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Mumia invenitur in sepulchris mortuorum antiquorum et constat ex substantia ipsorum cadaverum et mixtura condimentorum quibus condiebantur sive mirra et aloe sive quibuscumque aliis nobis ignotis.


{Mumia} ut add. j
sepulchris A f | sepulcris B ej | sep’lcris C | spelũcis p
mortuorum om. B ejp
antiquorum om. f
{antiquorum} et | ut B | om. j
substãcia B | suba f | suba A ej {cf. Cappelli p.367} | sb’a p | subã C
{cadaverum} et om. j
mixtura | mistura B
{condimentorum} ex add. B ep
quibuscũqʒ ABC e | quibusdaʒ f | cuiuscũqʒ ejp


Mummy is what is found in the tombs of the dead of Antiquity and consists of a substance made of those cadavers with a mixture of spices with which they were embalmed, either mirra {"myrrh"} and aloe or with whatever other chemicals unknown to us.


Pulverized mummy was a popular drug for half a millennium in Europe, starting in the 12th c. and abating not before the 18th c. Thus Dr Robert James, the compiler of - amongst other publications - a well-received 3 volume Medicinal Dictionary, still includes mummy in his Pharmacopoeia Universalis of 1747 (online) The main supply during the Middle Ages was from Egypt where genuine embalmed mummies, feline and human, were supplied. Their medicinal value was originally linked to the curative powers associated with bitumen, which was wrongly believed to be the main ingredient for embalming rather than resin. However, slowly the perceived healing power was transferred to the flesh of the cadavers. As the supply of genuine mummies dried up spurious substances from recently dead bodies entered the market.

For further reading: Dawson (1927: 34-9). [[1]]

Botanical identification:

is most likely Commiphora myrrha (Nees) Engl. or "common" or "gum myrrh" [[2]], [[3]], a tree native to the Southern Arabian Peninsula and to the Horn of Africa. Myrrh is a resin made from the dried sap of this tree [[4]] or some related species of the genus Commiphora.

is possibly Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f. [[5]], but a number of other aloe species are also likely. It grows in arid climates with a wide distribution in the southern Arabian Peninsula, Northern Africa and in some parts of Asia, however its original distribution is unclear. It is mentioned in Dioscorides and Pliny and traditionally it is thought to heal wounds, relieve itching and swelling, and to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Simon's mention of aloe and myrrh does of course hark back to the story well-known to Christians of the embalming of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, of which the Vulgate says, Ev. sec. Iohannem, 19, 39: Venit autem et Nicodemus ... ferens mixturam murrae et aloes quasi libras centum - translated from the original Greek: Φέρων ἔλιγμα σμύρνης καὶ ἀλόης /phérōn éligma smýrnēs kaì alóēs/ – which the Jerusalem Bible (1966: 188) NT, translates: "{sc. Joseph of Arimathaea and} Nicodemus came as well ... and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds."

WilfGunther 25/12/2013

See also: Aloes, Mirra, Mura

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