“Do not stand up against / me as witness; do not contradict me in the court; do nothing against me in front of the deities; / do not treat me with hostility in front of the Keeper of the Balance. You are my Ka (life-force), which is in my body; the creator, / who makes the limbs of my body whole; you may come out to the beautiful place, which is there prepared for me. Do not cause my name / to stink in the presence of the members of the court, who make people to resurrected (at) the beautiful place. Excellent is it for the posers; a pleasure is it / for the judge. Do not speak lies against me beside the great god.”
-A translated section from the right scarab, which is from spell 30B of the “Book of the Dead” (trans. Walters).
Scarabs in ancient Egypt.
One of the most well-known amulets from ancient Egypt is the scarab, which represented the dung-beetle. These amulets were usually made of faience or stone, decorated with an almost endless repertoire of geometric and figurative designs engraved on the base, and came in various sizes.
Originally a form of personal seal, scarabs took on the role of good-luck charms. The scarab-beetle itself was associated the Atum and the sun god Re, both deities concerned with resurrection and rebirth. The idea that the dung beetle was symbolic of rebirth and regeneration was probably inspired by its life cycle. When the beetle laid its eggs hidden in the sand, the newly hatched insects would emerge from seemingly nowhere, as though they were the result of self-generation.
Large scarabs with engraved text from the Book of the Dead were used as a substitute for the heart in burial, intended to ward of evils and help gain the joys of the Egyptian paradise. The scarab shown in the right image is one such heart scarab. This funerary amulet was intended to have a supportive function for its deceased owner in the Court of the Dead, as illustrated by its translated text at the start of the post.
Both chosen examples of scarabs are from the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, and via their online collections: 1984.30.5 & 42.81. The first dates to 946-525 BC (Third Intermediate-early Late Period), and the second, 1070-736 BC (Third Intermediate).
When writing up this post Rosalie David’s Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt (Penguin UK, 2002) was of use.