A plague. The lingering effects of a mad tyrant. A world teetering on the precipice. Wait, what did you think we meant? Because obviously we’re totally talking about 1348, the Black Death, and the mess that Edward II left in his wake. To be fair, if you guessed 2020, we could totally see that too.
But it only goes to show: There have always been terrible years. Decades even! And we make it through with whatever we find at our disposal, whether that be the need to buy a new plant whenever we’re feeling stressed (don’t you dare look at my baby Franklin the Spider Plant that way), calling our mom every five minutes, or putting on that necklace that makes us feel protected from the insanity of the world.
2020, 1348, and all the centuries before: Humans have always used coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of a world crumbling around them. And often, one of these coping mechanisms is jewelry, or more precisely, a talisman. Imbued with magic, prayer or protections, a talisman is thought to connect the physical to the spiritual and provide all the inherent benefits and defenses. Take for instance the evil eye. One of the most enduring talismanic symbols, the unblinking optical orb can appear on anything, but is frequently found on necklaces, rings, and bracelets — anything that is worn close to the body. It’s a symbol that originated in ancient Greece, and is a type of deflective talisman, also called apotropaic. It literally bounces the bad juju off, thereby saving you from whatever negativity was headed in your direction.
Which brings us to the other genre of talisman: the ones worn to attract positivity. Luck, love, fortune, fertility — the human’s eternal desires, unchanged throughout time. Everyone’s favorite positive pachyderm, the elephant, has been an enduring symbol of luck in Asia, representing strength and wisdom. Then you have the favorite of the ancient Egyptians, the scarab signifies new beginnings and eternal life. That little badass beetle, which plays out its whole life cycle from birth to breeding to food to death in a perfectly spherical dung ball, has maintained an enviable popularity since the pyramids were built (by aliens, of course — check out next week’s column for a deep dive into … kidding!).
Magic, color, symbol, material: the four primary traits that instill a talisman with its power. And, of course, the unspoken one, the fifth one: belief. It’s a meaningless trinket without the wearer’s buy-in. Think of any lucky charm you have. If someone found it on the street, would they understand its power? It’s a thread that connects us all; there’s a small place somewhere between our head, our heart and our spirit that allows us to feel peace and protection sparkling up at us from a chain around our neck.
Here are some bedazzled bodyguards to provide you with protection and courage. Use as needed.
Always AledaGolden Coral Branch Charm
Through the Georgian and Regency era especially, children and young women were given strands of dark red coral to wear as protection. In fact, many books and paintings from this time, such as the Peter Paul Rubens 1621 portrait of his son, feature necklaces of the peachy-red ocean rock. However, we much prefer Always Aleda’s environmentally friendly version: you get all of the same magic without hurting any sea life!
Elizabeth BuenaventuraEvil Eye Necklace
Plato talked about it, Megan Markle wears one: the evil eye is considered a classic symbol of protection for a reason. This Elizabeth Buenaventura version will put you in rarefied company AND keep you safe & glittery — what more could we ask for?!
Kimberly DoylePinky Ring Heart Signet
Though many of us immediately correlate the heart shape to its classic meaning — love — the iconic symbol also means courage. This signet can be a stand-in for affection for a loved one, romantic or otherwise, or it could give the wearer a little boost of the ol’ lionheart to face whatever challenges life may bring. Take heart.
Morgan Patricia DesignsDeep Sea Blue Jellyfish Pendant and Chain
Though the jellyfish isn’t historically a loaded symbol (let’s give humanity a break — it took a looong while to realize that manatees weren’t actually mermaids, so we assume people thought jellyfish were like, underwater stars made of gelatin basically up until a hundred years ago), we are petitioning to make this 2020’s ultimate talisman. The jellyfish is adaptable, beautiful, never gets its tentacles tangled and can still sting when dead — uh, did someone say icon? This gorgeous deep sea blue lapis pendant features a diamond-studded “sea jelly” (yes, that is actually another name for them) out here living its best life, ready to help you do the same.
Elizabeth BuenaventuraRoyal Snake Earrings
Ah, the snake! You may know him as the troublemaker from the Garden of Good and Evil or perhaps you recognize his slithering swerves from the infamous Egyptian symbol the ouroboros, or the snake eating its own tail. (Interesting historic aside: Prince Albert was so enamored of the romantic implications of the ouroboros, he proposed to Queen Victoria with a circle ring of a snake in a never-ending loop, representing the eternity they would spend together.) Depending on the culture and context (obviously) he can mean a number of things, but most frequently, the snake represents rebirth, renewal, knowledge and infinity. These golden serpents will whisper parseltongue sweet nothings into your ear, guiding you to eye-opening experiences.