Wednesday 20 November 2019

Rare 17th century alchemy amulet reveals ‘occult Zutphen’

Archaeologists in Zutphen on the river IJssel in Gelderland have found a rare 17th century amulet connected with alchemistic activity in the town, local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland reports.

Building sites are routinely checked for possible finds as it is often the last chance for archaeologists to investigate a particular spot. In this case work to the quayside enabled archaeologists to investigate.

The amulet is made of a silver alloy and measures 49mm across. It has three holes, which experts say were meant to nail the amulet to a surface or sew it onto a piece of clothing.

At the moment a layer of rust is obscuring part of the lettering on the object but an octogram can be distinguished on one side with the names of the planets and a Latin translation on the edge.

On the other side archaeologists have found alchemistic symbols and what they think are the words ‘tetragammaton+Maria’ and possibly ‘Agla+Emanuel’ – phrases that can be found on  similar amulets.

The first word means ‘four letters’ and refers to Jahweh or God. The texts, which are often found on objects related to alchemy and the Christian Kaballah, were used as a charm to protect the wearer of the amulet.

It is the second time an object like this is found in Zutphen and the town was ‘a hotbed’ of occult activity in the 17th century, the broadcaster writes. In 2010 building activity to the local crematorium yielded a gilded bronze amulet with similar phrasing, also from the 17th century.

At the time of the Reformation no fewer than 1600 people in and around Zutphen engaged in occultism, among whom exorcist Arnt Schimmelpenninck, a former canon of the church of Sint Walburgis.

The amulet is being cleaned and will form part of a small exhibition on ‘occult Zutphen’ some time in the future.

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