Egyptian talismans (ornamental charms) were worn by both the living and the dead. Some protected the wearer against specific dangers and others endowed him or her with special characteristics, such as strength or fierceness.
Papyri (Egyptian scrolls) show that talismans were used in medicine, often in conjunction with poultices (a medicated dressing, often applied hot) or other preparations, and the recitation of spells. Sometimes, the papyri on which the spells were written could also act as talismans, and were folded up and worn by the owner.
One of the most widely worn protective talismans was the wedjat eye: the restored eye of Horus. It was worn by the living, and often appeared on rings and as an element of necklaces. It was also placed on the body of the deceased during the mummification process to protect the incision through which the internal organs were removed.
Several of the spells in the Book of the Dead were intended to be spoken over specific talismans, which were then placed in particular places on the body of the deceased.
The scarab (beetle) was an important funerary talisman, associated with rebirth, and the heart scarab amulet prevented the heart from speaking out against the deceased.
Magic and religion were part of everyday life in ancient Egypt. Gods and demons were thought to be responsible for many ailments, so often the treatments involved some supernatural element. Often the first recourse would be an appeal to a deity. Often priests and magicians were called on to treat disease instead of, or in addition to a physician. Physicians themselves often used incantations and magical ingredients as part of their treatments.
The impact of the emphasis on magic is seen in the selection of remedies, or the ingredients for those remedies. Ingredients were sometimes selected seemingly because they were derived from a substance, plant or animal the had characteristics which in some way corresponded to the symptoms of the patient. This is known as the principle of simila similibus (similar with similar) and is found throughout the history of medicine up to the modern practice of homeopathy. Thus an ostrich egg is included in the treatment of a broken skull, and an talisman or amulet portraying a hedgehog might be used against baldness.
Talismans in general were enormously popular with ancient Egyptians, being worn for many magical purposes. Health related talismans are classified as homopoeic, phylactic and theophoric. Homeopoetic talismans portray an animal or a part of an animal from which the wearer hopes to assimilate positive attributes (like strength or speed). Phylactic talismans were protective, warding off harmful gods and demons. The famous Eye of Horus was often used on a phylactic amulet. Theophoric talismans represented the Egyptian gods, such as one representing the girdle of Isis, used to stem the flow of blood at miscarriage.