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A very small figurine made by the Ancient Egyptians for whatever spooky reason they ever did anything. Typically of turquoise-glaze faience, but also of other materials and finishes, they came in sets (sometimes of 365) and were dressed as mummies, placed with the dead to help them. (Help them undo the bandages? Help them find their pickled spleens? Whisper in their ears the answers to questions Anubis asked them?)

An Egyptian word for answerer. If the deceased was asked to help with manual labour, the ushabti was supposed to answer for them and go and do it. The spell to cause this was painted or carved on them.

The usual form of the name is ushabti but you sometimes see others such as shabti.

The ushabti is a representation of a certain aspect of the Egyptian concept of soul, which was a lot more complicated than our modern one. It represents that part of the deceased which went around the physical drudgery of everyday life before mummification.

Its function in the afterlife was to take upon itself any action or task that the mummy doesn't want to preform itself, so naturally manual labour comes into it. However the ushabti is also the mummy's personal servant and is responsible for keeping it comfortable and well taken care of. There is an amusing little text of a man having an argument with his lazy ushabti from the Middle Kingdom period, admonishing it for not wanting to go and fetch him beer, with the ushabti basically snuggling deeper into the covers and saying "what have you ever done for me, eh?"

These things are illegal.

Maybe not in your country, but they have been stolen from Eygpt, as it is illegal to export them.

These things are openly on sale at Amazon.com and EBay, just search for ushabti, and you'll find tens of them available in the auction at any one time for around $35 a shot.

Whilst it might seem rather cool to have this little figurine who is supposed to be your lackey, at the end of the day the purchasers of these ushabti are financing tomb raiding. Joshua at GarouMUSH said that

"It's like selling someone's grandma's wedding ring that you dug up out of her grave. Or, better yet, the rosary she was buried with because she had a deep spiritual connection with."
So if you buy one, you're a plunderer, a grave digger, and completely devoid of respect for the dead. I wonder if the curse of the pharoahs still holds?

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