Chapters 22-26: Oh Mummy!
Updated: Apr 5
In Chapter 22, Anna tells Georgette the story of a Polish man bringing two mummies from Alexandria to sell in Europe. That story is related here--it's an anecdote in a book written by Louis Penicher ("Traité des Embaumemens Selon Les Anciens et Les Modernes, Avec Une Description de Quelques Compositions Balsamiques et Odorantes"). It's written in French, but the tale is exactly as Anna relays it. I can highly recommend the wikipedia page on the idea of a "Curse of the Pharaohs." One of the interesting things about the idea of a "mummy's curse" is that it's been around since at least the 1820s. It's a trope that people really got into, particularly right after the opening of Tut's tomb. I mean, who doesn't love a good curse/ghost story?
Speaking of curses, for all the fame of "Egyptian curses" (I'm looking at you "The Mummy" movies) it's actually rather difficult to find any! That's why I was excited to stumble across this doctoral dissertation on that exact subject! And then promptly became totally underwhelmed. The ancient Egyptians were kind of bad at curses. But on the plus side, some of the things in the Book of the Dead are kind of cool. For example, here is the invocation from the "Coming Forth by Day" in the Papyrus of Ani (Book of the Dead): "I am the great god by the side of the divine boat, I have fought for you, I am one of those gods, those divine chiefs, who proved the truth-speaking of Osiris before his enemies on the day of the weighing of words. I am your kinsman Osiris." Okay, it kind of reads like gibberish, but if you squint, it's cool gibberish, right?
Everyone loves the Egyptian gods. They're mildly exotic, they tend to have animal heads, and basically no one can name any of them other than Anubis, Horus, Isis and Osiris. Here's a little info on a few gods whose names appear in the final chapters.
Chapter 23 introduces the Egyptian goddess Ammit, which is also styled Ammut or Ahemait. Wikipedia describes this deity best:
Ammit "was a demoness and goddess in ancient Egyptian religion with a body that was part lion, hippopotamus, and crocodile—the three largest "man-eating" animals known to ancient Egyptians. A funerary deity, her titles included "Devourer of the Dead", "Eater of Hearts", and "Great of Death". Ammit lived near the scales of justice in Duat, the Egyptian underworld. In the Hall of Two Truths, Anubis weighed the heart of a person against the feather of Ma'at, the goddess of truth, which was depicted as an ostrich feather (the feather was often pictured in Ma'at's headdress). If the heart was judged to be not pure, Ammit would devour it, and the person undergoing judgment was not allowed to continue their voyage towards Osiris and immortality."
Ammit wasn't worshipped, just feared. Although she looks rather small and unintimidating in tomb paintings (and frankly kind of cutely derpy), I found this image on Reddit of Ammit that 100% would haunt your dreams if you saw it in real life.
In Chapter 25, we're introduced to Wepset. There's really not a lot of information on the internet about Wepset. According to Wikipedia: she "is one of the personifications of the uraeus cobra that protected the kings; she is also an Eye of Ra and is mentioned as "the Eye" in the Coffin Texts. Her name means "she who burns". In New Kingdom texts she destroys the enemies of Osiris"...She is most often depicted as a snake, but in the Greek and Roman period she also has anthropomorphic depictions, as a woman with a lion's head or with uraeus or sun disk on her head." And that's it. That's all you can find about Wepset.
As a side note, rather than using Wepset, I considered Hetepes-Sekhus instead. Like Wepset, she was another cobra goddess from the afterlife who destroyed Osiris's enemies. As a bonus, she was depicted in the company of crocodiles.