The Beliefs and Process of Mummification in Egypt
Age Group: Adolescent and Beyond
Date Written: Jun 11, 2006
In ancient Egypt, life
after death was an enormous part of the Egyptian life. The Egyptians believed
that life after death was the greatest accomplishment of all, and with this
belief the people of Egypt would spend most of there time preparing for the
cross-over between life and death.
In preparation for the cross over people would spend hours of time and large amounts of money to ensure that they will have a good mummification process and funeral. The more money you had or were willing to spend the better mummification and funeral there would be. People with more money were able to pay for better oils and perfumes, which their bodies would be covered in, and they could afford a better coffin or tomb that would ensure their crossing over. People would also have a portrait done of themselves during their life. This portrait was then placed over the head of the mummy. The quality of mummification the more of a chance they would have to go to the afterlife.
The amount of people that attended your funeral or mourned over your death would also help with the crossing over. This was to prove that you were well liked or loved while you were living, showing that you were a good person. To guarantee a large amount of people were going to mourn over the death. A messenger would be paid in order to announce the death of someone allowing everyone to get ready for the mourning period.
The cost of preparing for life after death is outrageous, and because of the amount of money that is spent in preparing for life after death, Pharaoh's were the only ones at first to get mummified. The Egyptians believed that the Pharaoh would become a God after death. In order to ensure that, the Pharaoh's tombs would be placed in pyramids. The pyramids were meant to help with them becoming a god after their death. After a period of time the courtiers and servants were also preserved to provide a retinue in the after life.
Mummification was a set of methods; embalming and treating a dead body after death in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians were able to remove all moisture from the body so; there could be life after their death, in the underworld. It was a continuous process that lasted seventy days and included odd steps. Steps where you would remove internal organs and then place them in jars, or they would have a salty bath. The process started after an Egyptians death, they would be taken to a tent know as "ibu" or the "tent of purification", here is where the mummification process was performed by embalmers. Embalmers were special priests that performed the correct rituals, prayers and different stages to the dehydration process of mummification. The first step to the process was to cleanse and wash the Egyptians life away with water from the Nile. From here the internal organs were removed from an incision on the left side of the body. This incision was considered to be extremely disrespectful to the recent deceased; therefore the other embalmers would throw pebbles at the embalmer who made the incision. It was a superstition and who ever made this cut was instilled to protect the eternal peace of their client. After the removal of the lungs, liver, intestines and stomach these organs were placed in jars known as "canopic jars" after being individually washed, and dried out with natron salt. Each jar had a head of four animals, which protected the organs into the afterlife. The heads were those of Horus four sons, Imset the head of a human who protected the liver, Ha'py the head of a baboon who protected the lungs, Duamutef the head of a jackal protected the stomach and Qebehsenuef the head of a falcon who protected the intestines. The heart and the kidneys were the only two soft organs that were left in the body after death. The kidneys had no importance to the Egyptians and were left in place. The heart was seen as the most important organ and for an Egyptian to enter the underworld it must be intact. This was because it was the place of wisdom, and intelligence in the body. and also was needed later in the weighing of the heart ceremony. The brain was the last soft organ to be removed and was done by a hook that the embalmers inserted in the nose. The brain to the Egyptian was much like the kidneys had no real purpose, they thought it was a waste of space and once removed was thrown away or dissolved in water. The body know empty of organs was covered and stuffed with natron salt, which helped the body dry out for forty days. The body was then washed with water from the Nile and covered with oils to help the skin of the body stay elastic. The body was then stuffed with linen; sawdust or leaves so it would allow the body to look more life like and covered once again with oils. The incision on the left side was then covered with either wax, or with a metal plate. The metal plate was used for protection for the underworld and was decorated with magical symbols. Instead of the internal organs being placed in canoic jars they could be placed back into the body at this point.
The final step that was done in the tent of purification was the wrapping of the body that lasted fifteen days. The body was wrapped with linen, beginning with the head and neck and the fingers and toes followed after. Each finger and toe was individually wrapped and the arms and legs were wrapped separately. Between the layers of wrapping, the embalmers place amulets to protect the body for its journey to the underworld. Two important amulets were the Iris knot, which protected the body and the Plummet amulet that will keep the person balanced in the next life. While the mummy is being wrapped the priests read out spells. These spells help ward off evil and protected them on their journey to the afterlife. A papyrus scroll with spells from the Book of the Dead is placed between the wrapped hands. This scroll allows them to have a safe and successful trip to the underworld. The body was once more wrapped with linen and then covered with a cloth that had a picture of Orisis painted on the front. Finally, a large cloth is wrapped around the entire mummy. It is attached with strips of linen that run from the top to the bottom of the bottom of the mummy. After the body was wrapped, the head and face were often covered by a mask decorated with facial features similar to those of the deceased. Facial features were often decorated with gold or oil paint to imitate the flesh of the gods.
The embalming process was then finished with one final step before the funeral and that was for the mummy to be placed in a series of coffins. There were usually two coffins with spells and images that would allow his/her body to enter the underworld. The spells on the coffin were protective spells that help and protected the deceased on their journey to the underworld. The coffins were completely covered in designs and pictures and many of them were to resemble the Egyptian. The collar on the coffin resembles their jewellery and the wigs were to resemble an important event. The sky goddess "Nut" was also painted on the coffin. Nut was associated with rebirth and the Egyptians believed he swallowed the sun every evening and gave birth to the sun each morning. The scarab beetle was another important picture to be painted on because he also was connected with rebirth. Along with their coffin an Egyptian had a decorated box filled with shabtis. Shabtis were small figures that would magically come to life and work for the deceased in the afterlife.
Money determined where a mummy would be buried or placed after death. Many pharaohs were placed in the pyramids, which was also known as houses of eternity. This was because…. Pharaohs could also be placed in the Valley of the Kings………….. The first kingdom gods where placed in mastabas, the earliest form of pyramids and commoners were buried in
The funeral was the last but most important step. It was a time when everyone who loved, cared, was a friend or who was paid by the deceased would come. Two important rituals were performed before they would enter the afterlife. The opening of the mouth was the ritual that was seen by people and was considered one of the most important preparations. The priests and the deceased family performed this ritual outside the burial chamber. The family recited spells while the priests used special tools to touch the different parts of the mummies face. This ritual allowed the deceased to eat, talk, see, hear and move in the afterlife. After this ritual the coffin of the mummy was placed in a sarcophagus, in their tomb. The deceased was among all their belongs in his/her tomb. This included their values from their life on earth; these valuables usually carried significant meaning. Some of this items consisted of paintings, mummified animals, spells, prayers, which came from the book of the dead, and the canoic jars. Food was also left in the tomb so that the deceased would feed the soul. The scrolls contained instructions on how to achieve eternal life. From there the tomb was sealed leaving the last ritual to take place before the deceased could enter the afterlife. This was the weighing of the heart ceremony and was not seen by anyone. It was the most important task to achieve immortality. The heart was left intact because of this ritual. It was seen as the most powerful part of the body and considered the centre of a person's being. There were many gods that attended this ceremony. Each had a special purpose to help the mummies enter the underworld. Each god judged the heart and then performed a special ritual. Maat, the goddess of truth, brought out her scale; on one side was the mummies heart on the other was the feather of truth. The god of the underworld Annabis, made the final decision and the scribe god Thoth recorded it all. If the heart balanced with the feather, the mummy was granted immortality. It the heart was heavier, meaning that the heart was full of sins; the soul of the mummy was doomed to a horrible fate. The heavy heart would then be thrown to Ammit, the devourer of the dead.
The crossing over was when the deceased traveled to the underworld or afterlife. It is described as if it was a dream, but not a good dream more like a nightmare, the worst nightmare ever known. It felt like you were traveling down a dark tunnel with many objects flying out at the person. It was much like a flume ride and many historians and professors describe this way.* This is a freighting journey but all Egyptians wait for the day they cross over their entire lives.
An Egyptian believed that in order for them to cross over into the afterlife they must have the six elements that make up a human. The physical body was an element that helped the cross over; it must have been intact, and well preserved in order to travel into the afterlife. The shadow, it was essential to life, and without it a person would not exist.