An Easter Activity: Make Your Own Shrunken Head

Inspired by a trip to the local anthropological museum, I thought I’d offer this idea for holiday entertainment.  As you know, Easter is nearly upon us and so, for many, are the Easter holidays.  The kids are on school break and many parents are looking for activities to keep them amused.  The weather’s not been great so it looks like an indoors activity will be perfect.  Look no further.  Here’s an activity that’s both educational and fun!  Let’s make our own shrunken heads!

Here’s a step by step guide.

First things first though.  You’ll need some equipment.  You’ll need a very sharp knife, a cooking pot and some hot sand and stones.  You will also need some good thick thread, a sewing needle and some cocktail sticks. Very young children might need some supervision.

1. First find a head.  It is best to use an enemy’s head but someone who is irritating you will do.  Like your little brother or sister.  Remove their head.  It is best to cut off a fair amount of the neck too.  If you can take some of the skin from their chest and back, then all the better.  You’ll need an adult’s help with this as the knife has to be quite sharp.  This bit can be quite controversial so, because it’s often harder to seek forgiveness than permission, you might have to do this bit without asking.  If you choose a brother or sister you should try to guess which one of you is most unpopular with your parents.

This is quite a messy stage.  It is best to do this outside or in the bathroom where it is quite easy to clean up the mess afterwards.

2. Inside everyone’s head is a really hard thing called the skull.  This is the thing that hurts your hand when you hit people.  This will really stop the head shrinking process so we need to take it out.  Using your sharp knife, cut a slit from the top of the persons head, down the back and to the neck.  Now you need to peel the skin off.  Pretend you’re taking a glove off someone’s hand.  It comes off surprisingly easy.  Leave the skull as an offering to the anaconda.

3.  You might find your head’s sightless stare a little unnerving.  Let’s stitch up those eyelids!

4.  And while you’re doing that, fasten the lips together with the cocktail sticks.

Now we can get on to the fun bit; shrinking the head!

5. If you have a wooden ball or something like that, put it inside the head so it keeps it’s shape.  Get a big pan on the stove and place the head in there, with enough water to cover and simmer it for one and half or two hours.  Try not to cook it for longer or the hair falls out and that’s just inconvenient.  Watch it so the pan doesn’t boil dry.  The smell of burning human flesh is not pleasant and also prompts difficult questions.

6. Now remove the head from the pan.  You’ll notice that the skin has darkened a lot and the skin is quite rubbery. You’ll also notice that the head is a third of its former size.  Cool!

7. Turn the head inside out scrape any meaty bits off with a knife. Now turn it the right side out and sew the slit at the back together. It’s like a flabby rubber ball.  It doesn’t bounce though, so don’t try it.  It’ll just make more mess.

8. Open the windows.  The kitchen will smell pretty bad by now.  And heat rocks and sand in the oven.  You need them very hot so try and get it up to about 200 degrees centigrade.

9. We need to seal the skin so the head doesn’t rot and smell bad.  Drop some heated stones through the neck hole and shake them about to stop them scorching.  This will seal the flesh and also shrink the head some more. When the head shrinks so much that you can’t shake the stones around any more we have to use sand.

10. Fill the head with the hot sand.  This will get into the ears and nostrils where the rocks couldn’t reach.

11. Now there might be some hair and stuff on the head that you don’t like.  The head might look a little odd too.  OK, the head will look very odd.  You can burn the hair off and reshape the face using a heated knife.  You can also rub the head with ash to stop any spirits escaping and why not decorate it with beads or seashells?

12. Now we have to let the head harden a bit.  If you have an open fire then great, put the head up the chimney otherwise hang it in the airing cupboard.

13. The head looks best hanging up as a warning and a show of your strength.  It also looks great if you hang it around your neck like a necklace and is always something to get conversation going at a party.

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