Ancient Egyptian Amulets
Maria Isabel Pita
An amulet is an object with the power to bring positive energy into its owner’s life while offering protection from negative forces popularly known as “bad luck”. Handling, wearing or meditating on an amulet can affect the mysterious power of our feelings and point our thoughts in the right direction, helping us create the happy, healthy life we desire.
In ancient Egypt the ankh symbolized life and the cosmic union of male and female sexuality. Ankh amulets have been found decorated with a triangular design at the top of their “leg” evocative of a woman's pubic triangle. Representing the divine creative fire manifesting as individualized forms of life, the ankh amulet offered its owner the coveted qualities of life, health and strength.
Isis Knot & Djed Pillar
The Isis knot (tiet) also called “The Blood of Isis” is believed to be a stylized rendering of female genitalia symbolizing the womb of the Goddess. Isis was the wife of Osiris, god of nature, death and resurrection whose backbone was the djed pillar. The four rungs of the djed pillar represented the four elements and dimensions of the created world. Embodying the divine masculine and the creative feminine principles, the tiet knot and the djed pillar together provided powerful protection and were two of the most popular amulets in ancient Egypt.
Eye of Horus
The Eye of Horus was the hieroglyph wedjat, meaning “healthy”. The sun and the moon were perceived as the right and the left eyes of the great falcon god Horus who created day and night by opening one eye and closing the other. The Eye of Horus was considered a powerful protective talisman that enabled its owners’ hearts to “see” through the darkness of doubts and fears into their luminous eternal nature.
The blue lotus was the sacred flower represented by the hieroglyph seshen and its placement on wine jars has led Egyptologists to suspect an extract of the blue lotus was enjoyed as a drug. On the walls of tombs men and women were shown holding an open lotus flower to their noses. The blue lotus flower which opens at night served as a mystical symbol of light and life triumphing over darkness and death and as such was linked with sexuality and all sensual pleasures.
The scarab (khefer) the hieroglyph for “Becoming”, was associated with Atum-Ra and Khepri, He Who Came into Being, the One who breathed life into the universe. Khepriwas the creative force latent in the darkness of the Void symbolized by the morning sun and was depicted as a man with the head of a scarab. The scarab beetle rolls balls of mud and dung across the ground into underground tunnels for its larvae to feast on. The ancient Egyptians regarded this activity as a reflection of Atum rolling the solar disc before him and “hatching” time and space the way the baby beetles simply seemed to burst forth from the dark earth. Countless stone and faience scarabs were produced in ancient Egypt. As an amulet, the scarab provided potent protection from evil forces and magically stimulated good fortune by reminding the wearer of his heart’s divine nature as the mysterious manifestation of God.
Nefer essentially meant “beautiful” but was also used to describe abstract feelings including the concepts of happiness, good fortune and youth. The nefer hieroglyph portrayed the trachea rising up from the heart and was a common amulet usually made of stone or faience. The Egyptians believed that to wear a nefer amulet or to drink water from a nefer shaped vase magically encouraged the highly desirable qualities of happiness, good fortune, pleasure and beauty to remain a part of their lives.
The cowrie shell was worn by women throughout Egyptian history. The shape of the shell evoked the female vulva, making it a natural symbol of sexuality and fertility. Girdles of linked cowrie shells fashioned of burnished gold were worn by princesses.
The khefa sign was commonly used to express the act of holding onto something and to write the word “fist”. It also expressed the concept of grasping or seizing, the vital principle behind all actions both concrete and abstract. For example, the clenched hand symbolized the mental act of grasping a new concept or the effort required to “get a grip on your feelings” as we say today. The chief priestess of Amun-Ra was called The God’s Wife and The God’s Hand. The clenched hand symbolized the female sexual principle and the vagina that closes around the male organ.
An ideal charm bracelet to promote physical and spiritual strength would be composed of ankhs, tiet knots and djed pillars.
An image of a djed pillar placed where we catch glimpses of it throughout the day can provide our bodies and souls with magical “sips” of strength and stability.
An Eye of Horus amulet or tattoo can remind us that the most important thing in life is never to fall into a blind routine but always to see what we’re thinking and feeling. It is this dynamic rhythm of mind and heart that shapes our circumstances and affects everyone around us.
Because the metaphysical truths they symbolize are timeless, each of the nine sacred amulets described above can be meditated upon and worn today.
Excerpt from Ancient Egyptian Magic To Go, by Maria Isabel Pita, published by The Lotus Circle Press