Charms from the Carmichael Collection – Alexandra Melicher

Charms from the Carmichael CollectionsPhoto by Chen Zong

With the first day of real sunshine outside highlighting the glorious view from the fifth floor of the University Library, I estimated that it would be extremely unfeasible to lock in the attention of the small group of students who had appeared for the hour-long talk about charms and the Carmichael Watson Project and collection. I was very wrong. The talk that lasted just under one hour was hugely fascinating, interactive and appealing to a number of disciplines. Donald W. Steward, a senior researcher began by giving an insight into the history of charms and their famous collector in the eighteenth century Alexander Carmichael. Not only did he demonstrate his notebooks and findings themselves but also gave an interesting insight into Carmichael’s methods of collection and just how he managed to obtain secrets that had been previously rigorously guarded.

Those in the room were taken through the very essence of a charm or amulet, their common functions and methods and rules one must adhere to in using and reciting them. A few recordings of charms themselves were then played out with a translation following suit. Making an interesting connection between the church, religion and ‘charming’, a few stereotypes associated with highlands charming were also given a reconsideration. The second half hour demonstrated the linking of water with charms and also opened the floor up to questions, of which everyone in the room had at least one! I would highly commend this exhibit to everyone. This talk was a hugely informative and interactive; an extremely pleasant hour well spent.

For more information visit:

Alexandra Melicher: Social Anthropology


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