Definitions

Was

Was

[wuhz, woz; unstressed wuhz]

Was ("power") scepters represent the Set-animal (mascot of the Egyptian god Sutekh). Was scepters were depicted as being carried by gods, pharaohs, and priests, as a symbol of power, and in later use, as a symbol of control over the force of chaos (Set). Was scepters occur often in paintings, drawings, and carvings of gods, and remnants of real Was scepters have been found constructed of faience or wood, where the head and forked tail of the Set-animal are visible.

The Was (ws) is also the Egyptian hieroglyphic character that stands for a word meaning power.

In their 2004 book The Quick and the Dead, Andrew H. Gordon and Calvin W. Schwabe speculated that the Ankh, Djed and Was symbols were derived from various parts of a bull that were significant in ancient cattle culture, thus:

  • the Ankh - symbol of life - thoracic vertebrae of a bull (seen in cross section)
  • the Djed - symbol of stability - base or sacrum of a bull's spine
  • the Was - symbol of power and dominion - a staff made from a dried bull's penis that was the symbol for the goddess Wosret or Wasretɛïɜ

The was has a forked top and a tripod base. One suggestion is that the staff was pushed into the ground and a line of sight set through the fork, hence the ruler of all he surveyed.

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