The Myth of Osiris

Osiris was one of the chief gods of ancient Egypt and husband of Isis. He was the son of Nut (Kneph) and Athor. Brother of Set (Seth) who was a jealous and constant foe. Set encompassed the death of Osiris and his resurrection with the aid of Thoth. The son of Osiris was Horus who became his avenger. Horus was the god of the dead, the afterlife and resurrection. Osiris the ‘many eyed’ is depicted with a white crown, and mummy holding a sceptre and flail. He was supreme god and king of eternity. Thought of as the judge of the dead and ruler of the kingdom of the other world. Also god of the Nile.

The twin of Set he was slain by him and cut into 15 pieces. Osiris was then buried by Isis. revenged by Horus and Thoth he was then resurrected to reign eternally in heaven, where he symbolised life beyond the grave. Osiris also fostered mummification and is depicted as a mummy with the white crown of Lower Egypt. Upper Egypt has the flat red crown of the middle region or the south. Lower Egypt had the white dome crown of the north and the delta.

The father of Anubis was Thoth and who can be equated with the Greek Hermes. The souls of the dead went before Anubis as  the judge of the infernal regions. He presided over funeral rites and the accuracy of the scales weighing dead souls. Anubis had a human body and a jackal’s head which may have been the totemic emblem of a southern clan.

Horus, or Harpa-Khruti, was sometimes called the ‘God of Silence’ but was originally a sky and sun god. Eventually became merged with Horus as son of Osiris and Isis, and Horus the child (Harpocrates). Also identified with the king himself. To the Greeks Horus was Harpocrates. A falcon god or hawk as a solar deity. Represented by a winged sun-disc. Harpocrates is the Greek form thus of Egyptian Harpa-Khuli or Horus the Child. The Greek god of silence was depicted as a naked boy sucking his finger. The Greek form of Hem-P-Kart?

The ancient Egyptian Set or Seth equated with the Greek Typhon. As the jealous brother of Osiris he tricked him into a coffer, nailed the lid, and sealed it with molten lead. Later Seth was castrated by Horus. Regarded as the incarnation of evil and depicted with a man’s body with a long snout and square shaped ears. Sometimes shown with a tail, sometimes with an animal body. God of darkness and prototype of Typhon the Greek god of evil. Deadly enemy of Osiris.

Typhon (Greek) is also Typhoeus or Typheus and a monster. The son of Gaea or Ge and Tartarus. Had 100 heads (college of priestesses?) each with a terrible voice. Made war on Zeus. Fathered Orthos, Cerberus, the Laomean Hydra, and Chimera, the Nemean Lion, and Theban Sphinx by Echidna. All totemic? Typhon was fire-breathing and often identified with Typhoeus. He begot the unfavourable 7 winds [Thomson – Babylonian Cosmogony – 7 mountains held up the heavens. Seven mountains are the home of the seven winds and the entrances to the underworld]. Thus, Typhoeus as Seth is one of the hundred handed giants (see hundred headed), the Hekatoncheires.

Thoth was the ancient Egyptian lunar god and twin of Horus? Therefore sun plus moon. The Greek form was Hermes or Mercury. As son of Osiris his depiction is that of an Ibis or sometimes baboon.

[James, E. O.  Prehistoric Religion].

The cult of Osiris in the delta at Busiris (Per-Usire or Djedu) was the capital of the 9th nome. The cult was established early and originally associated with the deified civilising king as centre of death and resurrection cultus. Before Osiris there was a composite figure of the Lord of the Dead, the God of Vegetation, and the personification of the Nile. Osiris had a sister wife called Isis. Horus has been identified as the son of Osiris. Early in the Dynastic period the Pharoahs reigned as the Osirian Horus (conceived by Isis as she hovered over the dead body of her husband).An example of the ritual of sacred marriage or hierogamy.

According to one interpretation “…the struggle between Horus and his uncle Seth, the perpetrator of the crime against his father (Osiris), was a re-enactment in myth and ritual of the conflicts of the pre-dynastic Horus kings before the nation was unified in a single ruler…” [James, p.184]. This hypothesis presupposes “…Osiris…may have been a prehistoric nomadic chief or leader who introduced agriculture among the indigenous people in the Eastern Delta, and eventually came to blows with their ruler Seth when the intruders penetrated up the Nile as far as south of Abydos.” [184].  Osiris is killed in this campaign and revenged by son Horus. Alternatively – Osiris equates with the Nile and thus the personification of the flood waters and the renewal of vegetation.

In these accounts Osiris is Neolithic and Seth is a pre-Neolithic warrior leader of a matriarchal clan. Both versions could contain truth and be a composite myth. Osiris as the Nile but migration myth attached to an existing myth. The elements of both would have given justification for the new ruling class to absorb myths and subjugate their subjects.


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