Egypt: Gods - Osiris as Water God

Osiris as Water God

Among a people like the Egyptians it would not be very long before the annual rise, and inundation, and fall of the Nile would be compared to the chief periods in the lives of men, and before the renewed rise of the Nile in the following year would be compared to man's immortality, which in Egypt was taken for granted from the earliest times; and that this exactly is what happened the hierglyphic texts suppply abundant proof. Unfortunately, however, we find nowhere in Egyptian works a connected narrative of the life, acts and deeds, and sufferings and death, and resurrection of Osiris, the man-god, but we possess a tolerably accurate account of them in Plutarch's De Iside et Osiride. According to these Osiris was the son of Rhea, the Egyptian Nut, the wife of Helios, the Egyptian Ra, by Kronos, the Egyptian Seb. When Helios found his wife was with child by Seb he declared that she should not be delivered of her child of any month or on any year. By a stratagem, Hermes, the Egyptian Thoth, played at tables with Selene, and won from her the seventieth part of each day of the year, i.e., in all five days Osiris was born, and a voice was heard to proclaim that the lord of creation was born. In due course he became king of Egypt and taught men husbandry, and established a code of laws, and made men worship the gods. When Egypt had become peaceful and prosperous he set out to instruct the other nations of the world, and Isis riled Egypt during his absence. On his return Typhon, the Egyptian Set, and his seventy-two comrades, made Osirsi to lie down in a chest, which was immediately closed by them, and cast into the Nile, which carried it down to its Tanaitic mouths. When Isis heard what had befallen her husband she cut off the lock of her hair as a sign of grief, and then set out to find his dead body. At length she traced it to Byblos, where it had been carried by the sea, and she found that the waves had gently laid it among the branches of a tamarisk tree, which had grown to a magnificent size, and had enclosed the chest within its trunk. The Babylos here referred to is not Byblos in Phoenicia, but the papyrus swamps of Egypt, which are carried in Egyptian Athu, a name meaning "papyrus plants;" the Greeks rendered the Egyptian word for "papyrus" the Greeks rendered the Egyptian word for "papyrus" by BuBros, and some copyist of the Greek text misunderstood the signification of the word in this passage, and rendered it by the name of the city of Phoenicia.

The king of the country, admiring the tree, had it cut down and made a pillar for the roof of his house; it is this tree trunk which is referred to by the hierhlyphic sign tet, and which is continually used in the texts with reference to Osiris. It has been said to represent a mason's table, but the four cross-bars have nothing to do with such a thing, for they are intended to indicate the four branches of a roof-tree of a which were turned to the four cardinal points. When Isis heard that the tree had been cut down, she went to the palace of the king, and through the good offices of the royal maidens she was made nurse to the king's son. Instead of nursing the child in the ordinary way, Isis gave him her finger to suck, and each night she put him the fire to consume his mortal parts, changing herself all the while into a swallow an bemoaning her fate. On one occasion the queen saw her son in the flames, and cried out, and thus deprived him of immortality. Then Isis told the queen her story, and begged for the pillar which supported the roof. This she cut open, and took out the chest and her husband's body, and departed with them to Egypt; having arrived there she hid the chest and set in quest of her son Horus.

One night, however, Typhon was out hunting by the light of the moon, an he found the chest, and recognizing the body, tore it into fourteen pieces, which he scattered up and down throughout the land. When Isis heard of this she took a boat made of papyrus --- a plant abhorred by crocodiles--- and sailing about she gathered together the fragments of Osiris's body, wheresoever she found one, and buried it and built a tomb over it. Meanwhile Horus had grown up, and being encouraged in the use of arms by Osiris, who returned from the other world, he went out to do battle with Typhon the murderer of his father. The fight lasted some days, and Typhon was made captive, and was given over to the custody of Isis who, however, set him free. Horus in his rage tore from her head the royal diadem, but Thoth gave her a helmet in the shape of a cow's head. In two other battles fought between Horus and Thphon Horus was the victor. The great battle between Horus and Thphon took place, we are told in the Ivth Sallier Papyrus, on the 26th day of the month Thoth ; they first fought in the form of two men, but afterwards changed themselves into two bears, and they passed three days and three nights in this form.

From the above summary it is clear that the Egyptians believed that Osiris was the sun of a god and lived a good life upon earth as a wise and just king, that he was slain by the malice of evil men, that hios body was mutilated, and that his wife Isis collected his limbs which had been scattered throughout Egypt by Set, or Thphon, and that Osiris by some means obtained a new life in the next world, where he reigned as god and king. The hieroglyphic texts contain abundant testimony that the statements of Plutarch are substantially correct, and from first to last Osiris was to the Egyptins the god-man who suffered, and died, and rose again, and reigned eternally in heaven. They believed that they would inherit eternal life, just as he had done, provided that what was done for him by the gods was done for them, and they made use of amulets, and magical texts of all kind, and performed ceremonies connected with sympathetic magic in order that they might compel Osiris and the gods who had brought about his resurrection {i.e., Thoth, "lord of divine words, the scibe of tyhe gods," and Isis, who made use of the words with which Thoth supplied her, and Horus and his companion gods whpo performed the symbolic ceremonies which were effectual in producing the reconstruction of the body of Osiris and its revivifcation the act on their behalf even as they had acted for the god. The species of the amulets used were constant, and they appear to have sixteen in number, four figures of the children of Horus each with his characteristic head, four lapis-lazuli Tet pillars, two bulls, a figure of Horus a figure of Thoth, two carnelian Tet pillars, and two lapis-lazuli utchats.

According to Plutarch the number of portions into which Set tore the body of Osiris was fourteen , but the hieroglyohic texts give at tomes fourteen and at others sixteen ; the cities and santuaries these were buried are :

1.Ament of Koptos.
2. Aa-ab in Elephantine.
3.At-rut-f in Herkaleopolis Magna.
4. Kusae.
5. Heliopolis.
6. An-Ament in Sma-behutet {Diopolis of Lower Egypt.
7. Letopolis.
8. Pa-Thuhen in Sais.
9. Meh-ta-f in Hermoplis of Lower Egypt.
10. Athribis.
11. Aq {Scedia.
12. Ab, in the Lybyan nome.
13. Het-sera in the city of Netert.
14. Apis.

In the late period of Egyptian history, i.e., in Graeco-Roman times, the sanctuaries of Osiris were fourty-two in number ; in other words, each nome possessed its central shrine of Osiris, which was called a "Serapeum," or the place where Serapis was worshipped, but this happened because Osiris Khent Amenti was identified with Serapis, who was not the god Osiris himself, but only a dead Apis bull which had become an Osiris. It has already been said that in some lists the sanctuaries of Osiris are stated to be sixteen, because in the inscriptions at Dendera which refer to the "mysteries" of Osiris, the statue of Seker-Osiris, which played such a prominent part in the ceremonies perormed there, was made up to fourteen pieces, although sixteen members of the body of Osiris are :--- his head, the souls of his feet, his bones, his arms, his heart, his interior, his tongue, his eye, his fist, his fingers, his back, his ears, his loins, his body, his head with the face of a ram, and his hair.

All the evidence in the subject now available goes to prove, as the paragraphs above show, that the early Egyptians believed that Osiris was a man-god who was murdered and whose body was mutilated, and that various members of his body were reconstituted ; and we know from very interesting text at Dendera that during the month of Khoak a number of festivals were celebrated at all the chief sanctuaries of Osiris in Egypt, and that elaborate ceremonies were performed in them in commemoration of every event which took place in te life, death, and resurrection of the god. In this text the uses of the various santuaries are described, adn detailed instructions are given for the making of the funeral chest, and the model of the god which was to be buried in the coffin, and of the incense, and the amulets, and of the fourteen divine members, and all the materials, etc. which were employed in the ceremonies. On the xiith day of Khoiak the Festival of the Ploughing of the Earth and the Festival of the Tena, were celebrated; on the xivth day the Great Festival of Pert ; on the xvith day the Festival of Osiris Khent Amenti; on the xxivth day the model of the god of the preceding year was taken out from its palce and buried suitably, and the new Osiris was embalmed in the sanctuary ; on the last day of the month the Tet was set in Tettu, because on this day the divine members of Osiris were brought. The new Osiris remained for seven days because of the traditon which declared that the god had remained for seven days in the womb of his mother Nut when she was with child.

In connection with the ceremonies in the great sanctuaries, e.g., Dendera, thirty-four papyrus boats were employed, and these were lit up with 365 lights, or lamps, The gods of Mendes, with Anubis, occupied one boat ; the remaining twenty-nine boats were dedicated to the following gods : ---- Mestha, Hapi, Tuamutef, Qebh-Sennuf, Sah-heq, Armauai, Maa-tef-f, Ast-sen-ari-tcher, Sem, Her-a-f, Sent, Ari-maat-f-tchesef, Sebakhsen, Heqes, Neter-bah, Qetet, Khenti-heh-f, Aq-her-am-unnut-f, Netcheh-Netcheh, Asbu, Per-em-khet-khet, Er ta-nef-nebt, Tesher-matti, Khent-het-Anes, Maa-em-qerh, An-f-em-hru-seksek. The above facts prove that in the Ptolemaic period the views which were held generally about Osiris were substantially the same as those which were in vogue in the times when the Pyramid Texts were composed, and it is clear that the cult of Osiris was widespread even in the Vth Dynasty, or about B.C. 3500.

From the Pyramid Texts we learn that the dead kings were already identified with Osiris, and that Osiris was identified with the sun-god, but we have no means of knowing when he was merged in Seker, the god of the Memphite Underworld. The Heliopolitian priests declared that he was the son of Seb and Nut, but it is much to be regretted that they did not preserve for us the genealogy of the god according to the priests of the predynastic period. The festivals which were celebrated in the month of Khoiak were, no doubt, founded upon very ancient tradition, but the elaboration of detail given in the texts as Dendera, to which reference has already been made, does not suggest a primative antiquity, although it shows how deeply seated was the cult of Osiris in the hearts of the people. The numerous aspects under which the god was worshipped also show how that some of the original conceptions of the attributes of the god were forgotten in comparison to early days, both of the foreigners and Egyptians, and it is this fact which explains how he came to be identified with the sun and moon, and with the great creative and rejuvenescence, resurrection, and of life of every sort and kind which has the power of renewing itself.

We must now consider the various forms in which Osiris is represented on the monuments, and in papyri, etc. The common form of the god is that of a mummy, who wears a beard, and has the White Crown, and his head, and a menat, hanging from the back of his neck. In a scene reproduced by Lanzone he appears in a group with the Hawk-god Seker, the Beetle-god Kheprer, and the goddess Shent, and has two forms, i.e., Osiris, lord of Khut, and Khent Amenti, and. In another scene he appears in the form of the Tet pillar, and is called "Osiris Tet," and stands at the head of a bier, on which lies the god Seker in mummied form. On a stele at Turin Osiris appears in mummified form, seated, and holding in his hands the sceptre, and the flail or whip ; on his head is the White Crown with plumes, to which the name Atef is usually given. His titles are "Osiris Khenti-Amentet, Un-nefer, lord of Tatcheser, the great god, king of the living." Behind him are seated Ptah-Sekri, "the lord of the hidden chest," Anpu, "dweller in the city of embalment," Horus, son Isis, and Hathor.As a form of Khnemu-Ra he has the head of a ram, the horns of which are surmounted by the solar disk and by four knives. A common symbol of the god is the box which contained the head and hair of Osiris and which was preserved at Abydos, where these relics were buried. Elsewhere we see the body of the god bent round backwards in such a way as to form the region of the Tuat or Underworld. Sometimes the god is seated on a throne, which is supported on the back of a monster serpent that rests on the top of the mythological flight of steps, at Henen-Su ; he is accompanied by Maat, Horus, son of Isis, Thoth, Heka, who holds a serpent in each hand, and the snake-headed goddess Heptet. The exact part which last-named deity played in connection with Osiris is unknown, but it is certin that it was of considerable importance, and that the goddess assisted in bringing about his resurrection. Heptet has the body of a woman with the head of a bearded snake ; on her head is a pair of horns which is surmounted by a solar disk, Atef Crown, and uraei with disks and horns, In each hand she holds a knife.