the care and cleansing of amulets 

This is part 2 of a 4-part blog series on amulets & talismans.

I hope you enjoyed reading part 1. Have you identified any amulets within your possession?

Not all amulets need cleaning, such as plant sprigs, such as a Bay/Laurel leaf, that would only be worn or carried for a short amount of time. Those can be buried or given back to the earth at the appropriate time. See part 1 of this 4-part article for more examples. For crystals and stones, I recommend clearing or cleaning them in simple ways. Below you’ll find some ideas about how to go about this. 

In just one word, first and foremost is intention. Thoughts and prayers are powerful. We can create our realities by what we believe to be true. Before we do ritual cleansing, it is wise to set an intention. While doing the cleaning, hold the intention. These phrases or sentences should be as affirmative as possible and use positive language. Make your intention clear and to the point! Remain authentic. Here are a few possibilities: 

“With this smoke, only love and light remain. I am protected.”

“May this salt water banish all negativity and be a cleansing force now.”

“This amulet protects me and serves my highest good.”

Using the verbal or mental intention of your choice, simultaneously imagine being surrounded in a bubble or egg of soft, golden light.

There are a few ways to cleanse amulets. Salt is a powerful energetic cleanser and is used in many traditions, including Christianity. Salt is used in Catholic exorcism, for example, and salt mixed with water becomes holy water after each are exorcised and prayer over. Prayer, or intention, is crucial for it to function properly, however, the church insists on formal liturgy and avoidance of private, nonreligious usage, thus attempting to take away the natural power of individuals or small groups. For amulets that can get damp or wet, I mix a little salt, about half a teaspoon, with water in a paper cup or disposable plastic container. I gently place my amulets in the salt water, anywhere from one to eights hours. During these longer soaks, I set the intention right beforehand and again near the end, prior to a final rinse. Offering a word of thanks to conclude the cleansing process. Then, toss out the container.

For amulets that should not be exposed to water for more than a few seconds, if at all, set the amulet in a bowl of salt (without the water) and leave it for about the same amount of time. I often do this option at bedtime so that my amulets can get clean overnight while I sleep. In the morning I give them a quick rinse in filtered water, then gently pat them dry, so long as this won’t harm them. After they are cleaned, I thank them for the job they perform. Wash the container thoroughly before next use. 

Photo by Los Muertos Crew on

Another way to cleanse is with smoke. If you grow your own herbs and medicine plants like I do, consider making a personalized bundle just for burning while cleaning amulets. Since I live in northern California, a climate not too unlike the Mediterranean where my ancestors come from, I grow plants that were sacred to that area in ancient times. To make a plant bundle for burning, I can pick a couple stalks of lavender and rosemary. I like to combine these with plants that grow naturally next to my house, such as cedar and pine. Since white sage is native to these parts, I have some of that too and may also add it to the bundle. I place them together, lined up evenly, and wrap them with a piece of thread. I suggest using white thread as that is the color of cleansing and purity or black thread, since that is the color for banishing negativity. Either will do. Once the herbs and plants (it’s all right if their flowers are included) are bound and dry, I burn just as one would burn any kind of incense or bundle. Pass the smoke around the amulet clockwise a few times as well as above and below as you firmly hold your intention in your mind. An expression of thanks is important, as these plants are working for us, for our highest good. Another tip: Kindly express gratitude when picking the plants and herbs in the first place. Sometimes, I leave gifts and other times I say a prayer. Consider what is right for you. All I can suggest is that we acknowledge that everything growing out of this earth has energy and is sacred. Behave accordingly. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

A final suggestion for cleaning and clearing amulets that can get wet or damp involves making your own spray or spritzer. Purchase a tiny glass bottle with a spray cap. Take distilled or filtered water and fill the bottle three-quarters of the way full. Fill the rest of the bottle with small appropriate amulets—a little crystal and a bay leaf or sprig of rosemary, for example. Then top it off with about 10–15 drops of essential oil. I like clary sage and rosemary essential oils for my spritzer bottles. Let the mixture infuse, so set the bottle aside for a couple of hours, then shake and finally spray around the amulet above and below in addition to all directions moving clockwise. As always, hold your intention firmly in your mind and offer gratitude as the finishing touch before using the cleansed amulet. 

In her book, Italian Folk Magic, Fahrun (2018) shares how she cleans her water-safe amulets—it is the way her aunt taught her many years ago. She combines water, a little dish soap, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Then, she takes the amulet and moves it around in the solution, clockwise, three times. Next, she takes it out and rinses it under running water before drying it with a clean towel and allowing it a little air-drying time. When completely dry, she takes her amulet in her hands, says, “May it bring me luck” (“Che mi porta fortuna”) and kisses it (p. 103). 

Consider cleansing your amulet after anyone touches it or even if you suspect someone has touched it. Regardless, some people choose to clean their amulets each week, as part of general housekeeping. Obviously, this is for objects that you will have for a long time. For amulets directly from nature, such as a bay leaf, it’s best to return it to the earth when done with it or when it begins to fall apart or decay. These days, there are many people blogging or video posting on these matters. Some suggestions you’ll come across are similar, while others might be contradictory. Go with what makes sense and with what personally resonates. A final word of advice: Do not share your amulets or your talismans (more on talismans in part 4 of this 4-part blog). These are for you and you alone. If you are gifted one, clean it as well. 

Now, amulet pouches or medicine bags are treated a little differently. This will be the focus of the next article, or part 3. Amulet pouches or medicine bags should not be soaked in salt water, obviously, and don’t necessarily need to be smoked. However the contents can be cleaned and cleared prior to becoming part of a pouch though. The ritual act of making the pouch or bag is powerful in and of itself, so clearing or cleaning the space in which the bag will be constructed is a good initial step. Give it all of your undivided attention. Do not multi-task. Later, after the pouch has served its purpose, it can be buried or returned to the earth since it will likely decompose. 

Thank you for reading part 2 of 4 – the next section (part 3 of this series) will offer instruction for making your very own amulet pouch. For fuller exploration of this subject, read Dream Medicine: The Intersection of Wellness and Consciousness (Toplight Books, 2021).

Have you enjoyed this blog series thus far? If so, consider joining me for the Dream Medicine Retreat I’ll be hosting at the beautiful Mar de Jade Wellness Resort in Chacala, Mexico. Details can be found here:

All best,

~Dr. Kim









the what and why of amulets

Welcome to part 1 of a 4-part blog series on amulets & talismans.

If I asked, point blank: Do you intentionally carry an amulet? You’d likely say no. It’s not something on the forefront of most people’s minds. Were you ever gifted a rabbit’s foot? I was, and as a child I carried it with me…at least for a while. Or maybe instead you whisper, “rabbit, rabbit” at the start of each month. Either way, calling in good luck, or repelling bad luck, with various objects is serious business within cultures across the globe.

These days it seems that amulets are somewhat increasing in popularity, yet again, these are not objects at the forefront of one’s mind. The rabbit’s foot as a good luck charm was quite popular in the United States and Great Britain for decades. The history of this particular amulet is not entirely certain and is connected to several possibilities.

So what exactly is an amulet anyway? 

An amulet is said to contain natural virtues used for warding off evil, guarding against negativity, and protecting the wearer or carrier from harm. As a protective object an amulet can come in many shapes and sizes. The power is within the material. In short, an amulet repels what we don’t want, claims Mary Grace Fahrun, author of Italian Folk Magic (2018).

Here are some examples of common amulets which are culturally and situationally dependent:





A leaf of Bay/Laurel

A fresh or dried sprig of Rue


Silver and Gold

A stone, gem or crystal (such as quartz, amethyst, tourmaline, carnelian or onyx). 

Italian red coral is considered an amulet.

Amulets can offer protection in all states, whether in dream, meditative, visionary or waking states. Furthermore, amulets can serve as a general protective element as well as carry a unique function. One historical example is how fossilized amber was used for preventing nightmares with children. Another example could be the Italian corno or hunchback or the hand of Fatima, all of which are meant to provide a specific function—protection against evil eye. 

Apotropaic (aka protective) magic refers to the power to avert evil or harmful influences, bad luck, misfortune, or the evil eye. The popularity is evident, even today, by the vast number of apotropaic amulets and talismans sold worldwide. A very early example comes from ancient Greece in the 4th-century BCE – a relief showing Asklepios performing a healing ritual with a serpent and two apotropaic eyes above. These talismanic ‘eyes’ were also commonly found on ancient Greek vases and throughout parts of the Mediterranean region. See part 4 of this 4-part blog series for more on talismans.

From my visit to the archeological museum in Thessaloniki, 2019.

In the book The High Magic of Talismans and Amulets, Lecouteux (2005) provides some history on the origins of the word amulet: In the first century BCE, we come across the Latin word amuletum, derived from amoliri, meaning to protect, to drive away. Considering what amulets are and are not, the most striking example I’ve come across is revealed below. What you see is below is from an excerpt from my 2021 book, Dream Medicine:

Considering the notion of general protective capacities, let’s turn to Celtic traditions for a moment. Healing, wisdom and truth are sourced from severed heads. The most extreme example of an amulet I have ever come across, unsurprisingly, is that of a human skull fragment. According to Tom Cowan, author of Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit (1993), ancient Celts were well known for “their cult of the severed head” (p. 35); they flaunted the heads of enemies from their horses or their own necks. Celtic warriors wore human skull fragments as amulets. Sometimes the entire head was placed on a gatepost, outside a doorway, or on top of a stake for protection. In belief systems where the soul is immortal, residing in the head while alive on earth, it is not surprising that claiming or keeping one’s head “was the same as possessing that person’s soul, spirit and personal power, analogous to the practice found among some cultures of eating the heart or brain of a noble warrior or admired enemy in order to ingest his strength” (Cowan, 1993, p. 36). How about that for a power object!

Now that you know what amulets are and why people carry them, we’ll turn our attention to their care in the next part fo this blog series.

~Dr. Kim

Consider joining the Dream Medicine retreat in Mexico this Fall – we are booking now, so get all the details here:

Thank you for reading part 1 of this 4-part blog series. The next part (2) will place attention on the cleaning of amulets. For fuller exploration of this subject, read Dream Medicine: The Intersection of Wellness and Consciousness (Toplight Books, 2021).