Big Rowan Ackison (greensh) wrote,
Big Rowan Ackison

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Magical Tools

A friend wrote about some objects that had significance in her life. Their purposes were not made clear, but that was OK. It made me think about the role of objects in the shamanist's life. I was reminded that such objects could be categorized into two groups... totems and fetishes.

An examination of these groups begins with definitions.

Totem: a natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and adopted by it as an emblem.

Fetish: an inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.

 Shamanic traditions include the incorporation of holy objects together into a receptacle like a pouch. Such collections are powerful because they include both totems and fetishes. I really like these definitions. The pouch could be considered a totem, an object of spiritual significance, and the objects contained within would be fetishes, objects with magical powers.

My thoughts go back to my friend. What were her objects? For sure they were totems. It is easy for an object to have spiritual significance or be an emblem for an idea. A typical totem is like a thread around a finger, reminding the wearer to remember something. The string does not inherently have power, but it reminds the wearer of some higher truth.

If a totem is magical, what differentiates it from a fetish? Totems can be incredibly useful magically. The answer lays in the understanding of magic and how it can work. An object inhabited by a spirit would be actively magical, like a hand grenade is because of the explosives within. This kind of fetish is very rare in our modern world. The more typical magical object has its powers because of the application of energy, intent, and a focused direction. This kind of magic is like the bucket of water placed on the top of a partially opened door. A hand grenade versus a bucket trap. See the difference?

Another purpose for the totem is as a spiritual trigger or doorway.  They are used to manage or focus magic.  The bucket analogy fits this use as well!
Do you use totems? Have your created or have been given a fetish? Honor the first, and be very careful of the latter. This is the power that the medicine man's pouch carries.
Tags: magic, shamanist, tools

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