The Book of Talismans Amulets and Zodiacal Gems
The Buckle of the Girdle of Isis - The Scarab - The Eye of Osiris - The Two Fingers - The Collar - The Hawk - The Sma - The Ladder and Steps - The Snake’s Head - The Serpent - The Sun’s Disc - The Frog - The Fish - The Vulture - The Sa, or Tie.
The buckle of the girdle of Isis was worn to obtain the Good Will and Protection of this goddess, and symbolized “the blood of Isis” and her strength and power. Frequently made of Carnelian it was believed to protect its wearer from every kind of evil; also to secure the good will of Horus; and, when placed like the golden Tat at the neck of the dead on the day of the funeral in the soul’s journey through the under-world it opened up all hidden places and procured the favour of Isis and her son, Horus, for ever and ever (see Illustrations Nos. 71, 72, 73, Plate V).
The Tie, or Sa (Illustration No. 70, Plate V) is the symbol of Ta-urt, the Hippopotamusheaded goddess, who was associated with the god Thoth, the personification of Divine Intelligence and Human Reason; it was worn for magical protection.
The scarab was the symbol of Khepera, a form of the Sun god who transforms inert matter into action, creates life, and typifies the glorified spiritual body that man shall possess at the resurrection. From the enormous number of Scarabs that have been found, this must have formed the most popular of the Talismans. The symbol was derived from a Beetle, common in Egypt, which deposits its eggs in a ball of clay, the action of the insect in rolling this ball along the
ground being compared with the Sun itself in its progress across the sky; and as the ball contained the living germ which, (under the heat of the Sun,) hatched out into a Beetle, so the Scarab became the symbol of Creation. It is also frequently seen holding the disc of the Sun between its claws, with wings extended, and it is thought by some authorities that the Scarab was taken as an emblem of the Sun, because the burial of its ball was symbolic of the setting sun from which new life arises with each dawn.
Scarabs of green stones with rims of gold were buried in the heart of the deceased, or laid upon the breast, with a written prayer for his protection on the Day of Judgment, whilst words of power were frequently recited over the Scarab which was placed under the coffin as an emblem of immortality so that no fiend could harm the dead in his journey through the under-world. It is said the Scarab was associated with burial as far back as the 4th dynasty (about 4600 B.C.); it represented matter about to pass from a state of inertness into active life, so was considered a fitting emblem of resurrection and immortality, typifying not only the Sun’s disc, but the evolutions of the Soul throughout eternity. It was also worn by the Egyptian warriors in their signet rings for Health, Strength, and Virility, it being thought that this species of Beetle was all males, so that it would attract all manly qualities, both of mind and body. For this reason it was
very popular as presents between friends, many scarabs being found with good wishes or mottoes engraved on the under side, and some of the kings used the back of scarabs to commemorate historical events; one in the British Museum records the slaughter of 102 fierce lions by Amenhetep III, with his own hand (see Illustrations Nos. 74, 75, Plate VI).
Next to the Scarab, the ancient Egyptians attached much importance to the Eye Amulet, which, from the earliest Astral Mythology, was first represented by the point within the circle and was associated with the god of the Pole Star, which, from its fixity, was taken as a type of the Eternal, unchangeable as time rolled on, and thus a fitting emblem of Fixity of Purpose, Poise, and Stability. Later it was one of the hieroglyphic signs of the Sun god Ra, and represented the One Supreme Power casting his Eye over all the world, and instead of the point within the circle is sometimes represented as a widely open Eye. This symbol was also assigned to Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Ptah; the Amulet known as the Eye of Osiris being placed upon the incision made in the side of the body (for the purpose of embalming) to watch over and guard the soul of the deceased during its passing through the darkness of the tomb to the life beyond. It was also worn by the living to ensure Health and Protection from the blighting influence of workers in black magic, and for the stability, strength, and courage of Horus, the wisdom and understanding of Ptah, and the foresight of Isis.
It was also extensively used in necklaces on account of the idea that representations of the Eye itself would watch over and guard its wearer from the malignant glances of the envious, it being universally believed that the fiery sparks of jealousy, hatred, and malice darting from the eyes of angry persons, envious of the good looks, health, and success of the fortunate ones, could so poison the surrounding atmosphere as even to cause sickness, decay, and death; horses were thought particularly liable to this injurious influence, and Talismans to avert such a misfortune to them were hung on their foreheads, or over the left eye. Examples of Eye Amulets are illustrated on Plate VI, Nos. 79, 80, and 81.
When two eyes are used together the right eye is symbolic of Ra, or Osiris and the Sun; whilst the left eye represents Isis, or the Moon, and is sometimes called the Amulet of the two Utchats : the word Utchat, signifying “strength,” being applied to the Sun when he enters the summer solstice about June 22nd, his strength and power on earth being greatest at that time.
The Talisman of the Two Fingers (Illustration No. 82, Plate VI) was symbolical of Help, Assistance, and Benediction, typified by the two fingers extended by Horus to assist his father in mounting the ladder suspended between this world and the next. This Amulet was frequently placed in the interior of the mummified body to enable the departed to travel quickly to the regions of the blest. Amongst the ancient Egyptians the fingers were ever considered an emblem of Strength and Power, the raising of the first two fingers being regarded as a sign of Peace and Good Faith; the first finger being the indicator of divine will and justice and the only one that can stand erect by itself alone; the second representing the Holy Spirit, the Mediator, a symbolism handed down to us in the extension of the index and medius in the ecclesiastical benediction. It is also interesting to note that at the marriage ceremony in olden days the ring was first placed on the thumb, as typical of Man’s allegiance to God, and lastly on the third finger of his bride to show that next to God in the Trinity, a man’s life should be devoted to his wife.
The collar Amulet (Illustrations Nos. 83, 84, Plate VI) was a symbol of Isis, and was worn to procure her protection and the strength of her son Horus. In both examples the head of the Hawk appears, this bird being attributed to Horus as well as to Ra. This collar, which was made of gold, was engraved with words of power and seems to have been chiefly used as a funeral amulet.
The Sma (Illustration No. 85, Plate VI) was a favourite Amulet from the dawn of Egyptian history, and is frequently used in various forms of decorated art. It was symbolical of Union and Stability of Affection, and was worn to strengthen love and friendship and ensure physical happiness and faithfulness.
The ladder is a symbol of Horus, and was worn to secure his assistance in overcoming and surmounting difficulties in the material world, as well as to form a connection with the Heaven world, or Land of Light. The earliest traditions place this Heaven world above the earth, its floor being the sky, and to reach this a ladder was deemed necessary. From the Pyramid texts it seems
there were two stages of ascent to the upper Paradise, represented by two ladders, one being the ladder of Sut, forming the ladder of ascent from the land of darkness, and the other the ladder of Horus reaching the Land of Light (Illustration No. 86, Plate VI).
The steps (Illustrations Nos. 87, 88, Plate VI) are a symbol of Osiris, who is described as the god of the staircase, through whom it was hoped the deceased might reach the Heaven world and attain everlasting bliss.
The snake’s head Talisman (Illustration No. 89, Plate VI) was worn to protect its wearer from the attacks of Rerek, or Apep, the servant of Set, who was typified as a terrible serpent, which when killed had the power of rising in new forms and who obstructed the passage to the Heaven world. The serpent, although sometimes assumed to be a form of evil, was generally regarded as a protecting influence, and for this reason was usually sculptured on either side of the doorways to the tombs of kings, temples, and other sacred buildings to guard the dead from enemies of every kind, and to prevent the entrance of evil in any shape or form. It was also placed round the heads of Divinities and round the crowns of their kings as a symbol of royal might and power, being one of the forms or types of Tern the son of Ptah, who is thought by some authorities to have been the first living man god of the Egyptians, and the god of the setting sun (in contrast to Horus, who was the god of the rising sun) Tern was typified by a huge snake, and it is curious to note in connection with this that amongst country folk at the present day there is a popular belief that a serpent will not die until the sun goes down.
The sun’s disc Talismans (Illustrations No. 90, 92, Plate VII) are symbols of the god Ra, No. 92 being appropriately placed upon the head of a Ram, the symbol of the Zodiacal house Aries, in which sign the sun is exalted. It was worn for Power and Renown, and to obtain the favours of the great ones, being also an emblem of new birth and resurrection.
The frog Talisman (Illustration No. 91, Plate VII) was highly esteemed, and is an attribute of Isis, being worn to attract her favours and for fruitfulness. Because of its fertility its hieroglyphic meaning was an immense number. It was also used as a symbol of Ptah, as it represented life in embryo, and by the growth of its feet after birth it typified strength from weakness, and was worn for recovery from disease, also for Health and Long Life, taking the place sometimes of the
Crux Ansata or Ankh, as a symbol of Life. The pillow (Illustration No. 93, Plate VII) was used for preservation from sickness and against pain and suffering; it was also worn for the favour of Horus, and was placed with the dead as a protection and to prevent violation of the Tomb.
The lotus (Illustrations No. 94, 95, Plate VII) is a symbol with two meanings. Emblematical of the Sun in the ancient days of Egypt and typifying Light, Understanding, Fruitfulness, and Plenty, it was believed to bring the favours of the god Ra. Later it is described as “the pure Lily of the Celestial Ocean,” the symbol of Isis, who is sometimes alluded to as “the White Virgin.” It became typical of Virginity and Purity, and having the double virtue of chastity and fecundity it
was alike prized for Maiden - and Motherhood.
The fish Talisman (Illustrations Nos. 96, 97, Plate VII) is a symbol of Hathor (who controlled the rising of the Nile), as well as an Amulet under the influence of Isis and Horus. It typified the primeval Creative principle and was worn for domestic felicity, Abundance, and general Prosperity.
The vulture Talisman (Illustration No. 98, Plate VII) was worn to protect from the bites of Scorpions, and to attract Motherly Love and Protection of Isis, who (it was believed) assumed the form of a vulture when searching for her son Horus, who, in her absence, had been stung to death by a Scorpion. Thoth, moved by her lamentations, came to earth and gave her “the Words of Power,” which enabled her to restore Horus to life. For this reason, it was thought that this Amulet would endow its wearer with power and wisdom so that he might identify himself with Horus and partake of his good fortune in the fields of eternal bliss.
The sceptre (Illustrations Nos. 76, 77, 78, Plate VI) is a symbol of Isis, typifying power over the fruits of the earth, and was worn to preserve and renew youth and vigour, and to attract physical strength and virility.
It is, of course, difficult and futile to speculate as to the extent of the influence these Egyptian Amulets and Talismans exercised over this ancient people, but in the light of our present knowledge we feel that the religious symbolism they represented, the conditions under which they were made, the faith in their efficacy, and the invocations and “words of power” which in every case were a most essential part of their mysterious composition makes them by far the most interesting of any yet dealt with.