Amulets are magic objects which are carried on the person. The Egyptian words that refer to these objects are "sa" and
"mkt" which are used for protective objects alone and "wedjet" which is used to refer to talisman as well. The first amulets of Ancient Egypt date to about 4000 BCE and are found among burial goods in graves. The most common type found from this time period is a female hippopotomi.
These objects could be either man made or natural items. Heka was believed to exist in strange and rare objects. Also natural items that resembled something else were thought to have a kind of sympathetic magic. Shells that resembled female genitals were used to make girdles which were worn around the waist and pelvis to ensure fertility. Some amulets were made of less long lasting natural items such as herbs, animal parts or hair wrapped in linen and tied with a cord. Even a knotted cord could be an amulet. A spell describes Isis, Nephthys and Hedijhotep spinning and weaving linen cord for a health amulet which was then knotted by Neith. There were several subcatagories of amulets that each had distinct qualities and were used for somewhat different purposes.
The first sub-catagory of amulet is the "talisman" which enhances a quality in a person or promotes success in their endeavors rather than providing protection.
Miniatures of objects with hieroglyphs are a seperate sub-catagory, they are called "cippi" and were for the protection of a single person. Both images and words are important in a cippi. Simple versions of longer spells are found inscribed on cippi and their power was considered to reside primarily in these inscriptions.
Another subcatagory is words themselves. Names of neteru, people and objects were considered to have great power over them. Many stories of the Neteru mention their hidden or secret names. Hieroglyphic words or the names of Neteru were inscribed on papyrus or linen and tied or folded and kept with a person or worn as a necklace.
Mythical and miniature ritual item amulets are perhaps the largest category. They include wadjet eye, sistrum, isis knot,eye of Horus, scarabs, djed pillar ect. These were used to provide protection and to enhance magic.
Yet another type is an inscribed amulet meant to be worn as jewelry. These are especially common in the later periods.
Many amulets of a sexual nature have also been found. These were used to increase sexual prowess or to insure fertility.
Sekhmet Amulets have been found by the thousands and must have been a favorite of ancient egyptians. This item protected against the diseases caused by the wrath of Sekhmet.
Suggested Pdf Resources
- Amulets of the Late Period
- Amulets of the Late Period. Note on Some Recent Accessions to the Egyptian Department. HE Royal Cemetery of the Cheops Family.
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Suggested Web Resources
- British Museum - Egyptian amulets
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- Talisman, Amulets and Charms. The word Amulet comes from the Latin amuletum, meaning an object to protect a person from trouble.
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