Until the 20th century, the inadequacies of orthodox medical services left a large proportion of the population dependent upon traditional folk medicine – essentially a mixture of common sense remedies based on the accumulated experience of nursing and midwifery, combined with inherited lore about the healing properties of plants.
The exhibition “Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft” at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford examines the history of magic over eight centuries, and shows how our ancestors used magical thinking to cope with the unpredictable world around them. Nick Swarbrick reviews the exhibition and the subjects which it explores.
Although their origins lie in Japanese folk traditions, omamori are still a popular sight throughout Japan. The word itself, 御守り, doesn’t have a direct translation into English, but they are protection charms – usually for sale within both Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines – which are said to contain spirits.
Clarke’s charm collection reveals a range of uses, including cures for sore throats, the protection of seafarers from drowning, and good luck charms.