Friday, October 26, 2012

Amulet auction in Tel Aviv

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: Amulet collection spanning 8,000 years is up for grabs at T.A. auction: The starting prices for the amulets, which come from the collection of antiquities dealer and amulet collector Lenny Wolfe, range from $25 to $5,000. (Haaretz). Excerpt:
A second-century figure of a mouse, whose starting price is listed as $300, was meant to protect against mice in the pantry, and a clenched fist from the second or third century was thought to keep evil spirits, demons and bad luck at bay.

In some cultures the clenched fist was seen as a rude gesture, much like sticking up one's middle finger today, said Wolfe, and the "negative nature of the amulet served to protect against evil."

The medieval scholar Maimonides, as well as rabbis in the talmudic era, prohibited Jews from using amulets, especially those made from parts of animals. But the fact that they were banned indicates that they may already have been in widespread use.

"When there are prohibitions, you have to look for the politics behind them," said Wolfe. "On the one hand, they banned use of amulets. On the other hand, sometimes the custom was allowed, but only for specific people, a small circle of friends." All the same, many of the amulets in the collection have Hebrew inscriptions and are connected to Judaism.
It seems that many of these are modern, but if you do happen to buy an ancient one, please consider donating it to a museum. Or at least make sure to make it available to specialists who want to study it. Publications on the piece will only make it more valuable.