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Was Scepter: Ancient Egypt’s Symbol of Power and Protection

Egyptian mythology teems with remarkable artifacts and objects that represented important concepts. The Was Scepter, among the most important of Egyptian symbols, was held by gods and pharaohs to symbolize their power and dominion.

What Was the Was Scepter?

Egyptian deities was scepter
Most Egyptian deities and pharaohs were depicted holding the Was Scepter

The Was Scepter first appears in the early stages of Egyptian mythology, with scholars believing that it had its origins in the city of Thebes. The word was comes from the Egyptian word for power or dominion.

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Depending on the god who held it, the Was Scepter could have different depictions. However, its most common form was a staff with the stylized head of a canine or desert animal at the top and a fork at the bottom. Others featured an ankh at the top. In some cases, it featured a dog or a fox head. In more recent portrayals, the staff had the head of the god Anubis, emphasizing the idea of power. In many cases, the scepter was made of wood and precious metals.

The Purpose of the Was Scepter 

The Egyptians associated the Was Scepter with different deities of their mythology. The Was Scepter was sometimes associated with the antagonistic god Seth, who symbolized chaos. Thus, the person or deity who held the Was Scepter was symbolically controlling the forces of chaos.

In the underworld, the Was Scepter was a symbol of the safe passage and well-being of the deceased. The staff helped the dead on their journey, as such was the main job of Anubis. Because of this association, ancient Egyptians carved the symbol in tombs and sarcophagi. The symbol was a decoration and an amulet for the deceased.

In some depictions, the Was Scepter is shown in pairs supporting the sky, holding it up like pillars. The Egyptians believed that the sky was held up by four giant pillars. By featuring the Was Scepter as a pillar holding up the sky, the idea that the scepter was paramount in maintaining law, order and equilibrium was emphasized.

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Symbolism of the Gods and the Was Scepter

Several important deities of Ancient Egypt are shown holding the Was Scepter. Horus, Set, and Ra-Horakhty appeared in several myths with the staff. The Was Scepter of the gods often had distinctive features, symbolizing their specific dominion.

  • The Was Scepter of Ra-Horakhty was blue to symbolize the sky.
  • The staff of Ra had a snake attached.
  • Since Hathor had associations with cows, the forked bottom of her Was Scepter features two cow horns.
  • Isis, on her part, also had a forked staff, but without the horn shape. It symbolized duality.
  • The ancient god Ptah’s Was Scepter combined other powerful symbols of Egyptian mythology. With this combination of powerful items, Ptah and his staff transmitted a sense of completeness. He symbolized union, totality, and full power.
Egyptian was scepter

Wrapping Up

Only the most important figures of Ancient Egypt were featured with a Was Scepter, and they had it customized to represent their characteristics. This symbol was present in Egyptian mythology since the First Dynasty, under the rule of King Djet. It kept its importance in the millennia to come, carried by the mighty deities of this culture. 

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.