I got the idea to make these invitations from somewhere on the internet, and I thought the kids would love it. Basically, I printed the invitations on papyrus-printed paper (not my first choice), using hieroglyphs for the top and bottom, roll them up and tied them with a string going through an scarab amulet. Mika LOVED the presentation – though Mike complained that it was all my doing and Mika didn’t get to participate on making them. What can I say? My major in college was Ancient Egyptian Archaeology, so I’m very much into this party.
Now as to the parts of the invitation:
I’d meant to buy real papyrus for the invitations, but it was surprisingly difficult and expensive to find it online. It’s available at Amazon but for the ridiculous price of $4.50 a sheet + super-high shipping. I thought I’d gotten a real good deal on e-bay, where abcislam2000, an Egypt based seller, had listed 10 sheets, about 11 1/2″ x 17″ each, of plain papyrus with a “buy it now” price of $10 and a “best offer” option. I offered $5 and it was immediately accepted. It’s an additional $8 for shipping – so each papyrus sheet ends up costing $1.30. They do combine shipping, so I went ahead and got myself a print of an Ancient Egyptian scene on papyrus (same size) for $3.50, that I can use as decoration.
But the “real papyrus” turned out to be heavy paper printed with a papyrus motif. I e-mailed the seller about it, but he really seems convinced that it’s papyrus – that’s what his suppliers tell him and he doesn’t seem to know better. If it wasn’t for the fact that Mika realized it wasn’t papyrus right away, it wouldn’t be a big deal, the paper looks nice enough and each sheet was large enough for 4 invitations. But she figured it out and was disappointed. Oh well. At least the paper is very good quality, thick and easy to print on.
I’m pretty sure that they sell papyrus printed paper in the US, though I wasn’t able to find it through google, so if you go this route you don’t have to order it from Egypt.
Lettering / Hieroglyphs
I wanted to use real hieroglyphic writing for Mika’s invitation. In particular, I wanted to write “Mika’s Birthday” or “Happy Birthday Mika” on the top and “ankh – wdja – snb” (life, prosperty, health) on the bottom. The latter was a very common phrase/wish in Ancient Egypt.
That proved more difficult than expected. While there are several free (and not-free) hieroglyph fonts online, none of the ones I found had all the hieroglyphs I needed. The most complete (and elegant) was Jim Loy’s font, available for free, but it did not have the hieroglyph for wdja (the one in the middle, following the ankh, in the picture below). It does have the whole alphabet, plus some other common hieroglyphs including several determinatives (specially for professions/activities) so if you are just looking to spell out a name, this is a very good font to download.
But I was determined to have ankh-wdja-snb so I looked and looked for a another font. Finally I stumbled upon the GlyphBasic fonts, GlyphBasic 4 has the hieroglyph for wdja, but none of the four fonts included in the download had the ankh or the snb. *sigh*. Unfortunately, it was difficult to combine the fonts as the wdja hieroglyph sat taller than the two – so I finally decided to use photoshop to put the hieroglyphs together and just made the whole phrase into a graphic:
I think it ended up looking pretty good.
Given the difficulties with the wdja, and the fact that Jim’s font did not have the hieroglyph for nfr (happy), I decided writing “Mika’s Birthday” at the top would be enough:
This transliterates to “ra – mswt – Mika”. Ra, the sun, means “day” (first hieroglyph + vertical line). “mswt” means “birth” (following three hieroglyphs) and “Mika” (starting with the owl hieroglyph) was spelled out with the female determinative at the end. Note that in Ancient Egyptian you do not leave spaces between words.
There are several ways to spell this phrase and I went with the one that was easiest and most “artistically” pleasant. The font I used did not permit me (or at least I couldn’t figure out how) to place the different hieroglyphs one on top of the other, as you would in Ancient Egyptian, so I decided to skip “n” – the wavy line which means “of” and the three little short vertical lines that could have worked as a determinative for “mswt” (no way I was going to search for the “woman giving birth” determinative). That said, after consulting Faulkner, I’m confident that this phrase is perfectly written as such. So feel free to use it (substituting your kids name, of course).
The next header of the invitation uses the Novascript font, which looks sort of ancient despite the name.
I used arial for the rest.
Rolling / Scarab
I rolled the invitations as you would a scroll more for “effect” than authenticity. Ancient Egyptians often folded rather than rolled their papyrus – though the latter was also done. I tied it with some ribbon I had left over (I’ll probably use gold for the rest of the invitations), which I passed through a homemade scarab amulet. Camila and I made the amulets using the Fun with Egyptian amulets kit that she got for Xmas. The kit has a mold with different Egyptian amulet forms and you use polymer clay to make them. We made a hole going through them with a toothpick.
And that is that, our party invitations. I hope the kids like them 🙂
All these years later I realize that Jim’s font does have the hieroglyph for nfr, it’s shift-2.