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Ch. 4: Engraved Gems as Talismans

Ch. 3: Talismanic Use of Special Stones Page of 467 Ch. 4: Engraved Gems as Talismans Text size:minus plus Restore normal size   Mail page  Print this page
IV
SE virtue believed to be inherent in precious stones was thought to gain an added potency when the
stone was engraved with some symbol or figure possess­ing a special sacredness, or denoting and typifying a special quality. This presupposes a considerable devel­opment of civilization, since the art of engraving on precious stones offers many mechanical difficulties and thus requires a high degree of artistic and mechanical skill. It is true that the earliest engraved stones» the Babylonian cylinders and the Egyptian scarabs, were both designed to serve an eminently practical purpose as well, namely, that of seals ; but in a great number of in­stances these primitive seals were looked upon as en­dowed with tali smanie power, and were worn on the person as talismans.
The scarab, so highly favored by the Egyptians as an ornamental form, is a representation of the scarabaeus sacer, the typical genus of the family Scarabœidœ. They are usually black, but occasionally show a fine play of metallic colors. After gathering up a clump of dung for the reception of the eggs, the insect rolls this along, using the hind legs to propel it, until the material, at first soft and of irregular form, becomes hardened and almost per­fectly round. A curious symbolism induced the Egyp­tians to find in this beetle an emblem of the world of fatherhood and of man. The round ball wherein the eggs were deposited typified the world, and, as the Egyptians
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Ch. 3: Talismanic Use of Special Stones Page of 467 Ch. 4: Engraved Gems as Talismans
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