Just as many now don face masks and do breathing exercises to protect against COVID-19 – despite debate around the science behind such practices – so too did the Islamic world turn to protective devices and rituals in premodern times of trouble.

From the 11th century until around the 19th century, Muslim cultures witnessed the use of magic bowls, healing necklaces and other objects in hopes of warding off drought, famine, floods and even epidemic diseases.

Many of these amulets and talismans are beautifully crafted objects, and so are of interest to art historians such as myself. And while they are now largely seen as relics of folk belief and superstition, in the premodern era these ritual objects emerged from elite spheres of Islamic knowledge, science and art.


Originally published May 20th, 2020 on TheConversation.com. Click here for full article.