Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mythology: Meaning of Egyptian Scarab Amulets

image Egyptian Amulet Treasure
Egyptian Scarab Amulet

Zet: Have you ever watched a scarab beetle crawling around?
Kat: Yes. I know they're sacred, but I don't want one to crawl on me!
Zet: (grins) I'll remember that, little sister. 
Kat: (looking suspicious) You better not drop one on my head or something.
Zet: Hey, would I do that? Since you're so smart, want to tell people why scarabs are sacred?
Kat: You're just flattering me to change the subject! But, okay.


image Scarabaeus sacer
Scarabaeus sacer


What do scarab beetles look like?

You can find live scarabs crawling around pretty much anywhere in Egypt. They're big and black, with smooth shells and spiky legs. Sometimes, you might even see them pushing around a little ball! 


What is the ball and where did it come from?

This sounds kind of gross, but the ball is made of dung. And you know what dung is, right? Animal poop! 


Eew! Why do they push dung around?

image Khepera
Egyptian Amulet Symbol
When a scarab beetle decides to be a parent, they lay their eggs inside some animal dung. The beetle then molds the dung into a neat little ball. The ball containing their eggs can be easily rolled around. That way they can take their unhatched babies with them wherever they go. It's actually pretty clever.


Why are these strange beetles sacred?

When the eggs hatch, tons of tiny babies run out of the ball. To anyone watching, it looks like the babies magically appear out of nowhere. Because of this, the scarab beetle is believed to have magic powers. The beetle symbolizes creation, life and even rebirth. It is associated with the creation god Atum.


image Tutankhamen's treasure scarab
Scarab treasure from 
Tutankhamen's tomb

How are scarab beetles used?

People drew scarab symbols on tomb walls. They made decorations out of them. Most of all, they made scarab-shaped protective amulets out of gold or precious gems and stones, or simply out of painted clay. They could be worn as jewelry. Often amulets were buried with a mummy. The amulet was placed over the mummy's heart, with a magic, protective spell inscribed on the back of it. 

When a person dies, they must have their heart weighed in judgement in the afterlife. The spell tells the person's heart, "do not stand as witness against me."



Besides creation and heart protection, are there other meanings?

Yes, the scarab pushing his little ball also reminds people of the sun moving across the sky. It's said that  Khepera, the scarab beetle god, is above us pushing the sun ball along on a daily journey.


Have you heard of Tutankhamen's curse?

Scott Peters answers this one: The story goes that a paperweight was given to Sir Bruce Ingham as a gift. Sir Bruce Ingham was a friend of the man who opened Tutankhamen's tomb, and that's where the gift came from. The paperweight was made of a mummified hand, and on its wrist was a scarab bracelet. This bracelet was marked with some frightening ancient words: "Cursed be he who moves my body. To him shall come fire, water and pestilence." After Sir Ingham received this spine-chilling gift, his house burned down. Even stranger, when he rebuilt his house, it suffered a flood

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About the Author:

Scott Peters writes action-filled adventures in ancient Egypt. In addition to writing, the author has created over 300 museum, science center and theme park installations for such places as the Smithsonian, the Washington Children's Museum, Walt Disney World and Paramount Pictures. Peters also helped design an interactive TV show for the Nickelodeon Channel.

The Secret Agent Zet Series

An Egyptian Gods Adventure:

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