Osiris is the Egyptian Lord of the Netherworld and Judge of the Dead; as well as Isis’s brother and one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful gods. The name ‘Osiris’ is a Latinized version of the Egyptian Usir, which means ‘mighty’ or ‘powerful.’ So what was the Story of Osiris and Isis? Why are Osiris and Horus his son famous? and How are Osiris and Anubis related?
He was the first-born of the deities Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) and was killed by his younger brother Set before being resurrected by his sister-wife Isis shortly after the world was created. This narrative, as well as the Egyptian gods who inspired it, became ingrained in Egyptian culture and religion. Osiris was a fertility god who grew so popular that he absorbed the functions of earlier gods like Andjeti and Khentiamenti; two deities of fertility and agriculture worshipped at Abydos. He is linked to the djed symbol and is frequently shown with black or green skin; which represents the Nile’s rich mud and rejuvenation. He is commonly depicted as a mummy or in a partly mummified state in his role as Judge of the Dead.
God Osiris Depictions
Osiris as a living god is depicted as a handsome man dressed in royal regalia, wearing the Upper Egyptian crown as a plumed headdress known as the atef, and wielding the crook and flail, monarchy emblems. He is linked to the mythical Bennu bird (the Greek Phoenix’s inspiration), which emerges from the ashes. Osiris was known by numerous names; the most famous of which were Wennefer, “The Beautiful One,” and Khentiamenti, “The Foremost of the Westerners,”; in his function as Judge of the Dead. The west came to be connected with death, and ‘westerners’ came to be identified with people who had moved on to the other side.
He was also referred as The Eternal Lord, The Lord of Love, and The King of the Living. Osiris was the most beloved and long-lived Egyptian god after Isis. From shortly before the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-2613 BCE) through the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the final dynasty to control Egypt before the arrival of Rome, his worship stretched thousands of years. It’s also plausible that Osiris was recognized in some form during Egypt’s Predynastic Period (c. 6000-3150 BCE) and that he was born there.
Name Osiris Meaning and History
It’s unclear when, where, or how Osiris was initially worshipped. Osiris was either a deified Predynastic ruler, a primitive vegetative spirit, a jackal deity of an early regal necropolis, or a mother goddess, according to legend. His name’s derivation is unknown, though it could basically mean ‘The Mighty One.’
Although he is most often shown as a just, benevolent, and giving deity of life and wealth, there are other representations of him as “a terrible figure who employs demon-messengers to pull the living into the dark land of the dead” (Pinch, 178) (though these are in the minority). The most prominent depiction of Osiris is as a gentle and just monarch who is assassinated by his enraged brother and then resurrects.
The Isis, Osiris and Horus Birth
Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus were the first five deities born from the marriage of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) after the world was created. As the firstborn, Osiris ascended to the position of Lord of the World, with Isis as his queen and spouse. He discovered the Egyptians to be barbarous and lawless, so he provided them with rules, culture, religious teaching, and cultivation. Under Osiris’ rule, Egypt became a utopia where everyone was treated equally and there was plenty of food since the harvests were always numerous.
God Osiris Death
Set became envious of his brother’s achievements and angry of him. Their relationship deteriorated even worse after Set’s wife, Nephthys, pretended to be Isis and seduced Osiris, giving birth to the god Anubis. Set had a lovely coffin manufactured to Osiris’ actual height and then gave a grand party at which he handed the box to the visitors and informed them that whomever fit in it the best might receive it as a gift. Set slammed the cover on Osiris’ coffin, sealed it shut, and tossed it into the Nile, where it was swept away downriver.
Osiris’ body sank to the bottom of the sea; finally being lodged in a massive tamarisk tree near Byblos, Phoenicia. The tree gradually grew around the coffin; totally enclosing it. Malcander, the king of Byblos, and his spouse Astarte came to the shore to appreciate the tree and the lovely aroma that seemed to emanate from it. He had the tree taken down and brought to his palace as a decorative pillar for the court; where Osiris stayed until he died, locked inside the coffin within the pillar.
Isis Goddess Searching for her Husband’s Body
In the meantime, Isis had fled Egypt in quest of her husband; arriving in Byblos dressed as an older lady, where she sat by the coast and mourned for her absent spouse. She was welcomed to the palace by monarch handmaidens who had gone to the beach to wash; and she ingratiated herself with the king and queen, earning the position of a nursemaid for their infant sons.
Isis attempted to make the younger kid eternal by dipping him in fire, but Queen Astarte was appalled when she learned this. Isis then exposed herself to be a goddess, and the king and queen offered her anything she desired in exchange for her mercy. She merely asked for the pillar, which they quickly provided.
Isis pulled Osiris from the tree after leaving the field and brought his body back to Egypt; where she concealed him from Set in the Nile Delta’s swampy territory. She sent her sister Nephthys to protect the body while she went to gather herbs to concoct a potion to bring him back to life. Set learned about his brother’s comeback while she was away and hurried out to find his body. He was able to persuade Nephthys to inform him where it was, and after he discovered it, he chopped it up and distributed the pieces around the region and into the Nile.
Osiris God Resuraction
Isis was shocked when she reappeared, but she immediately collected herself and set about recovering the pieces of her deceased husband. She collected all of the body parts with Nephthys’ assistance, with the exception of the genitalia, which had been cast into the Nile and devoured by the oxyrhyncus fish, therefore this fish was banned food in ancient Egypt.
Isis was able to resurrect Osiris, and once he was awake, she transformed into a kite and soared around him, absorbing the seed from his body and becoming pregnant with Horus. Even though Osiris was alive now, he was still unfit to lead the world of the living. He went into the hereafter and assumed the title of Ruler and Judge of the Dead. But Osiris and Horus his son never met!
Worried what Set would do to her son, Isis hid Horus in Egypt’s wetlands until he grew up. Horus arose as a powerful warrior at that time and fought Set for dominion of the universe. Set is killed in some versions of the story; but in the majority, he is defeated and banished from the kingdom. Horus vanquished the devastation Set had wreaked on the earth, restored order, and then reigned alongside his mother. From this time Osiris and Horus legend was in the heart of every human in ancient Egypt times.
Worship of Osiris
The tale encapsulated some of the Egyptian culture’s most significant values: balance, order, eternal life, and thankfulness. Set’s hatred for Osiris stemmed from a lack of thanks and jealousy for someone else’s good luck, even before the relationship with Nepthys. In Egypt, ingratitude is considered a kind of “gateway sin” that exposed a person to all others. The story vividly depicted how even a god can succumb to ungratefulness and the tragedies that can result. The myth also presented the story of order triumphing over disorder and the establishment of peace in the land, which is a major value in Egyptian culture and religion.
Underworld God and The Nile River
The Nile River, which was regarded as a symbol of Osiris’ life-giving power, was related to his rebirth. Osiris’ festivals commemorated the god’s beauty and transcendent strength, as well as his death and rebirth. The Nile’s Fall Celebration recalled his death, while the Djed Pillar Celebration honored his resurrection.
The Egyptians rushed to the shore as the Nile receded to distribute gifts and express mourning over Osiris’ death. Osiris’ ability to regenerate the earth and bring life back to the nation was symbolized by the Nile. When the Nile began to rise steadily toward flood level, Osiris was worshipped once more. Priests threw sweet water into the Nile, claiming that Osiris had been found again, and tiny shrines were thrown into the river.
Osiris God Temple and Place of Worshiping
People wanted to be cremated as near to the deity as possible; so the city of Abydos became his worship center, and the necropolis there became the most tried to seek burial ground. Those who resided too far away or lacked the financial means to have a proper burial had a stele made in their honor. Osiris was best famous for being the Judge of the Dead, yet the ‘dead’ existed in another realm and death did not mean the end of one’s life.
Osisris Cermony at Abydos Temple
The ceremonies thus commemorated life – both on earth and in the hereafter, and included the building of an Osiris Garden; which was a garden bed fashioned in the form of the god and irrigated by Nile mud and water. The grains that would later grow symbolized Osiris’ resurrection from the dead; as well as the promise of endless life for the gardener. Osiris Gardens are described as an Osiris’ Bed because they were planted in tombs.
These were usually boxes made of wood or ceramic in the form of the deity. Osiris’ beds were often empty, with Nile muck and maize sown in them. The containers were then wrapped up and put in the tomb as mummies. As an emblem of Osiris’ resurrection, the corn was supposed to sprout. When some of the containers were unpacked centuries later, they revealed real proof of growth.
Priests of Osiris looked over the god’s temples and statues in Abydos, Busiris, and Heliopolis; and only the priests were admitted into the inner sanctum; as was common in Egyptian devotion. The Egyptian people were allowed to come to the temple complex to make offerings and enquire for prayers; seek medical advice and advice from the priests, receive assistance from the priests in the form of material products or financial donations; and leave sacrifices to the god in exchange for a favor or to thank the god for granting a request.
Osiris, the King, & the People
Osiris is regarded as Egypt’s first monarch, who created the cultural norms that all subsequent kings were pledged to uphold. When Set assassinated the monarch, the land descended into disorder, and only Horus’ victory against Set restored order. The Egyptian monarchs identified with Horus during their lives (each had a personal name and a ‘Horus Name’ that they adopted at the start of their rule) and with Osiris after death. Because Isis was Horus’ mother, she was also the mother of all kings; the king was her son, and Osiris was their father as well as their greater aspect and hope of salvation after mortality.
It’s for this purpose that Osiris is frequently shown as a mummified pharaoh; ancient Egyptians were mummified to look like Osiris. The tradition of preparing the monarch body to look like Osiris came before the idea of the great mummified god. All of the Egyptian signs and imagery that were used to construct the Pyramid Texts carved into tomb walls were designed to remind the souls of the dead what they should do once they reached the afterlife. They would seem as Osiris himself; not only to remind them of the god, but also to ward off dark spirits by deceiving them into believing they were the great god himself. Throughout his rule, the king’s appearance was based after Osiris’; including the iconic flail and shepherd’s staff, The flail; which denoted the fertility of his country, and the crook; which reflected the strength of his rule, was originally Osiris’ insignia.
What does Osiris symbolize?
Osiris was the god of fertility, life, agriculture, death, and rebirth in Egyptian mythology. Osiris was Egypt’s first pharaoh and monarch; and his name signified “strong or mighty.” The mythological Bennu bird; which had the ability to revive itself from ashes, was Osiris’ symbol.
The Story of Isis, Osiris and Horus was never forgotten and it had been told till now!