Antique omani silver amulet
Antique Omani silver charm

SILVER AMULETS

Below you find a large collection of silver amulets and an explanation of the intriguing Zar ceremony to drive out evil spirits.

The Omani princess Emily Ruete / Bibi Salme in her book Memoirs of an Arabian princess 1886 writes:  "In order to protect the child against imaginary evil eye, on the fortieth day it is provided with amulets.  People in our parts are fond of everything mysterious; the more secretive and impenetrable an affair appears, the more it is believed. Everybody believes in invisible spirits, good and evil . When she was 15 Bibi got a new damascened dress and got ill. The elder experienced people  at once new with certainty that I was bewitched , or at least that some jealous being had cast an evil eye on the pretty material. Strictly speaking I should have had a charm said over it . There was hardly any child with us that had not been possessed once of the devil. e.g. when  a new born baby cries too much it is surely possessed and steps are immediately taken to exorcise the devil (by putting a string of small onions/garlic (like pearls) around the neck of the child. Grown-up people are also frequently possessed, men only very rarely but women quite often(...)" Comment: Subsequently  Bibi describes the  ceremony to exorcise the evil spirit in detail (Zar ceremony) . See page 214 / 215 in the Ward and Downey English edition 1888 and or Page 72 / 73 in volume 2 of the first German edition in 1886.

Emily Ruete in Memoirs of an Arabian Princess (1888 Ward & Downey London edition page 64) writes: "Several charms are also attached to the child's body on the fortieth day (after birth) to protect it against the effects of the evil eye. They are called "Hamaje" or "Hafid" and consist of all sorts of things; the lower class using an onion, or a bit of garlic, or small shells, a piece of bone stiched up in leather and worn on the upper arm of the left arm. In the upper classes these kinds of charms are replaced by gold or silver plates worn on a chain round the neck, upon which sentences from the Koran are engraved. The boys wear them only up to a certain age, the girls generally a longer period.. the favourite charm consists of a gold or silver locket of pretty workmanship, likewise worn on a chain, two inches long by one inch wide, enclosing a miniature of the "hurs" (guardian). No person wearing a charm like this bearing the holy name of the Lord, may enter an unclean place- a proof surely of the great reference of a true Mohametan for his Lord and Creator! "

Zwemer (who worked in Oman) in  his book "The influence of animism on Islam" 1920 writes: "A Zar is a sinister visitor (zara yezuru) who makes his or her abode and so possess the victim. The Zar ceremony varies by country but in all cases The Zar is propitiated by burning Incense, the Zar dance with music and the (blood) sacrifice. Silver amulets can play a role during the dance (with bells) gifts, after the blood sacrifice when the patient gets new cloths and new silver ornaments. In Bahrain possessed people would wear a signet ring with the name of the particular Zar engraved in a red stone. The ring is washed in blood to make it effective..... Bertram Thomas (advisor to the Sultan of Oman) in his book "Alarms and Excursions"  1931 p 260-262  Describes in detail the Zar ceremony lead by a priestess to exorcise the Jinns from a man. The audience of approx 100 people consists nearly entirely of women! During the ceremony the Zar wants a sacrifice of (animal) blood for the propitiation. A devotee of the Zar cult who is periodically possessed  will probably have had his finger-ring washed in the blood of the sacrifice. 

Osgood in Notes of Travel or recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar Muscat etc. Salem 1854  page 28 : "Over each doorway is fixed a passage from the Koran, usually written on a piece of paper. In this practice, as many others, may be noticed the superstious belief of the Suahelis in demonomy, an their implicit faith in the power of charms and amulets to keep off evil spirits. The devil, or Shatan, as the call him, is a continued source of annoyance. To relieve the sufferings of demoniacs, goats and black fowls are killed upon the seashore, with exorcising ceremonies; after which a miniature boat is launched, in which his satanic majesty is supposed to take passage. A parting salute of truly aimed stones overturns his conveyance and secures his temporary absence"

Antique Omani silver belt

 Omani antique silver belt

 

Bertram Thomas in his book "Arabia Felix" 1932 page 194-197 describes a relatively simple Zar ceremony to cure a man in the desert. The chief differences were: the audience were not women but men, who did not play a hysterical part in the proceedings: The master of ceremony was a man and not a woman and finally fire was used instead of blood. During the ceremony  "the Zar" speaking via the ceremony master wanted a ring.  Jenny Balfour-Paul in her book "Indigo in the Arab world" 1997 p 162 writes " The Zar - the word originates from the pre-Islamic Abyssinian sky-god - is a specifically evil spirit that gains possession of a person and causes him or her all kinds of ills, both physical and mental. The Zar is best propitiated at late night ceremonies (avoiding Thursdays or Fridays, the Muslim equivalent of the Christian Sabbath) called darab al-zar. These are presided over by a leader, or shaykha, known as umm al zar (mother of zars), who is often a negress of East African origin. After much dancing and chanting  the shaykha draws out the Zar from the body of the possessed, who is usually in a trance by now, and the Zar proceeds to make demands through the shaykha´s mouth. A sacrifice of blood is usually required and other demands include gifts of silver or that the sufferer should don clothing of specific colours , often indigo etc"

The book Oman Adorned a portrait in silver 1997 contains a description of the Zar ceremony on page 210-213 and also addresses the role of silver e.g. silver belts. It is distinctly possible that the Zar belief was brought to Oman from East Africa as a side-product of the slave-trade  and that black female  slaves introduced it into the Harem to gain some power over their fellow slaves and masters. Even Omani ships carried large round wooden amulets, connected with a rope to its sides! For two fine 19th century examples from Zanzibar see the standard exhibition in the Afrika Museum Berg en Dal (Nijmegen Netherlands) The book Tribes in Oman by JRL Carter 1982 page 169 - page 174 Discusses Omani Folklore with particular focus on magic. He writes " It is in some sense amusing to note that so much of this sort has survived under the very nose of the Ibadiy Imamate whose strict teachings naturally frowns on it" In this context it is not surprising that the Omani silversmiths produced plenty  of different silver Amulets to protect against the evil spirits. Wellsted in 1838 on page 321 writes that "the children are burdened with silver ornaments"  See also the photo by Zwemer of the two  children in the "Oman Photos" section.

Omani silver amulet

 

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Antique Oman Amulet with Koranic Text

Koranic Amulet

Scarce rectangular amulet with Koran texts and chain. The pendant´s shape resembles that of a wooden writing tablet (Lawh or loh) often used by students learning the Quran. Worn by children.  Size: rectangular:  8 by 6 cm;  Weight: 50  grams.

Omani silver amulet

Arab names: Luh / Loh (a board  or flat surface for writing, like a school-board)

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman Rustaq

References:
  1. Oman Adorned Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond Miranda Morris  / Apex London 1997 p 101-105
  2. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192-198
  3. Catalog of the Oman exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam 2009 page 137
  4. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz p 67
  5. British Museum on-line collection number 2009,6023.218 Weight 43 grams length 7 cm width 5 cm. Silver necklace with a flat rectangular pendant (loh necklace) inscribed with Qur'anic verses (Q.112:1-3) in five lines and surrounded by incised chevron motifs. The pendant's shape resembles that of a wooden writing tablet (lawh or loh) often used by students learning the Qur'an in many parts
  6. The peoples of Zanzibar, their customs and religious beliefs by Godfrey Dale, universities mission to central Africa  Westminster London 1920 page 38-45. He writes on page 38:  "Belief in witchcraft and magic seems to be universal amongst the people of Africa, and even in Zanzibar and Pemba in spite of the presence of Islam, has a very strong hold on the minds of the people.  Mohammed himself evidently believed in it, is said to have suffered from the consequences of it, and to have been given the last chapters of the Koran in order to enable him to recover from these consequences. In fact these two last chapters are considered  to be of great value as a preservative against witchcraft, and are constantly inscribed on talismans or recited for this purpose etc."

Antique Oman Amulet with a magic quadrant / Square

Amulet with a magic quadrant

Scarce round Omani silver amulet with a magic quadrant (links to Koran texts) Size 4,5 cm diameter.  Weight: 20 grams.on p 196. Zwemer in 1920 (ref 3)  mentions that the most common Muslim amulet was pear-shaped with on one side a magic square with the names of the four archangels around its sides. 

antique Omani silver amulet

Arab Period: 1850-1950

Name: Tok (meaning power or potency)

Origin: Oman Zanzibar

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 101-105 
  2. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192
  3. For a detailed overview of Islamic magic tables see Zwemer " The influence of animism on Islam 1920 page 202 - 207
  4. Zanzibar its History and its people by W.H. Ingrams  p 478-482 on magic squares and numbers. P 475 has a photo of a manuscript book for making magic squares.

Antique Oman silver disk Amulet with Koranic text (and shackled Jinn on the back)

Kirsh Kitab

Common Omani Silver Samt pendant (Silver disk):

a) On the front of this silver medal is a Koranic text   "the Throne" = Ayat 255 of the second Surat of the holy Koran) This text is believed to have protective amuletic properties (protect against evil spirits) 

b) Engraved on the back of the pendant is a stylized image of a female djinn or spirit, sometimes known as the 'Umm al-subyan' (mother of the boys)handcuffed and shackled at the ankles.

The wearer of this element is clearly "betting on two horses",  if the front charm does not work he still has the one on the back of the medal!

According to Oman Adorned (ref 1)  p 102, 'On the back of the samt there was almost always a small figure - on older examples, in a highly stylised form - representing a jinn (a spirit, not necessarily evil) - though some referred to this figure specifically as a sheytan, or devil. This figure, which seems to represent a female spirit, umm al-subyan, "mother of the boys", was depicted as being handcuffed and shackled at the ankles (some say this was carried out by the Prophet Suleiman, in order to render her powerless): she was said to give children nightmares, and boys wet-dreams, and the samt was often placed around the boy's neck, or under his pillow, or was wrapped in leather and tied just above the elbow during sleep, in order to protect the sleeper from harm. The same figure was sometimes drawn on a slip of paper, along with Qur'anic verses, the paper then being carefully folded up and put into a silver hirz or wrapped in a leather pouch. This amulet was then called hirz al-qama, "hirz of the standing (figure) "  It was worn, especially by young boys and married women, to protect them from the female spirit or she-devil, and from the bad dreams and mental disturbance which she brought. Weight 40 grams. Diameter of the disk is  6,5 cm.

Antique Omani silver amulet 

Koranic Verses

Omani silver amulet

Example of a shackled Jinn on the back of the amulet, in case the verses on the front do not work!

Arab name: Samt / Kirsh Kitab (coin or disk with writing)

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman  

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton Robert Richmond Miranda Morris / Apex London 1997 101-105 ;
  2. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192.
  3. For a description of the use of the Holy Koran Verse "The Throne" see Zwemer " The influence of animism on Islam 1920 page 196 ;
  4. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster p 39 ;
  5. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz p 73
  6. Arab & Islamic Silver by Saad Al-Jadir 1981 Stacey International p 107 bottom right
  7. Ethnic Jewellery from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands 2002 Amsterdam Pepin Press p 63
  8. Islamic Art in Oman page 340 and 341 Poor example
  9. The National Museum of Oman Highlights published by Scala Arts & Heritage publishers in  2016 page 44, similar amulet on a silver chain.
  10. The peoples of Zanzibar, their customs and religious beliefs by Godfrey Dale, universities mission to central Africa  Westminster London 1920 page 38-45. He writes on page 38:  "Belief in witchcraft and magic seems to be universal amongst the people of Africa, and even in Zanzibar and Pemba in spite of the presence of Islam, has a very strong hold on the minds of the people.  Mohammed himself evidently believed in it, is said to have suffered from the consequeces of it, and to have been given the last chapters of the Koran in order to enable him to recover from these consequences. In fact these two last chapters are considered  to be of great value as a preservative against witchcraft, and are constantlyon talismans or recited for this purpose etc."

Amulets with silver mounted wild animal teeth, coral, bottle stoppers etc.

Silver mounted amulets

Common Omani  amulets. The teeth of certain amulets were often used as amulets. A tooth talisman was in particular given to children. Note the child on the previous photo from around 1890 discussing the silver centrepiece. The girl is wearing bottle stoppers and animal teeth as amulets. 

Antique Omani silver amulets

 a) Particularly valuable in Dhofar were the teeth of the Leopard. By wearing an animals tooth something of the ferocity and power of the animal was transferred to the child.

b) Hyena´s teeth were also valued for sorcerers were believed to ride on the back the male hyena. 

c)  Foxes teeth were not valued by the mountain people however the Bedouin did sometimes use them.

The silver mount of the glass stopper has a Rostaq rose engraved on it:

Omanu silver amulet

                                                      Photo of Omani amulets in  "PDO News"

 

Arab Name: Mounted amulets

Period: 1850-1960

Origin: Oman incl. Dhofar

  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 pages  295-296 (on teeth amulets)
  2. PDO news no 4 1992 Oman silver Jewelry by Rebecca Brickson p 25 contains a photo with a large number of different Omani amulets (see the photo slide-show)
  3. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster 48 fig 34
  4. Silver jewellery of Oman by Jehan S Rajab 1997 page 36
  5. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz page 68
  6. Oman Faces and places, articles from PDO News magazine 2009 p 134

Five antique Omani silver silver Zar rings (worn by men and women) to protect against evil

Silver Zar ring from Oman

Square silver Zar finger-rings with a domed central portion. Made of wire-work and granulation. It was worn for daily use but for a special healing ceremony called the "Zar" ceremony.

The purpose of the Zar ceremony is to exorcise evil spirits. Compare the Black Masses, held in the past, in Christianity. For a description of the Zar process see the beginning of the amulets section. The communal Zar ceremony was conducted by a trained master who performed rituals using incantations, drums, singing, fire, blood and frankincense in order to exorcise evil spirits (Jinns) that possessed the patient causing her illness. Worn by men and women to:

Protect against evil

Be worn at the point during the Zar ceremony after the "patient" has been washed and newly dressed and with new jewelry

Be used as a gift during the Zar ceremony

See the slide-show for five examples of Zar rings.

 

Omani silver ringOmani silver ring

Omani silver ringOmani silver ring

Antique Omani silver zar ring  

Arab names:Rare Omani silver Zar ring (plural of Zar is Zeeran) According to Zwemer the word Zar means " A (sinister) visitor (zara yezuru)  who makes his or her abode and so possess the victim"

Period:  1900-1970

Origin: Worn throughout Oman

References:
  1. Craft heritage of Oman p 165 and 445/446. Tribute to Oman 18th National day R. Richmond p 150.
  2. S.M Zwemer Influence of Animism on Islam an account of popular superstitions 1920 by S.M. Zwemer (has worked in the Gulf and Oman) p 227 - p 244 discusses the Zar: exorcism of demons;
  3. A tribute to Oman National day Volume X "Muscat and its custom houses" Robert Richmond. Apex page 80;
  4. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton Robert Richmond Miranda Morris / Apex London 1997 discusses the Zar ceremony on pages 112, 113-115, 210-216. Page 214 and 215 show a large collection of Zar rings. ;
  5. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster p 87 fig 84 ;
  6. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz p 115
  7. Arab & Islamic Silver by Saad Al-Jadir 1981  Stacey International p 121 Above Five rings listed as Yemeni but three of them are Omani
  8. Volkerenkundig Museum Leiden inv.nr:  5715-2327 mediocre example

Antique Omani silver belt for the Zar ceremony (small size)

Very rare Omani silver belt. A woman sometimes acquired certain pieces of silver jewelry because of Spirit possession. This very finely made silver belt is used for the Zar ceremony to wear off the devil / djinns. The chain is made of finely braided silver, like a Mishal (see earrings section) Based on lock and pin principle. The lock with a very fine detailed design. The purpose of the Zar ceremony is to exorcise evil spirits. Compare the Black Masses, held in the past, in Christianity. For a description of the Zar process see the beginning of the amulets section. The communal Zar ceremony was conducted by a trained master who performed rituals using incantations, drums, singing, fire, blood and frankincense in order to exorcise evil spirits (Jinns) that possessed the patient causing her illness.

Antique Omani silver belt

Arab names:

Zar (plural of Zar is Zeeran) According to Zwemer the word Zar means " A (sinister) visitor (zara yezuru) who makes his or her abode and so possess the victim"

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond  Miranda Morris / Apex London 1997 p 144-145 210-216
  2. Richardson & Dorr The Craft heritage of Oman Volume 2 page 3 20:323; 448 item 078
  3. Influence of Animism on Islam an account of popular superstitions 1920 by S.M. Zwemer (has worked in the Gulf and Oman) p 227 -  p 244 discusses the Zar: exorcism of demons
  4. Indigo in the Arab world by Jenny Balfour Paul ISBN-13 978-1904982159

Antique Omani silver belt for Zar ceremony (larger size)

Antique Omani silver belt

Very rare Omani silver belt. A woman sometimes acquired certain pieces of silver jewelry because of Spirit possession. This very finely made silver belt is used for the Zar ceremony to wear off the devil / djinns. The chain is made of finely braided silver, like a Mishal (see earrings section) Based on lock and pin principle. The lock with a very fine detailed design. The purpose of the Zar ceremony is to exorcise evil spirits. Compare the Black Masses, held in the past, in Christianity. For a description of the Zar process see the beginning of the amulets section. The communal Zar ceremony was conducted by a trained master who performed rituals using incantations, drums, singing, fire, blood and frankincense in order to exorcise evil spirits (Jinns) that possessed the patient causing her illness.

Omani Silver belt

Arab names: Zar  (plural of Zar is Zeeran). According to Zwemer (Ref 2) the word Zar means " A (sinister) visitor (zara yezuru) who makes his or her abode and so possess the victim"

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 144-145 210-216
  2. Influence of Animism on Islam an account of popular superstitions 1920 by S.M. Zwemer (has worked in the Gulf and Oman) p 227 - p 244 discusses the Zar: exorcism of demons
  3. The craft heritage of Oman Vol 2 Richardson & Dorr page 448 item 078

Omani Silver Zar belt

Adjustable Omani silver Zar belt

Very rare Omani silver belt. A woman sometimes acquired certain pieces of silver jewelry because of Spirit possession. This very finely made silver belt is used for the Zar ceremony to wear off the devil / djinns. The chain is made of finely braided silver, like a Mishal (see earrings section) Based on lock and pin principle. The lock with a very fine detailed design. The purpose of the Zar ceremony is to exorcise evil spirits. Compare the Black Masses, held in the past, in Christianity. For a description of the Zar process see the beginning of the amulets section. The communal Zar ceremony was conducted by a trained master who performed rituals using incantations, drums, singing, fire, blood and frankincense in order to exorcise evil spirits (Jinns) that possessed the patient causing her illness.

Arab names: Zar  (plural of Zar is Zeeran). According to Zwemer (Ref 2) the word Zar means " A (sinister) visitor (zara yezuru) who makes his or her abode and so possess the victim"

Period: 1850-1900

Origin: Probably from Oman ( slight doubt in view of the lower silver content, in the flat components)

 References:

Omani antique silver amulet with stylized figures ( fertility symbols)

Omani antique silver amulets, so called Taswira figures

Very Rare Omani silver Taswirah figure (worn by children or by women as fertility talismans) with unusually fine detailed decoration. Although the representation of the human form is generally forbidden in Islam, the pre-Islamic tradition survived in the making of a variety of amulets. Weight 25 grams. Length 7 cm.

Ref 5 Mols: 'Another shape invested with magical protective powers is an abstracted human figure, the taswira. This amulet is unique to Oman. For children it was believed to ward off evil influences, while in the case of a woman, the taswira supposedly enhanced her fertility.

 Omani Silver fertility amulet

Arab names: Taswira / Taswirah figures

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Central and Northern Oman (typically made in the interior)

References:
  1. Oman Adorned, a portrait in silver  by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 107
  2. Ruth Hawley Silver the traditional Art of Oman (2000 edition) p 25
  3.  Richardson & Dorr The craft heritage of Oman p 442 item 046
  4. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex  p 192
  5. Catalog of the Oman exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam 2009 page 137 ;
  6. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster 48 fig 34; Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz p 68
  7. Oman Faces and places, articles from PDO News magazine 2009 p 138
  8. PDO News No 4/1992 Oman silver Jewelry by Rebecca Brickson p 28
  9. British Museum similar item  1950's Length: 8 centimetres (pendant) Width: 4.5 centimetres Museum reg: 2009,6023.220
  10. The National Museum of Oman Highlights published by Scala Arts & Heritage publishers in  2016 page 45

Antique Omani silver Amulet with stylized figures (fertility symbol)

Antique Omani silver Amulet (fertility symbol)

 Scarce stylised Omani silver figure of a pregnant women? Although the representation of the human form is generally forbidden in Islam , the pre-Islamic tradition survived in the making of a variety of amulets.  Worn by children to protect against evil.  Worn by women as fertility symbols, to increase fertility and safeguard pregnancy and childbirth.  Weight 11 grams. Length 5 cm.

Ref 5 Mols: 'Another shape invested with magical protective powers is an abstracted human figure, the taswira. This amulet is unique to Oman. For children it was believed to ward off evil influences, while in the case of a woman, the taswira supposedly enhanced her fertility. 

Omani sivler amulet

Arab name: Taswira / Taswirah figures

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Central and Northern Oman  (typically made in the interior)

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond Miranda Morris / Apex London 1997 p 107
  2. Ruth Hawley Silver the traditional Art of Oman (2000 edition) p 25
  3. Richardson & Dorr The craft heritage of Oman p 442 item 046 ;
  4. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192
  5. Catalog of the Oman exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam 2009 page 137 ; Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster 48 fig 34
  6. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz p 68
  7. British Museum similar item  1950's Length: 8 centimetres (pendant) Width: 4.5 centimetres Museum reg: 2009,6023.220 Silver necklace with a flat pendant in the shape of a stylised figure of a pregnant woman. Lightly decorated with incised lines, circles and five central starburst motifs. The pendant was once fully gilded although much of the gold has faded. Such figural necklaces (taswirah) were worn by women to increase fertility and safeguard pregnancy and childbirth. They were also worn by children for amuletic purposes. They are popular in central and northern Oman and can be found in combination with other amuletic pendants on Omani necklaces
  8. The National Museum of Oman Highlights published by Scala Arts & Heritage publishers in  2016 page 45

Omani antique silver amulet (fertility symbol)

Silver amulet (fertility symbol)

Scarce Omani silver Taswira figure (worn by children, or by women as fertility symbols) Floral designs. Although the representation of the human form is generally forbidden in Islam , the pre-Islamic tradition survived in the making of a variety of amulets. Weight 18 grams. Length 7 cm.

Ref 5 Mols: 'Another shape invested with magical protective powers is an abstracted human figure, the taswira. This amulet is unique to Oman. For children it was believed to ward off evil influences, while in the case of a woman, the taswira supposedly enhanced her fertility.  

Omani Silver amulet

Arab name: Taswira / Taswirah

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Central and northern Oman   (typically made in the interior)

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond Miranda Morris / Apex London 1997 p 107
  2. Ruth Hawley Silver the traditional Art of Oman (2000 edition) p 25
  3. Richardson & Dorr The craft heritage of Oman p 442 item 046
  4. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192
  5. Catalog of the Oman exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam 2009 page 137
  6. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster 48 fig 34
  7. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz p 68
  8. British Museum similar item  1950's Length: 8 centimetres (pendant) Width: 4.5 centimetres Museum reg: 2009,6023.220

Omani antique silver amulet

Omani antique silver amulet

Scarce Omani silver Taswira figure (worn by children, or by women as fertility symbols) Although the representation of the human form is generally forbidden in Islam , the pre-Islamic tradition survived in the making of a variety of amulets. Weight 15 grams. Length 7 cm.

 Ref 5 Mols: 'Another shape invested with magical protective powers is an abstracted human figure, the taswira. This amulet is unique to Oman. For children it was believed to ward off evil influences, while in the case of a woman, the taswira supposedly enhanced her fertility. 

Antique Omani silver amulet

Arab names:Taswirah / Taswira figures

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman Zanzibar  (typically made in the interior)

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond Miranda Morris / Apex London 1997 p 107
  2. Ruth Hawley Silver the traditional Art of Oman (2000 edition) p 25
  3. Richardson & Dorr The craft heritage of Oman p 442 item 046
  4. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192 
  5. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster 48 fig 34
  6. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz  p 68
  7. British Museum similar item  1950's Length: 8 centimetres (pendant) Width: 4.5 centimetres Museum reg: 2009,6023.220
  8. The National Museum of Oman Highlights published by Scala Arts & Heritage publishers in  2016 page 45

Omani antique silver amulet

Omani antique silver amulet

Scarce Omani silver Taswira figure (fertility symbols) Sometimes described as "stylized figure of a pregnant woman. Although the representation of the human form is generally forbidden in Islam , the pre-Islamic tradition survived in the making of a variety of amulets.

Ref 5 Mols: 'Another shape invested with magical protective powers is an abstracted human figure, the taswira. This amulet is unique to Oman. For children it was believed to ward off evil influences, while in the case of a woman, the taswira supposedly enhanced her fertility. 

antique omani silver amulet

Arab name:Taswirah

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman Zanzibar   (typically made in the interior)

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond  Miranda Morris / Apex London 1997 p 107
  2. Ruth Hawley Silver the traditional Art of Oman (2000 edition) p 25.
  3. Richardson & Dorr The craft heritage of Oman p 442 item 046
  4. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p
  5. Catalog of the Oman exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam 2009 page 137
  6. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster 48 fig 34
  7. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz 68
  8. British Museum has a similar item in their on-line collection number 2009,6023.220 length 8 cm
  9. The National Museum of Oman Highlights published by Scala Arts & Heritage publishers in  2016 page 45

Antique Baluchi silver ornaments (including magic table) for a belt

Antique Baluchi silver ornaments for a belt

Very rare antique Baluchi silver ornaments for a belt. Consists of:

a)  A medallion with beautifully engraved Koranic texts

b) A medallion with two abstract humans and a magic table

c) Three Koran-boxes with beautifully engraved  Koranic texts.

    Although the representation of the human form is generally forbidden in Islam , the pre-Islamic tradition survived in the making of a variety of amulets. Overall very fine silver-work.

    Antique Omani silver belt

Name: Antique Baluchi silver ornaments for a belt

Period: 1800-1900

Origin: Oman Baluchi  (purchased in Nizwa with a piece of very old worn leather behind it (remains of an ancient belt)

References:
  1. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192
  2. Zanzibar its History and its people by W.H. Ingrams 1931  magic squares.

Antique Omani silver Lozenge shaped centerpiece

Lozenge shaped centerpiece

Very rare antique Omani silver lozenge shaped centrepiece. The shape and stripe  in the middle looks like an abstract "evil eye" protection talisman. Extremely rare. In the book Oman & its renaissance p 74 you can see a young girl from Ibra wearing such a rare ornament. 

Antique Omani silver hanger

 

Photo below from around 1890: Note the centrepiece hanging from the chain of the woman.

 Omani silver amulet

Arab name: Shok (Thorns referring to the points of the hanger)

Period: 1850-1900

Origin: Oman: Ibra or Sinaw. Lozenge shaped hangers were also worn by Omani women in Zanzibar and the Comoro islands.

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by  Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 88 and 89
  2. Oman and its Renaissance  by Sir Donald Hawley Stacey International London 1987 page 74 Photo left shows a girl wearing a very similar amulet.

Antique Omani silver Forehead hangers in the shape of hand of Fatima (for boys)

Forehead disks

Common Omani silver forehead ornament for boys. The slide-show has three examples of Hand of Fatima hangers. This type of hanger is only worn by boys up to the age of about six years old. 

 Omani silver amuletOmani silver amulet

Arab names: Harf (plural huruf) / Allahqah

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Northern Oman

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 page 63
  2. Craft heritage of Oman Neil Richardson & Maria Dorr Volume 2  p 438 fig 18
  3. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster p 65 fig 55
  4. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz
  5. British Museum has a similar item in their on-line collection number  2009,6023.137 length 4 cm weight 12 grams. Similar 2009,6023.138 Weight: 22 grammes; Length: 10 centimetres (including hook) Width: 3.2 centimetres; Silver horse-shoe shaped forehead-ornament (harf or 'allaqah) for a young boy. The main ornament hangs from a silver ring and three chains. It consists of a reversed shield or horse-shoe shaped plaque which is decorated around the edges with silver dots and one raised round boss in the centre

Six Circular Antique Omani Silver Forehead disks

Circular Forehead disks

 Common Omani silver forehead hangers for adolescent unmarried girls. The slide-show contains photos of six silver Forehead disks (HARF), with circular shape. These circular forehead disks are worn by unmarried girls and not by grown-up women. The Harf was one of the first jewellery pieces where gold-wash was applied.   

Omani silver amuletOmani silver amulet

 

Arab names: Harf / Allahqah / Alaka

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman

References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 page 63
  2. Craft heritage of Oman Neil Richardson & Maria Dorr Volume 2 p 438 fig 18
  3. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz p 24
  4. British Museum on-line collection number  2009,6023.139 weight 14 grams;
  5. Islamic Art in Oman page 338
  6. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman by Jean Greffioz 2009 (privately published) page 24 fig 2.11 has photo with a similar item.

Three antique Omani silver Dhofari forehead pieces / discs

Dhofari forehead pieces

Three rare Omani silver Dhofari forehead pieces / discs labeled I,II,III. Two gilded. A disk of (gilded) silver with a raised center of filigree work.  

 Omani silver amulet

 

Arab Name: Kelledi necklace central bead

Period: 1930-1970

Origin: Oman Dhofar region

  1. Oman Adorned Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 63, 234;262 (photo item B  same item)
  2. Craft heritage of Oman Neil Richardson & Maria Dorr Volume 2 p 438 fig 18;
  3. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz  p24 

Antique Omani silver key amulet

Key amulet

Very rare small Omani silver key amulet with unusually very fine decoration.  Chased and stamped. Silver keys on chains were occasionally worn as decorative items in the North of Oman. In Iran during 18th and 19th century silver locks and keys were used as charms see the book on the Tanavoli collection. These charms frequently have "abstract connected human figures" on them which are interpreted as "love couples" and not as "shackled Jinns" (see on this subject also the Kirsh Kitab item above in this section.

Omani Silver amulet

Arab Name: Muftah

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Northern Oman Zanzibar Maybe Baluchi/Perian influence?

  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 143 top
  2. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192
  3. Tanavoli Locks form Iran 1976 Smithsonian Institute

Three antique Omani silver key amulets

Slver key amulets

 

Three rare and fine antique Omani silver key amulets with nice tiny decoration.

Photo below from around 1900: Note the silver key-amulet of the girl on the right hanging below her arm. 

Omani silver key amulet 

Antique omani silver amulet

Arab Name: Muftah

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman Zanzibar

  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 143 top;
  2. The craft heritage of Oman Vol 2 Richardson & Dorr page 448 item 085 ;
  3. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192
  4. The Heritage of Oman by Peter Vine Immel Publishing 1995 page 106 photo of an identical silver key.

Antique Omani silver key amulet

Silver key amulet

 

 

Scarce antique Omani silver key amulet with chain.

 

 

 

Arab Name: Muftah

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman Zanzibar

  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 143 top;
  2. The craft heritage of Oman Vol 2 Richardson & Dorr page 448 item 085 ;
  3. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192

Antique Omani silver key / fertility amulet

Key amulet

Very rare crossing between an Omani silver fertility symbol (Taswiri) and a key amulet!  With very subtle Omani design of tiny bosses.  Weight 20 grams. Length 7,5 cm. 

 

Antique Omani silver amulet

Arab Name: Muftah

Period: 1850-1950

Origin: Oman Zanzibar

  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 143 top;
  2. The craft heritage of Oman Vol 2 Richardson & Dorr page 448 item 085 ;
  3. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Safe and Sound" by Robert Richmond Apex p 192

Antique Omani silver koran box with amulets / Charms

Antique Omani Koran box named Hirz and amulets

Common Rustaq Hirz with Rose motive in the middle combined with geometrical designs. Very fine inlay-work.

On the back of the box the name of the owner has been soldered with silver wire. With chain and attached half-moon silver appliqués. The chain has several silver Thalers, and silver mounted coral branches plus some silver beads with  charms (including  glass stoppers)

The box is sometimes filled with a Koran text and or a resin to prevent it from denting.

Antique Omani silver koran boxOmani silver koranbox

Back of the Koran box with text in silver, which is highly unusual!

Arab Name: (Bedouin) Marriya / Hirz  (meaning amulet box)

Period: 1900-1950

Origin: The diamond shaped on-lays are typical of the Sharqiah area ref 1 page 96.

    References:
  1. Oman Adorned by Pauline Shelton  Robert Richmond / Apex London 1997 p 90 - 97
  2. J.L. Carter Tribes in Oman Peninsular publishing 1982 page 26
  3. A tribute to Oman The Sultanates Yearbook: 1993/1994 "Magical designs" Robert Richmond. Apex Ruwi page 49-58
  4. Disappearing treasures of Oman 1998 by Avelyn Foster p 30
  5. Traditional silver jewelry and handicrafts from Oman 2009 by Jean Greffioz p 49
  6. Arab & Islamic Silver by Saad Al-Jadir 1981   Stacey International  p 99
  7. British Museum on-line collection number Af1974,01.1 purchased in Zanzibar
  8. Wereld Museum Rotterdam has a similar necklace. h 38,5 x br 17 x d 1,8 cm gewicht: 368 gr. Ex collection Smith / Hutschenruyter. Inventory 77129.
  9.  A world of necklaces. Africa. Asia, Oceania, America from the Ghysels Collection ; Milaan, Skira ; 2003 ; p. 178-179 & p. 428
  10. Ethnic jewellery from Africa, Asia and Pacific Islands. The René van der Star Collection ; Amsterdam/Singapore; Pepin Press ; 2002 ; p. 54 (left)

Omani antique brass Magic Bowl with koranic texts and magic numbers / Divination Bowl

Magic Bowl

Very Rare Omani Divination bowl / Magic Bowl (Taset al Khadda) with Koranic texts on the inside, outside and on the bottom. Used for curing the ill etc. With hole for the keys, which I seem to have lost. These are all used for healing  and to drive away the ills of the body. The right manner to use use the goblet is to fill it with water in the early morning place some ordinary keys in it and leave them  until the following day, when the patient drinks the water. This operation is repeated  3,7 or 40 consecutive nights  until the patient gets rid of the evil effects of his fright. There is a thick green/black patina on the bottom center so the cup is of considerable age. For a very detailed working of the Magic Bowl see S.M. Zwemer Ref 1  (who worked in the Gulf and Oman) , the book from 1920 includes a photo of an almost identical bowl! In Ref 3 Jews of Yemen  a slightly different magic bowl is shown (with a bold/screw in the centre) but similar shape and decoration. Diameter 16 cm Height 5 cm.

Antique Omani Magic Bowl

Antique magic bowl

Omani magic bowl

 

Arab name:Taset al Khadda

Period: 1800-1880 (very similar including the inscriptions to the bowl described in ref 7 Berlin that was collected before 1876)

Origin: Oman Zanzibar, Iran or or maybe even Saudi Arabia Hidjaz (see ref 6)

 

The above illustration of a similar magic cup is from Zwemer Ref 1.

References:

  1. Influence of Animism on Islam an account of popular superstitions by S.M. Zwemer (has worked in the Gulf and Oman) p 179 - p 185 contains detailed description and analysis of magic cups and a photo closely matching ours
  2. Osgood in Notes of Travel or recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar Muscat etc. published in Salem (USA)  1854  page 29: "It is also a very common practice with the suahelis and Arabs to write sentences from the Koran upon the bottoms of drinking vessels and plates, and to drink the water used in washing them off, believing that it will cure many disorders. I have seen this done by persons of no ordinary intelligence"
  3. Islamic metalwork from the Iranian world by Melikian- Chirvani page 291 (more refined design and much older)
  4. Highlights of the Israel Museum collection: The Jews of Yemen p 26/27 fig 6 (but much more crudely design)
  5. Arab-Islamic talismanic bowls are also discussed in Magic and Divination in the Early Islamic World edited by Emilie Savage-Smith (2004)
  6. Volkerenkundig museum Leiden Inventory1973-78 Schaaltje voor zamzam-water Diameter  14 cm. "Koperen schaaltje uit het eind van de negentiende eeuw, dat in Mekka werd gebruikt voor het drinken van het heilige zamzam-water. Aan de rand hangt een bundel amuletten die het water een speciale betekenis geven. Aan de binnenzijde van het schaaltje zijn ingekraste Arabische letters. Van gelijke vorm (zonder amuletten) zijn de drinkbekers, waaruit men in de moskee zemzem-water te drinken krijgt. idem inventory" 1973-78a.
  7. Tropenmuseum Amsterdam Inventory TM-941-35 diameter 13,5 cm height 4,5cm origin Arabian peninsula. Dated before 1934. Often purchased by pilgrims during the Hadj in Mekka until the Hadj in 1924-1925 when the Salafites started to exercise strict controls on the Haj. The Wahabites / Salafites were against any form of magic:  "Magische schalen van metaal met Arabische inscripties zijn bekend uit vele plaatsen in de islamitische wereld en werden zowel door soennieten als sjiieten gebruikt. De schalen zijn zo wijdverbreid omdat ze door pelgrims (hadji's) vaak als souvenir werden meegenomen uit de heilige steden Mekka en Medina. Deze schaal is voorzien van een binnenbakje. Aan de rand ervan zijn twintig gaatjes aangebracht, waarschijnlijk waren hier ooit metalen sleuteltjes aan bevestigd die voor extra werking van de schaal moesten zorgen. Aan de Arabische tekstpassages op de magische schalen werden genezende krachten toegeschreven. De schalen zijn veelal voorzien van Koranteksten en aanroepingen aan God of de vijf leden van de sji’itische heilige familie (Mohammed, Fatima, Ali, Hassan en Hussein). De Koranteksten die in de schaal zijn gegraveerd staan eveneens bekend om de bescherming die ze kunnen bieden tegen het kwaad. De schalen werden gebruikt om er water in te schenken dat na verloop van enige tijd de genezende kracht van de teksten in zich opnam, waarna het als geneeskrachtig middel te drinken was. Behalve de teksten is ook het materiaal waaruit de schaal is gemaakt, doorgaans messing, van belang voor de genezing. Aan metaal wordt een heilzame werking toegeschreven. In de oudere literatuur spreekt men ook wel van schrikschalen, omdat in de Arabische wereld de schalen werden gebruikt om de gevolgen van schrikreacties tegen te gaan (Mols 1993: 6). Deze term is een letterlijke vertaling van de Arabische termen ‘tasat al-khadda’ en ‘tasat ar-rajfa’. Het gebruik van magische schalen met heilige teksten kwam al ver voor de komst van de islam voor bij de joden en christenen in het Midden-Oosten. Als islamitisch gebruik dateert het uit de twaalfde eeuw. In de Osmaanse tijd (ca. 1299-1922) was het Arabisch schiereiland, de Hidjaz, het voornaamste productiecentrum voor dergelijke schalen. Snouck Hurgronje (1888) vermeldt de schaal bij de voorwerpen die in Mekka gemaakt werden. Vanuit de Hidjaz verspreidden de schalen zich over de islamitische wereld. Ze werden door pelgrims vaak als souvenir meegenomen uit de heilige steden Mekka en Medina, zoals deze schaal die vermoedelijk door een Indonesische pelgrim werd gekocht. Toen in de negentiende eeuw de pelgrimstocht naar Mekka een grote vlucht nam door verbeterde vervoersmogelijkheden, verspreidden de schalen zich in hoog tempo over de islamitische wereld. Op die manier introduceerden ze een lokale traditie tot in de verste uithoeken van de islamitische wereld, waaronder Indonesië (Shatanawi 2009: 100). Met de verovering van Mekka en Medina door de wahhabieten in 1924-1925 kwam de hadj, de pelgrimstocht, onder strikte controle van de nieuwe heersers te staan. De wahhabitische afkeer van alles wat met magie te maken heeft, zorgde er waarschijnlijk voor dat de verkoop van de schalen in Saoedi-Arabië tot een einde kwam (Shatanawi 2009: 100)"
  8. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Ethnologisches Museum Ident.Nr. I B 184 From collection Julius Heinrich Petermann (before 1876) Höhe x Durchmesser: 5,3 x 16 cm Title: "Schale eines Derwisch" Persian. Description includes analysis of the engraved texts on the bowl. Inscriptions similar to ours.
  9. Luitgaard Mols & Arnoud Vrolijk, Western Arabia in the Leiden collections, Leiden publications 2016 p80-81. Illustrates a crudely decorated brass magic bowl (diameter 14 cm) collected by the famous Dutch Arabist Snouck Hurgronje before 1887 in Mecca or Jeddah.These sort of drinking bowls were also bought as souvenirs in Mecca.  "They resembled the cups for Zamzam water  in the great Mosque of Mecca in the 1880's. the inside of the bowl was engraved with religious formulae. It was believed that by pouring water into the bowl, the beneficial qualities of the religious words were transferred to the liquid, and by drinking it, the verbal blessings could be internalised. Also the contact between the water and the iron strips attached to its rim was believed to increase the bowl's beneficial qualities"

Bronze hand with Arabic text on the front and strange picture on the back

Bronze hand with Arabic text on the front and strange picture on the back

Very Rare bronze hand with Arabic text on the front and strange picture on the back. The cast bronze had thick layer of green oxidation before cleaning, almost certainly has been in the ground for a long time. It may very well have belonged to the (Shia) Lawathi community in Muttrah who have lived there for a long period. Carter (ref 1) shows a silver hand that is used on top of a staff used for ceremonial purposes by the Hyderabadiys of Muttrah.  

Zwemer writes in 1920 (ref 2)  "In Persia , blue beads and turquoises are used and little metal hands called "the hand of Ali" A large hand of Ali fastened to the top of a pole is worshipped in a mountain village near Tabriz; It was brought to the city , but not liking it, says the legend , went back by itself.  It is taken on a yearly pilgrimage to Mecca"

 

 Antique Omani brass

Antique hand of Fatima Oman

 

Arab Name: Unknown

Period: 1500-1800

Origin: Oman (item was purchased in Muttrah souq) ; The object was originally heavily corroded (green)

    References:
  1. Tribes in Oman by Carter  Peninsular publishing 1982 page 168
  2. The influence of Animism on Islam 1920  by Zwemer who worked in Oman and Persian Gulf  page 200
  3. Volkeren Museum Leiden Inventory 2838-3 Iran Similar item. "Deze koperen hand heeft deel uitgemaakt van een ceremoniële staf, die in Iran werd gebruikt bij processies tijdens Ashura. Op Ashura, de tiende dag van de maand Muhurram van de islamitische maankalender, herdenken sjiïtische moslims het martelaarschap van Husayn, de derde imam. Tijdens het conflict tussen sjiïeten en soennieten vond bij Kerbela in 680 een veldslag plaats. Daarbij werd Husayn, de kleinzoon van Mohammed, met zijn troepen door de (soennitische) kalief verslagen. De tekst op de hand verwijst naar die gebeurtenis. Dit handsymbool wordt de hand van Fatima genoemd, naar de dochter van de profeet Mohammed. Aan de hand wordt vaak een beschermende kracht toegeschreven. De vijf vingers worden veelal gezien als een verwijzing naar de vijf zuilen van de islam. Bij deze staf verwijzen ze bovenal naar de familie van de profeet: Mohammed, zijn dochter Fatima, zijn schoonzoon Ali en hun zonen Hasan en Husayn"