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Egyptian Magic

Chapter II - Magical Stones Or Amulets

[Page 25] "AMULET" is a name given to a class of objects and ornaments, and articles of dress and wearing apparel, made of various substances which were employed by the Egyptians, and later by other nations, to protect the human body, either living or dead, from baleful influences, and from the attacks of visible and invisible foes. The word "amulet" is derived from an Arabic root meaning "to bear, to carry," hence "amulet" is "something which is carried or worn," and the name is applied broadly to any kind of talisman or ornament to which supernatural powers are ascribed. It is not clear whether the amulet was intended first of all to protect the living or the dead body, but it seems that it was originally worn to guard its owner from savage animals and from serpents.

As time went on the development of religious ideas and beliefs progressed, and as a result new amulets representing new views were invented; and the objects which were able to protect the living were made, by an easy transition [Page 26] in the minds of those who wore them, to protect the dead. Moreover, as the preservation of the corruptible body, with the number of its members complete and intact, was of the most vital importance for the life of the spiritual and incorruptible body which was believed to spring therefrom, under the influence of the new beliefs the dead body became a veritable storehouse of amulets.

Each member was placed under the specific protection of some amulet, and a number of objects which were believed to protect the body generally from serpents, worms, mildew, decay and putrefaction were laid with a lavish hand in, and upon, and about it, and between the bandages with which it was swathed. When men in Egypt began to lay amulets on their dead cannot be said, and it is equally impossible to say when the belief in the efficacy of such and such an amulet sprang into being; it seems clear, however, that certain amulets represent beliefs and superstitions so old that even the Egyptians were, at times, doubtful about their origin and meaning.

Amulets are of two kinds:

  1. those which are inscribed with magical formulæ, and
  2. those which are not.

In the earliest times formulæ or prayers were recited over the amulets that were worn by the living or placed on the dead by priests or men set apart to perform religious services by the community; but it was not in the power of every man to employ them, and at a comparatively early date words of magical [Page 27] power and prayers were cut upon the amulets, which thus became possessed of a twofold power, that is to say, the power which was thought to be inherent in the substance of which the amulet was made, and that which lay in the words inscribed upon it.

The earliest name for the formulæ found upon amulets is hekau, and it was so necessary for the deceased to be provided with these hekau, or "words of power," that in the XVIth Century B.C., and probably more than a thousand years earlier, a special section [1] was inserted in the Book of the Dead with the object of causing them to come to him from whatever place they were in, "swifter than greyhounds and quicker than light."

The earliest Egyptian amulets known are pieces of green schist, of various shapes, animal. and otherwise, which were laid upon the breast of the deceased; these are found in large numbers in the pre-historic or predynastic graves at several places in Egypt. It is most unlikely that they were made by the aboriginal inhabitants of Egypt, for, notwithstanding the various conjectures which have been made as to their object and use, it is pretty certain that, as M. J. de Morgan said, [2] they "belong to the cult." According to this writer their use was exceedingly widespread until the end of the neolithic period, but with the advent of the [Page 28] people whom we call Egyptians they become very rare.

In the subsequent period the animal forms disappear, and their place is taken by plaques of schist, rectangular in shape, upon which are inscribed, in rough outline, figures of animals, etc. The theory that these objects were intended as whetstones, or as slabs upon which to rub down paint, will not hold, for the reasons which M. J. de Morgan has given. Moreover, in the green stone scarab which was laid upon the breast of the deceased in dynastic times, we probably have a survival of the green schist amulet of predynastic times in Egypt, both as regards the object with which it was made and the material.

But the custom of writing hekau, or words of power, upon papyrus is almost as old as that of writing them upon stone, and we see from the inscription on the walls of the corridors and chambers of the pyramid of Unas, king of Egypt about B.C. 3300, that a "book with words of magical power" was buried with him. [3] Elsewhere [4] we are told that the book which Teta, king of Egypt about B.C. 3266, had with him "hath effect upon the heart of the gods"; and there is no doubt that the object of every religious text ever written on tomb, stele, amulet, coffin, papyrus, etc., was to bring the gods under the power of the deceased, so that he might be able to compel them to do his will.

 

[Page 29] 1. The Amulet of the Heart, 02900

The heart was not only the seat of the power of life, but also the source of both good and evil thoughts; and it sometimes typified the conscience. It was guarded after death with special care, and was mummified separately, and then, with the lungs, was preserved in a jar which was placed under the protection of the god Tuamutef. Its preservation was considered to be of such importance that a text [5] was introduced into the Book of the Dead at an early period, with the view of providing the deceased with a heart in the place of that which had been removed in the process of mummification. The text reads:--

"May my heart be with me in the House of Hearts! May my breast [6] be with me in the House of Hearts! May my heart be with me, and may it rest there, or I shall not eat of the cakes of Osiris on the eastern side of the Lake of Flowers, neither shall I have a boat wherein to go down the Nile, nor another wherein to go up, nor shall I be able to sail down the Nile with thee.

May my mouth [be given] to me that I may speak therewith, and my two legs to walk therewith, and my two hands and arms to overthrow my foe.

May the doors of heaven be opened unto me; may Seb, the prince of the gods, open wide his [Page 30] two jaws unto me; may he open my two eyes which are blindfolded; may he cause me to stretch apart my two legs which are bound together; and may Anpu (Anubis) make my thighs to be firm so that I may stand upon them.

May the goddess Sekhet make me to rise so that I may ascend into heaven, and may that which I command in the House of the Ka of Ptah be done.

I shall understand with my heart, I shall gain the mastery over my heart, I shall gain the mastery over my two hands, I shall gain the mastery over my legs, I shall have the power to do whatsoever my ka (i.e., double) pleaseth. My soul shall not be fettered to my body at the gates of the underworld, but I shall enter in and come forth in peace."

When the deceased had uttered these words, it was believed that he would at once obtain the powers which he wished to possess in the next world; and when he had gained the mastery over his heart, the heart, the double, and the soul had the power to go where they wished and to do what they pleased. The mention of the god Ptah and of his consort Sekhet indicates that the Chapter was the work of the priests of Memphis, and that the ideas embodied in it are of great antiquity. According to the Papyrus of Nekhtu-Amen, the amulet of the heart, which is referred to in the above Chapter, was to be made of lapis-lazuli, and there is no doubt that this stone was believed to [Page 31] possess certain qualities which were beneficial to those who wore it.

It will also be remembered that, according to one tradition, [7] the text of the LXIVth Chapter of the Book of the Dead was found written in letters of lapis-lazuli in the reign of Hesep-ti, king of Egypt about B.C. 4300, and the way in which the fact is mentioned in the Rubric to the Chapter proves that special importance was attached to it.

03100image right: Nefer-uben-f, a priest, guarding his heart against the destroyer of hearts.
(From Naville, Todtenbuch, vol. I. plate 39.)

But although a heart might be given to a man by means of the above Chapter, it was necessary for the deceased to take the greatest care that it was not carried off from him by a monster, who was part man and part beast, and who went about seeking for hearts to carry away. To prevent such a calamity no less than seven Chapters of the Book of the Dead (Nos. XXVII., XXVIII., XXIX., XXIXA, XXX., XXXA, [Page 32] and XXXB) were written. The XXVIIth Chapter was connected with a heart amulet made of a white, semi-transparent stone, and reads:--

"Hail, ye who carry away hearts! Hail, ye who steal hearts, and who make the heart of a man to go through its transformations according to its deeds, let not what he hath done harm him before you! Homage to you, O ye lords of eternity, ye possessors of ever lastingness, take ye not this heart of Osiris [8] into your grasp, and cause ye not words of evil to spring up against it; for it is the heart of Osiris, and it belongeth unto him of many names, [9] the mighty one whose words are his limbs, and who sendeth forth his heart to dwell in his body.

The heart of Osiris is triumphant, and it is made new before the gods: he hath gained power over it, and he hath not been judged according to what he hath done. He hath gotten power over his own members.

His heart obeyeth him, he is the lord thereof, it is in his body, and it shall never fall away therefrom. I, Osiris, victorious in peace, and triumphant in the beautiful Amenta and on the mountain of eternity, bid thee [O heart] to be obedient unto me in the underworld."

Another Chapter (XXIXB) was connected with a heart amulet made of carnelian, of which so many examples may be found in large museums; the text [Page 33] reads:

"I am the Bennu, [10] the soul of Râ, and the guide of the gods who are in the underworld. Their divine souls came forth upon earth to do the will of their doubles, let therefore the soul of the Osiris come forth to do the will of his double."

The Bennu was also the soul of Osiris, and thus the amulet brought with it the protection of both Osiris and Râ.

But of all the Chapters which related to the heart, the most popular among the Egyptians was that which is commonly known as XXXB, and its importance from a religious point of view cannot be overstated. The antiquity of the Chapter is undoubted, for according to the Papyrus of Nu, [11] a document of the early part of the XVIIIth dynasty, it dates from the time of Hesep-ti, king of Egypt about B.C. 4300, and it seems that it formed a pendant or supplement to the LXIVth Chapter, which professed to give the substance of all the "Chapters of Coming Forth by Day" in a single Chapter.

In the rubric to the longer version of the Chapter, given in the same papyrus, [12] Chapter XXXB is connected with Herutâtâf, the son of Khufu (Cheops), a man famed for wisdom, and it is there ordered that the words of it be recited over a hard, green stone scarab, which shall be laid in the breast of the deceased where the heart would ordinarily be; this amulet would then perform for him the "opening of the [Page 34] mouth," [13] for the words of the Chapter would be indeed "words of power." From reciting the words of the Chapter over a scarab to engraving them upon it was but a step, and this step was taken as early as the IVth dynasty.

The text is as follows:--

"My heart, my mother; my heart, my mother! My heart whereby I came into being! May naught stand up to oppose me at [my] judgment; may there be no opposition to me in the presence of the sovereign princes; may there be no parting of thee from me in the presence of him that keepeth the Balance! Thou art my double (ka), the dweller in my body, the god Khnemu who knitteth and strengtheneth my limbs.

Mayest thou come forth into the place of happiness whither we go. May the Shenit, who form the conditions of the lives of men, not make my name to stink.

Let it be satisfactory unto us, and let the listening be satisfactory unto us, and let there be joy of heart unto us at the weighing of words.

Let not that which is false be uttered against me before the great god, the lord of Amentet. Verily how great shalt thou be when thou risest in triumph."

03500image right: The scribe Nebsent being weighed in a balance against his heart in the presence of Osiris.
(From the Papyrus of Nebseni, sheet 4.)

It was this Chapter which the deceased recited when he was in the Judgment Hall of Osiris, whilst his heart was being weighed in the Balance against the feather symbolic of right and truth. From certain papyri it seems as if the above words should, properly, [Page 35] be said by the deceased when he is being weighed against his own heart, a conception which is quite different from that of the judgment of the heart before the gods.

 

2. The Amulet of the Scarab, 03501

From what has been said above it will be seen that the amulet of the heart, which was connected with the most important and most popular of the Chapters for protecting the heart, was directed to be made in the form of the scarab at a very early date. We can trace the ideas which the Egyptians held about this insect as far back as the time of the building of the Pyramids, [14] and there is no doubt that they represented beliefs which even at that early period were very old.

The [Page 36] Egyptian seems to have reasoned thus: since the physical heart is taken from the body before mummification, and the body has need of another to act as the source of life and movement in its new life, another must be put in its place. But a stone heart, whether made of lapis-lazuli or carnelian, is only a stone heart after all, and even though by means of prayers properly recited it prevents the physical heart from being carried off by "those who plunder hearts," it possesses nothing of itself which can be turned to account in giving new life and being to the body on which it lies.

But the scarab or beetle itself possesses remarkable powers, and if a figure of the scarab be made, and the proper words of power be written upon it, not only protection of the dead physical heart, but also new life and existence will be given to him to whose body it is attached. Moreover, the scarab was the type and symbol of the god Khepera, the invisible power of creation which propelled the sun across the sky. The particular beetle chosen by the Egyptians to copy for amulets belongs to the family of dung-feeding Lamellicorns which live in tropical countries.

The species are generally of a black hue, but amongst them are to be found some adorned with the richest metallic colours. A remarkable peculiarity exists in the structure and situation of the hind legs, which are placed so near the extremity of the body, and so far from each other, as to give the insect a most [Page 37] extraordinary appearance when walking. This peculiar formation is, nevertheless, particularly serviceable to its possessors in rolling the balls of excrementitious matter in which they enclose their eggs. These balls are at first irregular and soft, but, by degrees, and during the process of rolling along, become rounded and harder; they are propelled by means of the hind legs. Sometimes these balls are an inch and a half or two inches in diameter, and in rolling them along the beetles stand almost upon their beads, with the heads turned from the balls.

These manœuvres have for their object the burying of the balls in holes, which the insects have previously dug for their reception; and it is upon the dung thus deposited that the larvæ, when hatched, feed. It does not appear that these beetles have the ability to distinguish their own balls, as they will seize upon those belonging to another, in the case of their having lost their own; indeed, it is said that several of them occasionally assist in rolling the same ball. The males as well as the females assist in rolling the pellets. They fly during the hottest part of the day. [15]

Among the ancients several curious views were held about the scarab, whether of the type scarabæus sacer or the ateuchus Ægyptiorium[16] and Ælian, Porphyry, [Page 38] and Horapollo declared that no female scarab existed. The last named writer stated that the scarab denoted "only begotten," because it was a creature self-produced, being unconceived by a female. He goes on to say that, having made a ball of dung, the beetle rolls it from east to west, and having dug a hole, he buries it in it for eight and twenty days; on the twenty-ninth day he opens the ball, and throws it into the water, and from it the scarabæi come forth. The fact that the scarab flies during the hottest part of the day made the insect to be identified with the sun, and the ball of eggs to be compared to the sun itself.

The unseen power of God, made manifest under the form of the god Khepera, caused the sun to roll across the sky, and the act of rolling gave to the scarab its name kheper, i.e., "he who rolls." The sun contained the germs of all life, and as the insect's ball contained the germs of the young scarabs it was identified also with the sun as a creature which produced life in a special way. Now, the god Khepera also represented inert but living matter, which was about to begin a course of existence, and at a very early period he was considered to be a god of the resurrection; and since the scarab was identified with him that insect became at once the symbol of the god and the type of the resurrection.

But the dead human body, from one aspect, contained the germ of life, that is to say, the germ of the spiritual body, which was called into being [Page 39] by means of the prayers that were recited and the ceremonies that were performed on the day of the funeral; from this point of view the insect's egg ball and the dead body were identical. Now, as the insect had given potential life to its eggs in the ball, so, it was thought, would a model of the scarab, itself the symbol of the god Khepera, also give potential life to the dead body upon which it was placed, always provided that the proper "words of power" were first said over it or written upon it.

The idea of "life" appears to have attached itself to the scarab from time immemorial in Egypt and the Eastern Sûdân, for to this day the insect is dried, pounded, and mixed with water, and then drunk by women who believe it to be an unfailing specific for the production of large families. In ancient days when a man wished to drive away the effects of every kind of sorcery and incantations he might do so by cutting off the head and wings of a large beetle, which he boiled and laid in oil. The head and wings were then warmed up and steeped in the oil of the âpnent serpent, and when they had been once more boiled the man was to drink the mixture. [17]

04000image right: The scribe Ani holding a necklace with pectoral, on which is a figure of the boat of Râ containing a scarab, or beetle, in the presence of Anubis, the god of the dead.
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plate 15.)

The amulet of the scarab has been found in Egypt in untold thousands, and the varieties are exceedingly numerous. They are made of green basalt, green [Page 40] granite, limestone, green marble, blue paste, blue glass, purple, blue and green glazed porcelain, etc.; and the words of power are usually cut in outline on the base. In rare instances, the scarab has a human face or head, and sometimes the backs are inscribed with figures of the boat of Râ, of the Bennu bird, "the soul of Râ," and of the eye of Horus. The green stone scarabs are often set in gold, and have a band of gold across and down the back where the wings join; sometimes the whole back is gilded, and sometimes the base is covered with a plate of gold upon which the words of power have been stamped or engraved. Occasionally the base of the scarab is made in the form of a heart, a fact which proves the closeness of the relationship which existed between the amulets of the heart and scarab.

In late times, that is to say about B.C. 1200, [Page 41] large funeral scarabs were set in pylon-shaped pectorals, made of porcelain of various colours, upon which the boat of the Sun was either traced in colours or worked in relief, and the scarab is placed so as to appear to be carried in the boat; on the left stands Isis and on the right Nephthys. [18] The oldest green stone funeral scarab known to me is in the British Museum (No. 29,224); it was found at Kûrna near Thebes and belongs to the period of the XIth dynasty, about B.C. 2600. The name of the man for whom it was made (he appears to have been an official of the Temple of Amen) was traced on it in light coloured paint which was afterwards varnished; there are no "words of power" on this interesting object.

When once the custom of burying scarabs with the bodies of the dead became recognized, the habit of wearing them as ornaments by the living came into fashion, and as a result scarabs of almost every sort and kind may be found by the thousand in many collections, and it is probable that the number of varieties of them was only limited by the ability of those who manufactured them in ancient days to invent new sorts. The use of the scarab amulet passed into Western Asia and into several countries which lay on the Mediterranean, and those who wore it seem to have attached to it much the same idea as its early inventors, the [Page 42] Egyptians. From a Greek magical papyrus translated by Goodwin [19] we may see that certain solemn ceremonies were performed over a scarab before it was worn, even in the period of the rule of the Greeks and Romans.

Thus about the "ring of Horus" and the "ceremony of the beetle" we are told to take a beetle, sculptured as described below, and to place it on a paper table, and under the table there shall be a pure linen cloth; under it put some olive wood, and set on the middle of the table a small censer wherein myrrh and kyphi shall be offered. And have at hand a small vessel of chrysolite into which ointment of lilies, or myrrh, or cinnamon, shall be put, and take the ring and lay it in the ointment, having first made it pure and clean, and offer it up in the censer with kyphi and myrrh; leave the ring for three days, and take it out and put it in a safe place.

At the celebration let there lie near at hand some pure loaves, and such fruits as are in season, and having made another sacrifice upon vine sticks, during the sacrifice take the ring out of the ointment, and anoint thyself with the unction from it. Thou shalt anoint thyself early in the morning, and turning towards the east shalt pronounce the words written below. The beetle shall be carved out of a precious emerald; bore it and pass a gold wire through it, and beneath the beetle carve the [Page 43] holy Isis, and having consecrated it as above written, use it.

The proper days for the celebration were the 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 21st, 24th, and 25th, from the beginning of the month; on other days abstain. The spell to be recited began, "I am Thoth," the inventor and founder of medicines and letters; "come to me, thou that art under the earth, rise up to me, thou great spirit."

 

3. The Amulet of the Buckle, 04300

This amulet represents the buckle of the girdle of Isis, and is usually made of carnelian, red jasper, red glass, and of other substances of a red colour; it is sometimes made of gold, and of substances covered with gold. It is always associated with the CLVIth Chapter of the Book of the Dead, which is frequently inscribed upon it, and which reads:--

"The blood of Isis, and the strength of Isis, and the words of power of Isis shall be mighty to act as powers to protect this great and divine being, and to guard him from him that would do unto him anything that he holdeth in abomination."

But before the buckle was attached to the neck of the deceased, where the rubric ordered it to be placed, it had to be dipped in water in which ânkham flowers had been steeped; and when the words of the Chapter of the Buckle given above had been recited over it, [Page 44] the amulet brought to the deceased the protection of the blood of Isis, and of her words of power. It will be remembered that she raised the dead body of Osiris by means of her words of power, and there is a legend to the effect that she smote the Sun-god Râ with severe sickness by the magical power which she possessed.

Another object of the buckle was to give the deceased access to every place in the underworld, and to enable him to have

"one hand towards heaven, and one hand towards earth."

 

4. The Amulet of the Tet, 04400

04500image right: The mummy of Ani the scribe, lying on a bier, attended by Isis, Nephthys, Anubis, the four children of Horus, the ushabti figure, his soul, the TET, etc.
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plates 33, 34).

This amulet probably represents the tree trunk in which the goddess Isis concealed the dead body of her husband, and the four cross-bars indicate the four cardinal points; it became a symbol of the highest religious importance to the Egyptians, and the setting up of the Tet at Busiris, which symbolized the reconstituting of the body of Osiris, was one of the most solemn of all the ceremonies performed in connexion with the worship of Osiris. The Tet represents neither the mason's table nor a Nilometer, as some have thought, It is always associated with the CLVth Chapter of the Book of the Dead, which reads:--

"Rise up thou, O Osiris! Thou hast thy backbone, O Still-Heart! Thou hast the fastenings of thy neck and back, O Still-Heart! Place thou thyself upon [Page 45] [Page 46] [Page 47] thy base, I put water beneath thee, and I bring unto thee a Tet of gold that thou mayest rejoice therein."

Like the buckle, the Tet had to be dipped in the water in which ânkham flowers had been steeped, and laid upon the neck of the deceased, to whom it gave the power to reconstitute the body and to become a perfect KHU (i.e., spirit) in the underworld. On coffins the right hand of the deceased grasps the buckle, and the left the Tet; both are made of wood, notwithstanding the fact that the rubric to the Chapter of the Te orders the Tet to be made of gold.

 

5. The Amulet of the Pillow, 04700

This amulet is a model of the pillow which is found placed under the neck of the mummy in the coffin, and its object is to "lift up" and to protect the head of the deceased; it is usually made of hæmatite, and is inscribed with the text of the CLXVIth Chapter of the Book of the Dead, which reads:--

"Thou art lifted up, O sick one that liest prostrate. They lift up thy head to the horizon, thou art raised up, and dost triumph by reason of what hath been done for thee. Ptah hath overthrown thine enemies, which was ordered to be done for thee. Thou art Horus, the son of Hathor, . . . who givest back the head after the slaughter. Thy head shall not be carried away from thee after [the slaughter], thy head shall never, never be carried away from thee."

 

[Page 48] 6. The Amulet of the Vulture, 04800

This amulet was intended to cause the power of Isis as the "divine mother" to be a protection for the deceased, and was made of gold in the form of a vulture hovering in the air with outstretched wings and holding in each talon the symbol of "life" 04801 and was placed on the neck on the day of the funeral. With this amulet the CLVIIth Chapter of the Book of the Dead was associated, and it was ordered by the rubric to it to be recited over it; this text reads:--

"Isis cometh and hovereth over the city, and she goeth about seeking the secret habitations of Horus as he emergeth from his papyrus swamps, and she raiseth up his shoulder which is in evil case. He is made one of the company in the divine boat, and the sovereignty of the whole world is decreed for him.

He hath warred mightily, and he maketh his deeds to be remembered; he hath made the fear of him to exist and awe of him to have its being. His mother the mighty lady, protecteth him, and she hath transferred her power unto him."

The first allusion is to the care which Isis shewed for Horus when she was bringing him up in the papyrus swamps, and the second to his combat with Set, whom he vanquished through the might of Isis.

 

[Page 49] 7. The Amulet of the Collar of Gold, 04900

This amulet was intended to give the deceased power to free himself from his swathings; it is ordered by the rubric to the CLVIIIth Chapter of the Book of the Dead to be placed on his neck on the day of the funeral, and to be made of gold.

The text of the Chapter reads:--

"O my father, my brother, my mother Isis, I am unswathed, and I see. I am one of those who are unswathed and who see the god Seb."

This amulet is very rare, and appears to have been the expression of beliefs which grew up in the period of the XXVIth dynasty, about B.C. 550.

 

8. The Amulet of the Papyrus Sceptre, 04901

This amulet was intended to give the deceased vigour and renewal of youth; it was made of mother-of-emerald, or of light green or blue porcelain, and, when the words of the CLIXth Chapter of the Book of the Dead had been recited over it, it was placed on his neck on the day of the funeral. In the XXVIth dynasty and later it seems as if the amulet represented the power of Isis, who derived it from her father, the husband of Renenet, the goddess of abundant harvests and food.

At an earlier period, judging from the text of the CLXth Chapter, the amulet is put by the god [Page 50] Thoth into the hands of the deceased, who says,

"It is in sound state, and I am in sound state; it is not injured, and I am not injured; it is not worn away, and I am not worn away."

 

9. The Amulet of the Soul, 05000

This amulet was made of gold inlaid with precious stones in the form of a human-headed hawk, and, when the words of the LXXXIXth Chapter of the Book of the Dead had been recited over it, it was directed by the rubric to the Chapter to be placed upon the breast of the deceased. The object of the amulet is apparent from the text in which the deceased is made to say,

"Hail, thou god Anniu! Hail, thou god Pehrer, who dwellest in thy hall! Grant thou that my soul may come unto me from wheresoever it may be. If it would tarry, then let my soul be brought unto me from wheresoever it may be. . . .

Let me have possession of my soul and of my spirit, and let me be true of voice with them wheresoever they may be. . . .

Hail, ye gods, who tow along the boat of the lord of millions of years, who bring it above the underworld, and who make it to travel over Nut, who make souls to enter into their spiritual bodies, . . . grant that the soul of the Osiris [20] [Page 51] may come forth before the gods, and that it may be true of voice with you in the east of the sky, and follow unto the place where it was yesterday, and enjoy twofold peace in Amentet.

May it look upon its natural body, may it rest upon its spiritual body, and may its body neither perish nor suffer corruption for ever!"

Thus the amulet of the soul was intended to enable the soul both to unite with the mummified body, and to be with its spirit (khu) and spiritual body at will.

 

10. The Amulet of the Ladder, 05100

In tombs of the Ancient and Middle Empires small objects of wood and other substances in the form of ladders have often been found, but the signification of them is not always apparent. From the texts inscribed upon the walls of the corridors and chambers of the pyramids of Unas, Teta, Pepi, and other early kings, it is clear that the primitive Egyptians believed that the floor of heaven, which also formed the sky of this world, was made of an immense plate of iron, rectangular in shape, the four corners of which rested upon four pillars which served to mark the cardinal points.

On this plate of iron lived the gods and the blessed dead, and it was the aim of every good Egyptian to go there after death. At certain sacred spots the edge of [Page 52] the plate was so near the tops of the mountains that the deceased might easily clamber on to it and so obtain admission into heaven, but at others the distance between it and the earth was so great that he needed help to reach it.

There existed a belief that Osiris himself experienced some difficulty of getting up to the iron plate, and that it was only by means of the ladder which his father Râ provided that he at length ascended into heaven. On one side of the ladder stood Râ, and on the other stood Horus, [21] the son of Isis, and each god assisted Osiris to mount it. Originally the two guardians of the ladder were Horus the Elder and Set, and there are several references in the early texts to the help which they rendered to the deceased, who was, of course, identified with the god Osiris.

But, with a view either of reminding these gods of their supposed duty, or of compelling them to do it, the model of a ladder was often placed on or near the dead body in the tomb, and a special composition was prepared which had the effect of making the ladder become the means of the ascent of the deceased into heaven. Thus in the text written for Pepi [22] the deceased is made to address the ladder in these words:

"Homage to thee, O divine Ladder! Homage to thee, O Ladder of Set! Stand thou upright, O divine Ladder! Stand thou upright, O Ladder of Set! Stand thou upright, O Ladder of Horus, whereby Osiris [Page 53] came forth into heaven when he made use of his magical power upon Râ. . . .

For Pepi is thy son, and Pepi is Horus, and thou hast given birth unto Pepi even as thou hast given birth unto the god who is the lord of the Ladder (i.e., Horus); and thou shalt give unto Pepi the Ladder of the god (i.e., Horus), thou shalt give unto him the Ladder of the god Set whereby this Pepi shall come forth into heaven when he shall have made use of his magical power upon Râ.

O 'thou god of those whose doubles (kau) pass onwards, (when the Eye of Horus soareth upon the wing of 'Thoth on the east side of the divine Ladder (or Ladder of God), O men whose bodies [would go] into heaven, Pepi is the Eye of Horus, and when the 'Eye turneth itself to any place where he is, Pepi goeth side by side with the Eye of Horus, and O ye who are the brethren of the gods, rejoice ye that Pepi journeyeth among you.

And the brethren of Pepi who axe the gods shall be glad when they meet Pepi, even as Horus is glad when he meeteth his Eye. He hath placed his Eye before his father Seb, and every god and every spirit stretcheth out his hand towards Pepi when he cometh forth into heaven from the Ladder.

Pepi hath need neither to 'plough the earth,' nor to 'collect the offering'; and he hath (need neither to go to the Hall which is in Annu (Heliopolis), nor to the Hall of the Morning which is in Annu; for that which he seeth and that which he [Page 54] heareth shall feed him and nourish him when he appeareth in heaven from the Ladder.

Pepi riseth like the uraeus on the forehead of Set, and every god and every spirit stretcheth out his hand to Pepi on the Ladder. Pepi hath gathered together his bones, be hath collected his flesh, and he hath gone quickly into heaven by means of the two fingers [23] of the god of the Ladder (i.e., Horus).

Elsewhere [24] the gods Khonsu, Sept, etc., are invoked to bring the ladder to Pepi, and the ladder itself is adjured to come with its name, and in another place [25] we read, Homage to thee, O thou Ladder that supportest the golden vase of the Spirits of Pe and the Spirits of Nekhen, stretch out thy hand to this Pepi, and let him take his seat between the two great gods who (care in the place of this Pepi; take him by the hand and lead him towards Sekhet-Hetep (i.e., the Elysian Fields), and let him take his seat among the stars which are in the sky."

In the Theban Recension of the Book of the Dead the importance of the ladder is also seen, for in Chapter CXLIX. [26] the deceased says,

"I set up a Ladder among the gods, and I am a divine being among them";

and in Chapter CLIII. he says,

"The [Page 55] Osiris Nu shall come forth upon your Ladder which Râ hath made for him, and Horus and Set shall grasp him firmly by the hand."

Finally, when the custom of placing a model of the ladder in the tomb fell into disuse, the priests provided for the necessity of the dead by painting a ladder on the papyri that were inscribed with the texts from the Book of the Dead and were buried with them. [27]

 

11. The Amulet of the Two Fingers, 05500

This amulet is intended to represent the two fingers, index and medius, which the god Horus employed in helping his father Osiris up the ladder [28] into heaven, as has been described above; it is found in the interior of mummies and is usually made of obsidian or hæmatite.

 

12. The Amulet of the Eye of Horus, 05501

The Eye of Horus amulet, or Utchat, is one of the commonest of all, and its use seems to have been universal at all periods. It was made of gold, silver, granite, hæmatite, carnelian, lapis-lazuli, porcelain, wood, etc., although the rubric of a late Chapter of the Book of the Dead [29] directs that the amulet [Page 56] should be made either of lapis-lazuli or of mak stone. The Utchat is of two kinds, one facing to the left and the other to the right, and together they represent the two eyes of Horus, one of which, according to an ancient text, was white and the other black; from another point of view one Utchat represents the Sun and the other the Moon, or Râ and Osiris respectively.

But speaking generally, when the Egyptians wore the Utchat as an amulet they intended it to bring to them the blessings of strength, vigour, protection, safety, good health, and the like, and they had in their minds the Eye of Horus, probably the white one, or the Sun. In religious texts the expression meh Utchat, i.e., the "filling of the Utchat," is often used, and from many considerations it is clear that we must understand it to refer to the Sun at the summer solstice; thus the amulet seems to have been intended to bring to its wearer strength and health similar to that of the Sun at the season of the year when it is most powerful.

In the CLXVIIth Chapter of the Book of the Dead the deceased is made to say,

"The god Thoth hath brought the Utchat, and he hath made it to rest after it departed, O Râ. It was grievously afflicted by the storm, but Thoth made it to rest after it departed out of the storm. I am sound, and it is sound; I am sound, and it is sound; and Nebseni, the lord of piety, is sound."

To obtain the full benefit of the Utchat amulet for the deceased it was obligatory to [Page 57] make one in lapis-lazuli and to plate it with gold, and then to offer to it offerings at the summer solstice; another had then to be made of jasper and, if after the specified Chapter (CXL.) had been recited over it, it was laid on any part of the body of the deceased, he would become a god and take his place in the boat of Râ. At this solstice twelve altars [30] had to be lighted, four for Râ-Temu, four for the Utchat, and four for the other gods who had been mentioned in the Chapter. An interesting example of the use of the utchat occurs in a Greek spell for the discovery of a thief written as late as the IVth century of our era. [31]

In it we are told to

"take the herb khelkbei and bugloss, press out the juice and burn the crushed leaves and mix the ashes with the juice. Anoint and write upon a wall Khoô with these materials. And take a common piece of wood, and cut a hammer out of it, and strike with it upon the ear, pronouncing this spell:--'I adjure thee by the holy names, render up the thief, who has carried away such [and such] a thing Khalkhak, Khalkoum, Khiam, Khar, Khroum, Zbar, Bêri, Zbarkom, Khrê, Kariôb, Pharibou, and by the terrible names αεεηηηιιιιοοοοουυυυυυωωωωωωω {Greek aeehhhiiiiooooouuuuuuwwwwwww}'" [32]

Following these words we have a picture of the utchat [Page 58] with an arrangement of certain vowels on each side of it thus:


ω
υυ
ιιιι
ηηηηη
εεεεεε
ααααααα

{Greek
w
uu
iiii
hhhhh
eeeeee
aaaaaaa
}

05800


α
εε
ηηη
ιιιι
ηηηηη
εεεεεε
ααααααα

{Greek
a
ee
hhh
iiii
hhhhh
eeeeee
aaaaaaa
}

 

The spell continues,

"Render up the thief who has stolen such [and such] a thing: as long as I strike the ear with this hammer, let the eye of the thief be smitten and inflamed until it betrays him.' Saying these words strike with the hammer." [33]

 

13.  The Amulet of "Life,"05801 (Ânkh).

 

05802The object which is represented by this amulet is unknown, and of all the suggestions which have been made concerning it none is more unlikely than that which would give it a phallic origin. Whatever it may represent, it certainly symbolizes "life"; every god carries it, and it seems, even in the earliest times, to be a conventional representation of some object which in the remotest period had been used as an . amulet. In the Papyrus of Ani (2nd edit., plate 2) the Ânkh rises from the Tet, and the arms which project from it support the disk of the sun as here seen. This amulet is made of [Page 59] various substances, and was chiefly employed as a pendant of a necklace.

 

14. The Amulet Nefer, 05900

This amulet signifies "happiness, good luck," etc., and represents a musical instrument; it was made of carnelian, red stone, red porcelain, and the like, and was a very favourite form for the pendants of necklaces and strings of beads.

 

15. The Amulet of the Serpent's Head, 05901

This amulet was placed on the dead body to keep it from being bitten by snakes in the underworld or tomb. It is made of red stone, red jasper, red paste, and carnelian. As the goddess Isis is often typified by a serpent, and red is a colour peculiar to her, it seems as if the idea underlying the use of this amulet was to vanquish the snakes in the tomb by means of the power of the great snake-goddess Isis. This power had been transferred to it by means of the words of the XXXIVth Chapter of the Book of the Dead, which are often inscribed upon it.

The text reads:

"O Serpent! I am the flame which shineth upon the Opener of hundreds of thousands of years, and the standard of the god Tenpu,"

or as others say,

"the standard of young plants and flowers. Depart ye from me, for I am the divine Lynx."

06000image right: The Kher-heb priest touching the statue of the deceased with the urhekau instrument to effect the "opening of the mouth."
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plate 15)

Some [Page 60] have thought that the snake's head represents the serpent which surmounts the ram's head on the urhekau instrument used in performing the ceremony of "Opening the mouth." [34]

 

 

16. The Amulet of the Menat, 06001

This amulet was in use in Egypt as early as the VIth dynasty, and it was worn or held or carried with the sistrum by gods, kings, priests, priestesses, etc.; usually it is held in the hand, but it is often worn on the neck. Its object was to bring joy and health to the wearer, and it was believed to possess magical properties; it represented nutrition [35] and [Page 61] strength, and the might of the male and female organs of generation, mystically considered, was supposed to be united therein. The amulet is made in bronze, stone, porcelain, and other substances, and when laid upon the body of the dead brought to it the power of life and reproduction.

 

17. The Amulet of the Sam, 06100

This amulet is probably intended to represent an organ of the human body, and its use is very ancient; it is made of lapis-lazuli and other hard stone substances, and in the late period is often found in the swathings of mummies. Its primary meaning is "union," and refers to animal pleasure.

 

18. The Amulet of the Shen, 06101

This amulet is intended to represent the sun's orbit, and it became the symbol of an undefined period of time, i.e., eternity; it was laid upon the body of the dead with the view of giving to it life which should endure as long as the sun revolved in its orbit in the heavens. In the picture of the mummy chamber [36] the goddesses Isis and Nephthys are seen kneeling and resting their hands on shen. Figures of the shen were [Page 62] painted upon stelæ, coffins, etc.; as an amulet it is commonly made of lapis-lazuli or carnelian. The amulet of the cartouche 06200 has been supposed to be nothing more than shen elongated, but it probably refers to the ordinary meaning of 06200_2 i.e., "name."

 

19. The Amulet of the Steps, 06201

This amulet seems to have two meanings: to lift up to heaven, and the throne of Osiris. According to one legend, when the god Shu wished to lift up the goddess Nut from the embrace of the god Seb, so that her body, supported by her stretched-out arms and legs, might form the sky, he found that he was not tall enough to do so; in this difficulty he made use of a flight of steps, and having mounted to the top of these he found himself able to perform his work.

In the fourth section of the Elysian Fields [37] three such flights of steps are depicted. In the XXIInd Chapter of the Book of the Dead the deceased prays that he "may have a portion with him who is on the top of the steps," i.e., Osiris, and in funeral vignettes this god is seen seated upon the top of a flight of steps and holding his usual symbols of sovereignty and dominion. The amulet of the Steps is usually made of green or blue glazed porcelain.

 

[Page 63] 20. The Amulet of the Frog, 06300

This amulet is typical of teeming life and of the resurrection. The frog-headed goddess Heqt, the wife of Khnemu, was associated with the resurrection, and this amulet, when laid upon the body of the dead, was intended to transfer to it her power. The frog is often represented on the upper part of the Greek and Roman terra-cotta lamps which are found in Egypt, and on one of them written in Greek is the legend, "I am the resurrection." [38]

The amulets described above are those which are most commonly found in the tombs and on mummies, but a few others are also known, e.g.,

  • 06301 the White crown of the South,
  • 06302 the Red crown of the North,
  • 06303 the horizon, or place where the sun rises,
  • 06304 an angle, typifying protection,
  • 06305 the horns, disk, and plumes,
  • 06306 or 06307 the plummet, etc.

Besides these, any ring, or pendant, or ornament, or any object whatsoever, upon which was inscribed the name of a god or his emblem, or picture, became an amulet with protective powers; and it seems that these powers remained active as long as the substance lasted and as long as the name, or emblem, or picture, was not [Page 64] erased from it.

The use of amulets was common in Egypt from the earliest times to the Roman Period, and when the Egyptians embraced Christianity, they, in common with the Gnostics and semi-Christian sects, imported into their new faith many of the views and beliefs which their so-called heathen ancestors had held, and with them the use of the names of ancient Egyptian gods, and goddesses, and demons, and formulæ, which they employed in much the same way as they were employed in the days of old.

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- Footnotes:

1.

I.e., Chapter XXIV., which is entitled, "The Chapter of bringing words of power unto Osiris in the underworld."

2.

Ethnographie Prehistorique, p. 144.

3.

Unas, ed. Maspero, line 584.

4.

Teta, ed. Maspero, line 351.

5.

Chapter XXVI., entitled, "The Chapter of giving a heart to the deceased."

6.

Literally, "pericardium."

7.

See Chapters of Coming Forth by Day (translation, p. 119).

8.

I.e., the deceased who was identified with Osiris, the god and judge of the dead.

9.

I.e., Thoth.

10.

The Bennu bird is usually identified with the phoenix.

11.

Brit. Mus., No. 10,477, sheet 13.

12.

See sheet 21.

13.

See Chapter VI. (Magical Ceremonies).

14.

King Teta is said to "live like the scarab" (Teta, line 89); and in it is said, "Pepi is the son of the Scarab which is born in Hetepet under the hair of the northern Iusâas" (Pepi, line 422).

15.

See J. O. Westwood, Introduction to the Modern Classification of Insects, London, 1839, vol. i. p. 204 ff.

16.

See my Mummy, p. 233.

17.

See Joachim, Das älteste Buch über Heilkunde, Berlin, 1800, p. 160.

18.

have given a summary of the chief varieties of the funeral scarab in my Papyrus of Ani, London, 1895, p. 262.

19.

Fragment of a Græco-Egyptian Work upon Magic (Publications of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, 1852).

20.

I.e., the deceased, who is identified with the god Osiris.

21.

Unas, line 579.

22.

Line 192 f.

23.

Compare, "Give thou to Pepi these two fingers which thou hast given to Nefert, the daughter of the great god, as messengers from heaven to earth" (Pepi, line 422).

24.

Pepi, line 200.

25.

Pepi, line 471.

26.

See my Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, translation, p. 270.

27.

See the Papyrus of Ani, 2nd edition, pl. 22.

28.

See Pepi, line 196.

29.

I.e., CXL.

30.

One for each month of the year.

31.

Kenyon, Catalogue of Greek Papyri, p. 61.

32.

The seven vowels were supposed in the Gnostic system to contain all the names of God, and were, therefore, most powerful when used as a spell.

33.

See Goodwin, Fragment of a Græco-Egyptian work upon Magic, p. 7.

34.

See the description of this ceremony in Chapter VI.

35.

Menat is connected with the root from which the word for "nurse" (menât) is derived; see the article by Lefébure, "Le Menat et le Nom de l'Eunuque" in Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch., 1891, p. 333 f.

36.

See Papyrus of Ani, 2nd edit, plates 33, 31.

37.

See Papyrus of Ani, 2nd edit., plate 35.

38.

See Lanzone, Dizionario, p. 853.

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