|Picture taken from http://my_sarisari_store.typepad.com/my_sarisari_store/quiapo/page/3/|
When we were kids, my lawyer father used to have one of these. It looked exactly the one below:
We were fascinated with it arguing who among us siblings would get hold of it. The thought of the power it has of being able to protect from all evil mystified us. Sure we had our sacramentals at home --rosaries, medallion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Miraculous Medal of Our Lady. But none of those seem to be this mystifying. Even if our mother would tell us that our sacramentals, and the rosary prayers we do as a family, the attending of Mass every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation, our receiving of the Eucharist are more powerful than this anting-anting my father brought home; this left us with a question if the Catholic things are more powerful then why would our father need something more? Unless of course, this anting-anting is indeed what it claims to be.
As kids, we use to hear the stories and adventures of our great great grandfather (lolo sa sakong) from our maternal great grandfather (lolo sa tuhod). When he tells us his adventures, we would seat down and listen. He would recount how our great great grand dad have escaped the guardia civil because he had an agimat and anting-anting. We prodded our great grand father to tell us to whom did his father gave it to afterwards. Of course he did not say. And we begged him that he show it to us or that in due time he would give it to us as an inheritance. Filipino folklore has a lot of these stories about agimats and anting-antings. It is every boys fantasy to have one and be a superman and have so many adventures. Who would thought that these things would be spiritually dangerous? How can they be spiritually dangerous they have all these what seemed like Catholic symbols and images --crucifix, sacred heart, blessed virgin, the word ROMA. For us we would always associate Roma to mean Rome where the Pope lives. And back then sacramentals bearing the word Roma or Rome meant that it is authentic. It would be much much much later that we would as a family learn the trickery and deviousness of these amulets.
The culture behind the anting-anting has been discussed in various academic circles (cf. http://mandirigma.org/?cat=128; http://www.stuartxchange.com/AntingAnting.html). However, our concern here is not about culture, anthropology, or sociology for that matter but the spiritually dangerous aspect of this object in Catholic life. How are they dangerous?
Perhaps the anting-antings were never really passed on as a Catholic sacramental by those who manufacture them. But in folk catholicism, anything that looks like catholic is considered to be catholic especially if they are sold near churches and famous shrines that house a miraculous image of Our Lord, or Our Lady, or a Saint. The deception is undetected for those who do not know their faith or are undiscriminating. But even for those who live in cities, the level of superstition varies, and it is in this manner that the devil is able to penetrate many homes.
Photo taken from: http://my_sarisari_store.typepad.com/my_sarisari_store/quiapo/page/3/
To the nagging question: Do these amulets, talismans really have powers?
The answer is enigmatic. It is yes and no. Yes, in so far as it is an occult object. Definitely there is an attached unclean spirit there that is able to mimic what seemed to be protection and healing. But the user enjoying the powers would eventually be bound to the unclean spirit. And no, in itself it has no power. When the time of reckoning comes and the demon takes his prized soul, he will withdraw the protection and the power and allow death to take its toll. In many cases, the demon will stay to get more souls, to whoever the anting-anting is transferred and given, the demon attached too follows.
It is said that the anting-anting loses its power if not fed with prayers. In a sense this is true. Demons want to be worshiped and therefore the prayers of the user of the amulet is a form of worship. Even if the prayers used seem to have the form of Catholic prayers, since the faith of the user is flawed and in extreme error because of believing in such idolatrous practices, then the prayer is actually offered to the evil spirits. It serves as a blasphemy against the True God and a worship given to the Devil. The demon withdraws from the object for a while so that the user will be all the more dependent on the amulet and fearing that it will lose the power, it will offer christian prayers or orasyon formulas as homage to the spirit in the amulet.
Consider this documentary from Jessica Soho: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qav6iQFWtzk and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NE4UGO-Dqko to see exactly what I mean in considering anting-antings as occult objects and never from God.