Analysis of Mummification
Stories about mummies have been told on Halloween or discussed in an ancient history class, but one doesn’t usually stop and think about how real the process of mummification used to be or the process that it involved. Mummification played a large role in ancient Egyptian society. This strange and fascinating Egyptian ritual is a multi-stepped religious practice of old beliefs. Deceased people were mummified primarily because of the ancient Egyptian beliefs.
The Egyptians believed that there was an afterlife, but in order to get into this afterlife there were steps that needed to be followed.
The idea of rebirth was based on the legend of King Osiris who the Egyptians believed was killed by his brother, reassembled by his wife, and brought back to life by his son (William). After mummification, a ritual called “The Opening of the Mouth” is performed which allows the deceased to eat and drink again (“Embalming and Wrapping”). This ceremony is done to reenact the ritual that King Osiris’ son had done for him. After the rebirth of King Osiris, he became known as the God of the underworld.
Two very important things are necessary in order to have a pleasant eternal life in what was known as “The Field of Reeds. ” First, they must be judged by their good deeds in the underworld, and if their heart is considered pure enough they may continue this eternal life. Second, they must have a well preserved body so that the soul can recognize it after the “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony. For such a preservation to happen there is a careful process of embalming and wrapping of the body (William).
The first step in the mummification of a body is embalming. The process of embalming is one of several steps.
First the body is washed with good smelling palm wine and rinsed with water from the Nile. Then an embalmer makes a cut in the left side of the body where all internal organs are removed because they are the first to decompose. Once the organs are out, they are washed and packed in natron, which is a natural salt used to dry them out. The heart is not taken because it is believed to be the center of intelligence and is needed in the afterlife.
Next a long hook is inserted through the nose to pull out the brain through the nasal cavity. The body is then stuffed with more natron to dry it out, and the body will then sit for 40 days.
After this time, the body is washed again with Nile water, then covered with oils to keep the skin elastic. The dried out organs are wrapped in linen and returned to the body which is stuffed with sawdust, leaves, and linen. Finally it is covered will good smelling oils and is ready to be wrapped (“Embalming and Wrapping”).
The second and final step in mummification is wrapping. There are several steps in the wrapping of a mummy. First, the head and neck are wrapped with strips of linen, then fingers and toes are wrapped individually.
Then the arms and legs are wrapped separately, tied together, and a scroll with spells from the Book of the Dead is placed between the hands. While the mummy is being wrapped, the priest reads spells out loud in order to ward off evil spirits and help the deceased make the journey to the afterlife.
Amulets, which are little trinkets or charms that protect the person from evil spells in the underworld, are placed between the layers of linen. Next, the whole body is wrapped. At every layer, the bandages are painted with liquid resin which helps glue linen together. A thicker cloth is then wrapped around the surface and a picture of the God Osiris is painted on the surface.
After that, yet another layer of cloth is wrapped around the mummy and strips of linen run from top to bottom and around the middle.
A board of painted wood is placed on top of the mummy and is lowered into a coffin, which is lowered into a second coffin. The mummy is now complete and is ready for the “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony (“Embalming and Wrapping”). The practice of mummification was a strange and complex ritual filled with fascinating religious beliefs. Knowing the actual process and reasons behind mummification builds a much greater understanding of the process that played such a big role in Egyptian Society. Now, next time a friend tells a scary tale about a mummy at Halloween, one will know more behind the story.