Rituals and Traditions - Talismans and Charms

Like many other Oriental nations Turkmen had their own amulets, talismans, fetishes which have been attributed special significance and magic forces from time immemorial. Beads, birds feathers, rams' horns were among those. They were believed to be able to drive away evil spirits, summon good spirits and protect their owners from various troubles and misfortunes. These kinds of charms, which have survived until now, may have a form of an eye, heart, snake head, small shells, beetles-scarabs etc.

Sacral force was attributed to certain kinds of fruits, seeds and grains. One of the earliest amulets was the necklace made of the seeds of dzhida, pomegranate, pistachio, odorous clove. According to ancient beliefs the strong smell of these plants could protect from evil spirits and jinxes; a woman wearing such a necklace would have a lot of children.

An amulet against jinxes - "aladzha" can be found in all kinds of Turkmen arts and crafts. It is a string weaved from black-and-white threads. Thin "aldzhas" are worn on a wrist, neck, attached to clothes; thicker ones are hung above the front door of the house or inside on a wall.

A triangular poach with coal and salt kept in a white fabric amulet holder - "tumar" according to Turkmen superstitions possessed the ability to driv e away evil spirits. "Tumar" wearing provided the well-being of its owner.

If a long-awaited firstborn child was not due , a woman used to put on a dress with a small slit on the hem with decorative embroidery. The slit symbolized an "open" road for a baby . If people saw a woman in such a dress they wish ed her : "May she have a heir! "

Among the objects protecting from jinxes were and still are: camel wool, silver plates, ancient coins and wooden triangular amulets - "dagdans" . Triangular forms of contrasting colors has had a sacral value and served as charms since ancient times. Various combinations of triangles, squares and rhombuses formed ornaments of such charms. They can be seen in skull caps embroideries , women's and man's dressing gowns, Turkmen carpets edges.

Jewelr y, especially precious stones, beside being decorative, was used as charms. Each type of stone had special significance, they were believed to have curative and magic propertie s protecting from evil forces. The most honored and popular stone has always been a cornelian. It is thought that it gives health and prosperity, brings peace, pleasure and wealth.

Decorations were "programmed" to determine a person's behavior and success in life. Good wishes made in form of beads and pendants gave a person confidence in all his deeds. For example, a heart-shaped pendant called "asyk" served not only as a woman's hair-pin but also worked as a charm protecting her hair which might be used by ill-wishers. This is the reason why Turkmen paid special attention to head and breast ornaments.

Having many children has always been a tradition among Turkmen, so children were superstitiously guarded by means of various amulets and talismans intended to save their lives. Right after a girl was born her parents decorated her with earrings believing that they performed a guardian function. A child was believed to be safe from harm if he or she wore simple bracelets made from colored or black-and-white beads.

Amulets and talismans are still present in carpets, jewelry , and national embroidery working both as charms and tribute to tradition.