Defining Talismans + (Authentic) Talismanic Materia
I recently had the good fortune and tremendous honor of appearing on Rune Soup for my first ever podcast (AHH!), where the inimitable Gordon White asked about talismans and defining the realm of talismanic materia. This article has been on the ever-waxing “to write” list for a while now, so this seems like a timely opportunity to elaborate…
First off, what is a Talisman?
A talisman is an item of power, classically created of metal and/ or stone at particularly fecund times for whatever forces one intends to capture. They feature inscriptions of key images, names, glyphs or sigils, and are created for the purpose of generating specific magical effects for their owner. They’re often intended to be worn and thus appear in the form of rings or pendants, but aren’t strictly limited to that per se.
There are certain protocols that are consistently employed in the creation of talismans, if we’re going by the book (which is The Picatrix, btw). For astrological talismans, the first step involves selecting the election of its creation, which is the single most important aspect of the working, since the exact timing of the talisman’s creation is what gives the item its character. You’re locking in the qualities of that very specific moment in time, in hopes of perpetuating it for as long as possible.
As I described in a social media post recently:
Each minute is an electional snowflake through the hourglass of our lived experience in place and time, and our job as astrological magicians is to capture the very finest in hopes of preservation.
The space-weather waits for no one – you either bring it all together and stick the snowflake’s landing, or it falls to the ground to join the others, forming one big blanket covering all that has Passed.
Key in the charts of talismans is a supportive Moon, for we’re engaging in a process of materialization. We’re calling the powers of stars and planets into our sub-lunary world and giving them flesh; so even though one may be trying to create a Venus talisman, they can’t just pay attention to Venus.
For the operation to be a success and an election to be worthy, the chart as a whole must be taken into account and provide key supportive factors (and reduce harmful ones) to get a good, clean catch. This both empowers the talisman and mitigates unintended side effects, which is absolutely a thing in the talismanic art.
Once the election has been chosen, one collects and prepares their base materia. Talismans can be made of anything, not just any common casting metal with stones plentiful or precious. The form one chooses is usually down to skillset and accessibility, in terms of — most of us aren’t jewelers and also can’t afford to cast our badass Jupiter talisman in 24k gold with a flawless yellow sapphire, #goals as that may be. One of my most beloved and commonly utilized talismans is literally a loaded sprinkle jar, in faithful service for about a decade. As previously mentioned, talismans, in practice, take many forms.
Once your materials are together and you’ve got your design planned, you wait for that key moment, and then get on with the talisman’s ritual production. At the highest level, that includes preparing yourself, your tools, and your space, and dressing the part. The operation always opens with a (sometimes lengthy) address to the powers you’re trying to call down, the burning of incense, and the actual creation of the talisman, which should also be bathed in smoke (suffumigated).
Once the deed is done, the talisman is typically stowed and left to rest in order for the charge to set, hence Sphere + Sundry’s policy of letting each series incubate for a full lunar cycle before re-homing.
How do talismans work?
For starters, they’re magic! (Good) magic works so talismans work, but we can get more specific than that…
The way I see it, every person is a walking, talking talisman of their own natal chart. They were born in a specific place at a particular time, and the nature of exactly that was imprinted in them, and they carry that forth until the day they die (and even then!). The ripples from that single moment move outward to constitute the whole of their lives. It influences their personalities, determines at least some degree of their fate, all that jazz.
Talismans function very similarly. We elect to form them under certain auspices, give the nature of the power we’re tapping an appropriate body/ vessel to inhabit, and ultimately give “birth” to them via our ritual act. If all comes to term and they have the talismanic equivalent of 10 fingers and 10 toes, they’ll operate as outputs for the powers successfully captured, and can typically be expected to continue for the duration of their lifetime, especially with proper care and feeding.
Talismanic materia is created when you follow all of the guidelines and protocols typically employed in talisman creation, but are making something less set in stone (har! see what I did there?).
Oils go rancid. Candles burn down. You simply cannot mark the physical water or incense blend with the correct images and names as you do a ring or pendant. It’s the difference between getting a tattoo, which becomes part of your naked body, versus wearing that same mark as a sticker or the design of your tee shirt. One is part of the vessel, the other is just on top of it.
A true talisman is a fixed body, or in the case of bottle talismans, a closed system, and their effects are essentially radiant. Talismanic materia is applied in a series of doses that use up the formula, and can even be superior — in my experience — for targeted applications.
Such items can store highly potent charges and create effects just as powerful as a proper talisman, but are similar to batteries in that they contain a fixed amount of power determined by dosage (using all of it) or time (it going “bad” on a material level). In the classical sense, a genuine talisman is capable of restoring its own charge and perpetually regenerating effects, whereas talismanic materia is more transient, and also functions differently, in accord with its form. But we’ll touch more on that in the next article 😉
With all the interest and opportunity in astrology, witchcraft, and in some corners, the influence of Sphere + Sundry, more people are engaging in the practice of trying to time the creation of their own products to specific astrological forces and advertising that fact, which is wonderful.
I love that we’re living in a time where the world is becoming a more magical place and people are more in tune with the space weather, HOWEVER… a lot of people are getting fast and loose with the use of the terms “talisman” and “talismanic”, and proper distinctions should be made when it comes to the well worn tradition of astrological magic.
This is not to hate on or degrade any other provider, it’s simply education for consumers to know what they’re actually getting for their money, because talismanic materia is not yet well understood. Lots of people create wonderful products that are phenomenal and potent using different techniques, and I support any good practitioner authentically practicing their craft and wish all of us profound and incredible success.
In the podcast, I touched on the different tiers of commonly available planetary materia. They are essentially:
- Any oil, incense, perfume, etc. made at any ol’ time that someone slaps a planetary label on. No attention was paid to the planetary timing and it was mundanely manufactured, involving no ritual at all.
That’s by far the most common type. Lots of companies and people offer stuff like that because… it sells well, it’s easy to make, and most people don’t know the extent to which astrology and magic are real. The result is most likely an inert, sorcerously toothless curio. If items in this category possess any power, it would come from the proper materials the planet rules being used in the formula, and/ or the faith, timing, and magic of the user.
- Any oil, incense, perfume, etc. created with basic attention paid to timing, such as something for Venus made on Venus’ day, and perhaps hour. Often those in this category of production also pay attention to Lunar cycles, but not necessarily the sign or condition the planet or Moon was otherwise in at the time, nor what was rising or other chart factors.
- Same as above, but ritually created.
Now we’re getting somewhere! And a lot of those product are wonderful!
But still, NONE of the above categories fit the full criteria for being authentic talismanic materia, because as we’ve already discovered, the entire chart comes into play. The Moon must be supporting, the key powers should be on the chart angles or good houses, and all the other factors that make an election truly talisman worthy must be present.
THAT is how you make authentic talismanic materia per the astrological tradition. And that is HARD to achieve, because you’re trying to isolate the single best available moment any one thing has to offer, which requires a good, preferably well seasoned electional astrologer (who is also familiar with the talismanic art, and hopefully also magic) to determine.
Most of us aren’t that — certainly not I! And that’s where Austin Coppock, one of the best and most pioneering astromages of our time (I’m biased, of course, but have full confidence history will regard that as a fact) comes into play, who devotes hours and hours to the selection of every Sphere + Sundry election, and holds over a decade of eyeball deep experience with astrological and talismanic practice.
Why am I emphasizing this? Enter…
The Perils of Bad Elections
Plain and simple: If you don’t have a good election, you’re not going to get good results in this form of practice.
True talismanic materia is a snapshot of the entire chart as it relates to the power you’re emphasizing. If there’s bad stuff going on, that material will manifest it.
Often a botched election will cause the exact opposite of the results you’re looking for, because the significator you’re emphasizing is being harmed in some way, and sort of contrary to G’s podcast comments regarding planets vs. fixed stars, planets are usually harder elections to consider, because they’re fickler with their constant wandering and hold broader rulership over our lives.
Many years ago, I was given a Venus talisman by someone I sincerely believe had good intentions but wasn’t very experienced — the first (and last) time I wore it, I broke a high heel (the only occasion that’s ever happened), had a random woman freak out on me in public, and got into a huge fight with my partner before bed. All in that one evening, while wearing the talisman.
An assault on Venusian apparel, confrontational disharmony, and spousal tumult are all clearly related to the sphere of Venus, but are inversions of desirable effects, and it’s because some harmful factor was missed in the electional chart for the talisman. Obviously it got destroyed after that.
Other elections aren’t bad, they’re just weak. This comes from overlooking the supportive factors that go into architecting the chart and featuring prominently the configuration you’re looking to capture.
Give me less power over something that will cause harm to me and my life any day! I imagine you hold similar sentiments.
This is why it’s tremendously important for people providing items created at specific times to post the date, time, and location of their working (preferably in the form of an easily accessible full chart), if they’re advertising the product functions in any sort of astro-talismanic regard, and there was ritual creation involved.
Even if you can’t read that chart as a consumer, it shows that the provider stands by their work and is transparent to those who can. Saying something was crafted at an “auspicious” time simply isn’t a high enough standard for talismanic materia, in my (notoriously loud) opinion.
If you’re not engaged in the production of talismanic materia, it’s still great to time things to the degree you’re able, but I would recommend leaving a ritual call to the planet out of it, because it can act to further embed the nature of the actual election into your creation without a full analysis of whether or not it’s desirable.
On Par Side Effects vs. Signs of a Botched Election
Admittedly, these things are a well informed crap shoot. You do the best job you can assessing the quality of an election and anticipating the effects it’ll have, but things can always surprise you as you actually engage the items, and how they relate to certain individuals can differ.
This is a factor in why I consider talismans and talismanic materia as its own life form — they have personalities and manners of working that are super specific to the exact chart of their creation, and intersects with the chart of the user. No two runs will ever be exactly the same, because the quality of time is so unique. Again, snowflakes through the hourglass of our lived experience.
Side effects will still occur, even if the work was successful. The question is if it’s in productive alignment with what the item is supposed to achieve. This is why my writeups are so long and as up front as possible with the down side of engaging these offerings. Clients have a strong right to informed consent.
For instance, if I have something important to get done or have been procrastinating, I’ll pray to St. Expedite to ensure whatever needs doing happens as quickly as possible, and then spray myself and the altar with a few spritzes of his Holy Water.
What I’ve come to discover is that it becomes exceedingly difficult to sleep or rest until that thing gets done, and it’s kept me up all night before, as I became practically obsessed with completing whatever task and consumed with energy to devote to it.
Is that altogether desirable? It doesn’t always feel like it at the end of an exhausting day , but it gets the job done. That’s a side effect of the magic working, not a harmful unintended consequence of a botched election. These are important distinctions. Most processes aren’t peaches and cream the whole time, and if you want the benefit of an omelet, some eggs’ll get cracked along the way.
That being said, you can never fully confirm the effects will be desirable or what you were hoping for until you begin working with the talismanic item in question, which is why I engage in heavy field testing of each item of every series and employ beta testers before releasing it to the public.
Thank god I haven’t had a botched series (knock on wood), but if it ever happens, the entire thing is getting axed. I don’t care how much time I spent on it or what money I could make. Fruitful potency and client protection is, always and forever, my utmost concern.
Thanks for sticking with me through all that! Hopefully this helps to clarify terms within the broader discourse and empowers customers to better understand the world of genuine talismanic materia as it intersects with the long tradition of astrological magic and talismanry. It remains an honor and a privilege to be a provider of this very distinct form of profoundly practical magic ✨
For those looking to learn more about astromagistry and talisman making, Austin has many online classes and recordings, which I recommend not because he’s my husband, but because he’s one of the best at what he does. Enjoy!