by Sylvia Farley
Manhood rites for native Americans, living close to nature, often involved a quest for a personal talisman. The young initiate would be sent out alone into the wilderness, fasting, to discover who he was. He expected to receive dream revelation concerning his clan and his role in society and to find a personal token of some kind to keep as a sacred record of his ordeal and a constant source of inspiration.
Nowadays some people believe a talisman should be an item of jewellery, purchased with a specific goal in mind, which is constantly kept on the body and not touched by anyone else. Others people believe that a talisman can be any object that has a powerful effect on emotions, and therefore on events, since emotion has a powerful effect on actions.
Talismans, amulets and icons all serve roughly similar purposes. A talisman, from the Greek word “telein”, meaning "a mystery revealed," often bears some form of written message. An amulet is a charm to ward off evil. An icon is a symbolic representation. All three fulfil a similar purpose: to inspire and comfort and to form a focus for concentration on spiritual values. Talismans are message bearers, protectors and good-luck charms. Often people instinctively seek a talsiman when they feel a need for guidance and new directions. Anyone can benefit from a finding a talisman, particularly when one role comes to and end and they are looking for a new purpose in life.
You may believe this guidance comes from some supernatural agency, from your own unconscious mind, or from some interaction of the two. You can learn a great deal and derive comfort, insight and strength from taking time to search for some item that will symbolise your belief in your ability to break out of your present difficulties and build yourself a new and better life.
Even without a wilderness experience like that of less civilized seekers of enlightenment, there are things you can do to make the quest a meaningful and enjoyable ritual.
If you live and work in town, you could make a special trip to go window-shopping until you see some item that "speaks" to you. Then you can take it home to occupy a prominent position where you can study it often and ferret out the messages it holds. It does not matter what it costs. It may be some small fantasy toy in cheap plastic or it may be a valuable piece of jewellery. The important thing is that you recognize it as having meaning for you and being a worthwhile investment in yourself. You will know if it is right for you.
If you have access to a beach, a forest, or a country walk, take a picnic and spend time there alone, just thinking about the things you need to know and looking for the item that will come to mean so much to you over the next few months or years. It may be a shell, a pine-cone, a piece of driftwood or a stone. It could be anything.
In the words of a Yorkshire doctor, "If in doubt - do nowt! " In other words, do nothing until you are absolutely certain that you recognise the object that will be your inspiration and your guide. It could take hours, weeks or even months to find your talisman, but you will know it when you see it. It may take days allow yourself to claim it, especially if it is quite different from anything you had imagined, or more expensive than you had intended.
Trust yourself to know it when you find it. Have faith that it is important to you. It will become a treasured symbol of your growth towards all you can be.
One seeker spent a drenching evening on a stormy beach and returned with a shiny pebble on which some sea-creature had built a pattern of limestone swirls like some bizarre script. He described it as his message from the universe, It was a Rosetta stone he could not read, polished from its years of battering against the shore. It was hard, indestructible and had a shining beauty all its own. He recognised it as symbolic of his own struggle. It had qualities he could claim as his own.
The hieroglyphs written on it eons ago promised him a source of meditative thought. He could guess at some phrase they suggested to him and explore the ways in which the perceived message was relevant to his situation and his needs. Truly, he had opened a line of communication beyond his conscious and rational mind which was a rich source of future inspiration from the Universe, or from his unconscious self.
Another young man, who had felt himself destroyed by the break-up of his family, came back from his assignment with a single sheet of paper, an illustration from a book he found in a charity shop. It was an engraving of a rearing stallion. He soon realised that it was telling him he still had health, strength, and virility and had only to tame the wildness of his emotions in order to emerge as a beautiful and powerful creature. It showed him the potential winner he had always been.
An older woman explained that she had three very special talismans, acquired over the years. Each had been appropriate to her needs at the time she found it. As a young, single parent, jobless, homeless and desperately poor, she saw a glass paperweight in a shop window. It was a deep burgundy in color, cut into flat planes through which she could see a sprinkle of tiny bubbles of air, like a galaxy swirling in deep space. She knew it would be stupid to spend money she did not have on something she did not need and could not afford. But, somehow, she kept being drawn back to that shop window to look at "her" paperweight. Several times she went into the shop, held it in her hands and gazed into the universe it held, caught in rich refracted light. She said that she had never seen anything like it, before or since. Eventually, she felt compelled to go back and buy it. As she travelled to the shop, she was afraid it would no longer be there. When she brought it home, she was beset by guilt and shame at spending so much money on something selfish and "useless". She was afraid that she would soon see it for the tawdry piece of folly it really was. But, after thirty years, it still had pride of place on her dressing table. She still loved it and found it both beautiful and inspiring. It still spoke to her of eternity. It taught her the lesson of peace, and of a vast potential . At a time when life was frantic and constricted, it was a token of her belief in herself and in her own worth. Without it, she had been able to see nothing but failure, danger and pain.
Years later, when her children were grown and her new husband had found a younger companion, she bought herself an intricately crafted miniature of a unicorn with her foal. This told her that she was not merely a lonely, middle-aged rejected wife with no role in life. She was a fabulous creature, a loving and nurturing mother. She was a faery thing with a magic all her own. Each time she dusted her dressing-table, she held it reverently in her hands to listen to its message again.
Later still, when she realized that she had become an old woman, she found the last treasured talisman in her collection. It is a gnarled piece of driftwood that has assumed the appearance of a tattered and whimsical dragon. It reassures her about endurance, humour and the individual value of even the most battered and unprepossessing of life's flotsam. Seen from certain angles and in certain lights it transcends itself to become something quite unique and wonderful.
Now it is your turn to follow her example. Go and look for your talisman. Find your inspiration for the next stage of your life.
Note from Editor: And if all else fails: