Kemetic Burials and Body Disposal

I had a request for a post about proper modern Kemetic burials, and that’s a toughie, mostly because every kemetic is going to have different thoughts on it.  So, what I’m going to do is try to look at some of the practices from antiquity and how the ideas behind them might translate, and then discuss my own personal views on the matter.

First off, as with any study of antiquity, we have to remember that the culture of Ancient Egypt spanned several thousand years, and obviously changed over that course.  The original practice of mummification started fairly early on, especially as the exceptionally dry burial conditions sort of created natural mummies.  The mummification process was largely to purify and preserve to body, and, honestly, it was expensive.  Not everyone could afford it–this was largely something for the rich.  Your average Egyptian may have still been embalmed, but they probably didn’t get the full service 70 day ritual.  That said, the more important aspect of funerary culture (without doing enough research to write a paper), is that the memory of the deceased be preserved.  One of the biggest threats found in tombs was that the desecrator would have their name and memory wiped from existence.  There’s also evidence for this in antiquity where names would be scratched off statues and carvings to destroy a person even in the afterlife.  Now this is just the high points–the funerary culture and philosphy of AE is vast, and there have been many books written about it.  I’ll put a couple titles for further reading at the end if you want to go into more depth (and that rabbit hole will go as deep as you like).

So, a modern kemetic would probably want to hit these two points if they could: 1) purify and preserve the body 2) have something in play to preserve their memory.

This actually isn’t as hard as it sounds.  You can actually be mummified if you can get your body to this place in Utah.  Alternatively, a combination of modern embalming, a sealed casket, and a concrete burial vault can preserve your corpse for a surprisingly long time, although not for all eternity.  Also, if you’re buried in a very dry or very cold climate, that can also preserve your remains.

As for preserving your memory, which is arguably more important, well, there are many ways to do that.  We can argue that photographs serve this purpose as well as your gravemarker, for the simpler end.  On a more complex scale, if you’re wealthy, you might get a library or something named after you.  I would even argue that artists and writers who have died have their memory preserved in their work.  Even your Facebook or blog could serve this purpose, as long as the internet survives.  The key is to make sure the living remember you.

Personally speaking, my own preferences are really not very kemetic at all.  I would much prefer to be cremated and have my ashes scattered in a nice spot.  I can also get behind the burial urn that lets your grow a tree from your ashes.  I’m mostly not very keen on spending a fortune to dispose of something I don’t believe I’ll be needing again.  As an artist, I hope my work is preserved and enjoyed, and I like to think I’ve touched enough lives to have made an impression.  But from my own experiences, I don’t think it matters much once you’ve left this place.

Further reading (disclaimer: I have read none of these)

Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, by Jan Assman

My Heart My Mother; Death and Rebirth in Ancient Egypt, by Alison Roberts

Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt: Life in Death for Rich and Poor, by Wolfram Grajetzki

 

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