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Reading the objects?

The folk magic objects held by the Horniman help reveal complicated ideas about healing, health, protection and magic. Some objects are seen to have inherent power and magical potency.

For example, this Amber amulet shows the protective qualities attributed to semi-precious stones and minerals.

Iron provided a barrier to enchantment by fairies; it continues to resonate with symbolic qualities of luck and protection, perhaps most familiar to us through the use of lucky horseshoes, to protect the household, or to provide good wishes at weddings.

Wood holds inherent merits - these Ash twigs are boiled in water, and the resulting potion given to cure fits.

The use of bones as charms relies on similar material earthy vibrations and power. These show the sustained use of sympathetic magic to draw on the natural potency of particular metals, elements or plants, to protect the individual, the small-holding and the household.

Other charms, made of natural, found materials, may refer to inherent effective qualities, but also rely on visual, qualities to enhance sympathetic connections between objects. Moorhen's feet are easily reminiscent of the feeling and pain of cramp, working towards affecting a cure.

Mole's feet were also helpful for cramp, although the Museum of Witchcraft suggests they can also be used to cure toothache and indeed they do look tooth-like.

This intriguing leg shaped rubbing stone helps ward off gout, while the resonant inner part of a whelk stone cures earache. Cramp, rheumatism, earache, toothache, all potentially chronic conditions that nineteenth century medics were rarely able to alleviate, but folk remedies attempted to cure.

Specially fabricated lucky charms build on folk magic: a trinket from the Irish Blarney Stone contains a scrap of the potent stone, we are told, with inherent magnetic powers, here transformed into a piece of jewellery. Other examples include the Buy Jingo charm, and the plethora of European coral charms and mother-of-pearl fishes, worn as adornments to bring luck.

The amulets and charms hand-crafted for World War I servicemen add further nuance to the protective and commemorative properties of amulets. There are more connections between these manufactured or crafted charms and the found objects than we might think. For example, this amulet made from a fragment of German shell found in the Scarborough bombardment in 1914 relies on sympathetic magic to repel further German attacks and so protect the wearer.