Friday, January 30, 2015

Supernatural Friday: Risen Dead, Part 2: Revenant, Aptrgangr, and Mummy


A revenant is a visible ghost, or even as an animated corpse believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living. The word "revenant" is derived from the Latin word, reveniens, "returning." Such spirits can be human, parts of humans (such as head, hands, etc.), animals of various sorts, lights moving over graves, vehicles, etc.

How does one become a revenant? Folklore tells of many different ways to become this creature. Some of the more common reasons for rising from the grave include: improper burial, no burial at all, improper handling of the deceased’s body, jealously of the living, a curse, unrest due to sin or unfinished business, or suicide. Some of the lesser-known reasons are more sinister in nature. Though usually, a revenant is created when an individual is greatly wronged before death and rises from the grave to seek vengeance. For instance, a man is murdered on the street for no apparent reason. After burial, he rises again from the grave as one of the living dead to avenge himself on his murderer. However, how one is “wronged” depends on an individual’s point of view. A criminal who is fairly tried by a jury and is legally executed may still rise from the dead. In this case, revenge is the trigger of undeath. 

A revenant can also arise when an individual who has led a sinful or wicked life dies. Such a person may be described vain, wicked, or having no faith in God. Cursed by the Almighty, this individual is doomed to rise from the grave as one of the undead to feed upon the living. When this happens, an evil spirit takes possession of the body, forcing out any of the original person’s remaining personality. The revenant may retain its memories from life, but there is no emotional attachment to these memories whatsoever. The evil spirit inhabiting the corpse is able to gain access to these memories and force the corpse to speak and act like the individual when he/she was alive, so it can deceive that person’s friends and loved ones. It uses the memories for hunting, utilizing the knowledge of former friends, family, and locations as part of its strategies in obtaining prey. It will slake its thirst for blood on the unfortunate, draining them of every last drop ot feasting on their flesh (sometimes one might think the revenant is a vampire, due to drinking of the blood, or even like vampires have been thought of in original Eastern European myths, eating flesh and deink blood, but it is not).

Freshly raised from the grave, the revenant is usually a corpse in an advanced state of decay and still recognizable to those it knew in life. It will have sunken eyes that glow a fiery red in the darkness. Rotten teeth in its mouth and jagged fingernails. Large portions of flesh may be missing, exposing the creature’s bones and innards, with the skin hanging in ragged strips, as maggots and worms infest the exposed flesh, as well as the eye sockets and other bodily orifices. It reeks of corruption and rotting flesh. Like one can detect a Bigfoot due to the odor, so can the revenant be detected from several yards away just by its smell alone. Most times, it is still wearing its burial shroud or whatever clothes it had been buried in.

The Revenant can be obsessed with gaining vengeance on those who wronged it while it was still living, or caused its death. There have been other accounts that it can also be benevolent and protective of its loved ones, seeking only to prove its innocence of the crime of which it was wrongfully accused, or to complete some pressingly important task. However, this is extremely rare in lore and legend.
The Revenant is single-minded and relentless in its pursuit of the one that wronged, betrayed, or even murdered the Revenant while it was alive. At this point, the Revenant will return to its grave, never to rise again.
The Revenant can be found all over the world in one form or another. The Revenant haunts spots important or significant to it in life, but it will go anywhere. This thing is not strictly limited to graveyards, mausoleums, tombs, crypts, or other places of death where the Undead usually dwell.
There are some legends say that claim that the revenant can shape shift, taking the form of a great hound (although this is a rarity). Its decaying flesh and fetid breath are capable of inflicting a terrible disease, causing those infected to waste away and die within a few days’ time.  It can withstand enormous amounts of damage to its body and dealing grievous wounds to it won’t keep it down for long.

A white-hot blaze can put it to rest forever. The revenant cannot be repelled or “turned,” by holding a holy icon in its path, the only exception being if the creature had been deeply religious in life. It is unknown if it is adversely affected by silver or holy water.  Other firms of destroying the revenant involve decapitation, dismemberment, or exorcising the heart and burning it, or driving a stake through the heart, cutting up the body, and then burning the body to ashes.

Aptrgangr  literally means 'again-walker', one who walks after death. This undead being comes from Norse mythology, although the aptrgangr, or draugr, is usually far more powerful, possessing magical abilities and most notably is not confined to a deathlike sleep during the day, unlike a vampire or revenant. It usually stays in its burial mound during the daylight hours and will resist intruders, which renders the destruction of its body a dangerous affair to be undertaken by individual heroes. Consequently, stories involving the aptrgangr often involve direct confrontations with the creature. One learns this creature to be immune to conventional weapons. Such elements are absent from the revenant or vampire lore, where the body is engaged in its inert state in daylight, and rendered harmless.

Mummy comes from the Arabic word mummia, which means bitumen. Bitumen is a naturally-occurring tarlike substance that the Arabs mistakenly thought was used for mummification due to the dark color of the mummies. Only later, in the New Kingdom, was bitumen used in the process.


If awaken, this appears as a shambling, desiccated corpse wrapped in soiled linen bandages. Underneath the bandages, the rest of the body is extremely well preserved, but is entirely dried out. The eyes are red, and glow in the dark. Usually, the Mummy has some kind of amulet hanging from its neck, as this may be the source of the creature’s power.

Normally, mummies do not reanimate. But in myths it was believe they could be. Egyptians believed that a man (or woman) was composed of several different types of souls. Respectively, there were at least nine different aspects of the soul, but only a few have been identified. These aspects of the soul were known as the ba (the personality), the ka (lifeforce), and both were known collectively as the akh. Other aspects included the shuyet (shadow) and the ren (name). An attempt shall be made for an explanation. 

The ba is but one part of the soul, the aspect of an individual that made that person unique, a personality of sorts. It is the part of the soul that is able to detach itself from the body and roam independently by means of astral travel. It was primarily released after death, but it could also be released under circumstances while the individual was sleeping (which was seen by the Egyptians as a state akin to death). Although this aspect was supposedly incorporeal, it was apparently able to eat, drink, and speak, as well as move. Despite this, the ba had to return the body every night, or otherwise the Mummy would be unable to survive into the afterlife. 

The ka is the lifeforce, a sort of spiritual double or doppelganger. It gives each individual their nature, temperament, and character. The ka is created at birth, living through the individual’s life and beyond their death. It is the energy that animates a living person, and perhaps it is also the force that is capable of reanimating the desiccated flesh of the Mummy as well. It continued to exist only as long as it was provided with the necessary care and sustenance. The ka was given daily offerings, and it was the one which partakes of the food and drink offerings buried with the Mummy. 

However, there was the belief that the ka was able to leave the body and wander about, especially if it was not sufficiently provided for. The ancient Egyptians feared that the ka would rise from the grave in a corporeal form as one of the Undead (known to the Egyptians as the kamarupa), clad in its burial clothes, and wander about at night in search of its own food, in the form of human blood, decaying animal flesh, brackish water, or even faeces. Nobody was safe from this walking corpse. 

In order for the dead to achieve true immortality, the ka and the ba had to be reunited in the afterlife. Collectively, these two aspects were known as the akh. This was the eternally unchanging and enduring spirit of the deceased, dwelling in the Underworld for eternity. It was seen as an eternal, living being of light, closely associated with both the stars and the gods (with whom it shared some characteristics, but was not truly divine itself). However, not everyone could become an akh. Those that had not lived their lives according to maat (the concept of cosmic order, truth, and justice, personified as a goddess, and the principle at the very heart of ancient Egyptian religion and morality) would either be annihilated or would not pass into the afterlife. These individuals were especially at risk of joining the ranks of the undead

To become an akh, one had to die first, and completing the process symbolized a successful resurrection and rebirth, transforming from a mortal into an immortal. The akh of the pharaohs (considered to be living gods in their own right) shared the divine power of the gods, and were therefore more divine than their subjects, and thus were far less likely to rise from the grave (although it could still happen).
The ren, or name, of an individual was extremely important, in both this life and the next. A name provided an individual with an identity, and without a name, the individual would utterly cease to exist. To the Egyptians, this was the worst possible fate that they could imagine, and therefore went to extremes to safeguard their names. If one’s name were erased on purpose, the family of the deceased feared for their eternal existence. It was considered to be an effective means of ridding oneself of society’s undesirables forever. In Egyptian magic, knowing an individual’s true name gave one power over that individual. This obsession was common all over the world, and it is still a concern in some cultures today. 

The shuyet, or shadow, was said to be a powerful and quick entity in ancient funerary texts, and is due the protection that it deserves. Shadows were thought to be an extension of the soul, and were also associated with the sun. The shadow’s solar associations were linked to the rebirth of an individual: the sun produced a shadow, an image of that person’s soul. When the sun set, the shadow disappeared. The shadow was then resurrected at dawn the next day, and therefore the sun helped the Egyptians to prepare for eternity in the afterlife, no matter what form the individual took. 
Lon Chaney as Kharis in The Mummy's Ghost (1944).

 Mostly, the Mummy lies at rest within its tomb. However, when an intruder invades the tomb or disturbs the creature’s eternal rest, the Mummy awakens in a rage, seeking out and attempting to destroy the intruder. 

Mummies are in Egypt, where they hide in the Great Pyramids, tombs, mastabas (mud-brick tombs), and forgotten temples. However, mummies are by no means limited to Egypt alone. They can be found all over the world.

Once one is reanimated, it possesses a host of supernatural powers at its disposal, like supernatural strength and endurance. It is nearly indestructible, as bullets have no effect on it. Most blades are unable to penetrate a reanimated  mummy’s desiccated flesh, stemming from the supernatural power reanimating the creature’s body. Any abilities that the Mummy possessed in life (like magic) are usually retained in death. Many of a mummy’s abilities depend on who it was in life. 

Despite the mummy’s strength and immunity to pain, it is not without its respective weaknesses. This reanimated corpse can be destroyed by fire, a common weakness among the undead. 


Gatekeeper said...

Love the article

Pamela K. Kinney said...

Glad you did, Gatekeeper. :-)

K.R. Morrison said...

Fascinating--good job!

Pamela K. Kinney said...

Thank you, K. R. Morrison. :-)