Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Charm Coins

Where there's fear and uncertainty, folks sometimes look for something that gives them an advantage, or protection. Sometimes that's an object, like a buckeye, or rabbit's foot or coin. Sometimes they're called an amulet, or a talisman. Or juju, gri-gri, or lucky charm. The word talisman evolved from the Greek word telos, which means result or purpose. Amulet comes from a Latin word meaning method of defense.

Anyway, over the years I've managed to find a number of coins with holes punched into them so that they can be hung on a string or chain. I've found them with histories of being from Memphis, Macon, Atlanta and St. Simons Island, GA. Typically they have been bought from black vendors at a flea market, and have always been matter-of-factly described by the seller as charms.

There's a wonderful book titled Drums and Shadows, which documents remnants of African culture among blacks living on the coast of Georgia in the 1930s. There's a part that reads "a silver coin is frequently worn on the ankle to insure good luck and to give warning..." But ultimately their power seems to yield to pragmatic concerns, as one woman acknowledged, "The folks around here used to wear five dollar gold pieces on their ankle, but hard times just naturally makes them gold pieces jump off."

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