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Osiris - Facts About the Ancient Egyptian God of the Afterlife

Osiris - The Ancient Egyptian God
Osiris is the Egyptian god of the afterlife. His life and death are both eventful. Here is more information about the ancient Egyptian god.
Scholasticus K
Last Updated: Apr 2, 2018
Alternately known as...
The Egyptian god, Osiris is known by several other names. The following are some of the popular ones: Asar, Unnefer, Wesir, Ausar, Usiris, Aser, Ausir, Ausare

Osiris is often considered to be the first ancient Egyptian god to be officially recorded in written scripts of ancient Egypt. Since Osiris is the god of afterlife, many of his carvings and inscriptions have been found in tombs and pyramids throughout Egypt. The oldest carving or attestation of Osiris, found on a Palermo stone, dates back to the year 2500 B.C. Records show that Osiris was widely worshiped in ancient Egypt, until the Christian rulers abolished all pagan and Egyptian customs and traditions.

During that period of Egyptian history, Osiris was revered as the god who taught the nuances of civilization to the inhabitants of the time. They were not only made familiar with the concepts of agriculture and pottery, but were also given knowledge about the complex subjects of law and order. This was not all. Osiris also instilled faith in the minds of the Egyptians. They were taught to pray and worship the supreme, and to lead a pious life.

The physical features of Osiris is considered a mystery, for he is known to have possessed a green skin, and a rather long head rested on his broad shoulders. His name means that he is the one who oversees everything, and has the power to 'begin all good things'. His parenthood would be referred to in the following paragraph, but before that it must also be noted that he is also associated with a constellation of the solar system. The Egyptian lore believes that this deity hails from the Orion constellation, and that soul rests there. Whatever may be the beliefs, the fact still remains that this ancient Egyptian god deserves to be known, and the mystery about him needs to be dispelled. Take a look at the following facts about Osiris given below.

Osiris and His Family Roots

In Egyptian mythology, Osiris is believed to be the eldest offspring of Geb (Egyptian god of Earth) and Nut (Egyptian sky goddess). Apart from Osiris, the duo had three other offspring. They were, Isis, Set (also written as Seth), and Nephthys. Osiris was married to Isis, who is the Egyptian goddess of fertility, and motherhood and was worshiped as the ideal mother by ancient Egyptians. Set was the husband of Nepthys. Horus, the Hawk-god was born to Osiris and Isis. This family is also worshiped as the Family of Holiness and prosperity in Egypt.

Osiris was one of the most important deities of ancient Egypt. The people of ancient Egypt believed in the concept of life after death. Hence, Osiris was the presiding god of all the ceremonies and rituals like mummification and burial. Osiris is also considered to be the god of resurrection and eternal life. He is also the protector of the dead, and is also considered as the judge of the deceased. Now, what made Osiris the presiding deity of most significant events, can be found in the remaining paragraphs of this article.

The Legend of Osiris: Birth

According to the Egyptian mythology, the Sun god Ra, was the first ruler of land (also referred to as Skondia in Egyptian culture). He is also known to be the King of all gods. His wisdom and predictions told him that the child of goddess Nut would be his successor. Feeling insecure, Ra cursed Nut saying that she would not be able to give birth to a child on any day of the year. A heartbroken Nut went to Thoth (the god of wisdom who is considered to have thrice-great wisdom) for help. Thoth assured her not to worry and in turn challenged Khensu, the moon god, and challenged him for a game of checkers. Khensu accepted the challenge and the two began to gamble. Thoth kept on winning the games and the stakes started climbing higher and higher. In the game, Khensu lost a lot of his 'light' to Thoth. Thoth, made up five days between the beginning and end of the year, from the light that he had won. Nut gave birth to Osiris in the first of the five days. Well, this is one of the legends regarding the birth of Osiris. There is yet another equally intense story regarding the same. 

According to Egyptian legends, Ra was the most supreme and was at the helm of power. However, his wife, Nut had feelings of love not for him, but instead she longed to be with Geb. When Ra found out about this illicit courtship, his rage knew no bounds, and he cursed his wife, according to which she wouldn't be able to conceive on any days of the year. What is important here to know that, at that time, there were only 360 days instead of 365. A heart-broken Nut went to Thoth to procure help. Thoth in turn went the moon goddess, Silence, defeated her in a game of wager and received one-seventh of moon's light, which he converted into five more days of the year. This was a witty game plan, whereby Ra's command was respected, and a solution to Nut's problem was also procured.

Note : What should be borne in mind is that these accounts of Osiris' birth have no testimony. These are legendary folklore that have been passed through generations. So, the accountability of the information remains doubtful.

Contribution of Osiris to Ancient Egypt

Contribution of Osiris to Ancient Egypt According to the tales of ancient Egypt, Ra became very old and left Earth to rule the heavens. According to Ra's prediction, Osiris indeed succeeded him. During the initial stages of Osiris' rule, the people displayed savage behavior. They constantly engaged in fights, showed signs of cannibalism, which greatly disturbed Osiris. He decided to make his people civilized. He started by teaching his people the activity of farming. He taught his people to plant, tend and harvest wheat and barley crops. He taught his people to grind the wheat grain into flour and make bread. It is said that Osiris, also developed the technique of wine making. He taught them the basic laws of civilization, and also introduced the arts of poetry and music.

The Demise of Osiris

The popularity of Osiris, made his brother Set jealous. Set was coincidentally the lord of evil. After Osiris had managed to civilize his people, he left on a journey to spread wisdom all over the world. In his absence, he nominated his wife, Isis as the ruler of Egypt over Set, which infuriated Set in the superlative. He then began to lay the seeds of conspiracy against the honest and humble Osiris. Set took to confidence 72 other powerful people who also wanted the end of Osiris. When Osiris came back to his kingdom, he was invited to a grand banquet organized by Set. In the meanwhile, Set had crafted a chest which was of the size of Osiris. At the banquet, Set proposed that whosoever could fit into the wooden chest would be the rightful owner of the same. This was the ultimate trick. An innocent Osiris could not see the trap, and thus in utmost trust, he stepped into the chest. Just then, all the conspirators including Set sealed the chest with nails and molten lead. The chest was plunged into the river Nile, and Osiris was drowned and dead, leaving Set the only heir to the throne.

The water of the Nile carried the chest into the waves of the Green Sea, and was later brought to the shore, in the far off land of Byblos. Just there grew miraculously a tamarisk tree, perhaps just to protect the mighty box, and Osiris within it. On the other side, Isis grew sad and restless. She wanted to bring her dead husband to life again. She very well knew that, the spirits of the dead didn't receive peace and salvation until the last rites were observed. Thus began her ceaseless venture to find the body of Osiris.

Note : There are contradictory accounts regarding the birth of Horus. Many believe that Horus wasn't born at the time of Osiris' death, whereas the others believe that he was then an infant. Considering that he was an infant, we shall proceed further.

On her voyage she was protected by a group of 7 scorpions. She entrusted goddess Buto, the serpent goddess, of the Delta of the Nile with the responsibility to take care of Horus. She began the journey of finding the corpse of her deceased husband. She came to Babylos. There she, with the royal aid could locate the chest and found her dead husband's remains. She then made her way back into Egypt. Upon reaching there she left the body in a secret locale, and departed to bring her son back. However, Set was shreud and wicked enough to find out the body, and he cut the body into 14 pieces, which he spread all across the river Nile. Denying to let go off her husband's remains, Isis pledged to find the pieces. She was now aided by her sister and wife of Set, Nepthys. They found out all the pieces, except for one, which was swallowed by a fish. Isis built a tomb on each spot where the pieces where found. There are other tales that narrate that Isis had collected all the pieces together, mummified the body and buried it. Whatever may be the authenticity of either of the tales, the fact remains that Osiris continues to be worshiped as the god of the dead.

Note : There is also another belief that when the pieces of dead Osiris was recovered by Isis, she spelled life into the dead body and brought back Osiris to life, and both united together to impregnate Isis with Horus. Later Osiris' spirit left the body and became the god of the dead.

Horus- the son of Osiris

Indeed, the spirit of Osiris is said to have returned; however, not to his body, but as his son. The spirit of Osiris made his son Horus, a proficient leader and warrior by teaching him the arts of statesmanship and military leadership. Horus eventually avenged his father's death and killed Set. According to some stories, he banished Set into the Great Western desert.

The Egyptians believed that the spirit of Osiris would come back to its body and would rise once again from its grave (located on the island of Philae) and with him, he would bring to life all those who had worshiped him and had been his followers. This is why, the Egyptians took up the rituals of mummification.

Note : The picture depicts Osiris and Pharaoh Tutankhamen