The Scarab Beetle is a dung beetle, which rolls balls of animal dung along the ground. These balls are rolled into holes that the beetles dig in the ground. The beetle then deposits its larvae in the dung ball which - when hatched, feed upon the dung. According to Egyptian mythology, the dung beetle rolling his ball of dung along the ground was thought to mimic the Sun's heavenly circuit across the sky during the day and its daily self-renewal. It was believed that a sacred symbolic Scarab carrying a Solar disk on its back, represented the Sun's cycle through the sky.
During the time of the Egyptians, stone-carved scarabs were used as magical amulets and protective talismans to aide its wearer with the power of "eternal renewal of life." Scarabs were also employed as talismans and royal seals. The winged scarab was used in Egyptian funeral rites. When the long linen strips covering mummies have been unwrapped, many small charms and amulets have been uncovered. Foremost among them have been sacred Scarab beetles.
The ancient Egyptians believed that Khepri renewed the sun every day before rolling it above the horizon, then carried it through the other world after sunset, only to renew it, again, the next day. Some New Kingdom royal tombs exhibit a threefold image of the sun god, with the beetle as symbol of the morning sun. The astronomical ceiling in the tomb of Ramses VI portrays the nightly "death" and "rebirth" of the sun as being swallowed by Nut, goddess of the sky, and re-emerging from her womb as Khepri.
In Aesop's fable "The Dung Beetle and the Eagle", the eagle kills a hare despite the beetle's appeals. The beetle takes revenge by twice destroying the eagle's eggs. The eagle, in despair, flies up to Olympus and places her latest eggs in Zeus's lap, beseeching the god to protect them. When the beetle finds out what the eagle has done, it stuffs itself with dung, goes straight up to Zeus and flies right into his face. Zeus is startled at the sight of the unpleasant creature and jumps to his feet. The eggs are broken. Zeus then learns of the beetle's plea which the eagle had ignored. He scolds the eagle and urges the beetle to stay away from the bird. But his efforts to persuade the beetle fail; so he changes the breeding season of the eagles to take place at a time when the beetles are not above ground.
As tattoo designs, Scarab Beetles are symbols of the cycle and power of the sun, of resurrection and the after-life. They are lucky amulets for protection and will help guide one successfully into the afterlife. Scarab Beetles are often shown with falcons wings, and these special Scarabs ensured that an individual would be able to persuade Osiris to let them into the Afterlife regardless of what they might have done that was less than virtuous in life.