Osiris is one of the most revered gods in the history of Ancient Egypt. He is the god of agriculture, fertility, the dead, life, resurrection and vegetation. Usually, the imagery used for the god has him look like a green-skinned deity with a king’s beard. Osiris’s legs are partially mummy-wrapped, and he wears a distinctive Atef crown. Additionally, the god also holds a symbolic crook and flail. Osiris was one of the first gods to be associated with the mummy wraps.
Osiris was considered to be the eldest son of the Earth god Geb. Nut, the sky goddess, was his mother. Myths also claim that Horus is the son of Osiris. The god was also the husband and brother of the goddess Isis. However, during the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC), the pharaoh was considered to be the son of the sun god Ra. After his death, Osiris ascended to join Ra in the sky.
However, with the spread of the Osiris cult, there was a change in beliefs. Osiris became associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu that means “Foremost of the westerners.” Moreover, the combination of different beliefs with lah the lunar deity, Osiris is also the god of the Moon.
Osiris is the brother of the evil Set. Additionally, he is also the brother of Isis, Nephthys and Horus the Elder. Historians discovered the first evidence of the worship of the Osiris in the middle of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt.
Names of Osiris
The god Osiris was the judge of the dead and the underworld. Moreover, the agency judge ruled all life and the fertile flooding of the Nile river. Osiris is also named “He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful” and the “Lord of Silence.” Moreover, the tales say that the kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death. This led them to inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic.
The god is associated with the hope of new life after death. This led to the god’s association with the cycles seen in nature, like vegetation and the annual flooding of the Nile River. The pharaoh also links with the heliacal rising of Orion and Sirius at the start of the new year.
Moreover, a few Egyptologists believe that Osiris was a living ruler in Predynastic times (5500-3100 BC) in the Nile Delta. Osiris was such a benevolent ruler that people revered him as a god. This further corroborates with the crook and flail symbol associated with the god.
The famous Tale of Isis and Osiris
The mythological tale of Isis and Osiris is an enduring classic of Egyptian mythology. It embraces several themes that reappear in countless stories. These tales have led Egyptologists to believe that Isis and Osiris are ancient rulers. They brought civilization to the people of the Nile valley. Moreover, they gave them the law, art and culture.
The Osiris Myth
Once the world came into creation, the first five gods were born through the union of Geb and Nut. These were Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus. Osiris, being the eldest, took over as the ruler of the Earth. Isis became his queen and consort. Osiris was a benevolent ruler and gave Egypt laws, culture, and religion and taught them agriculture. Tales remember Egypt as a paradise under the rule of Osiris.
Murder of Osiris
As the reverence for Osiris grew, his brother Set became jealous and resentful of his brother’s success. Set, the evil one hated Osiris and Isis. The more the people loved Osiris, the more Set brewed plans on how to overthrow Osiris. Later, Set, with seventy-two of his wicked friends, hatched a plan to destroy the pharaoh.
He obtained the measurements of Osiri’s body and crafted a beautiful chest to his exact shape. The chest consisted of the most beautiful cedar and ebony. Later, Set threw a grand party in honour of Osiris. The party had the most extravagant food and wine. During this party, Set brought out this beautiful chest inset with gold and silver carvings. He proclaimed that he would give the chest to whoever fits in the box perfectly.
Osiris didn’t know about Set’s evil plans and decided to try to fit in the box. He laid himself inside the chest as everyone watched. To his delight, the box fitted Osiris perfectly, and he shouted that the trunk was his. Set hissed that the chest would belong to him forever as he banged down the lid on the chest. In haste, Set sealed the coffin shut and threw the casket into the Nile River.
They carried out the chest into the great sea that led it to the shore of Byblos. Here the waves cast the coffin into a tamarisk tree. The tree gave out a divinity that made it famous across the land of Byblos. The king of Byblos didn’t know that the tree contained the spirit of the god Osiris. Hence, king Malcander ordered the tree to be cut and fashioned into a pillar for his palace.
Restoration of Osiris
Subsequently, back in Skondia, the evil act of Set shocked Isis. She set out to find the body of Osiris. After many trials and tribulations, she finally came across the Kingdom of Byblos. Here she discovered the tamarisk pillar that held the body of Osiris. Later Isis successfully transported her dead husband’s body to Skondia. Fearing Set, she hid the casket into the marshes of the delta.
However, Set discovered the chest and cut Osiri’s body into fourteen pieces. He scattered the pieces into the river. Later, Isis travelled over the land and rediscovered the fragments of Osiris. She found thirteen pieces and built a shrine for each of them. She only failed to find one piece that a fish had swallowed. Subsequently, Isis rejoined the pieces by magic and created Osiris again. After that, the spirit of Osiris passed into Amenti to rule over the dead.
The myth of Osiris showcases the most important values of Egyptian culture. Harmony, order, eternal life and gratitude. The story shows how even a god, Set, can fall prey to ingratitude. The myth also tells the story of the subsequent victory of order over chaos. This is a central value in Egyptian culture and religion. The festivals of the fall of the Nile and Djed Pillar celebrate Osiri’s death and resurrection, respectively.