The Mezuzah as Amulet

Have you ever noticed that Jewish homes have a little box attached to the doorpost? It’s a slanted box on the outside of the home (and sometimes on doorposts of interior rooms).  This little box is called a mezuzah, and it’s one of the amulets that Jews have used throughout history to bring protection to themselves. (I have also written about another Jewish amulet- demon bowls.)

A mezuzah is a small box affixed to the doorpost of the home. It contains a scroll with text from the Torah, specifically Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21:

Hear, O Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One.

You shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, to love the L‑rd Your G‑d and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give rain for your land at the proper time, the early rain and the late rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be sated. Take care lest your heart be lured away, and you turn astray and worship alien gods and bow down to them. For then the L‑rd’s wrath will flare up against you, and He will close the heavens so that there will be no rain and the earth will not yield its produce, and you will swiftly perish from the good land which the L‑rd gives you. Therefore, place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be a reminder between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, to speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates-so that your days and the days of your children may be prolonged on the land which the L‑rd swore to your fathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth.

 

The outside of the mezuzah is usually affixed with the Hebrew letter shin which stands for Shaddai- one of the names of G-d. The name Shaddai is often on the reverse of the scroll. Sometimes, other names and charms were written on the scroll as well- names of angels, kabbalistic imagery, etc

Historically speaking, the mezuzah was used as an amulet and talisman, both warding off evil and attracting blessings to those within the home. As you can see from the text, having the scroll affixed to the doorpost was seen as a method for ensuring prosperity, fertility, and long life. Traditionally, the belief was that the scroll had to be deemed kosher for the the mezuzah to be effective. At various times, when negative things would happen, it would be blamed on the person not having a mezuzah on their doorpost, or that the mezuzah was ineffective due to its non-kosher status. Many times, a person was urged to have their mezuzah checked to ensure it remained kosher after negative things happened.  

Many people claim that the mezuzah is not an amulet or talisman, but is simply an object used to fulfill a divine commandment. But, it can’t be argued that at times throughout history the object has been seen as having magical or mystical properties. The same goes for today- some do still view the mezuzah as an amulet. Whether or not a Jew believes the object has magical properties, the object is often placed, just as prescribed, kosher and on the doorpost. If the reason is to follow a divine commandment, I question why it is important to obey that command. Surely, a person gets something out of following an instruction- even if it is just feeling good about oneself. No matter how you look at it, the mezuzah does serve as an amulet in some way.

 

Demon Bowls

 

Magic bowls. Demon bowls. Incantation bowls. These bowls have gone by many names throughout the ages, but despite the various names, they all boil down to this: Judaism has a long history of magical practice (no matter how much some people want to deny it).

 

Magic bowls are pretty simple. They are a pottery bowl with an incantation written on them. The spell would generally start at the rim of the bowl and be written in a spiral around the outside of the bowl although sometimes the script was on the inside . Traditionally they were written in Hebrew or Aramaic and crafted by rabbis or magicians for their community members. But, they weren’t only crafted by or for Jews. Zoroastrians/Persians and Christians (as well as others) were customers for magic bowls

 

These bowls had many purposes. They could be used for healing or repelling demons. Lilith was a favorite for this. Many Jewish women would have a magic bowl for guarding against Lilith stealing her babies. Incantation bowls were also frequently used to call upon a deity for protection or guidance. In addition to the names of deities, the names of rabbis were also used within the incantations written on magic bowls. Many such bowls also included scripture as well as the names of angelic beings.

 

Once a person had commissioned and received a demon bowl, it was often buried, upside down, inside their home. The reason for burying the amulet upside down was to trap or bind the demon inside. Bowls were sometimes also buried right side up in order to attract something to the owner.

 

Magic bowls are just one example of magic in ancient Judaism. It’s easy to believe today that such things never existed, but they did. Magic has long been part of the history of Judaism.

Note: Image By Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011), CC BY 2.5

Embarking on a New Path

We have all heard the saying that when one door closes another one opens. Not only have we heard it, but for the most part, we know from personal experience that it is true. But, knowing something and living it out can be two different things. We can know that better things are coming, but it can still be extremely difficult to give up the old way of doing things. Familiarity breeds comfort. This is something I have been learning this week. (I didn’t start out this blog to talk about what I’m specifically learning, but that’s what it has turned in to the past few weeks!) For the past year and a half I have been working with one of my spiritual teachers. This week I have felt a huge call to stop my classes. This isn’t because I am not learning from her- I am learning so much! Actually, this feeling has been off and on for the past two months and I have continuously talked myself into continuing the program I am taking. 

The past few days have been filled with me seriously having the feeling that I need to move onto a new path. But, there is one aspect of the program that I will really miss. Even my husband, who is not into all the woo that I am has said he doesn’t want me to stop taking my classes. (So sweet of him to support me in this way). I have debated all weekend over whether or not I need to continue. The program I am enrolled in is shamanic in nature and has a strong focus on astrology. Both of these topics are ones that I have wanted to explore more in depth. When I was talking to my husband I told him that I could continue with the astrology on my on through personal study of books (I’m a librarian so I have access to pretty much anything!) But, the shamanism is something that I have really been struggling with because it’s not something I can really learn on my own. I need to learn it from someone else. 

Well, today I was in a class when I learned that beginning this fall, another one of my teachers is going to be offering a two year shamanism program. This program will be one hundred percent focused on shamanism (which is the path I know I’m supposed to be on) and I won’t have to be in a program with information that I don’t need. This isn’t to say I’m not learning from everything in my current program, I just don’t think that it is all what I need right now. And the part that is I can get elsewhere. 

Another positive of the upcoming program is that I can take this program in person. Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with online classes. I take online classes and I teach online classes. But, some programs of study are better transmitted in an in person setting where you have physical access between the teacher and the student. Shamanism is one of those things. 

So, I do think that I have my answer and that I need to bow out of my current program. I am going to miss it, but I think that in the meantime between now and when this new program begins I am going to more than have my hands full with this business. I have several new programs that I’m going to be launching over the next few months, and I think that I will be able to use my time to focus on offering ways to help each of you heal and grow as I have been. My program has already been paid through March so I have one last month, but after that, I will be embarking on preparing myself for a new path. 

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned

Babies. They get me every time. I always wanted babies- even when I said I didn’t I secretly did. I don’t have any children. I see my friends having babies and I’m genuinely happy for them. But, I have to admit that I’m just a wee bit envious as well.

When we are children we all have a vision of what we want our adult lives to be like. Here is how my vision went: I would be thin and beautiful. I would have tons of friends and be in a sorority in college. I would graduate college and become a teacher. I would meet the love of my life and get married. We would have two children: a boy and a girl in that order. We would have a dog and a cat and live in the suburbs in a house with a white picket fence. Our children would be well behaved and loving children. We would continue to have tons of friends and socialize all the time. We would grow old together and have at least 50 years of wedded bliss before my husband passed away with me soon following from a broken lonely heart. Seriously. That was my life plan when I was ten.

So, at 38 years old, how much of that has actually come to pass? Let’s see. I’m not thin, but I am beautiful. I struggle with that sometimes, but ultimately I do think I’m beautiful. I’m not a social person by nature. Well, let me rephrase that. I am a very social person but I’m also extremely shy. I don’t make friends easily, and as a result I have very few friends. I have tons of acquaintances, but very few friends. I was in a sorority in college, and am a firm believer that sisterhood is for life. I was a teacher, but not straight out of college. It took 12 years after college before I became a teacher. And guess what. I HATED it. Literally, couldn’t stand it and left the profession after three miserable years. I am married, but this is my third marriage, and I seriously doubt we will be growing old together. He happens to be 24 years older than me, so he likely will die before I do. I just hope I don’t follow soon after. Sorry ten year old self. You will thank me for that one. My second husband passed away. He was six years younger than me, and passed away. That’s life and it happens. We die. But back to my rehash of how my childhood life plan turned out. Like I said, I don’t have those 2 children. I do have a dog, but no cat. So, out of a life plan that consisted of 15-20 points only 2.5 of those came to pass.

If you judge the success of your life based on how things line up with a childhood plan then my life is a miserable failure. And I will admit that I sometimes struggle and think that. When I stumble across old childhood friends on Facebook and see how their lives turned out it sometimes makes me sad to think I wanted that life but didn’t get it. But I try really hard not to dwell on that. I remind myself of the beautiful life that I do have.

The life I envisioned for myself was a childish fantasy. That’s not to say that people who are living that life are childish. Not by a long shot. But see, that life was not for me. My guides have a higher calling for me than to live that life. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but there is something in store for me that is so beyond that life that I can’t even imagine it. If I had gotten my fantasy adult life there is something out there that I would miss out on. You see, my life is magical. You heard it. Magical. I’m 38 and on my third marriage. My husband is a disabled senior citizen. I work full time, but it’s in a field I love. While it’s not an easy job I love it. And, I’m also cultivating this magical corner of the universe.

My childhood life plan was not the life of my authentic self. And that’s the key to remember. That fantasy was based on the me that I thought I needed to be, the me I tried so hard and so long to be. I tried to be popular and was not. I tried to be a Christian, and I’m not. I lived so many years of my life trying to fit the mold that I was raised to be. And i have nothing but love for my family, but that life is not me. I have finally embraced the authentic me. And I am happy. I am happy because I can be who I am here to be and I can accomplish whatever it is that I am here to accomplish. I have a loving husband who supports me. He doesn’t understand my path completely, but he supports me on that path. And for all of this I have to say that I am beyond happy. I am content.

So, no. Sometimes we don’t get the life we always wanted. But we get the life we need. We get the life we are meant to live. Those of us who are living what others consider to be a failed life can remember that we have not failed. Our lives are full of destiny and a lot of magic.