Greek Name: Osiris
Egyptian Name: Asir; Un-nefer
Associated Objects: Crook and Flail; djed -pillar
Main Cult Center: Abydos and Busiris
Role: Death; Afterlife; Rebirth; Fertility; Agriculture
The Osiris myth is the backbone to my series, the Descendants of Isis. Osiris was the first son of Geb (god of the earth) and Nut (goddess of the sky), and he married his first sister, Isis. The earliest form of his name used the hieroglyphics for “throne” and “eye,” leading researchers to believe his name refers to either “he sees the throne” or “eye of heaven.”
Many believe the Osiris might be the representation of the first king of Egypt, who established Egypt’s cultural values and taught the people agriculture. In life, Osiris is described as a kind and just ruler. Unfortunately, his brother, Set, was jealous of his brother’s rise to power and outraged by Osiris having slept with his wife. In response, Set crafted a beautiful coffin that was to Osiris’s exact height and size. He threw a grand party where he presented the box and announced whoever fit the box perfectly could have it as a gift. Drunk, Osiris played along, and when he laid down in the coffin, Set slammed the lid shut and threw the box into the Nile. Later, he would cut his dead brother’s body into pieces and scatter them across Egypt. After Isis resurrected Osiris, Osiris could no longer return to the land of the living, and Anubis released his title as god of the underworld to handed it over to Osiris in respect.
As the god of the dead, Osiris is represented in a mummified anthropomorphic form. He holds the crook and flail (symbols of the pharaohs’ power) and wears the ceremonial beard and atef-crown. His skin is typically painted green or black, signifying fertility and rebirth. His rebirth also associated him with the Nile River, and thus, the agricultural cycle. Every harvest, Osiris was symbolically killed and his body broken on the threshing room floor, and every planting, his life force would return to the land and the crops would grow once more. His prominence and popularity in Egypt made him the only deity the ancient Egyptians referred to simply as “god.”
- Budge, E.A.W. (1911) Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection. New York, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
- Hill, J. (2010). Ancient Egypt Online. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk
- Oakes, L., and Gahlin, L. (2003). Ancient Egypt: An illustrated reference to the myths, religions, pyramids and temples of the land of the pharaohs. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
- Mark, J (2016). Osiris. https://www.ancient.eu/Osiris/
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