Bulla is the name given to a gold case, circular or heart-shaped, used in necklaces or worn separately as a pendant, sometimes attached as an ornament to a belt or badge which was placed over one shoulder and under the opposite arm. Macrobius says it was the special decoration of the victorious general in the triumphant processions, having enclosed within it such remedies as were esteemed most efficacious against the evil glance of envy.
Introduced into Rome by the Etruscans, it became very popular and was adopted as the badge of free-born boys; it usually contained an invocation to one or more of the gods. Among the poorer classes the golden case was replaced by a leathern pouch, with contents of similar virtue.
It was a common practice to wear on the Bulla some grotesque object (see Illustration No. 106, Plate VIII) which added to its efficacy as a Talisman, and in particular averted the evil glance; to save its wearer from the Evil Eye a tusk in the form of a pendant was frequently added to accentuate its efficacy.
ETRUSCAN, GREEK, ROMAN, AND ORIENTAL TALISMANS.
The Pine Cone, the symbol of Cybele the goddess of abundant benefits, was worn by her votaries for Health, Wealth, and Power, and all good and necessary things which flow in abundance without ceasing from her influence. She had many names, and was called by the Greeks, Pasithea, signifying Mother, as she was the great mother of all the gods. Her priests were famous for their magical powers, and it was customary to fix her symbol, the Pine Cone, on a pole in the vineyards, to protect them from blight and witchcraft, a practice still to be seen in Italy at the present time, and presumably this was the origin of the Pine Cones which surmount the gateways at the entrances of some of the carriage drives of old country seats (see Illustration No. 117, Plate VIII); it also survives as an ornament to the spikes of iron railings enclosing the grounds of old-fashioned houses on the outskirts of many of our provincial towns.
The Frog (Illustration No. 119, Plate VIII) is a symbol of Aphrodite, the goddess of love born from the foam of the sea. In Rome a special temple was dedicated to her worship. Her symbol, the frog, was worn for fertility and abundance. Pliny attributes to it the power of keeping the affections true and constant, and of promoting harmonious relations between lovers and friends.
It is a very popular Talisman amongst the Italians, Greeks, and Turks at the present day and is worn not only against the Evil Eye but is particularly valued as a Health Amulet, especially when cut in Amber.
The Skull Of An Ass, set up on a pole in the midst of a cornfield, was considered a potent charm against blight, and in Greece and Rome was placed in vineyards for the same purpose; it was sacred to Priapus, the god of the gardens, which he was thought to protect from thieves, wild beasts, and mischievous birds. There is a legend that the Ass was held in high estimation, as by gnawing the branches of the vine it taught the art of pruning.