charm: Definition.--The word charm is derived from the Latin carmen, "a song," and denotes strictly what is sung; then it comes to mean a magical formula chanted or recited with a view to certain desired results. Charm is distinguished from amulet in this, that the latter is a material object having as such a magical potency, though it is frequently an inscribed formula on it that gives this object its power (see Amulet). The word charm stands primarily for the incantation, though it is often applied to an inscribed amulet.
A charm may be regarded as having a positive or a negative effect. In the first case it is supposed to secure some desired object or result (see Amulet). In the second, it is conceived as having the power of warding off evils, as the evil eye, the inflictions of evil spirits and the like. In the last, its negative meaning, the word "countercharm" (German, Gegenzauber) is commonly used.
Charms are divisible into two general classes according as they are written (or printed) or merely spoken:
(1) Written charms--Of these we have examples in the phylacteries and the mezuzah noticed in the article AMULET. In
The uttering of the tetragrammaton (~YHWH) was at a very early time (at latest 300 BC) believed to be magically potent, and hence, its ordinary use was forbidden, so that instead of Yahweh, the Jews of the time, when the earliest part of the Septuagint was translated, used for this Divine name the appellative ’adhonai = "Lord." In a similar way among the Jews of post-Biblical and perhaps of even Biblical times, the pronunciation of the Aaronic blessing (
For literature see Amulet.
T. Witton Davies