Curse of the Mummy

The Ancient Egyptian infuence on the occult is reinforced by many tales of the “mummy’s curse” which continue to capture public imagination. The earliest record of a ghost story involving a mummy was written in France in 1699. The mummy, together with Dracula and Frankenstein, prove the the theme has remained ever-popular for horror movies.

Ancient egypt’s connection with the occult was publicised when the so-called “Curse of Tutankhamun” was claimed by the press to be responsible for the death of Lord Carnarvon. Carnarvon, the expedition’s sponsor who had a history of ill-helath, died from an infected mosquito bite shortly after the tomb’s discovery. However, those wishing to support the superstition about his death never pointed out that the man mainly responsible for the famous find, Howard Carter, lived until well into his sixties.

Animal Mummies

The ancient Egypians didn’t only mummify people. They also mummifed animals.

Some of the most popular animal mummies were ancient Egyptian cats, which were said to be looked after by the god Bastet. The bodies of favourite cats were taken to the city of Bubastis. There they were embalmed and wrapped in cloth before being buried in the cat cemetery!

mummycrocOne ancient Egyptian, called Hapymen, was so fond of his pet dog that it was mummified, wrapped in cloth and placed at the side of his feet in his coffin.

Other pets and sacred (holy) animals were mummified in ancient Egypt, too. The strangest was probably the Nile crocodile. Some of these fierce, human-eating crocodiles were kept as pets by Egyptians, where they were fed the best meats and wines. When one of the crocodiles died, the Egyptian mummy-makers would wrap it up in cloth and begin the mummy-making process.

The Funeral

Warning: This is not suitable for children or the faint hearted.

The entire civilization of Ancient Egypt was based on religion, and their beliefs were important to them. Their belief in the rebirth after death became their driving force behind their funeral practices.

Egyptian cemeteries were on the Nile River’s west bank, because the sun set, or died, in the west. Most people lived on the east bank, so funerals meant crossing the river. This symbolised the journey of Re’s (the sun god) boat across the sky and the journey to the dead person’s new life.

Priests would put the coffin on a bier covered with a canopy. The bier was on a sledge pulled by oxen and headed the funeral procession to the Nile. Professional mourners tore thier clothes and threw dust on their heads as signs of grief.

The tomb-owner would continue after death the occupations of this life and so everything required was packed into the tomb along with the body. Servants followed with furniture and clothes for use in the next world. Also, writing materials were often supplied along with clothing, wigs, hairdressing supplies and assorted tools, depending on the occupation of the deceased. Often model tools rather than full size ones would be placed in the tomb; models were cheaper and took up less space and in the after-life would be magically transformed into the real thing. Food was provided for the deceased and should the expected regular offerings of the descendants cease, food depicted on the walls of the tomb would be magically transformed to supply the needs of the dead.

funeral1

At the tomb, a priest dressed as the jackal-headed God Anubis, protector of the dead, held the mummy upright for the ceremony of “opening the mouth”. This enabled the dead person to answer questions put to them by the gods in the Hall of Judgement, where his (or her) heart would be weighed against the Feather of Truth. If the heart of the deceased outweighs the feather, then it was believed that the deceased had a heart which has been made heavy with evil deeds. In that event, the God Ammit would devour the heart, condemning the deceased to oblivion for eternity. But if the feather outweighs the heart, then it was believed that the deceased had led a righteous life and was presented before Osiris (God of the Dead) to join the afterlife.

When the ceremonies were over, the priests swept away all traces of their footprints and sealed the tomb behind them.

The final part of a funeral was a funerary banquet, at which the relatives and friends of the deceased, sure that everything possible had been done for the safety of their loved one, could relax a little, and remember the good times.

Preparing a Mummy

mummyWarning: This is not suitable for children or the faint hearted.

The Egyptians believed that there was a life after death. According to them, when someone died the soul went on living and needed its body to return to. So the body was carefully preserved in a process called mummification. High-ranking officials, priests and other nobles who had served the pharaoh and his queen had fairly elaborate burials. The pharaohs, who were believed to become gods when they died, had the most magnificent burials of all.

The dead person’s body was taken to the embalmers, skilled men who treated it so that it would not decay. First they took out the brains and internal organs like the heart, placing them in special canopic jars. The lids of these jars were fashioned after the four sons of Horus, who were each entrusted with protecting a particular organ:

jarsQebehsenuef, the falcon head — intestines
Duamutef, the jackal head — stomach
Hapy, the baboon head — lungs
Imsety, the human head — liver

    Then the body was washed and cleaned, filled with sweet smelling spices and covered with natron, a kind of soda. After 70 days the body would be quite dry and preserved. Then it was cleaned again and rubbed with unguents to aid in preserving the mummy’s skin. If the dead person had been rich, the body was also decorated with fine jewellery.

    TombviewNext the mummy was carefully wrapped in long linen bandages. Fingers and toes were covered with protective gold caps and individually wrapped with long, narrow strips of linen. Arms and legs were also wrapped, then the entire body was wrapped to a depth of about twenty layers. Magic objects called amulets were put between the layers of bandage to give extra protection in the next life.

    Finally, the mummy was put in a coffin shaped like a human figure. These coffins were often richly decorated with paintings of the gods and accounts of the dead person’s life. Only then was a person ready for the journey across the Nile and the start of the next life.