Mellified Man Or Honey I’m Dead
For at least 2,700 years, honey has been used by humans to treat a variety of ailments through topical application because of its unique composition and the complex processing of nectar. History knows examples of honey preservation for decades, centuries and even millennia.
But what is mellification? Was it really a practice? Can a honey mummy really cure what ails ye?
In really simple terms, mellification is when you preserve a human body — inside and out — with honey. The process starts before death, is on a volunteer basis, and takes about 100 years.
This is claimed to be an ancient process of preserving bodies through the use of honey. Li, a Chinese pharmacologist reports that “some elderly men in Arabia, nearing the end of their lives, would submit themselves to a process of mummification in honey to create a healing confection. This process differed from a simple body donation because of the aspect of self-sacrifice; the mellification process would ideally start before death. The donor would stop eating any food other than honey, going as far as to bathe in the substance. Shortly, his feces (and even his sweat, according to legend) would consist of honey. When this diet finally proved fatal, the donor’s body would be placed in a stone coffin filled with honey. After a century or so, the contents would have turned into a sort of confection reputedly capable of healing broken limbs and other ailments. This confection would then be carefully sold in street markets as a hard to find an item with a hefty price.”
The process begins when an elderly man volunteers his body, and the rest of his life to the procedure. From this point on, the man is fed nothing but honey, drinks nothing but honey and bathes in nothing but honey.
After a period of time on this diet, he will secrete and excrete nothing but the sweet substance. He is now ‘mellifluous’ meaning ‘like honey’ and death will shortly follow.
His body will be interred into a stone coffin, where he will be totally submerged in honey. The coffin will be sealed with an inscription giving the month and year added.
After a hundred years had passed, the seal on the coffin was broken and the body was removed. The now completely honey-embalmed corpse was then broken into pieces and used as a sweet confection that was apparently renowned for its powerful healing abilities. The concoction could be rubbed on wounds or taken orally. It was said that if this confection was taken orally, it would heal or cure any affliction nearly instantaneously. This strange confection was said to be exceedingly rare and exorbitantly expensive due to the lack of many people willing to voluntarily undergo the morbid process and the long amount of time needed to properly age the mummies. For his part, Li admits that he heard the story second hand, and his entry on the Mellified Man is written in a way that suggests he is imploring others reading it to verify his information.
Embalming character of honey and beeswax is held in antiquity. Alexander the Great was transported to the home country in a coffin filled with honey after his death in Babylon.
Although honey has been used in embalming in antiquity, the use of honey for mummification in ancient Egypt was controversial. Recently scientific research using modern techniques of analysis, has turned-out the use of beeswax in mummification in ancient Egypt, especially from the fifth century B.C. onward. The similarity of the embalmed human fetuses in the present study to the Egyptian mummies might possibly indicate that honey might have been used for embalming at least small bodies.