Zar jewellery

Zar ceremony

A special genre in Egyptian jewellery consists of purpose-made magical jewellery, to be used in the zar-ceremony. This ceremony is carried out mainly for women, who are possessed (‘clothed’) by a spirit. The zar ceremony focuses on communicating with the spirit. It is therefore not an excorism but a ritual to accommodate cohabitation. In order to do this, a trance-like state is induced by the zar musicians, who play heavy drums. Each individual spirit has its own music. The leader of the ceremony knows how to call for a certain Master and how to interpret his or her wishes. Many zar-spirits are known by name. In addition to music, offerings, food, and the heavy smells of perfume and frankincense play an important role.

Although the silver zar-pendants are the ones best known, they form only part of the entire set of jewellery to be used during the ceremony, which also includes beaded necklaces and bracelets as well as coins. The silver pendants generally consist of a round plaque in thick sheet silver with bells underneath it. The bells come in uneven numbers in order to ward off evil. The pendant is engraved on one side with a depiction of the spirit that commands the client. The other side is engraved with the Throne Verse. In addition to the round plaques, also rectangular and pear-shaped amulets are known. In the period from the late 1800′s to circa 1950, zar-amulets were made using engraving by hand as technique only. After 1950, machine-made pendants appear. These are of much thinner sheet silver.

Read more about my current research into zar jewellery here.


The photograph on the background is made by Muhammad Ghouneim. More of his photographs on the Egyptian zar-ceremony can be found here.