A talisman is any item that in embued with magical properties, such as a lamen, amulet, tarot deck, charm, or sigil. It can be a book—such as The Book of the Law—or the result of a magical operation, such as a eucharist. It can also be a sympathetic object, such as a stone designed to attract the influence of a planet, or it can provide protection or bring about change. Aleister Crowley defined a talisman as “something upon which an act of will (that is, of Magick) has been performed in order to fit it for a purpose” (Magick, Ch.16). Etymology is Greek telesma, consecration ceremony; from telein, to consecrate, fulfill; from telos, result.
Crowley describes a talisman in Magick Without Tears (Ch. 20):
A talisman is a storehouse of some particular kind of energy, the kind that is needed to accomplish the task for which you have constructed it…The decisive advantage of this system is not that its variety makes it so adaptable to our needs, but that we already posses the Invocations necessary to call forth the Energies required…You must lay most closely to your heart the theory of the Magical Link and see well to it that it rings true; for without this your talisman is worse than useless. It is dangerous; for all that Energy is bound to expend itself somehow; it will make its own links with anything handy that takes its fancy; and you can get into any sort of the most serious kind of trouble…Most of my Talismans, like my Invocations, have been poems.
He further explains in Magick, Book 4:
Our talisman must, therefore, be an object suitable to the nature of our Operation, and we must have some such means of applying its force to such a way as will naturally compel the obedience of the portion of Nature which we are trying to change. (Ch.14)
The charge to the spirit is usually embodied, except in works of pure evocation, which after all are comparatively rare, in some kind of talisman. In a certain sense, the talisman is the Charge expressed in hieroglyphics…Repeated acts of will in respect of any object consecrate it without further ado. One knows what miracles can be done with one’s favourite mashie! One has used the mashie again and again, one’s love for it growing in proportion to one’s success with it, and that success again made more certain and complete by the effect of this “love under will”, which one bestows upon it by using it.
It is, of course, very important to keep such an abject away from the contact of the profane. It is instinctive not to let another person use one’s fishing rod or one’s gun. It is not that they could do any harm in a material sense. It is the feeling that one’s use of these things has consecrated them to one’s self.
Now, there are a great many talismans in this world which are being left lying about in a most reprehensibly careless manner. Such are the objects of popular adoration, as ikons, and idols. But, it is actually true that a great deal of real magical Force is locked up in such things; consequently, by destroying these sacred symbols, you can overcome magically the people who adore them.
It is not at all irrational to fight for one’s flag, provided that the flag is an object which really means something to somebody. Similarly, with the most widely spread and most devotedly worshipped talisman of all, money…in this case, above all, people have recognised its talismanic virtue, that is to say, its power as an instrument of the will. (Ch.16)
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