Art of the MummiesMummification - Beliefs
The Art of the Mummies encased several processes including the Washing, the Embalming, the Recitation of the necessary Prayers and Spells, and the adding of amulets with the wrappings. But who undertook this work? Where did they work? What tools did they use? Which Deity was called to help?
The People. Who were the Embalmers?
The Embalmers were one of the highest levels of the Priesthood and for the upper echelons of society they were the only humans to touch the deceased. An air of mystery and religious aura left the population in awe of these Priests. Embalmers were Priests conveyed with the knowledge of the Ancient Egyptian religion and how to correctly prepare the deceased’s body for its Flight for Resurrection journey to Aaru, the Field of Reeds.
For further information about the Flight for Resurrection, click here.
For further information about the Field of Reeds, click here.
Head Embalmer Priest, the Hery Sesheta; the Overseer of Mysteries
Overall responsibility was his in the correct completion of the Mummy. He invoked assistance of the God of Anubis, the God of Mummification. Hery Sesheta wore the mask of Anubis, the Jackal. They would make the incision on the body and be responsible for currying favour back with the Deities as to desecrate the human body was against the very will of the Gods.
Assistant Embalmer Priest, the Hetemw Netjer
As the name suggests, this Priest literally assisted the Hery Sesheta.
Lector Priest, the Hery Heb
Responsible for the correct Prayers, Spells and Recitations at the correct time.
Junior Embalming Priest, the Wetyw
Training to move up the priestly hierarchy, they were in the position of authority for the removal of the unneeded Organs and the majority of the bandaging.
Who was the Deity who assisted with Mummification?
Anubis, God of Mummification, Embalming, Death, the Afterlife, Cemeteries, Tombs and the Usher of Souls into the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt. Depicted in his animalistic form with an African Golden Wolf’s Head and a Human’s Body. Formerly a called a Jackal’s Head but 2015 genetic analysis has confirmed that this was a misnomer.
Called on by the Embalmers, Anubis, “the Foremost of the Westerners” or the Head of those on the Western Bank of the Nile, was with the deceased throughout the process of Mummification and on to the Weighing of the Heart Ceremony. For further details of the Weighing of the Heart Ceremony, click here.
Anubis’ first appearance as an Embalmer is in the Legend of Osiris where he assists Goddess Isis in embalming her husband, the God Osiris. For the details of the Legend of Osiris, click here.
Where did the Embalming take place?
Everything to do with the rituals around the deceased or death were usually carried out on the Western Bank of the Nile, the side where God Ra “died” every night. The deceased is taken to the Wabet where neither the family nor population could visit.
The Ibu; the place of purification; was what we would call the Embalming Tent. It, by necessity, was a cool chamber with a good airflow which had incense burning in order to get rid of any insects which were attracted to the deceased and their bodily fluids. An Ibu has recently been discovered by archaeologists in Egypt near Pharaoh Unas’ Pyramid Complex in Saqqara. For more details about the Geography of Saqqara, click here.
20 meters underground, the Ibu has 2 equally sized squared off rooms with a ramp in between them.
The First Chamber
Hewn out of the bedrock, supported with bedrock pillars and a bedrock platform with a grooved bedrock drain for bodily fluids to escape running around it. This is where the mummification took place.
The Second Chamber
Used as a Natron Bath, the chamber was waterproofed, and the deceased could be laid out in the Natron in order for the drying process to occur.
What did the Embalmers need to create the Art of the Mummy?
Round bowled Spoons
Oval bowled Spoons
Incense, thought to be Frankincense
- The deceased’s Khat needed to retain their “living” form on the exterior and ensure that they retained the ability to use their “living” organs from their interior in order to have their Khat available for their Ka, or Soul, to recognise and return to in the Afterlife and re-achieve the Akh that they had in life
- Death was only a transitioning period toward eternal life in Aaru, the Field of Reeds, after the Soul had progressed through the trials of the Underworld
- If achieved, then the deceased could regain their Akh and become known as an Akhu or Ancestor; the Akhu would then be of assistance to those who had known them in life; the Akhu could quite literally intercede for family members with a Deity on their behalf and continue to bring blessings to their family after their death
- If not achieved, then the deceased would remain so and gain the status known as Mutu, or the damned
- In order to achieve this, the Mummification process reflects the journey that the deceased was about to undertake, and the Mummification aimed to assist in the journey by providing protection from Amulets and instructions from the Pyramid Texts and Spells added on papyrus into the Mummy wrappings and, often, to the Coffin itself