© Copyright 2002 - Neale Suddens - Used by permission
Storycodes: M/f; stage; display; wrap; bandages; cocoon; sarcophagus; encased; transported; cons; X
"What we do in the name of education." said my girlfriend Julie as she stripped off her clothes and pulled a swimsuit on.
As I admired her trim 35-year-old body that I had come to know and love so much I thought back to how we had got to this point. Me sitting and admiring her as she got changed in the dressing room of the main auditorium, what sounded like a thousand kids, parents and other teachers all sitting outside waiting impatiently for her and me to begin the demonstration. It had all started with a simple statement by Julie over drinks one night.
"I am trying to explain to my class how the Egyptians lived and died and how a mummy was made. I want to take them to the museum and show them a real mummy, but does that bring it alive to them? Any ideas?" she asked.
This was the situation any real mummification frantic spends his whole life dreaming about!
"Well" I started, "How about making a sarcophagus out of wood and then the kids could decorate it in genuine style. They could make a mask out of papier-mâché and paint it. Finally I could come and demonstrate a real life wrapping on a subject, who we would then place in the sarcophagus they had made. That would bring it all very close to home to them when they visit the museum."
"What a great idea." exclaimed Julie. "But who would volunteer to be wrapped in layers and layers of linen?"
"You" was my one word reply.
This went on for some time, but finally I convinced her over several wines that it was the duty of every teacher to make sacrifices for the sake of education!
She finally agreed that she would be my model and we set the details.
Over the next few days I spend hours in the garage making a sarcophagus out of wood board and ensuring it had a lovely lid to match. I must admit my plans for the box may have gone past the immediate use, but that comes later. Julie used the time to write up lots of handouts and informational posters to be shown around the classroom and school.
Finally the day came and I watched her change into a comfortable outfit. Julie had questioned me on why she needed to strip off all possible clothes, but I had assured her that otherwise the heat build up would be unbearable. I walked a foot behind her on onto the stage as the headmistress had announced to the school that the demonstration would begin now and that the beautiful sarcophagus had been decorated by form 4.
I must admit the students had done a fantastic job of making the sarcophagus look as realistic as possible. Hieroglyphics covered the outer surface. The inner surface had been painted pure black. The mask had been lovingly made out of layers and layers of papier-mâché and then painted with a very realistic Egyptians woman's face.
Julie explained to the audience how when a high status person in Egypt died, there body would be preserved for the journey to the afterlife. This would involve firstly removing all the internal organs and preserving them in canopic jars. She explained how the brain was considered of little importance and would be thrown away once extracted via the nose. Then a separate jar would be used to hold the liver, stomach, intestines and lungs. Natron would then be used to dry the body out and after 35 days the body would be completely desiccated. Finally the empty body would be packed with herbs and spices and the outer skin rubbed with five oils: frankincense, myrrh, palm, lotus, and cedar.
Finally she lay on the table in the middle of the stage and announced she was ready to be wrapped for placement in the sarcophagus. That was where I came in. Using linen strips I had prepared over the last few nights and a couple of very willing other female teachers from the school, I started at Julie's legs.
I wrapped each leg from her toes to groin separately at first and then wrapped a second layer over the top from her feet to her upper chest. Julie smiled at me as the movement started to disappear from her body. Next her arms were wrapped separately and then placed across her chest, left to right and right to left. I placed several amulets on her body and then proceeded to wrap a third layer from her feet all the way up her body to her neck, enclosing the amulets inside the wrapping.
Finally a single wrapping was carefully applied over her head, making very, very certain this precious package could still breathe. Then I placed the mask over her face and leaning close over it asked in a whisper if she was ok.
"Perfectly fine, but I can't move a bloody muscle. How is it going down?" she asked.
"They are spell bound." I replied.
I announced to the audience that she was ready to be placed in the sarcophagus. We lifted the white clad mummy off the table and stood her in the sarcophagus that was lying propped up in the centre of the stage. Spreading rose petals all over her, a bit of poetic license, we then lifted the lid on and screwed it down.
"That completes the demonstration," I announced in a loud voice, "You may now leave."
The students all got up and with many backward stares at the sarcophagus lying in the middle of the stage started to leave.
One very young girl approached the stage nervously and said, "But sir, what about Miss Harrison? How will she get out of the wrappings? I mean she must be horribly helpless in there, will she be OK?"
I laughed and whispered that she would be fine and as soon as the students had left I would unwrap her. Total lies of course, as with the help of the two teachers I carried the sarcophagus out to my van and loaded it in the back. Julie would be in for a lot of begging and would have to agree to all sorts of things before I ever released her from her new home, but you don't always tell children the whole story do you?