Saturday, September 22, 2007


It's Round Robin Time!

If it weren't for bad luck...

This week's Round Robin Photo Challenge topic, "Talisman," was suggested by Vicki, of the blog Maraca. It basically means a protective amulet, some magical or religious item that protects the owner or bearer or wearer. There are a number of talismans in the Mâvarin books, including the magic coin that Rani finds in Chapter One of Heirs of Mâvarin:

Later, as he waited for more hunters to come by, Rani pulled the coin from his pocket and examined it more closely. It didn’t look like money. It was bright silver, untarnished and unworn, inscribed with runes and a sword instead of a sun or a crown and the face of the King. The edge was an even circle, not a molten blob or a knife cut. It was very strange, and probably valuable. He doubted that any of the villagers would know what it was.

You're never alone with a rubber duck.

When I saw the word "Talisman" in the Round Robin topic suggestion kitty, I immediately thought of that coin Rani found under a beech tree, and several other magical items that appear in my books. But I thought of broader meanings as well. Many people have some "lucky" object that comforts us as we face the unknown, whether or not we literally believe that it can help prevent an accident, find love, land us a job, or bring victory in the Big Game. Perhaps it's an icon of the past, a touchstone to remind the person of happier times, or, conversely, difficult times overcome.

Shela withdrew a square of white cloth from a small drawstring pouch at her waist. She unfolded Del’s handkerchief and held up Rani’s coin for all to see. “This was found by Rani Fost on the River Road north of Liftlabeth. I believe it is the talisman that Imuselti gave to King Jor, less than a month before his disappearance.”

This hang tag magically protects me from being towed away -
as long as I don't actually try to park in that lot!

A modern day talisman can be something that protects us from abandoning our hopes, our dreams, our ideals. It's in a box at the moment, but my plastic Zorro figure on his horse Tornado is a talisman for me. He was supposed to protect me from injustice and nefarious deeds, and inspire me to be both clever and ethical. But Zorro did not defend me from the collapse of First Magnus, so I'm not digging him out to be photographed tonight. Here instead is my First Magnus parking permit hang tag, designed to protect the car's driver from being towed away. I was probably supposed to turn it in on August 16th, but I didn't think of it until afterward. I keep it now as a reminder of what happened, and because it amuses me to illicitly have an item granting access to a parking lot I'll probably never visit again, which these days is probably more than half empty anyway and therefore doesn't need access control.

My "lucky" interview clothes

Vicki mentioned the concept of a lucky bowling shirt as a talisman. I haven't bowled in over 30 years, but I must admit I've been treating the shirt and slacks above as if I believed they would bring me luck in job interviews. I was wearing them in the Nogales interview, and was on the point of being offered the job when I withdrew from consideration. I was wearing them when I met with C. of ARR!, and when I left another interview and retrieved the message that C. wanted to hire me. And I was not wearing them when I met with ARR!'s owners, who went on to hire someone else for the two positions. That's right - there were two permanent job openings, and I didn't get either one. Was it because I didn't wear the tweed pants and the red top? No, of course not. It's more a matter of wearing an outfit that I know to be adequate for the task of Thursday at Famous Vehicle Dealer, too, when the controller there hired me on the spot.

“Five mages in attendance outside Thâlemar’s gate closeted themselves for five weeks, and only they know how those weeks were spent. At the end of five weeks, they brought to the King a coin of silver, upon which was etched the image of a sword.

“‘When the tengremen come,” the King protested, “I will need a real sword, not a picture of one!”

“‘When the tengremen come,” they answered him, “this will be a sword. No force of arms may stand against it, and no invaders may breach its resting place.”

“Twenty-five days after receiving the mages’ coin, the King disappeared. However, no tengremen were seen within the city that night, and the talisman that was to protect King Jor has not been seen from that day to this.”

Fake petroglyph, real crystals

Whether or not we believe in the power of a talisman, many people are intrigued by the concept, on one level or another. The One Ring, which Bilbo found in The Hobbit and which caused so much trouble in The Lord of the Rings, is so iconic that I have a bookmark that came with a replica of it. Some of us also enjoy wearing mysterious pendants or necklaces that at least look as if they might have magical properties: an ankh, a pentacle or pentagram, worry beads, petroglyphs, a tiki, or some other ancient or not-so-ancient symbol. And some people actually do believe in the power of crystals and such. In Sedona, Arizona, New Age talismans are a whole industry.

Yes, but what do they mean?

Does that gold brooch I wore yesterday, which I inherited from my mother, represent anything more specific or symbolic than stylized flowers? I have no idea. But I know exactly what the shield-shaped pendent is. Do you? The design is outdated now, but fans will still recognize it. The current TARDIS key isn't nearly as arcane or mysterious, just a key-shaped key. But like the hang tags, it's a fun promise of access to someplace I'll never go.

Plastic bling grants the wearer...what, exactly?

Do you suppose this tendency to imbue objects with perceived magical properties has a neurological basis and not just a societal one? Are we, as the Eighth Doctor once said, "always seeing patterns in things that aren't there"? If so, then somewhere there's a kid with a lucky penny found on a playground, and another kid with a lucky pencil used for taking tests. Really, almost anything can assume talismanesque properties, depending on the perceptions and the desires of the person who owns it. The plastic pendants in the vending machine above look pretty ugly to me, far worse than the plastic "jewel" pendants in another dispenser. But some child is likely to be wearing one of these things when something good happens, and thereafter he will wear it to keep good things happening.

Toy talismans?

That's all for now, folks! I finished up at ARR! today, and had a series of pleasant "goodbye" moments with my friends there. Tuffy is no longer woozy from the anesthesia and pain meds, and ate a lot of dog food and soft treats (some with pills concealed inside) to make up for Thursday's fast.

Maybe tomorrow i'll buy a "lucky" first-day-at-the-new-job outfit.


Now go see what everyone else has for us on this topic!

Linking List


Carly - Posted!

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

- Posted!

- Posted!
fond of photography

Suzanne R - Posted!
New Suzanne R's Life

- Posted!
Nancy Luvs Pics

Kerrin - Posted!
a new day

- Posted!

Teena - Posted!
It's all about me!


Suzanne R said...

I am not a true believer in magic -- maybe I'm too left-brained -- but I do wish for you a lucky outfit for obtaining your next job.

Carly said...


"You're never alone with a rubber duck."

Yep... I completely believe that's true, because many a bad day has been saved for me, by the grace and companionship of a rubber duck. Very, very good entry this time around darin... and yes, you much treat yourself to a new outfit for the new job, it will put just a little extra pep in your step.

Always, Carly

Teena said...

Lots of great pix!

Mine's up too :)

Steven said...

Love the toy talismans! Last time my niece was in town she was drawn like a magnet to something similar. A big hunk of colored plastic but what dropped out of the machine was something considerably smaller. Still, the magic was there.

Janet said...

you're never alone with a camera too! Why I didn't post a picture of my camera, I'll never's the ultimate talisman!

MyMaracas said...

I love all the different takes you have on this one, and I enjoyed the excerpts from your books. Great post!


kmm said...

Karen, your posts are always so entertaining, I can see why you are a writer. Love the rubber ducky. Cheers Kerrin