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The ancient Egyptian afterlife must have been quite a sight. With functioning bodies and little to no brain matter in their skulls, what could those folks possibly get up to? Probably just watch TV, I guess.

Ancient Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife are a complicated affair but we know a ton about it and there are some key points. The most important point: preservation of the physical body was paramount. The next life was seen as a continuation of the first in many ways, though a vastly improved version of it. Many things from the physical world, including precious objects, material wealth, and the body were seen as being able to carry on into the spiritual realm with the deceased. During the mummification process, the “important” organs were removed from the corpse and placed in canopic jars. This was done for most of the major organs except the heart, which, being the most important part of an individual, was typically left inside the body. Organs seen as performing no higher function, such as the kidneys and the brain, were simply discarded.

By preserving these crucial parts that make up a human body, the Egyptians hoped to offer the deceased a second chance at life. Passing into the second world without one’s organs and without a well preserved and cared for body would make the journey and ultimate destination impossible and missing out on this new and improved life was seen as a tragedy.

It was this new life and the treacherous journey that precedes it that lead ancient Egyptian society to keep such meticulous records of their methods and to pursue mummification with such passion. After death, the spirit was thought to pass through a series of trials and, without a good working body, this journey would be the end of the deceased’s spirit as it was considered to be a very difficult and terrifying passage. To help with the journey, the more wealthy patrons of the embalmers would receive spells and amulets that would help to ward off these many dangers. Finally, a priest would perform the opening of the mouth ceremony, where his chanting and prayers would restore the senses to the body, an important final step. In the end, what it all lead up to was a meeting with the scales of judgment. The spirit would have to justify their time on earth to the gods in the underworld while placing their heart on the scales opposite the Feather of Truth. If the heart weighed more than the feather, the spirit would be devoured by the terrible beast, Ammit. If the not, the deceased would pass into the the throne room of Osiris and be lead into the afterlife.

The next world was conceptualized as being much like the normal waking life of the people of Egypt, though there was no evil, no sickness, the poor had money, and the crocodiles serve delicious cocktail drinks instead of trying to chew your legs off.

Maybe I made that last one up.

Either way, death was seen as an important part of one’s journey, so crucial, in fact, that vast sums of wealth were spent on just preparing corpses for this specific purpose. We can’t really prove or disprove that the Egyptian afterlife exists, but many of these well preserved bodies have achieved an immortality of a different kind.

Some people try to leave behind a legend, to have their names in the history books, or to leave a legacy for for their children. As for me, I think I’ll just have myself properly mummified in the hopes that some people in the future will find the desiccated husk of my body and use it for all kinds of weird experiments.

Maybe one enterprising individual will write some jokes about it. Maybe another will move my lower jaw up and down and speak in a ridiculous voice making it look like it’s my corpse that’s talking.

Now that’s a legacy.

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