To better understand why Ancient Egyptians used Amulets or Symbols during their life or in sarcophagus and tombs, we must know about their beliefs.
The Ancient Egyptians believed that their life on earth is temporary, but the permanent one is after their death and after passing the 12 Portal of the World of death. They were sure that they would come back to life like everything around them, The Nile, the Sun, and even plants; they disappear then appear again.
For Egyptians, the human being consists of the Body "Khet," Consort or "ghost" "Ka'', `` Heavenly Spirit "Ba," Name "Ren," & the Heart "Ib". When coming back to life, they will need a complete body, so they went to the Mummification, so the Ka & the Ba could find the body. The name was also essential to help them recognize death; that's why they invent the "Cartouche".
The Heart will be left in the mummified body to witness with or against the disease during the second world's last judgment. So they invent some amulets to force the heart to be with the deceased. The long Egyptian History is full of legends like World Creation, Isis & Osiris, or some deities. We Will Review Here The Most Popular Symbols in Egyptian Civilization.
Ancient Egyptian believed that death is the first step toward resurrection and eternal life; that's why they were making sure to save their bodies from any corruption after death by mummification.
A set of four embalming jars symbolizing the four sons of Horus, each Jar protects an organ belonging to the Deceased. They used to move out all the body's internal organs except the heart, as they believed it's the soul's seat. And they were embalming the intestines, lungs, the stomach, and liver, then wrapping them with linen and keeping each organ of them in a separated Canopic Jar.
Each Jar has a headed lid representing one of Horus's sons, and each has a specific organ to keep safe.
Ankh symbol is the most common decorative motif in ancient Egypt and by neighboring cultures, as an Egyptian symbol of protection and other things.
The most commonly used and known symbol since the early Dynasty is the Ankh; you probably know it by life's key. It's an ancient Egyptian symbol that looks like a cross with a looped top in a teardrop's shape; it is one of the Egyptian characters most commonly used in tattoos.
This symbol was used in Hieroglyphic writing and Egyptian art to represent the word "life," you'll find it a lot in the tomb paintings and inscriptions on the temples' walls, so it is one of the Egyptian symbols used in the alphabet. The Egyptians also wore it as an amulet, so it is a symbol for protection.
The Ankh symbolizes many things like the power to sustain life and revive human souls in the afterlife; that's why it was commonly held in the hands of ancient Egyptian deities or given by them to a pharaoh. It also symbolizes the promise of eternal life, the Sun, fertility, and light. The symbol was placed among the mummy wrapping to secure the deceased's rebirth and well-being in the afterlife.
This symbol's origin is still a mystery; one theory says it originated from a sandal strap. Others suggest it was the belt buckle of goddess Isis, but we certainly know it is associated with life.
The Egyptian Scarab beetle, one of the most common symbols in ancient Egypt and the most popular, was worn by the living and the dead as an Egyptian symbol of protection and death.
The Scarab beetle comes from a species of the dung beetle. The idea came from rolling the dung into a ball and laying its eggs in it, and when the eggs hatched, the dung was served as food for them. When Egyptians saw this phenomenon, they immediately associated the Scarab Khepri with the sun god Ra as his assistant because scarabs roll large balls of dung to lay their eggs. Hence, they thought this resembles the progression of the Sun through the sky from east to west.
Scarab is the symbol of death, rebirth, immortality, and protection in the afterlife; it is much used in funerary art; later, it referred to the idea of existence, transformation, and divine manifestation.
The Eye of Horus is one of the most famous Egyptian Symbols; today, we use it in jewelry and paintings. It is a widely used Egyptian Symbol in tattoos. The left eye of Horus represents protection, health, and restoration, so it is an Egyptian symbol of protection.
Another story says that Horus took his left eye out for his father Osiris to eat to bring him back to life. In both stories, the Eye was a symbol for healing and being whole again. Although the ancient Egyptian civilization came to an end, the belief the Eye of Horus energy continued and still used. It's usually made of gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian mainly.
Also, in hieroglyphic writing, the Eye of Horus was used as a mathematical symbol; every part of the six represents a measurement unit. Ex: the right side equal ½, the pupil ¼, the eyebrow 1/8, etc. More fractions were created by adding parts together. The most interesting is by adding all parts, the result is 63/64 and never 64/64. The missing piece represents the magic Power of Thot or the fact that nothing is perfect.
According to Osiris and Isis' famous Myth, when Horus reached adulthood, he thought to avenge his father's death; he fought his uncle Set, and during the battle, Horus lost his left Eye that broke into six pieces. Thot, the god of Wisdom, magically restored Horus's Eye, and then it became known as "Wadjet': which means ''whole or "healthy, "and they started to believe it has healing power. Due to its protective and healing power, Horus’ Eye was used as an amulet for living and dead.
The Eye of Ra is a symbol of authority and protective powers. It is associated with the Sun God Ra. Although it is associated with the destructive power of the Sun, it was used to protect buildings and people, so it is an Egyptian symbol of protection.
The Eye of Ra is differentiated from Horus' Eye by drawing it as the right Eye. It is more powerful than Horus, as Ra's Power of vision is unlimited. Ra was one of the most powerful gods in Ancient Egypt; that is why his eyes "can see everything.”
Egyptians believe that Ra took his sun-boat every day when the Sunset into the water and passed the 12 gates of the Underworld in the 12 hours of the night, then came back in the morning. That's why they used to build their tombs on the left side of the Nile to enable the deceased to accompany Ra during his trip in the netherworld so he won't stay in darkness.
A myth tells that Ra sent his Eye to watch over his children and protect them. Another one tells that when Ra became an old god, men maltreated him, so he sent his Eye or his daughter to punish humanity. The daughter raged and began to destroy humanity, but Ra, to rescue humanity, gave his Eye a red bear until it came drunk, peaceful, and returned to him.
Sometimes the Eye of Ra was depicted as the sun disc encircled with two cobras.
The crook is known in ancient Egypt as The Heka; its early use was by shepherds to control his sheepfold. The Flail was known as the Nakhakha, also has a farmer origin, and it symbolizes the King’s power as it was a source of punishment to maintain order in society. The Flail is considered an Egyptian symbol of strength. They both date back to the Early dynastic period during the rule of the first king, Narmer.
The Crook and Flail are symbolic of Kingship, signifying the Pharaoh's dominion over Egypt’s land and Egyptian royalty symbols. They are seen with every King and Queen who ever ruled Egypt. They also symbolized that the Pharaoh is the shepherd for his people and provided them with food. They were usually made of wood and covered with gold.
Crook and Flail were associated first with Geb, the god of earth, and Osiris inherited them. Hekha and Nekhakha were usually put with the Pharaoh in its tomb; he held them in both hands in a cross form on the chest to symbolize the divine authority.
Uraeus, or the Cobra, is one of Egypt's most ancient symbols. It was the emblem of Lower Egypt. It was an Egyptian goddess symbol that represented the Goddess of Royalty and sovereignty, Wadjet. The Cobra was believed to have magical powers, and its presence on a royal crown means "Protection of enemies." Geb, the god of the earth, gave it to the pharaohs as a sign of Kingship; therefore, it was an Egyptian symbol of protection.
The first Myth is connected to the origin of Uraeus in the Story of Ra; it is believed that goddess Isis made the first one from the dust of the earth and the spittle of Sun to acquire the throne for her husband, Osiris. Later, it was seen on the Kings' crowns, and the most famous is one of Sensuret II; it was made of solid gold and black granite eyes measuring 6.7cm in length.
It’s a symbol of Upper Egypt; it appeared bonded to the Papyrus as a sign of unification of the two Egyptian kingdoms, the upper and lower. It was also associated with the Sun God Ra and later with Nefertum, the god of healing, medicine, and beauty.
The Lotus flower was called 'Sesen' in the Egyptian language; it is considered an Egyptian symbol in the alphabet. It wasn't only famous in ancient Egypt; it is also popular in Buddism and Hindusim. The Lotus Symbol was associated with purity and cleanliness, also a symbol of Sun, creation, and rebirth.
The Lotus flower is an ancient Egyptian symbol found a lot among hieroglyphic writing in tombs, on Papyrus, thrones, and the headdress of divine pharaohs. It was also found in the book of death; there is a magic charm that can transform the dead into a Lotus flower, thus allowing his resurrection.
There were two types of the lotus flower in ancient Egypt, the white and the Blue (the water lily), and at a later time, the pink one came to Egypt from Persia.
As the Lotus flower retracts into the water at night and then emerges the next day, it is associated with the Sun, which disappears in the night and re-emerges in the morning. That's why it was a symbol of rebirth and regeneration. It is also an Egyptian symbol for love, as the lovers gave it to each other as a token for their love.
Remember the famous Golden mask of King Tut Ankh Amen? The boy-king was wearing a Nemes Headdress. It is a fabric head-cloth of Blue and gold reaching the shoulders and was worn by ancient Egypt's rulers.
The Nemes dates as far back as the third Dynasty during the reign of King Djoser. The fourth Dynasty became the Royal Headdress, so it became an Egyptian symbol of Royalty. Later, Nemes’ use became a funerary representation of the Royal Ka, and it was worn by goddess Isis & Nephthys while performing their roles of mourners.
The Ka means soul or spirit; it was like a person's twin live inside his body until death. After death, the Ka would leave the body, but not for good. If the body is well preserved, the Ka would return to it again and lead him through the 12 portals of the infernal world till the resurrection. That's why ancient Egyptians were mummifying the deceased's body so that the Ka could recognize him and find its way back to it. Because the "Ka" remains alive, they put food and drinks inside the tomb to find what it needs to go through resurrection.
The Ka is usually represented by two arms reaching up to the sky in the ancient Egyptian language.
Once Egypt was divided into two kingdoms; Lower Egypt, the Kingdom of the north, around Nile Delta, and Upper Egypt, the Kingdom of the south. Each Kingdom has its Crown; the Red Crown belongs to the Lower Egypt Kingdom. Some gods and goddesses were depicted wearing this Crown to show that the ruler was blessed and protected by gods.
The Deshret symbolized the authority over Lower Egypt for whoever wears it. The Red Crown distinguishes the King's Forehead with the Cobra, the Egyptian goddess symbol of "Wadjet," the protector of Lower Egypt.
The Crown of Upper Egypt, the South Kingdom, around the Nile Valley from south of Memphis to Aswan. It has a conical shape with white color, an Egyptian symbol of Royalty and Upper Egypt; later, it was combined with the Red Crown "Deshret."
The vulture Goddess Nekhbet was mostly depicted wearing it and the Falcon God Horus as well. While the King was wearing the White Crown, Nekhbet, the Vulture goddess, sometimes distinguished the King's forehead as upper Egypt protector.
It was a symbol of unified Egypt, and Kings usually wear this Crown to show their control all over Egypt and as an Egyptian symbol of Royalty. When King Menes or Narmer unified Egypt in the 2nd Dynasty (about 3200 BC) and became the King of North & South Egypt, the Crown of the ruler became a combination of Crowns, the Red and White, which symbolized Lower and Upper Egypt.
Khepresh is known as the War Crown, and its blue color represents the sky. Kings of the New Kingdom wore this crown during their wars as a symbol of sky protection and as an Egyptian symbol of Royalty. The first one was made for the Pharaoh Amenophis III, which is considered to be the evolved version of the cap crown. On the other hand, archeological prove that it dates back to the Second Intermediate Period, as shown on Karnak Stela of Neferhotep III.
The Khepresh was made from rubber or cloth painted blue, adorned by golden discs and a twisting Uraeus – goddess Wadjet- in the front.
The Blue crown was mainly worn in wars, but Ramses II was painted wearing it to celebrate his victory over the Hittites, then it became a ceremonial crown of the King.
The "Ouroboros" is one of the most significant & unique Egyptian symbols in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptian name for it was "Sed m ra" which means "tail in the mouth," It depicts a serpent with its tail in its mouth continually devouring itself and reborn from itself.
This is the symbol of rebirth, perpetuity & immortality used in Egypt since 1600 B.C. It first appeared in King Tut's Tomb as a part of the book of the netherworld in the 14th century B.C.
Ouroboros also has several meanings. The lower part of it symbolizes the destructive force of nature, the night, and the yin. The Upper part symbolizes the generation, creative force, the day, and the yang.
This symbol entered the Western World via some magical Papyrus. The name "Ouroboros" is a Greek name that means "devouring tail" and symbolizes Eternity "The Beginning & The End."
It was a very popular symbol during the Roman era; it was used in magical talismans and emblems. It is one of the Egyptian symbols used as a tattoo nowadays.
The Tree of life is the most important symbol in Ancient Egypt's mythology. Many cultures and beliefs widely know it, but the ancient Egyptians were the ones who provided the oldest concept of this symbol.
The Tree is located at the Sun Temple of Ra, the god of Sun, at Heliopolis; it represents Ra's soul, symbolizing the resurrection and the rising Sun. The fruit of this Tree guarantees eternal life and knowledge of the cycles of time, as the Tree holds the knowledge of the divine plan or the map of destiny. That's why this fruit wasn't for mortal persons; it was only available in the ritual in which gods refresh Pharaoh's aging or symbolize the Pharaoh's unification to gods, so it is an Egyptian religious symbol.
It is also connected with the Myth of creation and the nine gods of the Ennead of Heliopolis. The Tree of life is also known as the sacred mythical Ished Tree, the Bennu Bird (Phoenix) home.
During the coronation ceremony of a Pharaoh coronation, god Thot – the god of Wisdom – wrote the King's name on its leaves and fruits to protect the King and perpetuate his name.
Later myths tell the story of god Osiris who was killed by his brother Seth – the evil god – and put him in a coffin and then threw him in the Nile. The coffin became embedded in the base of the tamarisk, "the tree of life."
You might know the Bennu bird from Harry Potter as the Phoenix that burned itself to flames then rise from its ashes. The Bennu Bird is an ancient Egyptian symbol connected to Ra, the Sun god's soul, and took the City of Heliopolis as its headquarter.
The name Bennu came from "Weben" in ancient Egypt, which means "to rise" or to raise brilliant," also might be the Egyptian goddess symbol for the goddess of motherhood.
The Tree of life is the Bennu Bird seat; they both represent the concept of resurrection and the rising Sun. It was believed that the Bennu bird visits the temple once every 500 years and burns itself to ashes when it reaches 1461 years old.
Menat is a necklace associated with the Goddess Hathor and her son Ihy since the sixth Dynasty and had strong religious meanings.
Hathor used this necklace as a medium for transmitting her Power. The Menat was used only by the elite in Ancient Egypt. The necklace appeared during the New Kingdom in King Tut Ankh Amen's Tomb.
The Menat is a necklace with a crescent front, heavy collar, and counterweight at the back to keep in the position; it was used as a percussion instrument in religious functions.
It is considered an Egyptian religious symbol; it symbolizes fertility, birth, life, and renewal. According to Hathor, part in the rebirth of the dead and her duty as the goddess of the western necropolis, Hathor was sometimes called "the Great Menat." The Menat was seen after other goddesses, Isis and Nut, in their bovine forms.
The Djed is a famous Egyptian symbol; it was a symbol of stability; it was used in the Egyptian alphabet with that meaning. It is also the Egyptian goddess symbol for Osiris, usually known as the "Backbone of Osiris." It was first associated with the God Ptah and symbolized creation; he usually appeared carrying a Scepter which combined the Djed and Ankh.
It consists of a column with a broad base that narrows as it rises to capital and is crossed by four parallel lines; the Egyptians believed they held the four corners of the earth.
The Djed is widely featured on pillars, tomb walls, and palace walls and painted on Papyrus. The origin of the Djed is unknown, but it first appeared in the Predynastic Dynasty till the last Dynasty in Egypt, before becoming a province in the Roman Empire.
Later it was strongly associated with God Osiris and his return from death. The Djed is from the Egyptian symbols that are commonly drawn as a tattoo nowadays.
Ajet is an ancient Egyptian symbol used in hieroglyphs writing; considered an Egyptian symbol and an alphabet.
It represents the Sun on top between the summit of two mountains and two lions protecting it. The two mountains are the Western and eastern sides of the Egyptian underworld, and lions represent Aker, the god of the underworld; they represent yesterday and today. The symbol shows the natural phenomenon of the sunrise and Sunset.
The Ajet symbolizes the concept of creation and rebirth.
The Cartouche was a nameplate or a seal used by all ancient Egyptian Pharaohs; It was an oval with a straight line at one end; it was initially circle-shaped, presenting the Sun on the horizon and containing King's name in the middle. This name tag wasn't only to identify the King, but it was also a powerful amulet protected from the evil spirits by being connected to the Sun.
A Cartouche is an Egyptian symbol of protection and the guide to the deceased's souls, Ka and Ba, to reach their body when coming back to life. It represented Good Luck and protection from evil.
In Hieroglyphs, it was used for the word "name."
The moon crescent was one of the most powerful luck symbols in ancient Egypt. It is a symbol inspired by Isis – all gods' mother – so she is the goddess of motherhood, fertility, healing, and magic. The Crescent was used to bring good fortune to the mothers and their children, so it is an Egyptian symbol for the family.
Seba is the symbol of the star that looks like a starfish. It is one of the Egyptian symbols in the alphabet; it means "learning" or "discipline."
According to Ancient Egyptians beliefs, Seba was associated with doorways and gates in the world of death. When Seba is enclosed in a circle, it represents Duat or the other-world, where the Sun disappears each night, and the Dead's souls ascend after death. It's where the deceased person passes to reach Osiris, the god of the world of death.
In daily life, Stars were significant to the ancient Egyptians; they made their calendar according to them.
The Sistrum is one of the most ancient and sacred musical instruments. It has the shape of the Ankh with small movable rings made from bronze or brass to make sounds.
The name Sistrum is derived from the sound it makes. It was used in religious ceremonies, so it is considered an Egyptian religious symbol. It was mainly used for the cult of Hathor; it is believed to get the attention of the gods and goddesses, sometimes to frighten Seth, and other times to prevent the flooding of the Nile.
The Sistrum was mainly used in the worship of Hathor; that's why one of the most popular presentations is in the Dendera temple. Later, it was seen with Isis and Bastet as well. It was also used by shaking it to avoid the flooding of the Nile.
Amenta is the symbol of the Underworld, and it represents the horizon where the sunsets are. It symbolizes the Nile's West Bank that was used as a burial place. The West Bank for Ancient Egyptians was the Land of the dead as the Sun disappeared on this side. It's where the journey of the afterlife begins. Amenta is the symbol of the Underworld or the Duat; thus, it was found abundantly in the book of death.
Maat is the Ostrich goddess who set the world in order upon its creation. So she became the goddess of order, balance, well-being, and justice. Maat also symbolized moral & ethical values. The Feather of Maat is a significant symbol in Ancient Egypt; it is the Egyptian goddess symbol for Maat herself, symbolizing the same morals.
The only one found in a tomb of a dead Pharaoh was the one found with Tut Ankh Amun, as it also was an Egyptian symbol of Royalty and strength.
The feather of Maat was used in the judicial process in the Hall of Two truths; the deceased's heart was weighed against the feather. If the heart equaled or were less than the feather's weight, he would join Osiris in the Underworld. If the heart outweighed the feather, it would be eaten by Ammit, and he would be cursed.
This Egyptian symbol was also used in the alphabet, in the context of "ensuring justice," also an Egyptian symbol of love.
"Was Scepter" is an ancient Egyptian symbol for strength, widely used as a symbol of sovereignty, and in Hieroglyphic writing to represent" Power," it was also the symbol of Thebes. Sometimes the "Was" scepter was associated with the "Heqa" or "Heq Scepter," the symbol of divine power and authority.
The Was Scepter was a staff with an animal head and an open fork at the base, probably representing the animal's legs. Its origins date from the First Dynasty, and it was known as the "Heqa," or the cane used by shepherds to control their animals.
It was held by gods, pharaohs, and priests, and the animal differed from one to another, denoting their particular dominion. The staff was made of wood or faience and sometimes gold or silver. It was an emblem of authority and associated with wealth and happiness.
Besides being used as an amulet, it was also a type of magical fetish; it was believed to create a bond between the mortal world and the Underworld. Some gods combined the Was Scepter with Ankh and Djed pillar-like god Ptah, who was known as the Sculptor of the earth. It was found in the tombs of the Pharaohs as it was believed to protect the well-being of the deceased.
Tyet/Tjet is a famous ancient Egyptian symbol known as the Knot of Isis or the blood of Isis or sometimes as Isis girdle. It is very similar to the Ankh in shape but with arms bent downwards. The Tyet dates back to the predynastic period; it was mainly used with the Djed.
During the 3rd Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, Tyet became a popular decorative symbol. In the New Kingdom, when Isis's cult was at its peak, Tyet was associated with the Djed, representing Osiris, Isis's husband.
The Tyet was a funerary amulet made of red stone or glass; it was thought to bind magic as well; it was mentioned in the book of the Dead that it should be buried with the mummy.
According to ancient texts, this amulet will keep the deceased person strong and will protect him from whoever can harm him. When it is paired with the Ankh, it offers protection from Isis and Osiris, as it is believed it is an Egyptian symbol of protection.
The Tyet was a symbol of eternal life and resurrection; the origin of Tyet is not certain but is linked to blood, Power, and regeneration. Anyway, it represents Isis in her role as a universal mother so that it might act as an Egyptian symbol of family.
The Shen has the shape of a circle with a perpendicular line in its bottom. It represents a stylized loop of rope with ends tied together. In hieroglyphic writing, it represents the word "Shenou," which means encircle.
As the circle has no-end, the Shen ring symbolizes infinity & Eternity. When it is represented by an enclosing sun disk, it symbolizes the Eternity of life, as the Sun was the meaning of life in ancient Egypt. When the Shen is gripped by deities, it means protection.
Starting the Old Kingdom, Shen was primarily associated with Horus the falcon and Nekhbet, the vulture who held Shen above the King's head to protect him. The most prominent god related to the Shen was "Huh," who represents infinity & Eternity
During the Middle Kingdom, Shen became very popular in jewelry and as an amulet that Kings, Nobles, and Priests wore.
Starting in the New Kingdom, Shen became more popular; it was presented in tombs and sarcophagi as a protection symbol. Starting the 26th Dynasty and onwards, Shen was used by common people.
The Cartouche is the elongated form of the Shen ring that also symbolizes infinity used only by elites like Pharaohs, Princes, Nobles, and Priests.