Necrophilia: An Ancient Egyptian Tradition?

This may be the worst sort of environmental determinism, but what is it with Egypt? Is there something in the Nile water?

For centuries Egyptian Paganism seemed to function—on one level—as as sort of post office of the dead. All those mummified cats, ibises, crocodiles, etc. neatly stacked in little p.o. boxes. What’s with that?

And of course there was the elaborate bureaucratic ritual that accompanied the mummification. The Greek historian Herodotus (a bit of a gossip) commented,

The wives of men of rank are not give to be embalmed immediately after death, nor indeed are any of the more beautiful and valued women. It is not until they have been dead three or four days that they are carried to the embalmers. This is done to prevent indignities from being offered them. (Link is to a different translation, but quite similar.)

Then, for several centuries, Egypt was mostly Christian. Christians liked to store the body parts of saints in their churches, which is why the Emperor Julian (PBUH) referred to them as “charnel houses.” What went on in the funeral business I do not know.

Today, in majority-Muslim Egypt, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television network reports that Egyptian women’s rights campaigners (there are some) are protesting two laws proposed in the “Islamist-dominated parliament”:

She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death. . . . . Egyptian prominent journalist and TV anchor Jaber al-Qarmouty on Tuesday referred to [cleric] Abdul Samea’s article in his daily show on Egyptian ON TV and criticized the whole notion of “permitting a husband to have sex with his wife after her death under a so-called ‘Farewell Intercourse’ draft law.”

Because nothing expresses grief over losing one’s spouse quite like that.

UPDATE: Another source says that no such law was proposed. Was Al-Arabiya fooled?

One Comment

  1. Rombald says:

    There was a rape-murder case in England a few years ago, in which the defendant claimed that he found the victim dead, tried to revive her, and then had sex with the dead body. Apparently it would then only have been a fairly minor crime – gross indecency – analogous to being caught having sex in public.