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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:

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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