from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- adj. Intended to ward off evil: an apotropaic symbol.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- adj. Intended to ward off evil.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- Possessing the property of an apotropaion; having the reputed power of averting evil influences.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- adj. having the power to prevent evil or bad luck
Looking through the exhibition checklist for the show (see previous post) at the Corning Museum of Glass, I came across the term "apotropaic", referring to "objects such as amulets and talismans or other symbols intended to 'ward off evil' or 'avert or combat evil.'" [wiki] The term apotrope comes from the Greek meaning "to turn away", and seems to express itself a great deal in eye symbology.
Linda Seidel has shown, for instance, that Van Eyck's famous Arnolfini portrait is best understood as something like a marriage contract, and the "cave canem" inscription on the fierce dog mosaics at Pompeii (often cited by Gombrich as examples of "apotropaic" imagery) seems redundant in view of the image.
But the term "apotropaic" is generally used of expulsive ceremonies in which a whole community takes part.
The carving which induces the magical substitution has not only a sheltering (or passive, apotropaic) role to play.
What is odd about Achilles' shield in this context, however, is that it does not contain an apotropaic image, but an encyclopedic vision of the Homeric world, filled with narrative scenes rather like those we find on Keats's urn.
Indeed, at least one of our canonical psalms was used for such “apotropaic purposes,” that is, to counteract evil.
Lizzy L, #498: Well, apotropaic devices include amulets, crucifixes, etc--any small portable object charged with the Power of Folklore.
Now, the Old Testament Law is apotropaic because it has one major goal in mind -- that goal is the right ordering of the universe, or more locally, of the Land of Israel.
If the sacrificial system of ancient Israel is a real system of real apotropaic magic designed to stave off cosmic chaos with blood, could the New and better Covenant replace it with mere symbols?
Secondly, bells were long thought to possess apotropaic powers, or the power to ward off evil spirits.