Charm Bags

A magick spell inside a bag. There are a wide variety of names for this most popular spell style. In addition to charm bag, there’s conjure bags, medicine bag, medicine hand, mojo bag, mojo hand, just plain old mojo, gris-gris bag, ouanga bag, dilly bag, amulet bag, magick bag, and for the scholarly, phylacteries. And those are just the English names! These are single-handedly the most popular method of carrying magickally charged items around the world.

The charm bag is a bag filled with one or more power items. Some can be seen as a miniature spell or an altar in a bag. Others are worki-in-progress: an ever-evolving collection of power objects.

Medicine bags can be extremely simple. A Moroccan spell recommends that an amulet bag be filled with Earth taken from a three-way crossroads and worn around the neck, to ward off the Evil Eye and on/or find and maintain true love.

Medicine bags can also be complex. The Brazilian charm bag, the patua, is made from leather or cloth might contain a danda root shaped into a figa, the fig hand , and place between leaves of rue and mucura. Garlic and cloves may be added, then prayers written  out with special ink and sewn into the bag.

Some traditions carry a multitude of items in one bag. In Native North American tradition, a medicine bag is initiated via an activating agent, for instance a pinch of tobacco, pollen, corn kernels, sweetgrass, white sage or a little bit of Earth, tied into a piece of red flannel. Other traditions insist on one item per bag; magick is forbidden in orthodox Muslim tradition, the exception being the use of Koranic verses as amulets. A separate pouch is needed for each amulet. African nomads may be covered in heather and metal talisman cases.

The variety of this type of magick is endless. The container itself becomes part of the spell. Materials are carefully chosen. Fine Arabic and tibetan amulet bags are finely crafted from metal and sometimes bejeweled. Other bags may be as simple as a knotted handkerchief. The drawstring bag is most familiar. Hoodoo recommends red flannel while Romany tradition suggests red silk.

Although the words are now used somewhat synonymously, technically a “hand” is a chosen bag, rather than an open one. There’s a fine line between a sachet and a hand, largely drawn by the fabric it’s crafted from (sachets are muslin, hands flannel) and the items they contain (a sachet contains only herbal material, a hand may contain a variety of materials, including the herbs).

Although modern hoodoo and conjure magick almost invariably used red flannel drawstring bags, early African-American mojo hands, immediately post-slavery and continuing on wards, were sewn red squares With the material sewn inside, they resemble an isolated single square. The traditional British mojo hand is very similar; two pieces of red flannel, dut into a heart shape, stuffed, sewn together and the outward decorated.

Bags possess the advantage of accessibility however there are other methods of carrying charms. The bag may be sewn into clothes or individual items sewn into clothing. Romany style, for privacy and  for added contact with body. Igor Stravinsky wore his sacred medals pinned to his underwear.