Egyptian God Osiris
As the Egyptian God Osiris is lord of the death and resurrection, you can safely assume that he is the most revered and respected of all the ancient Egyptian gods. The name Osiris is the Greek version, while the name in ancient Egyptian is Usir, Aser or Wesir.
He is the son of the Earth God Geb and the Sky Goddess Nut. He married his sister, the goddess Isis who bore him a son – Horus.
The love story of Isis and Osiris, or Aset and Usir, can be considered one of the greatest of all time. Their stories are painted all over tomb walls and papyri. The myths are some of the most important and significant in ancient Egyptian religion.
In form, he is depicted wearing mummy shrouds – which will be explained later in the myth. He also wears the Atef Crown, which is the white crown of Lower Egypt combined with ostrich feathers on either side.
And he holds the crook and flail in his hands, which are also what pharaohs are depicted holding in their hands.
His skin is sometimes shown as pale white, like a mummy, or green to resemble vegetation, or black to symbolize death – all three things he was closely associated with.
He is not only God of Death and resurrection, but as a god he died and was resurrected himself – his form represents this story, which interlocks with his love story with Isis, the battle between Horus and Set, and other wonderful myths.
But let’s focus on his story first. As with most ancient myths, there are may accounts and they sometimes morph and evolve into their own mix. This is more or less Plutarch’s account of the myth of the Egyptian God Osiris.
Death and Resurrection of the Egyptian God Osiris
Osiris, though a god, was once a man. He had been incarnated into human form in order to become a ruler of mankind. He led the human race out of barbarism and began a sort of renaissance on earth. He taught people how to farm and grow grains, along with many other skills.
He started off by ruling Egypt, and then when he felt confident that the country was stable and civilized, he ventured out to civilize the rest of the world. Because of this, he was considered to be the first king of Egypt.
While away, he put his wife Isis in charge of ruling the country with the assistance of the god Thoth. At the time, things were peaceful and easy to govern.
But little did anyone know that his younger brother, the God Set, had grown jealous of his success. He plotted against Osiris and came up with a tricky plan.
Set had managed to get the exact measurements of the body of Osiris, and he fashioned the most beautiful box in his shape.
He then threw a party honoring Osiris upon his return, inviting many guests. During that party, while everyone was feasting and drinking, he put out a call to a challenge:
Whoever could fit into this box could have it!
It was such a beautiful box that everyone was enthusiastic to try. But of course no one fit into it perfectly, except the one it was originally fashioned for…
Osiris was inside when he got locked in, and he suffocated to death. Set threw the box into the Nile.
The loving Isis searched desperately for her husband’s dead body, and during this time, her sister Nephthys revealed a secret: she had had an affair with Osiris and bore him a son. But out of fear, she had abandoned the child.
Isis quickly forgave her, found the abandoned son and adopted him. His name is Anubis. Together, the two sisters searched for their beloved Osiris, and while doing so sung the most beautiful songs of ancient Egypt: The Laments of Isis and Nephthys.
Eventually, they did find him, and Isis somehow managed to revive him long enough to conceive a child with him – his son Horus. Afterwards they embalmed the body of Osiris and hid it…
For a while, this worked, but Set never felt at ease in his new role while his brother’s body was still out there somewhere. And at the same time, Isis was in hiding, protecting her newly-conceived child from Set.
Eventually, by a stroke of luck, Set stumbled on Osiris. He immediately dismembered him, ripping him into 14 pieces and throwing each piece far away from the others.
But still, even this did not deter the devoted Isis. She managed to collect his body parts, and with the help of her adopted son Anubis and the god Thoth, they managed to restore his form by wrapping him in mummy shrounds.
He then became the first ever “mummy”.
In a strange twist in the account given by Plutarch, Isis managed to find all of his body parts with the exception of his reproductive member, which had been eaten by a catfish in the river. She had to fashion him a phallus using her magic abilities.
Anyway, with each piece found, she would pretend to bury it and build a shrine over it, when in fact she actually took the piece with her. This was a trick to fool Set into thinking Osiris was not being reassembled.
This is apparently why there are so many places of worship devoted to the Egyptian God Osiris, scattered in different parts of the land.
Once he was restored, with the help of the gods, he was wrapped up as a mummy and placed in the Temple of Abydos.
The story at this point turns to Set’s battle with Horus, and Horus wins and returns to Abydos. He tries to restore his father’s life by giving him his eye, but he was still unable to sustain him in the land of the living, and so Osiris became the Lord of Death and ruled the underworld, Duat
Function and Worship of the Egyptian God Osiris
Above all, the Egyptian God Osiris is the final judge of the soul of the recently deceased. Only he could grant final entry into the Field of Reeds Aaru. In a sense, he is the last keeper of the gates of heaven.
He judged according to reports from other gods as well as the confessions the heart of the deceased gave to him. But even so, he was known for his kindness, mercy and fairness in his judgment, and as such was sometimes called “The God of Love”.
The fact that the Nile had been his deathbed, he was associated with it and with its flooding. The flooding of the Nile annually was the most important event of the year as it supplied the fertile soil for growing all of Egypt’s crops.
And because he was associated with regeneration, he was also the God of Vegetation, seeing how the earth’s soil regenerated and bore life even after the harvest or the death of the crops.
And of course, this also ties in with fertility, as the land and soil usually do. So he was also a God of Fertility.
The ancient Egyptians were amazing astronomers. They had to be.
Knowledge of the annual flooding of the Nile, the seasons and cycles of nature and the climate was imperative in order to grow enough food to feed the population. So they mastered the art of reading the stars and nature’s cycles.
All of these cycles of course remind us of the death and rebirth of the Egyptian God Osiris.
So noticing that the season akhet – the first season of the ancient Egyptian calendar, which signals the inundation of the Nile – followed the Heliacal rising of the dog star Sirius.
The relationship between the god and the star is as follows:
When Osiris was murdered by Set, he took 70 days to be resurrected. The ancient Egyptian mummification process took 70 days to complete – 15 days of cleansing and purification, 40 days of drying, and 15 days of wrapping and decorating.
Sirius also disappears from the night sky for 70 days, and its return as the brightest star in the sky signals the ancient Egyptian New Year and rebirth in the Nile Valley.
The Book of the Dead and its vignettes tell the stories of the afterlife and the underworld – in which the Egyptian God Osiris is the main judge. He is depicted on tomb walls and papyri carrying out his judging duties with the help of his assistants.
There were festivals that center around his worship. Annual feasts were held in his honor, and some of the most elaborate rites were held for him, such as the Osirian Mysteries.
And of course his main cult center was Abydos. Together with Isis and Horus, they form ancient Egypt’s most important trinity, though there were several other important triads.
Temples were dedicated to him, tombs of the Pharaohs were filled with paintings of his mercy and kindness, as well as his final judgments.
In fact, though pharaohs were supposed reincarnations of the god Horus on earth, once dead they became associated with Osiris. They would then be called “Osiris N”. And from the New Kingdom onwards, all dead people became associated with the Egyptian God Osiris.
Could there be a more important deity?
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