Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Commercialisation of Death in Ancient Egypt

Crowded, dim, exasperatingly badly-displayed but worth going just to have the point made that you can conjure a whole Industry of  Death just by thinking up a few characters and stories and selling it to gullible people, with all the added extras of spells, rituals, chantresses etc available to you for a very special price.

An imaginary conversation between Ancient Egyptian Funeral Director and Potential Customer arranging his planned funeral: 

"Surely you would like the spells carve on the walls of your tomb?  No?  Perhap sir would like it on the inside of his sarcophagus, which would be rather less costly.  Yes, that would be cheaper than having it carved in stone on your walls with the special bricks in each wall to ward off evil.  
And sir will no doubt be wanting to be mummified in bandages with the spells written on, especially the answers that you are expected to know at sir's post mortem oral examination which sir will be expected to pass in the afterlife, to reach paradise or else have sir's heart devoured by that monster.  
We do have a standard package, which will be available to you for a special price as we have worked with sir's noble ancestors for many generations, but sir may wish to consider more spells in view of the life that sir has led.  It has been whispered that sir may have been responsible for a few murders, adulteries and embezzlements, and it may be as well to have some extra insurance just in case there is any truth in those rumours, if sir will forgive me for pointing this out."

Astonishing, really, the power of the imagination.

I can also understand why Akhnaten's idea of reducing the Egyptian Pantheon into a singularity of One God did not catch on, until much later when Abraham re-presented this idea to his people who did not have the burden of their own vested funeral business interests to consider.

Did no Ancient Egyptian say with horror:

"The cost of dying these days!  I really would like to leave something behind to my actual flesh and blood, you know, instead of giving all my hard-earned money and/or ill-gotten gains to my funeral directors.   I know you are the main state industry that keep the wheels of Egypt turning, but give me a break, huh?"

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