Scarabs, also called dung beetles, were worshipped throughout ancient Egypt because they symbolized rebirth and the endurance of the human soul. Known for rolling balls of dung, female scarabs lay a single egg inside each sphere. When the eggs hatch, the young feed on the feces and mature from baby larvae to fully formed beetles. Since the scarabs seemed to suddenly appear, ancient Egyptians thought the insect had magical powers of self-creation. This mirrored the sun god’s light and life-giving force upon rising each morning. Additionally, the dung beetle rolls the balls to their nest similar to the sun traveling from the east to the west. For these reasons, Egyptians believed the sun god, Khepri, was reborn every dawn in the shape of a winged scarab. Still today, the Egyptian word for scarab is kheper, after the sun god, which means “to become.”
Scarab beetles became powerful symbols of rejuvenation and held special meaning in Egyptian life. Many individuals had seals or stamps fashioned after the insect, often with their name inscribed on the flat side, allowing the person to make their mark in mud or clay. These calling cards were frequently decorated with geometric patterns representing the specific position held by the owner. Scarabs were also carved in stone to be worn as magical good luck charms, known as amulets, that would unleash healing powers or grant protection when activated.Dung beetles were equally important after death. Their believed powers of rebirth earned them an important role in funerary rites. Scarab amulets were frequently placed throughout the tomb or bound within mummy wrappings to release the insects’ rejuvenating abilities and assist the dead in being born again. One of the most vital charms for the afterlife was the large, heart scarab, formed from rock and engraved with a spell from Egypt’s guide to eternity, the Book of the Dead. This incantation prevented the heart of the deceased from speaking any ill will during the soul’s judgment, allowing the person to pass safely into the afterlife, called the Field of Reeds.