An amulet is a small object that a person wears, carries, or offers to a deity because he or she believes that it will magi­cally give a particular power or form of protection. The con­viction that a symbol, form, or concept provides protection, promotes well-being, or brings good luck is common to all societies: in our own, we commonly wear religious symbols, carry a favorite penny, or a rabbit’s foot. In ancient Egypt, amulets might be carried, used in necklaces, bracelets, or rings, and—especially—placed among a mummy’s bandages to ensure the deceased a safe, healthy, and productive afterlife.

Egyptian amulets functioned in a number of ways. Sym­bols and deities generally conferred the powers they repre­sent. Small models that represent known objects, such as head­rests or arms and legs, served to make sure those items were available to the individual or that a specific need could be addressed. Magic contained in an amulet could be understood not only from its shape. Material, color, scarcity, the group­ing of several forms, and words said or ingredients rubbed over the amulet could all be the source for magic granting the possessor’s wish.

Small amulets of faience, stone, ceramic, metal, or glass, were common possessions in ancient Egypt. They were most often fashioned in the form of gods and goddesses or of ani­mals sacred to those deities. Amulets gave their owners magi­cal protection from a wide variety of ills and evil forces, in­cluding sickness, infertility, and death in childbirth. They were often provided with loops so they could be strung and worn like a necklace. Some amulets were made to place on the body of the deceased in order to protect the soul in the here­after.

Vervet Monkey

Vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) are depicted as exotic household pets as early as the Old Kingdom, walk­ing on a lead beside the noble tomb-owners prize hounds. In the New Kingdom one is often shown tied beneath the tomb owner’s chair, but is it still a representation of a pet or a sym­bolic depiction to guarantee the tomb owner’s sexual prow­ess in the afterlife? By the New Kingdom, amulets of vervets were undoubtedly worn so that their wearer might assimilate the creature’s well-known sexual behavior. It is also because of this symbolism that vervet’s feature as decorative elements of cosmetic objects. The creature is frequently depicted squat­ting with its front paws up to its chin, sometimes holding a small piece of food to its mouth or else playing a musical instrument.

Amulet of the Goddess Taweret

Taweret, the hippopotamus goddess, was the goddess of women and children and, most importantly, of the moment of childbirth. With her rounded belly and pendulous breasts in­dicating a pregnant female, Taweret was associated most spe­cifically with childbirth, and she was often depicted watch­ing over the birthing bed. Taweret amulets would have been worn during life by women and children. In the tomb, they were placed on the body of the deceased as a symbol of re­birth.

The Taweret and other closely related goddesses were created from a blending of lion, hippo, crocodile, and human attributes. The three animals were some of the fiercest spe­cies found in ancient Egypt and combining their strengths produced a most potent deity and therefore amulet. Taweret’s particular responsibility was the protection of women during pregnancy and childbirth. She is often portrayed leaning on a sa symbol. Her representation was sometimes used on tomb walls or funerary equipment to protect the deceased during rebirth.

This great, protective goddess of childbirth was a rather frightening figure who was often depicted in the company of Bes, the protector dwarf god Bes A deity of either African or Semitic origin; came to Egypt by Dynasty XII. Depicted as a bearded, savage-looking yet comical dwarf, shown full-face in images. Revered as a deity of household pleasures such as music, good food, and relaxation. Also a protector and enter­tainer of children. However, many texts point to the idea that Bes was a terrible, avenging deity, who was as swift to pun­ish the wicked, as he was to amuse and delight the righteous… With a hippopotamus head, a crocodile tail, lion arms and legs, human breasts, and a swollen belly, she scared away any negative spirits who might harm the baby. Amulets with her image were often worn by expectant mothers.