No monster shows the depth of character and uniqueness as the mummy. Each Risen still holds onto its personal skills, loves and losses. And it’s tragic they must die again.
Note: For this article, I’ll focus on Egyptian mummies. Archaeologists have found mummies in all corners of the planet, but the classic monster originates with Ancient Egypt.
I think everyone knows mummies came from Egypt, thousands of years ago. You can’t go to any natural history museum without seeing a sarcophagus, either. So, for this section, I’ll focus on how dead royalty, religious leaders or citizens of Ancient Egypt become reanimated.
With that, I found 3 reasons:
A few of things to know before you read this section: Ancient Egypt was one big death cult; priests practiced magic as part of their rituals; and, pharaohs were considered the living embodiment of Egyptian gods.
Okay, today we have groups that still worship the Egyptian deities. They like to get together and commune with Osiris, Ra, Nut, Horus or some other ancient deity. To do that, it helps to have a pharaoh’s body available.
As you can probably guess, an indestructible god inhabits the mummy and slaughters the cult. Which is what they want. No word if they get into Aaru.
This is a bit more common: Tombs are sealed for a reason.
Usually, the dearly departed pharaoh or priest doesn’t want to come back to life. But, those grave robbers and archaeologists are pesky and too curious for their own good.
Once they break open the tomb, they’ve got to steal the goodies or find the body. Usually, opening the tomb won’t reanimate the mummy’s body.
It’s when you open the sarcophagus that things get troublesome. Fast.
Anyway, a priest cast a hex on the sarcophagus. Once opened, the curse is unleashed. In most cases, a plague, mishaps or animal attack kills the intruders. If the body gets disturbed, then reanimation could happen and the mummy will walk again.
If it’s not the pharaoh or priest, then it’s likely to be warrior mummies. More on that later.
This is based more on horror movies and pop culture, but pharoahs and priests had eternal love for their queens. If she didn’t make it to Aaru, then the men would long for their ladies.
Occasionally, a lady archaeologist would remind the soul (or Ka in Egyptian) of the king or priest, and they’d return to be with her. Now, all sorts of conditions have to be met to open the doorway to the afterlife: That’s why it only seems to happen every 1,000 years or so.
Once the pharaoh or priest has returned, he tries to kill her. Because that’s the only way to be together forever. Usually, there’s a body count of half-a-dozen or so along the way.
In summary, it’s not your usual science-fiction-experiment-gone-wrong that brings a mummy back to life. It’s a powerful combination of sorcery and religion that rips the soul back from the Beyond.
Variants & Descriptions
There are 3 kinds of mummies you need to worry about. And each has different strengths.
It takes a lot to bring a pharaoh (I use this for kings and queens). In modern days, a cult would have to do it with a ritual. Anyway, they’re not happy to come back. I’m not even sure what kind of death magic someone would have to use. Pharaohs spent their entire lives preparing to die. You can imagine that would leave them perturbed at the least.
When reanimated: Have you ever seen the Stargate movie or TV series? Those are the pharaohs in a nut shell. They may not have magical abilities, but they have a god living inside them. They’re bigger than normal, super strong and durable. It would take a lot to destroy a pharaoh. Usually, you need some Egyptian magic placed on them, or you have to put them back in their sarcophagus.
Priests conduct the rituals that send the pharaohs to the afterlife. They’ve got the knowledge to practice magic, place curses and set the foundation to return from death. Usually, they just want to stay dead. But, if you set off their wards, disrupt their tomb or the pharaoh’s, your life will suck for the near future. And then the priest will kill you. Priests will also return for love.
When reanimated: This get scary. Priest mummies have all their magical abilities, plussed up because they’ve got a mystical line to the Egyptian gods. Priests seek human souls to replenish their bodies. They can bring sandstorms, shape shift into animals, bring plagues and other frightening abilities. I think the only way to stop them is to let them have what they want, or put them back in their sarcophagus.
A warrior mummy can come in a few flavors. In most cases, it’s a group of elite guards that were killed and placed in the tomb to protect the pharaoh in his afterlife. In other cases, it’s animals like Nile crocodiles, jackals or other predators. For a queen, the warriors were her handmaidens in life. In most cases, warriors are the mummies that return due to curses or magic.
When reanimated: These are the skeletal mummies we’ve seen in The Mummy movies from the 90s. Just some bones holding a sword, moving lightning quick, and killing things. One strong blow should do the trick to stop one. But, it’s never just one. You could have dozens of formerly human warriors and then throw in 3 or 4 Nile crocodiles. It gets bloody before the fight is over.
Mummies are powerful beings, eh? But there’s always one caveat: They all want to die again and return to Aaru, the paradise their souls left behind. When you think about it, they’re angry when get yanked back to our mortal world. To them, life is hell, not death. It’s their goal to die and return to the Field of Reeds with Osiris and other good souls.
We can find mummies in every major city across the world now. There’s no need to visit Egypt.
That also means we have the chance to have crazy-angry priest mummies ripping up your city. That’s right: The world is at risk. From Chicago-to-Sydney, Sao Paul-to-Moscow, we have potential threats in each museum and university along the way.
What would do the trick? Well, these mummies are on display. All it takes is a college co-ed who looks like Nefertiti to bring a pharaoh or priest back. Then, you never know who’s a member of a death cult. Just imagine if the janitor was a death cult leader? They could crack open a sarcophagus, throw down with a spell and you got a rampaging mummy on your hands!
I hope ADT has a mummy defense force.
A reanimated corpse has to eat, right?
Well, for warriors, they don’t have much time on this earth. They exist to fight and die again, so I’ll say they won’t need to eat.
For pharaohs, they’ve reanimated as a fully functional body. They’ll eat like kings or queens, but it would reflect their time of life. That means no McDonald’s for them. Though there could be a run on grapes.
Now priests have cravings for souls and human flesh. As growing boys, they’ll eat the whole house down (moms, dads, kids, pets, etc.). It’ll be easy to track them. Just follow the bodies. If you find a bunch of dried up, human husks, then you’re on the trail of a priest mummy.
For one thing, the Egyptians keep finding tombs and ancient towns. Most of them are very well preserved due to the hot, dry climate.
Today, scientists and archaeologists use X-rays and cutting-edge tech to study the bodies of mummies. They can find the cause of death, use DNA sequencing and reconstruct face of the long-dead royalty.
Exploration also continues. Satellites scan the deserts looking for hidden settlements and tombs. Quite frankly, Egypt is a massive cemetery for their ancestors. They’ve even found sunken cities in Alexandria’s harbor, which you can visit. Every day, it seems like a new discovery happens.
In most natural history museums, you can find displays which details the life and times of Ancient Egypt. The Smithsonian, Field Museum (Chicago), Natural History Museum (London), and Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (Cairo) have world-class exhibits.
If you want to try your hand to understand hieroglyphics, visit this site and have fun: https://lingojam.com/HieroglyphicsTranslator
For the best pop culture, mummy movies, visit DenOfGeek.com for their classic movies list.
Jacob Rice began investigating and writing about monsters in 2007. He has published 3 books on ghost hunting, ghost stories and paranormal protection. His podcast, Ghostly Activities, dives into these topics even more. You can also watch his ghost hunts on the Ghostly Activities YouTube channel. He lives in Olympia, Washington.