Ancient Egyptian mummification was never intended to preserve bodies, new exhibit reveals

Nov 24, 2022
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This is being presented as a very black vs. white topic, when in fact, it's a complicated issue. Firstly, the concept of preserving the body for divinity is absolutely correct; however, it's not the only reason. In Ancient Egypt, after the First Intermediate Period, divinity was a concept that became accessible to all people. Before this, mummification was something for nobility only. It is commonly known that humans, when they die, are judged for their actions. In this case, the Weighing of the Heart takes place in the Hall of Two Truths, where your heart (left in the body) is weighed on a set of divine scales against the Feather of Ma'at (think: universal balance, all that's right). There are many steps to becoming akhu, one of the 'blessed dead', too many to list here. Most important is, if your heart is as light as the feather, you become justified and are introduced to Osiris, King of the Dead. He permits you to enter His Kingdom as a God. Therefore, each person "becomes an Osiris" upon death - BUT.. the body is still needed.

There are two parts to the soul, the ka and the ba. Your ba is able to return to your body after you have died, and is often believed to be wandering around, collecting the offerings the family has left, overseeing their loved ones, and generally being present. This occurs at night, and in the morning, your justified soul reunites. Obviously, you need a body to accomplish this. So, yes, as a matter of fact, they really were trying to preserve their bodies. (I have never heard the fish analogy, and I find it difficult to believe the Victorians thought mummies were like preserved food, especially given the lack of evidence for cannibalism.)

The only other point to mention is the idea that the bodies were being hollowed out so they'd become like divine statues. What happens is precisely opposite. The statues of the Gods were not viewed as statues (or idols). When the image is consecrated by the priests, in a ritual known as "Opening of the Mouth", the statue then becomes a body, a vessel for the God to inhabit. This same ritual takes place for the deceased as well, just before their final interment, allowing the person to have use of their senses in the afterlife.

So although the organs were removed, and preserved in canopic jars in the same tomb, it was not to make them like a statue, since they did not worship statues. They revered and honored the God inside of the statue, the essence of divinity.

TL;DR.. everyone becomes a God when they die, but they still need their bodies. The ancients did not worship idols and weren't attempting to turn bodies into statues, nor preserve them like... um, fish??
 
Nov 24, 2022
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I have a different understanding something I realised only after my Dad passed away. In our tradition the body of the deceased gets cremated. However it introduces a problem for the spirit as it no longer has a body so it dwells within the bodies of the living to continue to survive. But this attachment also leads to rebirth the process of reincarnation. If you want to stop the process of rebirth then you don't cremate the body but mummify which makes the spirit continue to live in this state without reentering the cycle of birth and death. Although our tradition cremates the death there are exceptions for certain categories of people like saints who get placed in tombs and are not cremated.
 

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