We obsess over how the rich and the famous live, but how do they die? There seems to be a decent amount on offer for the rest us. But what are your options, when only the best is good enough?
The answer is as old as the pyramids – Mummification. It’s incredibly retro, it oozes class and it’s very expensive. All the Pharaohs did it.
How can I do it?
There is currently one company in the world that offers mummification. We’ll let you decide how legit it is, but we wouldn’t recommend it…Claude “Corky” Nowell (AKA Summum Bonum Amon Ra) founded ‘Summum’ in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1975. The private company currently specialises in mummification, as well as the teachings of Summum. A religion loosely based off Egyptian beliefs, also by Nowell.
Summum’s “Mummification of Transference” service, promises their customers “A very thorough, detailed, yet gentle process that allows one to be memorialized for eternity”
- Once you have passed away, your body is transported to the funeral home that was designated by you or your family.
- Following the funeral services, the funeral home transports your body to our sanctuary where we conduct your Mummification and Transference.
- Note: Once your body is received by Summum, no family member or any other person will be able to see your body again. This is to ensure that the temple officiants can perform and complete the Mummification and Transference without interference and in accordance with Summum’s principles.
- Upon completion, your body is sealed inside your Mummiform or casket
- Your Mummiform or casket is then laid to rest in a sanctuary or mausoleum or buried in a vault in the cemetery of your choice.
How much does it cost?
The whole process can take anything from 6 months to a year. The whole process (transportation, funeral and mausoleum not included) costs $67,000 (£48,679.52) and customers include Corky himself. While they do offer a monthly payment plan, the process can seem a little expensive for some. However, they will mummify pets under 7kg for $4000 (£2900) which seems to be their bread and butter.
Currently, it’s unclear how many people have actually been mummified by Summum but they seem to have the market monopoly. The decline in popularity of mummification is most likely due to labour, cost and logistics. Plus, it’s incredibly self-indulgent.
The Egyptians believed that a body had to preserved in order to be used in the afterlife. It was believed once they had died they would make a journey to another world where they would lead a new life. In this new life, they would need all the things they had used when they were alive, so, their families would put those things in their tombs. A send-off this lavish cost a lot of money and wasn’t available to everyone. If you couldn’t afford this kind of service, you were merely buried in the sand.
The Japanese Buddhist monks, known as ‘Sokushinbutsu’ adopted a more DIY attitude. They decided to skip the dying step and mummify themselves while still alive. Archaeologists have found bodies dating between the 12th and 20th centuries AD. But believe the process to be much older.
The monks would ‘self-mummify’ as it toughened the spirit and create distance between themselves and the living world. They took part in a strict diet to rid the body of fat, muscle and moisture. They would withhold nutrients necessary to the bodies biosphere of bacteria and parasites in an attempt to stop decomposition taking place after death.
They would follow the diet until they felt death was approaching. They would then be lowered into a pine box at the bottom of a pit. They would sit in total darkness, breathing through a bamboo straw and ringing a bell to signal they were still alive. No ringing meant that it was time to inspect the body. Once they confirmed the death, the tomb was sealed and left for one thousand days. If the body was rotting then they would reinter (re-bury) the corpse with little commotion. If the body wasn’t deteriorating, it could be considered a true Sokushinbutsu and placed in a shrine.
If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to mummification, that still holds all the same attention and glory, you could always donate your body to Body Worlds. Dr Gunther von Hagens travelling exposition of dissected human bodies, animals, and other anatomical structures of the body that have been preserved through the process of plastination. So far there have been 17,286 body donations. If you weren’t much of a showboater in your waking days, but still want to donate your body to science then head over here to donate your body to The Human Tissue Authority.
Whether you’re encased in gold and buried in a tomb or have your body as part of a travelling show, it’s good to be aware of the choices available and have the send-off, you want. After all, it’s your funeral.