Word of the day

Apotropaic (adj) preventing or intended to prevent evil

The British Museum has this apotropaic wand, or magic knife, in its collection:


(From Thebes, Egypt. Late Middle Kingdom, around 1750 BC)

Usually made from hippopotamus ivory, these magic knives would have been used to offer protection from and ward off the evil spirits associated with the dangers of childbirth and infancy. They bear more resemblance to a modern boomerang than a knife and would, most likely, have been modelled on a throwstick, an implement used to hunt birds. The images on the wand depict a number of protective images and figures associated with childbirth.

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