Written charm

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used in Ross-shire

Postcard of Written charm.
© National Museums Scotland

Written charm

This written charm was used in Ross-shire and was designed to protect the carrier against witchcraft, cures or hostile intentions. Written in English (rather than Gaelic which few could read), the text recommends prayer and the performance of ritualistic actions. It dates from the late 19th century.

The charm, well written though loosely spelt, is on a single sheet of paper and was said to have been used within fifteen years of its donation to the Museum by Rev. Dr. Joass in 1908.

Charms were widely used to ward off illness. Their special nature came from unusual materials or in the case of written charms, quasi-religious wording. They might be acquired from a person reputed to be a skilled healer who would forbid the recipient to read the charm and then instruct them to keep it hidden, perhaps on the body. Often they were worn, but some were dipped in water which was then drunk.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-004-353-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  H.NO 93
Date: Late 19th century
What: Charm
Subject: Jewellery: charms, amulets (NMAS Classification)
Where: Scotland, Ross and Cromarty
Description: Two written charms used in Ross-shire, late 19th century
  • Black, G.F. 'Scottish Charms and Amulets'. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities of Scotland 27, (1892-3), pp 492-4 
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