Charms and Tokens
What items do you always carry around with you?
This lens is about items, or shall we say "tokens", that a person might carry with them always. I don't mean your purse, your sunglasses, or the favorite pair of underwear that you secretly wear two days in a row in the middle of the week for good luck.
What I mean are items of special significance to you, which for whatever reason, you carry with you in your pocket, bag, or on your person daily or almost every day. These items may have a sentimental significance, religious significance, or be a gift from someone, etc. The point is, they are not practical "musts" such as a credit card and identification. They are not something that another person would deem "necessary", and they are personal, unique items that have a special place in your heart. That is why I call them "tokens".
(The watch is an example of a token, because it belonged to my father, and after he passed away my uncle took the watch as a memento).
The first three definitions for "token" on Dictionary dot com are:
1) "something serving to represent or indicate some fact, event, feeling"
2) "a characteristic indication or mark of something; evidence or proof"
3) "a memento; souvenir; keepsake"
Let us explore these varied definitions of "token", what items people carry with them, and why.
What are they? Examples.
I have already given one example of a token that is carried around because it serves as a memento: my uncle has the watch that my dad used to wear. I don't know if he actually wears it, but I'm using it as an example nevertheless.
If a token is an item that someone carries around as a memento or because of a certain feeling they get from it, or as a representation of something, what are some examples?
A police officer wears a badge on his uniform that must be present at all times. It helps mark him as a person of authority, and it comes in use, according to various television shows, when the officer needs to "flash his badge" and prove who he is.
Another example is one I have from personal experience. My father and grandmother were believers in the power of crystals and gemstones to heal and give off certain energies. They believed that these items, coming from the earth, were imbued with certain vibes which they gave off. For example, the rose quartz stone is considered to be a stone of love and harmony. One who wears this stone on their person, especially touching their skin, can receive the benefit of the good vibes and energy that stone is giving them. Its power influences the person and their life; that is the theory, at least. As a result of this belief, my father and grandmother would bring certain "good energy" stones with them into the car, for protection, good feeling, etc.
A tattoo could be considered a token, because it is on your body and hopefully you picked it after some great thought on what you wanted to get. Other examples include lucky stones, inherited items, and wallet photos. Often people have photos of family members and friends in their wallets. They keep a couple of them tucked away in little areas of their wallet, and whether these items are shared with others or kept private, these count as tokens, too.
Charm bracelets are another token. They are often given as gifts from one friend to another, and they are popular not only because they are personal but because the wearer can make their own bracelet unique to their individual taste. Particular charms according to the wearer's personality, what they want in their life (love, wealth, health) are attached to the bracelet. Some may believe these charms, like the crystal healing energies, actually exude a positive influence over the wearer; others may simply see them as a sentimental thing that they like to wear..
Perhaps the first "version" of the charm bracelet idea was a friendship bracelet. They were popular when I was a kid in the 90s, and they remain a thing that I see some of today. Friends make their best buddies a bracelet, often with their own hands out of things bought by them or gotten from home - threads, yarn, leather, etc. Both charm and friendship bracelets have a power over us and an importance to us, and thus we wear them daily or often.
Another type of token is a religious token. Christians often wear a cross around their neck, as a symbol of their religion and of their love for Jesus Christ. In my religion, Gaudiya Vaishnavism, we wear holy beads from the holy tulasi plant around our necks in order to protect us from evil spirits, and so that at the time of death, we are marked as devotees of Krishna and cannot be taken by the servants of Yamaraja down into hell. Yet another religious token is the moon, which is worn by some pagans and is seen as holy in its relation to the divine feminine, the Goddess, or Mother Earth, Gaia.
Pets and children can have tokens too. What about that chewy toy your dog is always going after? The doll your little girl can't ever leave at home? And there is Calvin, from the popular comic book series "Calvin and Hobbes" by Bill Watterson. Calvin could never leave his stuffed toy tiger, Hobbes, at home, except for when he went to school. (In one episode, when he is forced to leave Hobbes behind to attend a wedding with his parents, his parent's house gets broken into while they are away, perhaps a joke on Watterson's part on how important Hobbes, Calvin's token, truly is).
It's like that episode of House where one of Wilson's cancer patients MUST have his stuffed lamb plushie before he goes into chemotherapy, or else he refuses to go! That lambie was the kid's token item, and it gave him a certain feeling that he simply couldn't go without during something scary. This leads me on to my next section, of why we carry tokens and what they provide for us.
Tokens on Amazon
Why do people carry tokens?
You may be rushing out the door, late to work, or perhaps you have to get ready for an important event later on for which you must dress up. But you bring your token item with you, whether it's a lucky stone that you carry in your pocket, or a certain necklace you like to wear even if it doesn't match. Tokens items are not "musts" in the practical world; they aren't necessarily something useful like a watch. Yet still we bring them with us, we insist that we do, and if we don't have them with us, then we feel bereft.
Why are tokens so important to us?
Tokens are given power by our selves or others. If you got a gift from someone and that person passed away, or is very dear to you, that may be something you decide to carry with you from then on. It has become instilled with a certain feeling and significance, and it provides you with something that you didn't have before, or that you want to remain with you - a feeling of love for someone, a habit of getting good luck when you carry it, or a certain confidence that you have inside only when you wear it, perhaps. The point is, these items may not matter to other people and we may not even be able to explain to ourselves why we carry them. Yet we keep on doing it, and that attract us like one magnet to another, because of how they speak to us in some way.
Sometimes we carry tokens with us not for the GOOD feelings they give us, or may give us, but to help us against negative things. For instance, that kid with cancer in the House episode had to have his toy lamb because he felt safe; the token served to protect him from fear and scary things. While some people carry photos and other tokens because of their sentimental or positive value, some tokens are carried solely because of how they help us avoid things we do not want. In college, I had a particular stone that I called my "lucky stone" and that I would carry with me when I went to take a test. I started this more after my dad passed away, so the token also had a sentimental connection, but I did feel that when I took the stone into tests I got better results and was more focused.
All token items are things which we see as important to our selves. We may see them as able to help us get what we want, to remind us of something or someone we have good feelings about, to help us avoid bad feelings, or we may see them as simply a gift from a loved one. We wear them every day because of certain special feelings they give to us, whether we believe they are powerful, or only important in our own hearts.
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I could have made this lens a lot longer, and talked about tokens in history, tokens and their relation to identity and psychology, tokens in different cultures, etc. But I've been thinking of this idea of tokens for a few days, and I wanted to do a light, simple article exploring some surface thoughts about tokens, so that I could potentially dive deeper into this topic later on.
I hope this lens has given you some "food for thought", and perhaps now if you didn't have one before, you will now want to carry a token around.
Some people might view tokens as a weakness; they are a crutch which we carry around with us, and it's all in our heads, and if we don't have the item we are weakened, and this is reason enough why tokens are bad. I disagree with this view. I think that tokens, even if their power and significance are all in our heads, can instill us with new strength, confidence, and help us to move through the daily motions. Rather than being a crutch, they serve as a secret ingredient for our success!
Just having a token, secret or not, enables you to move more freely and happily in life, because you know that today, and every day, there is a "special something" you have on you, an extra weapon to your arsenal. Having this token with you and the knowledge of it gives you abilities that you may not find in yourself on an ordinary day. Tokens are not ordinary, they are special, even if their specialness is only in our heads. Therefore when you carry a token, you can step into the day knowing that even if the day is ordinary, YOU are not. You are empowered.
What are your tokens? If you would like to share, can you tell me why you carry your token(s)? Do you know anyone who has a particular token, or do you have any stories about tokens?
Other questions and comments of all kinds go here, too.