book of the dead
The Book of the Dead, which comprised about 200 incantations, was a powerful artifact, thought to help guide deceased people to immortality in the afterlife. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

History is littered with mysterious objects – from rings to weapons – that people once believed held supernatural powers.

Click start to play today’s Spell It where King Arthur’s legendary sword, Excalibur, is considered to be one such magical ‘thing’.

The most valuable of these artifacts were thought to offer protection, the right of kingship, or healing. Others, apparently, were cursed and only caused misery to their ill-fated owners. The stories behind such objects became the stuff of legend, repeated often in plays, books and film. But while there’s never been much evidence to validate any claims of supernatural power, many people continue to believe the romantic nature of the stories surrounding these objects.

Here are a few that are worth noting:

1. Book of the Dead, Egypt

Death wasn’t the end of man’s life, in ancient Egypt. They believed that it just signalled the first step of a hazardous journey into the afterlife, as humankind went on to face the judgment of the deities. In order to navigate to immortal life, those who died needed instructions. So, ancient Egyptians would inscribe nearly 200 spells from the Book of the Dead, in sheets of papyrus pasted together, and would sometimes write or draw it out on walls, coffins and mummy wrappings of upper-class Egyptians. Some of the spells were thought to offer protection during the perilous journey, while others could transform the person into a powerful animal, such as a falcon.

2. Stones of Uluru, Australia

Uluru or Ayer's Rock in Australia. Image Credit: Unsplash/Photoholgic

Also known as Ayer’s Rock, the Uluru is a massive sandstone monolith, rising 1,142 feet high above the desert in central Australia. It’s at the centre of the Aboriginal Anangu people’s creation myth and still remains a place of religious activity. Since 2019, visitors have been prohibited from climbing the formation, and many stories exist about how rocks from Uluru are cursed and so, shouldn’t be pocketed. Staff members at the national park still continue to receive packages of returned rocks from visitors who had taken them home as souvenirs. According to a June 2022 report in the National Geographic, about 25 per cent of the letters they receive report that those who snatched rocks from the Uluru had suffered from illness or other forms of bad luck.

3. Excalibur, England

Sculpture of Excalibur in the lake of Kingston Maurward gardens in the UK. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Chris Downer

Perhaps one of the best-known ‘magical’ objects in history, the sword named Excalibur comes from Arthurian legend. Its first mention was in a medieval text called History of the Kings of Britain, where it was called Caliburn. King Arthur reportedly used it single-handedly to kill 470 men in around 1136. Another famous story surrounding the sword is how King Arthur released it from a block of stone, as a boy, when other larger, stronger men failed to do so. And when King Arthur lay dying after his final battle, he requested Sir Bedivere to throw his sword into a lake, where many believe it to remain, even today.

What do you think of these legends? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at