The image at left is a small token of religious magic or luck, a little folding vinyl "holy wallet" that first became popular during the 1930s and is still manufactured to this day. Behind a clear plastic prtector, a stamped aluminum bas-relief of The Infant of Prague slides into one side, and a prayer card slips into the other side. Such holy wallets are available with a wide assortment of saints inside, and when i was young, wondrous tales were told about these siminutive devotionary items. Specifically, they were said to deflect bullets if worn in the breast pocket. I personally heard suchstories from a number of World War Two veterans who claimed to have been protected or to have witnessed a fellkow soldier "shot in the heart, and he would have died, but the plaque stopped the bullet." In those days the wallet itself was made of leather rather than vinyl, but that would have hardly added to their bullet-deflecting qualities, which were purely religio-magical in nature.)
In studying the subject of lucky amulets i have encountered considerable blurring between the concepts of luck, protection, religion, and magic. Our modern era is replete with examples of deities and saints (especially "exotic" ones of religions other than that one has grown up with) being marketed as "lucky figures" of one kind or another or being considered protective to their owners. In addition, some polytheistic cultures have deities specifically designated as luck gods and the Catholic Church has produced an official list of Patron Saints for various occupations and conditions.
There are three basic forms whereby people engage gods and saints for luck:
1) A DEITY BRINGS LUCK
Non-monotheistic religions other than Judaism, Islam, and Christianity actually do assign deities to magical and lucky functions. For instance, there are the Seven Luck Gods of Japan, who bring magical good fortune in various areas of human endeavour, and Laksmi , the Hindu goddess of wealth.
2) AN EXOTIC DEITY BECOMES "LUCKY" FOR MONOTHEISTS
Members of religions that do not have lucky or magical deities may appropriate those deities from other cultures, while still ostensibly worshipping monotheistically. For example, the Chinese luck-and-wealth god Hotei became syncreditzed in China and Japan with the religious teacher Gautama Buddha and is now found all over the world in nominally Christian homes as "the lucky Buddha."
3) A HOLY PERSON BECOMES A "LUCKY" SAINT
Members of religions that do not have lucky or magical deities may create them out of saints (holy people who are not deities) and attribute to these "lucky saints" all the powers than non-monotheistic cultures would attribute to magic and luck gods. For instance, San Martin of Tours was a real person, born in Prague in the 4th century, who is noted for quitting the Roman army in order to perform acts of charity, and eventually becaming a Catholic bishop in France. Officially, he is a patron saint of charity, but, practically speaking, as San Martin Caballero, he is invoked as a lucky money bringer in Mexico and other Latin American countries, and prayers for his intercession may take the form of money-drawing spells.
Here is a brief list of pages at this site about religious figures whose images are used on lucky and protective amulets. There are furteher links from those pages to specific amulets and figurines. The list here is not comprehensive with respect to all of the deities and saints who are petitioned for luck or protection -- and i will be adding more links as new amulets are added to the archive.
Moses, Aaron, and Miriam
Kali, Durga, Parvati and Other Forms of Sakti
Siva and Bhairava
BUDDHIST and FOLK-BUDDHIST
Buddha and Hotei-Buddha
CATHOLIC and FOLK-CATHOLIC
Anima Sola (Lonely Soul)
Mano Poderosa (Powerful Hand)
Maximon (Saint Simon)
Nino de Atocha
Our Lady of Mount Carmel (N. S. Carmen)
Saint Martin of Tours (San Martin Caballero)
The Seven African Powers (Orishas; Siete Potentias)
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OTHER SITES OF INTEREST
Yronwode Family: www.yronwode.com, the home page for the Yronwode family
Garden of Joy Blues: www.gardenofjoyblues.com, former hippie commune in the Missouri Ozarks
Satan Service: www.satanservice.org, theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists