Coins as amulet

Maria Theresia Thaler

Coins are not only used to indicate economical status, but are used as amulets as well.

The pillar dollar is often used in Zar-ceremonies, where it serves the kudya in communicating with the zar-demons. She is said to sleep with a pillar dollar, provided by the client, under her pillow three nights before the ceremony. The power of this particualr coin is argued by Peter Schienerl to rest in the depiction of the two Pillars of Hercules depicted on the coin, in Egypt often mistaken for cannons. The coin was nicknamed Abu Madfa, Father of Guns. The supposed cannons did not only fight off evil, but symbolized the material iron as well, always a powerful substance against spirits and evil. This coin has been imitated many times to serve mainly as amulet. Interestingly, it is on the imitation-coins that many names of Cairene workshops have been recorded instead of the ‘official’  text, that was not copied onto the imitation. Also in Egypt, coins of the last King, Farouk, are sometimes used as amulets in the zar-ceremony, probably because of the similarity in depiction to the zar-spirit Yawri Bey.

Click on the examples below to learn more.