultimate Reality through various disciplines or yoga are presented in verse and prose in these ancient Vedic scriptures.  

The Upanishads are “Sruti” meaning they are authoritative texts.  Collections of them are appended to of the four Vedas; therefore they are known also as “Vedanta” or the end of the Veda. This is interpreted both literally and as meaning the essence or fulfillment of the Vedas.  The word Upanishad is most commonly translated as “sitting at the feet of” as a student sits at the feet of the teacher.  It has also been interpreted as carrying the meaning “setting to rest ignorance.”  Buddhism and Jainism, arising shortly after the earliest Upanishads were written, were deeply influenced by the philosophies of these texts as well.  

Composed at a time of great transformations in Indian society, including the questioning of the Vedic rituals themselves, the Upanishads are often severely critical of the traditional religion. At the same time they offer commentary and interpretation of the rituals meant to reveal their deeper meaning.  According to Patrick Olivelle, thirteen principle Upanishads (there would be hundreds composed) were written over a period of time from approximately the 5th century and the 2nd century BCE. The philosophical stances of the texts therefore are varied, and while they are the single most important influence on Indian religion they do not present a unified vision.  This is especially true of the later Upanishads which are found at the end of the Arthava Veda, many of which were written from the viewpoint of particular schools as opposed to the earliest Upanishads which are attached to the three early Vedas and whose authors showed no particular group affiliation.

The central concepts of the Upanishads continue to guide and inspire the lives of millions of people the world over, including many who are not themselves Hindu or Buddhist or Jain.  If one would know the genesis of these concepts, perhaps most importantly the vision of what constitutes the realization of the Self, freedom from suffering, ultimate liberation, reading and reflecting on Upanishads will open the door to understanding.

By:  Astadhi Sadakha

The Body is a Machine

“Man is a machine” is not completely accurate… though it’s not completely inaccurate either.

I had this realization that the body is a machine. The best example is when I (or anyone) might wake up in the middle of the night for some reason, and begin to perform an action before consciousness is in the body. For example, I have woken up sweating in the middle of the night, and before I am there to be conscious in my body, it has already taken actions that I don’t recall at a later moment. Or rather, consciousness returns to me in the middle of an action.

The point here is that the body has a capacity of it’s own. We, whomever that is, are truly sitting in a vehicle, observing the world around us through this machine. Maybe we truly are a collective consciousness trying to understand itself. Now, I have read and accepted this concept for a while now, but it is finally something tangible for me. To really see the fact that the body is a machine. A strange, organic machine that has the ability to function without consciousness, and with consciousness.

So this raises two questions… Where does consciousness go when it’s not in the body, and are there truly people in this world that do not have consciousness (a soul)?

-Cameron Williams, Reader and Web Designer

Tarot vs Oracle cards

I have been a student of the Tarot for over 45 years now and I know that the fact that *I* know the difference between Tarot cards and other types of decks doesn’t mean that it’s common knowledge!  Simply put, Tarot is an ancient system of fortune telling or oracle cards.  It’s not the only one out there by a long shot!  Although there are examples of Tarot cards dating back to the mid-15th century, the deck as we know it was standardized in the late-19th century by Arthur Waite and Pamela Coleman-Smith who were members of the Hermetically Order of the Golden Dawn.

I recently decided to explore one particular alternative type of cartomancy – the Lenormand deck.  The deck was created by Marie Anne Lenormand (1772 – 1843) a famous French fortune teller  in the Napoleonic era.  Like the Tarot there are many versions.  It is a system of 36 cards, taken from a standard deck of playing cards.  Each of the 36 is assigned a designation like The Rider, The Ship, The Book.

Here is a summary of the differences.  The Tarot has 78 cards vs 36 for Lenormand.  Tarot has two parts; major and minor Arcana.  In the Lenormand all cards are given equal weight.  When a Tarot card is reversed it changes the meaning.  Lenormand cards are always read right side up.  The meaning of  Lenormand cards is dependent on proximity to other cards and they are read in combination with each other.
Magus carries many different Tarot decks and many Lenormand decks.  Picking a deck can be a wonderful adventure, looking at all the different art work and styles and choosing one that speaks to you.  We also carry many other types of oracle cards.  Come on in and explore!

-Carol, Tarot Reader

Bathtub Conversions

I’ve never been very good at taking care of myself. I’ve struggled with healthy food choices and making sure I get physical activity every day. There was a time in college when even showering seemed to be optional. But over the past few years I’ve really changed my tune. I make wise choices and hit the gym several times a week. Yet, when it comes to the simple acts of self-care, I still find ways in which I need to tend to my self-care more.

I’ve incorporated a relaxing, stress-relieving, and revitalizing practice into my self-care routine: a weekly bath. Mela, the Massage Master of Magus, advised me to take a bath after getting a massage from her. I bought some Epsom salts and headed home to do just that. I put on some soft music, dumped in my bag of salt, added several dashes of essential oils, and had the best bath I’d ever had. No lie. No joke.

The following day I went to Liz, Magus co-owner and Head Herbalist, asking what I can do to make my bath-time even better. She suggested I take the Minerals for the Bath class. I did just that and was not disappointed. I learned all about the different kinds of salts and what kind of aromatherapy oils I could add to the bath salt to make my experience even better. I picked up a copy of 500 Recipes for Aromatherapy by Carol Schiller (which has the most ridiculous late 80’s/early 90’s cover) and started blending my own bath salts.

I now take a bath every Tuesday night. It relaxes both my muscles and my anxieties. Epsom salt is especially good at removing lactic acid from the muscles. I work out several times a week and have noticed that this helped keep my mucles free of soreness and relaxed, yet toned. Now that it’s the dead of winter, I’m able to get warm and the essential oils I’ve blended up make me smell like the spirit of Christmas incarnate. My favorite is to put about 25 drops of Juniper Berry, Fir, or Coriander is wonderful and warming additions. For a more healing and soothing bath try Rosemary and Tea Tree.  I’ve added Eucalyptus Oil to the Rosemary and Tea Tree for a friend who wanted that cool and awakening blend.

Self care allows us to be more present in our everyday life. I’ve known practicing self care to be vitally important, especially for caretakers in need of taking care of themselves. Taking just 20 minutes for yourself can really help with burning out. I’ve seen dear friends implode because they we devoting too much time to their jobs and their social lives, rather than taking time to practice self love. And it can be practiced in so many forms. This includes making real commitments to going to the gym more often, making better and more flavorful choices of food, and devoting time for myself when at home.

I’d never been a bath taker. Maybe once or twice a year just to be good to myself. We’ll not anymore! Baths are now an essential component to how I take care of myself. They are phenomenal way to nurture and distress. I’ve even noticed a difference in my performance in the gym and at work.  I couldn’t recommend a better self-care practice.

– by Markus K. Ironwood

GORGE on Goodness; Resolutions Revolt!

Resolutions SUCK. We make them, we break them, we ignore them & hope we’ll just magickally be better next year.

I say: DOWN with Resolutions! Instead, how about this: We choose to Gorge ourselves with Goodness!

This could mean choosing your favorite healthy food (me, I love avacados) and let yourself GORGE on and revel in how great it is. Taking the standpoint that you are not only going to give yourself good things, but that you will gorge yourself on them. Don’t resolve to deny and deprive yourself; instead decide on the things you want More of in your daily, weekly, or monthly life and fill as many of your days as you can with it. Massage would be a great thing to Gorge out on. Making and drinking Kombucha would be a great thing to gorge yourself with. Taking a weekly ritual bath with essential oils is another great example of something you could do more of — Gorge yourself in and with — as a way to enhance and better your life.

Revolt on Resolution making! Gorge on that which expands your health and wellbeing! Shine light on what you want more of in life, and watch your life Expand in glorious ways!

-Mela, Store Owner


Or: How I stopped scoffing and lived the questions instead!


Okay, I get it, you are a busy person. I really do. It is so easy to get bogged down in the day to day work we all do and forget to take time to feed yourself physically let alone spiritually. I also get how that last sentence may make you cringe a little- “feed yourself spiritually?” Really? Being a bit of a cynic, I often find myself somewhat put off by characterizations like “finding your inner goddess” or “energetic manifestation” or “letting Jesus take the wheel.” If I can, I’d like to explain to you what I mean, and regardless of the language I use, I hope you can find some meaning in it. So please suspend that good ol’ disbelief for a moment with me. Cool? Thanks!

Have you ever heard a song in a concert or on the radio and felt a strong connection to it? I know I have. I can still hear songs and remember exactly where I was emotionally and physically when I first heard it. The same can be said for literature and other forms of art. I think many of us read something we never would have picked up ourselves in an English class and had our minds totally blown by it. Sometimes these moments happen in the car when we hear someone make an excellent point on the radio that resonates with truth. These experiences form a deep connection for us and can be relived any time we open that book or play that record again, if we are lucky enough to remember them.

A reality of my life is that sometimes I feel utterly drained. Sometimes I have given so much to others that I have nothing left for myself. Other times I struggle to see the point in it all. It is in these moments that my natural inclination is to reach for a way to connect; whether back to myself, or to something else. These connections lift me out of my current mental state, they challenge me to think or remind me of why I believe what I believe. Sometimes, however, the struggle is real.

That brings me to that word up there in the title- Prayerbooking. I sense that disbelief returning. I was first introduced to the concept my senior year of college in an interfaith discussion group. I too scoffed a little at the title. Prayerbooking? Sounds like a fancy religious scrapbook. Not exactly. In our group we met every week or so over several months, each meeting focusing on a topic of spiritual or emotional significance. We discussed everything from our religious backgrounds to favorite poems. We recorded those meaningful passages individually with the goal of eventually sharing them. Each person presented their “Prayerbook” differently. Some had simple journals with handwritten copies of book quotes, others had mix cd’s; my prayerbook was a hand bound book of clips, pictures, song lyrics, and poetry. In the end we all had our own little personal meaningful guide that we could reach for at any time to experience once more those pieces that truly mattered to us.

I can’t tell you how many times since then I have picked that book up. I reach for it when there are more questions than answers. I reach for it when I need to refuel after a long and stressful week. The best part of it is that it never has to be finished. Each time I experience something that I want to remember I can add it to my book. It is a physical reminder that, despite my cynicism, I do need to connect to something outside of myself, to recharge my energetic battery and reconnect to the bigger picture. Through this process I came to know myself better, I came to enjoy the questions I couldn’t answer, and I let my guard down. It is my belief that this vulnerable practice is exactly the type of experience that we are all craving but cannot put a finger on. Maybe through such practices we can discover that the questions we ask may be in different languages, they may come from different religious and cultural backgrounds, but they are strikingly similar. We are all looking for connection and meaning. If we can learn to live with the questions we cannot answer and find significance in that journey maybe, just, maybe we could all get along. But don’t ask me. I’m a cynic.

-Abbey, Marvelous Minion



They want to discuss a flawed premise that it is our physical conditions that make us happy or unhappy. We set out to get happy by trying to control all the conditions around ourselves, i.e. certain standard of living, certain goals that we want to obtain, surrounding ourselves with a nice house, nice car, nice clothes, etc. And we think this is the key to our happiness/unhappiness. But many times once we obtain our goals and are surrounded by what we thought would make us happy, we are still unhappy.

ALSO on the other end of the stick, many, many people are unhappy now, because they have not obtained what they want and so they are unhappy all day long, because they don’t have what they want in life.

So this is why so many super successful people still aren’t happy, and this is why so many people keep themselves for most of their lives in a state of “incompleteness” and unhappiness. They don’t realize how to get happy. They think that the Universe should give them what they want FIRST and THEN they’ll be happy. BUT that just puts a barrier in between them and happiness, because of the way the Universe is set up.

The message here is to understand that your desires tell you where you want to put your focus in your life, but they should not control your happiness in this moment. You make yourself happy from the inside out. Not the outside in. Do not require certain conditions be met for your happiness, because it won’t work anyway.

7 OF PENTACLES: This is about someone trying to exert their will to make conditions the way they want them to be.

KING OF CUPS: This is about someone who has successfully controlled their conditions to how they want them to be, but they still feel like something is missing.

STRENGTH: This is about feeling like you’ll feel happy when that thing off in the future happens. But for now you’re not happy, because you don’t have that condition met yet.

ACE OF PENTACLES: This goes with STRENGTH: She is focused on that one thing that she thinks will make her happy. The pentacle is symbolic of having a “one track mind” where is focused on that thing she wants (which is a good thing), except she’s not happy right now, because she doesn’t have it yet.

*The Elders are a compilation of All Knowing souls described by Holly as “God energy” that speak to Holly in one voice.


Healing stones were one of the first things I was drawn to as I became more spiritually awakened. They are versatile and useful, and very pleasing to the eye.

Hematite was the first stone I ever gravitated towards instinctually. It is mainly used for grounding and protection. I essentially use it for protection but it can be used for many other things as well. It can even be used in the corners of a room or property to help protect and ward off negativity. Hematite is beneficial with mental organization and logical thinking. Emotionally it is calming and decreases negativity. It also has the capability to boost self-esteem. Physically it has been known to cool the body and blood disorders, along with lessening anxiety. Hematite is a wonderful stone, essential in any collection.

-Lily McNamara, Magus Reader

My massage experience with Alythia

Recently, Alythia (our new massage therapist apprentice at Magus) and I decided to commit ourselves to a daily Yoga routine together.  An added bonus to that is that I get to have the opportunity to sample Alythia’s massage therapy skills which she acquired working at Juut Salon, and being trained at Aveda.  Alythia is an apprentice under Magus’ master massage therapist Mela.  And it is paying off!  After an intense Yoga session involving several moon salutations and difficult balancing and stretching postures, Alythia was kind enough to give me a much needed massage.  

First off, she and I share a similar taste in music…heavy friggen metal!  This was the first time I got to experience a massage with death metal playing, and I felt right at home.  Alythia also incorporated a chakra analysis at the beginning of the session in which she scanned my chakras and then presented me with a few different herbal chakra oil choices.  I ended up choosing the crown chakra oil, and the smell was very pleasant and uplifting as she worked the oil through my sore muscles.  

Without even explaining to Alythia where a lot of my spinal issues were, she managed to find them and go town on them.  Her massage started off fairly gentle and soothing, but once she found those problem areas she was would not stop until they were eased!  This hurt me to some degree, but it was the good kind of hurt because I honestly felt like she popped out every single knot and ache in there!  Because of this I have nicknamed her the Spine Ninja.  She perceived the sources of my body’s pain better than I can, and annihilated the crap out of it!  

As a result of her amazing skills she learned more about what types of Yoga I would need to do to work these issues out.  Also, throughout the day I was in an incredibly good and uplifted mood.  I truly look forward to continue to receive healing help from Alythia in the future and I would recommend her to anyone who was in need of some spinal work.  I have no doubt that she has excellent skills in other areas of the body, and I am proud to have her aboard our Magus team.

-Kyle Ford, Magus Minion and Assistant Manager