Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Horror of the Mummy's Head

Clodia's Great-Grandfather fought for Napoleon Bonaparte in the Egyptian Campaign of 1798-1801. Like many who served in the emperor's Armee de Orient Clodia's Great-Grandfather vandalized and plundered many of ancient Egypt's monuments and artifacts. Like other warriors throughout time, many soldiers of Napoleon's Armee de Orient took home souvenirs. The most popular being the mummy. Most were the crudely mummified peasants or workers of Egypt's wonderful monuments. So common was the practice that it became a popular rage in 19th century Europe to ingest the ground up corpse of an Egyptian mummy as a remedy for various ailments or as an aphrodisiac. Clodia's Great-Grandfather, being a common foot soldier could not carry much, so the only artifact he was able to smuggle out of the country was a small head of a mummy. For years he proudly displayed his war time trophy, his grand children often gathering around the family hearth to hear his fanciful stories of the orient and cower in fear of the revolting head on the mantle. Sometimes, Clodia's father told her, it seemed as if the head turned or moved as if it was still alive and listening intently to the stories of the old soldier.

Years passed, as did Clodia's Great-Grandfather. The severed mummy's head was packed up in storage and forgotten, remembered only in family stories retold at the occasional get together.

Until 1922 when Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the boy king, Pharaoh Tutankhamen. The public attention to the discovery unleashed an unprecedented interest in Egyptology, and soon Ancient Egyptian decor and collecting 'artifacts' became the popular vogue. It became stylish to adore your house with an Egyptian motif accented with artifacts, real or fake. It was at this time when Clodia remembered all the hand me down stories of her Great-Grandfather and his adventures in the Egyptian Campaign. And she remembered the mummy's head.

Clodia had spent the good part of an afternoon rummaging through her Grandmother's attic, sorting through all the collected remembrances that her family had horded through the decades. The fruits of her labor eventually payed off, for in an old wooden box buried under a bag full of old clothes she found a metal tin marked with Egyptian symbols and pictures.Inside, wrapped in old musty cloth was the mummy's head.

It was smaller than she expected, about the size of a cantaloupe. Although there were some ancient cloth still attached to the skull, most of the face was uncovered. With empty eyes and no nose the cadaver's head was gruesome, but knowing that it had come from the time of the Pharaohs quelled any loathing she instinctively had for the object and instead instilled her with awe and wonder. With her Grandmother's blessing, she took the head home to her flat in Montoire and placed it on her bedroom dresser. She took the remainder of the day lying on her bed and staring at the gruesome artifact. Her mind wandered, imagining who the person was and what his or her world was like all those millenia ago. Her new decoration was the floodgate of inspiration.

But that night the disturbing dreams began.

Clodia dreamed she was in a dark room, which smelled of rotting flesh and waste. A door opened, and three men came into the room. Two of them were enormous muscular men, carrying some kind of staff or large club. the other was between the two adorned in some sort of robe. It was this small one who spoke, and as he did the large men started to beat her. And in the mixture of their laughing and her screaming she violently awoke, covered in sweat.

Over the course of that week she had the same dream every night, however the imagery became more distinct and vivid. And she no longer awoke with the beginning of the beatings, she endured them all. Each nights dream seemed to add more to the drama, and soon she found herself tied to a stone table with the thin man placing jars around her and holding some crude instruments. Then he took out a long jeweled knife and started to cut her abdomen open.

She woke up screaming that night, for she felt every blow and the horror of the cold metal cutting her open. She quickly pulled aside her blankets and night dress to make sure she was in one piece, only to find a long scratch down her belly where she had dreamed the knife opened her. A chill ran down her spine as she felt reality merge with the dream world. But her nervous hysteria only escalated when she noticed the mummy's head was no longer on the dresser where she usually kept it. It was sitting on her night stand, vacant eyes open as if it were piercing her mind. And most terrifying and impossible to Clodia, it seemed the face had changed.

The face seemed to have a grin that was never there before.

So disheveled by the entire incidents, Clodia took her prized Egyptian relic and put it in a small shed behind her building.

But she did not experience relief from the nightmare's that evening. In fact they seemed more intense and real, more than ever before. She endured the beatings and the disembowelment as if it was happening to her. The robed man took out her organs and put them in small jars. It was then that she understood. She was reliving what must have happened to the mummy. She was some sort of servant girl being mummified alive. But her consciousness endured for longer than seemed possible. With vital organs removed, she should have succumbed to the darkness of death. But she remained conscious through the horrible rite. Experiencing everything. The man who she now recognized as an Egyptian priest moved turned her face with a long hooked instrament, with a quick twist of his wrist he shoved the utensil into her nose and started to dig.

Clodia awoke covered in blood. It was a horrible nose bleed that turned her white cotton sheets a dark crimson. She dashed to the bathroom to stop the bleeding and clean herself up. Crying and shaking she entered her bedroom to change her bed clothes, and through tear blurred eyes she saw something that shattered her world of rational thought.

The mummy's head was on her night stand again. And the head seemed to be turning on its own toward her.

Still covered in blood, she ran from the apartment, blindly making her way to her parents home some miles away. After telling her parents of her horrible ordeal, Clodia's father took the head and burned it in a field far away from any of the family. He also made his daughter move back in with the family, so she would make a clean break with any association with the nightmares of that flat.

Clodia never mentioned the mummy's head or the nightmares to anyone, for fear they would think her mad. Until the 1970s, when the tout of King Tut brought Egyptology to the forefront once more. The nightmares returned, though not as vivid. It was if she was reliving the horror she experienced in the 20s once again. Clodia sought out help from a friend and she was referred to a Christian Counselor who helped her deal with her memories through therapy and hypnotism. The nightmares ceased, and the horror of the mummy's head faded into history as peace through grace quelled Clodia's fears.

Now as when I first heard the story in a small group with the counselor who ministered to Clodia, I cannot help but wonder if Clodia was imagining the paranormal activity surrounding the mummy's head. But after years of witnessing strange unexplained experiences myself, the story seems all the more chilling. What was the purpose of the dreams? Was the disembodied spirit of that long dead servant trying to reach out in sympathy to what it understood as a kindred soul, or was something more sinister happening? Were Clodia's wounds psychosomatic or a paranormal phenomena pointing to some diabolical plan at work?

Until Next time,
Pastor Swope

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter's Dark Secret

In Celebration of the Easter Holiday here is a reprint from my Examiner page...

She took her time going down the stairs, carefully taking each step and swaying her hips seductively for effect.

But she had to be careful not to sway too much down the long staircase for she had the symbol held out before her outstretched arms. And the symbol was almost important as who she represented in this ancient celebration of spring, for held out before her was the egg from heaven that had fallen into the Euphrates and pushed to the shores by the fish,which had given birth to the goddess.


The Babylonian goddess of fertility, love and sex. The queen of heaven.

It is she that the young woman portrays as she slowly descends the Ziggarut with the symbol of her divine birth in her hands. And her descent down the stairs ended the 40 days of weeping for her son Tammuz, who had been slain by a wild pig, and began the festival in her name in which the whole country celebrated the wondrous resurrection of Ishtar’s son through the divine power of the egg of life.

When the young priestess of Ishtar completed her descent the crowd gave up a wild cheer of abandonment and started the festival in the queen of heaven’s name. They would venerate the egg and other fertility symbols, feast on wild pig and with the assistance of the temple priestess and the temple prostitutes abandon themselves in an orgy to commemorate life and resurrection.

Sound familiar?

Ishtar. Easter.

Well except for the temple prostitute part and the wild orgy.

The Easter Holiday we celebrate is an ancient and old one.

We get the word from this most sacred of Christian Holy days from the ancient pagan celebration of Vernal Equinox, or the spring solstice. The fertility festival of Ishtar.

Almost universally celebrated among primitive cultures the spring solstice was chiefly a celebration of fertility. After the cold dead of winter the ground once again opened its nurturing womb for the seed that would eventually sustain life, birds and other animals began the mating process. It was a time of life after seemingly unending death, the death of winter.

If you do a search through the Internet about the origin of Easter, many sites will have you assume that the tradition has arisen within the Christian Era. The modern word Easter came from the Old English word ?astre or ?ostre or Eoaster which originates within the first century A.D. This is the name of the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess ?ostre the goddess of the dawn who also had a celebration during the Vernal Equinox which also incorporated fertility symbols such as the egg and the hare.

But the Easter tradition goes farther back than the time of Christ, it even pre-dates much of the Old Testament. The symbolic imagery of the Babylonian cult of the fertility and Ishtar, their queen of heaven echoes back far into pre-history. Some of the first religious idols we find primitive man fashioning is that of a mother goddess who is endowed with supernatural sexual power to help the procreation of those who revere it.

We 21st century humans are used to controlling our surroundings. But even we with all our marvelous modern marvels are still bound by the forces of life and death. And to primitive man the dual Equinox both literally and symbolically portrayed the power of life and death over our human condition. But whereas in the Autumnal Equinox man has no power over the death of the earth that encroaches upon him, he can participate in the spring by rebirth by reveling in his own fertility. I think that in essence is why these symbols have lasted so long.

They are empowering.

We have no control over death.

But we can participate in life.

And through the multitude of generations that have passed since the high priestess has last walked down the Ziggurat’s stairs in ancient Babylon, mankind is still the same. We abhor death. It is a constant reminder of our own mortality. But we have power in life. And every spring we can celebrate it.

It would seem that Easter is just a continuation of an age old festival, a festival of new life. It is easy to say that Christianity in its infancy adopted this pagan holiday and its similar theme of rebirth and fashioned a synthesis of ideas from antithetical ideology.

But I see it a bit different.

With Christmas we have a similar problem, for Christmas takes many pagan symbols turns them into Christian ones. But the one problem for Christmas is that even though we celebrate December 25th as the birth date for Christ, most scholars say He was born either in late summer or fall.

But the time of Jesus death and His resurrection is not one of conjecture.

Jesus was crucified and died over the Pesach, the Jewish Passover. And He was resurrected three days later. There is no ambiguity over the time frame according to the scriptural records.

So in my world view the resurrection of Jesus and our celebration of Easter is miraculous in a multifaceted way. Not just for its Theological significance in New Testament Theology. But in that God used the imagery that was already there, in a time celebrated since the first twinkling of man’s intellectual assessment of the relation of himself and his universe. God used this ancient ceremony to show a deeper truth and to reach out to mankind in love and hope.

God met mankind where he was.

Just as today, no matter how desperate the hour for us personally, God meets us where we are. He stands along side us, acknowledges our desires and needs, and gives us hope.

And no matter what you call the time, Easter is above all, a time of hope.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Seminar at the Butler Paranormal Conference

I'm going to make an appearance at the Butler Conference next week, my seminar will also include how to use my book "An Excorcist's Field Guide" to custom make a ceremony for the layman.