In Ancient Egyptian magic, there were a large number of talismanic objects. Geraldine Pinch, in her Magic in Ancient Egypt, describes them as possibly being bags containing a number of charms, worn on a knotted string. This makes me think of the gris-gris or mojo bag of diaspora magical traditions. This, too, is a collection of charms and curios with similar magical “signatures,” all places together in one place.
These collections of objects are quite a bit like the spirit box or spirit jar, a very old tradition (the Hermetic text Asclepius describes how to make one in a statue, for example) with a lot of contemporary popularity. The difference is that a spirit jar contains items consistent with the spirit’s nature, and the spirit is invited or asked (or forced) to dwell within it.
But what is it one does in contemporary practice when one “charges” a talisman? Isn’t it inviting something to dwell within it?
This distinction-without-a-difference is a really good example of how selection of magical paradigm can color one’s practice. If you adhere to the energy paradigm, you will make talismans and analogize them as batteries to be “charged.” If you adhere to the spirit paradigm, you will make spirit boxes, bags, jars, and analogize them as homes to be dwelled within. Is there a difference? I suspect to individual practitioners there can be.
When I look over my magical journals, there are lots of successes. There are also a few failures. A lot of those few failures are talismanic in nature, and most of those are talismans I conceived of as “charging” with “magical energy.” For a while, I just assumed I sucked at making talismans — but I had some vivid successes in the past. For example, I once got a job by charging a talisman and then sitting in front of the TV until a stranger called and offered me a job — within a week. What was the difference between that and all the failures?
The difference was the paradigm.
I’m not saying that the energy paradigm is bunk, so let’s not pick that fight again. But I am saying that sometimes, individual magicians resonate better to particular views of magic, and work better when they work from those paradigms.