Egyptian Afterlife: Mummies with Golden Tongues

Arkane Curiosities

The ancient Egyptian civilization has always held an allure of mystery and magic, with intriguing burial rituals and belief in the afterlife. Among the fascinating artifacts discovered in Egyptian tombs are the Golden Tongue Amulets. These small yet significant charms have sparked the curiosity of archaeologists and historians alike, revealing not only the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs but also their artistic craftsmanship. So why do we find some mummies with golden tongues?

The Significance of the Golden Tongue Amulet

The Golden Tongue Amulet is a small, intricately crafted charm that was placed inside the mouths of deceased individuals during the mummification process. These amulets were believed to have magical properties, ensuring that the deceased would retain the ability to speak in the afterlife. 

Protect Your Speech

The Golden Tongue Amulet symbolized the power of speech and communication. In Egyptian mythology, it was essential for the deceased to recite the correct spells and incantations during their journey to the afterlife. The amulet served as a potent talisman, safeguarding the deceased’s ability to speak and express themselves in the presence of divine beings.

Also, during the weighing of the heart, the deceased would need to recite specific spells and declarations to assert their innocence and adherence to the principles of Ma’at. The amulet enabled the deceased to speak eloquently and convincingly before the divine tribunal.

Only Limited Golden Tongues

It’s important to note that not all mummies were found with golden tongues. The practice of adding golden tongue amulets seems to have been more prevalent during the New Kingdom (around 1550 to 1069 BCE). For example, when archeologists found a cache of mummies outside of Alexandria, only two had golden tongues. 

Artistry and Craftsmanship

Despite their small size, these amulets were meticulously crafted from precious metals such as gold, which symbolized the sun and the eternal cycle of life. The intricate details of the amulets, often shaped like small tongues, highlighted the artisans’ dedication to their craft and their reverence for the afterlife beliefs.

Tim Kane

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Ancient Egyptian Afterlife: The Opening of the Mouth Ceremony

Arkane Curiosities

The ancient Egyptians left behind an awe-inspiring legacy of culture, architecture, and beliefs. The ancient Egyptians also held a particularly fascinating and complex view of the afterlife. The concept of a double soul and the opening the mouth ceremony were only the start to a long journey in the ancient Egyptian afterlife.

Ka and Ba: The Dual Essence of the Soul

Central to the Egyptian concept of the afterlife were the ka and ba. These two aspects represented the dual essence of an individual’s soul. The ka was the life force or spiritual double, residing within the physical body during life and continuing to exist after death. It required sustenance in the form of offerings to remain content and connected to the earthly realm.

On the other hand, the ba was the individual’s personality, often depicted as a bird with a human head. After death, the ba would separate from the body to roam freely in the spirit world, visiting loved ones and sacred places. However, it needed to return to the tomb periodically to reunite with the ka and sustain its existence.

Opening the Mouth

The “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony aimed to revitalize the deceased’s senses, allowing the mummy to see, hear, smell, eat, and breathe again in the realm of the dead. Essentially, this would allow the ka, still residing in the body, to accept and enjoy any offerings presented to it. 

Key Elements of the Ceremony

Touching the Mouth: The priest touched the mouth and eyes of the mummy with a special forked tool. This gesture symbolized the restoration of the mummy’s senses, allowing them to speak and see again.

Incantations and Spells: During the ceremony, priests would recite spells and incantations to invoke the help of various gods and deities. These spells were believed to activate the powers of the objects used in the ritual and ensure the successful transition of the deceased into the afterlife.

Offerings: Replicas of milk (activated with the incantations) were presented to the mummy. This represented the baby’s first nourishment. There were also replicas for salt water (used for cleansing) and fresh water. These offerings were meant to sustain the deceased in the afterlife and provide them with the necessities for eternity.

Reborn: The idea that the body was “reborn” into the afterlife was strong. Egyptians used a forked blade (called a pesesh-kef) to touch the mummy’s mouth. This was the same tool used to sever the umbilical cord when this person was born.

The Opening of the Mouth ceremony aimed to reanimate the senses of the deceased and ensure their successful transition into the afterlife. By performing this ceremony, the ancient Egyptians believed that the mummy would be fully prepared to undertake the journey to the realm of the dead, where they could enjoy eternal life in the presence of the gods. 

Tim Kane

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A Stumble of Zombies: Collective Nouns for Monsters

One of my favorite books that I read to my daughter (I’m stealing it the first chance I get) is A Dignity of Dragons by by Jacqueline Ogburn and Nicoletta Ceccoli.


What this book does is address the much needed names for collective nouns of mythical creatures. What the heck is a collective noun? Well, back in the nineteenth century, Victorians got awful bored with out any television or internet. They played a game where they thought up clever names for groups of animals. The idea was to get a name that encompassed the spirit of the animal. Some of my favorites are a crash of rhinos or a flamboyance of flamingos. Get the idea?

Jacqueline Ogburn came up with all sorts of collective nouns for mythical creatures, like: a bolt of hippogriffs, a splash of mermaids, and a dazzlement of Quetzalcoatls. I wanted to continue this trend, only with creatures from horror. Specifically classic monsters. Here’s what I came up with.

  • a stumble of zombies
  • a coffin of vampires
  • a howling of werewolves
  • a bolt of Frankensteins*
  • a tanna of mummies**
  • a caldron of wiches
  • a clang hunchbacks
  • an ectoplasm of phantoms
  • a haunting of ghosts
  • a glow of will-o-whisps
  • a bottle of djinn***
  • a trample of kaiju****
  • a decapitation of headless horsemen
  • a tinker of gremlins
  • a hunger of ghouls
  • a husk of scarecrows
  • a marrow of skeletons
  • a translucence of invisible men
  • a beaker of mad scientists
  • a lever of henchmen
  • a scream of victims
  • a probe of aliens
  • a circuit of robots

If you can think of any to add to the list (no serial killers or the suck, just classic monsters) then add to the comments below.

Tim Kane

*Yes I know that the doctor is actually Frankenstein, but in the sequel it called the Bride of Frankenstein, and she’s intended for the monster, so… Let’s just settle on Frank as the monster’s name.

** Tanna leaves were a device introduced in the later mummy movies as a way of controlling the creature.

*** I know lamps are more common, but a lamp of djinn sounds weird.

**** This is the name for the giant Japanese monsters like Godzilla and Mothra. Go ahead, check out the wiki site.

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The Five Most Common Misconceptions About Classic Movie Monsters

I am a monster nut. I’ll own that. My first published book dealt with vampires in film and television. I grew up on the Toho crew. I have action figures for nearly every major Universal monster (including the second Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Creature Walks Among Us).

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my four-year-old daughter has taken a liking to the classic monsters. By this I mean the big five: the four Universal monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and the Woflman) and also zombies. Recently, while watching the Hex Girls on Youtube, my wife stumbled upon the Monster High videos. My daughter was hooked. But this got me thinking. The cartoon/merchandise features the big five monsters, all with the familiar quirks akin to each one. But I knew that many of these were off base from the true legends of these creatures.

The five classic monsters (plus a gorgon)

So after hours of research, I present to you the five most egregious errors we make about classic movie monsters.

5 Werewolf

Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man

I admit, after looking through countless books, I found that most of the traditional legends line up with our common associations. The link of werewolves to the moon dates back to 1214 where Gervaise of Tillbury reported cases in Auvergne of men turning into wolves during the full moon. There is some controversy about the silver bullet. Some believe it was all made up by Universal for the Wolf Man movie. But historians know that in 1767, the Beast of Le Gevaudan was killed with bullets from a melted silver chalice.

The only thing I can say that most likely not part of original folklore is the pentagram on the hand as a mark of the werewolf. This was probably concocted by the Universal folk for the film. A pentagram has traditionally served as a symbol of protection (even from werewolves).

4 The Mummy

Boris Karloff as the Mummy

Mummies are a staple for monster themed parties and kids playing with rolls of toilet paper. But not all mummies are bandaged and scribbled over in hieroglyphics. There are mummies all over the world. Basically any place extremely dry will create a mummy. And for the sake of argument, we’ll define a mummy as something with most of the internal organs still present. Those are the squishy bits that tend to dissolve during decomposition.

The strangest mummies I found were the Incan mud mummies. These date back to 5000 BC, rivaling Egypt as the first to mummify. Basically, the Incans would disassemble the body, organs and all. They used heat to dry the skin. Then the body was reformed using feathers, clay and glass. Everything was covered in a white ash paste. Finally, the skin was refitted on the body.

Then there are the bog mummies. This type of mummification might have been accidental (oops, I fell into a peat bog) or a form of sacrifice (slipping a deceased relative into the bog to bring him or her closer to the gods). Either way, the body became preserved in the frigid stagnant water loaded with tannic acid. Sometimes not everything survived the years in the bog. Take the bodies found in Florida. Here only the brain was preserved (along with the skeleton) from bodies 7000 to 8000 years old.

Finally, we have the Chinese mummies. Western China is basically one ginormous desert. In addition to the sand, heat, and wind you get bonus pits of salt. These were used a cemeteries as well as areas of sacrifice. One young woman was found partially dismembered with her eyes gouged out. There was also a baby boy, apparently buried alive.

The strangest finds have come from the Takla Maken Desert. Over the past thirty years, archeologists have found many mummies, but all of them have been caucasian, not Chinese. And these shriveled folk had a thing for clothes, many being buried with multiple outfits. The most famous mummy is “The Man with Ten Hats.” You guessed it, he was buried with ten hats.

3 Zombie

A Voodoo zombie

Real zombies don’t eat people. In fact they don’t do very much at all. Lafcadio Hearn introduced English speakers to the word zombie through his brief article, “The Country of the Comers-Back”, which appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1889. Most were little more than slaves working on sugar plantations in Haiti. They were dumb brutes, working mindlessly. The eyes were dead, unfocused and vacant.

A central precept of Voodoo, a hybrid of African animism and Catholicism, is the possession of a body by the loa. A person was believed to have two souls, the gros-bon-age (the big good angel), and the ti-bon-age (the little good angel). Each soul served a purpose. The gros-bon-age served to give the body life, while the ti-bon-age gave the person their personality. During a Voodoo ceremony, the loa would displace the ti-bon-age, and thus control the person’s body.

It was George Romero’s film, Night of the Living Dead, released on October 2, 1968, that forever changed the image of the zombie. Romero never refers to his walking dead by the word zombie. Instead each of his films calls them the living dead. Despite this technicality, modern moviegoers made the connection. When Romero’s second film, Dawn of the Dead, was released in 1978, it was distributed internationally as Zombie (or Zombi).

2 Vampire

From the 1979 Nosferatu the Vampyre

Traditionally, vampires looked nothing like Edward Cullen or Lestat. A more apt description would be a ruddy-faced overweight man with long fingernails, his mouth and left eye open, with a linen shroud as clothing. (Not really going to sweep you off your feet, is he?) The biggest transformation to this myth came with the 1931 film version of Dracula staring Bela Legosi. Here the monster is shown as debonaire and charming. Much of this depiction came from Bela Lugosi’s performance and the original stage play.

Additionally, Bram Stoker’s Dracula could walk in daylight (although he prefers night). It was left to two subsequent movies to introduce death by sunlight. In Son of Dracula (1943), Lon Chaney, Jr. Plays Count Alucard (Dracula spelled backward). He simply fades away when struck with the sun’s rays. In Return of Dracula (released in 1944, only a few months after Chaney’s performance), Lugosi returns as Armand Tesla. In the end, he dissolves in the sunlight.

For more information on vampires, check out my article on vampire apotropaics.

1 Frankenstein

Frankenstein’s Monster

The problem most people make with this monster is his name. Frankenstein is the doctor. The tall green guy with bolts in his neck is simply “The Monster.” In the Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, she called the creation Adam. In one of the play adaptations of the novel, the creature is billed as simply “________, played by Mr T. Cooke.”

This time we can’t completely blame the Universal picture for the confusion over the monster’s name. This happened in Shelley’s time. (It’s what you get for not naming a central character, writer’s take note). Yet once Universal cast Karloff as the “Unnamed Monster”, the audience stuck the monster with the doctor’s name. This is despite the fact that in the opening credits, it’s Karloff who is unnamed, appearing as a question mark.

Opening credits for Frankenstein

I hope all this has cleared up some misconceptions about our favorite monsters. It doesn’t change how these creatures have evolved. It’s natural to think of vampires dissolving in the sun, zombies eating brains, and that hulking monosyllabic fellow as Frankenstein.

Tim Kane