Saphy (or Grigris)
Perhaps deriving from the Arabic safi (‘‘pure, select, excellent’’),
saphy were charms or amulets worn by Africans as protection
against thunderbolts and diseases, to procure wives,
and to avert disasters of all kinds. They are composed of strips
of paper on which sentences from the Koran are inscribed,
sometimes intermixed with Kabbalistic signs. These strips are
enclosed in silver tubes or silk bags, which are worn near the
skin, often fastened in the dress. This is by no means a practice
limited to Muslims; Africans of both sexes and many faiths have
been believers in the occult properties of such talismans. The
Scottish explorer Mungo Park (1771–ca. 1806) is said to have
depended on the making of saphy or grisgris, as they are sometimes
called.