Amulet of the God Shu

Amulet of the God Shu

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Égypte ancienne Faïence Amulet of the God Shu (Sjoe) holding the heavens with his hands - 28×15×13 mm - (1)

Shu is one of the gods from the Egyptian myth of creation, one of the first gods to be created by the creator. He came from the god Atum.

He was the god of the air (dry element ) , while his sister Tefnut was seen as the goddess of the earth ( wet element ). Together they were the parents of Geb and Noet and the grandparents of Osiris, Isis, Seth, Horus and Nephthys.
Shu was part of the Enneade of Heliopolis, but was worshiped in the city of Leontopolis, in the Nile Delta. Shou, or Sjoe, is portrayed with a human form on which a feather stands. He often stands between Geb and Noet.
Like Atlas, he supports the sky with his outstretched arms .

Provenance : collection Debauve.- acquis en salle de vente novembre 2018
earlier provenance kept by the above mentioned auction house.

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Turquoise Faience Amulet of the God Shu

An Egyptian bright turquoise faience amulet modelled in the shape of the god Shu, portrayed kneeling on a rectangular base with his arms raised to hold a sun disk over his head. The deity is shown wearing a kilt, long beard and tripartite wig. The reverse features a loop for attachment. The Egyptians wore amulets alongside other pieces of jewellery. They were decorative, but also served a practical purpose, being considered to bestow power and protection upon the wearer. Many of the amulets have been found inside the wrappings of mummies, as they were used to prepare the deceased for the afterlife.

In Egyptian culture and mythology, Shu was believed to be divinity of light and air, personifying the wind and the earth’s atmosphere. He marked the separation between day and night, and between the living and the dead. The deity was also associated with the principle of life. Shu was particularly important to sailors, as they called upon his power to aid the ships’ sails. It is believed that his children, Nut (goddess of the sky) and Geb (god of the Earth), were infatuated with each other. Shu intervened, and held Nut above his head to separate the pair: in doing so, he created the atmosphere and the conditions required for life. In amulets, such as this fine example, Shu kneels with his arms raised to perform this exploit, holding a sun disk over his head, in allusion to the sky.

To discover more about amulets in the Ancient Egyptian world, please visit our relevant post: Amulets in Ancient Egypt.


It all begins in the antiquity of Egypt. Herodotus, in his Persian War II , 14, and Diodorus Siculus, in Library of History , I, 10, both point out that civilization as known to them originated in the valley of the Nile and did so because there the annual inundation of the great river with its rich deposits of silt made possible an abundant agriculture, which provided ample sustenance with little effort. Egyptian civilization antedates all other Eurasian cultures except the Sumerian but just how old it is, no one can say with certainty. We know that the great pyramids were built during the Fourth Dynasty about 2700 B.C. and that Nilotic civilization was then already hoary with age. The First Dynasty dates back at least to 3000. But there was a pre-dynastic culture stretching back, perhaps, to 8,000 B.C.E.


For some reason, the Egyptians believed in, and longed for, personal immortality in a manner unique among ancient peoples. Perhaps the comparative ease of life in the Valley the long periods of physical inactivity when the inundations made the cities and villages into isolated islands the endless generations which, following one upon another, made each human life an infinitesimal speck in the vast corridors of time and the fearful frustration resulting from class exploitation and social inequality—all these may have helped to turn the minds of men from this world to a better one of unlimited duration. Whatever the cause, we know that the Egyptians longed for, and therefore believed in, a blessed immortality beyond the grave: and the desire for it became ever stronger as one millennium succeeded another.

The Egyptians therefore invented an afterlife replete with rewards dependent upon ethical and sacramental considerations in this life many centuries before any similar concept appeared elsewhere. The preparation for eternity became a vast industry requiring an elaborate priesthood and consuming a large proportion of all human energy. Cheops and Khafre, who built the two greatest pyramids, did so primarily in order to insure their own eternal triumph in the kingdom of Osiris. To build these required the labor of one hundred thousand men for sixty years and left the nation sullen and exhausted. And the bribe which drove these toilers on was the promise that they too might hope for immortality in the Elysian Fields. The savior-god Osiris was a creation of the ruling classes but in time he became the supreme hope of an enslaved and tortured people, by them beloved more than wealth or freedom.


In the Egyptian theology preceding Osiris, Tem or Ra was the God and Father of all, the ungenerated original of the universe. He it was who laid the egg in the chaotic waters from which he was himself reborn(born-again) or evolved. We find a fairly detailed description of the creation in the Papyrus of Nesi Amsu, reproduced by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge ( Egyptian Ideas of The Future Life , I).


Tem, Shu, and Tefnut were worshipped by the primitive and dark-skinned aborigines some six or seven thousand years ago. But sometime before 3000 B. C., Egypt was invaded by a light-skinned race of Aryan-Sumerians who stormed out of Mesopotamia, conquered the natives, and the Aryan-Sumerians engrafted new gods upon the older pantheon. These newcomers possessed metal in place of stone tools and weapons and a much superior culture and economy. Osiris was undoubtedly an early ruler of theirs, whom they deified in order to establish their supremacy and who, during his progress, gradually absorbed the characteristics of various indigenous gods.


The revised theology of prehistoric Egypt may thus be summarized: in the beginning there was only darkness, chaos, and a watery waste however, God, or Tem, was there, although as yet quiet but since he willed at a given point to evolve life and develop order in the universe, he reproduced himself from an egg into Ra or the sun-god, which is the creative power immanent in all existence. Ra evolved from himself, first, a daughter Maat, who is the principle of regularity or law in the cosmos and, second, Thoth, who is the Word, or its creative agency.

Ra thereupon produced from himself by masturbation (line 465 of the Pyramid Text of Pepi II, cir. 2500 B.C.) the brother-sister divinities, Shu and Tefnut, who, in turn, gave birth to Seb or Keb, the earth-god, and to Nut, the sky-goddess, who became the wife of Ra. Tem, Ra, Thoth, Maat, Shu, Tefnut, Nut, and Keb—this was probably the Egyptian pantheon preceding the Sumerian conquest. At this point, the invaders engrafted their own divinities upon the indigenous theology of the aborigines. They declared that Nut, seduced by Keb, bore premature quintuplets: Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys .


Along with their religion, the Sumerians established also their superior culture: they controlled the flood waters of the Nile by constructing canals and by dividing the fields for agriculture, a science they had already mastered in the Tigris-Euphrates valley they introduced a much more stable and civilized diet they sowed grain and made it into bread they brewed ale from barley they forbade promiscuous cannibalism , [these events will be important later] especially the dismembering of the dead, who were now instead to be embalmed un-violated and buried in tombs built at great or considerable cost they introduced a higher morality than was previously known they practiced the arts of writing, brick-making, stone-cutting, and street paving and they lengthened the year from 360 to 365 days. As these reforms could not be accomplished without supernatural sanction, they were attributed to the divine Osiris he became the original god-man incarnate.

How Osiris and his brothers and sisters could be human although both their parents were gods, the naturalistic priests of ancient Egypt seem never to have explained. But divine they were and yet human no less. The age of the skeptic had not yet dawned. Many today look at the "Elohim" of Genesis chapter two as the importance reference to these "descending ones" or "giants" which came to this earth and created "homo sapiens" from "homo erectus" and this explains the second of the two "creation" accounts of Genesis. For further study I recommend Z. Sitchin and his anthology, the Earth Chronicles , which explains this dramatic creation.


Of all savior-gods worshipped at the beginning of the Christian era, Osiris may have contributed more details to the evolving Christ figure than any other. Already very old in Egypt, Osiris was identified with nearly every other Egyptian god and was on the way to absorbing them all . He had well over 200 divine names. He was called Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods. He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, Eternity and Everlastingness, the god who "made men and women to be born again." Budge says, "From first to last, Osiris was to the Egyptians the god-man who suffered, and died, and rose again, and reigned eternally in heaven. They believed that they would inherit eternal life, just as he had done."

According to Egyptian scriptures, "As truly as Osiris lives, so truly shall his follower live as truly as Osiris is not dead he shall die no more as truly as Osiris is not annihilated he shall not be annihilated." Believers were "in Osiris," the equivalent of being "in Christ."

Osiris' coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of the constellation Orion, which point directly to Osiris's star in the east , Sirius (Sothis), significator of his birth. Angelic voices hailed the coming of the Universal Lord Osiris on this occasion which marked the rising of the Nile flood . Oriental paths of the Osirian tradition may be traced in Tibet, where the rising of the same star in the east marks the annual festival of "setting free the waters of springs," as the Egyptian festival set free the waters of the Nile . Tibetans named the star Rishi-Agastya, after a holy king of "a very ancient time." Ancient Hebrews called the same star Ephraim, or the Star of Jacob . In Syrian, Arabian, and Persian astrology it was Messaeil— the Messiah.

Certainly Osiris was a prototypical Messiah, as well as a devoured Host (in the form of a Eucharist). His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat called the "plant of Truth." Osiris was Truth, and those who ate him , in the form of the Osiris eucharist , became Truth also, each of them another Osiris, a Son of God, a "Light-god, a dweller in the Light-god." Egyptians came to believe that no god except Osiris could bestow eternal life on mortals. Osiris alone was the Savior, Un-nefer, the "Good One." Under this title he was even canonized as a Christian saint.

Answer for yourself: Is this just coincidence of could the Jesus story found in the New Testament be a retelling of the Osiris myth?

Egyptians were much afraid of death's corruption awaiting them without the kindly intervention of Osiris: "When the soul hath departed, a man seeth corruption, and the bones of his body crumble away and become stinking things, and the members decay one after the other, the bones crumble into a helpless mass, and the flesh turneth into fetid liquid. Thus a man becometh a brother unto the decay which cometh upon him, and he turneth into a myriad of worms, and he becometh nothing but worms, and an end is made of him, and he perisheth in the sight of the god of day." But Osiris could prevent all this nastiness:

Homage to thee, O my divine father Osiris, thou hast thy being with thy members. Thou didst not decay, thou didst not become worms, thou didst not diminish, thou didst not become corruption, thou didst not putrefy, and thou didst not turn into worms. I shall not decay, and I shall not rot, I shall not putrefy, I shall not turn into worms, and I shall not see corruption before the eye of the god Shu. I shall have my being, I shall have my being I shall live, I shall live I shall germinate, I shall germinate, I shad germinate I shall wake up in peace I shall not putrefy, my intestines shall not perish I shall not suffer injury mine eye shall not decay the form of my visage shall not disappear. My body shall be established, and it shall neither Lad into ruin nor be destroyed on this earth.


The cult of Osiris contributed a number of ideas and phrases to the Bible.

The 23rd Psalm copied an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris the Good Shepherd to lead the deceased to the "green pastures" and "still waters" of the nefer-nefer land, to restore the soul to the body, and to give protection in the valley of the shadow of death (the Tuat).

The Lord's Prayer was prefigured by an Egyptian hymn to Osiris-Amen beginning:

"O Amen, O Amen, who art in heaven."

Amen was also invoked at the end of every prayer. That is why we say "Amen" today following our prayers.

Answer for yourself: How much of our traditional Christianity comes from Egypt and we not know it?

Jesus' words, found in John 12:24

"Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit"

were taken from an Osirian doctrine that a dying man is like a corn of wheat "which falls into the earth in order to draw from its bosom a new life."' Jesus' words, recorded in John 14:2,

"In my Father's house are many mansions"

came from an Osirian text telling of numerous Arits ("Mansions") in the blessed land of Father Osiris. Stories about Osiris turned up in Christian legends. Jesus' healing of a nobleman's daughter was based on a tale of an Osirian priest who cured a princesses. Worshippers of Osiris were promised that they would rule the spirit-souls (angels) in heaven, foreshadowing St. Paul's promise to his followers that they would rule even angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).

The bishop's crozier was the Osirian shepherd-crook. The Christian cross itself was a variant of the Egyptian ankh, symbolizing "the Life to Come." One significant difference between Osiris and Christ was that Osiris was restored to life not by his divine father but by his divine mother—who was also his bride, Isis. She put his dismembered body back together and raised him from the dead. Isis married Osiris and conceived Osiris' reincarnation, the Divine Child Horus who became Osiris again. This was the first immaculate conception!

She also took him to heaven where he reigned as Father Ra. Sometimes Ra was called Osiris' father, sometimes Osiris was called Ra's father, sometimes they were the same god, named Osiris--Ra. They were cyclically reincarnated as father-son and son-father, dwelling in the Mother as fetus, lover, corpse. Thus Osiris' cult centered on the theme of divine incest, apparent also in a Christianity that declared the Father and Son identical, and the Mother of God the same individual as God's bride. Osiris plainly expressed the archetypal wish for union with the mother, found in all men's religions. He was restored to life as the ithyphallic Min. Men, or Menu, "Moon-god," hailed as a Bull of lust, "the mummy with a long member," or "the Lord Who impregnates his Mother."

A symbol of Osiris's sacred marriage was the menat or "moon--charm." The Menat was a charm of Hathor, the Goddess of the Sunrise. It was worn especially by women, for whom Hathor was a favorite. It served to protect the wearer and was also something of a love charm. Usually only the head of Hathor was depicted as the amulet. In hieroglyphics a phallus-shaped jar pouring fluid into a wider pot or vase, signifying sexual intercourse with a deity. The menat amulet was borne by nearly every Egyptian god it was also a title of Isis. The same sexual image of the two vessels was found in the tombs and temples of Babylon and Assyria. The male water-jar represented the seminal spirit of the Savior in all the lands of the Middle East and Egypt. In his processions, the god was preceded by a jar-bearer like the man with a jar of water who preceded Jesus in the Passover procession (Luke 22: 10).

The Jews' Passover meal called Seder may have descended from the Egyptian Sed, the oldest festival of Osirian regeneration and fertility. At the Sed, Osiris's masculinity was erected in the form of the Djed column, originally a simple phallic obelisk, later a representation of Osiris's sacrum, the "sacred bone" so called because it was once regarded as the source of seminal fluid. The Djed Amulet has been interpreted many ways. One theory says it represents the tree trunk in which Isis hid the body of Osiris after Set had dismembered him. As Isis found each piece, she hid it in the tree trunk. She finally had all but one piece of his body except his penis which leads into another interpretation of the Djed. Isis made for the body of Osiris a wooden phallus to replace the missing piece. She had intercourse with Osiris and became pregnant with Horus. Perhaps the Djed Amulet is derived from that symbol. An early interpretation of the Djed Amulet implied it was placed in with the mummies in order to give their backbones strength. When Isis brought Osiris back to life, her first care was to make him "stand up," which meant restoration of his phallic spirit.

Primitive elements in Osirian myth show its extreme antiquity, dating back to Neolithic Egypt. Before re-conceiving Osiris, the Goddess apparently devoured him as she hovered over his corpse in the guise of the archaic Vulture-mother. Like similar images of devouring Kali, this points to an age predating even the discovery of fatherhood, when reincarnations were believed to be brought about by cannibalism (in this instance pre-Eucharist. yet the eating of a god). Indeed, Osiris may have begun as one of the numerous forms of Shiva, for his name came from Ausar or Asar, meaning "the Asian" just like the Aesir or "Asian" gods of northern Europe.

About 4000 years ago, Osiris' cult was established at Abydos, where he was called Osiris Khenti-Amenti, Lord of Death or Lord of the Westerners, meaning those who had "gone west" into death's sunset land. He was incarnate in a succession of sacred kings who seem to have served as sacrificial victims. Their bodies were divided up and distributed to different parts of the country to assist fertility—as in Norway, up to the 9th century, where kings' bodies used to be quartered and sent to the four provinces for burial, so each locality would have royal flesh to assist the crops. As Christian churches used to be founded on spurious relics of apostles and saints, so Egyptian temples were founded on bits of Osiris' body.

Like the head of Orpheus on Lesbos, the head of Osiris was preserved in the temple at Abydos to serve as an oracle, providing much of the Egyptians' detailed knowledge of the after-world. The shrine had a sacred well called Peq or Pega, the original home of the Pega-nymphs who guarded the oracular well of Pirene in Corinth. Like Christians seeking burial in consecrated ground by a church, wealthy Egyptians bought burial space near the Osirian temple, so as to share the god's resurrection. Abydos therefore became the center of a great necropolis. The faithful claimed on their epitaphs that "I have become a divine being by the side of the birthchamber of Osiris I am brought forth with him, I renew my youth."

When human sacrifices were replaced by animals, Osiris obligingly incarnated himself in a variety of beasts, notably the Apis bull who ascended to glory, carrying away the sins of all Egypt as he died in atonement. Osiris-Apis later became the composite deity Serapis, monotheistic god of Alexandria for six centuries. Let us not forget that at Alexandria the Essenes would be heavily influenced by such residual religious beliefs and this would carry over in their conversion to the Jesus Movement later.

There were several Osirian trinities. One consisted of Osiris the father, Isis the mother, and Horus the son. Another was Ra the father, Osiris the son on earth, and Horus the son rising in heaven. Another was ( 1 ) Ptah, "Opener of the Way," a phallic consort of the Virgin and the opener of her matrix (2) Seker, representing the male spent, dead, and hidden within the female tomb-womb and (3) Osiris, newly incarnate as the Min-phallus and standing for resurrection .

The sacred lunar numbers seven, fourteen, and twenty-eight were prominent in Osiris' cult. The lunar cycle of twenty-eight days corresponded to his descent into the underworld and ascent to heaven: fourteen days each way, or fourteen steps on his mystic Ladder. Buddha's ladder of descent to earth and return to heaven also had fourteen steps. Like Buddha and Osiris, the Tibetan sage is still supposed to pass fourteen days in the after-world before encountering enlightenment in the form of "the mandala of the animal-headed deities," reminiscent of the Egyptian gods. We are beginning to see how even Osiris influenced Buddhism. Some of these deities were named Heruka, a possible cognate of Osiris the sun, Heru-Harakhti.

Like Hindu sacred dramas, the cycle of Osirian drama seems to have been keyed to the menstrual cycle of the Goddess, incarnate in the priestess who bore the title of Divine Mother. In the month of Athyr (Hathor), Egyptian women made clay phalli as images of Osiris and threw them into the Nile when it "turned to blood" in flood time. This custom recalled the Oriental conviction that the Goddess must be menstruating at the time of her sacred marriage to the dying god. Later accounts explained Osirian lunar numbers by saying he was 28 years old at the time of his passion, or else that it took place in the 28th year of his reign on earth.

As Lord of Death, Osiris was sometimes identified with the Great Serpent of the underworld, and sometimes painted in the same serpentine form, bent around so his toes touched his head. In Ptolemaic times the whole underworld became Osiris's province, its seven halls collectively called the House of Osiris.

Between 1450 and 1400 B.C.E. the Osirian mystery-cult took form, with hundreds of verbal formulae for making the worshipper become an Osiris. He would be born of Isis and nursed by Nephthys. He would ride across the sky "side by side with the gods of the stars." He would be as virile as Osiris-Menu: "My palm tree (penis) standeth upright and is like Menu. Therefore the Phallus of Ra, which is the head of Osiris, shall not be swallowed up." When he was in heaven, the gods themselves would bring offerings to him.

The Osirian Mysteries taught words of power for bringing about these desirable effects. Such words of power were "keys" to heaven, to be concealed from non-initiates as "a great mystery." The Saite Recension said with such keys, a soul could pass freely through the gates, gatekeepers, guardians, heralds, inspectors, and other spirits of the heavenly mansions, for he would know all their names.

And the Majesty of Anpu shall say unto me, "Knowest thou the name of this door and canst thou tell it?" . . . And the Majesty of the god Anpu shall say unto me, "Knowest thou the name of the upper leaf, and the name of the lower leaf?" On receiving the proper answers, the Majesty of the god Anpu shall say, "Pass on, for thou host knowledge, O Osiris."

Important for our study into the similarities of Christianity is the fact that during the first century B.C. the Osirian religion was established in all parts of the Roman Empire. Its popularity declined in the end because it became too complicated for the average mind. Necessary "words of power" developed into lengthy catechisms of divine names of doorposts, lintels, bolts, panels, doorkeepers, spirits of the hour, thresholds, gods' right and left feet, etc. Egyptians invented even a memory-god to bring back the spells and holy names if they were stolen by a spirit of forgetfulness. The important ceremony of "Opening the Mouth" was performed to let the dead person speak charms and words of power freely. Still, the catechisms became too long and complex to be remembered.

Budge remarks that the Egyptians believed in "the resurrection of the body in a changed and glorified form, which would live to all eternity in the company of the spirits and souls of the righteous in a kingdom ruled by a being who was of divine origin, but who had lived upon the earth, and had suffered a cruel death at the hands of his enemies, and had risen from the dead, and had become the God and king of the world which is beyond the grave. Although the Egyptians believed in all these things and proclaimed their belief with almost passionate earnestness, they seem never to have freed themselves from a hankering after amulets and talismans, and magical names, and words of power, and seem to have trusted in these to save their souls and bodies, both living and dead, with something of the same confidence which they placed in the death and resurrection of Osiris. A matter for surprise is that they seem to see nothing conflicting in such a mixture of magic and religion." It is a matter for even more surprise that a scholar of Budge's stature failed to see exactly the same mixture of magic and religion in Christianity for indeed he could have been talking about Christians as well as Egyptians. To this day, simple Christian folk still display the same hankering after crucifixes and medals, agnus dei, incantations, invocations of holy names and other formulae, saints' relics, holy water, images, even rosaries which they copied from the Egyptians. Christian formulae of exorcism, baptisms extreme unction, absolution, etc., were words of power under different names.

The notion of resurrection through identification with a resurrected god (by eating his flesh in the form of a Eucharist) was in itself magical rather than religious—and this was the basis of the Christian salvation as taught by Paul-idea no less than for that of Osiris' votaries. Moreover it seems the concept of Christ was no less syncretic than the concept of Osiris. If anything, the older god had more right to claim an original system of worship—or of superstition, depending on one's point of view.


Foreigners often noted with contempt and disgust the variety of animals worshipped in Egypt: the cow, the bull, the cat, the dog, the snake, the ibis, the hawk, etc. But these, understood correctly as symbols for the attributes of the One True God, is lost to most today unless they study a lot. Taken collectively they simply bear testimony to the antiquity of its religion. The same phenomenon has been found among Indians and other aborigines, concerning whom Lewis H. Morgan wrote his Ancient Society . There can be little doubt that all these animals were primitive clan-totems, worshipped at one time as ancestral spirits and absorbed by the Osirian cult to maintain the allegiance of the superstitious natives. And when any of these were slain and eaten, this was the literal sacrifice of a deity, by which his devotees absorbed his powers. This is one of the first recorded instances where men ate "gods" represented by animals and absorbed the gods powers.


Over a period exceeding three thousand years, some half a billion Egyptians lived and died in devotion to Osiris he was the beloved god of the people and they had no conceivable hope higher than that they might in death become one with him in blissful immortality. They would become like their god in their death by becoming "one" with him ["in Osiris," or "in Christ"] and this was accomplished ritually by partaking of the Osirian Eucharist where the devotee shared in the immortality of Osiris an immortal God following his resurrection. We call this same ceremony the "mass today."

We possess a remarkable series of Egyptian tomb and papyri inscriptions written over a period of several thousand years and known as The Book of the Dead. These are funerary formulas addressed almost exclusively to Osiris they were to be learned by a man when living or inscribed on his coffin so that when dead he might enter the blessed abodes. Although none of them tell the story of the god, all assume a minute knowledge of him. Osiris was venerated by all Egyptians and was at least as familiar to them as is Jesus Christ to the Christian world.



Only those initiated into the Osirian cult could know its doctrines or ceremonials: for these were "an exceedingly great mystery . . . in the handwriting of the god himself. And these things shall be done secretly" (in the rubric accompanying Ch. CXXXVIIa of The Book Of The Dead ).

Like the Egyptians, the Greeks, who copied their rituals, declared it a sacrilege to reveal the rites or doctrines of their mysteries. Herodotus tells us, II 3, that what the Egyptian priests "told me concerning their religion, it is not my intention to repeat." Plutarch says that he must "leave undisturbed what may not be told" ( Isis and Osiris , 35). Pausanias declares: "as I was intending . . . to narrate all things appertaining to . . . the Eleusinians, a vision in the night checked me: but what it is lawful for me to write for everybody, to this will I turn" ( Description Of Greece , I, 14). Once, when the Athenians believed that Aeschylus had revealed the Eleusinian ritual in a play, the audience stormed the stage, threatening to rend the dramatist limb from limb. It is therefore with some difficulty that we reconstruct these esoteric rites.


The Osirian myth itself, however, is fully told in Plutarch ( Isis and Osiris , 12-20) and this account, reinforced and elaborated by Diodorus Siculus ( Library of History , I, 11-27), runs briefly as follows:

The sun-god Ra detected his wife Nut embracing Seb, the earth-god. He therefore decreed that her illegitimate offspring could not be born on any day of the year. Thoth, however, came to her aid for, playing at draughts with the moon, he won from her a seventy-second portion of each day. By this means, five intercalated days were added to the year, effecting a much-needed reform in the calendar. The year had previously consisted of 360 days, but this wide disparity between the solar and the calendar year was constantly creating a wide divergence between the seasons although the Osirian reform still left a disparity between the calendar and the solar year of about six hours, the seasons now receded much less rapidly their retrogression created what is known as the Sothic year, consisting of one thousand four hundred and sixty-one solar years, after which the sun again coincided with the season.

By winning the five additional days, Thoth rescued Nut and her offspring, because on these the curse of Ra was ineffectual and she gave birth to five children, one on each of the intercalated days. On the first, which became the List day of the year, Osiris was born on the second, Horus on the third, Set on the fourth, Isis and on the fifth, Nephthys. Osiris married Isis and Set Nephthys, while Horus became the celibate and intellectual scribe. All were born of earth and heaven, and in them commingled the qualities of both. They were therefore equipped not only to understand but also to solve the problems of suffering humanity.

Osiris was crowned king of Egypt in his twenty-eighth year according to another version he ruled during twenty eight years. It is obvious that this number relates to the days of the lunar cycle. It was said that he established the people in settled communities, taught them the arts of war and peace, and prohibited the practice of cannibalism, especially the eating of dead relatives, which, up to this time, had been common practice. Above all, he was credited with conferring upon his people the culture of wheat and barley and thereby transforming them from virtual cannibals into cereal-eating, civilized men and women (pre-Eucharist rite), who developed respect for each other and who came in time to abhor the eating of their parents and other relatives.

But Osiris was not content to confer his benefits upon Egypt alone. He therefore journeyed over the inhabited world to civilize all nations and peoples. Diodorus emphasized that he carried with him men and women highly skilled in music and dancing who taught these arts to less cultured peoples. It was necessary for him to kill and dismember the barbarian king Lycurgus, as well as others who resisted his reforms. In due time, he returned to Egypt, laden with gifts.

In his absence, Isis had governed Egypt justly and equitably but the evil Set, who was violently in love with her, had been making illicit advances to her, which she had rejected. Set is depicted as the great serpent, and the Greeks called him Typhon he symbolized the powers of darkness, storms, and all disturbances of nature. Jealous of Osiris because of the honors heaped upon him, Set conspired with seventy-two others to encompass his destruction. This indicates that Set was the leader of the old and now counter-revolutionary priesthood, who, proclaiming their 360-day year, attempted to overthrow the new dynasty and its reformed calendar.

Having measured Osiris, Set built a coffin in which he induced his brother to lie down instantly he and his coconspirators clamped the lid shut and welded it tight with molten lead, so that Osiris died of suffocation. They threw the coffer into the Nile, on which it floated out to sea and then across the Mediterranean until it came to rest at Byblus. This indicates a generic relationship between Egypt and Syria, which has been established. For excavations carried out at Byblus (modern Jebeil) in 1922 prove that in the third millennium B. C., this city was a magnificent Egyptian colony which approximated the religion and culture of the motherland. It has also been established that any floating object thrown into the Nile will eventually be carried to this port. Lastly, this city became in time the center of the great Adonis cult.

Now in imminent danger of her life, Isis fled into the delta swamps, where she gave birth to the younger Horus. But Set pursued, and killed the child but the ever-beneficent Thoth instructed her in the use of magic and medicine, which enabled her to restore the child to life. Leaving the infant to be reared at Buto, she set out to find the body of her husband, which she finally discovered at Byblus encased in a pine tree (body on a tree) and which, after various adventures, she brought to Egypt. But Set tore the corpse into fourteen parts (some accounts say sixteen) and buried them, one in each of the provinces of Egypt.

Isis thereupon began her celebrated search for the broken body and whenever she found a portion, she pieced it together with others until she was able to reconstruct the whole. The male member (penis) alone she could not recover, because Set had thrown it into the Nile, where it had been eaten by the Oxyrhynchus (pike), which therefore became a sacred fish . Isis made images of the missing member out of balsam wood, and erected them as objects of adoration in all the temples. She also constructed wax figures of Osiris, gave one to the priests of each district, saying that they alone possessed the true god. Another account states that each temple received the portion of Osiris which was found in that province and which therefore became its sacred relic. The principal temples were established at Abydos, in Upper, and at Busiris, in Lower, Egypt, where the head and backbone (set) had been recovered. In addition, Isis generously provided that the priests should receive one third of the produce from the land, promised them munificent yields of grain, and exempted them from all taxation (Diodorus I, 73).

Isis breathed her own life into the nostrils of Osiris and with the help of Thoth, and of Horus, who opened his mouth and gave him his eye to eat, she accomplished the resurrection of Osiris to a second and eternal life and thus he became the first-fruits of them that slept , the first among humanity ever to rise from the dead. Upon rising from his bier, he instructed his son Horus in the arts of war and adjured him to revenge the foul deed done by Set. Thereupon Osiris departed to the world of the immortals in Khenti-Amenti (Elysian Fields like our Heaven), where he became judge of the dead and the ruler of the blessed.

In the meantime, Set had usurped the throne of Egypt and when Horus claimed it, the wicked uncle accused Horus of illegitimacy and Isis of adultery. There was a trial before the gods, who determined that Isis was virtuous and that Horus was lawfully conceived and therefore entitled to the succession . A terrific battle now ensued between Set and Horus, who subdued his evil uncle and bound him in chains, himself sustaining a bruised heel. Finally, Horus crushed the serpent's head (see Genesis 3:15), and ruled Egypt happily for the remainder of his life. After a trial before the gods in Khenti-Amenti (Elysian Fields), annihilation by fire was inflicted upon Set, the diabolical Adversary [devil] ( Hymn to Ra in the Papyrus of Nekht). The illusion and similarity of many of these events and the Christ story of the New Testament are amazing.


During the ages when The Book of the Dead was written, a definite development took place. Horus (a precursor to Jesus) gradually assumed expanded powers, and was identified with his father. The cultists began to identify themselves with Horus also and with his growth came also a vast expansion in the worship of Isis (precursor to Mary). She it was who established the civil law while Osiris was traveling over the world she taught men to transform the golden grain of Osiris into the bread of life when Horus was slain, she gave him life again she revivified and made possible the resurrection of Osiris and she established his worship throughout Egypt. In short, without Isis there would have been no Horus, no resurrection, no mystery, and no hope of an after-life. She became the universal and infinite benefactress of humanity, the eternal protective mother, the queen of earth and heaven. Images of her and her son were sacred objects in every Egyptian household, resembling the Madonna and the Christ-child, both in appearance and in the veneration they elicited.


The dynamic power of the Isis-Osiris myth lay in the fact that these deities symbolized abundant life and natural vitality in all their aspects: astronomical, sexual (discussed above), and most of all agricultural. The sun was often identified with Osiris and the moon with Isis ( Diodorus I, 11). We know that at the time when the Osiris-cult was established, the dog-star appeared in the East just before sunrise in the month of June, which was also the time the Nile began to overflow. Osiris is called "the great one of Abydos . . . the morning star which appears in the eastern part of heaven'' ( The Pyramid Text of Pepi, I). The Egyptians sometimes called it Sothis, the star of Isis, who was the goddess of love, and life, and motherhood, mourning for her departed lover and awakening him again to life. Isis was a dynastic reconstitution of the older Hathor, the goddess of love, identified with the cow. The dog-star was also the "star of Osiris'' (Plutarch, Isis and Osiris , 52) or Sirius, as it is still known. Thus, Isis and Osiris were the heavenly powers which regulated the seasons, caused the Nile to inundate the fields, and made the grain to grow.

We find that Osiris is also identified with the bull and Isis with the cow. Plutarch tells us that in Memphis the bull of "Apis is kept, being the image of the soul of Osiris.'' At Sakkara, sacred, living bulls were worshipped for centuries and at death were buried in the Serapaeum in regal splendor, as if they were gods indeed. These animals may have been considered sacred because of their economic value we believe, however, that this veneration depended even more upon astronomical symbolism. For when the cult was first fully established, some five thousand years ago, the precession of the equinoxes during the zodiacal year, which equals some twenty six thousand solar revolutions and is known also as the Great or Platonic year, had reached the point at which the sun passes through Taurus, or the Sign of the Bull, at the summer solstice, when the Nile begins to overflow. This is terribly important for us to recognize as this was the salvation of the Egyptians which culminated in the overflow of the Nile and the fertilization and watering of the land that produced their food. Salvation came from Heaven and the influence of the stars thus the importance of Taurus and the sun as connected to "salvation." The cow and the bull, therefore, were the animals identified with Isis and Osiris they were believed to bring the inundation of the Nile and were consequently sacred and worshipped as gods. About four thousand years ago, this precession had so altered the position of the zodiac that the sun passed through the Ram at the summer solstice (precession of the equinoxes) and then this animal, or the lamb, gradually became sacred (Lamb of God), although the change was neither immediate nor everywhere uniform. The "bull/Taurus" was not replaced by "lamb/Aires." This is the major problem few see in the Old Testament that produced a terrific upheaval in Egyptian religion and precipitated the Exodus with Akhenaton (Moses who was supportive of changing the worship of Egypt from "bull" to "lamb" worship. The followers of Akhenaton came out of Egypt in the Exodus under the sign of the lamb [Aires replacing Taurus in the precession of the equinox] only to return in their hearts to making a golden calf/bull at Mount Sinai which angered Moses/Akhenaton (THINK)!

It was for this reason that in the old temple at Memphis, Osiris is represented as a bull (Taurus) but in the later temples at Busiri, and Philae, he is depicted as a Ram (Aires) , which is there called the soul of Osiris incarnate (Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection II, p. 15). The altered position of the zodiac is also reflected in the Jewish scriptures, in which we find that the calf and the bull of Genesis are eventually replaced by the lamb. And still later, when the sun had passed into Pisces, the fish became the sacred symbol of the Christians and is found everywhere inscribed in the Roman catacombs where they buried their dead.

Isis and Osiris were also the deities of generation without them there could be no children and the human race would become extinct. We have seen that Isis set up an image of her husband's phallus in all the temples of Egypt and we know that its worship was a characteristic not only of the Osirian cult but of others directly derived from it, as the Dionysian in Greece. Osiris, we are told, "is the Lord of the Phallus and the ravisher of women'' (The Book of the Dead, CLXVIII, 15). Isis became not only the symbol of motherhood, but also goddess of childbirth. Osiris gave men the power to impregnate, and Isis gave women the power to conceive and bear new life.

But the most important symbolism of the Isis-Osiris concept was agricultural: "When the Nile begins to rise, the Egyptians have a tradition that it is the tears of Isis which make the river rise and irrigate the fields" ( Pausanias X, 32). Ancient writers knew that the dismembered body of Osiris buried in all the provinces of Egypt symbolized the grain which had been sown and that his death and resurrection were symbols of the death and rebirth of the wheat and the barley [first harvest of the spring/first fruits]. In countless representations of Osiris, we see the grain sprouting from his body: and in thousands of funerary inscriptions we are told that the sacred bread is the body of the god. At the annual Osirian celebrations, images of the god were made of wheat paste and eaten as a holy sacrament (eucharist). And even as Osiris was the grain which was planted, died, and sprang to life again, so Isis symbolized the earth mother who received it and in whom it was nurtured.

John 12:24 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (KJV)

"They regard both the cow and the earth as the image of Isis" ( Isis and Osiris , 39).


The hope of every Egyptian was to achieve immortality by being transformed into an Osiris and to obtain "a homestead forever in Sekhet-Aru" (the Elysian Fields) "with wheat and barley therefore ( Hymn to Osiris , Un-nefer).

In order to understand the eschatology of the Egyptians, we need to know their metaphysical concepts concerning themselves. The physical body was called the Khat, which was the foundation also for immaterial reality. In this, or rather in the heart of this, dwelt the Ba, the heartsoul, which was considered the essence of life, and the destruction of which meant annihilation. Now this Ba projected its Khu, which was its double, a sort of shadow being or spiritual duplicate, and which could come or go, having a being separate from, if not independent of, its original. At death, the Khu lived on, required food and drink, could visit the tomb or go abroad, and starved when the funerary offerings ceased and if it had not entered Elysium by this time, it was reduced to eating human excrement, and, on this diet, withered into nothingness.

The Khat and the Ba, therefore, were always ephemeral. It was the Khu, only, a kind of celestial body, which possessed the potential of immortality. In order that a human being might be transformed into an Osiris and live eternally, it was necessary that this be endowed with incorruption and this could be done only by uniting it to its Sahu, which was its spiritual essence. This is the very basis for Paul's theology of the glorified body upon resurrection.


And this brings us to the question of why the Egyptians made such an industry of embalming and mummifying their dead. In the first place, this was necessary because Isis, Horus, and Thoth had embalmed and swathed the body of Osiris before his resurrection and in all things it was necessary, in order to become an Osiris, to duplicate his experiences. Before his cult was established, the dead had been eaten, and their dismembered bones cast helter-skelter about the tombs. But the new priesthood taught that immortality was impossible unless the deceased entered the after-life with his Khat inviolate. It was therefore imperative that the body be preserved intact so that, as a result of the magical incantations and ceremonies to be performed over it by properly qualified priests, the Sahu might germinate from it. If such corruption were only avoided, the Khu could be united with the Sahu and if this, a new and wholly spiritual entity, was victorious in its trial before Osiris, it would attain blessed immortality. Without preserving the Khat through mummification, then, there could be no immortality. The practice continued well into the period of Christianity and was only abolished about 350 A.D. when Antony and Athanasius assured their followers that at the resurrection Christ would give them celestial bodies even if the earthly ones had been consumed by worms.


It was no small achievement to become an Osiris. The requirements to become as Osiris are:

  1. A man or woman must first be initiated into the exclusive cult of the god
  2. He must be clean of hand and pure of heart
  3. His essence must needs already have been transmuted into divinity by eating and drinking the sacred Eucharist
  4. The deceased must be properly embalmed
  5. He had to be vindicated at a public trial before the funeral ceremonies could be performed
  6. Unless all his creditors were satisfied, he could not be buried
  7. The effectual incantations had to be recited by the official priests.


Once all these requirements were met, however, the deceased was to be ferried without delay across the Great Lake and into the Hall of Maat. Egyptian funerary literature teems with references to what the aspiring Osiris might there expect. One of the most important documents dealing with the subject is the judgment scene from the Papyrus of Ani, composed during the XVIIIth Dynasty, about '550 B. C., in which we see the royal scribe Ani and his wife Thuthu approaching the great scales and Anubis weighing the heart of the suppliant against the feather of Maat. When it is found perfect, Thoth announces the result to the gods, who declare: "Osiris, the scribe Ani victorious, is holy and righteous. It shall not be allowed to the devourer Amemet to prevail over him. Meat-offerings and entrance into the presence of the God Osiris shall be granted unto him, together with a homestead (mansions) for ever in Sekhet-hetepu (Heaven)."

At the side of Thoth is seated the great monster Amemet or Apep, with crocodile-head, forebody lion-shaped, and with the rear of a hippopotamus ready to devour the heart and the heart-soul of those who are damned. But, as the Osiris Ani has emerged victorious from the weighing of the heart, by the records of Thoth, and by the consent of the company of the great gods, he is conducted into the august and awful presence of Osiris himself, seated on his throne, grasping the scepter, flail, and slave hook, wearing the tall white crown. His body is still encased as a mummy, and behind him stand Nephthys, who advises him, and the beloved Isis, who makes constant intercession for the deceased.

Heb 7:25 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (KJV)

Horus leads Ani before the throne, where he sinks to his knees whereupon Horus, acting as mediator , prevails upon his father to admit the suppliant to his blessed realm. With this, the judgment is complete and the victorious Osiris Ani enters the Elysian Fields.

1 Tim 2:5 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (KJV)

The celebrated Chapter CXXVII of The Book of the Dead is an elaboration of the judgment scene just described. It consists of three parts: first, the addresses to Osiris by the scribe Osiris-Ani and by the Overseer of the Seal, Nu, triumphant second, the well-known Negative Confession by the scribe Nebseni and, third, the final address by Nu to the gods.

When Nu first enters the great hall, he does homage to the "Great God" thence he proceeds to the hall of Maat, where he must face the gods of the forty-two Egyptian names. Since each of these is the avenger of a particular sin or crime, he must declare his innocence to all of them. The Negative Confession, therefore, consists of forty-two articles summarizing Egyptian ethics about 1600 B.C.: the deceased has not committed robbery, violence, theft, or murder has not lied, deceived, cut measures, or purloined what belongs to God has not slandered anyone, wasted the land, killed any sacred animals, pried into holy secrets, given way to wrath or terrified anyone has never been guilty of adultery or sodomy has not been deaf to the truth, stirred up strife, or caused any one to weep has never abused anyone or judged hastily has never scorned the god of the Kiev or been irreverent to God has never cursed the king, used too many words, made his voice haughty, been insolent, fouled the water, or increased his wealth unjustly.

The judgment before Osiris was not, to be a mere formality. Osiris could search out the secret places of the heart, and before him no one could be perfect or even sufficient in his own right. Every aspirant to "Osiris-ship" knew that if the Law of Maat were strictly enforced, he could never enter the blessed abodes. Were it not for the advice of Nephthys, the intercession of Isis, the advocacy of Thoth, the mediation of Horus, and the mercy of Osiris himself, no one could see salvation. Nu therefore exclaims: "Do ye away with my evil deeds, and put ye away my sin which deserved stripes on earth, and destroy ye any evil whatsoever that belongeth unto me" (The Book of the Dead, CXXVI).

In the third portion of Chapter CXXV, the suppliant elaborates his declaration of social morality: "bring ye not forward my wickedness . . . [for] I have given bread to the hungry man, and water to the thirsty man, and apparel to the naked man, and a boat to the shipwrecked mariner. I have made holy offerings to the gods. Be ye then my deliverers, be ye then my protectors. I am clean of mouth and clean of hands therefore, let it be said unto me. 'Come in peace come in peace.'" For thousands of years, the initiates of the pagan mysteries were to repeat: "I am clean of hand and pure of heart."


In the Osirian eschatology, there was no waiting for judgment, no hell, no torture for the damned. The heart of the condemned was eaten by the great monster Apep or Amemet and thereby his heartsoul ceased to be his body was then annihilated in the Lake of Fire ( The Book of the Dead , LXXI XVII and XIX).


Those who emerged triumphant from the judgment were admitted to the Elysian Fields, which are depicted as a land teeming with grain, wherein the blessed shall dwell forever in peace and abundance. The scribe Nu declares: "the gates which are in Sekhem are opened unto me, and fields are awarded unto me, together with those of my flesh and bone" ( The Book of the Dead, XCVIII). The Osirian expected to be reunited with his family in the after-life and to rule over his servants as on earth.

Nebseni summarizes the aspirations of every ancient Egyptian: "May I become a Khu in Sekhet-Aaru, may I eat therein, may I reap therein, may I fight therein, may I make love therein, may my words be mighty therein, may I never be in a state of servitude therein, but may I be in authority therein."

When a great personage died, his wives and servants, as well as captured enemy slaves, were executed and buried with him, so that they might serve him eternally. And so the happy Khu, made eternal by union with his Sahu, expected to continue during countless millenniums, sowing and reaping, eating the bread and drinking the ale of Osiris, occupying relatively the same material and economic status as on earth.


During the early dynasties, those who might hope for happy immortality with Osiris must have been limited to the royal family, certain important officials, and members of the priesthood. But as time went on, democracy increased in religion and Herodotus describes three methods of embalmings one to suit every purse. Twenty-five hundred years after Cheops and Khafre, a small piece of papyrus, which was to be placed in the coffin and on which were inscribed a few words from The Book of the Dead, promised the same stupendous result as the pharaohs hoped to achieve by the building of the great pyramids. We find, for example, the following rubric: "If this chapter be known by the deceased on earth, or if it be done in writing upon his coffin, he shall come forth by day . . . in peace into Sekhet-Aaru . . . there shall he flourish as he did upon earth. . . for millions of years" (After Ch. LXXII, The Book of the Dead , Papyrus of Nebseni).


We have noted that every Khu seeking admission to Sekhet-Aaru called himself Osiris (as Christians called after Christ). Obviously all Egyptians who cherished the hope of resurrection and immortality believed themselves already transformed into the divine and immortal essence of their god. The Osiris Nu declares explicitly, "I am Osiris" ( The Book of the Dead , CXVII). Being an Osiris, Ani expects a resurrection like that of the god, and therefore addresses himself as follows: "O thou . . . whose limbs cannot move, like unto those of Osiris! Let not thy limbs be without movement let them not suffer corruption let them not pass away let them not decay and let them be fashioned for me as if I were myself Osiris'' ( Ibid. , XLV). The same aspirant continues: "The mighty Khu (Osiris) taketh possession of me . . . Behold, I am the god who is lord of the Tuat" (underworld) (Ibid ., X). And again: "I am the Great One, son of the Great One. The head of Osiris was not taken from him, let not the head of Osiris Ani be taken from him. I have knit myself together I have made myself whole and complete I have renewed my youth I am Osiris, the lord of eternity" ( Ibid ., XLIII).


Pagan authors wrote extensively concerning the "gloomy, solemn, and mournful sacrifices" of Osiris (Isis and Osiris, 69). Plutarch tells us that the great mystery-festival, celebrated in two phases, began at Abydos on the 17th of Athyr, which is our 13th of November. This date commemorated the death of the god: and its significance is found in the fact that it was the very day on which the grain was placed in the ground. The death of the grain and the death of the god were one and the same: the cereal was identified with the god who came from heaven he was the bread by which man lives. The resurrection of the god symbolized the rebirth of the grain.

John 6:33 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (KJV)

The first phase of the festival consisted of a public drama, depicting the murder and dismemberment of Osiris, the search for and the finding of his body by Isis, his triumphal return as the resurrected god, and the battle in which Horus defeated Set, all presented by skilled actors as literal history and this was a principal means of recruiting the membership. Julius Firmicus Maternus, a Latin Christian writer of the fourth century, declared: "In the sanctuaries of Osiris, his murder and dismemberment are annually commemorated with . . . great lamentations. His worshipers . . . beat their breasts and gash their shoulders. . . When . . . they pretend that the mutilated remains of the god have been found and rejoined . . . they turn from mourning to rejoicing."

They "say that the grain is the seed of Osiris, that Isis is the earth, and that Typhon is heat" (De Errore Profanorem).

We know that at all the temples of Osiris his Passion was re-enacted at his annual festivals. On a stele at Abydos erected in the XIIth Dynasty by one I-KherNefert, a priest of Osiris during the reign of Usertsen III (Pharaoh Sesostris), about 1875 B. C., we find a description of the principal scenes in the Osiris mystery-drama. I-Kher-Nefert himself played the key role of Horus. In the first scene, Osiris is treacherously slain, and no one knows what has become of his body thereupon all the onlookers weep, rend their hair, and beat their breasts. Isis and Nephthys recover the remnants, reconstitute the body, and return it to the temple. The next scene, in which Thoth, Horus, and Isis accomplish the revivification, undoubtedly occurs within the sacred precincts, and is therefore not witnessed by the populace. However, in due course the resurrected Osiris emerges at the head of his train at this glorious consummation, the anguish and sorrow of the people are turned into uncontrollable rejoicing. Horus thereupon places his father in the solar boat so that he may, since he has already been born a second time, proceed as a living god into the eternal regions. This was the great "coming forth by day" of which we read so often in The Book of the Dead . The climax of the play was the great battle in which Horus defeated Set and which is described so vividly by Herodotus ( History , II, 63).


Such was the public portion of the Osirian celebration. The esoteric phase consisted of ceremonials performed by the priests within the temples and witnessed only by the initiates. We learn something of these from various sources and are therefore able to reconstruct them. After saying that the festival of Osiris began on the 17th of Athyr, Plutarch continues: "On the nineteenth . . . the priests bring forth the sacred chest containing a small golden coffer, into which they pour some potable water . . . and a great shout arises from the company for joy that Osiris is found (or resurrected). Then they knead some fertile soil with the water . . . and fashion therefrom a crescent-shaped figure, which they clothe and adorn, thus indicating that they regard these gods as the substance of Earth and Water" (Isis and Osiris, 39).

This summarizes the resurrection-ceremonial mentioned in the stele of I-Kher-Nefert. Fortunately, in the Osirian temple at Denderah, an inscription reveals what these secret rituals were. Its first section deals with the making of models of each of the sixteen pieces into which Set hacked the body of Osiris. Each model was made of wheat paste, and sent to the town where that portion of Osiris had been found by Isis.

The second section describes the making of a figure of Osiris at Mendes. Wheat and paste were placed in a trough on the day of Osiris' murder, which was also that on which the grain was planted and on this mixture water was poured for several days. A few days later, the contents of the trough were kneaded into a mold which was made into a figure of Osiris, taken to the temple, and buried. Other sections describe the process as carried on in other temples.

The fifth section describes how molds were made from the wood of a red tree in the form of the sixteen dismembered portions of Osiris cakes of divine bread were then made from each mold, placed in a silver chest, and set near the head of the god. These are the mysterious and sacred cakes which are also "the inward parts of Osiris" and these are the rites to which Plutarch refers when he says: "I pass over the cutting of the wood . . . and the libations that are offered, for the reason that many of their secret rites are involved therein" (Isis and Osiris, 21). This section also describes the Field of Osiris, adjacent to the temple, in which the grains, used in the sacred cakes, were grown. This sacramental food, which to the Osirian was literally the body of his god, could grow only in that holy field.

The sixth section describes the mysteries as practiced in the temple of Isis at Mendes. On the first day of the Festival of Ploughing, the goddess appeared in her shrine, where she was stripped naked. Paste made from the grain was placed in her bed and moistened with water. All this symbolized the great processes by which the human race is generated and food germinated from the earth. Osiris was the seed which fecundated Mother-Isis, who symbolized also the earth itself.

We see therefore that the publicly performed passion-play depicted the earthly career of Osiris but the secret rites consisted of solemn ceremonies symbolizing the transfiguration of the grain into Osiris and of Osiris into the grain and all this was climaxed by the eating of the sacramental god, the Eucharist by which the celebrants were transformed, in their persuasion, into replicas of their god-man. In the New Testament, the earliest evidence for the Eucharist rite is found in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, where Paul proclaims his version of the Eucharist tradition , ending with what appears to be the Aramaic formula of the Didache Eucharist:

1.Cor.11:23 " For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, " This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." ( 1.Cor.11:23-24, Gk. N.T. UBS. 3rd ed.1990)


We noted earlier in this article some of the ethical and ceremonial prerequisites for becoming an Osiris. But none of these could avail at all without the miraculous power contained in the divine Eucharist: there was power, there was power in the flesh and the blood of Osiris . He was the grain and the bread made from it was the sacred food, the barley ale (i.e., wine) brewed from it the divine drink, literally believed to be the body and the blood of the god (transubstantion in the Catholic Church). Since the ancient Nilotics believed that human beings become whatever they eat, this Osirian sacrament was believed able to make them celestial and immortal.

The doctrine of the Eucharist has its ultimate roots in prehistoric cannibalism: it was universally believed among savages that by eating other human beings or gods, their virtues and powers would be absorbed by the eaters. Such cannibalism, common among African tribes until very recently and still practiced among the most primitive, had this primary objective. Melville describes the same sacerdotal rite among the south sea islanders (Cf. Typee, XXXI).

One of the oldest of the Pyramid Texts is that of Unas from the VIth Dynasty, cir. 2500 B. C. This is of great importance because it shows that the original ideology of Egypt had commingled with the Osirian concepts. Although he is ultimately given high place in heaven by order of Osiris, Unas is represented as being at first an enemy of the gods and his ancestors, whom he hunts, lassoes, kills, cooks, and eats so that their powers and attributes may become his own. It is obvious that at the time this was written, the eating of parents and gods was considered a most laudable ceremonial and it emphasizes how difficult it must have been for the Osirian priesthood to stamp out the older cannibalism: "The Akeru gods tremble, the Kenemu whirl, when they see Unas a risen Soul, in the form of a god who lives upon his fathers and feeds upon his mothers. He eats men, he feeds on the gods . . . he cooks them in his fiery cauldrons. He eats their words of power, he swallows their spirits. . . What he finds on his path, he eats eagerly. He eats the wisdom of every god, his period of life is eternity. . .

Their soul is in his body, their spirits are within him." Having partaken of this dynamic sacrament, Unas becomes an Osiris and is admitted to the company of the gods. A parallel passage is found in the Pyramid Text of Pepi II, who, it is said, "seizeth those who are in the following of Set . . . he breaketh their heads, he cutteth off their haunches, he teareth out their intestines, he diggeth out their hearts, he drinketh copiously of their blood!' (Line, 531 ff.).

Although crude, savage, and grotesque, this was the core of an overwhelming concept. The conviction that it was possible for humanity to achieve immortality by eating the body and drinking the blood of a god or of an immortal god-man who had died that mortals might have abundant and everlasting life, became a dominating obsession in the ancient world. This same idea, as held by the Essenes, is the reason why the Passover is changed at the last supper and made into an "eat my body and drink my blood" dinner! The Pagan roots are evident to anyone who knows history and a little comparative religion.

The cult of Osiris forbade the older cannibalism, but did not proscribe the dismemberment and eating of enemies and it certainly practiced the bloody sacrifice of captives and the sacramental rending and eating of the sacred bovine, which symbolized Osiris ( The Book of the Dead , CLXXXI).

The moral elevation of the Osirian cult lay in its identification of bread with the flesh of its god and of barley ale with his blood. The partaker of this Eucharist could now achieve a mystical transformation and become an Osiris by living on wheat and barley bread during his lifetime, by drinking and eating the sacred ale and cakes during the annual mysteries, and by enjoying the same sacred fare in Sekhet-Aaru once his Khu had joined his Sahu in the next world. By this simple metaphysical transposition, the bloody sacrament became symbolic, but no less effective. For Osiris was, to his believers, literally and with complete reality, the divine seed which came down from heaven and was reborn from the earth that men might have life and have it more abundantly and all who ate of that bread might live forever, for it was the flesh of the god, which he gave for the life of humanity. Whosoever ate the flesh and drank the blood of Osiris had eternal life for he would be resurrected beyond the grave. Whosoever ate that flesh and drank that blood dwelt in Osiris and Osiris dwelt in him. Paul calls this same event being "in Christ."

Answer for yourself: Did you notice the exact similarity with the Gospel of John, chapter 6? Did Jesus really say those things or has words been put into his mouth by the Essene-Christian Church to further their sect's doctrines?

This was the divine mystery which was given to the world by Egypt and which spread throughout the Mediterranean area in various cults this concept originated only once, but it proliferated in all directions and became the dynamic force in every mystery-cult.

It was solely by means of this sacramental food that the corruptible of the deceased could be clothed with incorruption.

1 Cor 15:42 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption it is raised in incorruption: (KJV)

This idea appears again and again in infinite variety. The scribe Nebseni implores: "And there in the celestial mansions of heaven which my divine father Tem bath established, let my hands lay hold upon the wheat and the barley which shall be given unto me therein in abundant measure." This was the celestial Eucharist without which the Sahu itself, the spiritual body, could not germinate from the mummy. Nu corroborates this fact by stating: "I am established, and the divine Sekhethetep is before me, I have eaten therein, I have become a spirit therein, I have abundance therein." Again he declares "I am the divine soul of Ra . . . which is god. . . I am the divine food which is not corrupted." Nu identifies himself with Osiris and with Ra, who is called the divine, that is, the sacramental food. As we know, Horus was also frequently identified with his father and we read: "Horus is both the divine food and the sacrifice." We read that the bread and the ale of Osiris make the eater immortal, (The Book of the Dead, 40) an idea which is frequently elaborated. The Osirian "shall eat of that wheat and barley, and his limbs shall be nourished therewith, and his body shall become like unto the bodies of the gods" ( The Book of the Dea d, XCIX).

That the sacramental food which gave immortality was a very ancient concept we learn from the Pyramid Text of Teta, which dates from about, 2600 B. C. and which embodies ideas far more ancient still. We read here that the Osiris Teta "receives" thy bread which decayeth not, and thy beer which perisheth not." In the Text of Pepi I we read: "All the gods give thee their flesh and their blood. Thou shalt not die." In the Text of Pepi II, the aspirant prays for "thy bread of eternity, and thy beer of everlastingness (Line 390).


Such was the great godman Osiris: human, like us, and thus able to take upon himself all our sorrow, but also divine, and therefore able to confer divinity upon us. He brought the divine bread from heaven for mankind he taught justice and practiced mercy he died, was buried, and rose from the grave he gave to all who became members of his mystical body his flesh to eat and his blood to drink so that this divine sacrament might then transfigure them into celestial gods he went before to prepare mansions for his initiates in Elysium and he was to be the just and merciful judge before whom men and women must appear beyond the grave.


The Osiris-worship continued with little modification on the island of Philae in the Upper Nile for several centuries into our era and sacrifices of human enemies were performed there regularly as late as the sixth century. The edict of Theodosius that all pagan temples be destroyed and their worshipers forced to accept Christianity about 380 was there ignored. About 550, however, Justinian dispatched to Philae General Narses, who destroyed the great Osirian temples and sanctuaries, threw the priests into prison, and carried away the sacred images to Constantinople.

Thus died the cult of Osiris. But the soteriology [salvation] which was its central feature had already assumed various forms which had long since proliferated far and wide in the ancient world. And as Christians we follow in the footsteps of Osiris in Jesus' name and never know the origins for such religions beliefs.

Amulet of the God Shu - History

ONE of the most popular of magical devices was the amulet, worn upon the person or attached to objects and animals (the Hebrew word for amulet, kame‘a, has the root meaning "to bind") . Even in our supposedly non-superstitious age the good-luck charm is still quite familiar, apologetically displayed on watch-chain, or carried furtively in the recesses of pockets and purses—the rabbit's foot, the horseshoe, lucky coins, rings engraved with Chinese or Hebrew letters, animal molars. How much more common, then, are such objects in societies which unashamedly and openly accept them for what they are, whether in the less sophisticated regions of our contemporary world, or in the medieval and ancient worlds, which did not for a moment doubt their efficacy! As a matter of fact, it has been suggested that all ornaments worn on the person were originally amulets.

Primitive religions make much of these peculiarly potent objects, and the Biblical Hebrews were well acquainted with their merits. Their use was very extensive in the Talmudic period, and, accepted by the rabbinic authorities, impressed itself strongly upon the habits of later times. Jewish amulets were of two sorts: written, and objects such as herbs, foxes’ tails, stones, etc. They were employed to heal or to protect men, animals, and even inanimate things. We find the same types in use during the period of the Talmud and in the Middle Ages, though, of course, the intervening centuries and cultural contacts made for a greater variety. There was no legal prohibition against the use of such charms. In fact, the rules which were set up to distinguish proper from improper amulets lent them a definite degree of acceptance though some rabbis frowned upon them, or urged the danger of preparing them, others actually suggested their use on certain occasions, and the common folk was very

much addicted to this particular form of magic. Amulets were the favored Jewish magical device during the Middle Ages, and the fact that they were predominantly of the written type, prepared especially for specific emergencies and particular individuals, enhanced their magical character.1

The material objects that were employed as amulets because of their fancied occult power, were no doubt many more in number and variety than the literature discloses. The Talmud mentions several, and references to these are frequent in our sources, but it is difficult to determine whether these remarks reflect a contemporaneous use of the same charms. In this category were the fox's tail, and the crimson thread which was hung on the forehead of a horse to protect him against the evil eye. But a current fable of a too wily fox indicates that the virtues of the fox's tail, as well as other parts of his body, were known and probably utilized by medieval Jews. It seems that the fox had invaded a walled town, and when he was ready to depart found the gates closed. He decided to play dead in the hope that his carcass would be carted away to the garbage dump outside the walls. Along came a man who mused, "This fox's tail will do as a broom for my house, for it will sweep away demons and evil spirits," and off came the tail. Another man stopped and decided, "Here! This fox's teeth are just the thing to hang around my baby's neck," and out came the teeth. When a third passer-by made ready to skin the poor creature, the game got too strenuous and master Reynard came to life in a wild dash. The tale has more than one moral, for our purpose. As to the thread, red is a color regarded everywhere as anti-demonic and anti-evil eye, and in the Middle Ages we find Jewish children wearing coral necklaces, just as Christian children did, to protect them against the malevolent jettatura. Herbs and aromatic roots were also mentioned often as potent amulets. Fennel, for instance, was pressed into service against hurt of any nature, as this Judeo-German invocation indicates: "Un’ wer dich treit [trägt] unter seinem gewande, der muss sein behüt’, sein leib un’ sein gemüt, von eisen un’ von stahel, un’ von stock un’ von stein, un’ vor feuer un’ vor wasser, un’ vor aller schlimme übel, das da ê [ehe] geschaffen wart, sint Adam gemacht wart. Das sei wahr in Godes namen. Amen." 2

A Talmudic amulet which was widely employed in medieval times—it was well known to non-Jews also—was the so-called even tekumah, the "preserving stone," which was believed to prevent

miscarriage. The Talmud does not tell us just what sort of stone this was. Several medieval writers were more informative, but unfortunately they employed one or perhaps several French equivalents whose meanings in Hebrew transliteration are not altogether clear, but which show that these were in common use. One writer went into some detail: "This stone is pierced through the middle, and is round, about as large and heavy as a medium sized egg, glassy in appearance, and is to be found in the fields," he explained. The French terms seem to indicate a hollow stone within which is a smaller one, a sort of rattle (perhaps the eaglestone or ætites) a later commentator calls it a Sternschoss (meteoroid).3

A man born with a caul was counselled to keep it on his person throughout his life as a protection against the demons who battle during a storm. A phallus-shaped stone inscribed with the Hebrew words "accident of sleep" and the words of Gen. 49:24, "But his bow abode firm" is to be seen in the Musée Raymond in Toulouse. Its intention is unmistakable similar amulets must have been in use in Germany. Toward the end of the Middle Ages, if not earlier, there arose the custom of employing a piece of the Afikomen, a specially designated cake of unleavened bread at the Passover Seder, as an amulet, hanging it in the house, or carrying it in a pouch, to protect one against evil spirits and against evil men. A metal plate inscribed with the letter heh (a sign for the Tetragrammaton), worn about the neck, was no doubt another such amulet, despite the ritualistic explanation it received similar charms are still in use today. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries we find references to charms which, by their nature, and by virtue of the prominence of German words in the text, seem to have been borrowed from non-Jews. Among these I may mention the following: To find favor in people's eyes, carry the right eye or ear of an animal on your person. To obtain a favorable hearing from a judge, get a straw in which there are three nodes, and place the middle node under your tongue in the morning or else, place henbane (hyoscyamus) seeds, still in their husks, in your hair above the forehead. A charm that will put an insomniac to sleep is prepared thus: one must secure a louse from the head of the patient and induce it to crawl into a bone which has a hole in it, seal the hole, and hang the imprisoned insect on the patient's neck. An amulet that gives protection consists of a sprig of fennel over which an incantation has been recited and which has then been wrapped in silk, together with some wheat and coins, and

then encased in wax. Other amulets, such as rings and medallions of various sorts, were no doubt similarly employed, for Jews had a reputation as metal-workers and engravers.4

Objects of this sort were used for more or less esoteric reasons. Sometimes the reputation for occult virtue outlived the original reason. Often what was involved was a sympathetic transference of the qualities and characteristics of the object to the wearer. In the case of the color red, for instance, it has been suggested that its magical power derives from its association with the blood of sacrifice, for which it is a substitute, and therefore it appeases the powers of evil. On the other hand, parts of an animal convey the special qualities of strength, or cunning, or courage which distinguish it. The stone within a stone represents the embryo in the womb just as the one is securely imprisoned, so may the other be. This type of sympathetic amulet is well known and universally employed. Despite the paucity of evidence in our sources, medieval Jewry must have drawn extensively upon Jewish tradition and its non-Jewish neighbors for a multitude of such charms.5

An interesting instance of confidence placed in a non-Jewish talisman is afforded by a statement in a fifteenth-century work, Leket Yosher: "I recall that when my son Seligmann was born I had my wife make him a linen shirt, called a Nothemd in German, which everybody says protects the wearer against assault on the highway (but I myself was once attacked while I was wearing one, though, truth to tell, I'm not certain that another shirt wasn't substituted for it)." The writer's description of the Nothemd (also called Sieghemd, St. George's Shirt) is hardly satisfying: "It is square, with a hole in the center," is all he says but contemporaneous Christian sources fill out his account. It seems that this type of shirt possessed a host of magical properties—it served as protection against weapons and accidents and attack, it procured easy and quick delivery of children, victory in warfare and in courts of law, immunity from sorcery, etc. One version of its manufacture required that it be made by girls of undoubted chastity, who must spin the thread from flax, weave it and sew it in the name of the devil on Christmas night. Two heads were embroidered on the front, the right with a long beard and a helmet, the left bristly and crowned with a devil's headdress. On either side of the figures was a cross. In length the shirt extended from the head to the waist. According to other accounts (which omit the diabolic features) it was woven and sewn by a pure

girl on Sundays (or on Christmas nights) over a period of seven years, during which she remained mute all the time. This was the nature (substituting Jewish forms for the Christian) of the Nothemd which our authority hoped would shield his first-born from the hazards of life.5a

Precious and semi-precious stones, in particular, have been credited with superior occult powers by many peoples. In medieval Europe this was an unquestioned dogma of the religion of superstition, as well as a subject of theological speculation a heated debate centered about the question whether their peculiar virtues were divinely implanted, or simply part of the nature of gems. Jews were the leading importers of and dealers in gems during the early Middle Ages, and Christian Europe attributed to them a certain specialization in the magic properties of precious stones: Christianos fidem in verbis, Judæos in lapidibus pretiosis, et Paganos in herbis ponere, ran the adage.

Indeed, there was good warrant in the Jewish background for such a specialty. The Bible (Ex. 28:17-20) speaks of the twelve gems, engraved with the tribal names, which were set into the High Priest's breastplate, leaving room for much mystical speculation in the later literature on the various aspects of these gems. But strangely enough the discussion limited itself to the mystical significance of the twelve gems, and touched hardly at all upon their magical properties. This subject seems to have been altogether out of the line of Jewish tradition and interest—though Jews were acquainted with it. The Talmud, for instance, remarks that Abraham possessed a gem which could heal all those who looked upon it. Such comments, however, are comparatively rare in Jewish literature. Like many other Christian ideas about the Jews, their reputation as experts in the magic virtues of gems was far wide of the mark. As Steinschneider remarks, "Hardly a single dissertation on this subject is to be found in Hebrew literature . . . and the little that does exist is very insignificant and recent, derived mainly from non-Jewish sources."6 In the Hebrew literature of Northern Europe I have found only one discussion of the properties of precious stones, and that in the unpublished fourteenth-century manuscript, Sefer Gematriaot. While it unquestionably drew upon non-Jewish material, it

acquired a definitely Jewish coloration in its cross-cultural journey, and is built upon the scheme of the twelve tribal gems. I give here a partial translation of the passage, the complete text of which may be found in Appendix II.7

"Odem [commonly translated carnelian, ruby] appertains to Reuben. . . . This is the stone called rubino. Its use is to prevent the woman who wears it from suffering a miscarriage. It is also good for women who suffer excessively in child-birth, and, consumed with food and drink, it is good for fertility. . . . Sometimes the stone rubino is combined with another stone and is called rubin felsht. . . .

"Pitdah [commonly, topaz] the stone of Simeon. This is the prasinum (?) but it seems to me it is the smeralda (?) it is greenish because of Zimri, the son of Salu (Nu. 25:14) who made the Simeonites green in the face . . . and it is dull in appearance because their faces paled. Its use is to chill the body. . . . Ethiopia and Egypt are steeped in sensuality, and therefore it is to be found there, to cool the body. It is also useful in affairs of the heart. . . .

"Bareket [emerald or smaragd] This is the carbuncle, which flashes like lightning [barak] and gleams like a flame. . . . This is the stone of Levi. . . . It is beneficial to those who wear it it makes man wise, and lights up his eyes, and opens his heart. Taken as a food in the form of powder with other drugs it rejuvenates the old. . . .

"Nofech [carbuncle] This is the smaragd. . . . It is green, for Judah's face was of a greenish hue when he mastered his passion and acknowledged his relations with Tamar (Gen. 38) . . . . This stone is clear, and not cloudy like Simeon's, for when he was cleared of the suspicion of Joseph's death his face grew bright with joy. The function of this stone is to add strength, for one who wears it will be victorious in battle that is why the tribe of Judah were mighty heroes. It is called nofech because the enemy turns (hofech) his back to the one who wears it, as it is written, 'Thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies' (Gen. 49:8) .

"Sapir [sapphire] the stone of Issachar, who 'had understanding of the times' (I Chr. 12:32) and of the Torah. It is purple-blue in color, and is excellent to cure ailments, and especially to pass across the eyes, as it is said, 'It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones' (Prov. 3:8).

"Yahalom [emerald] This is the stone of Zebulun it is the jewel called perla. It brings success in trade, and is good to carry along on

a journey, because it preserves peace and increases good-will. And it brings sleep, for it is written, 'Now will my husband sleep with me (yizbeleni)' (Gen. 30: 20).

"Leshem [jacinth] This is the stone of Dan, which is the topaẓiah. The face of a man may be seen in it, in reverse, because they overturned the graven image of the idol (Jud. 18) .

"Shebo [agate] This is the stone of Naphtali, which is the turkiska. It establishes man firmly in his place, and prevents him from stumbling and falling it is especially coveted by knights and horsemen, it makes a man secure on his mount. . . .

"Aḥlamah [amethyst] . . . This is the stone called cristalo it is very common and well known. It is the stone of Gad, because the tribe of Gad are very numerous and renowned. . . . There is another gem called diamanti which is like the cristalo, except that it has a faintly reddish hue the tribe of Gad used to carry this with them. It is useful in war, for it buoys up the heart so that it doesn't grow faint, for Gad used to move into battle ahead of their brothers. . . . This stone is good even against demons and spirits, so that one who wears it is not seized by that faintness of heart which they call glolir (?) .

"Tarshish [beryl] This is the yakint [jacinth] the Targum calls it the 'sea-green,' which is its color. It is the stone of Asher. Its utility is to burn up food. No bad food will remain in the bowels of one who consumes it, but will be transformed into a thick oil. For it is written, 'As for Asher, his bread shall be fat' (Gen. 49:20). . . . Sometimes the sapphire is found in combination with the yakint, because the tribes of Asher and Issachar intermarried. . . . Because the bread of Asher is fat for all creatures, and the faces of stout people are ruddy, the yakint is sometimes of a reddish hue.

"Shoham [onyx] This is the stone called nikli [nichilus, an agate]. It is Joseph's stone and it bestows grace. . . . One who wears it at a gathering of people will find it useful to make them hearken to his words, and to win success. . . .

"Yashfeh [jasper] This is Benjamin's it is called diaspi, and is found in a variety of colors: green, black, and red, because Benjamin knew that Joseph had been sold, and often considered revealing this to Jacob, and his face would turn all colors as he debated whether to disclose his secret or to keep it hidden but he restrained himself and kept the matter concealed. This stone yashfeh, because it was a bridle on his tongue, has also the power to restrain the blood. . . ."


These charms did not at all contest the far greater popularity of the written amulets, which contained the most powerful elements of Jewish magic—the names. Prepared by experts to meet particular needs, those of which we have a record differed widely in detail, but in general conformed to the underlying scheme of the incantation. There were some which consisted exclusively of Biblical quotations with or without the names that were read into them. Copies of Ps. 126, for instance, with the addition of the anti-Lilitian names, Sanvi, Sansanvi, Semangelaf, placed in the four corners of a house, protect children against the hazards of infancy Ps. 127, hung about a boy's neck from the moment of birth, guards him throughout life. Or the inscription might consist exclusively of angel-names.8 But these were comparatively rare. Most of the written amulets contained the combination of elements which centuries of usage had impressed upon this magical form.

The following text of a typical amulet, guaranteed to perform a very wide range of functions, will serve to illustrate the species:9

"An effective amulet, tested and tried, against the evil eye and evil spirits, for grace, against imprisonment and the sword, for intelligence, to be able to instruct people in Torah, against all sorts of disease and reverses, and against loss of property: 'In the name of Shaddai, who created heaven and earth, and in the name of the angel Raphael, the memuneh in charge of this month, and by you, Smmel, Hngel, Vngsursh, Kndors, Ndmh, Kmiel, S‘ariel, Abrid, Gurid, memunim of the summer equinox, and by your Prince, Or‘anir, by the angel of the hour and the star, in the name of the Lord, God of Israel, who rests upon the Cherubs, the great, mighty, and awesome God, yhvh Ẓebaot is His name, and in Thy name, God of mercy, and by thy name, Adiriron, trustworthy healing-God, in whose hand are the heavenly and earthly households, and by the name yhvh , save me by this writing and by this amulet, written in the name of N son of N [mother's name]. Protect him in all his two hundred and forty-eight organs against imprisonment and against the two-edged sword. Help him, deliver him, save him, rescue him from evil men and evil speech, and from a harsh litigant, whether he be Jew or Gentile. Humble and bring low those who rise against him to do him evil by deed or by speech, by counsel or by thought. May all who seek his harm be overthrown, destroyed,

humbled, afflicted, broken so that not a limb remains whole may those who wish him ill be put to shame. Save him, deliver him from all sorcery, from all reverses, from poverty, from wicked men, from sudden death, from the evil effects of passion, from every sort of tribulation and disease. Grant him grace, and love, and mercy before the throne of God, and before all beings who behold him. Let the fear of him rest upon all creatures, as the mighty lion dreads the mightier mafgi‘a [cf. Shab. 77b]. I conjure N, son of N, in the name of Uriron and Adriron (sic) . Praised be the Lord forever. Amen and Amen.'"

The elements that stand out in this text are: 1. most important, the names of God and of angels 2. the Biblical expressions or phrases, descriptive of God's attributes, or bespeaking His protection and healing power, such as " yhvh Ẓebaot is His name," "who rests upon the Cherubs," etc.—these are more manifest in other amulet texts than in this one, but in less elaborate texts they are dropped altogether 3. the meticulousness with which the various functions of the amulet are detailed 4. the name of the person the amulet is meant to serve, and his mother's name.10

Not all amulets were so long, or so complicated, or so inclusive as this one, but almost all included these four elements. Where the charm was to perform a single function, it was, of course, much simpler, but did not differ essentially from the sample given. As Sefer Raziel stressed, one must be careful to include the names of the angels that are in control of the immediate situation, and which have the specialized powers it is desired to call into operation. A charm intended to heal or ward off a particular ailment should specify the name of the demon that is responsible, if it is known. As an instance of a much simpler amulet, which, while omitting the Biblical phrases, fulfills the other requirements, I may cite the following formula:

"To win favor, write on parchment and carry on your person: 'Ḥasdiel at my right, Ḥaniel at my left, Raḥmiel at my head, angels, let me find favor and grace before all men, great and small, and before all of whom I have need, in the name of Yah Yah Yah Yau Yau Yau Yah Zebaot. Amen Amen Amen Selah.'"11

In addition to the written inscription amulets were also often adorned with magical figures. Among these may be singled out the pentagram (popularly identified as the "Seal of Solomon") and the hexagram. The hexagram in particular has acquired a special

Courtesy of the Jewish Theological Seminary Library, New York

Two Medieval Amulet Texts : Upper Portion, " For Grace and Favor " Lower Portion, " To Safeguard A Man Against All Weapons ."— From Sefer Raziel, Amsterdam , 1701.

place in Jewish affections, and is regarded as the symbol of Judaism, under the name "Shield of David." So strong has the connection between this seal and the Jewish people become that it seems today to have behind it centuries of traditional usage. It may surprise some readers, then, to learn that only in the past hundred years or so has the Magen David been widely accepted and used by Jews as symbolic of their faith, in the sense that the cross and crescent are of Christianity and Mohammedanism. The hexagram, in fact, has no direct connection with Judaism. Both these figures are the common property of humankind. The Pythagoreans attributed great mystical significance to them they played a mystical and magical rôle in Peru, Egypt, China, and Japan they are to be found in Hellenistic magical papyri the Hindus used the hexagram and pentagram as potent talismans they occur often in Arabic amulets, and in medieval Christian magical texts in Germany, where it is called the Drudenfuss, the pentagram may still be seen inscribed on stable-doors and on beds and cradles as a protection against enchantments. Their magical virtues were known in Jewish circles at an early time they are to be found often in early post-Talmudic incantations, and occur fairly often in medieval amulets and mezuzot. Names of God and Biblical texts were frequently inscribed within the triangles of the magical hexagram.12

Of another sort, but equally widely employed in Jewish amulets, was a series of figures constructed by joining straight and curved lines tipped with circles, in this manner:

[paragraph continues] Interspersed among these are to be found circles, spirals, squares and other geometric forms. Figures of this order appear in early Aramaic amulets. What their original purpose or nature was it is difficult at present to determine. Were they merely intended to mystify, or did they possess some meaning? Several medieval writers constructed magical alphabets by allotting a sign to each of the Hebrew letters, but unfortunately no two of these alphabets correspond, nor are they of any help in deciphering amulet inscriptions. One must conclude that these alphabets were individual creations which, instead of being the source of these signs, were inspired by them. These figures appear in small groups, or in wild profusion, at the end of amulet

texts, depending upon the ingenuity of the magician. Some amulets consist entirely of such signs, with no written text at all. The following charm illustrates all the elements:13

"An amulet for grace and favor write upon deer-skin: 'By Thy universal name of grace and favor yhvh , set Thy grace yhvh upon N, son of N, as it rested upon Joseph, the righteous one, as it is said, "And the Lord was with Joseph, and showed kindness unto him, and gave him favor" in the sight of all those who beheld him [Gen. 39:21]. In the name of Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Kabshiel, Yah (repeated eight times), Ehyeh, Ahah (four times), Yehu (nine times)'

Concerning still another amulet type it is difficult to speak with assurance. The earliest northern Jewish record of it seems to have come to us from the sixteenth or seventeenth century, though it was mentioned by Abraham ibn Ezra in the twelfth. Yet there is little doubt that it must have been known in the North quite as early. This is the Zahlenquadrat, or "magic square," a square figure formed by a series of numbers in arithmetic progression, so disposed in parallel and equal rows that the sum of the numbers in each row or line taken perpendicularly, horizontally, or diagonally, is equal. It looks simpler than it sounds:

[paragraph continues] This is the simplest of these figures others comprise sixteen boxes, 25, 36, etc. Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535) in his De Occulta Philosophia gave these number-squares a special astrological significance, associating each with a planetary deity, in which form they became very popular among Christian Kabbalists and magicians. The numerals in these Christian amulets, of which quite a few

are in existence, are frequently in Hebrew, and as a result there has been a tendency to regard them as Jewish. There can be no question, however, despite the Hebrew (Christian magic often employed Hebrew characters) that these astrological amulets, if employed by Jews at all, were so used only after Agrippa had developed his system, and reflected Christian practice.14

Leaving aside, then, the late astrological aspect of these number-squares, we find that the simple figure of nine fields, given above, has had a long and varied career in the history of magic. It was highly regarded by the ancient Chinese and Hindus, and is frequently encountered in Arabian magic. For Jews it must have possessed an especially potent character, for apart from its background in Oriental magic, and the mystical light which the Pythagorean theories cast upon its combination of numerals, the Hebrew letters which Jews employed as numerals had particular magical importance: the heart of the figure, the number five, is the Hebrew letter heh, which also serves as a symbol of the Tetragrammaton, while the sum, fifteen, is in Hebrew Yah, a particle of that name, and independently important as a powerful name of God. An examination of the manuscript material in European collections should disclose some examples of it.


Judaism officially countenanced the use of amulets to heal and to prevent disease, as well as to protect the individual. The presence in them of mystical names and quotations from the Bible even raised the difficult issue of their "sacred" character. They were regarded as sufficiently "sacred" not to be worn in a privy, unless encased in a leather pouch, and yet not "sacred" enough to warrant being saved from a fire on the Sabbath. The question arose, furthermore, whether they might be carried on the Sabbath, when it was forbidden to have on one's person anything that could be technically included in the category of burdens, and when it was also forbidden to apply remedies except in cases of serious illness.

The popular addiction to this form of magic was so strong that it was futile to prohibit altogether the use of amulets on the Sabbath, and instead a set of rules was created which distinguished between effective and "approved" (literally, "expert, experienced") amulets, which might be worn on that day, and those technically classed as

unapproved. According to these rules, an amulet prepared for a specific function, which had been successfully employed by three different persons, was "approved" as equally effective for all, and an expert who had written three different amulets which had been tested by three individuals was himself "approved," and the products of his skill were permitted to all. Such amulets might be worn on the Sabbath, others not. These principles were established in the Talmud, and were frequently reiterated in the medieval literature. Medieval authorities were willing to forego a test in the case of recognized physicians: amulets written by a "rechter doktor, der gewiss is’, un’ gedoktrirt is’" were automatically "approved" as coming within these provisions. Their necessity was explained in this wise: were the effectiveness of the amulet, or the writer, to rest solely upon a test made in a single case, the cure might be attributable to the "star" of the patient or physician, rather than to the amulet itself. None the less, however insistently these rules were repeated by the rabbis, popular observance was lax. Even the authorities did not forbid the wearing of "unapproved" amulets on weekdays, though this was the subtle purpose of the legislation, and the rabbinic responsa indicate that they were freely worn on the Sabbath as well. The lust for miracles was more compelling than religious scruple, and rabbinic regulation of the amulet industry was as often honored in the breach as in the observance.15

Besides these official regulations there grew up certain generally accepted rules affecting the writing of amulets. While various materials are mentioned, such as several types of parchment, metals, clay, etc., the one most commonly used and expressly preferred was a parchment made from deer-skin. The prescription of ritual and physical cleanliness and purity applied to writers of amulets as well as to other practitioners of Jewish magic, and the formulas frequently specify that the parchment must be kosher, that is, ritually acceptable. Emphasizing the religious character of amulets was the benediction, on the order of those prescribed in the liturgy, to be recited before writing one: "Praised be Thou, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified Thy great and revered name, and revealed it to the pious ones, to invoke Thy power and Thy might by means of Thy name and Thy word and the words of Thy mouth, oral and written. Praised be Thou, Lord, King, Holy One may Thy name be ever extolled."16

Lest the writing of amulets be mistaken for a wholly religious act, however, a further element interposed to reveal its fundamentally superstitious character. Not all times were fitting for the task, if success was to be assured. Sefer Raziel17 provides us with a table of hours and days which are most propitious for this exercise—a table which evidence from other sources proves was generally accepted: Sunday, the seventh hour (the day began at about six the preceding evening), Monday, the fifth, Tuesday, the first, Wednesday, the second, Thursday, the fourth, Friday, the fifth and tenth hours. As to the days of the month, to give all the information for those who may have occasion to use it: amulets may be written at any time during the day on the 1st, 4th, 12th, 10th, 22nd, 25th, 28th in the evening only on the 17th in the morning only on the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 16th, 21st, 24th, 27th, 30th and not at all on the remaining days. These times were selected as especially propitious, or the reverse, because of the astrological and angelic forces which were then operative.


Two ritual objects of ambiguous character, the phylacteries and the mezuzah, played a part in superstitious usage as well as in religious. The phylacteries undoubtedly developed from some form of amulet or charm, and while their religious nature was already firmly impressed upon them, the Talmud still retained reminiscences of their magical utility in several statements which indicate that they were popularly believed to drive off demons. A prominent rabbi braved the displeasure of his colleagues and wore them in the privy, which was believed to be demon-infested and in the Middle Ages as well as in Talmudic times they were placed upon a baby who had been frightened out of his sleep by demons. But the effect of religious teaching and custom, and perhaps also the fact that until the thirteenth century the manner of performing the rite and the composition of the phylacteries were far from standardized, so that the entire matter was a moot theological issue, in this case made for a triumph of religion over superstition. During the medieval period there is hardly a sign that they were still regarded as anti-demonic (their use to calm restless infants was unquestionably a reflex of the Talmudic practice) . True, we read at times that the tefillin ward

off the unwelcome ministrations of Satan—but the sense is figurative: the pious man who fulfills the minutiæ of ritual need not fear the powers of evil.18

The mezuzah, on the contrary, retained its original significance as an amulet despite rabbinic efforts to make it an exclusively religious symbol. Descended from a primitive charm, affixed to the door-post to keep demons out of the house, the rabbinic leaders gave it literally a religious content in the shape of a strip of parchment inscribed with the Biblical verses, Deut. 6:4-19, 11:13-20, in the hope that it might develop into a constant reminder of the principle of monotheism—a wise attempt to re-interpret instead of an unavailing prohibition. But the whitewash never adhered so thickly as to hide the true nature of the device. In the Middle Ages it is a question whether its anti-demonic virtues did not far outweigh its religious value in the public mind. Even as outstanding an authority as Meir of Rothenburg was unwary enough to make this damaging admission: "If Jews knew how serviceable the mezuzah is, they would not lightly disregard it. They may be assured that no demon can have power over a house upon which the mezuzah is properly affixed. In our house I believe we have close to twenty-four mezuzot." Solomon Luria reports that after R. Meir had attached a mezuzah to the door of his study, he explained that "previously an evil spirit used to torment him whenever he took a nap at noon, but not any longer, now that the mezuzah was up." With such weighty support it cannot be wondered at that the masses followed R. Meir's way of thinking. Isaiah Horowitz further dignified the proceeding by making it emanate from God Himself. "I have set a guardian outside the door of My sanctuary [the Jewish home]," the deity proclaims, "to establish a decree for My heavenly and earthly households while it is upon the door every destroyer and demon must flee from it."19

So potent did the mezuzah become in the popular imagination that its powers were extended to cover even life and death. A Talmudic statement, expounding the Biblical promise, "that your days may be multiplied," has it that premature death will visit the homes of those who fail to observe the law of the mezuzah meticulously in the Middle Ages the literal-minded took the Talmud at its word, and seized upon the pun in the Zohar which split mezuzot into two words, zaz mavet, "death departs," as ample authority for their view that every room in a house should be guarded by a mezuzah.

In more recent times, when a community was wasted by plague, its leaders inspected the mezuzot on the doorposts to discover which was improperly written and therefore responsible for the visitation. The mezuzah has even come off the doorposts during the World War many of the Jewish soldiers carried mezuzot in their pockets to deflect enemy bullets it has today become a popular watch-charm among Jews.20 I have even been told of a nun who dropped her purse one day, and among its contents, scattered on the ground, was—a mezuzah!

Non-Jewish recognition of the magic powers of the mezuzah is not, however, a modern phenomenon. According to Rashi, pagan rulers long ago suspected Jews of working magic against them when they affixed the little capsules to their doors. And, as we have seen, some Christian prelates in the Middle Ages were eager to place their castles, too, under the protection of the humble mezuzah.21

If we turn now to the mezuzah itself,22 the rules relating to its preparation, and its contents, we are confronted with striking evidence of the extent to which it had become an amulet, pure and simple, in the Middle Ages. The prescription of a high degree of cleanliness and ritual purity preparatory to writing it, while pertinent to its sacred character as an extract from Holy Writ, was none the less of the same nature as that which appertained to the amulet. It was to be transcribed preferably on deer parchment, and the hours which were best suited for its successful preparation correspond with the amulet table given in Sefer Raziel, as well as the astrological and angelic influences which were called into play at these times. According to a frequently quoted passage attributed to the Gaon Sherira (tenth century): "It is to be written only on Monday, in the fifth hour, over which the Sun and the angel Raphael preside, or on Thursday, in the fourth hour, presided over by Venus and the angel Anael." This passage, and many others, lumped together mezuzot, tefillin, and amulets—indicating that the three were generally regarded as possessing the same essential character.

Rashi stated that both mezuzot and amulets contained in common a special type of "large letters," which were peculiar to them. A later commentator suggested that these were in the ancient Hebrew script, but we have no text of an amulet or mezuzah containing such letters. Rashi may have meant that certain important demerits of the mezuzah were written in larger characters than the

rest, which indeed we find to be the case with the magical names in many amulets, or he may have referred to the mystical figures, favored in both amulets and mezuzot.23 What is more, we find included in the mezuzah verses which speak of God's protection, names of God and of angels (usually written in large letters), and various magical figures of the type mentioned. In brief—the mezuzah was actually transformed into an amulet, by embodying in it the features which we discovered to be characteristic of these charms.

We may discern a gradual process at work here. Originally, according to Jewish law, the mezuzah was to contain only the prescribed verses the slightest change, whether of addition or omission, even of a single letter, invalidated the whole. Then, toward the end of the Geonic period the first move to introduce amulet features into the mezuzah was made. The face of the mezuzah was not invaded, but innovations were introduced upon the back of the parchment, concerning which there was no prohibition. The name Shaddai was inscribed there and a tiny window opened in the case so that the name was visible. This name was considered especially powerful to drive off demons, and by the method of notarikon it was read as "guardian of the habitations of Israel." The custom spread rapidly throughout the Jewish world and was adopted everywhere, without a word of censure from the authorities, even the mighty Maimonides agreeing that there was no harm in it, since the name was written on the outside of the parchment.24

At the same time, or perhaps subsequent to this first act of daring, another name was added to the mezuzah, still on its reverse: the 14-letter name of God, Kozu Bemochsaz Kozu, a surrogate for the words Yhvh Elohenu Yhvh of the Shema‘, with which the text of the mezuzah opens. The earliest reference to this practice was attributed in a fourteenth-century manuscript, Sefer Asufot, to the Gaon Sherira the earliest literary occurrence of this name is in Eshkol HaKofer, by the Karaite, Judah Hadassi (middle of the twelfth century) . Maimonides (in the same century) fails to speak of it, though he refers in detail to other features of the mezuzah. It is likely that he was not acquainted with the practice, or at least that it was not followed by southern Jewry, for Asher b. Yeḥiel (1250-1327), an eminent German scholar who spent the latter part of his life in Spain, stated specifically that it was observed in France and Germany, but not in Spain.25 From this we may judge that there grew up in the Orient two distinct traditions one, which prescribed

the addition of the name Shaddai alone, made its way to Southern Europe, where it was adopted the second, adding both names, was introduced in the North (the northern codes all mention both names) . This is not unlikely, for we know that the Kalonymides brought with them to the Rhineland a private fund of mystical tradition of Oriental origin, of which this may well have been a constituent. In time the northern practice invaded the South as well. The 14-letter name also possessed highly protective virtues before leaving on a journey one would place his hand on the mezuzah and say, "In Thy name do I go forth," thus invoking its guardianship, for the Aramaic word employed equalled numerically the name Kozu.26

The next step marked a decided advance. Despite the stringent prohibition against altering in any way the face of the mezuzah, and the active and justified opposition of most of the authorities, names, verses, and figures were added. The original impetus here too seems to have been Geonic, though the earliest reference to the change was again in Judah Hadassi's work. During the succeeding two centuries mezuzah-amulets achieved a wide popularity several examples of them have been published by Aptowitzer. Some authorities deviated from the conventional opposition. R. Eliezer b. Samuel of Metz (after 1150 C.E.) voiced only half-hearted disapproval the Maḥzor Vitry regarded the innovations not merely as private usage, or even customary (as distinguished from the legally required form), but as an integral part of the mezuzah while the Sefer HaPardes made the additions obligatory, as important, even, as the halachic prescriptions.27 But most of the rabbinic authors unanimously seconded Maimonides’ vigorous and uncompromising condemnation of such tampering with the words of Scripture. By the fifteenth century this attitude had triumphed, and even the mystics and Kabbalists of first rank omitted all reference to the magical mezuzah, or expressly rejected it. From then on we hear no more of it.

Aptowitzer distinguishes three main types of mezuzah-amulets, Palestinian, French and German the last two are so closely alike that we may regard them as essentially one, but the first is altogether distinct and different. It is interesting that though such mezuzot were known in Southern Europe and Northern Africa, we have no extant examples from these regions. Instead of describing these mezuzot in detail I give here the text of two of them from the

manuscript work Sefer Gematriaot,28 which were unknown to Aptowitzer, and which differ somewhat from those he published. They illustrate clearly the distinctive features of these charms.

On the back of this mezuzah, behind the word ‏והיה‎ of line 3, appears the name ‏שדי‎.

The first, a "Palestinian" mezuzah, contains the names of 14 and 22 letters (the former on the face instead of the back of the parchment), as well as six other names of God (El, Elohim, yhvh , Shaddai, Yah, Ehyeh), seven names of angels (Michael, Gabriel, ‘Azriel, Zadkiel, Sarfiel, Raphael, ‘Anael), and the Priestly Benediction. The second, of the "German" type, contains the same seven angel names and three more at the end (Uriel, Yofiel, Ḥasdiel), the name Yah, twice, the words of Ps. 121:5, the pentagram and other mystical signs, with Shaddai and the 14-letter Kozu, and more figures on the back.

It would take us too far afield to discuss in detail the minor differences between these versions and those of Aptowitzer, which similarly vary from one another. These variations are apparently idiosyncratic, involving the choice and position of the angel-names and of the names of God, the particular magical figures used, the choice of pentagram or hexagram, etc. The general outline was fixed, the details were apparently subject to the whim and esthetic taste of the scribe. While these two mezuzot are less elaborate than some of the others, they do possess one striking distinction, namely the insertion of circles and once of a ø in the body of the text. The

others were careful at least not to corrupt the Scriptural citation, in which respect they were more closely observant of the prohibition against tampering with the mezuzah.

Sefer Gematriaot29 offers also a detailed mystical apologia for the various unauthorized features, of this nature: the 22 lines correspond to the 22 letters of the alphabet, the ten pentagrams to the ten commandments, and their fifty points to the fifty "gates of understanding" and also to the fifty days between Passover and Pentecost (the "days of the giving of the Law"), the seven angel-names to the seven planets and the seven days of the week, the ten circles to the ten elements of the human body, blood, flesh, bones, etc., five of them to the five names of the soul, the three at the end to the three faculties, hearing, sight and speech, or to heaven, earth and atmosphere, etc. But this rigmarole didn't obscure the true significance of the innovations.

These features make it sufficiently evident that during the Middle Ages the mezuzah acquired all the trappings of the legitimate amulet, becoming one in actuality as well as by reputation. No wonder that Jews regarded it with such respect. No wonder that Gentiles envied them its possession.

Ancient Egypt for Kids Amulets

What is an amulet? Amulets in ancient Egypt were little charms that offered protection. This is the definition of an ancient Egyptian amulet from The Met Museum: "An amulet is a small object that a person wears, carries, or offers to a deity (god) because he or she believes it will magically bestow a particular power or form of protection."

Amulets played a large part in ancient Egyptian religion and daily life. There were two kinds of amulets. One kind was made for the living, for daily life protection and encouragement. The other type was made for the dead, for mummified bodies. Both types of amulets were made of stone, metal, glass, clay, and faience (a ceramic material made from crushed quartz and other natural materials, covered with a blue or green glaze.) Some amulets were hand carved. Others were made using molds.

Many amulets in ancient Egypt were shaped like animals. Others were shaped like gods. Many were symbols, used to represent important things. For example, the lotus flower symbolized rebirth, or the coming of spring. A little charm shaped like an ancient Egyptian ankh symbolized life.

All amulets in ancient Egypt had definite shapes and meanings. You couldn't change the shape because you might change the meaning.

Jewelry was worn as amulets. Jewelers had to follow strict rules and colors to make sure the magical property of the amulet was not destroyed.

The ancient Egyptians truly believed that amulets had magical powers of protection and healing, and also brought good fortune.

What does God say about people who use amulets?

Together with other kinds of talismans, amulets are becoming very popular today. They are usually crystals, Celtic crosses, or other mystical jewelry worn as a pendant on a necklace or bracelet or hung on a chain dangling from the rear view mirror of automobiles. These so-called “sacred stones” and other engraved talisman are believed to have mystical powers, which supposedly bring personal protection, success, and prosperity. They are often regarded as transmitters of healing energies and positive vibrations that are thought to promote feelings of peace and tranquility. From archaeological evidence, we know that amulets were very common in the ancient cultures of the Bible lands, especially among pagan peoples.

What does God say about people who use amulets? “They are full of superstitions from the East they practice divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans” (Isaiah 2:6, NIV). The Bible further warns us, “In that day, the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes [and] amulets” (Isaiah 3:18-20, NAS).

During times of apostasy and idolatry, the Israelites copied the superstitions of the pagan people around them, including the practice of wearing amulets and magic charms. God issued a stern warning to the false prophetesses of Israel who wore amulets. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the women who sew magic charms on all their wrists and make veils of various lengths for their heads in order to ensnare people. Will you ensnare the lives of my people but preserve your own? . . . I am against your magic charms with which you ensnare people like birds and I will tear them from your arms I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds. I will tear off your veils and save my people from your hands, and they will no longer fall prey to your power” (Ezekiel 13:18, 20, 21, NIV).

In addition to wearing amulets, pagan peoples also possessed larger talismans called “teraphim,” or household idols. These miniature images were kept in the home or would be taken along on journeys. The use of these figurines infiltrated Israel, and God was opposed to them. “Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums and the spirits and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might confirm the words of the law which were written in the book” (2 Kings 23:24, NAS).

Whenever amulets, idols, and other magic charms are mentioned in the Bible, God’s attitude is against them and those who trust in them. “I have hated those who regard useless idols but I trust in the Lord” (Psalm 31:6, NKJV). When we feel the need for divine protection to guard us against physical harm or danger, we should trust in God—not some magic amulet or charm. “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress my God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday” (Psalm 91:2-6, NKJV).

If we feel a need for protection from evil and demonic powers, God has something far better to offer than amulets and useless figurines. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. . . . Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:11, 14-17, NIV).


From earliest times, man has tried to protect himself from misfortune by the use of objects which he considered holy or otherwise (e.g., magically) potent. One of the ways of doing this was to keep the object close to his person, frequently wearing it as an article of clothing, or as an ornament. It was felt that the evil spirits which cause misfortune would not dare to attack one so protected. It has been suggested that this desire for protection is the source of man's habit to adorn himself with jewelry and other ornamentation the female being weaker – and consequently in greater danger – has the greater need for protection. The custom developed for people to have on their persons pieces of paper, parchment, or metal discs inscribed with various formulae which would protect the bearer from sickness, the "evil eye," and other troubles. The use of inscription as a means to ward off evil spirits stemmed from a belief in early times in the holiness and in the power of words. Such artifacts are known as amulets (for other types of charms and protective items, see *Magic ). It is not known whether amulets were used in the biblical period. Presumably they were, but there is no direct evidence to prove it. Traditional Judaism does not consider tefillin and mezuzah – whatever their original antecedents may have been – to be amulets. The purpose of tefillin is stated to be "for a sign upon thy hand" (Deut. 6:8) and from the immediate proximity of the verse regarding mezuzah it would seem that its purpose is the same. While one biblical rite involving the doorposts (Ex. 11:7, 13) had an apotropaic function and the current translation for tefillin ("phylacteries") suggests the same purpose, the traditional interpretation of the "sign" was that of a reminder of God's commandments and of the duty of the Jew to bear witness to his God.

Amulets are frequently mentioned in talmudic literature. The term used is kameɺ or kamiɺ (pl. kemi'ot or kemi'in), a word whose origin is obscure. It is possible that it derives from a root meaning "to bind" (cf. Rashi to Shab. 61a), but it might come from an Arabic root meaning "to hang." In either case, the reference is clearly something that is bound or hung on the person (cf. Kohut, Arukh, 7 (1926 2 ), 123). The Talmud mentions two sorts of kemi'ot: a written one and the kameɺ shel ikrin, a kameɺ made from roots of a certain plant. The written kameɺ was a parchment inscribed with one or more quotations from a variety of sources, including the Scriptures (cf. Shab. 61b). The question arose whether the amulets were invested with the holiness of the scriptural scrolls and whether they should, therefore, be saved from a conflagration occurring on the Sabbath. A baraita is quoted which specifically states that they are not holy and that they, together with other texts which contain scriptural quotations (lit. berakhot), should be left to burn (ibid.). In the original Tosefta text, however, no mention is made of kemi'ot (Tosef. Shab. 13:4). Unfortunately, there is no record in the Talmud of the inscriptions in the amulets (but see Yoma 84a). Later amulets were inscribed with quotations relevant to their specific purpose. The text of the *Priestly Blessing (Num. 6:24�) was considered effective against the "evil eye." Permutations and combinations of the letters of the different names of God were frequently used names of angels were also very common. The simplest amulet had an inscription of the name of God on a piece of parchment or metal, usually made of silver ה (He),יה (YaH), and שדי (Shaddai, "Almighty") being very popular. These still feature prominently on pendants worn by Jewish women today. The efficacy of the amulet depended not only on the inscription but also on the person who wrote it the more pious the author the more effective was the amulet.

The Talmud differentiates between "expert" (or proven, min ha-mum𞉞h) amulets and others. The former had proved its effectiveness by curing a sick person on three different occasions or three sick persons, and hence one may wear such an amulet outside the home on the Sabbath (Shab. 6:2).

The Talmud (Shevu. 15b) states that it is forbidden to recite verses of the Torah for the purpose of curing an existing illness but it is permitted "to guard" against possible future sickness (see also Maim , Yad , Avodat Kokhavim 11:12). This distinction was equally applied to amulets. During the Middle Ages, the rabbinic attitude to amulets varied considerably. *Maimonides , following the precedent of *Sherira Gaon and his son *Hai , opposed the use of amulets and came out very strongly against the "folly of amulet writers" (Guide, 1:61 Yad, Tefillin 5:4). He also opposed the use of religious objects, such as the Torah scroll and tefillin, for the curing of sickness (Yad, Avodat Kokhavim 11:12). On the other hand, both Solomon b. Abraham ⪭ret and *Naḥmanides permitted the use of amulets. Earlier magical traditions, including the use of amulets, magic charms, names of angels, combinations of Hebrew letters, etc. subsequently merged with the *Kabbalah and came to be known as "practical Kabbalah." Many mystical texts, such as the Sefer Yeẓirah and the Sefer Raziɾl, contain instructions for the preparation of amulets and other charms, for a variety of purposes. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the belief in the efficacy of amulets spread to Eastern Europe. In Ereẓ Israel, it spread from Safed, the center of Kabbalah, to all parts of the country.

One of the most vehement controversies in Jewish history was caused by amulets. Jonathan ʮybeschuetz , the rabbi of Hamburg, was accused by Jacob ʮmden of having used the name of the false messiah Shabbetai *𞤮vi in amulets which he had prepared. Eybeschuetz vigorously denied the charge. It is interesting that the validity of writing amulets was not questioned in the controversy. The congregational burial society of Hamburg officially endorsed the efficacy of Eybeschuetz' amulets. In a particularly sharp attack against Maimonides' rationalism in these matters, ʮlijah b. Solomon Zalman , the Gaon of Vilna, a bitter opponent of 𞉊sidism, also endorsed the use of amulets (to Sh. Ar., YD 179). The belief in amulets gradually diminished with the emancipation of European Jewry, although in Eastern Europe it remained widespread until World War II. Kemi'ot, in particular, were worn during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage amulets called Kimpet-Tsetl, Shir Hamalos-Tsetl, and Shmine-Tsetl were also placed above the head and under the pillow of a woman in labor, to ward off the evil demon *Lilith . Among Oriental communities, amulets are still widely used. Many amulets were inscribed on small discs of silver or other metal and worn as a pendant around the neck. Amulets being small in size, biblical verses and names were indicated by their initial letters, with the result that the inscription is frequently very difficult to decipher. The Samaritan community uses names of angels unknown in Jewish tradition.

For specific laws regarding amulets see Shul𞉚n Arukh (OḤ 301:24� 305:17 334:14 and YD 179:12).

Amulets for Safe Childbirth and Protection of Infants

Amulets and talismans intended to protect women in childbirth and their newborns were a significant part of Jewish folk religion in Christian Europe and the Islamic world. The late ninth to early tenth century Alphabet of Ben Sira promulgated the legend of *Lilith , the "first Eve," who claimed that she had been created to harm newborn babies. According to this folk tradition, Lilith was convinced by three angels, Sanoi, Sansanoi, and Semangalof, that she would be unable to enter a house to harm either a baby or its mother wherever she saw their images illustrated or their names written on an amulet. Sefer Raziel (first printed Amsterdam, 1701), a compilation of magic, cosmology, and mystical teachings popular among both Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities, contained a recipe for an inscribed amulet to protect a laboring woman as well as for an amulet for a newborn specifically directed against Lilith. Polish and Russian Jews put the book itself under the pillow of women in childbirth in Iraq it was put on the Chair of Elijah, an object believed to have protective powers which was placed in the center of the birthing room.

In Europe, amulets to protect mothers and infants were generally written or printed on paper, sometimes with illustrations. In the Muslim realm, protective objects made of metal, especially gold and silver, were preferred and also functioned as jewelry for women and for small children. The mystical texts and formulas inscribed on these amulets did not differ significantly in east or west.

Childbirth Amulets in Art

While the Hebrew texts inscribed on Jewish amulets in the different countries, East and West, often share similar formulae, names, and selection of biblical verses, the images drawn on those which are ornamented vary greatly, reflecting folk beliefs and traditions, visual ideas and ideals, and the influence of local folk arts. This is best exemplified by childbirth amulets – the most prevalent category of extant amulets produced in Europe and the lands of Islam from the 17 th century on, reflecting the high mortality rate of children before the modern era.

Paper German childbirth amulets are often printed with small, crude figurative woodcuts expressing the ideal roles expected for the newborn when he/she grows up. For example, the amulets for a male newborn depict a boy holding an open book from which he reads, while those for a female show her kindling the typical star-shaped Sabbath lamp used by German Jews. The proselyte ⪫raham ben Jacob working for the acculturated Dutch community decorated his popular amulet with a biblical image, which he copied from a Christian Bible, depicting a nude Eve and Adam in Paradise. In Poland handmade colorful papercut amulets were preferred, featuring intricate designs, including a wide selection of animals, such as a pair of rampant lions, which symbolize ideal human qualities ("be strong as the lion …" Pirkei Avot 5:23). Images of leading rabbinical authorities, known for their righteous conduct, may appear on East European amulets as a sign of blessing and protection. In amulets of the Old Yishuv on the other hand the preferred "protective" images were conventional pictures of the holy sites (Temple Mount, Rachel's Tomb). Italian Jews created for the amulets of their children attractive silver cases decorated with appliqués of the Temple implements. In Islamic lands silver amulets and jewelry were very common, not only for newborn babies but also for children and women, considered weak and susceptible to the evil eye. Prevalent images included the hand (𞉚msa) mentioned above and fish. Both were interpreted by local 𞉚khamim (e.g., *Joseph 𞉊yyim of Baghdad) as symbols imbued with deep Jewish meanings. The 𞉚msa, as well as the closely related number five, were viewed as bearing potent magical powers based on Jewish textual sources (for example, five is associated with the monogram-maton, he, the holy single-letter name of God, which is often inscribed in the center of amulets). Persian Jews also depicted a fantastic image of *Lilith , usually shown "in chains." In modern Israel some of the designs, the 𞉚msa and 𞉚i [חי], in particular, have been revived and enjoy widespread popularity. Images of rabbis considered holy, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi, are common in modern Israeli amulets as well.

"Illuminated Amulets"

Illuminations on amulets are seldom applied for purely decorative purposes. The various designs, symbols, and letters were believed to be efficacious in warding off the evil eye, disasters, or sickness. They consist of magical triangles, squares, rectangles, and other geometrical features, e.g., the Hexagram ("Star of David") and the Pentacle ("Star of Solomon"). The menorah with its seven branches, as well as an outstretched hand, is often used. More rarely, birds, animals, human figures, Satan, and the angel Metatron may appear. Letters which are not as yet completely understood and which are known as "kabbalistic writing" have also figured on amulets.


By gradually reducing the size of an inscription, the evil spirit is eased out of its victim and its influence is thus diminished. Magical triangles therefore serve a useful purpose and when used in writing amulets it is with this idea in mind.


These are divided into several boxes each of which contains one or more letters. In this way acrostics may be formed in which powerful inscriptions may be secretly placed in the amulets to exert their beneficent influence without the knowledge of the uninitiated. The squares vary from those of nine boxes to those of 64 or even 100 boxes. The rectangles are usually small and often contain hidden verses from the Bible. Their use and influence naturally depend on the particular biblical verse inscribed.


The Star of David as a silver amulet is one usually made by the Jerusalem group of amulet makers. The six points of the hexagram often contain the letters ירושלים or מלך דוד, the latter obviously alluding to the city of David. Hexagrams may also appear in written amulets.


The 7-branched candlestick is often found on the shivviti amulets from Persia. In the silver amulets only the initial letters of the words are used but in the parchment ones the verses are written out in full. These are so called because tradition states that King David's shield was shaped like these silver amulets, and headed with the words "I have set (shivviti) the Lord always before me" (Ps. 16:8).


A frequent occurrence is a hand inscribed on the paper or parchment amulets. Silver amulets made in the form of hands are common and are usually North African in origin and the hand is supposed to ward off the "evil eye." It is considered by some to be the hand of Fatima, who was Muhammad's daughter, but hands have appeared on North African amulets since the times of the Carthaginians and these people antedate the Muslim tradition by more than a thousand years. The tradition of using hands on amulets still persists strongly in Morocco, Tunis, and Algeria, as well as throughout the Muslim world.


The cross and the crescent are rare. The disc and crescent represent Baal and Tanit respectively and may be found as pendants on silver amulets from North Africa. They carry on the traditions of the Semitic colonization of Carthage and its neighboring countries.


Mysterious and unexplained to this day, the interpretation of these letters has long aroused controversy. Letters of this type are found on ancient amulets before they appeared on Jewish amulets, e.g., on a magic plate discovered in Pergamon from the tannaitic period. There is no proof that they were made in Jewish circles but apparently they were adapted to the needs of Jewish magic. Some scholars derive the origin of these signs from cuneiform writing. Moses *Gaster considered that there were variant forms of Samaritan (i.e., Old Hebrew) writings and in support of this opinion he cites *Rashi (TB, Sanh. 21b), who called them Ketav Libbonaɺh and also thought they were of Samaritan origin. However, the Samaritan script bears little resemblance to these curious characters. It may well be that these letters are Hebrew writing in code form. The manuscript "Alphabet of Metatron" in the British Museum is one of the codes that enables the deciphering of some of these letters but much more research is necessary before all the kabbalistic writing can be interpreted. Many manuscripts of practical Kabbalah include alphabets of angels, each alphabet belonging to a different angel, according to the pattern of this writing. It is quite possible that some amulets can be deciphered by the use of such angelic alphabets. Although these characters are often used for ornamental purposes, they should not be dismissed as mere ornamentations. In Hebrew books on magic, many examples and formulas of amulets are published. These sources include Taɺlumot u-Mekorot ha-Ḥokhmah (Venice, 1664) Derekh Yesharah (Fuerth, 1697) Toledot Adam (Zolkiew, 1720) Mifalot Elohim (Zolkiew, 1727 the latter in many editions) Refuɺh ve-𞉊yyim by 𞉊yyim Palache (Smyrna, 1874).


T. Schrire, Hebrew Amulets, Their Decipherment and Interpretation (1966), includes bibliography J. Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition (1939), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. Behrouzi (ed.), The Hand of Fortune: Khamsas from the Gross Family Collection and the Eretz Israel Museum Collection (2002) E. Deitsch (ed.), Kabbalah: Mysticism in Jewish Life, Exhibition catalog, Museum of Judaica, Congregation Emanu-El, New York (2003) Living Khamsa: Die Hand zum Gluek / The Hand of Fortune, Exhibition catalog, Museum im Prediger Schw๋isch Gmünd (2004) H. Matras, "Jewish Folk Medicine in the 19 th and 20 th Centuries," in: N. Berger (ed.), Jews and Medicine: Religion, Culture, Science (1995), 1133𠄵 S. Sabar, "Childbirth and Magic: Jewish Folklore and Material Culture," in: D. Biale (ed.), Cultures of the Jews: A New History (2002), 6707� idem, "The Judaization of the Khamsa: The Motif of the Magic Hand in the Thought and Folklore of the Jews in the Lands of Islam," in: Mahanaim, 14, (2002), 1922� (Heb.) Y. Stillman, "The Middle Eastern Amulet as Folk Art," in: I. Ben-Ami and J. Dan (eds.), Studies in Aggadah and Jewish Folklore (1983), 951�.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

Accession number: A.196
Measurements: Height: 5.38 cm Width: 2.2 cm Thickness: 1.82 cm
Material: Ivory
Date: 25th Dynasty, ca. 747-656 BCE
Provenance: Unknown


This ivory amulet depicts Pataikos. His hands rest on his protruding stomach and each grasps a knife. He is nude except for a necklace, known as a wesekh (broad) collar, with a pectoral in front and counterweight in back and a fitted headdress, topped with a scarab beetle. His legs have broken away. There is a large suspension loop attached to the back of his neck, adorned with vertical striations. He has three horizontally incised lines on either side of his mouth, likely indicating snakes.


The bandy-legged dwarf Pataikos was a phylactic (protective) deity, worshipped in ancient Egypt from the time of the Old Kingdom (ca. 2686-2160 BCE). Amulets of the god are well-attested from the time of the New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1069 BCE). This ivory amulet, which is finely sculpted in the round, likely dates from the 25 th Dynasty (ca. 747-656 BCE).

Pataikos was closely associated with Horus-the-Child the demon god, Aha (literally, “the fighter”) and Aha’s later form Bes (literally, “the guardian”) in both form and function. Despite their diminutive statures, Pataikos and related deities are frequently depicted as subjugators of violent natural forces — most notably, Pataikos is often shown stepping upon and grasping crocodiles, snakes, and scorpions. In this example, he brandishes knives and holds three snakes in his mouth, apparently consuming them. These behaviors show his fitness to ward away malevolent forces. Likewise, Horus-the-Child is shown in this manner on small ritually charged stele called cippi by Egyptologists. Phylactic amulets depicting protective deities like Pataikos, Horus-the-Child, and Bes were used by those who wore them to ward away evils that could cause illness, injury, or misfortune. This particular depiction of Pataikos specifically has a strong association with the celestial falcon Horus through the scarab beetle that adorns his cap, a solar symbol.

It has been suggested that Pataikos is a manifestation or son of Ptah, a god of craftsmen. Writings by the Greek historian Herodotus state that Ptah was depicted in the form of a dwarf, and the name “Pataikos” that he coined literally means “little Ptah.” Dwarves often worked in workshops as craftsmen, as attested in tomb scenes from Egypt.


Andrews, Carol, 1994. Amulets of Ancient Egypt. Texas: University of Texas Press. 39.

Györy, Hedvig, 2002. “Changes in Styles of Ordinary Pataikos Amulets.” In Egyptian Museum Collections Around the World, edited by Zahi Hawass, Mamdouh Mohamed Eldamaty, and May Trays. Cairo: Supreme Council of Antiquities. 491-502.

Minas-Nerpel, Martina, 2013. “Ptah-Pataikos, Harpokrates, and Khepri.” In Decorum and Experience: Essays in ancient culture for John Baines, edited by Elizabeth Frood and Angela McDonald. Oxford: Griffith Institute. 147-50.

Ritner, Robert K., 1989. “Horus on the Crocodiles: a Juncture of Religion and Magic in Late Dynastic Egypt.” In Religion and Philosophy in Ancient Egypt, edited by William Kelly Simpson. New Haven: Yale University Press. 103-16.


The latest find is unusual as it has runes inscribed that reads 'Hmar x is' meaning 'This is a Hammer'.

‘It was the amulet’s protective power that counted, and often we see torshammere and Christian crosses appearing together, providing double protection’, said Peter Pentz, an archaeologist at the National Museum of Denmark.

An unknown rune writer confirmed that the amulets depicts Thor's hammer (illustration of hammer and runic text, pictured) - a lasting symbol of Viking culture. The fact that the person who made the hammer was literate is a source of fascination for archaeologists

Both sides of the amulet are shown here with runes seen on the left image. The latest find is unusual as it has runes inscribed that reads 'Hmar x is' (This is a Hammer') In Norse mythology, Thor's hammer helped prevent the giants from destroying Asgard, the home of the gods. Pictured is actor Chris Hemsworth in the 2011 film 'Thor'


In Norse mythology, Mjölnir (pronounced roughly 'miol-neer') is the name given to the hammer of Thor, a major Norse god associated with thunder.

The hammer is described in Norse mythology as one of the most powerful weapons, capable of levelling mountains.

It was used by Thor to guard Asgard, the celestial stronghold of the Aesir, the main tribe of gods and goddesses in Norse mythology.

As well as being a weapon, legend has it that Thor's hammer also occupied a key role in religous rituals of cleansing.

It was used in formal ceremonies to bless marriages, births, and possibly funerals. In one tale, Thor once killed and ate his goats, then brought them back to life by hallowing their bones with his hammer.

This object is cast in bronze and has traces of silver or tin and gold plating, according to a report in Past Horizons.

Mr Pentz said he grateful to the unknown rune writer who has confirmed that these amulets do depict Thor’s hammer – a lasting symbol of Viking culture.

The fact that the person who made the hammer was literate is a source of fascination for archaeologists.

They claim the amulet could indicate that literacy was widespread among craftspeople.

The runes range in height from 3 to 7mm, so it required precision to inscribe them onto the amulet.

As well as the torshammere, the archaeologists recovered fragments of silver needles and a mould for making brooches.

These suggest that there may have been a workshop producing jewellery nearby.

Museum Lolland-Falster, who reported the discovery, has no plans to excavate the Viking site at Købelev, but said it will continue metal detector surveys.

Thousands of tiny intricate amulets, similar to this weapon, have been found all over the Viking world since the first millennium CE. Pictured are two examples

Archaeologists, working with the National Museum of Denmark, unearthed the unusual 10th century amulet in Købelev on the Danish island of Lolland

Mjölnir (pronounced roughly 'miol-neer') is the name given to the hammer of Thor, a major Norse god associated with thunder. The hammer is described in Norse mythology as one of the most powerful weapons, capable of levelling mountains

Watch the video: God of War - Slows Time Through Realm Shift!! Amulet of Kvasir ADVANCE GUIDE (June 2022).


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