How to use ancient Egypt magic Amulets part 3/7

May 11, 2011

How to use ancient Egypt magic Amulets part 3/7
Steatite figure of a young girl holding a kohl pot, 19th-18th centuries BC. She wears a cowrie-shell girdle and has a fish amulet suspended from her plait.
Many amulets are closely related to the hieroglyphic script. This script is made up of signs which represent sounds (logograms), and signs which represent ideas (ideograms).
The ankh sign writes the word for life. The ankh as an amulet bestows or lengthens life.
The origins of this famous symbol are much debated. One suggestion is that it represents a penis sheath.1 If this is correct, the meaning of this symbol would be derived from the image itself.
Others maintain that the ankh represents a sandal strap, an object whose name happened to resemble the word for life. If this is the true explanation, the power of this symbol as an amulet would derive entirely from its written meaning.

An abbreviated writing of the standard Egyptian wish for 'life, prosperity, health' appears on pendants and scarabs. It had achieved the status of an amuletic formula.
A jumbled selection of common hieroglyphic signs often appears on the base of scarabs and other types of seal. At least among the illiterate, the hieroglyphic script was thought to have an amuletic power in itself, distinct from its specific meaning.
Many seals inscribed with royal names and titles were used as amulets. Some were old seals from documents, jars or boxes; others were specially made to be strung as beads.
The reused seals may have been valued because they had been in contact with a royal document or object. Anything associated with royalty would have heka and the name was a powerful aspect of the personality. This was particularly true of a king's prenomen or throne name, which acted as a kind of declaration of policy. The throne names of certain famous kings, such as Menkheperra (Thutmose III) and Usermaatra (Ramses II) were used on amuletic jewellery long after their deaths.

Some Egyptian amulets, particularly those worn as a temporary protection during a magical rite, consisted simply of the names of divine beings. These might be written on linen or papyrus or, in later times, on thin sheets of metal or the leaves of certain plants. Amulets consisting of extracts from sacred texts are sometimes called phylacteries.
The ancient Egyptians did not have one official holy book, but extracts from compilations such as The Book of the Dead were sometimes used as amulets. Spells from everyday magic might also be written down and worn at the neck as an amulet
The neck seems to have been considered a special point of vulnera-bility by the Egyptians. Tomb curses warn trespassers that an akh will wring their neck as if it were a bird's. Choking fits, which can lead to sudden death, might be the origin of this belief. Rubrics to everyday magic often specify that an amulet is to be applied to the neck.
Some strings of amulets are too small to fit round even a baby's neck. They could have been bracelets, but it is equally possible that they were originally put in linen or leather amulet bags and worn at the neck.
The pelvis was a danger point for women, so amuletic girdles were popular
The stomach was held to be the seat of the emotions and a person or deity's heka was said to be in their stomach.
The amuletic belt clasps worn by men, usually just below the navel, may have been intended to bind in and keep an individual's magic where it belonged. The stomach was still deemed to be vulnerable to demon attack. They were probably thought to enter through the navel.
Broad collars were owned by both sexes, but women were more likely to wear amuletic bracelets and anklets than men. Earrings were also mainly for women and children. Spells refer to the vulnerability of the ears to demon attack. Few earrings have much obvious amuletic decoration, but ear-piercing may have been thought to bestow some sort of protection in itself. Rings were not common before the seventeenth century BC, and do not feature much in magic until the Graeco-Egyptian papyri.
Magico-medical texts make it clear that temporary amulets might be applied to any part or orifice of the body.


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