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This online presentation of
The Lucky W Amulet Archive by catherine yronwode
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Pookline

HELL BANK NOTES
(HELL MONEY)

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Lucky W Amulet
Archive Image:
Not for Sale

Lucky W Amulet
Archive Image:
Not for Sale

Lucky W Amulet
Archive Image:
Not for Sale

Lucky W Amulet
Archive Image:
Not for Sale

Lucky W Amulet
Archive Image:
Not for Sale

Lucky W Amulet
Archive Image:
Not for Sale
When i was child, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a friend of mine's family ran a grocery store. They were Chinese, and although almost everything in their store was exactly like the stuff in all the other small groceries in Berkeley, they also carried a few Chinese specialty items up by the counter. One of these was Hell Money. The word Hell was introduced to China, my friend's parents told me, by Christian missionaries who claimed that non-converted Chinese folks were all "going to Hell" when they died -- and the Chinese, thinking "Hell" was the proper English term for the afterlife, adopted the word. Thus, Hell Bank Notes are simply Afterlife Monetary Offerings or Spirit Money.

As they explained it to me, when people die, their spirits or ghosts go to an afterlife where they continue to live on, doing the same sort of things why did while alive, eating, drinking, wearing clothes, playing with their children, and so forth. In order to ensure that they have lots of good things in the afterlife, their relatives send them presents, and one of the best things to send them is Hell Bank Notes -- money to spend in the afterworld. In addition to Hell Bank Notes, some Chinese grocery stores also sell elaborately-made and multi-coloured paper watches, clothes, cars, Hell Credit Cards, and even refrigerators for the purpose of burning in the belief that doing so sends their essence to the afterlife world, where the recipient will be glad to receive such material goods.

The Hell Money i used to buy as a kid was always green, like the 10,000 dollar bill shown above, because it was made for American Chinese people to use, and American money is green. But in Hong Kong and Singapore, there is no such drab restriction on the colour of money. There, as witness the lovely Hell Bank Note for 5000,000,000 dollars, Hell Money can be a real work of art. Hell Bank Notes are printed on thin paper, and their designs change from year to year, making them quite collectible. Like earthly notes, they bear serial numbers, and the denominations vary, as do their sizes. They are sold in packs of 30 to 50 bills, wrapped in cellophane.

The images found on Hell Bank notes printed in Asia convey quite a bit of symbolic information that is missing in their American-Chinese counterparts. On the front, they always feature the Lord of Hell (better thought of as the Emperor of the Afterworld), a middle-aged bearded man who wears a characteristic flat-topped hat from which strings of beads dangle fore-and-aft. I am told that he was once a living Emperor of China, and a great leader, and thus was given dominion over the Underworld. The backs of the bills usually show the Bank of Hell, an old-fashioned tile-roofed temple-like building, presumably where deposits of Hell Money are kept in the accounts of the deceased; a few feature foo-dogs instead of the building. The words "Hell Bank Note" always appear on the back in English as well as Chinese.

The protective hamsa hand pendant charm at right is from Egypt. A diminutive 1" x 1 1/2" in size, this stamped tin Hand of Fatima features translucent bright blue enamel overlay and eye-in-hand design for protection. It is double-sided, yet light-weight enough to wear as an earring.

Others symbols on the faces of the Asian Hell Money deserve individual description: To the left of the Emperor of Hell on the 500,000,000 dollar note there is a golden bowl piled high with offerings -- slipper-shaped gold bullion bars, polished branches of red coral, and peacock feathers. To his right is a stylized lotus flower. At 4" by 7 1/2 ", this is the largest Hell Bank Note i have seen in terms of size, although larger denominations do exist.

The 3 /1/2" x 7" bill from Singapore for 500 dollars carries images of the Emperor of Hell; a phoenix bird (feng huang). said to foretell good luck; and a happy boy holding a large carp fish. The carp symbolizes money in Chinese iconography because the Chinese words for "fish" and "money" are homonyms. Pictures of children holding a carp or of two carp leaping together are a common symbol of monetary luck, found on Chinese key chains, fabrics, and wall-hangings. Items imprinted with the double-carp image are often given as New Year's gifts.

Both the 100 dollar and 50 dollar Hell Bank Notes shown here feature the ch'i lin, a propitious fire-horse-tiger figure from Chinese mythology said to grant illustrious progeny. On the 100 dollar note the ch'i lin is ridden by a young boy (the veritable illustrious progeny), who holds a single blooming lotus stalk, with the additional image of a luck-foretelling phoenix bird to the right. On the 50 dollar note the ch'i lin is prancing by himself, a vase of flowers to the right. The vase of flowers also appears on one of the 10 dollar bills shown here, along with a pair of thistles and a junk-style boat with words written on the sail.

Another pretty 10 dollar Hell Bank Note from Singapore depicts a baby holding a carp. Lotus flowers bloom behind the lucky child and a stylized lotus also appears to the far side of the Hell Emperor. The back side of this bill, like most other Hell Bank Notes, features a monotone picture of the Bank of Hell; this one is especially nice -- it is rendered in delicate shades of blue and the bank sits beside a small lake, unlike most of the bills, on which the bank is rendered in the form of simple line-art and located on a city street.

There are several ways to send Spirit Money to one's departed relatives -- it can be thrown to the winds during the funeral procession, left on a grave at any time, or burned in ceremonial fires during the yearly Hungry Ghost Festival.

In addition to its traditional use as an offering among Chinese and Chinese-Americans, Hell Money has also found a niche among practitioners of various forms of eclectic magic in the United States. Some people employ it as symbolic money when working money-drawing spells, using it to decorate their altars, adding it to money-drawing mojo bags, or money-drawing lodestone spells. Others utilize it as a form of attractant or pay-off for benign or infernal spirits when engaging in Black Arts such as necromancy, invocations, crossroads work, or performing a ritual in a graveyard.

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LUCKY MOJO is a large domain that is organized into a number of
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THE LUCKY W AMULET ARCHIVE by cat yronwode.

Here are some other LUCKY MOJO web sites you can visit:

OCCULTISM, MAGIC SPELLS, MYSTICISM, RELIGION, SYMBOLISM
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by cat yronwode: a materia magica of African-American conjure
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
The Lucky Mojo Esoteric Archive: captured internet text files on occult and spiritual topics
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century occultist
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, and more
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
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      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races

POPULAR CULTURE
Hoodoo and Blues Lyrics: transcriptions of blues songs about African-American folk magic
EaRhEaD!'S Syd Barrett Lyrics Site: lyrics by the founder of the Pink Floyd Sound
The Lesser Book of the Vishanti: Dr. Strange Comics as a magical system, by cat yronwode
The Spirit Checklist: a 1940s newspaper comic book by Will Eisner, indexed by cat yronwode
Fit to Print: collected weekly columns about comics and pop culture by cat yronwode
Eclipse Comics Index: a list of all Eclipse comics, albums, and trading cards

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PERSONAL SITES
catherine yronwode: the eclectic and eccentric author of many of the above web pages
nagasiva yronwode: tyaginator, nigris (333), nocTifer, lorax666, boboroshi, Troll, !
Garden of Joy Blues: former 80 acre hippie commune near Birch Tree in the Missouri Ozarks
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OTHER SITES OF INTEREST
Arcane Archive: thousands of archived Usenet posts on religion, magic, spell-casting, mysticism, and spirituality
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: psychic reading, conjure, and hoodoo root doctor services
Candle Ministry: Missionary Independent Spiritual Church deacons will set lights for your petitions and prayers
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic, plus shopping
Crystal Silence League: online prayer request network; upload your prayers here and pray for the welfare of others
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Hoodoo Psychics: connect online or call 1-888-4-HOODOO for instant readings now from a member of AIRR
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith; prayer-light services; Smallest Church in the World
Mystic Tea Room: tea leaf reading, teacup divination, and a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Satan Service: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including ex-slave narratives & interviews
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective, plus shopping
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Yronwode Institution: the Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology

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