Shamanic mojo


Archeological approach to shamanic artefacts – especially jewelry

Shamanism is a belief system, similar to many modern day religions and possibly linked to magic, medicine and healing. During the 1950’s shamanism became a popular way to explain the secrets of obscure European ritual objects and practices, ancient myths or legends common in most hunter-gatherer societies. The word shaman comes from the Evenk (Tungusic) word “šamán”, from Northern Asia and means “he/she who knows“. David Lewis-Williams is often credited with generating interest in shamanism among prehistorians. Following his studies of Drakensberg rock art in South Africa, in the context with the local San people (hunter-gatherers) rituals, led him to the conclusion that prehistoric rock art was created from the visions of shamans in various states of trance induced by ritual dance, sensory deprivation or the ingestion of hallucinogen.
In the case of shamanic performance, shaman requires props that would have included paraphernalia associated with status and rank of the shaman, such as body adornment – which includes: dress, jewelry, body paint, body scaring, tattooing. Although some of these paraphernalia are intangible, we have indications how their jewelry – amulets or talismans may look like.

A tiny 11,000-year-old pendant found at a famed prehistoric site in North Yorkshire – Scarborough is the earliest known Mesolithic art in Britain and could have belonged to a shaman. Crafted from a single piece into a three-millimeter thick shale containing outlines of a tree, a map, a leaf or tally marks. The possibility that the pendant belonged to a shaman is likely because headdresses made out of red deer antlers found nearby (Star Carr) in earlier excavations are thought to have been worn by shamans.

A rich set of grave-goods were found in one of three burials excavated during 1930’s at Bad Dürrenberg (Saalekreis district, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany). This was the grave of a 25-35 year-old female buried between 9,000-6,000 years ago, along with a 6-12 month-old child. The grave was filled of red hematite, which was at least 30 cm deep.
A variety of objects were found with her in the grave (now on display at the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt). These have not been interpreted merely as food supplies for the beyond – grave goods included: several flint blades, two bone needles, roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) antler, 16 red deer (Cervus elaphus) incisors, polished stone celt, wild boar (Sus scrofa) tusks, various bones (crane, beaver, red deer), shell fragments from swamp turtles (pseudemydura umbrina) and 120 fragments of freshwater mussels.
Renewed examination of the skeleton revealed a deformity in the first neck vertebra, which could have caused lameness and difficulties in movement. Therefore, it can be presumed that it was an alleviation for the woman to be in trance. Ethnographic parallels suggest that many of these bones and objects may be explained as items used in ritualistic / shamanistic practices.

An unusual early Bronze Age (1900-1700 BC) grave of a male who may also have been a goldsmith, was discovered in a 12m diameter round barrow, known as G2a at Upton Lovell in Wiltshire. The grave was on a ridge that overlooked the valley leading towards Stonehenge.

The barrow was first opened in 1801 by William Cunnington who found two skeletons (rumored to be man and wife) and numerous grave goods, including a dark battle axe head made of dolerite from Northumberland, perforated bone, boar tusks, a jet ring and jet necklace, flint and other stones. There was also four cups made from split flint nodules and a bronze point, possibly used for tattooing.
One theory by Piggott (1962) is that the male was buried in a cloak of skin or fur that had 36 bone points sewn into the lower hem, probably making the garment rattle as he moved. More bone points where arranged around his chest, possibly in a necklace and four pierced boar’s tusks found by his knees may have decorated a pouch.
At his feet was a collection of stones, which were possibly a set of metalworker’s hammers and grinding stones, indicating that he may have been a goldsmith.

Across all of Europe the marine mollusc known as the thorny oyster was used to make the most prized ornaments of the Neolithic period. Major centres for the collection of these shells and the fabrication of the valued ornaments were located on the Istrian coast. Thus the Istrian seaboard became one of the points of departure for humanity’s first great luxury products exchange network, emerging parallel to the advent of agriculture, and marking the dawn of the new economic order that emerged during the Neolithic period.
The thorny oyster is better known by its Latin name Spondylus (Spondylus gaederopus). Today it is known only to a small number of shell enthusiasts. 7,500 years ago, however, at the beginning of the Middle Neolithic, these shells were used for the fabrication of beads, bracelets, pendants and belt sets – an entire range, in fact, of very popular ornamental objects found across all of the European continent. Many researchers believe that Spondylus jewellery was a mark of wealth and prestige, and a large number maintain that Neolithic shamans used them as ritual objects.


Spondylus shell with traces of working Origin (made): Kargadur, Middle Neolithic Location (collection): Archaeological Museum of Istria, Pula

Thus, having in mind these few examples of jewelry artefacts which give us some space to consider them as shamanistic paraphernalia – it is noticeable that probable necklaces were made of natural materials: bone, shells, stone and each material has proper meaning and value in ritualistic practices.
Some materials used in shamanic practice or as jewelry by shamans are degradable but we try to reconnect with the past and revive even the colors in our collection of contemporary shamanic necklaces.



The oak tree and thunder god

Serbian folklore is full of reminiscences of the oak tree as the tree dedicated to one time thunder god, the tree under which sacred rituals were performed, sometimes even in symbiosis with Christianity. This tree was considered sacred. It had the function of a place of worship, and was often believed to be residence of a deity. Also dancing, especially Serbian Kolo, under the sacred tree is the evidence of that in the past the horos dances and rituals were closely associated. It is important to note that people liked to have a sacred tree/oak on their property, since it was believed that it protected their estates from hail and other disasters. The oldest substratum of the Serbian cult encompasses the supreme god, who is after all the only able to gather the whole country and its people in a single huge `kolo` dedicated to him.

The oak is a symbol of Serbia, having been part of the historical coat of arms. In the coat of arms, the oak at one side symbolized strength and longevity, while the olive branch at the other symbolized peace and fertility. At troublesome times, when there were no churches, people prayed under oak trees where they would carve a cross, and that is called zapis in Serbian language; some of these oaks are over 600 years old.

The tree becomes `zapis` ( the closest translation is `inscription` but in the form of vow) after the act of consecration which implies engraving the cross in the core of the tree. Near the tree the stone cross in a form of a monument can be situated and the surrounded ground can be fenced forming a kind of sanctuary – temenos.

It is also important to note that the sacred tree was the subject of taboo – the person who gives himself the right to cut it down or damage it will be destined to misery and misfortune.
It is believed that you should not climb at this sacred tree or sleep under it and picking its fruits and twigs, are also forbidden. Even the branches and fruits that fall from the tree should not be collected.
In his study on the cult of trees among ancient Serbs, ethnologist Veselin Čajkanović states that the zapis is inherited from the Serbs’ pre-Christian religion, in which it had been used as a temple. Prayers and sacrifices were offered under the crown of the zapis, as in a temple. A zapis is primarily selected from oaks, the trees associated with Perun – the thunder god of the ancient Slavic religion.



Which one is yours?

Known as the father of trees. Ash draws off the element of water. Requires focus and strength of purpose. Seeks a healing companion. Used for protection. Excellent for absorbing illness and healing spells, aiding in communication and the absorption of knowledge.

Draws off the element of sun and fire. Used for influence and purification. Strengthens psychic power and is often a tool for healing. Seeks a white magic companion. Excellent for protection. Cedar is naturally resistant to pestilence and decay. Aromatic Cedar is associated with wisdom and strength and these qualities aid the user in lifting the veil imposed upon our perception of reality.

A wood of femininity. Draws off the element of earth. Used for healing, romance, and Binding spells. Seeks a harmonic companion. Excellent for Divination. Well grounded, cherry keeps us in the here and now and promotes rationally intuition action rather than emotionally related decisions.
It is a national emblem of Japan and China. Cherry blossom symbolizes the ephemeral sweetness of youth, which like blossom is quickly shed. Its habit of flowering before leafing signifies man born naked into the world.

A wood of femininity. It draws off the element of earth and is a strong, neutral wood that can be used for protection or hexes. It seeks a companion of strength and is excellent for destructive spells, protection, and defensive magic. Elm is associated with death and rebirth.
Locust (Honey, Pink):
Protective and strong, Honey Locust can be challenging to work with. It is strongest during the dark of the moon.

A peaceful wood used for purity and healing. Seeks a strong, devoted companion who cares for others. Excellent for cleansing spells. Maple reveals the options – even those that are hidden in plain sight – which lay before you. It enables you to make sound choices rather than rely on blind luck.

Known as Wizard Wood, this wood is perhaps the strongest. Draws off the element of fire, as well as lightning. Seeks a powerful companion, a guardian and liberator. Excellent for protection, defensive, prosperity, sacrifice and power house spells. Robust and true, Oak is strongly rooted in the earth and easily channels natural life energies. Slow and steady growing, Oak helps one intuitively focus on the task at hand.
The oak represents masculine strength and courage. For the druids it was the sacred tree associated with divination. Revered by Celts the oak is also linked to various thunder, sky and fertility gods. To Jews it symbolizes the Divine Presence.

Osage Orange
Most in tune with the mind. Seeks a companion of intelligence and creativity. Used commonly with Occlumency and Legilimency. Excellent for repelling and protection spells. Named Bois d’Arc by French settlers and Osage Orange by English after the Great Plains Tribe and the tree’s large fruit, this wood is extremely spiritual in nature, especially in matters dealing with earth energy.

Pear wood is extremely earth-centric energy, very grounded. Pear wood is also inspiring and creative. This type of wood is best used for healing, and will appeal mostly to those who have a passion to heal. This wood would not be useful for spiritual exploration, such as astral projection, divination, etc., but is extremely useful in earth-centric matters. It brings a creative, inspiring energy to the home. This wood is excellent for use with money and prosperity spells.
The pear is linked to love and mother symbolism. The goddess Athena was considered mother of pear trees in Ancient Greece. The Chinese associate this long lived tree with longevity, while Christians see it as an emblem of Christ`s love for humanity.

A feminine wood. In touch with the element of earth. Used for cleansing purification and protection. Excellent for dispelling work. Helps in removal of all sort of intrusions and influences. Used for teleportation, astral travel, weather working, averting lightening. Brings personal power, integrity and security.

Draws from the elements of earth and water. It seeks a companion of strength and versatility. Wenge is most compatible with an owner who is in touch with nature. Used for defense and protection. Excellent for dispelling dark magic. Wenge is a powerful tool for meditation, helping one create a more balanced mood and centering thought.

Known as ‘the witches’ wood’ and the wood of death, it draws off the element of water. It’s powerful symbol of death and reincarnation. Often yew is associated with sorcery and dark magic. Excellent for rituals and divination. Yew trees were planted in graveyards to protect the spirits of the dead. Working with Yew can reveal the past, bringing wisdom and renewed spiritual strength.
Yew is also the emblem of immortality and from the earliest time yew tree was the symbol of mourning. That is the reason of planting yews around churches and on the necropolises.

Pink Ivory
Myth tells only true Royalty may wield it. Assisting powerful visions & ideas into reality, it also relieves tensions. It is highly valued for its strength as a spiritual healer. Sacred to the Zulu as their Royal wood.

The amaranth was an emblem of immortality. St. Peter promises an amaranthine crown and Milton says that amaranth bloomed in Paradise, but for men`s offense it was removed to Heaven where it still grows shading the fountain of life near which the river of bliss rolls in streams of amber, while every angel is supposed to be bound with crowns and wreaths of amaranth.

Olive tree is an ancient symbol of piece, glory and immortality. The olive is sacred in Classical and Judeo – Christian symbolism. It leaves crowned triumphant athletes, while an olive branch brought to Noah by the dove after the flood signified piece. It is a symbol of valor, warmth and solar energy. It brings truthfulness, motivation and passionate clarity.

In Japanese culture plum blossom symbolizes happiness and good luck. It also represents spring, courage and virtue overcoming difficulties and is an emblem of Samurai. In China it signifies virginity, beauty and longevity. Brings empowerment and self-motivation. Helps the higher spiritual energy enter into the material world. Increase the awareness of surroundings and effective use of personal power.

Wild service (Sorbus torminalis)
It symbolizes unfoldment. Brings expansion of awareness and understanding of motives. It is also beneficial for past life healing, self-definition and hidden currents.
Zebrawood (Microberlinia brazzavillensis)
The name says it all: widely known and appreciated for the distinctive dark brown/black stripes that resemble the African zebra, the tree itself is found in West Africa, specifically the rich volcanic soils of Cameroon. It is a tree that towers above the forest canopy where its miniscule leaves grab as much sunlight as possible to feed its large structure.
A neutral wood which draws from the element of earth. Can be used for healing and repelling spells. Seeks an intelligent companion. Excellent for cleansing magic, good for divination and moon related magic.



Amulet for protection

Amulet is a natural or manmade object out of different kinds of materials which is believed that has the magical or miraculous power to protect its holder from any kind of evil. The word believed stresses the fact that it is the faith placed in the amulet that works for its owner, not just the actual powers of the amulet itself. That is even etymologically asserted because the word amuletum probably derives from Latin amolire which means `to avert, to carry away, to remove` in regard to evil or anything bad or Old Latin word amoletummeans of defence.
In prehistory, amulets were made in a form of little figurines: zoomorphic, anthropomorphic or stylized or even resemble the part of human body and also in a shape of different symbols known to the bearer. They were commonly worn independently or as parts of necklaces.
From archaeological perspective, it is sometimes hard to recognize the difference between pendant and amulet. Many objects with hole in them found on late Paleolithic sites were recognized as amulets. Very often archaeologists are inclined to explain any small object which can be worn as pendant and has unusual shape as amulet.
Symbolic of beneficent power, amulets have been worn for protection and strength for many thousands of years and continue to be worn today in new forms.
According to the 19th-century anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, the attribution of spiritual qualities to plants and other natural objects resulted in what we call nature worship. This was the root of totemism, the deification of animals and plants, and of the use of amulets and talismans. Amulets of animal origin such as claws and teeth, signify the positive qualities of that creature. For example, the tigers tooth symbolizes courage and strength. Hence, the amulets are also connected with totems. From these beliefs was derived the high polytheism of primitive peoples, and their worship of the spirits of nature. Practices such as magical rituals and sacrifice were ways they invented to bring nature and life within their control, or at least within reach of their understanding.
It is important to stress that amulet is not the synonym for talisman, so we will stress the difference between these two terms.
As for “talisman”, the derivation and meaning of this strange word are difficult to determine.

Different meaning and different purpose

It is found in Arabic under the forms tilasm and plural talasim, and the root talisam means “ to make marks like a magician“. But there is little evidence that the Arabs borrowed the word from the Greek τελεσμα , one of the meanings of which is a “consecrated religious object” or ultimately from the verb teleō (τελέω), “I complete, perform a rite”. The object of the talisman is quite different from that of the amulet and unlike amulet it must be manmade.

Talisman for specific purpose

The amulet is supposed to exercise its protective powers on behalf of the individual or thing continually, whereas the talisman is only intended to perform one specific task. Also, talisman should be created by the person who plans to use it. It is also said that the person who makes the talisman must be well-versed in the symbolism of elemental and planetary forces. But the line which divides the amulet from the talisman has rarely been observed by any people who regard such as parts of the machinery of magic, and in modern times the use and meanings of the two objects are generally confounded, even by educated folk who are superstitious. And the experts are not agreed on the subject.
Symbolism was significant part of life in ancient Egypt and featured particularly in the use of amulets with the earliest known examples dating from the Predynastic Badarian period (ca. 4400-4000 BC). The Egyptian word for amulet was mk-t, which means “protector”. Another word used to denote an amulet was udjau, meaning “the thing which keeps safe,” or the “strengthener.”
The Egyptians believed that many of the substances of which their amulets were made possessed magical properties that could be absorbed by their wearers. Made of ceramics, gems and metals, amulets signified attributes of specific gods or animals. They were worn as symbols of praise, protection, and fortune, and were entombed with mummies for the journey into the afterlife.
Scarab beetle is maybe the most known Egyptian amulet. It symbolized the Egyptian Sun god, Khepri who rolled the Sun across the sky much as scarab rolls its dung. Scarabs were also thought to protect the heart and as such were worn as amulets. One more of well-known Egyptian amulets is Eye of Horus. The right eye of Horus symbolizes the Sun, and the left eye the Moon. As a symbol the eye signified protection from evil and was also used to grant the wearer healing powers.
The value of an ancient Egyptian amulet went beyond just the symbolism of what it depicted — its power would have been “activated” by magical practice. Indeed, many spells recorded on papyrus include instructions to be spoken over amulets in various forms. Once “activated,” an amulet would be worn to ensure that its owner continued to benefit from the magic that it now embodied.