Egyptian Magic Wand

April 1, 2020

In difficult times we all need a little magic. Over 3500 years ago in ancient Egypt people would protect their households against illness and evil spirits with the use of magic wands made from the ivory of the fearsome hippo.

This example was used in funerary rites so its powers were really all in the next life.
We can all hope for a sound, healthy life, though perhaps with a little less repeating.

Egyptian magic wand
Middle Kingdom, late 12th-13th Dynasty, c.1850-1660 BC
Hippopotamus ivory
Length 35.5cm

An apotropaic wand carved from a vertical section of hippopotamus ivory with a single line of inscription in hieroglyphics reading: ‘Recitation by these Gods: [we] have come [to extend protection] around the lady of the house Seneb-Su-Heri, alive, sound, healthy, repeating life’. This inscription appears to have been written on the obverse and ends in the words 'wehem ankh', whilst the reverse is smooth, jointly indicating that this wand was created for burial. Recomposed from several pieces, the surface particularly worn in the centre.

The epithet 'wehem anch' is exclusively used in funerary contexts, therefore it is clear that this wand was intended to provide protection for the deceased to overcome the dangers they would face during their journey through afterlife, and to aid with their reincarnation. This particular type of wand, known in German as "Stundendurchfahrer", was mentioned in the "Amduat" from the early 18th Dynasty and has only been found in very few Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate tombs.

Nicholas Tano (d.1924), Cairo, Egypt
Phocian Jean Tano, Cairo, Egypt; acquired by descent from the above c.1930-1950
Private collection, London, UK
Private collection, Rome, Italy; acquired 2006



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