This small talisman belonged to my aunt and was made by her mother for her when she was a child in Greece. This talisman, called a filahta kept with her throughout her life to bring good fortune. This small Greek talisman is pinned on the inside of clothing to serve as a measure to counteract bad fortune. It is kept hidden from view as the filahta is said to lose its power if it is seen. The filahta is usually made by a mother or grandmother and given to a child. The handing down from mother or grandmother to child can be seen as an elder imparting a piece of themselves to the child, to spiritually be present with them at all times.
A filahta comprises of a small piece of cloth that is sewn together to contain a mysterious material that is precious and said to protect. Traditionally the user of the filahta does not know it’s contents and cannot open it up to see and validate the seemingly lucky contents. They must faithfully believe that it does contain precious materials that will provide them with good fortune.The precious materials that are said to be contained within vary widely depending on location and what the elder deems precious. Fillings that are said to be in a filahta are usually filled with plant material or food that is considered powerful including basil, blackberry thorns, pressed flowers, cloves and bread.
A tama from Brunswick, with thanks.
The Greek shop around the corner in Sydney Road Brunswick (Melbourne) sells these strange metal objects. What are they for? According to the man with the big moustache who looks after the Greek section (behind closed doors at the back of the tobacconist), it’s called a Tama and is usually attached to a religious icon as a sign of thanks. Thanks for what? You can pray to the saint for a specific purpose - usually health. If your prayers are answered, then you show your gratitude to the saint with this votive, which is attached to the icon (perhaps a nail in the hole on the right). It’s like the anamitas in Chile which are covered with gifts from people whose prayers are answered. The baby was the only symbol on display in the shop. I guess there are a lot of grandparents thinking about the health of their descendants. It seems quite an archaic practice for a city like Melbourne. But the large Greek population tends to stick with their traditional beliefs. I must say, it does also provide a relief from the heartless medical technology services that also populate the corner.
These charms are made by the Triqui in Oaxaca. They have 12 textile hearth shapes filled with different lucky objects (‘milagros’, colorin red beans, herbs) and must be hung above a newborn’s crib and remain there for 12 months, to ensure good health and luck. This was Emma’s. We got it as a present from a Triqui artist short before she was born. I has hung in her crib, in Mateo’s and now it will be placed in Sam’s as well! - Valeria Siemelink
El organillero augers a safe voyage
Cornelia Hornauer is a jeweller who lives in Viña del Mar, a seaside town next to Valparaíso, an hour north of Santiago. Once a month, her apartment building is serenaded by an organillero, a stoic gentleman with a crank organ. His cheerful tunes bring children out to buy lollies. But for the more adventurous, he will tell your fortune. For 500 pesos, he puts his green parrot in a wooden cage, which, on opening the door, bends down to select from a piece of paper from a tray which contains the fortune. Cornelia was that night going to set sail for Juan Fernandez island, the setting for the novel Robinson Crusoe. She was interested in the affect of the tsumani and how jewellery might make people feel better about returning to the sea. Thankfully, her fortune was that she would be successful in overcoming her fears, and would find good news soon.
The organillero is a German legacy. The organs still have German inscriptions. Like Cornelia herself, whose grandparents came out from Germany to settle in Latin America.
I half suspect that the organillero had a way of directing the parrot subtly to the appropriate colour.
The mauli is a red thread that is worn around the wrist in India. It is usually received as part of a puja religious ceremony at a temple.
Men and unmarried women receive it on the right hand, and married women on the left (understanding that their husband is the dominant ‘right hand man’).
Legend has it that Lord Vishnu during his incarnation of Vamana tied a red thread on the hands of King Bali to grant him immortality and to rule the netherworld. It is sometimes believed that this blessed thread will protect against diseases and misfortune.
The red thread is found in many other religions, such as the Kabbalah and Buddism. It is similar to the Laotian basi.
Of course, as with all these wrist-strings, you must wear the thread until it falls off naturally.
In the photo, a mauli is being worn by Swarup Dutta, from the Indian Institute of Crafts & Design, who received his at the puja associated with the inauguration of his school year.