Ancient Egyptian mummies have fascinated the world for centuries and Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife are just as intriguing. But when researchers look at mummies, one thing stands out more than others; the vast majority of the deceased seem to be male. One wonders if women were really that under-represented in society?
The truth is that female mummies underwent a special step while preparing for their transition to the afterlife. Women were allowed into the next world, of course, but only if they were transformed into men first.
Ancient Egyptian beliefs hold that only men had the power to regenerate themselves and enter the afterlife so the ladies were given a bit of a makeover, so to speak. The role of gender and the power of sex had a strong influence in Egyptian life and just as strong an influence in death.
Ancient Egyptians Cut Off The Hands And Genitalia Of Their Enemies For A Very Bizarre ReasonPhoto: Bram Souffreau / Wikimedia Commons
The ancient Egyptians believed that men possessed all the power to regenerate and reproduce the human race, not women. Women were simply vessels. There didn't seem to be a very secure understanding of biology in those days because they also believed that a man could reproduce asexually if he desired. It was for this reason that Egyptians removed the hands and genitals of their enemies posthumously; they wanted to make it impossible for the deceased to touch themselves into regeneration.
The Gods Of Creation Were MalePhoto: The New York Times / Wikimedia Commons
In Egyptian mythology, all of the gods who have the power to create life are masculine, which makes creation stories about the birth of other gods and the human race a bit confusing. Gods like Atum, Osiris, and Re had access to the kind of power needed to bring forth new divine beings and in some stories women weren't involved in the process at all. One legend involves Atum having sex with himself and then sneezing to create life.
In Order To Be Reborn Into The Next World, You Had To Be A ManPhoto: Rogers Fund / Wikimedia Commons
Because the gods of creation were all men, the ancient Egyptians naturally assumed that to be reborn or regenerated into the next kingdom they would need to be male as well. They wanted to reflect the image of the gods in an attempt at a better afterlife. This was fine for men but was a bit more challenging for women.
More Specifically, Women Were Changed Into Men So They Could Create A FetusPhoto: Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP / Wikimedia Commons
A funeral priest's goal was to transform the deceased woman into a man temporarily. The idea was that a lady only had to become a man long enough to create a fetus (they thought that men made babies all by themselves and then transferred the child to the woman during intercourse). Once the deceased had the fetus inside, her womanly body could sufficiently carry her into the new life.