Egyptian scarab: the mystery of the pharaohs

You may have heard of amulets and other jewelry depicting sacred scarabs. This type of Egyptian lucky charm carries with it a deep history.

Ornaments in the shape of lucky beetles have been known since the Upper Paleolithic period (10,000 to 20,000 years ago).

However, being much older than the Egyptian civilization, it is difficult to know the exact meaning that these people attributed to these lucky charms.

Contents :

What are beetles?

A troubled origin

The beetle: a very ancient lucky charm…

…and which lasted over time!

The beetle: more uses than you think!

A lucky charm linked to the dead

Various materials

The beetle: a lucky charm that has been exported

Conclusions about this Egyptian lucky charm

Green lucky beetle on a flower in nature

What are beetles?

Some species of beetles, particularly the Scarabaeus Sacer, are commonly called scarab beetles.

These animals feed on dung, and have therefore inherited the name dung beetle.

While most beetle species make round balls, which are then used as food or brooding chambers, others live in the dung itself.

There is another category of beetles, which bury the dung they find. These beetles are called tunnel borers.

However, it was those who rolled their ball of dung who attracted the attention of the Egyptian people, to the point of making, with them, a link with their religion and their divinities.

The Egyptian lucky scarab is still one of the most important sacred symbols in Egypt.

In fact, scarab amulets were not only used in Egypt over the centuries. They will indeed also have been represented in other cultures.

A statuette of a pharaonic cat, an amulet that shows an eye of Horus and hieroglyphics, and the goddess Isis as a pendant

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A troubled origin

The scarab is one of the oldest and most used symbols in Pharaonic Egypt.

The Egyptian pharaohs worshiped the scarab so much that it is very likely that this symbol was as sacred to them as the cross is to Christians.

Scarabs, due to their aesthetic qualities and a certain shamanic symbolism, were already known in the Old Kingdom (3rd millennium BC) and played an important role in the first cults dedicated to animal spirits.

This is supported by archaeological evidence discovered in tombs from the time of King Den (First Dynasty).

Egyptian temple of Abu Simbel and its lucky statues

The beetle: a very ancient lucky charm…

Sir William Flinders Petrie tells us, in "Scarabs and cylinders with names", that many types of lucky scarab were worshiped in ancient Egypt.

A number of jars found in tombs show us this. These indeed contained dried beetles (large and small).

There are also many scarab amulets, in particular which represent this animal in the form of the large “Scarabeus Sacer” (or Sacred Scarab).

Many particularly well-known amulets show us a large ball (symbolizing the Sun) which rolls, pushed by an Egyptian scarab ( emblem of the god of the creator Khepri ).

In Egyptian, “Kheper” translates to “to be”. It therefore means existence, creation or becoming and thus, “Khepri” is the name given to the creator god of the world.

This divinity, nicknamed “the morning sun” was represented as a man with the head of a beetle.

According to their beliefs, Khepri would be the first deity, having in some way self-created.

As mentioned above, it is the habit of rolling the dung of beetles, which was noticed by the inhabitants of ancient Egypt.

They found the young beetles coming out of the dung balls, all of a sudden... They saw this as a sign from the creator god.

The ancient Egyptians were convinced that, like Kephri, scarabs also appeared out of nowhere.

According to ancient Egyptian beliefs, the scarab therefore symbolizes regeneration, transmutation, renewal and resurrection.

This association of the Egyptian scarab with such an ancient divinity makes it one of the first Egyptian lucky charms of which we are aware.

Egyptian desert with travelers, their camels and the statue of the sphinx

…and which lasted over time!

The scarab was often represented on the disk of the god Ra in the 12th and 18th centuries BCE.

In Egyptian mythology, it is he who gives us the sun every day, by making it roll across the sky.

Once evening arrives, it brings the sun to another world, so that it is recharged for the next day.

The beetles that carry balls of dung have been compared to this God who carries the sun every day.

This was another reason for granting sacred status to the scarab.

During the last dynasties, this Egyptian lucky charm was therefore associated with other gods, and more widely used as a symbol of creation.

In Egypt, millions of stone or earthenware amulets and seals were fashioned with reproductions of scarabs.

If we still find representations of lucky beetles today, this is proof that this tradition survived beyond the time of the pharaohs.

We are therefore talking about one of the most powerful and most recognized Egyptian symbols in the world!

For example, during the reign of Amenhotep III (1390–1352 BC), a series of surprisingly large scarabs were produced to celebrate certain events or aspects of his reign.

From hunting bulls and lions, to celebrating the virtues of his wife Queen Tiyi, this type of Egyptian lucky charm allowed Amenhotep III to remain in history.

Lucky beetle that a woman holds in her open palm

The beetle: more uses than you think!

Used for the creation of jewelry (as is for example the case here, with this Egyptian scarab ring ), others see them as true fashion accessories seeking to achieve a form of artistic harmony.

Egyptian scarabs, however, serve many purposes other than simple decorations.

Over the ages, their symbolism came closer to that of wealth. Some Egyptologists therefore believe that lucky scarabs were used as currency.

Pharaohs used ornately decorated scarabs as a way to secure and display their wealth throughout history. A beetle weighing several kilos, made of solid gold and encrusted with precious stones could in reality really play the role of a “safe”.

Pharaohs' jewelry is among the most expensive and luxurious items of all time.

Brooches, belt buckles and other necklaces were originally created to serve practical purposes.

It was only with the development of civilization that more decorative versions began to appear, eventually serving as outward signs of wealth, to signify membership in a group and one's status within it.

The Egyptian lucky scarab is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon.

Interior of an Egyptian pharaoh's tomb covered with paintings, some of which show a scarab

A lucky charm linked to the dead

From the 23rd dynasty, the beetle was placed on the chest of mummies, as an emblem of the creative divinity.

This was supposed to help the souls of the dead reach the afterlife. Sometimes even for higher-ranking individuals, real beetles were placed, generally in rows of half a dozen, on the remains.

The Egyptian lucky scarab therefore represented an important part of ancient funeral rites in the region.

More precisely, they were green stone statuettes (called heart scarabs) which were placed on the chest of the deceased, before burying them.

The underside of these lucky scarabs was decorated with religious symbols, images of gods and sacred animals, names of pharaohs and kings, prayers, etc.

To know if they are dealing with this type of object, or a simple amulet, archaeologists have a trick. If the beetle is pierced, it is simply a piece of jewelry. If, on the other hand, the statuette is intact, it is a safe bet that it is an Egyptian lucky charm intended for funeral rites.

The ancient Egyptians loved this symbol so much that they actually began depicting beetles on their temples, tombs, in hieroglyphics, seals, jewelry, artwork…

Gold and emerald ring representing a beetle

Various materials

We have seen it: the Egyptian lucky scarab was a very important symbol for these people.

This insect was in fact closely linked to the religion and mythology of the country.

Most of the time, when researchers find such an artifact, it is made of the same materials.

A scarab made of soapstone (a type of rock) and painted blue and green is probably from the very beginning of Egyptian civilization.

It was only later that these people began to use materials such as limestone, carnelian, turquoise, glass, lapis lazuli, basalt, amethyst and terracotta.

Even gold and silver were used for this purpose. However, it should be noted that it is very rare to find an Egyptian lucky charm made of such materials. Most were in fact stolen, to be melted down by real looters.

Lapis lazuli was a stone often used by the Egyptians to create their jewelry and religious objects.

Metamorphic rock derived from limestone, it is its high concentration of blue lazulite (a complex felspathoid of dark blue color and often dotted with impurities of calcite, iron pyrite or gold) which gives its very particular color to this material.

The Egyptians saw this color as an imitation of the heavens, and considered it superior to all other materials (yes, even gold and silver!)

Its main use was as inlays in jewelry, and the creation of adornments for necklaces.

The lucky beetle has come a long way since its birth in the middle of the dung...

It is interesting to see how art has evolved the representations of this Egyptian lucky charm.

Lucky beetle on its ball in the desert

The beetle: a lucky charm that has been exported

  • We could find different types of representations of scarabs in Roman villas (sculptures, earthenware, paintings, etc.)
  • The Greeks placed carved stone outlines of lucky scarabs on many columns of their temples. This seems to confirm the importance of these animals in Greek religion, very close in reality to that practiced by the Egyptians.
  • The sacred books “Chilam Balam” written by the Mayans describe the scarab as essentially evil beings, in moral but also material terms, but destined to improve and become more holy.
  • In Europe and North America, archaeologists have found engravings of lucky beetles on bronze necklaces, brooches and earrings.
  • Even today, particularly in Mexico, live specimens of certain beetle species are worn by women as brooches, attached with a small gold or bronze chain.
  • By the way, some say wearing a scarab pendant around the neck could cause throat and larynx diseases.
  • Many species of beetles have been and still are used as food in America, Oceania, Asia and Africa.
  • Passionate about Egyptology, Western civilization in the early 1900s, particularly through Art Nouveau, knew how to give pride of place to the scarab, due to its status as an Egyptian good luck charm.
  • In China, we find the same symbolic interpretation as that given by the Egyptians: the scarab rolls its ball, which represents the cycle of life. “The beetle rolls its ball, and life develops there as a result of the indivisible effort of its spiritual concentration. If now an embryo can grow in dung and shed its shells, then why can't our heavenly heart also create a body if we focus our mind on it? » (Passage from the book “ The Secret of the Golden Flower ” - an ancient Chinese manuscript translated in 1931). This famous text therefore takes the sacred scarab as an example of the “work to be accomplished” in order to achieve immortality, either material (for the body) or spiritual (for the soul).
  • In Taoism (a Chinese philosophical movement) in general, the lucky beetle occupies a special place. This movement believes in the power of “granular compounds” when it comes to longevity and eternal life. The ball that the beetle grows was therefore quickly identified as one of these important substances.

Black Egyptian beetle in a rocky landscape

Conclusions about this Egyptian lucky charm

Although many people dislike or fear insects, many of these crawling creatures were considered valuable good luck charms by our ancestors.

Aside from the beetle, we could for example cite the ladybug, or the butterfly.

Throughout history and the evolution of religious beliefs, the symbol of the scarab became one of the most important in Egyptian mythology.

The scarab symbolized the sun because the ancient Egyptians saw in it a resemblance to the sun god. Both of them are in fact moving a sphere: for one it is a ball of dung, for the other, it is the Sun.

In the Egyptian belief system, the lucky scarab was also a symbol of immortality, resurrection, transformation and protection. These qualities made it widely used in funeral rites.

For our part, we love the history of ancient Egypt and the pyramids.

So we had a lot of fun writing this article. And we intend to continue to inform ourselves on the subject in order, who knows, perhaps one day to write a second, even more fascinating article !

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Lucky charms featured in this article

Beetle in resin

Beetle in resin

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Beetle pendant

Beetle pendant

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.