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Wills's Lucky Charms #0:

I collect non-sports trading cards, especially British tobacco cards manufactured between WW I and WW II. A few years ago my good friend Fred Burke bestowed several really great complete British card sets upon me, most of them produced by W. D. & H. O Wills, makers of Wills's Cigarettes. The set relevant to our purpose here is a 50 card batch from the 1920s titled

Wills's Cigarettes
A Series of 50
Lucky Charms

The "charms" in question consist of a variety of amulets and talismans from the collection of the British Museum, each superbly rendered in chromolitho printing on the card front and concisely described on the card back.

The first 12 cards in the set depict amulets for each of the zodiacal signs, with appropriate gemstones. The remaining 38 cards feature amulets, talismans, and religious symbols from numerous cultures and eras. The pieces range in date of manufacture from ancient Egypt through the Renaissance, and they were gathered from several continents, curiously excluding North and South America.

Each in the series of web pages describing these charms is titled with the card number and name; this is number 0, the Introduction. The image on the front of the card is pictured, the text on the back is transcribed, and any additoonal information known to me about the amulet is appended in the form of comments. In some cases, i have added additional images of similar amulets in my possession or from printed sources. Readers are invited to contribute their knowledge by commenting via e-mail on the 50 relevant amulets.

It is necessary to note that the designation of a few of these objects as "charms" displays a cultural bias on the part of the anonymous British author; they are not "charms" but rather religious emblems from non-Christian religions. Moreover, although most of the items are indeed amulets worn for luck, the author's opinion of people who make and use such amulets is ambivelent, to say the least. In reading the card texts, please remember that they were written in the 1920s, when colonialism was still very much alive in England.

Some terminology has changed since the cards were titled; alternate names and geographical clarifications in brackets are mine.

  1. Aries - The Ram
  2. Taurus - The Bull
  3. Gemini - The Twins
  4. Cancer - The Crab
  5. Leo - The Lion
  6. Virgo - The Virgin
  7. Libra - The Balance
  8. Scorpio - The Scorpion
  9. Sagittarius - The Archer
  10. Capricornus - The Goat
  11. Aquarius - The Water-Bearer
  12. Pisces - The Fishes
  13. The Abracadabra
  14. The Abraxas
  15. The Ankh or Crux Ansata [Egypt]
  16. The Caduceus
  17. The Crescent and Hand [Hamsa hand]
  18. The Cross
  19. The Hand [of Power] [Rome]
  20. The Scarab [Egypt]
  21. The Serpent [Rome]
  22. The Greek Vowels
  23. Solomon's Seal
  24. The Swastika
  25. The Tau Cross
  26. The Tet [Djed Pillar; Egypt]
  27. The Heart
  28. The Utchat [Wadjet Eye; Egypt]
  29. The Buckle of Isis [Girdle of Isis, Tit; Egypt]
  30. The Menat [Egypt]
  31. Necklace of Charms [Egypt]
  32. The Bulla [Gorgonian amulet box; Rome]
  33. The Tusk
  34. The Cornucopia
  35. The Frog
  36. Magic Nails [Gnostic]
  37. Inscribed Amulet [amulet box; Egypt]
  38. Gnostic Talismans
  39. The Fish
  40. Amulet Box [Tibet]
  41. Food Charm [Tibet]
  42. Conch Shell [India and Tibet]
  43. The Dorje [Tibet]
  44. The Tortoise [Asia]
  45. Book of Charms [Sumatra]
  46. Eye-Agate
  47. The Hei-Tiki [New Zealand]
  48. Grotesque Figure [New Guinea]
  49. Axe-Head [China]
  50. Arrow-Head [Ireland]


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