There are many schools of thought as to the exact origin of Amulet bags or pouches. Generally, the accepted mythology is that they originated with early Native American and Aboriginal tribes.
According to American Indian Art, A leather bag is better suited for carrying certain objects than a pot or basket is, and native North Americans tended to place great importance on how well-matched a carrying case was to its contents. Not only were native bags specially sized and shaped to hold an individual type of object, they were often decorated to indicate precisely what belonged inside of them. There were two very basic styles of American Indian bags: soft pouches, made of tanned animal hides (usually deerskin or elkskin), and parfleche, made of stiff rawhide. Some modern Indian artists blur the two traditions by creating tanned buckskin purses with rawhide siding on the inside to give it the boxy parfleche look. Regardless of their material, Native American bags were often painted, beaded, or quilled with the characteristic tribal designs of the craftsperson (usually a woman) who made it--particularly if the bag was designed to hold something sacred, such as a medicine bag or tobacco bag, or was being made as regalia for a fiance, daughter or son. In recent centuries the great specificity of Indian bag design began to change, with the development of the catch-all "possible bag" that could be used to transport any of one's possessions. Today, both specific and possible bags are still being made and decorated by artists from many different tribes, and they continue to be a lively and practical part of native life, much more so than baskets or pottery (which are generally treated only as artwork these days). Since non-native women also like to carry a purse or handbag, Indian bags are commonly made as trade items today as well.
Today, amulet bags our pouches have expanded to be worn by many as popular jewelry and are made in a variety of materials, including seed beads, leather, fur, suede, etc. With the advent of beading programs, such as BeadCreator, stunning and realistic designs can be beaded into bags to be worn as necklaces. Ramona Lee, of Victorian and Edwardian Crochet, says "Amulet bags are generally worn at HEART LEVEL. In ancient times they were used by Native tribes to carry herbs or things to ward off evil spirits. In other words, they were sometimes worn for protection. They were also used to carry precious mementos of loved ones, or prayers.If you have a family member or friend who is going through a tough time you can put prayers in it for them. Every time you look at or touch the bag you will be reminded to send them love and prayers. Love is very powerful for healing the mind, body, or spirit. Also, if you have small gifts that others have given you, you can put those in the bag. Gifts from family and friends are generally gifts of love, even if it's just a card or a tiny piece of the card. Gifts of love are thought to hold the energy of love for the recipient of the gift. So if you are feeling down or in need of love or just want to be reminded of the fullness of the love that already exists in your life put those special gifts from loved ones in your bag. Today most people just wear them as jewelry, others sometimes put crystals in them."
Beaded amulet bags are generally created in peyote stitch, which is beaded one bead at a time, sometimes taking months to complete a complex pattern. They retail for anywhere between $45 - $800, depending on the seller and complexity of the design and materials used. Patterns and pattern books can be bought for some amazing designs. Here's one (right) from Enid Taylor that you can purchase at Amazon.com.
You'll find beaded amulet bags becoming more popular as exquisite fashion jewelry, especially since you can keep little treasures or momentos, even a few dollars in it.
If you are interested in purchasing an Amulet Bag, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with what you have in mind for a design and I'll be happy to give you a quote. Until next time, Happy Beading!