This was Betty's very first attempt at making her own jewelry. She arrived at our workshop clutching a bag of glazed ceramic scarab beetles. It was easy to guess and Betty confirmed her interest in Egyptian history. She picked a bright blue scarab and deliberately contrasted that with cube, bone beads and long dark brown and cream tube beads which are modern copies of Dzi beads - all on a leather cord. Betty's design turned out to have two types of beads with plenty of history.

Scarab beetles are dung beetles, many of which roll dung into round balls. The females lay eggs in these balls so they could be food for the larvae when they hatched. One particular species, however, the Scarabaeus sacer, enjoyed a special status as it was sacred to the ancient Egyptians. It was associated with Khepri, the god of the rising sun. The picture below shows the scarab beetle on a wall in Tomb KV6 in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt.

Like the dung beetle with its round ball of dung, this Egyptian god was believed to roll the sun across the sky. Scarab amulets were also often placed on the hearts of mummies so that the deceased will be judged well for the afterlife. To ancient Egyptians, a person's soul resides in his heart. On judgment day, his soul or heart would be weighed against the symbolic feather of Ma'at, the goddess of truth in order to see if the heart was free of sin and thus lighter than the feather. So a heart scarab was inscribed with a spell from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to tell the heart not to betray the deceased - like an insurance policy for a good afterlife! I wonder what those ancient priests charged for it?

Dzi beads go back thousands of years and were popular in Asia as protection against the evil eye - the harm that befalls one through the envy of others. I will write about Dzi beads in a future post.

Beader Design #: 435

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