My Talisman[1]

Whenever I travel, I wear a strange looking necklace2 that people often ask me about.  I tell them that it is my talisman1.  What is a talisman?  According to my dictionary, it is the following: “an object which you believe has magic powers to protect you or bring you luck.”  American Indians3 and Eskimos4 also refer to such an object as a fetish5, “an object, especially a carved6 object, which is supposed to have religious significance or magical powers7.”  I am in Hangzhou, China, now, so I wear it every day.


Of course, according to my culture and my beliefs, I don’t believe in magical powers, but somehow, I feel good when I wear my talisman.  My talisman was carved from ivory8 by an Eskimo in Alaska9.  It is supposed to represent an Eskimo traditional god, a billikin10, who protects travelers.  It was given to me one summer many years ago when I was teaching at the University of Alaska.  I have worn it when traveling since then.  I feel very good when I do.  It is a small talisman, about an inch long, with a tiny funny carved face, and a little gold belly button11.  It is a friendly looking little god, and I like to think it’s truly protecting me. 


Coincidentally12, at the moment I am reading a paperback book that I brought with me to China.  It is a mystery about a Navajo Indian13 police officer, a young woman who wears a talisman/fetish necklace to ward off evil.  In the book she refers to it as a fetish of a badger14, a small wild animal which has a wide head and two wide black stripes on it.  On the cover of the book there is a picture of her badger/fetish.  When I first saw it in the book store, the picture interested me and made me want to buy the book. 


I also have another fetish, a carved turquoise bear15 that my son bought me one time when he was in Colorado16, a traditional American Indian area.  I don’t wear it when I travel, but I often wear it at home because it is so pretty.  It’s probably strange that I’m the one who wears such an item.  I have absolutely17 no American Indian ancestry18.  Don does, but he never wears such a thing, though we both have small representations of our Chinese Zodiac signs19 that we wear.  Thus I feel I’m doubly protected by two very different cultural icons20. 




1. talisman: an object thought to act as a charm to avert or prevent evil and bring good fortune (护身符,驱邪物).

2. necklace: a piece of jewelry that is worn around the neck (项链).

3. American Indians: native populations in North America who preceded the settlers from Europe (美洲印第安人,先于欧洲来的定居者之前的土著人群).

4. Eskimos: members of people of northern Canada, Greenland, Alaska and eastern Siberia (爱斯基摩人,居住于加拿大北部,格陵兰,阿拉斯加以及西伯利亚的东部).

5. refer to such an object as a fetish: 把这种东西称作 fetish”。

6. carved: formed by cutting with a knife on wood, ivory, or other material (经过雕刻的).

7. magical powers: possessing the ability or strength to do something supernatural (神奇的力量,魔力).

8. ivory: 象牙

9. Alaska: 阿拉斯加,美国最北面的一个州。

10. billikin: a small carved image which is supposed to represent an Eskimo god (一雕刻物,是爱斯基摩人的神像).

11. belly button: 肚脐

12. coincidentally: occurring or existing at the same moment or time; occurs by chance (巧合地,碰巧地).

13. Navajo Indian: a tribe or group of American Indians located in the southwestern part of the U.S., mostly in Arizona and New Mexico (纳瓦霍族人,美洲印第安人的一个部落,大部分居住于美国西南部的亚利桑那、新墨西哥州).

14. badger:

15. turquoise bear: a representation of bear carved from a semi-precious stone called turquoise which is some shade of green with bluish or grayish tints (绿松石熊,由绿松石雕刻而成,呈青绿色).

16. Colorado: a western, mountainous state which is originally the home of many different American Indian tribes, and with many cultural artifacts found there (科罗拉多州,位于美国西部,多山,是许多美国印第安部落的最早居住地,有许多历史悠久的手工艺品).

17. absolutely: certainly so; without doubt; always true (绝对地).

18. ancestry: family background; forebears, line of descent in a family (祖先).

19. Chinese zodiac signs: characteristics or images for the twelve parts of the Chinese cycle of years (中国的十二生肖).

20. cultural icons:(不同)文化的偶像或崇拜物








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