ancient egyptian protection symbols
The ancient Egyptian protection symbols we will be discussing below were the most commonly used by pharaohs, priests or regular Egyptians. They came in the form of depictions, like on tomb walls for example, or as amulets and other wearable jewelry.
The video below is part of my Youtube Channel series titled Magic & Ritual, which will delve into the world of ancient Egyptian magico-religious beliefs and ceremonies.
But there are a couple of things to understand first in order to have a healthy knowledge of this mysterious topic:
- Ancient Egyptian civilization lasted over 3000 years. And so religious beliefs and practices changed over time. It’s actually good to keep this in mind when reading about anything related to ancient Egypt!
- The term “Magic” has been under debate for a long time, especially when it comes to ancient Egypt. It’s very hard to separate ancient Egyptian magic and religion neatly. So until we can discuss this further, it’s fine for now to thin of it in its simplest definition: an action taken to bring about an effect on some sort of supernatural level.
The Five Main Ancient Egyptian Protection Symbols
Here’s the video. If you prefer reading, the text is right underneath 🙂
As you probably know, the ancient Egyptians used all kinds of magic in their religious ceremonies, household rituals and daily life.
Apotropaic magic, which is a type of magic conducted to ward off evil and protect people, was a big part of ancient Egyptian culture.
Deities of protection, like Bes and Taweret, were invoked using special objects such as wands and of course using the power of words and spells. Amulets with depictions of protective gods and goddesses were worn as well.
As for specific symbols, let’s talk abut the main five that were used in ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptian Protection Symbols – The Sa
First we have the Sa – this symbol actually means protection. Its depiction’s origins are a bit unclear, but some have speculated that it resembles a loop of papyrus stalks. It’s a very old symbol that was sometimes worn by pregnant women in an effort to protect their unborn children.
It is associated with the two deities we’ve already mentioned. The dwarf god Bes, who protects households, mothers and children, and the hippopotamus goddess Taweret, who protects childbirth and fertility.
Ancient Egyptian Protection Symbols – The Wadjet Eye
Next we have the Eye of Horus and the Eye of Ra, personified in the Cobra goddess Wadjet. The Wadjet eye is thought to protect the pharaoh in the afterlife and to ward off evil. As an amulet, it was worn for protection and healing.
There are a few interesting myths showing it in action, like the one where the Eye of Ra takes the form of the Goddess Hathor who goes on a mission of revenge on mankind. She turns into a blood-thirsty lioness goddess Sekhmet and almost destroys the entire race.
Ancient Egyptian Protection Symbols – The Uraeus
Closely associated to the Wadjet eye is the Uraeus, which is the Greek name for the ancient Egyptian symbol of a rearing cobra. The Uraeus was usually worn by pharaohs as a headdress, either on their foreheads or on top of their heads as part of their crowns. It was sometimes also worn as an amulet.
Ancient Egyptian Protection Symbols – The Shen Ring
Next we have the Shen Ring. This is another very old symbol of protection that’s associated with the magical ritual of encircling.
Encircling was performed by having a procession go round and round a specific area, or forming a ring around something, or just by depicting a circle like the Shen ring. This had the effect of disarming evil and helping with healing. It also represented the daily journey of the sun-God Ra.
The Shen ring looks like a rope knotted at the end to form a circle. It was used in depictions, amulets, rings, earrings, pendants and all sorts of jewelry. The goddesses associated with the Shen include Isis and the Vulture goddess Nekhbet.
Ancient Egyptian Protection Symbols – The Scarab
And finally we get to the all-important Scarab. The Scarab beetle symbolizes many things in ancient Egypt, such as death and rebirth. It was usually associated with the god Khepra, which is the early morning version of Ra.
As amulets, they were used to help the dead through the trials of the underworld. Specifically, the Heart Scarab was an amulet that was placed over the heart of the mummy.
It was usually inscribed with a specific spell from the book of the dead that would forbid the heart from giving any evidence of sin, protecting the deceased from damnation.
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Till next time, take care.