Amulet of a Papyrus Column, Wadj

The Wadj amulet (also known as the papyrus column or scepter) is an Ancient Egyptian amulet in the shape of a papyrus stem. These amulets were made out of turquoise feldspar, as is indicated in the Book of the Dead.

This faience amulet represents a papyrus column. Incised lines on the umbel delineate the leaves. Today the papyrus plant is best known as the material from which the ancient Egyptians produced the paper-like writing material that we call papyrus.

Amulet of a Papyrus Column, Wadj
Amulet of a Papyrus Column, Wadj

The amulet of a papyrus column in ancient Egypt refers to a small object made of a material such as stone, faience, or metal, shaped like a column with papyrus plant motifs.

These amulets were believed to have protective and symbolic significance in ancient Egyptian culture. They were often worn or carried by individuals as a form of personal adornment or as a means of invoking the powers associated with the papyrus plant, which was considered a symbol of growth, rebirth, and knowledge in ancient Egyptian mythology and religion.

For ancient Egyptians, however, the plant, known to them by the name of wadj, had a much wider value, being intricately linked with concepts of growth and rejuvenation.

“In ancient Egypt, objects created with faience were considered magical, filled with the undying shimmer of the sun, and imbued with the powers of rebirth. For Egyptians, the sculptures, vessels, jewelry, and ritual objects made of faience glimmered with the brilliance of eternity.

While faience is made of common materials—quartz, alkaline salts, lime, and mineral-based colorants—it maintained important status among precious stones and metals”.” as Carolyn Riccardelli, conservator in the Department of Objects Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, writes in an essay that explores the techniques involved in making objects such as these.

As a result of these potent connections, as well as the plant’s strong associations with Lower (northern) Egypt for which it was the iconic plant, symbolism incorporating the shape of the papyrus plant can often be found in other contexts, such as in papyriform columns made of stone utilized as architectural elements, or as scepters carried by deities.

Different materials could be used to produce them, but the common element seems to be the color green, symbolically linked to regeneration and rebirth.

The word Wadj’ or ‘Uadj, in fact, not only designates the papyrus plant, but can also be translated as “being green, greenish”. The papyrus plant itself, growing close to the water, meant “new life”, besides being the symbol of Lower Egypt.

Third Intermediate Period, 21st Dynasty to 25th Dynasty, ca. 1070-656 BC. Height: 6 cm; diameter: 1.9 cm. Now in the Art Institute of Chicago. 1892.209