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charms (verbal)

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The etymology of the word ‘charm’ (from Latin carmen, ‘a chant’) shows that in medieval times it meant verbal formulas (see next entry), but in modern languages it is far more widely applied. All the varied objects which are worn, carried, or displayed to bring good luck and success, or to avert bad luck and success, or to aver bad luck and evil powers, are popularly called ‘lucky charms’ or mascots (see the latter for a selection); one can also say actions are ‘charms’ when done to produce magical results, for example turning a coin on hearing the first cuckoo, to have money all year.

Certain objects were carefully guarded as healing charms, and lent out to those who needed them—eaglestones for women in labour, beads and holed stones for sore eyes, Irish stones and sticks against snake bites.

Subjects: Religion

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