Thursday, May 16, 2013

For a while in the 1700's, I hear, some Japanese monks took to mummifying themselves. The reasons why are sort of hazy, although honestly I'm not completely sure that you could present me with an argument for mummifying yourself alive that would make me think, well, sure, that makes sense. One version of the story seems to involve some lost secret tantric practices. The other version starts with a monk who decided to bury himself alive to stop a terrible famine, as one does, who turned up mummified when they dug him out three years later. Which seems like as good a reason as any to start a trend.

But you know, it's not easy to mummify yourself. For the first 1,000 days all you can eat is seeds and nuts while exercising to divest yourself of all of your body fat. The next 1,000 days takes you to roots and bark and a drink made of lacquer, so that your insides will be nice and shiny and poisonous to anything that might want to eat your fat-free remains. Finally you lock yourself into a tomb with an air tube and a bell and ring the bell occasionally for as long as you're alive. When your bell stops ringing your fellow monks seal up your tomb and wait another 1,000 days before cracking it back open to see if you've mummified. If yes, up on a platform for admiration you would go.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, self-mummification rarely worked as planned, and of the hundreds of monks that tried it only a couple of dozen mummies have been discovered. This must be part of the challenge--how do you know if you can mummify yourself until you try it? Going through the whole ordeal to end up just plain old decomposed, although also still just as dead.

We know at least the basic details of the mummification ritual, but I haven't yet been able to find an account of what it was like to crack the tomb back open. Would it be filled with a monster or a mummy or a treasure? Or more likely, a combination of all three.

1 comment:

jon said...