~by Christine Norstrand
About the image: These tiles are based on a series of stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones, lifelong friend of William Morris. You can read more about Edward Burne-Jones Venus and Luna tiles here: https://williammorristile.com/burne-jones/moon_and_stars.html
Who I am and am not: I am not a real astrologer. I don’t even play one on the Internet. I have completed two years of formal study, and several informal but no less rigorous classes, in a field where the best have been doing this for decades. I do make art tile, but I do not sell talismans and I especially do not prescribe them to others. I can, however, make some recommendations, which I’ll do in this article. I am open to commissions from “real” astrologers and their clients – bring your own election. Sometime in the future, I hope to offer sets of tile, such as De Sphaera and other medieval series, made to talismanic standards.
I came to this unlikely interest in astrological magic by a strange route – My interest in Arts & Crafts Founder William Morris and his circle led me down a rabbit hole to the Pre-Raphaelites, their interest in the medieval world view, and the degree to which they incorporated that world view into their lives and work. Research in that area led me to the work of William Lilly, particularly Christian Astrology, Peter Stockinger and from there to astrological magic and its foundations.
So then, to the reasons why purchasing an astrological talisman may not be such a good idea for you:
First Reason: You Don’t Know What You Want
It isn’t that a generic Jupiter talisman cannot be helpful. Jupiter energies will do what Jupiter does and a talisman of a particular nature will help you to “attune”, for want of a better word, to those harmonics. Three astromages I admire, Ryhan Butler (Medieval Astrology Guide: https://www.medievalastrologyguide.com/) , Nina Gryphon (Current magical elections: https://www.ninagryphon.com/product/magical-elections/), and Kaitlin Coppock ( Sphere & Sundry: https://sphereandsundry.com/) have said that a clear statement of intent is crucial in creating a talisman.
This is not to say that a generic planetary talisman does not have much to recommend it aside for its general planetary juju – usually made when the planet is in its best possible condition. For example, you can repurpose such a talisman, which you may find difficult if you’ve commissioned a talisman for a specific condition. You want to strike a balance.
Like the psyche, talismanic manifestations can be surprisingly literal. Time spent to formulate your intention and reword so that it is memorable and can be brought to mind easily (mnemonic or alliterative, even a song you can hum to yourself) is worth it. Words evoke images, and these images are powerful. There is much to say about images and their evocative and invocative power. We’ll talk more about images another day.
To sum up: you want a statement that is generic enough to last, but specific enough to manifest. Time spent on wording and image is never wasted. Choose wisely.
Second Reason: Wrong Tool for the Job at Hand
Now that you know what you want, how do you get there? You also want a talisman that is a good fit for the job at hand.
Spiritual exercises and magic, even Astrological Magic, may not always present the most expedient path. Many years ago, I met a person who could type three words a minute, on a manual typewriting, without his fingers. Impressive? Yes. Is this the fastest way to get a letter out? Probably not. We can dive into the nature of truth and reality here, but for many, even most things, conventional methods will achieve our goals faster.
When we are desperate, it’s human nature to look for miracles. And there are some. But some things are built into the fabric of the game – a good astrologer can see these unfolding in the chart. Life comes with tragedy: losses, injustices, betrayals. It is how the game is played, and ideally it deepens our compassion for others, and even ourselves. And yet, miracles can and do happen through such activities as daily devotions such as prayer and daily mass, meditation and positive thinking, the touch of healers of all sorts.
Or on a mundane level, when the neighbor appears at the door with a shotgun because your music is blaring at 3 a.m. and neither they nor their sick infant has slept in days, turn the music down. Don’t wait to commission an Algol talisman to take your revenge.
And then what?
We’ll be friends forever, won’t we? asked Piglet. Even longer, said Pooh.
A talisman made of a precious metal can last centuries – In another 50 years, you may want good health, but a talisman may be overkill for the rash on your leg that recurred for a year or so and went away when you finally changed laundry soap.
And if a talisman or talismanic materia does seem like the right thing but you’re not sure exactly what? See Kaitlin Coppock’s article on how to choose talismanic materia here: https://sphereandsundry.com/qa-how-do-i-choose-which-series-or-offering-is-right-for-me-do-you-offer-consultations/
Third Reason: The Talisman is Wrong
A talisman can be wrong in several ways.
- It isn’t a talisman in the sense we are talking here. The way the world ‘Talisman’ is used can often be a moving target. Items with glyphs, even mass produced items, made under whatever stars are sold as talismans. Neither are we talking about things “made at a certain time”. If that were the sole criteria, everything would be a talisman, since everything was created in its current form some time.
A talisman, for our purposes, consists of a) a material that resonates with the purpose at hand or its general sphere, either through image or the nature of the material, b) an auspiciously elected time, c) a ritual that incarnates the spirit of the first two in its current form.
- It does not align with your purposes. Venus can be great for social interaction, love interests, and artistic endeavors. But Venus does what Venus does. As a benefic, she’ll help when she can, but she’s not the best candidate for protection or for achievement goals.
This is another advertisement for stating what you want, however generally, and then looking at who is the general ruler of that activity and possibly, the ruler of the house ruler of those activities in your natal chart.
Even Fixed Stars, which abide in a sphere above the planets, do best what accords with their natures. The fixed star Algol is protective and noted for her ability to return evil intentions to the sender. But if you need to protect your home and property, should an opportunistic band of thieves have a car breakdown in your neighborhood, then let Deneb Algedi lead them away from your house.
- You’re using the talisman as a remedy. And some people prescribe talismans for just the reason, to augment a weak placement, to strengthen a mollifying planet of an afflicted planet, to calm a strident placement. Similarly, several schools of Jyotish prescribe precious stones for just this reason. I disagree with all of these for a few reasons. First, if the person selling you the talisman is your astrologer, that’s a clear conflict of interest. Even at $350 an hour for a reading, gold-filled rings and semiprecious stones give a greater return on investment, or one can farm out the talisman-creation to a third world country, and sell it to first worlders at a premium.
What is that we really want to remedy? A nativity or a life condition. They are not one and the same. A natal chart is the map, it’s not the territory. It shows what is possible, the influences, but is essentially a snapshot of a point in time. And we look at things from a point in time, and adjudicate what is needed based on our perceptions of that moment. Remedies that attune us, for want of a better word, to a particular planetary emanation do not have the kind of blow back that the sudden influx of power a talisman can bring.
For example, your Venus is combust? I disagree that she’s burned and shrived and can’t be brought back. Even from a material physics point of view, matter / energy can be neither created nor destroyed. A combust Venus is invisible, hidden by the rays of the sun, purified or undergoing purification. You don’t see her, neither does anyone else. But that situation can be changed by mindfully doing the Venus things you already do – cake decorating, arranging the flowers on the table, deciding which socks go with which shoes, listening to music, attending the ballet, drawing. Other methods of attunement: meditation, mantras (correctly prescribed), planetary rituals (which can be as simple as an Orphic hymn at the correct day and time), offerings, and planetary charity to Venusian causes. The more closely the cause approximates the condition you want to remedy, the more effective it is.
A middle ground between remedies and long-lasting talismans is talismanic materia (see Kaitlin’s presentation at NORWAC 2020). Oils, waters, and other astrologically-elected materia made from planet and star-appropriate herbs can enhance the effects of remediation activities. Since one cannot help but engage with them in the present moment, the effect is more transformative than remedial activities alone. Such materia can actually be more powerful than talismans made from precious stones and metals.
For a more in-depth discussion of remedies, you might like The Proper Care and Feeding of a Birth Chart available here: https://austincoppock.com/shop/planetary-wellness/
Fourth Reason: The Election is Wrong
Not only are some elections bad for the task at hand, some are just plain bad. An election that violates the rules for making astrological talismans is obvious. These are stated elsewhere on the Stars and Stones blog. While there is some mild disagreement among real astrologers on the weight given to each criteria, and even which criteria are deal-breakers, there is no perfect election and imperfect elections work. Some better than others. Few are actually harmful. Note that the correct planetary day and hour alone are not enough for constructing a talisman, but are fine for the other types of remediation I’ve referred to above.
An election can be wrong for your particular chart. I was raised that a talisman is its own entity, like a person, and that you don’t have to align the talisman with your particular natal configuration. And for the most part, I’ve observed this to be true. Note that that not everyone thinks this and it isn’t true for elections in general.
But there are exceptions: Some people are very sensitive, usually people who have done a lot of work with astrological magic. And though rare, if talisman is out of sorts with the current transits as they interact with your natal chart, it may not be the best time to graft a talisman onto your life. That doesn’t mean they won’t ever be; it’s just that the interaction of the talisman’s election, your natal chart, and the current transit are better left alone.
So… if you are in your Saturn return and Mars is squaring Saturn in transit, and Mars is on your Cancer natal ascendant, this may not be the best time to pick up that Mars talisman. Wait a bit. And yet, these conditions are the sort where in desperation, one wants to “do something”. If you aren’t comfortable making this call, then consider consulting a real astrologer.
It’s true that this particular constellation of stars and planets will never happen again. But a different path will open and missing this particular opportunity can open you up to something better.
Fifth Reason: The Astrologer is Wrong or Wrong for You
Astrologers used to be advisors to sultans and kings, not an alternative to having your fortune read at the local coffee shop. It’s still a niche-y subject, full of depth as ancient texts are discovered and translated. The best still study and learn after decades. If you are in doubt about an election, your own or someone else’s, you can have it checked by a real astrologer. I still have someone else check my elections and I’ve been at this awhile. Moreover, even good elections for malefic stars and planets can do with some divination. What can go wrong, you ask? Selective blindness. And that’s a problem with the astrologer, not the election.
There’s a hidden agenda. If you feel you are being sold something, a talisman or a worldview, that should set off your alarms. It’s Saturday morning – Have you heard the Good News about their particular spiritual path or fixed answer? A lot of things work, not just astrology. Not just magic. Not just talismans. Prayer works, asking the saints to intercede works. A study of hospital patients who did not know they were being prayed for showed that they responded better to treatment.
We have at least two thousand years of years of people in power disenfranchising entire populations by persuading them to surrender their will to the loving nature of the universe and trust that everything is proceeding according to plan. This is Kool-aid; ignore any signs that say, “Drink me.” What we call magic today is the science of future generations, who will laugh at our primitive understanding. However you frame it, to put it William Lilly’s way, these are god-given tools. Use them wisely, but use them.
Conflict of Interest An reputable astrologer who sells talismans will often consult with you beforehand to rule out the possibility of a conflict with your natal chart. Christopher Warnock , an early pioneer in the modern selling of talismans does exactly this. (See https://www.renaissanceastrology.com/astrologicaltalismanchoose.html ). On the other hand, an astrologer selling you one of their talismans based on a reading you just paid for is a questionable practice at best, especially if the price is greatly inflated compared to the value of the material. These are usually the first to go on about ethics for other people.
The astrologer is not an astromage. A talisman is a ritually-made item made at an elected time. Not everything that is made at an elected time is a talisman. As we said earlier, everything that exists would be a talisman if point in time were the only criteria. You want an astrologer who is an astromage, someone who has done the study and personal work to create an effective ritual to make a talisman.
The astrological genius is neverthertheless wrong for you. If you get a sense that your well-known genius astrologer is watching the clock during your reading, tells you how many minutes you have left, ignores your communications, and fails to notice that they are stepping on your heart and feelings because their attention is elsewhere, don’t let this person give you directions to the mailbox, much less prescribe a talisman or remedies. Someone who behaves so is a vendor.
There is no shortage of up and coming astrologers as well as some old veterans who are, as my sister would say, a little self-involved. They may be fine for someone else, have a stellar reputation, have written finely crafted books that make you swoon – but if you’re invisible, and they’ve clearly demonstrated that you are not worthy of their respect, then they are not a candidate to be your mentor, teacher, astrologer, or dogsitter. If they can’t see you, they can’t see your chart or situation. Keep to your studies and you can smile to yourself when they come up and introduce themselves to you at an astrological conference, as if you had never met.
Good astrologers, like good people, give more than they get. I don’t know all the good and ethical astrologers and astromages, I can vouch for some personally. Peter Stockinger did my chart rectification which was life-changing. I’ve loved the classes I’ve taken from Nina Gryphon on horary and astrological magic and her monthly astrological elections. I subscribe to Ryhan Butler’s Patreon and often adapt his elections to my location. I am a devoted fan of Kaitlin Coppock and her talismanic materia. This is not an exhaustive list, just the people I know best and have come to love.
But you still want a talisman…
Most of the talismans I’ve made, as well as those I’ve purchased, have left me with, “I think I feel something… maybe”. And I have many at this point – it’s a new person thing, I think, you think there will never be an election like this again, which is true, and that you’ve already missed so many. But a few, or even just one, really good talisman can be life-changing.
If, after all that, you still find yourself wanting a talisman of a certain planet or star, trust that gut feeling. I’m a jewelry person, and if I had it to do over, I’d save up my money, and commission one from Tony Mack (https://tonymackgoldsmith.com). I have two of his talismans, made for me, and they both hit it out of the ballpark. A real astrologer and a goldsmith, he makes real talismans, astrologically elected and ritually made. And if you don’t have one, he’ll make one for you.
Christine Norstrand is the proprietor and artist at William Morris Tile. If you would like to contact her, you can reach her here: WilliamMorrisTile.com