A Fun Guide To Egyptian Mummification – Part 2: Organs, Jars and Gods
Welcome back Egyptian Embalmers! If you correctly followed steps 1-4 in Part 1 of our Fun Guide to Egyptian Mummification, you should now have yourself the dry, empty body of your recently dead Pharaoh and a big pile of their organs (that you’re keeping out of reach from the cat).
While your Pharaoh’s body dries out in a nice relaxing bath of natron salt for seventy days, let’s see what we can do with these organs.
Step 5 - The Heart:
The Pharaoh’s heart is one of the most important parts of their body. It is thought to be the centre of an ancient Egyptian person’s thoughts and feelings. It’s where their personality, memories and intelligence comes from. The heart also keeps a record of all of the good and bad things an Egyptian person has done during their life. So, yeah, it’s a pretty important organ!
Before going to the afterlife, the Pharaoh will be judged by the gods to see if they were a good or bad person when they were alive. The Pharaoh’s heart will be weighed against the feather of Maat (also known as the feather of truth and justice). If the Pharaoh’s has led a good life, the heart will be lighter than the feather and they will be allowed to enter the afterlife. Yay!
But what if the Pharaoh has led a bad life? Then the heart will weigh heavier than the feather. This is bad news for the Pharaoh. Very bad news. Very, very bad news, in fact.
Caution, dear embalmers, because what happens next is pretty freaky.
If the Pharaoh is judged to be bad, their heart would be chomped on by a terrifying creature called Ammit. If you’re wondering what makes this creature so frightening? Ammit is a giant crocodile. AND a giant lion. AND a giant hippo. All mixed into one huge, menacing, scare-fest of a creature! And to make matters worse, once their heart has been eaten, the Pharaoh would just go *poof!* and cease to exist! Eek!
So, long story short, without a well-preserved heart in the Pharaoh’s dead body, they don’t even have a chance of getting to the afterlife successfully. That’s where you come in, my Egyptian embalmer friend.
There are a couple of options here. You can keep it simple by leaving the heart in the body from the start. Just don’t touch it. Leave it in there when you pack out the Pharaoh’s body with rags and dunk them in the salt bath for seventy days. This is especially good if you’re a bit forgetful and would likely fail to recall where you left the heart if you removed it from the body.
But if you want to be especially careful and make sure the heart is well preserved and fully in tact when it gets weighed against the feather of truth, you could embalm it like the rest of the body. Dry it out with natron salt. Maybe soak it in resin. And perhaps even wrap it up in linen bandages like a tiny heart mummy.
No matter how you decide to preserve it, always make sure to pop the heart back into the torso of the Pharaoh so it can get weighed.
Phew! All that work just for one organ! Luckily, there’s not a whole bunch of other organs to have to deal with too.
Step 6 – A Whole Bunch of Other Organs:
You’ll be glad to know there’s a lot less work with the Pharaoh’s remaining four organs. That’s the stomach, the intestines, the lungs and the liver. They may be a lot larger than the heart, but all you need to do is dry them out (again, you can use natron salt if you’d like) and pop them in fancy jars. No, I’m afraid you can’t just pop the organs in any old fancy jar (though I’m sure the lungs would look lovely in your mum’s favourite ornate vase). They need to be placed into four Canopic Jars.
“What’s a Canopic Jar?” I hear you exclaim loudly at the screen of your computer, laptop, tablet, mobular device or wherever it is you’re reading this article. A Canopic Jar is a special container used to keep the organs of the Pharaoh safe. You can see some real life examples in the photo above. Each of the four jars has a lid designed to look like one of the four sons of Horus. That’s right, the organs get protected by ancient Egyptian gods. Cool, huh?
Here’s where things get a bit tricky. Each organ has to be placed in the right jar with the right lid. So pay close attention to this next bit:
The stomach needs to be popped in the Canopic Jar with the lid that looks like a Jackal’s head. That’s the head of Duamutef. He’s probably the coolest of all the jar-heads.
The intestines need to be put inside the jar with the Falcon head on the lid. This is the head of Qebehsenuef. You’ll probably need to (gently!) squidge it all down because there’s an awful lot of intestines and not a lot of room in those jars.
The lungs get plonked into the baboon headed jar. That baboon head on the lid belongs to Hapy. Remember, the Pharaoh has two lungs! They don’t get a jar each. They both have to go in the same jar. Don’t go forgetting one and leaving it hanging around on the embalming room floor. This could attract all sorts of pests. And your Pharoah will probably come back from the dead to give you a good severe talking to for discarding one of their beloved air sacks where somebody could tread on it.
And finally, the liver goes in the Canopic Jar with the human head on the lid. This is the head of Imseti. I know. A human head? How boring compared to baboons, falcons and jackals right? But there’s always got to be a boring brother. And with the Four Sons of Horus, that boring brother is Imseti.
Keep these Canopic jars safe, they’ll need to be placed around the tomb when the time comes. You may go old-school and place them with the dead body in or near the sarcophagus. Or if you’d like, you could place them in the four corners of the tomb facing North, South, East and West.
But for now, you’re done with the organs and can take a quick breather before the lengthiest section of work in the Egyptian Mummification process; the wrapping. (coming 2nd October 2023).