Death has always been one of the phenomena that frightened people because of its mysterious and incomprehensible character. Trying to explain it, societies of the past created various religious beliefs that offered their vision of death and suggested rituals on how to act to minimize fear. One of the most notable and famous cults was in Ancient Egypt as people had a detailed model of the afterlife. Mummification was one of the central rituals of this religion and can be considered one of the most ambiguous traditions of the past.
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The given ritual emerged from the unique ancient Egyptians’ attitude towards the afterworld. They were sure that the soul was immortal and death was a temporary state that would be followed by a new cycle when the given substance would come back (Sumegi, 2013). However, all individuals had to respect gods and pay during and after their life to guarantee that the immortal soul would reincarnate (Sumegi, 2013). At the same time, it was necessary to provide all the needed things for a person to live in the afterworld without any hardships. There were multiple household items, clothes, and magical spells in tombs that were created to guarantee that the soul of a deceased will enjoy its afterlife being.
However, one of the most notable and unusual rituals associated with this belief was mummification. As it has already been stated, ancient Egyptians were sure that one day a soul would return to its body. For this reason, it had to be prepared for this procedure and saved to ensure that there would be storage for the immortal soul. The mysterious character of this belief resulted in the emergence of several peculiarities associated with the creation of a mummy.
First, the body of a deceased had to be prepared for the long journey of a soul that used to live in it. That is why specially trained priests removed internal organs through the cut in the left side of the body (Jeremiah, 2014). It was made to avoid corruption as they were the first to decompose and damage the container for a soul (Jeremiah, 2014). The liver, lungs, and stomach were washed, dried, and put in special canopic jars created to store the viscera that would be needed in the future life (Jeremiah, 2014).
The heart was not removed as it was considered the major organ responsible for intelligence, feelings, and existence in the afterlife. Then, that body was placed in natron for 70 days to eliminate all liquids and ensure its better preservation (Jeremiah, 2014). Finally, after this long period, the corpse was washed again, covered by oils, and wrapped by the strips of the linen that would help to protect it from the physical damage and guarantee that a soul would have the place to return.
The given method was one of the most complex ways to deal with the bodies of the diseased and prepare them for the afterlife. The whole process demanded a prolonged period and a high level of skills from people responsible for the successful mummification. For this reason, embalmers, individuals who performed all the activities mentioned above, had to act by existing instructions to avoid possible problems and guarantee that the ritual would be held appropriately. They had to possess some knowledge of anatomy to extract organs from the body, chemistry, and physics to prepare natron and other substances needed for the mummification. Nevertheless, the complexity of all these actions shows the unique role the ritual played in Ancient Egypt and its religion that was focused on the cultivation of the idea of the specific afterlife.
In such a way, I am sure that mummification is one of the most mysterious and unusual rituals associated with religions and ideas of the afterlife. One of the main causes for its selection was the difference from other cultures and contradiction to dominant beliefs. For instance, Christians also believe that the soul is immoral and the most important part of a human being; however, they promote a respectful attitude to bodies and bury them following some rituals. In Ancient Egypt, people had the idea of the immortality of the soul; however, mummification was one of the critical elements needed to guarantee that the cycle will be preserved and a person will have an opportunity to come back to this world.
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Moreover, the process of mummification can be disgusting or unpleasant regarding the modern people’s mentality, especially for relatives as they will see how the body of a beloved person is torn apart and modified in an extremely severe way. However, in Ancient Egypt, it was a common practice that was respected by all representatives of society. Even poor individuals tried to mummify the deceased to observe existing traditions and guarantee that a soul would not have barriers for its future existence. In some cases, mummies were stored at homes as there were no tombs or money to build them (Jeremiah, 2014).
This fact also challenges me as in the majority of modern cultures, dead people are buried in various ways to minimize the pain a person can feel while looking at the body. Finally, the mysterious character of the cult of death peculiar to Ancient Egypt and multiple stories associated with the mummies discovered infamous Pyramids also served as another reason for the selection of this ritual and its analysis as it was the desire to understand the main reason for these actions and beliefs of people who acted in this way.
Altogether, mummification is one of the most unusual rituals associated with the afterlife. There are many unique activities related to it that can attract people’s attention and spark the desire to investigate the issue.
Jeremiah, K. (2014). Eternal remains: World mummification and the beliefs that make it necessary. New York, NY: First Edition Design Publishing.
Sumegi, A. (2013). Understanding death: An introduction to ideas of self and the afterlife in world religions. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.