Papyrus Column Amulet

This papyrus column amulet, meant to be worn, carried, or offered to a deity in the belief that it will magically bestow a particular power or form of protection, depicts a papyrus scepter or column. This plant, named wadj, meaning “green” or “fresh”, and the choice of green-blue faience all strongly evoke vitality and regenerative power, qualities desirable for the living and the dead.

Plaques featuring a relief scepter are particular to the Late and Ptolemaic Periods. 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.

Papyrus Column Amulet
Papyrus Column Amulet, Wadj

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. For the 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.

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. Papyrus column amulets have been found in a variety of materials, but are most often made of blue-green faience.

Late Period, ca. 664-332 BC. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 26.7.1036