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Whether it is superstition or fact, charms have been documented for
hundreds of years. Particularly prominent in the legends, these
fascinating and often extraordinary methods of obtaining one's willful
ideas add a certain mystique to the Celtic stories. This article goes
over three of these charms. The Fith-Fath, the Evil Eye and the Thumb
of Knowledge. The latter two are relatively well known with the first
I feel not quite so common.
The spell or charm appears to be the product of concentrated will
power. Ideally the Celtic magician actually tried to assume the very
nature of the person or object that he was trying to influence. It is
believed that there is a unity in Nature that allowed this kind of
transformation to take place. The charm was usually narrated in verse,
taking the exact tone or vibration that the essence of the force
required was existing on.
The first enchantment mentioned was called Fith-Fath, it has a few uses
but one of the most popular was employed to give invisibility to the
caster. This is apparently still practiced in the Western Isles of
Scotland, fath or faeth being a poem or incantation which may be best
defined in the phrase "words of magic". The expression itself has its
origins in the term fath, meaning the poetic art, which brings us to a
more materialistic or earthly manifestation of magical poetry. Another
interpretation says that fith-fath are interchangeable terms and applied
to the occult power that makes things invisible or transforms one object
into another.
There is an excellent example in the Ossianic cycle of legends of this.
It is the story of Fionn's sweetheart, the mother of Ossian, for whom
Fionn had forsaken a woman of the Sidhe. The latter, infuriated by his
disloyalty, placed a fith-fath spell on her mortal rival and
transformed her into a hind. Dr. Alexander Carmichael translates the
charm as follows:
"A magic cloud I put on thee
from dog to cat,
from dog to cat,
from cow to horse,
from man to woman,
from young man to maiden,
and from little child, till I again return."
By speculation one could say that this verse is most potent in its
essence as it has within it constant reference from one state to
another, from one stage of life to another. Between the two states is
where the Celtic Otherworld exists. Timeless. Where anything is
possible and very magical. It also means that the person on whom the
charm is cast will not be set free of the spell by any of the above
Invisibility obviously has many uses and the fith-fath was favored by
hunters as when they left the forest with their prey they could render
themselves invisible and thus be unmolested by anyone. This charm was
given to the Tuatha De Danaan by the sea god Manannan Mac Lir whose
lordship of the sea most definitely gave him power over shifting fogs
and hence illusions. Gille Decair the trickster is the culprit here!
The fith-fath was also attributed to Angus Og, the ever young God who
dwelt invisible to mortals within the Brugh-na-Boyne.
The satire is a very damaging form of verbiage practiced by many bards.
Indeed it is part of their training to incorporate satire into their
teachings and repertoire of abilities. According to various Irish
authorities, this ability enabled the bard to disfigure his opponent
physically by words alone, of this there is no doubt.
For instance, a satire composed by Cairpre caused blotches to appear on
the face of Bres (the King of the Tuatha De Danaan) for not receiving
the hospitality that was due to him on a visit to the royal court.
Another of his lampoons caused the fomor to become powerless. Queen
Maeve of Ulster ensured that if Ferdiad did not enter into combat with
his best friend Cuchulain, then her bards would transform him with
satires to such a degree that he would perish with shame. It should
also be remembered that bards are of the druid caste and hence are
masters of magic themselves.
The last snippet of information involves the pronunciation of fith-fath
which is fee-fa, which one could associate with a fairy tale reference,
that of the typical giant's "fee-fi-fo-fum", this incantation would
enable the giant to have power over his adversary.
Another common channel for a charm was the burrach or spancel. This
object consisted of a cord or rope made of horsehair, with a loop at
one end and a knob of hard wood at the other for fastening it. The
adept or fairy was credited with having nine of these spancels and even
the ordinary spancel which had several uses was always associated with
the uncanny. The spancel was commonly used by livestock men to keep
cows' legs in position whilst milking them. After use it was hung up in
the byre and always given special regard. It was believed by the people
in possession of the spancel that if anyone outside of the family
acquired it then that person would have the produce of the cattle in
their power.
The fairies would also be accused of taking the pith out of the milk
(that is, the goodness) by laying the burrach on the ground near the
livestock, on the grass if dew was on the ground. The dew has long been
attributed with Otherworld qualities since it forms at twilight, a time
in between day and night.
The nine fettered spancel, if applied properly, is said to be capable of
taking the will away from the person concerned, rendering he or she so
ineffectual as to enable any fool or coward to defeat him or her in one
to one combat, or any other dispute for that matter. A verse
accompanying such a spell might go as follows:
"To lay thee under spells and crosses
Under pain of being struck
by the nine cow fetters
of the wildly roaming Traveller
deluding fairy woman
So that some sorry little wight,
More feeble and misguided than thyself,
Take thy head, thy ear,
And thy life's career away from thee".
Next is a fairly well known item within folklore. It is known as the
Evil Eye, or in the Highlands "e'il e'e" ("droch shuil" in Gaelic).
Attributed to, or rather, possessed by, a rare few. It was said to have
been gained by a peculiar envy or malignity on behalf of its owner,
though it was perfectly possible for the ordinary person to have the
eye and not know anything about it.
A single malefic glance is felt by many people in life, for the soul
is sensitive like a fine tuned harp, very sensitive to many influences,
particularly to those who are hostile to them. I do not mean necessarily
if someone is known to have opposing beliefs to us. I mean if somebody's
mere presence affects our aura. For example, some people seem to radiate
a warmth about them whereas a mere look from some people can dampen our
Again we find an example in the Celtic legends regarding this charm.
The main one being of the Fomorian God, Balor of the baleful eye
himself, the gaze of which is said to wither all before its range of
vision. It is said to have required fifty warriors to lift up the lid of
the eye in order to unleash its wrath.
This is how he came by this power. One day a young Balor was walking by
the workplace of the druids when his curiosity got the better of him
and he decided to take a look through a window at the goings on within.
Just at that point when he lowered his head through, the druid lifted
the lid of the cauldron they were working incantations over. Some
vapours leaked out and crept underneath the lid of the eye and such was
the venom of the spell that it penetrated the very eye itself and was
from that day onwards imbued with the baleful force.
The last one in this particular article is known as the Thumb of
Knowledge. When a practitioner of magic desired to see into the future,
he would press his wisdom tooth hard with his thumb. The most famous
legends illustrating this old practise is Fionn mac Cumhal of the
Fianna of Erin. In his initiatory phases to becoming a great warrior and
magician he once jammed his thumb in the door of a fairy knoll and then
swiftly stuck his thumb in his mouth.
The knoll is symbolic of Otherworld knowledge and Fionn was obviously
seeking enlightenment, and through painful learning acquired wisdom
enough to have foresight into future events.
The other version is of course when Fionn put his thumb onto the
scalding skin of the salmon of knowledge and got badly burnt and then
thrust his thumb into his mouth.
I find the Scottish/Irish folklore in all forms fascinating and
fortunately there is alot more where these stories originated from.
[Copyright - S. Soyka DALRIADA MAGAZINE 1993]
Charms and Amulets
House Happy Charm - from Seasons
This is a small sachet pillow stuffed with good things, an excellent gift when people newly in love move in together. All the while you're assembling it, focus on their hopes, dreams and your bright wishes for their hearth.
Make a small pillow (I usually do a 5x5 square) from an interesting material. Leave one end open for stuffing.
Gather, mix and empower the following herbs:
Sage and Sandlewood for blessing and protection
Lavender for domestic tranquility
Rose petals to honor their love
Vervain for bright witchery
A couple drops of cinnamon oil.
Stuff the pillow and sew the open end shut
Decorate as desired
In sacred space, dedicate it under the auspices of the Lord and the Lady
If you're blessing your friends home for them, include the pillow in the ritual.
If they're doing their own home blessing, offer it as a house warming gift.
Acorn: Attracts the opposite gender, increases income, divinitory powers, and
Agate: Good luck, meditation, protection, health, purification.
Akhet: Ancient Egyptian amulet representing the rising sun. It is held to give the
wearer the vigor of the sun god Ra.
Aladdin's Lamp- A charm shaped like Aladdin's lamp means good luck and happiness.
Alligator Teeth- Protection from sorcery and danger.
Amber: Balance, harmony, protection, psychic power.
Amethyst: Power, peace, protection, spirituality, intelligence, luck, psychic power,
true love.
Animal Shapes: Amulets made from any material representing the shapes of
animals. They are supposed to give the wearer the desirable qualities of the animal.
Ankh: An Egyptian amulet meaning life or soul. It symbolizes enduring life and
grants the wearer one hundred thousand million years of life. Widely used as a
symbol for life, love, and reincarnation. It is depicted as a cross with a looped top.
When worn or carried, the ankh brings good health, promotes fertility, and
strengthens the psychic powers.
Bell: An amulet used by primitive and Western people whose sound was intended to
ward off the evil eye and dispel hostile spirits. In the Middle East bells were
attached to the harness of horses and camels for the same purposes.
Billiken: A good luck ornament in the shape of a human figure.
Cat: Cat-shaped jewelry represents prophecy, luck, protections, and the granting
of secret wishes.
Chai: A symbol of life. Usually made from gold or silver. It supposedly grants the
wearer longevity.
Cross: Life and divine protection. The Christians believed it to be a supreme amulet
against all forces of evil. The sign of the cross was thought to cure illness and
drive off demons.
Cylinder Seal: A seal cylindrical in shape made of clay, precious stones and
limestone worn around the neck by the Sumerians and other ancient people as a
signature to authenticate business agreements.
Dragon: Dragon-shaped amulets offer love, happiness, and fertility, as well as
Eye of God: Amulet used to conteract the evil eye. Made of sticks and colored yarn
by Huichol Indians of Mexico and attributed with power of protecting people,
homes, and fields.
Eye of Horus: Egyptian Eye of God made of gold, copper, silver, clay, faience, or
wood and worn to acquire strength, vitality, and protection against the evil eye.
Fetish: An amulet, charm, talisman, or object thought to have an embodiment or
habitation of a potent spirit. Provides power and strength.
Four Leaf Clover: Good luck amulet. The four leaves going clockwise from the left
side of the stem represents fame, wealth, love, and health.
Fox Tail: Good luck amulet attached to personal possessions . Primitive people
believed that it endowed the owner with the cunning of the animal.
Heart: An amulet worn by many people around the world. It's a symbol of love and
devotion. Ancient Egyptians thought the heart was the abode of the soul. In
Europe a heard amulet was reputed to prevent heart disease.
Hexagram: A figure of six lines forming a six pointed star. It is worn in many parts
of the world as a protection against evil. A widely worn symbol of the Jewish faith
called mogen David, shield or, popularly, star of David.
Horn of Plenty: A contemporary amulet symbolizing prosperity, modeled on the
legendary cornucopia overflowing with flowers and fruit.
Horse and Cattle Amulets: Decorations such as ribbons, bells, and bits of metal
once attached to animals in Europe and the Middle East to keep them from harm.
Horseshoe: A popular contemporary amulet nailed to barn doors for good luck.
Household Amulets: An amulet attached to a door or window to keep the house
from harm.
Knot: An amulet usually of knotted string or cord that was believed to hold the love
of a sweetheart or ward off illness.
Magic Triangle: Cabbalistic amulet based on the belief that by reducing the size of
an inscription, line by line, and evil spirit could be eased out of the sufferer.
Jupiter: Brings honor and riches to the wearer.
Mars: Induces courage, persistence, and recklessness. Usually made of red stone,
such as a ruby.
Mercury: Brings success in arts and science. It also gives skill in detecting thieves.
Best made out of agate, carnelian, and sardonyx.
Mezuzah: Doorpost amulet designed to keep a house safe from evil spirits, demons,
Moon: Amulet worn in ancient and modern times to bring success in love and good
fortune in travil. To assure good fortune it should be worn as a waxing, not a waning
moon. That is, with the points to the left.
Nefer: An amulet worn by the Egyptians. It represents beauty and goodness. It
probably is a form of the heart and windpipe, and was thought to bring youth and
happiness. Very popular for making necklaces.
Pentagram: A symbol for protection. Also represents the figure of a human being.
Should be worn with one point up. A five pointed star representing the five
elements of air, fire, water, earth, and spirit.
Earth - represents stability and physical endurance. (bottom left point).
Fire - represents courage and daring. (bottom right point).
Water - represents emotions and intuition. (right point).
Air - represents intelligence and the arts. (left point).
Spirit - represents the All and the Divine. (top point).
The circle around the star represents the God/Goddess; it refracts and reflects
all light, bringing to the wearer total intelligence, universal wisdom and protection.
This becomes a graphic portrayal of Spirit ruling over the five elements. When the
pentagram is placed within a circle, its energy is focused and directed.
Ra: Thought to give long life and strength.
Rings: Worn as amulets to treat illness, dispel forces of evil, keep lovers together,
and prevent flight of the soul from the body.
Saturn: Promotes dignity, industry, trustworthiness, and success in business. Best
made from black stones such as jet, obsidian, or black coral.
Scarab: A variety of beetle: image of beetle in clay, faience, precious stones, or
other material. Acquire the strength and long life of the god of creation. Was also
thought to speak up in the judgement room for a favorable verdict for their
Sma: An amulet representing the shape of lungs. Was used by Egyptians to give
breathing power to the dead by placing on their mummies.
Star: Ward off evil or encourage good fortune.
Sun: Said to bestow prosperity and friendship.
Tassel: An amulet made of a bunch of cords, threads, or strands hanging from a
knob or roundish head. In Egypt was thought to bring happiness. Now a symbol of
good luck in Mexico. In the Middle East evil spirits were said to shun tassels.
Turtle: A tortoise-shaped charm provides courage, creativity, intelligence, spiritual
protection, compassion, fertility, sexuality, and protection.
Venus: Grants love and appreciation of beauty.
 thanks to Spirit Online for the above information.