About the mystical fire mummies of Kabayan

Many of us associate mummies with embalmed Egyptian pharaohs, from whom all organs were extracted, in particular, the brain was even removed through the nostrils. But few people know that other varieties of preserved bodies can be found on the planet.

For example, in the Philippines, there are so-called Kabayan fire mummies, which are located in a natural environment and have all their organs, although it is generally believed that this necessarily leads to decomposition

Discovery of caves with mummies

Caves with unique remains were first discovered in the early twentieth century by local loggers, when trees began to be felled industrially in the north of the Philippines. Burials in the rocks were not protected in any way, and therefore they were partially looted – perhaps the woodcutters also contributed to the plundering of the tombs. Today, numerous tourists visit the caves, and the government of the country is doing its best to preserve this historical landmark.

Nevertheless, it is not so easy to find these places, despite all their openness to the public. The caves are located high in the mountains, where it is impossible to reach by transport. Only an experienced guide is able to guide you along narrow and often dangerous paths so that you have the opportunity to see unique mummies with your own eyes. According to local beliefs, the guide must be a direct descendant of the Ibaloi people, otherwise, the spirits of those to whom these dried bodies belong will be angry.

How fire mummies were created
How fire mummies were created

The entrance to each cave is closed with a lattice, but an authoritative guide will easily guide you inside. There you will find yourself at arm’s length from several fiery mummies that have been keeping their secrets for many centuries. Body drawings are clearly visible on the skin of corpses. Many mummies have preserved their hair and teeth. If you wish to examine all the remains, then you will have to climb very high. For a person with a heart condition or overweight, such a climb to the mountains can be unbearable.

How fire mummies were created

As mentioned above, Kabayan fire mummies have all their internal organs preserved. Someone will say that this is a real mysticism, because, say, the human digestive tract, as you know, cannot be mummified. However, the ancient Filipinos had access to the secret of complete mummification of bodies. It is believed that at first, ibaloi, who was near death, committed a very painful suicide by drinking a special saline solution, which immediately began to dehydrate a still-living person.

When an individual died, a complex process of mummification of his corpse was carried out, which lasted several months. The body was thoroughly washed, brought to a sitting position, and placed over a weakly smoldering fire. Thus, the deceased literally smoked in intense heat and thick smoke. All the fluids evaporated from the outer tissues of the body, making these tissues dry and stiff. However, there were still internal organs that also needed to be dried.

To dry the corpse from the inside, smoke of special herbs was blown into his mouth. After that, the mummy was rubbed with fresh herbs and then placed in a small oval coffin made of wood. The sitting position of the bodies was extremely convenient, since the mummies did not take up much space, and they did not need full-length coffins. Similarly, it was possible to place more coffins in one cave.

Looting of caves with mummies and the accompanying curse

Despite the protection of the caves, as well as the obvious fragility of the mummies, some coffins with dried corpses were stolen from here and sold in Europe for impressive sums. At a certain point, such thefts turned into a real disaster: criminals who wanted to get rich were not even afraid of death from a curse. Then the Philippine authorities appealed to the world community, asking to return the remains to their burial place.

By 2004, only eight mummies had been returned to their homeland. The rest are still kept in the private collections of the rich. At the same time, it is worth noting that Filipinos are worried not only about their national heritage but also about the fate of dishonest mummy thieves and their clients. The fact is that, according to local legends, it is impossible to take corpses out of caves because, in this case, the spirits will get really angry and curse anyone who contributes to their separation from their ancestors and native land.

Looting of caves with mummies and the accompanying curse
Looting of caves with mummies and the accompanying curse

One remarkable theft, surrounded by a halo of mysticism, occurred almost a century ago, in 1919. Then the malefactors illegally removed from here not a simple mummy but the remains of the Ibaloi leader Apo Anna, who died five hundred years before. The skin of this mummy is covered with intricate tattoos, which are believed to have a magical purpose. Later it turned out that the remains were stolen by a Filipino pastor, who handed over the coffin with the mummy to the sailors of the cargo ship. From there, the mummy went to Europe.

The dishonest priest soon died of tuberculosis, and three of his accomplices-sailors also suddenly went to their forefathers under strange circumstances. One fell overboard and hit his head on the boat, the second was beaten to death by his wife’s lover, the third simply killed himself. The fiery mummy was taken to Spain, where it was displayed in a museum. Nevertheless, various accidents began to occur in the institution, and it had to be closed. Only in 1984 was Apo Anna returned to the Philippines.

The Ibaloi people still exist but in a modernized form. Its representatives no longer practice mummification, but they deeply venerate the fire mummies of Kabayan, considering their caves sacred places and conducting their religious rituals here.

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