Amulets had a very important role in the culture and religion of Ancient Egypt. They were worn both by the living and by the dead, being believed to protect against various dangers or endow the wearer with special characteristics. Since, as we all know, life after death was incredibly important to Ancient Egyptians, let's take a look at some of the amulets used for the deceased and see what their purpose was.
The frog amulet, or the amulet of Heqet, was made of various materials, including copper, gold, or stone, and depicted the Frog-Headed Goddess of life and fertility. When worn by the deceased, it conferred on them the power of resurrection, and it was also believed to protect against violation of the tomb. The frog amulet was worn by the living too, being seen as a talisman for a long life and thought to improve fertility, as well as protecting against suffering, sickness and pain.
This talisman was, of course, placed on the heart of the departed, so as to replace the actual heart – which had to be taken out during the mummification process. The amulet brought the protection of both Osiris (the god of the afterlife) and Ra (the Sun God, the god who created everything). The shape of the talisman is, in fact, that of the urn where they kept the actual heart of the deceased. The heart amulet is believed to have been of great importance to Ancient Egyptians, especially considering that the famous Book of the Dead had six chapters dedicated to it.
The scarab was a highly revered symbol in Ancient Egypt – it was as sacred to the Egyptians as the symbol of the cross is to Christianity. This amulet was placed on the deceased's heart as well, and it symbolized the invisible power of creation and eternal renewal – a reminder of the life to come.
This amulet had both a practical and a spiritual purpose. On a practical level, it physically supported the head of the departed within the coffin. On a more celestial level, according to the Book of the Dead, the headrest had two important roles. First of all, it raised up the head of the departed in regeneration – at the beginning of a spell in the Book of the Dead, the deceased are told to raise themselves, so that they will be triumphant over what has been done against them. Secondly, it also protected the head against being removed. The spell ended with the assurance that the head of the deceased will not be taken from them after burial – "your head shall not be taken from you forever". So many chills down my spine now!
This amulet symbolizes the backbone of Osiris and was placed near the lower torso, on the chest or around the neck. It represented endurance and stability and gave the body of the deceased the power to reconstitute itself in Duat (the Underworld).
The talisman could be placed anywhere on the body and brought the protection of Isis, the great Snake-Goddess. It had the power to prevent the body of the deceased from being devoured by the snakes of the Underworld.
Yet another amulet reaching out to the Snake-Goddess, this talisman was attached to the neck of the mummy and symbolized divine love. It was believed to bring the protection of Isis' blood and her words of power, which managed to bring Osiris back to life.
These were only 7 of the numerous amulets used in Ancient Egypt for protection or for granting special powers. Which one impressed you the most? Would you like to tell us about others you may know of?
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