Protecting the Self
The act of defending our bodies from harm is perhaps the first association made when thinking about protection. Humankind’s attempts to protect the self have resulted in the creation of a wide variety of items designed to shield a person from physical or spiritual harm.
Physical threats can range from illnesses weakening the body internally, to external attacks from fellow humans, animals and nature. The body can be protected through actively fighting a threat or the passive prevention of harm, for example by donning protective equipment.
Physical harm to the body is not the only threat we face; protection against spiritual harm is of just as much concern to many. Throughout time and across cultures, people have protected themselves from perceived evil with objects that are often prominent in daily life and passed down through generations. The nazar – a glass amulet depicting an eye on a blue background that wards off the Evil Eye – is one such object.
A rising concern in the digital age is the protection of our identities. Our personal data is under daily threat in the form of targeted advertisement, fraud and theft. While we have some control over our personal information, it has become increasingly difficult to track where this data is going and who has access to it. To limit this access, we can buy internet security, avoid actively giving out personal data and create safe passwords.
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Poison gas antidote
This antidote, which possibly contains activated charcoal, is enclosed with instructions that read: ‘take capsule between thumb and first finger of each hand, press ends downwards to break in centre, inhale vapour’. Activated charcoal has protected people from poison since the 1800s and is still used today. Its porous structure has a negative electrical charge, so attracts positively charged toxins and gases and prevents the body from absorbing them.
“Google Trends” screenshot
The top searches for protection from the last 12 months highlight the importance we place on data protection. From online shopping to an accidental click on the advertisement in Candy Crush, our personal data is collected, stored and sold to the highest bidder. As our lives become more digital, information turns into currency, which invokes an increased desire for protection.
Illness amulets (Tama) are votive offerings used in the Greek Orthodox Church. These metal plaques are often shaped into body parts to represent an illness that needs healing. Tama are typically hung on ribbons or poles and placed near the shrine of a saint. They are accompanied with a prayer to invoke healing.