The ancient Egyptians wore scarab amulets for protection in life and believed them to be symbols of reincarnation in the afterlife. This belief sprang from the Egyptians understanding of the ways of the scarab or dung-beetle – a large insect that after laying its eggs in a ball of dung, rolls the ball before it wherever it goes. When the young beetles hatch they appear, seemingly miraculously, from the dung. For the ancient Egyptians, this behavior came to represent the actions of the sun god, Khepri, who was thought to push the sun through the sky. The beetle’s life cycle then came to symbolize spontaneous creation, rebirth, and resurrection – like the soul rising from the dead.
Besides providing these ever-helpful defenses against plague and pestilence, two other ancient talismans have been added. The mano cornuto, or sign of the horns, and the corna, the Italian horn amulet, are used to ward off bad luck and the malocchio or evil eye, one of the most ancient superstitions in Italy.