Ancient Egyptians often wore jewelry full of symbolic meaning, both in life and death. These amulets acted as more than decoration and were believed to possess magical powers granting protection by the gods. Designed to ward off evil, promote fertility, or prevent illness, the object would need to be activated by a professional magician, known as an “amulet man,” who would speak a spell over the charm. Respected similar to doctors, these sorcerers would prescribe the necessary amulet for the ‘patient’s’ ailment and unleash the jewelry’s magical abilities. Spells were often linked to specific gods or goddesses who each possessed their own special power or area of protection. Since the amulets were desired by people from every social class, they were made from a variety of materials ranging from precious stones, metals, and glass to the common ceramic, faience.
Besides answering prayers and offering protection in daily life, Egyptians also believed amulets held healing powers, linking them to funeral ceremonies. These lucky charms were wrapped within the mummy’s bandages to assist the deceased in entering the afterlife. They provided safety from danger and the renewal of strength. Morticians were specially trained in the Book of the Dead, a guide for entering eternity, which described where each amulet should be placed, what stone it should be shaped from, which spells should be spoken over it, and what effect each amulet should have on the dearly departed.
A model headrest ensured the head remained with the body while a papyrus column resting on the throat assured the rejuvenation of limbs. Djed-pillars, called Osiris’ backbones, were displayed across the lower torso and around the neck to straighten the vertebrae in the body reborn. The Djed-pillar amulets were designed to summon the regenerative powers of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead. Often decorated in green and blue, the colors connected with the renewing force of the Nile River, and enhanced these already enchanting charms.