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Egyptian Ideas of the Future Life - Osiris The God of the Resurrection


The Belief in God Almighty Home The "Gods" of the Egyptians

Chapter II

Osiris The God of the Resurrection


The Egyptians of every period in which they are known to us believed that Osiris was of divine origin, that he suffered death and mutilation at the hands of the powers of evil, that after a great struggle with these powers he rose again, that he became henceforth the king of the underworld and judge of the dead, and that because he had conquered death the righteous also might conquer death; and they raised Osiris to such an exalted position in heaven that he became the equal and, in certain cases, the superior of R, the Sun-god, and ascribed to him the attributes which belong unto God. However far back we go, we find that these views about Osiris are assumed to be known to the reader of religious texts and accepted by him, and in the earliest funeral book the position of Osiris in respect of the other gods is identical with that which he is made to hold in the latest copies of the Book of the Dead. The first writers of the ancient hieroglyphic funeral texts and their later editors have assumed so completely that the history of Osiris was known unto all men, that none of them, as far as we know, thought it necessary to write down a connected narrative of the life and sufferings upon earth of this god, or if they did, it has not come down to us. Even in the Vth dynasty we find Osiris and the gods of his cycle, or company, occupying a peculiar and special place in the compositions written for the benefit of the dead, and the stone and other monuments which belong to still earlier periods mention ceremonies the performance of which assumed the substantial accuracy of the history of Osiris as made known to us by later writers. But we have a connected history of Osiris which, though not written in Egyptian, contains so much that is of Egyptian origin that we may be sure that its author drew his information from Egyptian sources: I refer to the work, De Iside et Osiride, of the Greek writer, Plutarch, who flourished about the middle of the first century of our era. In it, unfortunately, Plutarch identifies certain of the Egyptian gods with the gods of the Greeks, and he adds a number of statements which rest either upon his own imagination, or are the results of misinformation. The translation 1 by Squire runs as follows:--

Rhea 2 say they, having accompanied Saturn 3 by stealth, was discovered by the Sun, 1 who hereupon denounced a curse upon her, 'that she should not be delivered in any month or year'--Mercury, however, being likewise in love with the same goddess, in recompense of the favours which he had received from her, plays at tables with the Moon, and wins from her the seventieth part of each of her illuminations; these several parts, making in the whole five days, he afterwards joined together, and added to the three hundred and sixty, of which the year formerly consisted, which days therefore are even yet called by the Egyptians the Epact or superadded, and observed by them as the birthdays of their gods. For upon the first of them, say they, was Osiris born, just at whose entrance into the world a voice was heard, saying, 'The lord of all the earth is born.' There are some indeed who relate this circumstance in a different manner, as that a certain person, named Pamyles, as he was fetching water from the temple of Jupiter at Thebes, heard a voice commanding him to proclaim aloud that 'the good and great king Osiris was then born'; and that for this reason Saturn committed the education of the child to him, and that in memory of this event the Pamylia were afterwards instituted, a festival much resembling the Phalliphoria or Priapeia of the Greeks. Upon the second of these days was AROUERIS 1 2 born, whom some call Apollo, and others distinguish by the name of the elder Orus. Upon the third Typho 1 came into the world, being born neither at the proper time, nor by the proper place, but forcing his way through a wound which he had made in his mother's side. Isis was born upon the fourth of them in the marshes of Egypt, as NEPTHYS was upon the last, whom some call Teleute and Aphrodite, and others Nike--Now as to the fathers of these children, the two first of them are said to have been begotten by the Sun, Isis by Mercury, Typho and Nepthys by Saturn; and accordingly, the third of these superadded days, because it was looked upon as the birthday of Typho, was regarded by the kings as inauspicious, and consequently they neither transacted any business on it, or even suffered themselves to take any refreshment until the evening. They further add, that Typho married Nepthys; and that Isis and Osiris, having a mutual affection, loved each other in their mother's womb before they were born, and that from this commerce sprang Aroueris, whom the Egyptians likewise call the elder Orus, and the Greeks Apollo.

Osiris, being now become king of Egypt, applied himself towards civilizing his countrymen, by turning them from their former indigent and barbarous course of life; he moreover taught them how to cultivate and improve the fruits of the earth; he gave them a body of laws to regulate their conduct by, and instructed them in that reverence and worship which they were to pay to the gods. With the same good disposition he afterwards travelled over the rest of the world inducing the people everywhere to submit to his discipline; not indeed compelling them by force of arms, but persuading them to yield to the strength of his reasons, which were conveyed to them in the most agreeable manner, in hymns and songs, accompanied by instruments of music: from which last circumstance the Greeks conclude him to have been the same with their Dionysius or Bacchus--During Osiris' absence from his kingdom, Typho had no opportunity of making any innovations in the state, Isis being extremely vigilant in the government, and always upon her guard. After his return, however, having first persuaded seventy-two other persons to join with him in the conspiracy, together with a certain queen of Ethiopia named Aso, who chanced to be in Egypt at that time, he contrived a proper stratagem to execute his base designs. For having privily taken the measure of Osiris' body, he caused a chest to be made exactly of the same size with it, as beautiful as may be, and set off with all the ornaments of art. This chest he brought into his banqueting-room; where, after it had been much admired by all who were present, Typho, as it were in jest, promised to give it to any one of them whose body upon trial it might be found to fit. Upon this the whole company, one after another, go into it; but as it did not fit any of them, last of all Osiris lays himself down in it, upon which the conspirators immediately ran together, clapped the cover upon it, and then fastened it down on the outside with nails, pouring likewise melted lead over it. After this they carried it away to the river side, and conveyed it to the sea by the Tanatic mouth of the Nile; which, for this reason, is still held in the utmost abomination by the Egyptians, and never named by them but with proper marks of detestation. These things, say they, were thus executed upon the 17th 1 day of the month Athyr, when the sun was in Scorpio, in the 28th year of Osiris' reign; though there are others who tell us that he was no more than 28 years old at this time.

"The first who knew the accident which had befallen their king were the Pans and Satyrs who inhabited the country about Chemmis (Panopolis); and they immediately acquainting the people with the news gave the first occasion to the name Panic Terrors, which has ever since been made use of to signify any sudden affright or amazement of a multitude. As to Isis, as soon as the report reached her she immediately cut off one of the locks of her hair 2 and put on mourning apparel upon the very spot where she then happened to be, which accordingly from this accident has ever since been called Koptis, or the city of mourning, though some are of opinion that this word rather signifies deprivation. After this she wandered everywhere about the country full of disquietude and perplexity in search of the chest, inquiring of every person she met with, even of some children whom she chanced to see, whether they knew what was become of it. Now it happened that these children had seen what Typho's accomplices had done with the body, and accordingly acquainted her by what mouth of the Nile it had been conveyed into the sea--For this reason therefore the Egyptians look upon children as endued with a kind of faculty of divining, and in consequence of this notion are very curious in observing the accidental prattle which they have with one another whilst they are at play (especially if it be in a sacred place), forming omens and presages from it--Isis, during this interval, having been informed that Osiris, deceived by her sister Nepthys who was in love with him, had unwittingly united with her instead of herself, as she concluded from the melilot-garland, 3 which he had left with her, made it her business likewise to search out the child, the fruit of this unlawful commerce (for her sister, dreading the anger of her husband Typho, had exposed it as soon as it was born), and accordingly, after much pains and difficulty, by means of some dogs that conducted her to the place where it was, she found it and bred it up; so that in process of time it became her constant guard and attendant, and from hence obtained the name of Anubis, being thought to watch and guard the gods, as dogs to mankind.

"At length she receives more particular news of the chest, that it had been carried by the waves of the sea to the coast of Byblos, l and there gently lodged in the branches of a bush of Tamarisk, which, in a short time, had shot up into a large and beautiful tree, growing round the chest and enclosing it on every side, so that it was not to be seen; and farther, that the king of the country, amazed at its unusual size, had cut the tree down, and made that part of the trunk wherein the chest was concealed, a pillar to support the roof of his house. These things, say they, being made known to Isis in an extraordinary manner by the report of Demons, she immediately went to Byblos; where, setting herself down by the side of a fountain, she refused to speak to anybody, excepting only to the queen's women who chanced to be there; these indeed she saluted and caressed in the kindest manner possible, plaiting their hair for them, and transmitting into them part of that wonderfully grateful odour which issued from her own body. This raised a great desire in the queen their mistress to see the stranger who had this admirable faculty of transfusing so fragrant a smell from herself into the hair and skin of other people. She therefore sent for her to court, and, after a further acquaintance with her, made her nurse to one of her sons. Now the name of the king who reigned at this time at Byblos, was Melcarthus, as that of his queen was Astarte, or, according to others, Saosis, though some call her Nemanoun, which answers to the Greek name Athenais.

Osiris of Hemopolis of Lower Egypt rising from his bier at the command of Horus. Mariette, Dendrah, IV, 72.

Setting up the Tet. From a bas-relief at Abydos.

The king handing the Tet to Isis. From a bas-relief at Abydos.

The Tet of Osiris, with the plumes, horns, disk, breastplate and pectoral of the god. From a bas-relief at Abydos.

The Tet from which proceed "Life" and a pair of arms supporting the solar disk.

From the Papyrus of Ani.

"Isis fed the child by giving it her finger to suck instead of the breast; she likewise put him every night into the fire in order to consume his mortal part, whilst transforming herself into a swallow, she hovered round the pillar and bemoaned her sad fate. Thus continued she to do for some time, till the queen, who stood watching her, observing the child to be all in a flame, cryed out, and thereby deprived him of that immortality which would otherwise have been conferred upon him. The Goddess upon this, discovering herself, requested that the pillar, which supported the roof, might be given her; which she accordingly took down, and then easily cutting it open, after she had taken out what she wanted, she wrapped up the remainder of the trunk in fine linnen, and pouring perfumed oil upon it, delivered it again into the hands of the king and queen (which piece of wood is to this day preserved in the temple of Isis, and worshipped by the people of Byblos). When this was done, she threw herself upon the chest, making at the same time such a loud and terrible lamentation over it, as frightened the younger of the king's sons, who heard her, out of his life. But the elder of them she took with her and set sail with the chest for Egypt; and it being now about morning, the river Phdrus sending forth a rough and sharp air, she in her anger dried up its current.

"No sooner was she arrived at a desart place, where she imagined herself to be alone, but she presently opened the chest, and laying her face upon her dead husband's, embraced his corpse, and wept bitterly, but perceiving that the little boy had silently stolen behind her, and found out the occasion of her grief, she turned herself about on the sudden, and in her anger gave him so fierce and stern a look that he immediately died of the affright. Others indeed say that his death did not happen. in this manner, but, as was hinted above, that he fell into the sea, and afterwards received the greatest honours on account of the Goddess; for that the Maneros, l whom the Egyptians so frequently call upon in their banquets, is none other than this very boy. This relation is again contradicted by such as tell us thalt the true name of the child was Palstinus, or Pelusius, and that the city of this name was built by the Goddess in memory of him; adding farther, that the Maneros above mentioned is thus honoured by the Egyptians at their feasts, because he was the first who invented music. There are others, again, who affirm that Maneros is not the name of any particular person, but a mere customary form, and complimental manner of greeting made use of by the Egyptians one towards another at their more solemn feasts and banquets, meaning no more by it, than to wish, that what they were then about might prove fortunate and happy to them, for that this is the true import, of the word. In like manner, say they, the human skeleton, which at these times of jollity is carried about in a box, and shewn to all the guests, is not designed, as some imagine, to represent the particular misfortunes of Osiris, but rather to remind them of their mortality, and thereby to excite them freely to make use of and to enjoy the good things which are set before them, seeing they must quickly become such as they there saw; and that this is the true reason of introducing it at their banquets--but to proceed in the narration.

"Isis intending a visit to her son Orus, who was brought up at Butus, deposited the chest in the meanwhile in a remote and unfrequented place: Typho however, as he was one night bunting by the light of the moon, accidentally met with it; and knowing the body which was enclosed in it, tore it into several pieces, fourteen in all, dispersing them up and down in different parts of the country--Upon being made acquainted with this event, Isis once more sets out in search of the scattered fragments of her husband's body, making use of a boat made of the reed Papyrus in order the more easily to pass thro' the lower and fenny parts of the country--For which reason, say they, the crocodile never touches any persons, who sail in this sort of vessels, as either fearing the anger of the goddess, or else respecting it on account of its having once carried her. To this occasion therefore is it to be imputed, that there are so many different sepulchres of Osiris shewn in Egypt; for we are told, that wherever Isis met with any of the scattered limbs of her husband, she there buried it. There are others however who contradict this relation, and tell us, that this variety of Sepulchres was owing rather to the policy of the queen, who, instead of the real body, as was pretended, presented these several cities with the image only of her husband: and that she did this, not only to render the honours, which would by this means be paid to his memory, more extensive, but likewise that she might hereby elude the malicious search of Typho; who, if he got the better of Orus in the war wherein they were going to be engaged, distracted by this multiplicity of Sepulchres, might despair of being able to find the true one--we are told moreover, that notwithstanding all her search, Isis was never able to recover the member of Osiris, which having been thrown into the Nile immediately upon its separation from the rest of the body, had been devoured by the Lepidotus, the Phagrus, and the Oxyrynchus, fish which of all others, for this reason, the Egyptians have in more especial avoidance. In order however to make some amends for the loss, Isis consecrated the Phallus made in imitation of it, and instituted a solemn festival to its memory, which is even to this day observed by the Egyptians.

"After these things, Osiris returning from the other world, appeared to his son Orus, encouraged him to the battle, and at the same time instructed him in the exercise of arms. He then asked him, 'what he thought was the most glorious action a man could perform?' to which Orus replied, 'to revenge the injuries offered to his father and mother.' He then asked him, 'what animal he thought most serviceable to a soldier?' and being answered 'a horse'; this raised the wonder of Osiris, so that he farther questioned him, 'why he preferred a horse before a lion?' because, adds Orus, 'tho' the lion be the more serviceable creature to one who stands in need of help, yet is the horse 1 more useful in overtaking and cutting off a flying adversary.' These replies much rejoiced Osiris, as they showed him that his son was sufficiently prepared for his enemy--We are moreover, told, that among the great numbers who were continually deserting from Typho's party was his concubine Thueris, and that a serpent pursuing her as she was coming over to Orus, was slain by her soldiers--the memory of which action, say they, is still preserved in that cord which is thrown into the midst of their assemblies, and then chopt into pieces--After wards it came to a battle between them which lasted many days; but victory at length inclined to Orus, Typho himself being taken prisoner. Isis however, to whose custody he was committed, was so far from putting him to death, that she even loosed his bonds and set him at liberty. This action of his mother so extremely incensed Orus, that he laid hands upon her, and pulled off the ensign of royalty which she wore on her head; and instead thereof Hermes clapt on an helmet made in the shape of an oxe's head--After this, Typho publicly accused Orus of bastardy; but by the assistance of Hermes (Thoth) his legitimacy was fully established by the judgment of the Gods themselves--After this, there were two other battles fought between them, in both of which Typho had the worst. Furthermore, Isis is said to have accompanied with Osiris after his death, and in consequence hereof to have brought forth Harpocrates, who came into the world before his time, and lame in his lower limbs."

When we examine this story by the light of the results of hieroglyphic decipherment, we find that a large portion of it is substantiated by Egyptian texts: e.g., Osiris was the son of Seb and Nut; the Epact is known in the Calendars as "the five additional days of the year"; the five gods, Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys, were born on the days mentioned by Plutarch; the 17th day of Athyr (Hathor) is marked as triply unlucky in the Calendars; the wanderings and troubles of Isis are described, and "lamentations" which she is supposed to have uttered are found in the texts; lists of the shrines of Osiris are preserved in several inscriptions; the avenging of his father by Horus is referred to frequently in papyri and other documents; the conflict between Set and Horus is described fully in a papyrus in the British Museum (No. 10,184); a hymn in the papyrus of Hunefer relates all that Thoth performed for Osiris; and the begetting of Horus by Osiris after death is mentioned in a hymn to Osiris dating from the XVIIIth dynasty in the following passage:--

Thy sister put forth her protecting power for thee, she scattered abroad those who were her enemies, she drove away evil hap, she pronounced mighty words of power, she made cunning her tongue, and her words failed not. The glorious Isis was perfect in command and in speech, and she avenged her brother. She sought him without ceasing, she wandered round and round the earth uttering cries of pain, and she rested (or alighted) not until she had found him. She overshadowed him with her feathers, she made air (or wind) with her wings, and she uttered cries at the burial of her brother. She raised up the prostrate form of him whose heart was still, she took from him of his essence, she conceived and brought forth a child, she suckled it in secret, and none knew the place thereof; and the arm of the child hath waxed strong in the great house of Seb. The company of the gods rejoice, and are glad at the coming of Osiris's son Horus, and firm of heart and triumphant is the son of Isis, the heir of Osiris." 1

What form the details of the history of Osiris took in the early dynasties it is impossible to say, and we know not whether Osiris was the god of the resurrection to the predynastic or prehistoric Egyptians, or whether that rle was attributed to him after Mena began to rule in Egypt. There is, however, good reason for assuming that in the earliest dynastic times he occupied the position of god and judge of those who had risen from the dead by his help, for already in the IVth dynasty, about B.C. 3800, king Men-kau-R (the Mycerinus of the Greeks) is identified with him, and on his coffin not only is he called "Osiris, King of the South and North, Men-kau-R, living for ever," but the genealogy of Osiris is attributed to him, and he is declared to be "born of heaven, offspring of Nut, flesh and bone of Seb." It is evident that the priests of Heliopolis "edited" the religious texts copied and multiplied in the College to suit their own views, but in the early times when they began their work, the worship of Osiris was so widespread, and the belief in him as the god of the resurrection so deeply ingrained in the hearts of the Egyptians, that even in the Heliopolitan system of theology Osiris and his cycle, or company of gods, were made to hold a very prominent position. He represented to men the idea of a man who was both god and man, and he typified to the Egyptians in all ages the being who by reason of his sufferings and death as a man could sympathize with them in their own sickness and death. The idea of his human personality also satisfied their cravings and yearnings for intercourse with a being who, though he was partly divine, yet had much in common with themselves. Originally they looked upon Osiris as a man who lived on the earth as they lived, who ate and drank, who suffered a cruel death, who by the help of certain gods triumphed over death, and attained unto everlasting life. But what Osiris did they could do, and what the gods did for Osiris they must also do for them, and as the gods brought about his resurrection so they must bring about theirs, and as they made him the ruler of the underworld so they must make them to enter his kingdom and to live there as long as the god himself lived. Osiris, in some of his aspects, was identified with the Nile, and with R, and with several other "gods" known to the Egyptians, but it was in his aspect as god of the resurrection and of eternal life that he appealed to men in the valley of the Nile; and for thousands of years men and women died believing that, inasmuch as all that was done for Osiris would be done for them symbolically, they like him would rise again and inherit life everlasting. However far back we trace religious ideas in Egypt, we never approach a time when it can be said that there did not exist a belief in the Resurrection, for everywhere it is assumed that Osiris rose from the dead; sceptics must have existed, and they probably asked their priests what the Corinthians asked Saint Paul, "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" But beyond doubt the belief in the Resurrection was accepted by the dominant classes in Egypt. The ceremonies which the Egyptians performed with the view of assisting the deceased to pass the ordeal of the judgment, and to overcome his enemies in the next world, will be described elsewhere, as also will be the form in which the dead were raised up; we therefore return to the theological history of Osiris.

  • 1- Isis suckling her child in the papyrus swamps.

  • 2- Thoth giving the emblem of magic protection to Isis.

  • 3- Amen-R presenting the symbol of "Life" to Isis.

  • 4- The goddess Nekhebet presenting years, and life, stability, power and sovereignty to the son of Osiris.

  • 5- The goddess Sati presenting periods of years, and life, stability, power and sovereignty to the son of Osiris.

  • Osiris Hemka begetting a son by Isis, who hovers over him in the form of a hawk. Anubis, Horus, Nephthys and Shentit are present. Mariette, Dendrah, IV, 90.


    Osiris on his bier under which are the vases containing his intestines. Mariette, Dendrah, IV, 70.


    The centre and home of the worship of Osiris in Egypt under the early dynasties was Abydos, where the head of the god was said to be buried. It spread north and south in the course of time, and several large cities claimed to possess one or other of the limbs of his body. The various episodes in the life of the god were made the subject of solemn representations in the temple, and little by little the performance of the obligatory and non-obligatory services in connection with them occupied, in certain temples, the greater part of the time of the priests. The original ideas concerning the god were forgotten and new ones grew up.; from being the example of a man who had risen from the dead and had attained unto life everlasting, he became the cause of the resurrection of the dead; and the power to bestow eternal life upon mortals was transferred from the gods to him. The alleged dismemberment of Osiris was forgotten in the fact that he dwelt in a perfect body in the underworld, and that, whether dismembered or not, he had become after his death the father of Horus by Isis. As early as the XIIth dynasty, about B.C. 2500, the worship of this god had become almost universal, and a thousand years later Osiris had become a sort of national god. The attributes of the great cosmic gods were ascribed to him, and he appeared to man not only as the god and judge of the dead, but also as the creator of the world and of all things in it. He who was the son of R became the equal of his father, and he took his place side by side with him in heaven.

    We have an interesting proof of the identification of Osiris with R in Chapter XVII. of the Book of the Dead. It will be remembered that this Chapter consists of a series of what might almost be called articles of faith, each of which is followed by one or more explanations which represent one or more quite different opinions; the Chapter also is accompanied by a series of Vignettes. In line 110 it is said, "I am the soul which dwelleth in the two tchafi. 1 What is this then? It is Osiris when he goeth into Tattu (i.e., Busiris) and findeth there the soul of R; there the one god embraceth the other, and souls spring into being within the two tchafi." In the Vignette which illustrates this passage the souls of R, and Osiris are seen in the forms of hawks standing on a pylon and facing each other in Tattu; the former has upon his head a disk, and the latter, who is human-headed, the white crown. It is a noticeable fact that even at his meeting with R the soul of Osiris preserves the human face, the sign of his kinship with man.

    Now Osiris became not only the equal of R, but, in many respects, a greater god than he. It is said that from the nostrils of the head of Osiris, which was buried at Abydos, came forth the scarabus 2 which was at once the emblem and type of the god Khepera, who caused all things to come into being, and of the resurrection. In this manner Osiris became the source and origin of gods, men, and things, and The animal-headed man, with knives stuck in his body and bound by his arms to a forked stick, represents Set or Typhon, conquered. the manhood of the god was forgotten. The next step was to ascribe to him the attributes of God, and in the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties he seems to have disputed the sovereignty of the three companies of gods, that is to say of the trinity of trinities of trinities, 1 with Amen-R, who by this time was usually called the "king of the gods." The ideas held concerning Osiris at this period will best be judged by the following extracts from contemporary hymns:--

    The soul of R (1) meeting the soul of Osiris (2 ) in Tattu. The cat (i.e., R) by the persea tree (3) cutting off the head of the serpent which typified night.


    Horus and his four sons, each armed with a knife, standing before Osiris and Serapis.

    "Glory 2 be to thee, O Osiris, Un-nefer, the great god within Abtu (Abydos), king of eternity, lord of ever-lastingness, who passest through millions of years in thy existence. The eldest son of the womb of Nut, engendered by Seb the Ancestor [of the gods], lord of the crowns of the South and of the North, lord of the lofty white crown; as prince of gods and men he hath received the crook and the whip, and the dignity of his divine fathers. Let thy heart, which dwelleth in the mountain of Ament, be content, for thy son Horus is stablished upon thy throne. Thou art crowned lord of Tattu (Busiris) and ruler in Abydos."

    "Praise 3 be unto thee, O Osiris, lord of eternity, Un-nefer, Heru-Khuti (Harmachis) whose forms are manifold, and whose attributes are great, who art Ptah-Seker-Tem in Annu (Heliopolis), the lord of the hidden place, and the creator of Het-ka-Ptah (Memphis) and of the gods [therein], the guide of the underworld, whom [the gods] glorify when thou settest in Nut. Isis embraceth thee in peace, and she driveth away the fiends from the mouth of thy paths. Thou turnest thy face upon Amentet, and thou makest the earth to shine as with refined copper. The dead rise up to see thee, they breathe the air and they look upon thy face when the disk riseth on its horizon; their hearts are at peace, inasmuch as they behold thee, O thou who art eternity and everlastingness."

    In the latter extract Osiris is identified with the great gods of Heliopolis and Memphis, where shrines of the Sun-god existed in almost pre-dynastic times, and finally is himself declared to be "eternity and everlastingness"; thus the ideas of resurrection and immortality are united in the same divine being. In the following Litany the process of identification with the gods is continued:--

    1. "Homage to thee, O thou who art the starry deities in Annu, and the heavenly beings in Kher-ba; 1 thou god Unti, 2 who art more glorious than the gods who are hidden in Annu. O grant thou unto me a path whereon I may pass in peace, for I am just and true; I have not spoken lies wittingly, nor have I done aught with deceit."

    2. "Homage to thee, O An in Antes, Harmachis; thou stridest over heaven with long strides, O Harmachis. O grant thou unto me a path," etc. 1

    3. "Homage to thee, O soul of everlastingness, thou Soul who dwellest in Tattu, Un-nefer, son of Nut; thou art lord of Akert (i.e., the underworld). O grant thou unto me a path," etc.

    4. "Homage to thee in thy dominion over Tattu; the Ureret crown is stablished upon thy head; thou art the One who maketh the strength which protecteth himself, and thou dwellest in peace in Tattu. O grant thou unto me a path," etc.

    5. "Homage to thee, O lord of the Acacia 2 tree, the Seker boat 3 is set upon its sledge; thou turnest back the Fiend, the worker of Evil, and thou causest the Utchat (i.e., the Eye of Horus or R), to rest upon its seat. O grant thou unto me a path," etc.

    6. "Homage to thee, O thou who art mighty in thine hour, thou great and mighty Prince, dweller in An-rut-f, 4 lord of eternity and creator of everlastingness, thou art the lord of Suten-henen (i.e., Heracleopolis Magna). O grant," etc.

    7. "Homage to thee, O thou who restest upon Right and Truth thou art lord of Abydos, and thy limbs are joined unto Ta-tchesert (i.e., the Holy Land, the underworld); thou art he to whom fraud and guile are hateful. O grant," etc.

    8. "Homage to thee, O thou who art within thy boat, thou bringest Hpi (i.e., the Nile) forth from his source; the light shineth upon thy body, and thou art the dweller in Nekhen. O grant," etc.

    9. "Homage to thee, O creator of the gods, thou king of the South and of the North, O Osiris, victorious one, ruler of the world in thy gracious seasons; thou art the lord of the celestial world. O grant," etc.

    And, again: "R setteth as Osiris with all the diadems of the divine spirits und of the gods of Amentet. He is the one divine form, the hidden one of the Tuat, the holy Soul at the head of Amentet, Un-nefer, whose duration of life is for ever and ever."1

    We have already referred to the help which Thoth gave to Isis when he provided her with the words which caused her dead husband to live again, but the best summary of the good deeds which this god wrought for Osiris is contained in a hymn in the Papyrus of Hunefer,2 where the deceased is made to say:--

    "I have come unto thee, O son of Nut, Osiris, Prince of everlastingness; I am in the following of the god Thoth, and I have rejoiced at everything which he hath done for thee. He brought the sweet air into thy nostrils, and life and strength to thy beautiful face; and the north wind which cometh forth from Temu for thy nostrils, O lord of Ta-tchesert. He made the god Shu to shine upon thy body; he illumined thy path with rays of light; he destroyed for thee the faults and defects of thy members by the magical power of the words of his mouth; he made Set and Horus to be at peace for thy sake; he destroyed the storm-wind and the hurricane; he made the two combatants (i.e., Set and Horus) to be gracious unto thee and the two lands to be at peace before thee; he did away the wrath which was in their hearts, and each became reconciled unto his brother (i.e., thyself).

    "Thy son Horus is triumphant in the presence of the full assembly of the gods, the sovereignty over the world hath been given unto him, and his dominion extendeth unto the uttermost parts of the earth. The throne of the god Seb hath been adjudged unto him, together with the rank which was created by the god Temu, and which hath been stablished by decrees [made] in the Chamber of Archives, and hath been inscribed upon an iron tablet according to the command of thy father Ptah-Tanen when be sat upon the great throne. He hath set his brother upon that which the god Shu beareth up (i.e., the heavens), to stretch out the waters over the mountains, and to make to spring up that which groweth upon the hills, and the grain (?) which shooteth upon the earth, and he giveth increase by water and by land. Gods celestial and gods terrestrial transfer themselves to the service of thy son Horus, and they follow him into his hall [where] a decree is passed that he shall be lord over them, and they do [his will] straightway.

    "Let the heart rejoice, O lord of the gods, let thy heart rejoice greatly; Egypt and the Red Land are at peace, and they serve humbly under thy sovereign power. The temples are stablished upon their own lands, cities and nomes possess securely the goods which they have in their names, and we will make unto thee the divine offerings which we are bound to make, and offer sacrifices in thy name for ever. Acclamations are made in thy name, libations are poured out to thy KA, and sepulchral meals [are brought unto thee] by the spirits who are in thy following, and water is sprinkled]. . . . on each side of the souls of the dead in this land. Every plan for thee which hath been decreed by the commands of R from the beginning hath been perfected. Now therefore, O son of Nut, thou art crowned as Neb-er-teber is crowned at his rising. Thou livest, thou art stablished, thou renewest thy youth, and thou art true and perfect; thy father R maketh strong thy members, and the company of the gods make acclamations unto thee. The goddess Isis is with thee and she never leaveth thee; [thou art] not overthrown by thine enemies. The lords of all lands praise thy beauties, even as they praise R when he riseth at the beginning of each day. Thou risest up like an exalted being upon thy standard, thy beauties lift up the face [of man] and make long [his] stride. The sovereignty of thy father Seb hath been given unto thee, and the goddess Nut, thy mother, who gave birth to the gods, brought thee forth as the firstborn of five gods, and created thy beauties and fashioned thy members. Thou art stablished as king, the white crown is upon thy head, and thou hast grasped in thy hands the crook and whip; whilst thou wert in the womb, and hadst not as yet come forth therefrom upon the earth, thou wert crowned lord of the two lands, and the 'Atef' crown of R was upon thy brow. The gods come unto thee bowing low to the ground, and they hold thee in fear; they retreat and depart when they see thee with the terror of R, and the victory of thy Majesty is in their hearts. Life is with thee, and offerings of meat and drink follow thee, and that which is thy due is offered up before thy face."

    In one paragraph of another somewhat similar hymn 1 other aspects of Osiris are described, and after the words "Homage to thee, O Governor of those who are in Amentet," he is called the being who "giveth birth unto men and women a second time," 2 i.e., "who maketh mortals to be born again." As the whole paragraph refers to Osiris "renewing himself," and to his making himself "young like unto R each and every day," there can be no doubt that the resurrection of the dead, that is to say, their birth into a new life, is what the writer means by the second birth of men and women. From this passage also we may see that Osiris has become the equal of R, and that he has passed from being the god of the dead to being the god of the living. Moreover, at the time when the above extracts were copied Osiris was not only assumed to have occupied the position which R formerly held, but his son Horus, who was begotten after his death, was, by virtue of his victory over Set, admitted to be the heir and successor of Osiris. And he not only succeeded to the "rank and dignity" of his father Osiris, but in his aspect of "avenger of his father," he gradually acquired the peculiar position of intermediary and intercessor on behalf of the children of men. Thus in the Judgment Scene he leads the deceased into the presence of Osiris and makes an appeal to his father that the deceased may be allowed to enjoy the benefits enjoyed by all those who are "true of voice" and justified in the judgment. Such an appeal, addressed to Osiris in the presence of Isis, from the son born under such remarkable circumstances was, the Egyptian thought, certain of acceptance; and the offspring of a father, after the death Osiris in his closed shrine, accompanied by Isis and his four grandsons. From the Papyrus of Ani.of whose body he was begotten, was naturally the best advocate for the deceased.

    Osiris in his closed shrine, accompanied by Isis and his four grandsons. From the Papyrus of Ani.

    Thoth and Horus binding together the thrones of Osiris, Isis and Nephthys.

    Mariette, Abydos, Vol. I, Plate 31.

    But although such exalted ideas of Osiris and his position among the gods obtained generally in Egypt during the XVIIIth dynasty (about B.C. 1600) there is evidence that some believed that in spite of every precaution the body might decay, and that it was necessary to make a special appeal unto Osiris if this dire result was to be avoided. The following remarkable prayer was first found inscribed upon a linen swathing which had enveloped the mummy of Thothmes III., but since that time the text, written in hieroglyphics, has been found inscribed upon the Papyrus of Nu, l and it is, of course, to be found also in the late papyrus preserved at Turin, which the late Dr. Lepsius published so far back as 1842. This text, which is now generally known as Chapter CLIV of the Book of the Dead, is entitled "The Chapter of not letting the body perish." The text begins:--

    "Homage to thee, O my divine father Osiris! I have come to thee that thou mayest embalm, yea embalm these my members, for I would not perish and come to an end, [but would be] even like unto my divine father Khepera, the divine type of him that never saw corruption. Come, then, and make me to have the mastery over my breath, O thou lord of the winds, who dost magnify those divine beings who are like unto thyself. Stablish thou me, then, and strengthen me, O lord of the funeral chest. Grant thou that I may enter into the land of everlastingness, even as it was granted unto thee, and unto thy father Temu, O thou whose body did not see corruption, and who thyself never sawest corruption. I have never wrought that which thou hatest, nay, I have uttered acclamations with those who have loved thy KA. Let not my body turn into worms, but deliver me [from them] even as thou didst deliver thyself. I beseech thee, let me not fall into rottenness as thou dost let every god, and every goddess, and every animal, and every reptile to see corruption when the soul hath gone forth from them after their death. For when the soul departeth, a man seeth corruption, and the bones of his body rot and become wholly loathsomeness, the members decay piecemeal, the bones crumble into an inert mass, the flesh turneth into ftid liquid, and he becometh a brother unto the decay which cometh upon him. And he turneth into a host of worms, and he becometh a mass of worms, and an end is made of him, and he perisheth in the sight of the god Shu even as doth every god, and every goddess, and every feathered fowl, and every fish, and every creeping thing, and every reptile, and every animal, and every thing whatsoever. When the worms see me and know me, let them fall upon their bellies, and let the fear of me terrify them; and thus let it be with every creature after [my] death, whether it be animal, or bird, or fish, or worm, or reptile. And let life arise out of death. Let not decay caused by any reptile make an end [of me], and let not them come against me in their various forms. Do not thou give me over unto that slaughterer who dwelleth in his torture-chamber (?), who killeth the members of the body and maketh them to rot, who worketh destruction upon many dead bodies, whilst he himself remaineth hidden and liveth by slaughter; let me live and perform his message, and let me do that which is commanded by him. Give me not over unto his fingers, and let him not gain the mastery over me, for I am under thy command, O lord of the gods.

    Homage to thee, O my divine father Osiris, thou hast thy being with thy members. Thou didst not decay, thou didst not become worms, thou didst not diminish, thou didst not become corruption, thou didst not putrefy, and thou didst not turn into worms."

    The deceased then identifying himself with Khepera, the god who created Osiris and his company of gods, says:--

    "I am the god Khepera, and my members shall have an everlasting existence. I shall not decay, I shall not rot, I shall not putrefy, I shall not turn into worms, and I shall not see corruption under the eye of the god Shu. I shall have my being, I shall have my being; I shall live, I shall live; I shall germinate, I shall germinate, I shall germinate; I shall wake up in peace. I shall not putrefy; my bowels shall not perish; I shall not suffer injury; mine eye shall not decay; the form of my countenance shall not disappear; mine ear shall not become deaf; my head shall not be separated from my neck; my tongue shall not be carried away; my hair shall not be cut off; mine eyebrows shall not be shaved off, and no baleful injury shall come upon me. My body shall be stablished, and it shall neither fall into ruin nor be destroyed on this earth."

    Judging from such passages as those given above we might think that certain of the Egyptians expected a resurrection of the physical body, and the mention of the various members of the body seems to make this view certain. But the body of which the incorruption and immortality are so strongly declared is the SHU, or spiritual body, that sprang into existence out of the physical body, which had become transformed by means of the prayers that had been recited and the ceremonies that had been performed on the day of the funeral, or on that wherein it was laid in the tomb. It is interesting to notice that no mention is made of meat or drink in the CLIVth Chapter, and the only thing which the deceased refers to as necessary for his existence is air, which he obtains through the god Temu, the god who is always depicted in human form; the god is here mentioned in his aspect of the night Sun as opposed to R the day Sun, and a comparison of the Sun's daily death with the death of the deceased is intended to be made. The deposit of the head of the God-man Osiris at Abydos has already been mentioned, and the belief that it was preserved there was common throughout Egypt. But in the text quoted above the deceased says, "My head shall not be separated from my neck," which seems to indicate that he wished to keep his body whole, notwithstanding that Osiris was almighty, and could restore the limbs and reconstitute the body, even as he had done for his own limbs and body which had been hacked to pieces by Set. Chapter XLIII of the Book of the Dead 1 also has an important reference to the head of Osiris. It is entitled "The Chapter of not letting the head of a man be cut off from him in the underworld," and must be of considerable antiquity. In it the deceased says: "I am the Great One, the son of the Great One; I am Fire, and the son of the Fire, to whom was given his head after it had been cut off. The head of Osiris was not taken away from him, let not the head of the deceased be taken away from him. I have knit myself together (or reconstituted myself); I have made myself whole and complete; I have renewed my youth; I am Osiris, the lord of eternity."

    From the above it would seem that, according to one version of the Osiris story, the head of Osiris was not only cut off, but that it was passed through the fire also; and if this version be very ancient, as it well may be and probably is, it takes us back to prehistoric times in Egypt when the bodies of the dead were mutilated and burned. Prof. Wiedemann thinks 1 that the mutilation and breaking of the bodies of the dead were the results of the belief that in order to make the KA, or "double," leave this earth, the body to which it belonged must be broken, and he instances the fact that objects of every kind were broken at the time when they were placed in the tombs. He traces also a transient custom in the prehistoric graves of Egypt where the methods of burying the body whole and broken into pieces seem to be mingled, for though in some of them the body has been broken into pieces, it is evident that successful attempts have been made to reconstitute it by laying the pieces as far as possible in their proper places. And it may be this custom which is referred to in various places in the Book of the Dead, when the deceased declares that he has collected his limbs "and made his body whole again," and already in the Vth dynasty King Teta is thus addressed--"Rise up, O thou Teta! Thou hast received thy head, thou hast knitted together thy bones, 2 thou hast collected thy members."

    The history of Osiris, the god of the resurrection, has now been traced from the earliest times to the end of the period of the rule of the priests of Amen (about B.C. 900), by which time Amen-R had been thrust in among the gods of the underworld, and prayers were made, in some cases, to him instead of to Osiris. From this time onwards Amen maintained this exalted position, and in the Ptolemaic period, in an address to the deceased Kersher we read "Thy face shineth before R, thy soul liveth before Amen, and thy body is renewed before Osiris." And again it is said, "Amen is nigh unto thee to make thee to live again. . . . Amen cometh to thee having the breath of life, and he causeth thee to draw thy breath within thy funeral house." But in spite of this, Osiris kept and held the highest place in the minds of the Egyptians, front first to last, as the God-man, the being who was both divine and human; and no foreign invasion, and no religious or political disturbances, and no influence which any outside peoples could bring, to bear upon them, succeeded in making them regard the god as anything less than the cause and symbol and type of the resurrection, and of the life everlasting. For about five thousand years men were mummified in imitation of the mummied form of Osiris; and they went to their graves believing that their bodies would vanquish the powers of death, and the grave, and decay, because Osiris had vanquished them; and they had certain hope of the resurrection in an immortal, eternal, and spiritual body, because Osiris had risen in a- transformed spiritual body, and had ascended into heaven, where he had become the kin- and the judge of the dead, and had attained unto everlasting life therein.

    The chief reason for the persistence of the worship of Osiris in Egypt was, probably, the fact that it promised both resurrection and eternal life to its followers. Even after the Egyptians had embraced Christianity they continued to mummify their dead, and for long after they continued to mingle the attributes of their God and the "gods" with those of God Almighty and Christ. The Egyptians of their own will never got away from the belief that the body must be mummified if eternal life was to be assured to the dead, but the Christians, though preaching the same doctrine of the resurrection as the Egyptians, went a step further, and insisted that there was no need to mummify the dead at all. St. Anthony the Great besought his followers not to embalm his body and keep it in a house, but to bury it and to tell no man where it had been buried, lest those who loved him should come and draw it forth, and mummify it as they were wont to do to the bodies of those whom they regarded as saints. "For long past," he said, "I have entreated the bishops and preachers to exhort the people not to continue to observe this useless custom"; and concerning his own body, he said, "At the resurrection of the dead I shall receive it from the Saviour incorruptible." 1 The spread of this idea gave the art of mummifying its death-blow, and though from innate conservatism, and the love of having the actual bodies of their beloved dead near them, the Egyptians continued for a time to preserve their dead as before, yet little by little the reasons for mummifying were forgotten, the knowledge of the art died out, the funeral ceremonies were curtailed, the prayers became a dead letter, and the custom of making mummies became obsolete. With the death of the art died also the belief in and the worship of Osiris, who from being the god of the dead became a dead god, and to the Christians of Egypt, at least, his place was filled by Christ, "the firstfruits of them that slept," Whose resurrection and power to grant eternal life were at that time being preached throughout most of the known world. In Osiris the Christian Egyptians found the prototype of Christ, and in the pictures and statues of Isis suckling her son Horus, they perceived the prototypes of the Virgin Mary and her Child. Never did Christianity find elsewhere in the world a people whose minds were so thoroughly well prepared to receive its doctrines as the Egyptians.

    This chapter may be fittingly ended by a few extracts from the Songs of Isis and Nephthys, which were sung in the Temple of Amen-R at Thebes by two priestesses who personified the two goddesses. 1

    "Hail, thou lord of the underworld, thou Bull of those who are therein, thou Image of R-Harmachis, thou Babe of beautiful appearance, come thou to us in peace. Thou didst repel thy disasters, thou didst drive away evil hap; Lord, come to us in peace. O Un-nefer, lord of food, thou chief, thou who art of terrible majesty, thou God, president of the gods, when thou dost inundate the land [all] things are engendered. Thou art gentler than the gods. The emanations of thy body make the dead and the living to live, O thou lord of food, thou prince of green herbs, thou mighty lord, thou staff of life, thou giver of offerings to the gods, and of sepulchral meals to the blessed dead. Thy soul flieth after R, thou shinest at dawn, thou settest at twilight, thou risest every day; thou shalt rise on the left hand of Atmu for ever and ever. Thou art the glorious one, the vicar of R; the company of the gods cometh to thee invoking thy face, the flame whereof reacheth unto thine enemies. We rejoice when thou gatherest together thy bones, and when thou hast made whole thy body daily. Anubis cometh to thee, and the two sisters (i.e., Isis and Nephthys) come to thee. They have obtained beautiful things for thee, and they gather together thy limbs for thee, and they seek to put together the mutilated members of thy body. Wipe thou the impurities which are on them upon our hair and come thou to us having no recollection of that which hath caused thee sorrow. Come thou in thy attribute of 'Prince of the earth,' lay aside thy trepidation and be at peace with us, O Lord. Thou shalt be proclaimed heir of the world, and the One god, and the fulfiller of the designs of the gods. All the gods invoke thee, come therefore to thy temple and go be not afraid. O R (i.e., Osiris), thou art beloved of Isis and Nephthys; rest thou in thy habitation for ever."

    The Belief in God Almighty Home The "Gods" of the Egyptians


    Footnotes

    62:1 Plutarchi de Iside et Osiride liber: Grce et Anglice. By S. Squire, Cambridge, 1744.

    62:2 I.e., Nut.

    62:3 I.e., Seb.

    63:1 I.e., R

    63:2 I.e., Heru-ur, "Horus the Elder."

    64:1 I.e., Set.

    66:1 In the Egyptian calendar this day was marked triply unlucky.

    66:2 The hair cut off as a sign of mourning was usually laid in the tomb of the dead.

    67:3 I.e., a wreath of clover.

    68:1 Not the Byblos of Syria (Jebl) but the papyrus swamps of the Delta.

    72:1 A son of the first Egyptian king, who died in his early youth see Herodotus, ii. 79.

    75:1 The horse does not appear to have been known in Egypt before the XVIIIth dynasty; this portion of Plutarch's version of the history of Osiris must, then, be later than B.C. 1500.

    78:1 This remarkable hymn was first made known by Chabas, who published a translation of it, with notes, in Revue Archologique, Paris, 1857, t. xiv. p. 65 ff.

    84:1 I.e., the souls of Osiris and R.

    84:2 See von Bergmann in Aeg. Zeitschrift, 1880, p. 88 ff.

    87:1 Each company of the gods contained three trinities or triads.

    87:2 See Chapters of Coming Forth by Day (translation), p. 11.

    87:3 Ibid., p. 34.

    88:1 A district near Memphis.

    88:2 A god who walks before the boat of the god Af, holding a star in each hand.

    89:1 This petition is only written once, but it is intended to be repeated after each of the nine sections of the Litany.

    89:2 This tree was in Heliopolis, and the Cat, i.e., the Sun, sat near it.

    89:3 The ceremony of setting the Seker boat on its sledge was performed at dawn.

    89:4 The place where nothing grows--the underworld.

    90:1 See Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, p. 334.

    90:2 Ibid., p. 343.

    93:1 See Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, p. 342.

    93:2 The words are mes tememu em nem.

    97:1 Brit. Mus., No. 10,477, sheet 18. I have published the text in my Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, pp. 398-402.

    101:1 See The Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, p. 98.

    102:1 See J. do Morgan, Ethnographie Prhistorique, p. 210.

    102:2 Recueil de Travaux, tom. v. p. 40 (1. 287).

    105:1 See Rosweyde, Vitae Patrum, p. 59; Life of St. Anthony, by Athanasius (Migne), Patrologi, Ser. Graec. tom. 26, col. 972.

    106:1 See my Hieratic Papyrus of Nesi-Amsu (Archologia, vol. lii.)


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