Osiris is the Egyptian “great god” decreed as the Lord
of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead. He was the first son of the earth god
Geb and the sky goddess Nut. He was married to his sister Isis, whom he ruled
Egypt with, until he was murdered by Seth, his jealous and vengeful brother.
After his death, Osiris went into a coma like state (Pich, 2002, p. 178).
Most textual evidence accounts as
Osiris being born wearing a crown. The sun god Ra himself chose Osiris to
succeed his father, Geb. A few sources state a struggle for power between
Osiris and Geb. Kom Ombo even claimed in a text that Osiris was born again
after his death when his father Geb and his grandfather Shu merged together
(Pich, 2002, p. 128).
Pyramid texts often depicted Osiris
as being killed by his brother Seth. In other accounts, Osiris was drowned in
the river Nile. Some sources state that the body of Osiris was chopped into
pieces by Seth and spread across the Egypt and into the river Nile when he
learned that Isis had found the body of Osiris. Some sources argue that it was
the natural disintegration of the body that Isis had to mend, rather than the
pieces (Pich, 2002, p. 128).
Isis later gathered the pieces of Osiris, and with the help of the gods Anubis
and Thoth, mummified the body for preservation. After the revival, Isis formed
into a kite and flew around Osiris, by which she collected the seed of Osiris
and absorbed it in herself. She then became pregnant, and bore a son, Horus,
who later succeeded Osiris by striking down Seth, and becoming the king of the
living (Mark, 2006, The Osiris Myth).
Osiris, while living, was still incomplete and sunk back to an inert state. His
case was presented to a Divine Tribunal by other gods, mainly Isis, Thoth, and
Horus. Osiris was redeemed as a “possessor of maat”, maat meaning truth
and justice. His cruel and unfair death persuaded the creator to let Osiris
leave his mummified body and retract back into the Underworld, where he was
made Lord of the Underworld and also the Judge of the Dead. He was attributed
the name Wenenefer (Onnophris). While the name meant “the one whose body did
not decay” originally, it was later interpreted as “the beneficent one” (Pich,
2002, p. 129).
Osiris was usually shown as mummified
and related to a king. He wore
an atef crown and carried a crook and flail. The
color of his skin was shown to be either black or green. While these colors may
have originally indicated putrefaction, they later came to symbolize the
connection of Osiris with a cycle of death and regeneration, which was based on
plant life (Pich, 2002, p. 178).
The text in the walls of the pyramid frequently identified the dead king inside
the pyramid with Osiris. By the second millennium BCE, this identification was,
in name only, prolonged to all the dead. All aspects of burial and
mummification eventually came to be linked the Osiris and the mythology that
surrounded him (Pich, 2002, p. 178).
of the most important values of the Egyptian culture, such as harmony, order,
and eternal life, and also gratitude, was projected by the myth of Osiris. The
hatred Seth showed for Osiris was depicted as a lack of gratitude and envy,
which gave birth to the idea of ingratitude being a “gateway sin”. The myth
depicted the fall of gods to such misdeeds, and the consequences that came
afterwards (Mark, 2006, Worship of Osiris).
The cult of Osiris centered around the city of Abydos,
and the necropolis of the city became the most longed for burial ground since
the people thought that being buried as close to the god as possible would
bring them fortune in the Underworld (Mark, 2006, Worship of Osiris).
The cult was most acclaimed during the Fifth Dynasty
(c. 2494–2345 BCE). Osiris was
eventually associated with other funerary deities as well, such as Andjety of
Busiris, and Khentamentiu of Abydos, and the name of the latter was integrated
as another name of Osiris, showing his command over all the spirits of the Duat, and also the demons in it (Pich,
The early Egyptian kingdoms integrated Osiris into
several of their rituals. A ritual in the Middle Kingdom considered the body of
Osiris as barley and Seth with the donkeys who trample the barley to thresh the
grain. This can be seen as the myth of Osiris being connected to the annual
crop cycle and harvesting, and is one of the earliest example of ritualistic
integration of the Lord of the Underworld. Osiris could hence be also
worshipped as an agricultural fertility deity. During festivals of Osiris,
Ithyphallic corn mummies were made and buried. This was symbolic for giving new
life to the dead, just like seed corn grew into new plants (Pich, 2002, p. 179).
Osiris worshipping developed into such a state, that from as early as the New
Kingdom, all bodily fluids of Osiris, such as semen and sweat, were associated
with the Nile river flooding, which was thought to bring life to the crops
(Pich, 2002, p. 179).
The New Kingdom underworld books also prominently featured the body parts of
Osiris, which is said to have been divided into anything from fourteen to
forty-two parts. The darkest hour of the night was signified as the period when
the soul of the sun god Ra descended into the cave where Osiris has his body in
and merged with the soul of Osiris himself. All the dead, including Osiris,
were then risen from death, and could live again. In the Book of the Dead,
Osiris was depicted as being in the throne in the Hall of the Two Truths, where
he undertook the judgement of the dead. A New Kingdom prayer signified the
importance of Osiris by stating that all Egyptians have to come to him in the
end and those who would survive the his judgement would make it to paradise,
thus making him the greatest of the gods (Pich, 2002, p. 179).
(2002). Handbook of Egyptian Mythology.
Santa Barbara, California (USA), ABC-CLIO.
(2006). Osiris. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/osiris/