Osiris is known as the God of the afterlife and resurrection. He was also God of the Nile and fertility, as well as the embodiment of a righteous ruler. Osiris was often depicted wearing the Atef crown, which represented his role as the first pharaoh and his power over the afterlife.
The resurrection of Osiris is one of the most famous stories in Ancient Egyptian literature. Osiris was murdered by his own brother Set, who was envious of his power and wanted to take his place as king. Osiris’ body was then cut into pieces and scattered throughout the land. However his wife Aset (Isis) was determined to bring him back to life. She gathered all the pieces of his body except his phallus which was lost in the Nile. Using her powerful spells, she was able to resurrect Osiris, complete his body with magical clay phallus, thus restoring him to his former glory. Osiris then became the god of the afterlife, resurrection, and fertility, going on to rule the underworld. The story of Osiris and Aset is a testament to the power of love, devotion, and the magic that existed in Ancient Egypt.
The worship of Osiris was widespread in Ancient Egypt beginning in Pre-dynastic times and was especially important during the New Kingdom period. Temples dedicated to Osiris were built throughout the country and the Osirian Mysteries, a religious festival celebrating the death and resurrection of Osiris, were held annually. The festival may have originated during the Middle Kingdom but gained popularity during the New Kingdom period.
The exact dates of the Osirian Mysteries are not known, but it is believed to have been held in the month of Khoiak, which corresponds to the season of the Inundation of the Nile river. The festival lasted for several days and included various rituals and ceremonies, such as the reenactment of the death and resurrection of Osiris, the recitation of hymns and prayers, and the offering of food and drink to the gods.
During the Osirian Mysteries, participants would undergo a symbolic journey through the underworld, guided by the priests, to reach the afterlife and be judged by Osiris. The festival provided spiritual renewal and the hope of eternal life for both the living and the dead.
A hymn to Osiris, found in the Coffin Texts:
O Osiris, lord of the two lands,
The son of Nut, the great god,
The only one, the unique one,
The lord of the crowns,
The king of the world,
The ruler of the dead.
O Osiris, you who are at the head of the divine Ennead,
You who are the judge of the dead,
You who have power over eternity,
You who have power over life.
In the Book of the Dead:
I am Osiris, the firstborn son of Geb, the lord of the land. I have come to the throne of my father and have taken my place among the gods. I am the judge of the dead, and I weigh the hearts of those who come before me.
The Hymn to Osiris from the Temple of Dendera praises and refers to Osiris as the “green one,” referring to his association with fertility and the harvest:
Hail to you, Osiris, lord of the underworld,
The one who judges the dead and weighs their hearts.
You are the green one, the god of fertility,
The one who brings life to the land and the people.
Budge, E.A. Wallis. The Gods of the Egyptians. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1969.
Faulkner, Raymond O. The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. University of Texas Press, 1990.
Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings. Vol. 1-3. University of California Press, 2006.
Mercer, Samuel A. B. The Pyramid Texts. Longman, 1952.
Pinch, Geraldine. Handbook of Egyptian Mythology. ABC-CLIO, 2002.
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