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Muslim, Christian and Jewish amulets on auction reflect similar hopes and fears

posted 29 Oct 2012, 10:57 by Mpelembe   [ updated 29 Oct 2012, 10:58 ]

A collection of ancient amulets going on sale in Israel shows that people of various religions have shared a number of common symbols for hopes and fears.

 TEL AVIVISRAEL (OCTOBER 29, 2012) (REUTERS) -  People from different cultures have put their faith in amulets, talismans and charms for thousands of years, and now a collection of ancient amulets going on sale at an Israeli auction house proves that we've all shared common symbols, fears and hopes.

The 348 specimens, ranging from prehistoric times to the modern era and displaying Pagan, Jewish, Christian and Muslim symbols, will go on the block in Ben-Ami Endres Auctions in Tel Aviv in Tuesday, October 30.

The Auction Catalogue author, Lenny Wolfe, says his 30 years experience in antiquities trade has brought him to the conclusion that amulets are similar in a variety of cultures.

"What's special about the collection is that you have a variety of amulets over a period of 8,000 years, covering many different cultures, principally the cultures from the Middle East, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Pagan, and from the Roman periods, pre-historic,Phoenician, Hebrew, from Israel and Judah the two kingdoms, Amonite, Moabite, Canaanite, Egyptian and as I said before they... basically they are similar amulets," Wolfe explains.

"After researching it for some time I found out that basically everyone is the same under the skin. It doesn't matter if you're Muslim or Jewish or Christian or Pagan or Canaanite or Phoenician, you all have the same... everyone has the same fears, the same wishes, the same hopes, the same desires and this is reflected in the amulets," he adds.

Wolfe says he has encountered difficulty in finding an auction house in Israel that would agree to juxtapose Pagan, Jewish, Christian and Muslim artefacts due to dealers' fears of hurting religious customers' feelings.

According to the auction catalogue, the same principles have been employed in the making and use of amulets over thousands of years, and thus modern amulets included in the collection are as valid to the potential collector as antique or ancient specimens.

Pectoral pendants, fertility figurines, house gods, mirrors, rings, and images of animals or religious symbols were all used to fulfil some amuletic principle, such as keeping evil at bay or giving the individual a sense of hope and protection, the catalogue says. It adds that some amulets are designed to bring harm, like a voodoo doll.

One of the most common amulets in Jewish and Muslim tradition - depicting an open hand as protection against the evil eye - is known as a "Hamsa" or the "Hand of Fatima", referring to Islam's Prophet Mohammed's daughter.

Another artefact depicts a silver gilt Hebrew pectoral amulet in the shape of a domed building, a symbol usually used by Muslims.

There is also a silver Star of David, with cross in centre, representing Christian Zionism - an essentially Protestant movement which supports the Jews' return to the Land ofIsrael to speed on the coming of the Messiah.

The amulets in the collection, which date back to 6000 B.C.E and include some with Hebrew, Aramaic, ancient Greek, Latin and Arabic inscriptions, cost between $25 and $5,000.