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Ancient Death Rituals – Self Mummification

Posted by mandyf on September 19, 2011

Self mummification is one of the stranger rituals surrounding death that has been documented in the history of mankind. While mummification as the Egyptians practiced it, and which is still loosely practiced today by some, is not seen as odd, the practice of actually mummifying your self is very strange. As far as death rituals go, it may actually be seen as the oddest based on little more than the sheer willpower it takes to commit suicide in such a slow and painful manner.

While the Sokushinbutsu monks that practiced self mummification likely would not consider it to be a form of suicide, this highly ritualized preparation for death woukd be hard to label as anything else. Unlike mummifying an already deceased person, the Sokushinbutsu monks who chose this route to exit the Earthly plane spent over six years awaiting death. So far as historical records tell us, the practice was limited primarily to this one particular group of monks, and thus far, only about two dozen self mummified bodies have been found and positively identified as perishing this way.

The process of self mummification would begin with the monk undergoing three years of intense physical conditioning to take their body fat down to the lowest possible level they could achieve. To help facilitate this, they would subsist on a diet of nuts and seeds. Once the primary phase of preparation had ended, the monk would continue his regimen of physical activity, but his diet would change to one that was primarily compromised tree bark and roots for another three years. Near the end of the second phase, the monk would begin to drink a tea made from the sap of Urushi trees in very small doses. The tea was poisonous, so the time it took to begin to take hold would usually come rather quickly – especially as the doses increased incrementally.

At a certain point that was determined by the monk who was self mummifying, he would enter a stone tomb, slightly larger than his body, and assume the lotus position. Through a feeding tube, he would be fed doses of the Urushi tea. The tea served multiple purpose. Primarily, it was a great preservative that kept maggots and any other insects from feeding on the body. The other “benefit” of the tea was that it induced serious vomiting which helped remove fluids from the body, thereby expediting the mummification process. The doses of tea would continue until the day arrived in which the monk no longer rang an above-ground bell he controlled with a string which signaled he was still alive. Once the bell lay silent one day, the tomb was encased and the mummification process would continue on over the centuries.


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