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Egyptian Gods

Osiris

Role: God of the afterlife

Appearance: A green-skinned man wrapped up like a mummy, wearing the Atef crown and holding a crook and flail

Sacred animal: Bull

Center of worship: Abydos

Relations with other gods: Part of the Triad of Abydos (husband of Isis, father of Horus); Nut (mother); Get (father); Set (brother); Isis and Nephthys (sisters)

 

Osiris was a very important god through out Egyptian history. It was believed that while the pharaoh was alive, he was a living version of the god Horus, and when he died he became a version of Osiris in the afterlife.

 

THE MYTH

According to Egyptian mythology, Nut (the goddess of the sky) and Geb (the god of the earth) had five children: Osiris, Set, Isis, Nephthys, and Harmachis. Osiris and his sister Isis were paired together, as were Set and Nephthys. Osiris had green skin because he was a god of agriculture, vegetation, and fertility. As a god on earth, he was the first pharaoh and taught his people how to grow corn and make wine from grapes and bread and beer from wheat. He taught the people about the gods and built the first temples where they could worship them.

Everyone loved Osiris, except for his jealous brother Set, the donkey-headed god of the desert. Set came up with a plan to get rid of Osiris and to become the new king. He threw a huge banquet and invited Osiris. During the meal, Set brought out a beautifully decorated human-shaped box and announced that he would give it to whichever party guest fit in it perfectly. So one at a time the guests laid down in the box, but they were either too tall or too short, or too thin or too fat for it to be a perfect fit. But when Osiris took his turn, his body fit the box perfectly. At that exact moment, Set and his 72 accomplices rushed forward, slammed down the lid, and sealed it shut with molten lead. Then they threw it out into the Nile where it sailed out into the Mediterranean Sea. Osiris suffocated inside the box and Set became the new king. Isis was devastated, but as a dedicated wife she went out looking for her husband.

 

The chest floated all the way to the shore of Byblos, where it washed up against a young tamarisk tree. Even though he was dead, Osiris's body still had magical powers of vegetation, which caused the tamarisk tree to suddenly shoot up to full size, wrapping around the chest, enclosing it within the tree completely.

 

The king of Byblos noticed a giant tree where there hadn't been one the day before, so he knew it had to be special. He ordered it cut down and made into a column for his palace. When the tree was cut, it released a powerful and beautiful scent that was so powerful that even Isis could smell it. The fragrant smell drew her all the way to Byblos. The king was sympathetic to Isis so he let her cut Osiris out of the wood and bring him back to Egypt.

 

Isis hid the body of Osiris in the swamps of Lower Egypt, but Set found out and was furious. To eliminate Osiris once and for all, he cut the body into 14 pieces and scattered them all over Egypt. Isis again set off looking for her husband. She bundled up all the parts of his body in a large linen sheet as she found them. After she recovered all 14 pieces, she sought the help of Anubis to reassemble the body and bring him back to life. But the rules of the universe applied to the gods as well as people, so he was not allowed to return to the world of the living. Instead, he went on to the afterlife, where he again ruled as king.

 

THE MYTH OF OSIRIS & THE PRACTICE OF MUMMIFICATION

Did the Egyptians base their mummification techniques on the legend of Osiris, or did they come up with the legend to justify the practice of mummification? There are many connections between them:

  • beautifully decorated human-shaped box = coffin

  • Osiris wrapped in linen sheet = linen bandages on a mummy

  • 14 body parts magically reunited = organs removed during mummification were kept for use in the afterlife

  • Osiris lived again, but as king of the afterlife = continued life in the afterlife

 

Ammut • Amun • Anubis • Apedemak • Aten • Bastet • Bes • Geb • Hathor • Heqet • Horus • Isis • Khnum • Ma'at • Montu

Neith • Nekhbet • Nephthys • Nut • Osiris • Ptah • Re • Renenutet • Satis • Sekhmet • Selket • Set • Sobek • Shu • Taweret • Thoth