Many years ago, I got it into my head to buy an ankh pendant. I believe I was in middle school or early high school and I desperately wanted one. But I could never find one that I liked. Off and on the desire would rise and then dwindle down, fading into the back of my mind until something reminded me of that intense urge that caused me to doodle stylized ankhs and jackal heads on anything that I could find: papers, binders, tests, you name it.
Back in March, the desire returned once more. I blame the prayer beads I made for Anubis, having left a bit of extra thread on the end to tie on an ankh or other pendant for him, should I ever find one. On a whim, I went to the metaphysical store a few towns over. I knew they had jewelry, having browsed it before, but when I got there, I could find nothing to my liking.
“It’s too delicate,” I lamented as I held the small silver pendant in my fingers, running my thumb along its length. “I prefer my jewelry a little more durable.”
So I handed it back to him and he nodded to me, placing it back in the cabinet. I looked on the other side of the circular case and pointed to one in gold. It had the right shape, the right size, and touching it would tell me that it had the right weight.
“Do you have that in silver?” I asked, pointing to the pendant. He shook his head and I sighed.
“Gold just looks so tacky sometimes,” I groaned. He agreed and I went on my way, but not before him telling me that they were expecting another shipment of things rather soon. “A few weeks, end of the month,” he told me. I nodded and left to get my car before the meter expired.
Growing up, my grandmother was a silversmith. She made Celtic knotwork jewelry and in the summers after my family moved back to Chicagoland, I would work her booth with her at fairs, shows, anything that she was working and I could get to. I learned a lot about jewelry, its care. Thinking back, it’s likely because of these shows that I learned so much about mythology and British folklore – almost every piece my grandmother made had some sort of story and symbolism attached to it. And, if not her, then it was the men and women running the booths on either side of her. I learned a lot in those summers, including how to run a cash register and make change in my head. During the week, I would beg my mother to drill me on how to make different amounts of change in numerous ways so that I could run the cash register better, quicker. Today I can now calculate change in my head faster than a cash register.
Having done that through so many summers and learned about jewelry during my visits to my grandmother, I developed a fondness for silver. Like I said above, I find gold rather tacky looking, at least compared to silver. I suppose it’s no wonder that I found it a sacred metal, a holy metal, over time. Silver is the only thing I wear unless I’m given something else – and anyone who knows me well enough to give me jewelry knows silver is best. My mother had to talk me into white gold for my high school ring when she refused to get me a silver one and I refused to order a solid gold one.
Last spring, I went down to New Orleans for a conference and browsed a few of the “voodoo shops” down there. It’s NOLA. How can you avoid them? I had hoped to pick up a couple of things that I might not find back home, but nothing really called to me for awhile.
Our second-to-last night, one of the women I went down with bought us all tickets to a ghost walk, a tour of the haunted places of New Orleans. While a great walk – if lacking on the ghost stories in favor of horror stories – it was the shop that we all wanted to browse when we got back: Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo Shop.
A lot of it was tacky. I picked up a couple hematite rings for a friend of mine and me. As I was checking out, I glanced at a basket near the cash register. They had a few dozen bead bracelets on stretchy cords. The beads, made of wood, were carved to look like tiny skulls. I grabbed a black one and added it the purchase, sliding it up past my left hand and it settled there like an old glove. I paid, walked out, and that was that.
If not silver, natural materials are good with me. Wood is preferably for its look and light weight, though woven bracelets are fine, too. Stones are hit or miss with me; I tend to dislike too many bright colors hanging about my neck. Just seems to be asking for trouble.
The little skull bracelet is something I wear whenever I go out and I have ever since I bought it. If I do happen to forget it, I feel slightly lost, like I’ve forgotten something so important. Being the chronic handwasher that I am, the black stain has faded beneath soap and water, revealing a handsome dark brown wood beneath. The little eye sockets and teeth are paler now from bits of soap getting in and drying within the small cracks. It makes it look a little ghastly, but I love every little piece of that silly thing.
I’ve used it for some small curses since I got it, naming a head here or a head there. Throughout the day, it gets banged around, pressed down beneath my wrist as I type, making it apt for smaller bits of magic like hexes and small curses. There are no names attached now, though the possibility remains. From even a short distance, it looks like just a simple bead bracelet; only once have I had someone recognize the skulls for what they really are.
It is my memento mori and my mark as a witch. Unofficially, it’s agreed upon as The Morrigan’s. She claimed it as I handed over my money to pay, having prodded me into getting it. I wear it as a thank you to her for helping me through a rough time in my life.
Jewelry is sacred to me. Always has been. It tells a story, though quietly and not unless you ask it gently. Bits and baubles all have their own tales, if you let them tell it.