Petroushka\’s Miscellany

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Ancient category.

Mmmm… Mummification

How to mummify someone:

  1. Place body on wide table, with plenty of space on either side and ideally sloping down slightly so water can drain away easily.
  2. Wash the body, preferably with sacred water (i.e. from the Nile or the Ganges or the local baptismal font).
  3. Pull the brain out through the nostrils. This, as you might imagine, is rather tricky. You must make a hole in the ethmoid bone inside the nose, at the top of the nostrils, then insert a long thin hook and slowly remove as much brain matter as possible. Remove what’s left with a long, narrow spoon. Then rinse the inside of the skull with water, or palm wine and frankincense to purify.The ancient Egyptians discarded the brain; they believed the heart, not the brain, was the seat of knowledge and being. Knowing, as we do now, that they were wrong, you might want to keep the brain in its own special jar.
  4. Remove the internal organs: Cut a small slit in the lefthand side of the torso, being careful not to disfigure the front of the body. Carefully remove organs through the slit and set aside (note: the ancient Egyptians discarded the kidneys). Cut open the diaphragm to remove the lungs. Leave the heart in the body.
  5. Wash internal organs carefully with palm wine, frankincense and myrrh. Dry with natron. When dry, wrap in strips of linen, and store in pretty jars. Bury these alongside the mummy.
  6. Rinse the empty chest cavity with palm wine and frankincense to purify.
  7. Stuff body cavity with small linen bags filled with natron to aid drying from the inside. (Note: natron is a white, powdery mineral salt; it is also used in making soap and bavarian pretzels.)
  8. Cover entire body with about 600lbs of natron, making sure sides of body are also covered. Leave in warm, dry room for 35-70 days (i.e. 46ÂșC, 30% humidity).
  9. Remove bags of natron from body cavity. Swab body cavity with palm wine and fill with spices, myrrh, and linen bags of wood shavings.
  10. Rub body with mixture of sacred oils: frankincense, myrrh, palm, lotus and cedar.
  11. Sew incision shut and cover skin with layer of warm resin.
  12. Gather 4,000 square feet (372 square meters) of linen. Tear into long strips 3-8 inches across. Write magical words and incantations on some or all of them, depending on available time and knowledge of said magical words and incantations.
  13. First wrap body in a shroud. Then use strips to wrap individual fingers and toes, then hands, feet, arms, legs, torso and head. Then use strips to wrap body as a whole. If feeling adventurous, try wrapping in pretty patterns. As you apply new layers of bandage, coat with warm resin to glue them in place. While wrapping body, mutter incantations and lay protective amulets on body, wrapped in different layers.
  14. Place final protective amulet over the heart.
  15. Opening of the Mouth: touch various parts of body with an adze while incanting spells. This opens the senses that will be necessary in the afterlife (i.e. “opening” the mouth will allow the mummy to speak and eat).

If this is too elaborate, you can skip the removing and drying of the organs by filling the torso with a mixture of oils, stuffing up all the body’s orifices, leaving it for a few days, then unplugging the orifices and watching all the liquified internal organs pour out with the oil. From this stage, proceed as above with the drying.

How to have yourself mummified:

If you don’t relish the idea of becoming worm food or a noxious greenhouse gas, there are a couple of options open to you.

  1. Give your body to science!

    In 1994, a group of scientists from the University of Maryland and the Long Island University mummified an elderly man from Baltimore who died of natural causes and had never had surgery. They used ancient Egyptian methods and materials, and filmed the whole process. You can watch it on National Geographic’s Egypt – Secrets of the Pharaohs. Or you can go see Mumab, as he’s now known, on display at the Museum of Man in San Diego, CA.

  2. Go to Utah!

    If friends and universities decline to mummify you, and you have about $70,000, you can go to a company in Utah that has developed a technique for modern mummification. They will even put you in a bronze or stainless steel sarcophagus – they call it a mummiform – specially designed by a gifted artisan, with your life mask and special symbols and inlaid gold and jewels, and everything “created in exact accordance with your wishes, as set forth in your pre-need arrangement”. But you have to find your own mausoleum.

Before deciding whether being a mummy is for you, it is best to do some research. There are many mummy movies to show you what your afterlife might be like. Favourite titles include The Mummy and the Cowpuncher (1912), Oh! You Mummy (1914, silent), Die Augen Der Mumie Ma (1918, German), La Venganza de la Momia (1973, Spanish), and of course, the best of them all by far: Bubba Ho-Tep, starring Elvis, and Ossie Davis as JFK.