The scarab tattoo is representative of a historical impression symbol of Ancient Egypt. It is also just another way to call a beetle a beetle. You might be asking yourself what a scarab is. We’ve all seen these beetle-like symbols in horror movies and stories alike. However, they weren’t just known for being feared and gross in movies. They were also made to be decorations and they have a great deal of historical significance.
In this article, we plan to explain the history behind the scarab and its significance in Egyptian culture. In addition, we’ll talk about scarab tattoos and why people get them.
History of the Scarab
Scarabs happened to be impression seals and amulets in Ancient Egypt. Many of these amulets have survived through the years giving historians and archaeologists information of times past.
It isn’t clear why, but scarab beetle amulets became extremely widespread in Ancient Egypt around 2000 BCE and kept their popularity throughout the times of pharaohs. During that period, the relevance of scarabs changed multiple times. They started as amulets and accessories. Many times, these amulets were inscribed with a message, name, or administrative seal. In addition, some scarabs were made for diplomatic or political purposes to honor achievements. By the time the New Kingdom rolled in, heart scarabs were used as protection for mummies.
How They Were Made
Luckily for historians, vast numbers of scarabs were created through the years so many survived the test of time. Initially, the amulets were made to be worn by the living. They were generally molded or carved out of Egyptian faience with degrees of realism. You would most likely see the head, legs and body of the scarab in these carvings. Once they were carved, they would be colored either green or blue and then fired to make the colors and shapes stand.
The scarab tattoo represents different traits depending on the culture. In Egyptian religion, Ra, the sun god, was thought to roll the sun across the sky every day. By doing so, nature’s creatures would grow. This is similar to the dung beetles in the Scarabaeidae family. These beetles roll dung into a ball so they have food to eat and something to lay their eggs in. This way, when the larvae hatch, they will be surrounded by food. In this way, the scarab represents rebirth and the cycle of life. Khepri is the Egyptian god of creation and the movement of the sun.
It was said that Khepri was involved in the movement of the sun and rolled the sun across the sky every morning and then after sunset, he would walk the sun through the other world until he came back in the morning. As such, there was a close affiliation between the scarab and Khepri, who was often depicted with the head of a scarab.
Knowing this, people with scarab tattoos are generally doing so with the idea of Ancient Egypt in mind. In doing so, this tattoo symbolizes rebirth and growth. Also, with every new day, the prior day is left behind in the past. We all get a chance to start over in the morning.
The Heart Scarab
The Heart Scarab was used in many funeral proceedings. Scarabs had transformed from being simply accessory pieces to pieces that helped guide the dead through the afterlife. As in many religions, once you pass you must earn your way into the afterlife. The Heart Scarab was used in two different ways for the dead. First, when the soul made the journey to the Hall of Judgement, the heart was weighed and if it weighed less than the feather of Ma’at, the soul would be taken by Ammit. The Egyptians were looking out for their deceased with the Heart Scarab because it was used as a replacement for the heart if it wasn’t heavy enough.
In addition to that, the Heart Scarab was inscribed with Spell 30 from the Book of the Dead. In short, the spell was to protect the soul against the heart speaking out against the soul when they stood in front of Osiris for judgment.
Another way the scarab protected the dead while taking the journey through the afterlife was to hold the answers to the questions asked by the gods of the underworld. According to The Egyptian Book of the Dead, it is said that when the soul prepares for final judgment, the gods of the underworld will ask a series of questions that require specific answers. Because many people at this time were illiterate, the priest couldn’t even set a scroll in the tomb with all the questions and answers.
To bypass this issue, the priest would read the questions and answers to a scarab. It was then killed, mummified and then stuck in the ear of the deceased. Therefore, the soul would have all the questions and answers prepared for the final test.
In the descriptions from above, we can also attest to the fact that scarabs were used as protection for the afterlife. Whether the scarab was used to protect the soul from the heart or it was used to give the answers to the questions asked by the gods, the scarab was there to walk the soul through the afterlife, so it would avoid Hell.
So now we can see the scarab symbol was used from the beginning of life all the way through the end. The scarab tattoo might represent many stages of life and death depending on the person with the tattoo. In rebirth and protection, the scarab is one of the more important symbols to ever come out of Egypt which makes it a popular tattoo choice.