Mummies: Out of the Casket, Into The Streets

On the East Coast, they are known as “sepia zombies”and on the West Coast they are “dusters”, but wherever there is cosplay, they are present. Mummies have sprung out of the casket and even now are a source of excitement in the science fiction community. Spring brings the release of Cerements,the anthology that is said to define modern mummy writings.

Mummies, for now, are having their moment in the sun.

Aubrey Miles, a mummy enthusiast, describes his passion for bandages and grave goods: “It’s a very DIY movement. Unlike the zombies we don’t rely on prosthetics or fake blood. One could even say we are more of a gentleman’s monster.”

Miles and his girlfriend and partner in mummy play, Sylvia Moore, have participated in over forty-five mummy meetups and gatherings
and today in their Brooklyn apartment, they are stirring cheesecloth bandages into a tea bath for an aged look and feel.

Ms. Moore describes her experience as a woman in mummy culture. “I was surprised at how welcoming it was; lots of other mummies gave tips on what to do, what to avoid and how to make oneself a presentable mummy. It’s all an art from dyeing the bandages to making treasures for one’s hoard. You certainly can’t get far alone
when you’re a mummy, you’re in it together.We need each other to make this work and when we get together, you see people doing up each other’s bandages, things like that. It’s all cooperation and art created together.”

When not working as a sysadmin, Moore’s artistic talents are given over to making grave goods. She makes bracelets, jewels, canopic jars and today is working on Sculpey ushabti. Moore and other mummies showcase their treasures in hoard videos on YouTube, where mummies can show off their wealth to other mummies. Moore’s was particularly memorable for the vision of her lying between peacock feather fans, adorned with gold and jewels over her wrappings and surrounded by hundreds of ushabti. When asked, Moore shrugs.”There’s a guy in Jersey City who has a working chariot and real alabaster. There’s always more to strive for, but the work people do in this scene is just amazing.”

Most credit the emergence of the mummy to the overwhelming presence of the steampunk movement. Mummies share their romanticization of the past as well a love for  the Egyptian Revival movement of the  mid-nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries. It is not unusual to see mummy meetups in museums with Egyptian collections. Barbara Kowalski, a volunteer at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland describes the museum’s mummy patronage: “At first I thought they were going to cause trouble, you know, with all the bandages and stuff, but they were really respectful, quiet and polite.”

Mummies organize these meetups over Facebook and Twitter. The largest meetup to date, with over a hundred mummies, took place  at New York City’s Metropolitan Musem of Art.

With this history behind them the mummies are ready to take their place beside the zombies as trooping monsters. Before shambling off to a meetup in Central Park, Moore had this to say before Miles began her headwrap. “The thing is, mummies zombies or whatever, are really the great equalizers. Anyone can be a mummy. Someday everyone will be one, wrapped in their best clothes and buried. We are the memento mori, the reminder that in life, we are also in death. As mummies,we confront this daily.” As the final wrapping goes over her eyes and mouth she says. “It just makes you feel good to be alive.”

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