It’s a brand new year, and we’re all trying to be optimistic. Casting an eye over the headlines makes this a difficult process. Even the sunniest souls among us can’t help but feel that the world is, at least, occasionally, a random, scary, dangerous place.
My advice: pile on the apotropaic jewelry. My favorite source: Alef Bet jewelry (www.alefbet.com), created by a Los Angeles-based mother-daughter design team which produces deliciously wearable, modern interpretations of ancient protective amulets.
The core message of Alef Bet designs —“Faith, Fashion, Forward”—is Judaic, since the founders and owners, Paul Brooks and her daughter Alissa Haroush are, after all, nice Jewish girls. Together, they design and produce unique and soulful bracelets and pendants (for men as well as women) which often integrate the Hamsa, the eye, the Shield of David, and other talismanic motifs which have been cherished for thousands of years as guardians of the wearer’s well-being.
Do I believe? Personally, I do. And I believe in redundancy and replication. If one dainty bauble against the evil eye is good, two is better. Three couldn’t hurt. And so on.
Alef Bet specializes in stackable, layering-friendly designs which look better and better, the more you add and multiply. This is possible because the Alef Bet team designs with the contemporary woman in mind. These bracelets and necklaces tend to be dainty and light (although there are some chunky styles for men), and many have a cool, slightly bohemian—versus Princess-y--feeling. The selection includes some 14 karat gold and diamond items, but most are crafted from more affordable materials, meaning sterling silver, vermeil and semi-precious gem beads.
The origins of these designs find their roots in belief-systems as old as human habitation of the desert and other arid places—check out the brilliant musings of the late anthropology and folklore scholar Alan Dundes, UC Berkeley, on the subject. Dundes links the belief in the evil eye to a concept of “limited good” (which he attributes to anthropologist George Foster), feared specifically as drought, water-shortage and the evaporation of precious bodily fluids.
While the concept of the evil eye, and symbolic protection against it, are not limited to Semitic cultures – Dundes recognized and documented its expression from India to Ireland—the concept of the “eye” has always been especially vivid and persistent in the southern Mediterranean and Middle East. Dry, sun-scorched climates of extreme temperatures, where a glass of iced water and a sprig of fresh mint literally feel like the infinite grace and goodness of The Almighty made potable. A lack of rainfall, or a nursing mother’s drying-up of vital breast-milk, can prove deadly in such places—and anywhere.
Well, Los Angeles is often praised for its warm, dry, pink-canyoned “Mediterranean” climate, and heaven knows that our region is poised on the brink of a massive water-crisis. This alone is reason to pile on the Alef Bet bracelets and pendants, offering a chic, yet thoughtful selection of red threads, graceful six-pointed stars, cross-cultural five-fingered hands, and all-seeing eyes (in the traditional blue, or any other fashion-forward color) to deflect all possible badness back out into the furthest reaches of the cosmos, where it can’t touch us.
Water, like luck, is a precious commodity. So drink up your eight recommended glasses of water a day now—and somebody give me an AMEN!