Let’s get the proper title for human remains.
I just read that some British museums are starting to discard the word “mummy” to describe the remains of ancient people, leaning towards phrases like “mummified person” instead. The hope is that these more nuanced terms will emphasize the fact that these individuals were once living people and distance them from depictions in pop culture that undermine their humanity.
A National Museums Scotland spokesperson said:
“Where we know the name of an individual we use that, otherwise we use ‘mummified man, woman, boy, girl, or person’ because we are referring to people, not objects. The word ‘mummy’ is not incorrect, but it is dehumanizing, whereas using the term ‘mummified person’ encourages our visitors to think of the individual.”
Instead, they are starting to adopt terms such as “mummified person” or to use the individual’s name to emphasize that they were once living people.
Why did this catch my attention? I see the same situation when we have cremated remains. I believe that many people do not understand that once a person is cremated, either by fire or water, the remains are still “human remains.” I have been emphasizing that we cannot use the words “ashes” or “cremains” as it lessens the awareness that what is left after a body is cremated is still human and needs to be respected. Cremation is a way that the body is prepared for burial within the earth or a cremation niche, just like “mummification” was a way of preparing the body for burial within a tomb.
This is why the Catholic Church teaches us that cremated remains should be buried or interred in a cemetery. The body, in any form, needs to be respected and honored because it held the breath of God, our soul.
Because we respect the body in any form, we do not want the cremated remains divided among the family, made into jewelry, statuary, or tattoo ink. We do not want the cremated remains on someone’s fireplace mantle, which may eventually travel to a closet, attic, or garage and then eventually be forgotten by family members. (To learn about cremation burial options at The Catholic Cemeteries: click here)
So, that is my connection between “mummy and cremains.” Both are human bodies and that fact should never be forgotten. If we are to reverence life, then we need to do so even in death.