[Workshop] Creating your own Talismanic

In ancient times amulets and talismans were made and worn for
specific purposes. They were imbued with the intention and focus of
the maker. Whether it was to bless them with the energy of the
animal they were hunting, heal an illness, or to protect from
harmful intent each piece had a purpose aside from adornment. Their
power came from a connection with natural forces and religious

The belief that a person, if he/she knows how, can start some
mysterious forces rolling that can direct and control will or health
is very ancient. These forces are activated by spoken words,
performance of ceremonies, and the use of objects charged with
magical properties. They are not used with negative intent and only
with blessings.

In this workshop we will learn tools to use in our creation process
so that the finished pieces will take on a meaning and purpose that
will enhance a good design and raise it from the mere ornamental
stage to a place that evokes memory, reaction, bonding, and a sense
of power to the wearer as well as others who view it.

In this context each workshop participant will be able to create a
personal talisman designed to be wearable in our modern society. We
will use found objects collected out in nature along with the pieces
you bring with you that might already have an energetic connection
or representation for you. Be it crystal, stone, bone, feather,
wood…through circle ceremony and meditation each person will be
led to find their inner vision and assisted in manifesting it into a
wearable piece of powerful jewelry.

Any jewelry skill level is welcome. Please bring with you any hand
tools that you use and wire, plate metal, beads, objects, sketch
books that you might want to incorporate into your process.

Beth McElhiney has been a jeweler for over 25 years and is now from
Martha’s Vineyard. She is an award winning designer and an
accomplished silversmith. By tapping into her training in earth
based religions and energy healing her jewelry transcends the
ordinary and becomes an intimate object for her clients. She has
been commissioned to do necklaces which hold healing for illnesses,
memory boxes of those who have passed away, and “life” bracelets
that are filled with symbols to represent the phases of the
client’s life journey. Her fascination with ancient symbols
and patterns has led to her current collection of pieces which feel
ancient but are fashion forward and easily wearable in today’s

Beth McElhiney

Wow Beth,

This sounds like a great workshop, only you forgot to tell us the
where, the when and the how much.

From the medieval alchemical texts I have researched, true talismanic
properties must be specifically assessed for each individual and the
talismanic object must be made during the correct astrological cycle
of the persons life for it to be an effective tool for the
concentration of that individuals mental energies towards over coming
their own karmic blockages.

A couple of books I would highly recommend for undertaking the
creation of a personal talisman would be: “The Complete Dictionary of
Symbols,” by Jack Tresidder from Chronicle Books, Duncan Baird
Publishers, and “Ancient Astrological Gemstones and Talismans,” by
Richard S. Brown G.G., AGT Co. Publishers, Thailand. Any books on the
Kabbalah would also be helpful.

Good luck with this workshop, it sounds very exciting.
Nanz Aalund

Greetings everyone,

Somehow my posts yesterday were split into two and the one about my
Worshop concept was made into a posting actually presenting the
workshop as an actual event. The original submitted post was asking
you all for feedback on the concept and critique of the presentation
of the idea. It is not finalized and dates/places are not set up yet.
As of right now it is and idea forming itself. Does anyone know of
someone out there doing anything like this yet?

Thanks for any advice or interest,
Beth McElhiney

I have been asked to make talismans/amulets at a specific time, due
to the phase of the moon. Which I did. Interesting.



I will look forward to the time this idea becomes reality. If done
well it would be a great learning experience on many levels.

Does anyone know of someone out there doing anything like this

As far as that question goes, there is one self-titled artist who
will call, every bent piece of iron binding wire or burnt-edged
textbook scrap that she has clumsily coated in epoxy resin, a
talisman. She is more of a charlatan than a shaman,

claiming degrees from Universities where she has never been a
registered student, but, she is very popular with the DIY contingent.

Steer clear of anything too hack, or too simplistic and you should
be ok.

I would highly recommend researching the work of Ramona Solberg, Ron
Ho, Thomas Mann, Kathleen Browne, and Lori Talcott. Although none of
these artists refer to their own work as talismans, (well, maybe
Thomas Mann does) they have created works that viserally resonate
with a shamanic quality.

I am not suggesting to copy their styles, but, get a feeling for the
symbolism they use and how it is used to convey meaning. You can find
a sampling of these artists’ work in Tim McCreight’s “Boxes and
Lockets” and his book “Fundamentals of Metalsmithing”

Good Luck and keep us all posted on your progress,
Nanz Aalund


I taught a self-designed workshop last year called “Making your own
Positive Affirmation Piece”.

I have one coming up called “Designing a Blessings Necklace”.

Both of them start with people bringing in small items that are
special to them, beads they have collected and personal information
they wish to include in their piece. You can include words that are
important, use stones that you believe are pertinent to your goals or
concerns and iconography in designing your piece.

So far they have been quite popular. People end up with a personal
piece that feels powerful to them. Sometimes they physically create
the piece or in the Blessings Necklace Workshop they pick the pieces
and I will put it together.

It sounds somewhat like Creating your own Talisman. Just different

Karen, near Chicago IL

shaman and charlatan. great analogy Nanz! The “trade” is wrought
with both! One overlooked and highly gifted jeweler that in her
"artist statement" says “[she] has never made a talisman [she] didn’t
like” is D. X. Ross.

Thom Mann’s techno-romantic pieces and the larger body of his work
isn’t talismanic in my experience of it. and having extensive
anthropological and ethnographic education I would also add that
anyone attempting to offer a “workshop” in creating "talismans"
should provide the attendees with a reasonable amount of preliminary
reading material into the academic and widely accepted scholarship
in objective definition of what talismans are and were historically
and to what cultures and present actual representative works made by
the various cultural groups that use talismanic art or tangible
amulets, adornment, and other physical works that have
magico-religious significance. all else is idiosyncratic
interpretation of a protective charm used by x group for x purpose.
which may be the entire point of Beth’s proposed “workshop”…

One of the leading scholars in shamanic art and the evolution of
modern shamanic practices in the USA is Dr. Martha C. Ward. In the
late 70’s -80’s we collaborated on many ethnographic recording
projects, and actual fieldwork in magico-religious art and artifacts
over as many locations around the world as we could get grants for!
I feel confident in attesting that Talisman’s are not simply a piece
of bone or a pine cone tied to a frame or glued to a backing, or cold
connected to some “found object” that imitates a cultures
identifying belief system through symbolic representations of
protection tools from perceived negative forces at play in the realm
of super-natural (meaning other than natural) world as experienced by
a particular group or the practitioner’s of a belief system that is
generally pre-christian/polytheistic or that has continued-without
interference from the world outside their territories- (the Yanomami
are an example of this uninterrupted belief system that predates
christian civilization) since the culture or group originated. I
suppose I mirror what you are saying in that :

  • preliminary research must be done in order to remove one’s self and
    preconceptions from attempting to confer on students - even if they
    are ultimately students of jewelry making- the scope and various
    forms of talisman and the intended meaning and significance of their
    use. for example, what is the maker intending to be protected from?.
    or else it’s simply a gratuitous effort in creating something of
    metal and other elements.

  • approaching the workpiece from a thorough knowledge of materials or
    symbolism used in a given catalogue of cultures that incorporate
    talismanic art into their belief systems then interpreting that with
    a “jewelerly approach” to create something that exceeds ‘bone- hung
    -from- a -piece -of -horsehair -on- a bit -of -sterling wire’ or any
    such elementary and meaningless token that someone is paying to learn
    how to make…

  • presenting oneself as a jeweler or a shaman: in my experience
    people that attend classes with the hope of learning from a
    jeweler/metalsmith how to replicate talismans want to create artful
    pieces that imply a magico-religious significance. and are less
    interested in an individual’s personal journey or self-portrait. and
    those that are there because they seek an actual ‘shaman’s’ guidance
    in fashioning some object of protection for themselves lack the basic
    jewelers skills necessary to create viable art jewelry, or jewelry at
    all- and are simply there to hobnob with like minded individual’s and
    glean attention in a pseudo-spiritual context from someone purporting
    to posses the knowledge and skills necessary to conducting shamanic
    intervention on an individual’s behalf. Here is where the "hack"
    comes in. easily an instructor can forget to separate the two
    approaches and in incorporating their own bent on a traditional or
    indigenous culture’s traditions lose the group to a discussion of
    belief systems rather than the intensive education or imparting of
    skills used to design and assemble any protective adornment
    regardless of methods used ( cold connected, soldered, back-set,
    fused, stone-set etc. ).

After a semester of educating a class of post-graduate
anthropologists in a survey of magico-religious symbolism in the
western hemisphere, they were asked in the first week of classes as
1 half of their final exam to create at least one talisman or amulet
based on their interpretation of a given (their choice) cultural
group’s symbolic representation of a belief from which protection
was widely accepted and used. of 35 students only ten completed the
assignment- t20 asked to write an additional paper because they felt
everything they had conceptualized was too juvenile or
"crafty-looking", or they simply lacked the skills needed to make
the item ( a huge array of objects, including metals, tools and
non-traditional jewelry making materials were provided and students
were asked to incorporate anything they wanted to add into the final
piece. Also, two extra curricular days were provided in metal-work
as a lab for learning basic jewelery-making skills), the rest drew
their conceptualizations out… The point: there has to be both
background in the tradition and adequate skills necessary to creating
what is conjured in an individual’s mind. the alternative is a very
limited imitation of whatever is presented by the “teacher”, or a
mass of hair, bones, botanical by-products and simple conncetion
methods or a mass of glued stuff with no real significance artistic
or personal…

R. E. R.

connected to some "found object" that imitates a cultures
identifying belief system through symbolic representations of
protection tools from perceived negative forces at play in the
realm of super-natural (meaning other than natural) world as
experienced by a particular group or the practitioner's of a belief

Haven’t really followed this thread, just a rainy SF afternoon. I
think I can put what RE said more directly, though her thoughts were
interesting. When I made turqoise jewelry in Albuq. someone said
that I wasn’t making Indian jewelry, though it was in the style, and
I never could because I’m not Indian. I realized that it was true,
and not because they said it, but that it’s true. Cultural jewelry
of all kinds, talismatic or otherwise, is a product of the culture
and comes out of the culture and an outsider doing it can only copy
or emulate it. I can, to a large degree, look at Indian jewelry and
tell you if it’s Indian made - largely, not infallibly. If people
want to study or make “talismanic jewelry” that’s fine, I just think
it’s important to understand what RE said, and this post - you can
make it, but if you don’t live it it’s not the real thing. Nothing
wrong with that, it’s just good to understand it.


Dear John,

Any person of any culture can create jewelry or artwork of personal
meaning and great depth. If they hold an intention or align with
certain energies while creating that piece it becomes an amulet or
talisman. There is no cultural appropriation here only assisting the
participants in going deeper into their own spirit world to connect
with the earth energies and all that surrounds them. I purposefully
did not state in my original post what my spiritual or medicine
training was because I plan on building the workshops around the
experiences of the participants. Leave it to say I have “walked my
talk” for many years and it shows in my own work and my connections
with people. I hope to be able to assist in adding more layers to the
design process for others and help them to develope their skills to a
higher level. The response I have received so far has been wonderful
and my first workshop is now scheduled for Ontario November 3rd and I
am very excited about this opportunity!


There is no cultural appropriation here only assisting the
participants in going deeper into their own spirit world to
connect with the earth energies and all that surrounds them. 

Sounds good to me, Beth. As I said, I hadn’t followed the thread, it
was just R.E.s thoughts I was dealing with - and some people think
they can come from New Jersey and make (truly) Buddhist artwork -
but you understand all that, as you said.


Namaste Beth!

I’d be very interested in hearing more about your workshop,
especially after its successful occurrence!

That sounds like something quite interesting. I like your concept of
assisting participants in connecting with energies more aligned with
the culture that is theirs on a deeply personal level.

Good luck! But then, you won’t need luck, just enjoy what you’ve
begun and what your workshop participants are helping you create.

An aside…we all have a culture upon which to draw
magic/power/energy/etc. from, and we all have a path we walk from
which we can do the same. It will be interesting to see how all of
this sorts out. And in addition, if you were an academic (you might
be…I’ve no way of knowing), you could do your dissertation on your
workshop paths in cultural anthropology. :slight_smile: