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Ancient Egyptian Gods
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Osiris (Asar, Wesir, Ausar, Unnefer)

King of the dead

Symbols: crook and flail, Bennu (phoenix), djed, White and atef Crowns, bull, mummified form

Depiction: Depictions of Osiris showed the god as green faced and bearded holding the flail and crook in his hands. He was portrayed as a mummified human who wore the atef crown.

Mythology: Osiris held an important role in ancient Egypt. His death at the hand of his brother Seth represented the yearly Egyptian drought, while his miraculous rebirth represented the flooding of the Nile Valley and its nourishment by the silt left on the land after the flood. Osiris’ parents were Nut and Geb. His sister and wife was Isis. He also had another sister, Nephthys, and a brother, Seth. Osiris was the father of Horus by Isis and of Anubis by Nephthys, who seduced Osiris to conceive Anubis. Osiris’ rivalry with his brother Seth, the god of storms and the desert, represented the constant struggle in Egypt between the fertile Nile Valley and the surrounding desert. Osiris’ death and rebirth also represented the rising and setting of the sun.

Osiris was an earth god and the god of vegetation. According to myth, it was Osiris who brought civilization to Egypt whose population was once cannibalistic and barbarous. Having inherited the throne from his father Geb and being distressed by the behavior of the Egyptian people, Osiris taught the Egyptians how to farm, what to eat, and gave them laws and religion. With the assistance of Thoth, who invented science, nomenclature, and the arts, Osiris ruled as the benevolent and kind king of Egypt. Once he had established civilization in Egypt, Osiris traveled to distant lands to teach others what he had taught the Egyptians. He left Isis to rule in his absence but Seth’s actions troubled her. While Osiris was away, Seth plotted to usurp the throne and take Isis as his wife. Isis’ fears were realized when, in the twenty-eighth year of Osiris’ reign, on the 17th day of Hathor (late September or November), Seth and 72 conspirators murdered Osiris. Seth and his co-conspirators threw the coffin containing Osiris’ body into the Nile. Isis recovered Osiris’ body only to have Seth tear it into 14 pieces, which he scattered all over Egypt. Nonetheless, Isis with help from Nephthys, recovered every piece of Osiris’ body excluding his penis, which was eaten by the Nile fish. Using her magical powers, Isis reassembled Osiris and gave him life just long enough to conceive Horus, the future king of Egypt. Seth disputed Horus’ succession to the Egyptian throne and the matter was not resolved for 80 years when Nephthys offered a resolution to the dispute.

Ancient Egyptian religious texts describe Osiris as the god of the dead with the understanding that Osiris died and was resurrected. As the king of the underworld, Osiris admitted only those souls who had lived good lives and who had received the proper burial rights under the protection of certain amulets and the recitation of certain words of power and divinity. If Osiris judged a soul worthy, it was allowed to live out the afterlife in the Duat, a fertile land. According to myth, Osiris’ domain lay beneath Nun in the northern part of heaven or to the west. “Osiris” is the Greek corruption of the Egyptian name “Asar.” Asar has several meanings including “he sees the throne” and the strength of the eye.” There are at least 158 hieroglyphs representing Osiris. The simplest one is a throne positioned over an eye.

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