Amulets

Amulets were small pieces of jewellery that the ancient Egyptians wore around their necks, carried on their body and gave as offerings to the gods.

People believed amulets were magical and would protect them from evil and harm, as well as give them power and luck.

Jewellers made lots of different amulets with different charms on them. Your status in society determined what your amulet was made of.

Wealthy people had ornately decorated, hand carved amulets with semi-precious stones, glass beads and rare metals in them.

Poorer people could not afford these so used pretty stones from the ground, animal teeth, bone and clay painted with different dyes.

Jewellers had to follow strict rules to make sure that the amulet’s magical properties were not destroyed when making them.

They had to use different shapes and colours for different magic. The cheaper amulets were made using moulds and were not as personal as the more expensive ones.

The shape of the amulet defined what the amulet did.

For example, the ankh symbol meant that the amulet would give you a good life and the lotus flower meant rebirth after death.

Amulets were also shaped like animals or gods to gain their favour. Colours were also important – red signified the god Ra, blue meant the Nile River, yellow was the sun and desert, and green meant growth.

There were amulets for both the living and the dead.

The living used amulets for protection in their daily lives, to give them luck in their work and to ward off disease.

The mummified bodies of the dead had amulets to protect them in the afterlife. These were placed on the body or around their neck and helped the person’s soul to find its way home after wandering in the world.

The final choice of amulet was made based off of the person’s wealth and the sort of protection they wanted.

One of the most well liked amulets for the dead was the heart scarab. This was a scarab shaped amulet placed over the heart, as the scarab represented the restoration of life.

The heart scarab stopped the heart being separated from the rest of the body in the underworld. The ancient Egyptians believed that the heart contained all of the good and bad deeds that a person had done in their life.

If the good outweighed the bad, the person entered the afterlife. If the person was worried about passing this test, they could recite the spell on their amulet so that their heart would not betray them in the test.

Facts about Ancient Egyptian Amulets

  • Amulets were magical objects that people wore, carried or gifted to the gods.
  • Amulets were used to protect people from evil and disease and to give them luck.
  • Wealthy people had ornate stones and carvings put into their amulets.
  • The shape of the amulet decided what it protected you against or gave you luck for.
  • The colours of the amulet were used to symbolise different important things in ancient Egyptian life.
  • The living and the dead all wore amulets, regardless of how much money you had.
  • The dead used amulets to protect their souls and to help them reach the afterlife.
  • To reach the afterlife, a person had to have enough good deeds stored in their heart.
  • The heart scarab stopped a person’s heart from lying to the gods in the test so that the person did not reach the afterlife.

Questions

  • What did amulets do?
    Amulets were magical items that protected people from all different sorts of evils and gave them good luck.
  • How did amulets offer different sorts of protection?
    The shape, colour and materials of the amulet all gave the amulet different magical powers.
  • Who wore amulets?
    Everyone! It didn’t matter if you were rich, poor, alive or dead – you still had an amulet!
  • What was the heart scarab?
    It helped you to convince the gods that you had done enough good deeds to enter the afterlife.