What’s your talisman?

By Caitlin Kelly

From Wikipedia:

According to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a magical order active in the United Kingdom during the late-19th and early-20th centuries, a talisman is “a magical figure charged with the force which it is intended to represent. In the construction of a talisman, care should be taken to make it, as far as possible, so to represent the universal forces that it should be in exact harmony with those you wish to attract, and the more exact the symbolism, the easier it is to attract the force.”[3]

As regular readers here know, I’m not very big on woo-woo stuff. Really not a crystals/shaman sort of girl.

But I have two small collections of charms I wear together on a piece of cord that I consider my talismans:


The heart is solid silver, bought in Vancouver from a jeweler on Granville Island after one of the most miserable weeks of my life, putting my mother into a nursing home after having to very quickly sort through and sell/toss/keep a lifetime of her belongings. Not to mention the creepy/weird/bizarre friend of hers who stressed me out so badly I called the police. Not fun. So…that’s my heart…solid but battered.

I found the “C” in a shop in Tucson, Arizona, where I and my husband taught at the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, and met a few lovely young professionals we are still close friends with.

The three other charms came from a shop in Atlanta, Georgia and express how I feel about my life and my hunger for beauty, fun and adventure.

On the black silk cord are the three charms from my childhood that resonate for me today:


The blue enamel heart was given to me by my mother when I was eight, sent off to boarding school. I wore this collection under my dress for my second wedding, in September 2011 in Toronto, because she was not going to be there.

The Art Nouveau charm was a gift to me at 12 from one of her beaux, a lovely older man. A few years ago, a I received an email from his daughter, who I had met, (and forgotten), who is, like me, now a globe-trotting ex-patriate Canadian, also a writer and editor, also happily married. Small world!

The gold charm is from my late maternal grandmother, Gemini, my birth sign. She died the year I turned 18 and I miss her still.

I loved this recent FT interview with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about the brooches she wore — and their symbolic power; on display until November 2 at the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY:

On good days, I wore flowers, butterflies and balloons, and on bad days, horrible insects and carnivorous animals.

antique snake brooch

I was the only woman on the Security Council at the time. The ambassadors noticed, and they asked, “Why are you wearing . . . ” whatever brooch. President [George] Bush had already said “Read my lips: no new taxes”, so I just said “Read my pins.”

Do you have, own or wear something of similar sentimental value or emotional power?

Where is it from — and what does it mean to you?




23 thoughts on “What’s your talisman?

  1. I wear a necklace of a mezuzah–an object placed on the doorway of Jewish authors–around my neck, and I’ve had it since my Bar Mitzvah. I also wear a ring inscribed with a phrase from the Talmud on my right ring finger that I got in Israel when I was 17. Both make me feel closer to God and I get a little uncomfortable when I can’t wear them.

  2. I don’t wear anything but have a keepsake box of charm bracelets from my mom, where she added charms representing my brothers and me, and I have one that was my grandmothers…such sweet objects. I “visit” the box when I get sentimental though. I LOVE yours though! Makes me think it might be fun to start one of my own…

    1. Charms seem to have fallen out of favor for bracelets…but I love to wear mine on a nice piece of cord or ribbon. The collection of them is what, for me, makes it even more powerful.

      I wore the 3 gold ones beneath my wedding dress in 2011…

  3. As a member of the B.O.A.C. frequent flyer club for children in the 1960s, I was given a gold and blue pin shaped in the form of pilot wings. The words “Junior Jet Club” were inscribed upon it. I loved that pin. I still have it. It lives in my marble trinket box purchased in Italy, also in the 1960s.

    This is a nice subject, talismans. I really like yours, especially the three on the black silk cord.

  4. I have a bracelet that says, “If you wish to be a writer, write.” I bought it for myself when I transitioned to freelancing full time and even if I transition out of it, I’ll still be a writer. It’s a good reminder and I always where it on days where I’m feeling worn down or tired.

  5. i love these, and the meaning they hold for you, caitlin. i don’t have any that i wear, but i do have 2 stone hearts i found, one in australia, one in the north of michigan, and i have them on a shelf i see every day. to me, they represent that part of my heart is in australia, my daughter in her family, and the rest, here in michigan )

  6. You hear about sports players having “lucky” socks or whatever all the time. I don’t have a piece of jewelry or clothing, but I was given a small hand painted ceramic bead when I was a young teen (a cousin gave it to me when we had a huge forbidden crush on each other). I put it at the end of a silver chain bracelet and use it as a pendulum when I dowse. Yes I dowse!

  7. My talisman is a silver bracelet engraved with the Navajo symbol for snow that used to belong to my mother. She gave it to me during her last bout with cancer for “safekeeping” with the provision that I give it back to her when she beat the disease. She never did; it’s been mine for nearly 10 years.

      1. Good on your mom! My mom had cancer three times in five years and the last bout was brutal. She fought with such dignity and hopeful humor and was an excellent role model for how to handle adversity. Thank you as always for the thoughts. I’m just entering my sixth month of chemo with another bone marrow biopsy this week. Success is coming slowly but it’s coming. I’ve been working on a post about cancer for my blog but I’m still editing out the profanity. Apparently I was a dock worker in a previous life and the impressive swearing was the only memory I retained!

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