Osiris

God of the Dead.
    Osiris was probably Egypt's best-known god and received worship for over two thousand years. According to mythology, he was originally a human ruler who had brought civilisation to his country and was later deified. He was the son of Geb (the earth-god) and Nut (the sky-goddess) and the brother of Isis (who was also his wife), Nephthys, and Seth.
    Osiris had probably originated as a fertility god and the incarnation of Egypt and its vegetation, but he soon acquired other roles. His first cult-centre was at Busiris in the Delta, where he was identified with the local god Andjety, a god-king from whom Osiris probably adopted his characteristics as an early ruler. At Memphis, he took over the god Sokaris who was associated with the creator deity Ptah, and assimilated his funerary features. His main cult-centre was Abydos where, by the Fifth Dynasty, he had become identified with the local god Khentiamentiu, who was a god of the dead and of cemeteries.
    As well as his role as a fertility god, mythology also represented Osiris as a human who had suffered treachery and death but who triumphed and was resurrected as a god. Although aspects of the god's mythology are preserved in Egyptian literary sources, the only complete version of his myth survives in the work of a Greek author, *Plutarch, in his De Iside et Ostride. According to this text, Osiris was murdered by his brother Seth, and his body was dismembered and scattered throughout Egypt. Isis, his devoted wife, reunited his limbs and posthumously conceived their son Horus (originally there had been a falcon-god of the sky with the same name in Egyptian mythology). Isis hid Horus in the marshes of Chemmis to save him from the wrath of his uncle Seth, but when he was grown, Horus set out to fight Seth in order to avenge his father's death. The conflict was fierce and eventually Horus and Seth sought judgement before the divine tribunal: the gods found in favour of Horus who became King of Egypt, while Seth was banished, and Osiris was resurrected as Judge of the Dead and King of the Underworld. This symbolised the triumph of good over evil, and Osiris could henceforth promise his followers a unique chance of individual resurrection and eternal life.
    This story was easy to understand and held a definite message, compelling worshippers to follow Osiris. He acquired all the funerary aspects, such as the role of god of embalming and of the western necropolis, which had previously been held by Anubis. With regard to the afterlife, Osiris also overtook the solar cult, and by the end of the Fifth Dynasty, every king was believed to become an 'Osiris' on death and, as a living ruler, to be the incarnation of Horus, having received the throne from his father.
    By the Middle Kingdom, there was a marked process of democratisation in funerary beliefs and practices, and Osiris became very important because he could offer eternal life to all true believers. At death, every worthy person could now expect to become 'Osiris.'
    At Abydos (where it was believed that Osiris' head was buried), an annual festival and miracle play were held which enacted events in his life, death and resurrection. Pilgrims flocked to Abydos at the beginning of the fourth month of the Egyptian year when the Nile flood-waters had receded and the fields were ready for cultivation. They watched and participated in the miracle plays which enacted the myth of Osiris, but in the secret chambers of the temple the priests performed the mysteries which were designed to reproduce Osiris' functions as a god of vegetation and to ensure the advent of the annual rebirth of the vegetation which had been destroyed by the sun and drought. These rites included the 'Raising of the Djed-pillar' (the god's cult-symbol). This was performed to ensure the god's resurrection. All believers attempted to visit Abydos at least once in a lifetime or to have their mummified remains taken there after death, to enhance their chances of an individual resurrection and life in the after world.
    The representations of Osiris showed him as a mummiform figure who wore a crown and carried the royal insignia. He was frequently mentioned in the Pyramid Texts (the world's earliest body of religious writings that have survived) and in the Books of the Dead. In the *Ptolemaic Period some of his characteristics were transferred to Serapis, the hybrid Graeco-Egyptian deity, who was introduced by *Ptolemy I.
    Osiris enjoyed immense popularity at most periods, effectively combining the concept of individual rebirth with the physical reality of the annual resurgence of Egypt's vegetation.
BIBL. Faulkner, R. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts. Warminster: 1985; Gardiner, A.H. Was Osiris an ancient king subsequently deified? JEA 46 (1960) p. 104 Brief Communications; Griffith, J.G. Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride. Cardiff: 1970.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David
* * *
   The Greek form for the Egyptian god of the dead Wsir, lord of the underworld. Son of Geb and Nut and husband of Isis. According to legend, he was originally a king of Egypt but was murdered and dismembered by his brother, Seth. His widow, Isis, recovered and buried his remains. He was also a god of vegetation and renewal. The dead king, and later any deceased individual, was identified with Osiris, but the individual also had to be judged by Osiris before entering the next life. Osiris is depicted as a mummiform figure with a feathered crown holding a crook and flail. He was early amalgamated with the god Khentyamnetyu of Abydos, which became the principal place of his worship and where his tombwas said to be located.
   See also Religion.
Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt by Morris L. Bierbrier

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.

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