Clarifying the Mythos: Mummies

With Halloween coming up, many Americans will be indulging in all things creepy and paranormal. But while most of us have heard of ghosts and goblins, not all of us know the entire mythos behind these creatures that go bump in the night. So, using my personal knowledge and the research of traditional texts and scholars, I plan to clarify this mythos all October long in celebration of Halloween.

Today’s mythological creature is rather peculiar among the monsters because its mythology was started by foreigners instead of locals. Of course, I am talking about the mummy. Yeah, according to this website, the legend of the cursed Egyptian mummy came from either grave robbers who fell ill from breathing the bad air of the tombs or the superstitious, ghost story-loving Victorians who explored the tombs and not from the Egyptians themselves.

The ancient Egyptians themselves did not fear death. There isn’t any evidence that they ever believed mummies were cursed. In fact, for ancient Egyptians, death was considered beautiful, not frightening or sad. It was a step to the next life and making people into mummies helped move them along on this journey.

Howard Carter, the man who found Tutankhamen’s tomb, said, “There is no place less morbid than an Egyptian tomb. The paintings and inscriptions contain not curses on possible intruders but blessings on the deceased, magical spells to ensure a good afterlife.”

Mummification was a burial practice done to make sure bodies did not decay so that they could be used in the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians believed a person’s spirit, or ka, was in the body, so preserving the body was necessary. Embalmers carried out embalming as a sacred rite.

The mummification process took about 70 days in total. Every organ was taken out of the body and put in jars for protection, except for the heart since it was considered the center of the body. Then, the body was washed with palm wine and a special salt removed its moisture. After that, to quote the site, “the body was wrapped in large amounts of linen, some of which contained spells and magic ‘amulets’ to help the dead person in their journey to the afterlife. The wrappings were covered in warm resin (special sap from trees) to make sure they stayed in place.”

When the mummification process was over, the body was placed in a container. Ordinary people had simple tombs, but the wealthy and important, such as a pharaoh, would have well-decorated coffins. Pharaohs, specifically, would be placed in a set of resting mummy cases that fitted one inside another (like the Russian dolls), and then placed in a highly-decorated sarcophagus.

That sarcophagus and other things the dead might need would then be placed either in a Pyramid or in large, decorated tomb, like in the Valley of the Kings.

Surrounding the Egyptian dead, that is all there is to it. The mummies stay in the tombs (or more likely, in museums) and the spirits go enjoy their amazing afterlives. They’re happy. They have no reason to want to come back.

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