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A kind of magic

A kind of magic


People have used talismans, charms and amulets to protect themselves from harm and to promote good fortune since the earliest times.

The first amulets were probably the claws and teeth of animals like lions and tigers, carried because it was thought they connected the wearer with the animal spirit world that would empower and protect them. Since then, the belief in powerful objects has been almost universal and can still be witnessed in people's behaviour today.

The objects in this tour illustrate the many ways in which magical or powerful objects have been used. Some were worn by the living to avoid common ailments or as charms for good luck or a general sense of well-being. Others were placed in graves and in tombs to protect the dead. There are also objects that were used to protect whole buildings rather than individuals.

This tour was written to accompany the exhibition A Kind of Magic at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2 April-29 June 2003). The exhibition was curated by Stephen Feeke and James Putnam. It was part of a series of collaborations between the Henry Moore Institute, part of the Henry Moore Foundation, and the British Museum's Contemporary Arts and Cultures Programme.

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Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99

Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99