Calendar of the Sun for November 3

Calendar of the Sun

3 Blutmonath

Day VII of the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris

Colors: Green and black
Elements: Earth and Air
Altar: Upon cloth of green and black set a figure of Isis, a figure of Osiris, a box carved like a sarcophagus, and two large ivory candles.
Offerings: Continue with the project that may fail.
Daily Meal: Beer. Barley. Figs. Dates. Nuts. Flatbread.

Isis Invocation III

Mistress of the Gods
Thou bearer of wings
Thou lady of the red apparel
Queen of the crowns of the South and North,
Thou mighty one of enchantments,
Mistress and lady of the tomb,
Mother in the horizon of heaven.
For Isis the mighty raised her son in secret,
Hiding, running, evading their seeking enemies,
Teaching him always to be strong
And to one day avenge his father
And right the wrong that had been done to Egypt.
At night, Osiris the Good,
Once King of the Gods of Egypt,
Now King of the Dead Underground,
Flesh now gone green as verdure,
Wrapped in the shroud of the corpse,
Came to his son as a ghost
And trained him in the ways of mystery.
So it was that Horus grew strong
And his mother Isis raised him an army,
And one day in the summer of the year
They fell upon Set at the Nile,
And Horus fought him, and Horus won.
And all these things might have gone awry
If not for the unceasing love of Isis
For husband, for son, for justice.
Raise your voices for her, Mother in the horizon of heaven!
Raise your voices for him, Father of the Underworld!

(All cheer, and grain is thrown upwards in celebration.)


[Pagan Book of Hours]

Calendar of the Sun for November 2

Calendar of the Sun

2 Blutmonath

Day VI of the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris

Colors: Green and black
Elements: Earth and Air
Altar: Upon cloth of green and black set a figure of Isis, a figure of Osiris, a box carved like a sarcophagus, and two large ivory candles.
Offerings: Undertake a project that may fail.
Daily Meal: Beer. Barley. Figs. Dates. Nuts. Flatbread.

Invocation to Isis II

Praise be unto thee, O lady, mightier than the gods,
The living souls who are in their hidden places
Praise the mystery of thee.
O thou who art their mother,
Thou source from which they sprang
Who makest for them a place in the hidden Underworld,
Who makest sound their bones
And preservest them from terror,
Who makes them strong in the abode of everlastingness.
For Isis searched three days in the swamps of the Nile,
Tirelessly she searched, unceasingly she searched,
Between her tears she waded in water
Thick with the crocodiles of doom
Sixteen pieces of her husband’s body
She recovered, but found to her eternal sorrow
The organ of fertility had been eaten by a crab,
The life force of Osiris was forever gone,
And all the magic in the world
Could not bring him back to life.
Yet she was not entirely undone,
For she brought him back for one night only,
One night enough to conceive his child
By all the means of her goodly magics.
And so was the sacred child Horus conceived
On a night of sorcery and secrecy,
And thus was born also his father’s vengeance.
Raise your voices for the power of Isis!

(All cheer, but then the cheers are silenced, and all exit quietly.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Calendar of the Sun for October 28th

Calendar of the Sun

28 Winterfyllith

Day I of the Mysteries of Isis and Osiris

Colors: Green and black
Elements: Earth and Air
Altar: Upon cloth of green and black set a figure of Isis, a figure of Osiris, a box carved like a sarcophagus, and two large ivory candles.
Offerings: Undertake a long-term difficult project.
Daily Meal: Beer. Barley. Figs. Dates. Nuts. Flatbread.

Osiris Invocation

Hail O Osiris
Wake O Osiris
Arise O Osiris
Thy Mother Nuit gives thee birth
The great company of gods would converse with thee
Take thy seat, Osiris,
For none shall offend thee,
Thine enemies are beneath thee,
All honor is given
To Osiris, Lord of the Dead.
For Osiris, the eldest son of Nut,
Was feasting at his table
When forth came Set, his Adversary
With a coffin inlaid much with gold and gems,
Saying that whosoever the coffin fit,
Might have it for his own.
Osiris lay down in the coffin,
Only to find that it had been made for his measure,
And that Set’s henchmen had been laying in wait
To spring the lid closed,
Nail down the box,
And cast it into the Nile.
So it was done, and it floated into the great Sea,
Where it was borne up by the waves
To the foot of a tamarisk tree
Which enclosed it in a cradle of bark.
And there lay Osiris,
Great King of the Gods of Egypt,
Locked in stillness and one with the trees.
Weep for him, Lord of the Earth!
(All weep and wail, the lights are cast out, and the wailing continues as all exit.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Calendar of the Sun for October 27th

Calendar of the Sun

27 Winterfyllith

Nekhebet’s Day

Colors: Red, Blue and Gold
Element: Fire
Altar: Upon cloth of red, blue and gold, place two red candles on either side of a figure of Nekhebet, along with a bowl of chopped meat and grain.
Offerings: Beer, barley, millet.
Daily Meal: Beer, barley, millet, lentils, flatbread.

Ancient Lady of Upper Egypt,
Wearer of the White Crown,
Great White Cow of Nekhb,
Wife of the rolling Nile river,
Vulture Goddess whose outstretched wings
Hover over the royal child,
Protecting him from harm, seeing him safe to adulthood,
Help us to know what it is to eat rot
And turn it again into nourishment,
Cleaning and purifying the earth
With the transmuting power of our bodies.
Lady who protects the rulers, the crowned ones,
Protect those of us
Who must take on responsibility
And whose hands work for the lives of many.
Nourish them with your attention
That they may not burn out like a candle.
Guide them with your wisdom
That they may always remember
The nourishment of their people,
Of the body, the mind, the soul.
Protect the sleeping infant child of our hopes
And goals, and future,
And see it safely to fruition.
Spread your wings over us, O Nekhebet,
And may your watch keep us ever safe.

Nekhebet Shen
Nekhebet Shen
Nebty Mamissi Shen

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Water Witch Lore – Legendary Rivers

Legendary Rivers

River in general have some rather dark folklore about them. In Scotland and Ireland, superstition holds that each river demands one life as its due each year. Rivers are a common theme in mythology as gateways to the other side, the land of death. The river Styx, for example, was the portal to the land of the Underworld.

Styx was considered so holy that to swear by it was sacred, even for the Gods. The person making the promise was bound by the river to tell the truth. The water was undrinkable  – it would cause even a deity to lose their voice for nine years. If one swore an oath by the Styx and did not keep it, Zeus himself would force the oath breaker to drink from its waters.

In order to cross the river Styx into the land of Hades, one had to pay the ferryman, Charon. The ancient Greeks buried the dead with coins under their tongues to ensure that their loved ones would be carried safely across.

Styx, which translates to “river of hate,” was only one river in the Greek Underworld. The other four rivers in the Underworld were as follows:

Acheron:  The “river of woe”

Cocytus:  The “river of lamentation”

Phlegethon:  The “river of fire”

Lethe:  The “river of forgetfulness”

In Norse folklore, the Underworld was known as Niflheim. It was ruled over by the Goddess Hel. It was said to have eleven icy cold rivers, which eventually emptied into the river Styx. The river Slith was a combination of floating blades, blood, tears, waste and poison. The river Gjall was called the “river of echoes.” It had many waterfalls, strong currents, and bones floating in its waters.

Though the connection between rivers and the Underworld in folklore may be a dark theme, rivers have their light side too. It is said that no vampire, demon, ghost, or attacking spirit can follow one across a river.

Rivers with an inspirational overtone far outnumber the darker rivers of myth. The Nile, the Ganga, and the Niger just to name a few, are thought to be life-giving. Millions of lives depend on the waters from these rivers. The Nile River is said to be responsible for Egypt’s existence, as it could never be what it is without her power. The people also credit the river with growth in the areas of friendly personalities, generosity, and love. When it comes to rivers in general, the Water Witch understands that sitting on a riverbank and watching the sun sparkle on the water is actually a way of soaking up the love of the universe.


Today We Honor The Goddess Nekhbet

The Goddess Nekhbet

In Egyptian mythology, Nekhbet (also spelt Nechbet, and Nekhebit) was an early predynastic local goddess who was the patron of the city of Nekheb, her name meaning of Nekheb. Ultimately, she became the patron of Upper Egypt and one of the two patron deities for all of Ancient Egypt when it was unified.

She was seen as a goddess who had chosen to adopt the city, and consequently depicted as the Egyptian white vulture, a creature that the Egyptians thought only existed as females (not knowing that, lacking sexual dimorphism, the males are identical). They were presumed to be reproducing via parthenogenesis.

Egypt’s oldest oracle was the shrine of Nekhbet at Nekheb, the original necropolis or city of the dead. It was the companion city to Nekhen, the religious and political capital of Upper Egypt at the end of the Predynastic period (c. 3200–3100 BC) and probably, also during the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3100–2686 BC). The original settlement on the Nekhen site dates from Naqada I or the late Badarian cultures. At its height, from about 3400 BC, Nekhen had at least 5,000 and possibly as many as 10,000 inhabitants.

The priestesses of Nekhbet were called muu (mothers) and wore robes of Egyptian vulture feathers.

Later, as with Wadjet, Nekhbet’s sister, became patron of the pharaohs, in her case becoming the personification of Upper Egypt. The images of these two primal goddesses became the protecting deities for all of Egypt, also known as the “two ladies” and one of the titles of each ruler was the Nebty name, which was associated with these goddesses and beginning as [s/he] of the Two Ladies… with the remainder of that title.

In art, Nekhbet was depicted as the white vulture (representing purification), always seen on the front of pharaoh’s double crown along with Wadjet. Nekhbet usually was depicted hovering, with her wings spread above the royal image, clutching a shen symbol (representing infinity, all, or everything), frequently in both of her claws. As patron of the pharaoh, she was sometimes seen to be the mother of the divine aspect of the pharaoh, and it was in this capacity that she was Mother of Mothers, and the Great White Cow of Nekheb.

The vulture hieroglyph was the uniliteral sign used for the glottal sound (3) including words such as mother, prosperous, grandmother, and ruler. In some late texts of the Book of the Dead, Nekhbet is referred to as Father of Fathers, Mother of Mothers, who hath existed from the Beginning, and is Creatrix of this World.

When pairing began to occur in the Egyptian pantheon, giving most of the goddesses a husband, Nekhbet was said to become the wife of Hapy, a deity of the inundation of the Nile. Given the early and constant association of Nekhbet with being a good mother, in later myths she was said to have adopted children.



The Goddess Isis

The Goddess Isis

Isis or in original more likely Aset (Ancient Greek: Ἶσις) was a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic. She was the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans, and the downtrodden, and she listened to the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats, and rulers. Isis is the goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility.

The goddess Isis (the mother of Horus) was the first daughter of Geb, god of the Earth, and Nut, the goddess of the Overarching Sky, and was born on the fourth intercalary day. At some time Isis and Hathor had the same headdress. In later myths about Isis, she had a brother, Osiris, who became her husband, and she then was said to have conceived Horus. Isis was instrumental in the resurrection of Osiris when he was murdered by Seth. Her magical skills restored his body to life after she gathered the body parts that had been strewn about the earth by Set. This myth became very important in later Egyptian religious beliefs.

Isis is also known as protector of the dead and goddess of children from whom all beginnings arose. In later times, the Ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile River flooded every year because of her tears of sorrow for her dead husband, Osiris. This occurrence of his death and rebirth was relived each year through rituals. The worship of Isis eventually spread throughout the Greco-Roman world, continuing until the suppression of paganism in the Christian era.

Origin Of The Name

The name “Isis” is an anglicized version of the Greek version of her name, which itself changed the original Egyptian name spelling by the addition of a last “-s” because of the grammatical requirements of Greek endings.

The Egyptian name was recorded as ỉs.t or ȝs.t and meant “(She of the) Throne.” The true Egyptian pronunciation remains uncertain, however, because hieroglyphs do not have vowels. Based on recent studies which present us with approximations based on contemporary languages (specifically, Greek) and Coptic evidence, the reconstructed pronunciation of her name is *Usat [*ˈʔyːsəʔ]. Osiris’s name—that is, *Usir ‘Osiris’ (ws-ỉr) also starts with the throne glyph ʔs (“-s”). The name survived in Coptic dialects as Ēse or Ēsi, as well as in compound words surviving in names of later people such as “Har-si-Ese”, which means “Horus, son of Isis”.

For convenience, Egyptologists arbitrarily choose to pronounce her name as “ee-set”. Sometimes they may also say “ee-sa” because the final “t” in her name was a feminine suffix, which is known to have been dropped in speech during the last stages of the Egyptian language.

The name Isis means “Throne”. Her headdress is a throne. As the personification of the throne, she was an important representation of the pharaoh’s power, as the pharaoh was depicted as her child, who sat on the throne she provided. Her cult was popular throughout Egypt, but the most important sanctuaries were at Behbeit El-Hagar in the Nile delta, in Lower Egypt and, beginning in the reign with Nectanebo I (380-362 BCE), on the Upper Egyptian island of Philae.

Early History

Her origins are uncertain, but are believed to have come from the Nile Delta. Like other Egyptian deities she did have a centralized Cult of Isis (New cults) in the Hellenistic Civilization. First mentions of Isis date back to the Fifth dynasty of Egypt which is when the first literary inscriptions are found, but her cult became prominent late in Egyptian history, when it began to absorb the cults of many other goddesses with strong cult centers. This is when the cult of Osiris arose and she became such an important figure in those beliefs. Her cult eventually spread outside Egypt.

During the formative centuries of Christianity, the religion of Isis drew converts from every corner of the Roman Empire. In Italy itself, the Egyptian faith was a dominant force. At Pompeii, archaeological evidence reveals that Isis played a major role. In Rome, temples were built and obelisks erected in her honour. In Greece, traditional centres of worship in Delos, Delphi, and Eleusis were taken over by followers of Isis, and this occurred in northern Greece and Athens as well. Harbours of Isis were to be found on the Arabian Sea and the Black Sea. Inscriptions show followers in Gaul, Spain, Pannonia, Germany, Arabia, Asia Minor, Portugal and many shrines even in Britain.


Most Egyptian deities first appeared as very local cults and throughout their history retained those local centres of worship, with most major cities and towns widely known as the home of these deities. Isis originally was an independent and popular deity established in predynastic times, prior to 3100 BC, at Sebennytos in the northern delta.

Eventually temples to Isis began to spread outside of Egypt. In many locations, devotees of Isis considered a number of the local goddesses to be Isis, but under different names. The worship of Isis was joined to that of other Mediterranean goddesses, such as Demeter, Astarte, Aphrodite, and more. During the Hellenic era, due to her attributes as a protector and mother, as well as a lusty aspect gained when she absorbed some aspects of Hathor, she became the patron goddess of sailors, who spread her worship with the trading ships circulating the Mediterranean Sea.

Likewise, the Arabian goddess Al-Ozza or Al-Uzza العُزّى (al ȝozza), whose name is close to that of Isis, is believed to be a manifestation of her. This, however, is thought to be based on the similarity in the name.

Throughout the Graeco-Roman world, Isis became one of the most significant of the mystery religions, and many classical writers refer to her temples, cults, and rites.

Temples to Isis were built in Iraq, Greece and Rome, with a well preserved example discovered in Pompeii. On the Greek island of Delos a Doric Temple of Isis was built on a high over-looking hill at the beginning of the Roman period to venerate the familiar trinity of Isis, the Alexandrian Serapis and Harpocrates. The creation of this temple is significant as Delos is particularly known as the birthplace of the Greek gods Artemis and Apollo who had temples of their own on the island long before the temple to Isis was built. At Philae her worship persisted until the 6th century, long after the rise of Christianity and the subsequent suppression of paganism. The cult of Isis and Osiris continued up until the 6th century AD on the island of Philae in Upper Nile. The Theodosian decree (in about 380 AD) to destroy all pagan temples was not enforced there until the time of Justinian. This toleration was due to an old treaty made between the Blemyes-Nobadae and Diocletian. Every year they visited Elaphantine and at certain intervals took the image of Isis up river to the land of the Blemyes for oracular purposes before returning it. Justinian sent Narses to destroy the sanctuaries, with the priests being arrested and the divine images taken to Constantinople. Philae was the last of the ancient Egyptian temples to be closed.


Due to the association between knots and magical power, a symbol of Isis was the tiet or tyet (meaning welfare/life), also called the Knot of Isis, Buckle of Isis, or the Blood of Isis, which is shown to the right. In many respects the tyet resembles an ankh, except that its arms point downward, and when used as such, seems to represent the idea of eternal life or resurrection. The meaning of Blood of Isis is more obscure, but the tyet often was used as a funerary amulet made of red wood, stone, or glass, so this may simply have been a description of the appearance of the materials used.

The star Sopdet (Sirius) is associated with Isis. The appearance of the star signified the advent of a new year and Isis was likewise considered the goddess of rebirth and reincarnation, and as a protector of the dead. The Book of the Dead outlines a particular ritual that would protect the dead, enabling travel anywhere in the underworld, and most of the titles Isis holds signify her as the goddess of protection of the dead.

Probably due to assimilation with the goddesses Aphrodite and Venus, during the Roman period, the rose was used in her worship. The demand for roses throughout the empire turned rose production into an important industry.


When seen as the deification of the wife of the pharaoh in later myths, the prominent role of Isis was as the assistant to the deceased pharaoh. Thus she gained a funerary association, her name appearing over eighty times in the Pyramid Texts, and she was said to be the mother of the four deities who protected the canopic jars—more specifically, Isis was viewed as protector of the liver-jar-deity, Imsety. This association with the pharaoh’s wife also brought the idea that Isis was considered the spouse of Horus (once seen as her child), who was protector, and later the deification of the pharaoh. By the Middle Kingdom, the 11th through 14th dynasties between 2040 and 1640 BC, as the funeral texts began to be used by more members of Egyptian society, other than the royal family, her role also grows to protect the nobles and even the commoners

By the New Kingdom, the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties between 1570 and 1070 BC, Isis gained prominence as the mother and protector of the pharaoh. During this period, she is said to breastfeed the pharaoh and often is depicted doing so.

The role of her name and her throne-crown is uncertain. Some early Egyptologists believed that being the throne-mother was Isis’s original function, however, a more modern view states that aspects of that role came later by association. In many African tribes, the throne is known as the mother of the king, and that concept fits well with either theory, possibly giving insight into the thinking of ancient Egyptians.

*Sister-wife to Osiris

In the Old Kingdom, the 3rd Dynasty through to the 6th Dynasty dated between 2686 to 2134 BC, the pantheons of individual Egyptian cities varied by region. During the 5th dynasty, Isis became one of the Ennead of the city of Heliopolis. She was believed to be a daughter of Nut and Geb, and sister to Osiris, Nephthys, and Set. The two sisters, Isis and Nephthys, often were depicted on coffins, with wings outstretched, as protectors against evil. As a funerary deity, she was associated with Osiris, lord of the underworld (Duat), and was considered his wife.

A later mythology (ultimately a result of the replacement of another deity, Anubis, of the underworld when the cult of Osiris gained more authority), tells us of the birth of Anubis. The tale describes how Nephthys was denied a child by Set and disguised herself as the much more attractive Isis to seduce him. The plot failed, but Osiris now found Nephthys very attractive, as he thought she was Isis. They coupled, resulting in the birth of Anubis. Alternatively, Nephthys had intentionally assumed the form of Isis in order to trick Osiris into fathering her son. In fear of Set’s retribution upon them, Nephthys persuaded Isis to adopt Anubis, so that Set would not find out and kill the child. The tale describes both why Anubis is seen as an underworld deity (he becomes a son of Osiris), and why he could not inherit Osiris’s position (he was not a legitimate heir in this new birth scenario), neatly preserving Osiris’s position as lord of the underworld. It should be remembered, however, that this new myth was only a later creation of the Osirian cult who wanted to depict Set in an evil position, as the enemy of Osiris.

In another Osirian myth, Set had a banquet for Osiris in which he brought in a beautiful box and said that whoever could fit in the box perfectly would get to keep it. Set had measured Osiris in his sleep and made sure that he was the only one who could fit the box. Several tried to see whether they fit. Once it was Osiris’s turn to see if he could fit in the box, Set closed the lid on him so that the box was now a coffin for Osiris. Set flung the box in the Nile so that it would drift far away. Isis went looking for the box so that Osiris could have a proper burial. She found the box in a tree in Byblos, a city along the Phoenician coast, and brought it back to Egypt, hiding it in a swamp. But Set went hunting that night and found the box. Enraged, Set chopped Osiris’s body into fourteen pieces and scattered them all over Egypt to ensure that Isis could never find Osiris again for a proper burial. Isis and her sister Nephthys went looking for these pieces, but could only find thirteen of the fourteen. Fish had swallowed the last piece, his phallus, so Isis made him a new one with magic, putting his body back together after which they conceived Horus. The number of pieces is described on temple walls variously as fourteen and sixteen, and occasionally forty-two, one for each nome or district.

A later mythology (ultimately a result of the replacement of another deity, Anubis, of the underworld when the cult of Osiris gained more authority), tells us of the birth of Anubis. The tale describes how Nephthys was denied a child by Set and disguised herself as the much more attractive Isis to seduce him. The plot failed, but Osiris now found Nephthys very attractive, as he thought she was Isis. They coupled, resulting in the birth of Anubis. Alternatively, Nephthys had intentionally assumed the form of Isis in order to trick Osiris into fathering her son. In fear of Set’s retribution upon them, Nephthys persuaded Isis to adopt Anubis, so that Set would not find out and kill the child. The tale describes both why Anubis is seen as an underworld deity (he becomes a son of Osiris), and why he could not inherit Osiris’s position (he was not a legitimate heir in this new birth scenario), neatly preserving Osiris’s position as lord of the underworld. It should be remembered, however, that this new myth was only a later creation of the Osirian cult who wanted to depict Set in an evil position, as the enemy of Osiris.

In another Osirian myth, Set had a banquet for Osiris in which he brought in a beautiful box and said that whoever could fit in the box perfectly would get to keep it. Set had measured Osiris in his sleep and made sure that he was the only one who could fit the box. Several tried to see whether they fit. Once it was Osiris’s turn to see if he could fit in the box, Set closed the lid on him so that the box was now a coffin for Osiris. Set flung the box in the Nile so that it would drift far away. Isis went looking for the box so that Osiris could have a proper burial. She found the box in a tree in Byblos, a city along the Phoenician coast, and brought it back to Egypt, hiding it in a swamp. But Set went hunting that night and found the box. Enraged, Set chopped Osiris’s body into fourteen pieces and scattered them all over Egypt to ensure that Isis could never find Osiris again for a proper burial. Isis and her sister Nephthys went looking for these pieces, but could only find thirteen of the fourteen. Fish had swallowed the last piece, his phallus, so Isis made him a new one with magic, putting his body back together after which they conceived Horus. The number of pieces is described on temple walls variously as fourteen and sixteen, and occasionally forty-two, one for each nome or district.

* Assimilation of Hathor

When the cult of Ra rose to prominence he became associated with the similar deity, Horus. Hathor had been paired with Ra in some regions and when Isis began to be paired with Ra, soon Hathor and Isis began to be merged in some regions also as, Isis-Hathor.

*Mother of Horus

By merging with Hathor, Isis became the mother of Horus, rather than his wife, and thus, when beliefs of Ra absorbed Atum into Atum-Ra, it also had to be taken into account that Isis was one of the Ennead, as the wife of Osiris. It had to be explained how Osiris, however, who (as lord of the dead) being dead, could be considered a father to Horus, who was not considered dead. This conflict in themes led to the evolution of the idea that Osiris needed to be resurrected, and therefore, to the Legend of Osiris and Isis, of which Plutarch’s Greek description written in the 1st century AD, De Iside et Osiride, contains the most extensive account known today.

Yet another set of late myths detail the adventures of Isis after the birth of Osiris’s posthumous son, Horus. Isis was said to have given birth to Horus at Khemmis, thought to be located on the Nile Delta. Many dangers faced Horus after birth, and Isis fled with the newborn to escape the wrath of Set, the murderer of her husband. In one instance, Isis heals Horus from a lethal scorpion sting; she also performs other miracles in relation to the cippi, or the plaques of Horus. Isis protected and raised Horus until he was old enough to face Set, and subsequently, became the pharaoh of Egypt.

* Magic

In order to resurrect Osiris for the purpose of having the child Horus, it was necessary for Isis to “learn” magic (which long had been her domain before the cult of Ra arose), and so it was said that Isis tricked Ra (i.e. Amun-Ra/Atum-Ra) into telling her his “secret name,” by causing a snake to bite him, for which only Isis had the cure. The names of deities were secret and not divulged to any but the religious leaders. Knowing the secret name of a deity enabled one to have power of the deity. That he would use his “secret name” to “survive” implies that the serpent had to be a more powerful deity than Ra. The oldest deity known in Egypt was Wadjet, the Egyptian cobra, whose cult never was eclipsed in Ancient Egyptian religion. As a deity from the same region, she would have been a benevolent resource for Isis. The use of secret names became central in late Egyptian magic spells, and Isis often is implored to “use the true name of Ra” in the performance of rituals. By the late Egyptian historical period, after the occupations by the Greeks and the Romans, Isis became the most important and most powerful deity of the Egyptian pantheon because of her magical skills. Magic is central to the entire mythology of Isis, arguably more so than any other Egyptian deity.

Prior to this late change in the nature of Egyptian religion, the rule of Ma’at had governed the correct actions for most of the thousands of years of Egyptian religion, with little need for magic. Thoth had been the deity who resorted to magic when it was needed. The goddess which held the quadruple roles of healer, protector of the canopic jars, protector of marriage, and goddess of magic previously had been Serket. She then became considered an aspect of Isis. Thus it is not surprising that Isis had a central role in Egyptian magic spells and ritual, especially those of protection and healing. In many spells, she also is completely merged even with Horus, where invocations of Isis are supposed to involve Horus’s powers automatically as well. In Egyptian history the image of a wounded Horus became a standard feature of Isis’s healing spells, which typically invoked the curative powers of the milk of Isis. (Silverman, Ancient Egypt, 135)

In Egypt

Isis was venerated first in Egypt. Isis was the only goddess worshiped by all Egyptians alike, and whose influence was so widespread that she had become completely syncretic with the Greek goddess Demeter. After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, and the Hellenization of the Egyptian culture initiated by Ptolemy I Soter, Isis eventually became known as Queen of Heaven.

*Greco-Roman world

Following the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great the worship of Isis spread throughout the Graeco-Roman world. Tacitus writes that after Julius Caesar’s assassination, a temple in honour of Isis had been decreed; Augustus suspended this, and tried to turn Romans back to the Roman deities who were closely associated with the state. Eventually the Roman emperor Caligula abandoned the Augustan wariness toward what was described as oriental cults, and it was in his reign that the Isiac festival of the Navigium Isidis was established in Rome. According to Josephus, Caligula donned female garb and took part in the mysteries he instituted, and in the Hellenistic age Isis acquired a “new rank as a leading goddess of the Mediterranean world.” Vespasian, along with Titus, practised incubation in the Roman Iseum. Domitian built another Iseum along with a Serapeum. Trajan appears before Isis and Horus, presenting them with votive offerings of wine, in a bas-relief on his triumphal arch in Rome. Hadrian decorated his villa at Tibur with Isiac scenes. Galerius regarded Isis as his protectress

Roman perspectives on cults were syncretic, seeing in new deities, merely local aspects of a familiar one. For many Romans, Egyptian Isis was an aspect of Phrygian Cybele, whose orgiastic rites were long-naturalized at Rome, indeed, she was known as Isis of Ten Thousand Names.

Among these names of Roman Isis, Queen of Heaven is outstanding for its long and continuous history. Herodotus identified Isis with the Greek and Roman goddesses of agriculture, Demeter and Ceres.

In later years, Isis also had temples throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. An alabaster statue of Isis from the 3rd century BC, found in Ohrid, in the Republic of Macedonia, is depicted on the obverse of the Macedonian 10 denars banknote, issued in 1996.

The male first name “Isidore” (also “Isador”), means in Greek “Gift of Isis” (similar to “Theodore”, “God’s Gift”). The name, which became common in Roman times, survived the suppression of the Isis worship and remains popular up to the present – being among others the name of several Christian saints.

The God Osiris

The God Osiris

Research Part 1

Osiris Ὄσιρις, also Usiris; the Egyptian language name is variously transliterated Asar, Asari, Aser, Ausar, Ausir, Wesir, Usir, Usire or Ausare is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the Afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh’s beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and holding a symbolic crook and flail.

Osiris is at times considered the oldest son of the Earth god Geb, and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son. He is also associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu, which means “Foremost of the Westerners” — a reference to his kingship in the land of the dead. As ruler of the dead, Osiris is also sometimes called “king of the living“, since the Ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead “the living ones“.

Osiris is first attested in the middle of the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, although it is likely that he is worshipped much earlier; the term Khenti-Amentiu dates to at least the first dynasty, also as a pharaonic title. Most information we have on the myths of Osiris is derived from allusions contained in the Pyramid Texts at the end of the Fifth Dynasty, later New Kingdom source documents such as the Shabaka Stone and the Contending of Horus and Seth, and, much later, in narrative style from the writings of Greek authors including Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus.

Osiris is not only a merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife, but also the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River. He is described as the “Lord of love“,“He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful” and the “Lord of Silence”. The Kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death — as Osiris rose from the dead they would, in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic. By the New Kingdom all people, not just pharaohs, were believed to be associated with Osiris at death if they incurred the costs of the assimilation rituals.

Through the hope of new life after death Osiris began to be associated with the cycles observed in nature, in particular vegetation and the annual flooding of the Nile, through his links with Orion and Sirius at the start of the new year. Osiris was widely worshiped as Lord of the Dead until the suppression of the Egyptian religion during the Christian era.

Father of Horus

Osiris is the mythological father of the god Horus, whose conception is described in the Myth of Osiris and Isis, a central myth in ancient Egyptian belief. The myth described Osiris as having been killed by his brother Set who wanted Osiris’ throne. Isis briefly brought Osiris back to life by use of a spell that she learned from her father. This spell gave her time to become pregnant by Osiris before he again died. Isis later gave birth to Horus. As such, since Horus is born after Osiris’ resurrection, Horus became thought of as a representation of new beginnings and the vanquisher of the evil Set.

Ptah-Seker (who resulted from the identification of Ptah as Seker), who is god of re-incarnation, thus gradually became identified with Osiris, the two becoming Ptah-Seker-Osiris. As the sun is thought to spend the night in the underworld, and subsequently be re-incarnated, as both king of the underworld, and god of reincarnation, Ptah-Seker-Osiris is identified.

Ram God

Osiris’ soul, or rather his Ba, is occasionally worshipped in its own right, almost as if it were a distinct god, especially so in the Delta city of Mendes. This aspect of Osiris is referred to as Banebdjedet, which is grammatically feminine (also spelt “Banebded” or “Banebdjed“) which literally means The ba of the lord of the djed, which roughly means The soul of the lord of the pillar of stability. The djed, a type of pillar, is usually understood as the backbone of Osiris, and, at the same time, as the Nile, the backbone of Egypt. The Nile, supplying water, and Osiris (strongly connected to the vegetation) who died only to be resurrected represented continuity and therefore stability. As Banebdjed, Osiris is given epithets such as Lord of the Sky and Life of the (sun god) Ra, since Ra, when he had become identified with Atum, is considered Osiris’ ancestor, from whom his regal authority is inherited. Ba does not, however, quite mean soul in the western sense, and also has to do with power, reputation, force of character, especially in the case of a god. Since the ba is associated with power, and also happened to be a word for ram in Egyptian, Banebdjed is depicted as a ram, or as Ram-headed. A living, sacred ram, is even kept at Mendes and worshipped as the incarnation of the god, and upon death, the rams were mummified and buried in a ram-specific necropolis. Banebdjed is consequently said to be Horus’ father, as Banebdjed is an aspect of Osiris.

As regards the association of Osiris with the ram, the god’s traditional crook and flail are of course the instruments of the shepherd, which has suggested to some scholars also an origin for Osiris in herding tribes of the upper Nile. The crook and flail were originally symbols of the minor agricultural deity Andjety, and passed to Osiris later. From Osiris, they eventually passed to Egyptian kings in general as symbols of divine authority.

Mythology of Osiris

The cult of Osiris (who is a god chiefly of regeneration and re-birth) had a particularly strong interest toward the concept of immortality. Plutarch recounts one version of the myth in which Set (Osiris’ brother), along with the Queen of Ethiopia, conspired with 72 accomplices to plot the assassination of Osiris. Set fooled Osiris into getting into a box, which Set then shut, sealed with lead, and threw into the Nile (sarcophagi were based on the box in this myth). Osiris’ wife, Isis, searched for his remains until she finally found him embedded in a tree trunk, which was holding up the roof of a palace in Byblos on the Phoenician coast. She managed to remove the coffin and open it, but Osiris was already dead. In one version of the myth, she used a spell learned from her father and brought him back to life so he could impregnate her. Afterwards he died again and she hid his body in the desert. Months later, she gave birth to Horus. While she raised Horus, Set was hunting one night and came across the body of Osiris. Enraged, he tore the body into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout the land. Isis gathered up all the parts of the body, less the phallus (which was eaten by a catfish) and bandaged them together for a proper burial. The gods were impressed by the devotion of Isis and resurrected Osiris as the god of the underworld. Because of his death and resurrection, Osiris is associated with the flooding and retreating of the Nile and thus with the crops along the Nile valley.

Diodorus Siculus gives another version of the myth in which Osiris is described as an ancient king who taught the Egyptians the arts of civilization, including agriculture. Osiris is murdered by his evil brother Set, whom Diodorus associates with the evil Typhon (“Typhonian Beast“) of Greek mythology. Typhon divides the body into twenty six pieces which he distributes amongst his fellow conspirators in order to implicate them in the murder. Isis and Horus avenge the death of Osiris and slay Typhon. Isis recovers all the parts of Osiris body, less the phallus, and secretly buries them. She made replicas of them and distributed them to several locations which then became centres of Osiris worship.

The tale of Osiris becoming fish-like is cognate with the story the Greek shepherd god Pan becoming fish like from the waist down in the same river Nile after being attacked by Typhon. This attack is part of a generational feud in which both Zeus and Dionysus were dismembered by Typhon, in a similar manner as Osiris is by Set in Egypt.

Death and institution as god of the dead

Plutarch and others have noted that the sacrifices to Osiris were “gloomy, solemn, and mournful…” (Isis and Osiris, 69) and that the great mystery festival, celebrated in two phases, began at Abydos on the 17th of Athyr(November 13) commemorating the death of the god, which is also the same day that grain is planted in the ground. “The death of the grain and the death of the god were one and the same: the cereal is identified with the god who came from heaven; he is the bread by which man lives. The resurrection of the god symbolized the rebirth of the grain.” (Larson 17) The annual festival involved the construction of “Osiris Beds” formed in shape of Osiris, filled with soil and sown with seed. The germinating seed symbolized Osiris rising from the dead. An almost pristine example is found in the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter.

The first phase of the festival is a public drama depicting the murder and dismemberment of Osiris, the search of his body by Isis, his triumphal return as the resurrected god, and the battle in which Horus defeated Set. This is all presented by skilled actors as a literary history, and is the main method of recruiting cult membership. According to Julius Firmicus Maternus of the fourth century, this play is re-enacted each year by worshippers who “beat their breasts and gashed their shoulders…. When they pretend that the mutilated remains of the god have been found and rejoined…they turn from mourning to rejoicing.” (De Errore Profanorum).

The passion of Osiris is reflected in his name ‘Wenennefer” (“the one who continues to be perfect”), which also alludes to his post mortem power.

Parts of this Osirian mythology have prompted comparisons with later Christian beliefs and practices.

Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge suggests possible connections or parallels in Osiris’ resurrection story with those found in Christianity:

The Egyptians of every period in which they are known to us believed that Osiris is of divine origin, that he suffered death and mutilation at the hands of the powers of evil, that after a great struggle with these powers he rose again, that he became henceforth the king of the underworld and judge of the dead, and that because he had conquered death the righteous also might conquer death…In Osiris the Christian Egyptians found the prototype of Christ, and in the pictures and statues of Isis suckling her son Horus, they perceived the prototypes of the Virgin Mary and her child.

Biblical scholar Bruce M. Metzger notes that in one account of the Osirian cycle he dies on the 17th of the month of Athyr (approximating to a month between October 28 and November 26 in modern calendars), is revivified on the 19th and compares this to Christ rising on the “third day” but he thinks “resurrection” is a questionable description.

Egyptologist Erikrnung observes that Egyptian Christians continued to mummify corpses (an integral part of the Osirian beliefs) until it finally came to an end with the arrival of Islam and argues for an association between the passion of Jesus and Osirian traditions, particularly in the apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus and Christ’s descent into Hades. He concludes that whilst Christianity rejected anything “pagan” it did so only at a superficial level and that early Christianity is “deeply indebted” to Ancient Egypt.”

David J. MacLeod argues that the resurrection of Osiris differs from Jesus Christ, saying:

Perhaps the only pagan god for whom there is a resurrection is the Egyptian Osiris. Close examination of this story shows that it is very different from Christ’s resurrection. Osiris did not rise; he ruled in the abode of the dead. As biblical scholar, Roland de Vaux, wrote, ‘What is meant of Osiris being “raised to life?” Simply that, thanks to the ministrations of Isis, he is able to lead a life beyond the tomb which is an almost perfect replica of earthly existence. But he will never again come among the living and will reign only over the dead. This revived god is in reality a “mummy” god.’… No, the mummified Osiris is hardly an inspiration for the resurrected Christ… As Yamauchi observes, ‘Ordinary men aspired to identification with Osiris as one who had triumphed over death. But it is a mistake to equate the Egyptian view of the afterlife with the biblical doctrine of resurrection. To achieve immortality the Egyptian had to meet three conditions: First, his body had to be preserved by mummification. Second, nourishment is provided by the actual offering of daily bread and beer. Third, magical spells were interred with him. His body did not rise from the dead; rather elements of his personality – his Ba and Ka – continued to hover over his body.’

Saint Augustine wrote “that the Egyptians alone believe in the resurrection, as they carefully preserved their dead bodies.”

A. J. M. Wedderburn further argues that resurrection in Ancient Egypt differs from the “very negative features” in Judaeo-Christian tradition, as the Ancient Egyptians conceived of the afterlife as entry into the glorious kingdom of Osiris.

Marvin Mayer notes that some scholars regard the idea of dying and rising deities in the mystery religions as being fanciful but suggests this may be motivated by apologetic concerns, attempting to keep Christ’s resurrection as a unique event. In contrast he argues that the ancient story of dying and rising in the divine, human and crops, (with Osiris as an example), is vindicated and reaches a conclusion in Christianity.

Ikhernofret Stela

Much of the extant information about the Passion of Osiris can be found on the Ikhernofret Stela at Abydos erected in the 12th Dynasty by Ikhernofret (also I-Kher-Nefert), possibly a priest of Osiris or other official during the reign of Senwosret III (Pharaoh Sesostris, about 1875 BC). The Passion Plays were held in the last month of the inundation (the annual Nile flood), coinciding with Spring, and held at Abydos/Abedjou which is the traditional place where the body of Osiris/Wesir drifted ashore after having been drowned in the Nile.The part of the myth recounting the chopping up of the body into 14 pieces by Set is not recounted in this particular stela. Although it is attested to be a part of the rituals by a version of the Papyrus Jumilhac, in which it took Isis 12 days to reassemble the pieces, coinciding with the festival of ploughing.Some elements of the ceremony were held in the temple, while others involved public participation in a form of theatre. The Stela of I-Kher-Nefert recounts the programme of events of the public elements over the five days of the Festival:

  • The First Day, The Procession of Wepwawet: A mock battle is enacted during which the enemies of Osiris are defeated. A procession is led by the god Wepwawet (“opener of the way”).
  • The Second Day, The Great Procession of Osiris: The body of Osiris is taken from his temple to his tomb. The boat he is transported in, the “Neshmet” bark, has to be defended against his enemies.
  • The Third Day, Osiris is Mourned and the Enemies of the Land are Destroyed.
  • The Fourth Day, Night Vigil: Prayers and recitations are made and funeral rites performed.
  • The Fifth Day, Osiris is Reborn: Osiris is reborn at dawn and crowned with the crown of Ma’at. A statue of Osiris is brought to the temple.[



With the rise of the cult of Osiris during the Middle Kingdom the “democratization of religion” offered to even his most humblest followers the prospect of eternal life, with moral fitness becoming the dominant factor in determining a person’s suitability.

At death a person faced judgment by a tribunal of forty-two divine judges. If they led a life in conformance with the precepts of the Goddess Ma’at, who represented truth and right living, the person is welcomed into the kingdom of Osiris. If found guilty the person is thrown to a “devourer” and didn’t share in eternal life.

The person who is taken by the devourer is subject first to terrifying punishment and then annihilated. These depictions of punishment may have influenced medieval perceptions of the inferno in hell via early Christian and Coptic texts.

Purification for those who are considered justified may be found in the descriptions of “Flame Island“, where they experience the triumph over evil and rebirth. For the dammed complete destruction into a state of non being awaits but there is no suggestion of eternal torture.

Divine pardon at judgement is always a central concern for the Ancient Egyptians.

During the reign of Seti I Osiris is also invoked in royal decrees to pursue the living when wrongdoing is observed but kept secret and not reported.

The God Osiris

Research Part 2

Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld, appears to have been a strong element in Egyptian mythology from the beginning.

Before he became the Egyptian god of the underworld; however, Osiris had quite a history.

History of Osiris

Osiris is told to have been one of five children born to the god of the earth and the goddess of the skies; Geb and Nut respectively. Through this family tree he was also a great-grandson of one of the most popular Egyptian gods, Ra. Osiris had four younger siblings who would also play critical roles in his story; his brother Seth and two sisters known as Isis and Nephthys. As the firstborn child and son of Geb and Nut, it therefore fell to Osiris to inherit the throne of Egypt. Seth married Nephthys and Osiris married Isis. Together, Osiris and Isis seemed to have possession of numerous powers. Their marriage was not destined to be happy, however.

At one point, Nephthys appears to have magically taken on the appearance of Isis and presented herself to Osiris as his wife. Not knowing the difference, Osiris was seduced by Nephthys and she became pregnant and gave birth to Anubis.

Later, Seth developed a vendetta against his extremely popular sibling, possibly either because Osiris had inherited the throne or because he had gotten Seth’s wife pregnant. At any rate, Seth sought to kill him by luring him into a coffin and drowning him in the Nile. The annual flooding of the Nile River is still thought to be representative of this event.

Isis managed to recover her husband’s body; however Seth was very stealthy and stole away with it. After cutting up the body of the Egyptian god of the underworld, Seth hid the pieces throughout the Egyptian desert. The connection between Isis and Osiris was so strong; the Egyptian goddess proceeded to spend a number of years searching for the mutilated body parts of her husband. She finally managed to find all of the pieces, save one and is believed to have used her magical powers to restore her husband’s body. Although there are different versions to this part of the story, it seems Isis became pregnant, presumably by Osiris and gave birth to a son, Horus. Osiris died once again and descended to fully assume his duties as Egyptian god of the underworld.

Some versions of the history of Osiris state that when he descended into the underworld he took over several important roles and duties as Egyptian god of the underworld from Anubis, who was believed to have been his son. Other tales contend that he rightfully obtained the important role as Egyptian god of the underworld because he was the first god to have died. However he obtained the role, it became Osiris’ responsibility to judge the souls of the dead. Osiris remained as one of the most popular of all the ancient Egyptian gods. Today, he still one of the most well known Egyptian gods.

The God Osiris

Research Part 3


(Asar, Wesir, Ausar, Unnefer)

Symbols: crook and flail, djed, White and Atef Crowns, bull, mummified form, throne, Bennu (phoenix)
Cult Center: Abydos, Busiris and Heliopolis
Myths: “Isis and Osiris”

A god of the earth and vegetation, Osiris symbolized in his death the yearly drought and in his miraculous rebirth the periodic flooding of the Nile and the growth of grain. He was a god-king who was believed to have given Egypt civilization.

Osiris was the first child of Nut and Geb, and therefore the brother of Seth, Nephthys, and Isis. He was married to his sister, Isis. He was also the father of Horus and Anubis. These traditions state that Nephthys (mother of Anubis) assumed the form of Isis, seduced him (perhaps with wine) and she became pregnant with Anubis.

The oldest religious texts refer to Osiris as the great god of the dead, and throughout these texts it is assumed that the reader will understand that he once possessed human form and lived on earth. As the first son of Geb, the original king of Egypt, Osiris inherited the throne when Geb abdicated. At this time the Egyptians were barbarous cannibals and uncivilized. Osiris saw this and was greatly disturbed. Therefore, he went out among the people and taught them what to eat, the art of agriculture, how to worship the gods, and gave them laws. Thoth helped him in many ways by inventing the arts and sciences and giving names to things. Osiris was Egypt’s greatest king who ruled through kindness and persuasion. Having civilized Egypt, Osiris traveled to other lands, leaving Isis as his regent, to teach other peoples what he taught the Egyptians.

During Osiris’ absence, Isis was troubled with Seth’s plotting to acquire both her and the throne of Egypt. Shortly after Osiris’ return to Egypt, in the twenty-eighth year of his reign, on the seventeenth day of the month of Hathor (late September or November), Seth and 72 conspirators murdered him. They then threw the coffin in which he was murdered into the Nile, with his divine body still inside.

Isis, with the help of her sister Nephthys, and Anubis and Thoth, magically located Osiris’ body. Upon learning the his brother’s body was found, Seth went to it and tore it into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. Isis once again found every part of his body, save his phallus (it had been eaten by the now-cursed Nile fish). She magically re-assembled Osiris and resurrected him long enough to be impregnated by him so that she could give birth to the new king Horus.

Seth of course was not willing to surrender the throne of Egypt to the youthful Horus and thus a tribunal of gods met to decide who was the rightful king. The trial lasted eighty years. Eventually through Isis’ cunning she won the throne for her son.

Osiris meanwhile had become the king of the Afterlife. He was believed to be willing to admit all people to the Duat, the gentle, fertile land in which the righteous dead lived, that had lived a good and correct life upon earth, and had been buried with appropriate ceremonies under the protection of certain amulets, and with the proper recital of certain “divine words” and words of power. His realm was said to lie beneath Nun, in the northern heavens or in the west.

It is as the King of the Afterlife that Osiris gained his supreme popularity. He was originally a minor god of Middle Egypt, especially in comparison to the gods of Heliopolis and Hermopolis, etc. Noting his increasing popularity, and sensing that Osiris would one day eclipse the adoration of their own gods, the priests of these cities adopted him into their own cosmogonies.

The elements of his story was seen as symbolic of real events that happened in Egypt. With his original association to agriculture, his death and resurrection were seen as symbolic of the annual death and re-growth of the crops and the yearly flooding of the Nile. The sun too with its daily re-birth and death was associated with Osiris. His rivalry with his brother Seth, the god of storms and the desert, was symbolic of the eternal war between the fertile lands of the Nile Valley and the barren desert lands just beyond. The pharaoh of Egypt was called Horus, while his deceased father was the new Osiris.

Several festivals during the year were held in Egypt, in celebration of Osiris. One, held in November, celebrated his beauty. Another, called the “Fall of the Nile” was a time of mourning. As the Nile receded, the Egyptians went to the shore to give gifts and show their grief over his death. When the Nile began to flood again, another festival honoring Osiris was held whereby small shrines were cast into the river and the priests poured sweet water in the Nile, declaring that the god was found again.

The name “Osiris” is the Greek corruption of the Egyptian name “Asar” (or Usar.) There are several possibilities as to what this name means, “the Strength of the Eye”, is one. Another is “He Sees the Throne”. The oldest and simplest form of the name is the hieroglyph of the throne over an eye (there are at least 158 versions of the name). At one point the first syllable of the name was pronounced “Aus” or “Us” and may have gained the meaning of the word usr, “strength, might, power”. At this time the Egyptians supposed the name to mean something like the “strength of the Eye” (i.e., the strength of the Sun-god Re.)

Another possibility raised by an ancient hymn’s author is that the name “Unnefer” (another name by which Osiris was known) comes from the roots un (“to open, to appear, to make manifest”) and neferu, (“good things”). The author then wrote these lines in his hymn to the god, “Thy beauty maketh itself manifest in thy person to rouse the gods to life in thy name Unnefer”. In any case, even to the ancients, the origin of Osiris’ Egyptian name is a mystery.

Osiris was usually portrayed as a bearded, mummified human with green skin and wearing the atef crown. His hands emerge from the mummy wrappings and hold the flail and crook.



Research Part 4

Ancient Myth As Told Through Generations

The Legend of Osiris is one of the most ancient myths in Egypt, and it was central to the ancient Egyptian state religion. The myth establishes Osiris’ position as god of the dead and lord of the underworld, and Horus’ (and thus all the pharaohs) right to kingship. It also demonstrates the powers and duties of the other major gods as well as setting up the Great Adversary, Set. Yet oddly enough, we have yet to find a complete version of the story. What we have has been cobbled together over many years from many different documents and sources. What I have presented here is my own attempt at restructuring one of the oldest stories in the world.

It is an old story, but it is one of what Neil Gaiman calls the “Great Stories.” The Great Stories are part of the core human experience and never change except in the most superficial ways. They defy any attempts to rewrite them with drastic changes, always returning to their original forms. The setting might be modified depending on who’s telling it, the characters have different names, but fundamentally, it’s still the same story. A version of the Osiris myth exists in every culture: the just king murdered by his cruel brother, only to be avenged by the prince who follows in his father’s footsteps. Sometimes the dead king is rewarded for his upright ways and gains great reward in the next life. We find its echoes in nearby civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans, in far-off Japan and China, in Christianity, even in Shakespeare, where the avenging prince is named Hamlet. Take another look at it, you’ll see what I mean. Enjoy the story.

O my brothers and my sisters, gather around me that I may tell the tale of the Before-Time, of the Golden Age when the gods walked upon the earth with us. Know then that in those ancient days, long before even the grandfather of our Pharaoh’s grandfather was born, Osiris the great-grandson of Ra sat upon the throne of the gods, ruling over the living world as Ra did over the gods. He was the first Pharaoh, and his Queen, Isis, was the first Queen. They ruled for many ages together, for the world was still young and Grandmother Death was not as harsh as she is now.

His ways were just and upright, he made sure that Maat remained in balance, that the law was kept. And so Maat smiled upon the world. All peoples praised Osiris and Isis, and peace reigned over all, for this was the Golden Age.

Yet there was trouble. Proud Set, noble Set, the brother of Osiris, he who defended the Sun Boat from Apep the Destroyer, was unsettled in his heart. He coveted the throne of Osiris. He coveted Isis. He coveted the power over the living world and he desired to take it from his brother. In his dark mind he conceived of a plot to kill Osiris and take all from him. He built a box and inscribed it with wicked magic that would chain anyone who entered it from escaping.

Set took the box to the great feast of the gods. He waited until Osiris had made himself drunk on much beer, then challenged Osiris to a contest of strength. Each one in turn would enter the box, and attempt, through sheer strength, to break it open. Osiris, sure in his power yet feeble in mind because of his drink, entered the box. Set quickly poured molten lead into the box. Osiris tried to escape, but the wicked magic held him bound and he died. Set then picked up the box and hurled it into the Nile where it floated away.

Set claimed the throne of Osiris for himself and demanded that Isis be his Queen. None of the other gods dared to stand against him, for he had killed Osiris and could easily do the same to them. Great Ra turned his head aside and mourned, he did not stand against Set.

This was the dark time. Set was everything his brother was not. He was cruel and unkind, caring not for the balance of Maat, or for us, the children of the gods. War divided Egypt, and all was lawless while Set ruled. In vain our people cried to Ra, but his heart was hardened by grief, and he would not listen.

Only Isis, blessed Isis, remembered us. Only she was unafraid of Set. She searched all of the Nile for the box containing her beloved husband. Finally she found it, lodged in a tamarisk bush that had turned into a mighty tree, for the power of Osiris still was in him, though he lay dead. She tore open the box and wept over the lifeless body of Osiris. She carried the box back to Egypt and placed it in the house of the gods. She changed herself into a bird and flew about his body, singing a song of mourning. Then she perched upon him and cast a spell. The spirit of dead Osiris entered her and she did conceive and bear a son whose destiny it would be to avenge his father. She called the child Horus, and hid him on an island far away from the gaze of his uncle Set.

She then went to Thoth, wise Thoth, who knows all secrets, and implored his help. She asked him for magic that could bring Osiris back to life. Thoth, lord of knowledge, who brought himself into being by speaking his name, searched through his magic. He knew that Osiris’ spirit had departed his body and was lost. To restore Osiris, Thoth had to remake him so that his spirit would recognize him and rejoin. Thoth and Isis together created the Ritual of Life, that which allows us to live forever when we die. But before Thoth could work the magic, cruel Set discovered them. He stole the body of Osiris and tore it into many pieces, scattering them throughout Egypt. He was sure that Osiris would never be reborn.

Yet Isis would not despair. She implored the help of her sister Nephthys, kind Nephthys, to guide her and help her find the pieces of Osiris. Long did they search, bringing each piece to Thoth that he might work magic upon it. When all the pieces were together, Thoth went to Anubis, lord of the dead. Anubis sewed the pieces back together, washed the entrails of Osiris, embalmed him wrapped him in linen, and cast the Ritual of Life. When Osiris’ mouth was opened, his spirit reentered him and he lived again.

Yet nothing that has died, not even a god, may dwell in the land of the living. Osiris went to Duat, the abode of the dead. Anubis yielded the throne to him and he became the lord of the dead. There he stands in judgment over the souls of the dead. He commends the just to the Blessed Land, but the wicked he condemns to be devoured by Ammit.

When Set heard that Osiris lived again he was wroth, but his anger waned, for he knew that Osiris could never return to the land of the living. Without Osiris, Set believed he would sit on the throne of the gods for all time. Yet on his island, Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, grew to manhood and strength. Set sent many serpents and demons to kill Horus, but he defeated them. When he was ready, his mother Isis gave him great magic to use against Set, and Thoth gave him a magic knife.

Horus sought out Set and challenged him for the throne. Set and Horus fought for many days, but in the end Horus defeated Set and castrated him. But Horus, merciful Horus, would not kill Set, for to spill the blood of his uncle would make him no better than he. Set maintained his claim to the throne, and Horus lay claim himself as the son of Osiris. The gods began to fight amongst another, those who supported Horus and those who supported Set. Banebdjetet leaped into the middle and demanded that the gods end this struggle peacefully or Maat would be imbalanced further. He told the gods to seek the council of Neith. Neith, warlike though wise in council, told them that Horus was the rightful heir to the throne. Horus cast Set into the darkness where he lives to this day.

And so it is that Horus watches over us while we live, and gives guidance to the Pharaoh while he lives, and his father Osiris watches over us in the next life. So it is that the gods are at peace. So it is that Set, wicked Set, eternally strives for revenge, battling Horus at every turn. When Horus wins, Maat is upheld and the world is at peace. When Set wins, the world is in turmoil. But we know that dark times do not last forever, and the bright rays of Horus will shine over us again. In the last days, Horus and Set will fight one last time for the world. Horus will defeat Set forever, and Osiris will be able to return to this world. On that day, the Day of Awakening, all the tombs shall open and the just dead shall live again as we do, and all sorrow shall pass away forever.

Lo, this is my tale. Keep it in your hearts and give it to others, as I gave it to you.

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