The Death of Osiris Osiris

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The Death of Osiris

Osiris: A god of the earth and vegetation, Osiris symbolized in his death the yearly drought and in his miraculous rebirth the periodic flooding of the Nile and the growth of grain. He was a god-king who was believed to have given Egypt civilization.

Osiris was the first child of Nut and Geb, and therefore the brother of Seth, Nephthys, and Isis. He was married to his sister, Isis. He was also the father of Horus and Anubis.

Osiris was the great god of the dead. He once possessed human form and lived on earth. As the first son of Geb, the original king of Egypt, Osiris inherited the throne when Geb abdicated. At this time the Egyptians were barbarous cannibals and uncivilized. Osiris saw this and was greatly disturbed. Therefore, he went out among the people and taught them what to eat, the art of agriculture, how to worship the gods, and gave them laws. Thoth (The god of wisdom and learning) helped him in many ways by inventing the arts and sciences and giving names to things. Osiris was Egypt's greatest king who ruled through kindness and persuasion. Having civilized Egypt, Osiris traveled to other lands to teach other people what he taught the Egyptians. He left his wife, Isis, to rule in his absence.

During Osiris' absence, Isis was troubled with Seth's plotting to acquire both her and the throne of Egypt. Shortly after Osiris' return to Egypt, in the twenty-eighth year of his reign, Seth threw a party for his brother. Following an enormous banquet, Seth suggested that everyone should play a game. A chest was laid out in the great hall and the game was to see who could fit inside it. When Osiris’s turn came, he climbed into the chest, and – not surprisingly – it was the perfect-sized coffin for him. One of the conspirators leapt forward and slammed down the lid, trapping Osiris inside. Unable to free himself, Osiris died. They then threw the coffin in which he was murdered into the Nile, with his divine body still inside.

Isis, with the help of her sisters, magically located Osiris' body. She returned to Egypt with it, and hid it in the marshy Delta while she went to collect her son. This proved to be unwise, because Seth happened to be out hunting that night in that particular vicinity, and could not believe his luck when he happened upon the chest. He proceeded gleefully to hack Osiris’s body into 14 pieces, scattering them far and wide.

It seemed as though Osiris’s body was destined not to receive the burial it deserved, but Isis refused to give up and began her search for the strewn pieces. At each place that she found a missing piece, she conducted a burial ceremony.

Seth of course was not willing to surrender the throne of Egypt to the youthful Horus (Osiris’s son) and thus a tribunal of gods met to decide who was the rightful king. The trial lasted eighty years. Eventually through Isis' cunning she won the throne for her son.

Osiris meanwhile had become the king of the Afterlife. He had the power to admit all people to the Duat, the gentle, fertile land in which the righteous dead lived. However, those admitted to the Duat had to have lived a good and correct life upon earth, and had to have been buried with appropriate ceremonies under the protection of certain amulets, and with the proper recital of certain "divine words" and words of power. Osiris’s realm was said to lie beneath Nun, in the northern heavens or in the west.

It is as the King of the Afterlife that Osiris gained his supreme popularity. He was originally a minor god of Middle Egypt, especially in comparison to the gods of Heliopolis and Hermopolis, etc. Noting his increasing popularity, and sensing that Osiris would one day overshadow the adoration of their own gods, the priests of these cities adopted him into their own cosmogonies.


In your journal: What can you infer about ancient Egyptian culture based on this myth?

Skill: Inference

Answer the above question in your journal. You may use the format below to help you remember all the parts but your inference must be written in paragraph form.

  1. I can infer

  2. In the passage it states, “ ………………………………..” (paragraph #).

  3. Explanation: How does the passage support your inference?

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