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An interesting discovery

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During our whirlwind tour of Santiago de Compostela, the guide took us through the shopping district and pointed out the window of a jewelry store that specialized in items made of local jet.  Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of rosaries and scallop shells rendered in jet and silver.  However, they also had a number of amulets against the evil eye and witches.  The guide said that was part of Galicia's Celtic heritage, but I think at least some of them were Roman motifs.  Anyway, there were hearts and skulls, but what really caught my eye were the fists.  They looked very much like larger-scale versions of the jet charms that eithni found in a local thrift store during Siegfried's reign.

Sadly, the guide whisked us away before I could get a picture. I did some research after returning home, and I learned that the British Museum has a similar piece from Santiago de Compostela, probably made in the 16th century.  The museum website gives a brief bibliography:

For information on hand-amulets: W.L. Hildburgh, 'Images of the human hand as Amulets in Spain', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XVIII, 1955 and H. Syer Cuming, 'On the Hand-Amulet', British Archaeological Association Journal, 1866.

More specifically concerned with jet amulets from Santiago: G. J. de Osma y Scull, 'Catálogo de azabaches compostelanos precedido de apuntes sobre los amuletos contra el aojo : las imágenes del apóstol-romero y la confradía de los azabacheros de Santiago', Madrid 1916.


I don't have easy access to either of those publications.  However, it seems that fist-shaped amulets made of jet are particularly associated with Santiago de Compostela.  Those little fist cyphers may have a far more interesting provenance than anyone in Northshield ever suspected.  Perhaps a modern pilgrim purchased them as souvenirs, planning to give them as gifts to family and friends, but decided against it after learning that they are not, in fact, Catholic symbols.
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On November 18th, 2012 05:03 am (UTC), arebekah commented:
Access to resources
If you are interested in the publications:

Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
Is in the Kohler Art Library (in the Chazen Museum) regular size shelving under call number AP L847 E61 J

Google Books has the excerpt from the Journal of the British Archaeological Association:
http://books.google.com/books?id=iiUUAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA345&lpg=PA345&dq=H.+Syer+Cuming,+%27On+the+Hand-Amulet%27,+British+Archaeological+Association+Journal,+1866.&source=bl&ots=OMDZpCXU4g&sig=pU4EgGOYJMc4mhfFoD2cjAI5R9E&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pmmoUIy-KIiJywH3-4DYBg&ved=0CEcQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=H.%20Syer%20Cuming%2C%20%27On%20the%20Hand-Amulet%27%2C%20British%20Archaeological%20Association%20Journal%2C%201866.&f=false

And the Spanish title is held by several US libraries (and is in the Hathi Trust, so if you wanted to search it digitally, you might get some valuable results): http://www.worldcat.org/title/catalogo-de-azabaches-compostelanos-precedido-de-apuntes-sobre-los-amuletos-contra-el-aojo-las-imagenes-del-apostol-romero-y-la-confradia-de-los-azabacheros-de-santiago/oclc/6946027?referer=di&ht=edition
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On November 18th, 2012 09:15 pm (UTC), eithni commented:
Huh. The ones I got were actually agate or carnelian or similar yellowish stone, not jet, but it's still an interesting potential source and it certainly makes more sense than any theory I have had about why one would have dozens of stone fists!
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