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The Gods Of Egypt
Osiris, Asar


Amen (Amon) and Amen-Ra, King of the Gods | Forms of Amen-Ra | Osiris, Asar | Worship of Osiris | Isis | Anpu, or Anubis | Horus | Nephthys | Asar-Hapi, or Serapis | Nut | The Gods of Heliopolis | Egyptian Mythology | Hieroglyphics | Galery

Osiris, Asar

From the hieroglyphic texts of all periods of the dynastic history of Egypt we learn that the god of the dead, par excellence, was the god, whom the Egyptians called by a name which was commonly known to us as "Osiris." The oldest and simplest form of the name is written by means of two hieroglyphics, the first of which represents a "throne" and the other an "eye," but the exact meaning attached to the combination of the two pictures by those who first used them to express the name of the god, and the signification of the name in the minds of those who invented it cannot be said. In the late dynastic period the first syllable of the name appears to have been pronounced Aus or US, and by punning it was made to have the meaning of the word usr, "strength of the Sun-god Ra. This meaning may very well have suited their conception of the god Osiris, but it cannot be accepted as the correct signification of the name. For similar reasons the suggestion that the name AS-ar is connected with the Egyptian word for "prince," or "chief," ser, cannot be entertained. It is probable that the second hieroglyphic in the name As-ar is to be understood as referring to the great Eye of Heaven, i.e., Ra, but the connection of the first with it is not clear, as we have no means of knowing what attributes were assigned to the god by his earliest worshippers the difficulty is hardly likely to be cleared up. The throne or seat, is the first sign in the name of As-t, who is the female counterpart of Osiris, and it is very probable that originally the same conception underlay both names. It is useless to argue that, because the dynastic Egyptians at a late period of their history substituted the disk of Ra, for the god hymns in which they identified him as the source of light and as Ra, therefore As-ar, and because they addressed to the god hymns in which the priests resorted to whenever they attempted to find etymologies for the names of their gods.

In comparatively late time Osiris was called Un-nefer, in religious and mythological texts, and the priests {like modern Egyptologists} tried to explain the name. The writer of a hymn quoted by Dr. Brugsch derived the word from un, "to open, to appear, to make manifest," and neferu, "good things," and when he wrote, "thy beauty {or goodness} "maketh itself manifest in thy person to rouse the gods to life in "thy name Un-nefer," it is clear that he was only making a play of words on the name "Un-nefer' ; and again when he wrote, "Thou comest as the strength {usr} of Ra in thy name of Asar than to afford a trustworthy derivations of the name of Osiris. We may note in passing that modern derivation and explanations of the name Un-nefer are equally unsatisfactory. The truth of the matter seems to be that the ancient Egyptians knew just as little about the original meaning of the name As-ar as we do, and that had no better means of obtaining information about it than we have.

Passing now to the consideration of the original charcterteristics and attributes of Osiris we find that the oldest religious texts known to us refer to him as the great god of the dead, and throughout them it is tacitly assumed that the reader will understand that he once possessed human form and lived upon earth, and that by means of some unusual power or powers he was able to bestow upon himself after the death a new life which he lived in a region over which he ruled as king, and into which he was believed to be willing to admit all such as had lived a good and correct life upon earth, and had been buried with the appropriate ceremonies under the protection of certain amulets, and with proper recital of certain "divine words" and words of power. The worship of Osiris is, however, very much older than these views, which is clear, could only belong to a people who had advanced to a comparatively high state of civilization and mental development.

The oldest authorities for the religious views of the ancient Egyptians are the "Pyramid Texts," which are known to us from copies made in the IVth, Vth and VIth Dynasties, that is to say, in the remote time the period of their highest development ; even at this remote time the priests of Annu had composed a system of theology which was supported by the authority of the king and his high officials, and there is no doubt that it was based upon older systems of religious thought and belief. What these may have been it is useless to speculate, and all that is certain about the Heliopolitan system is that, while proclaiming the supremacy of their local god Tem or Ra-Tem, its priests took care to include in it as many of the ancient provincial gods as possible, and to adopt, wherever they were able to do so, the ancient beliefs and traditions concerning them. Among such gods Osiris held a very prominent place, in fact he was in respect to the dead and the Underworld what Ra, or Ra-Tem was to the living and to this world, and in some passages he is referred to simply as "god," without the addition of any name. No other god of the Egyptians was ever mentioned or alluded to in this matter, and no other god as any time in Egypt ever occupied exactly the same exalted position in their minds, or was thought to possess his peculiar attributes.

Hymn to Osiris

"Homage to thee, O Osiris, the lord of eternity, the king of the gods, thou who hast many names, whose forms of coming into being are holy, whose attributes are hidden in the temples, whose Double is most august (or venerated). Thou art the Chief of Tettu (or Busiris), the Great One who dwelleth 2. in Sekhem (Letopolis), the lord to whom praises are offered in the nome of Athi, the Chief of the divine food in Annu (On, or Heliopolis), and the lord who is commemorated in the {Hall (or City) of} two-fold Right and Truth. Thou art the Hidden Soul, the lord of Qereret (Elephantine), the holy one in the city of the White Wall (Memphis), the Soul of Ra, and thou art of his own body. Offerings and oblations are made to thy satisfaction in 3. Sutenhenen (Herakleopolis), praise in abundance is bestowed upon thee in Nart, and they Soul hath been exalted as lord of the Great House in Khemennu (Hermopolis). Thou art he who is greatly feared in Shas-hetep, the lord of eternity, the Chief of Abtu (Abydos), thy seat extendeth into the land of holiness (Underworld), and thy name is firmly established in the mouth of mankind. 4. Thou art the substance of {which were made} the two lands (i.e., Egypt), thou art Tem, the divine food of the doubles, thou art the chief of the company of the gods, thou art the operative and beneficent Spirit among the spirits, thou drawest thy waters from the abyss of heaven, thou bringeth along the north wind at eventide and air for thy nostrils to the satisfaction of thy heart. 5. Thy heart germinateth, thou producest the light for divine food, the height of heaven and the starry gods obey thee, thou openest the great pylons {of heaven}, and thou art he unto whom praises are sung in the southern heaven, and to whom adorations are performed in the northern heaven. The stars which never set 6. are under the seat of thy face, and the stars which never rest are thy habitations; and unto thee offerings are made according to the decree of the god Seb.

The company of the gods sing praises unto thee, and the starry gods of the Underworld bow down with their faces to the earth {before thee}, the ends of the earth prostrate themselves before thee, and the bounds of heaven make supplication unto thee 7. when they see thee. Those who are among the holy ones are in awe of thee, and the two lands in their length and breadth ascribe praises unto thee when they meet thy majesty, O thou glorious master, thou lord of masters, who art endowed with divine rank and dignity, who art stablished in {thy} rule, thou beautiful Sekhem of the company of the gods, who art pleasant of face, 8. and art beloved by him that looketh upon thee. Thou puttest thy fear in all the lands, and by reason of love for thee all {men} proclaim thy name as being above that of every name. All mankind make offerings unto thee, O thou lord who art commemorated in heaven and in earth, and who art greatly praised in the Uak festival, and the two lands with one consent 9. cry out unto thee with cries of joy, O thou great one, thou chief of thy divine brethren, thou prince of the company of the gods, thou establisher of Maat throughout the two lands, who placest thy son upon the great throne of his father Seb, the darling of his mother Nut.

O thou great one of two-fold strength, thou has cast down Seba, thou hast slain 10. thine enemy, and thou hast set thy fear in thy foe. Thou bringest {together} remote boundaries, thou art firm of heart, thy two feet are lifted up, thou art the heir of Seb and of the sovereignty of the two lands, who hath seen thy power and hath given command for thee to lead 11. the two lands by thy hand until the end of time. Thou hast made the earth in thy hand, and its waters, and its air, and its green herb, and all its cattle, and all its birds, and all its fishes, and all its reptiles, and {all} its four-footed beasts. The desert is thine by right, O son of 12. Nut, and the two lands are content to make him to rise up upon the throne of his father like Ra. Thou risest in the horizon, thou givest light through the darkness, thou makest light to spread abroad from thy plumes, and thou floodest with light the two lands like the 13. Disk at the beginning of sunrise. Thy crown pierceth heaven, thou art a brother of the starry gods, and the guide of every god, and thou dost work by decree and word, O thou favoured one of the company of the gods, who art greatly beloved by the Lesser Company of the gods.

Thy sister protected thee, and she drove away thy foes, 14. and she warded off from thee evil hap, and uttered the words of power with all the skill of her mouth; her tongue was trained, and she committed no fault of utterance, and she made {her} decree and {her} words to have effect, Isis, the mighty one, the avenger of her brother. She sought thee without weariness, 15. she went round about through this land in sorrow, and she set not to the ground her foot until she had found thee. She made light with her feathers, she made air to come into being with her wings, and she uttered cries of lamentation at the bier of her brother. 16. She stirred up from his state of inactivity him whose heart was still (i.e., Osiris), she drew from him his seed, she made an heir, she suckled the babe in solitariness, and the place wherein she reared him is unknown, and his hand is mighty within the house 17. of Seb. The company of the gods rejoice and are glad at the coming of Horus, the son of Osiris, who heart is stablished, and whose word taketh effect, the son of Isis and the heir of Osiris. The assessors of Maat gather together unto him, and with them are assembled the company of the gods, and Neb-er-tcher himself, and the lords of Maat. 18. Verily those who repulse faults rejoice in the house of Seb to bestow the rank {of Osiris} upon its lord, to whom is by right all sovereignty. The voice of Horus hath found the power of maat. The rank of his father hath been given unto him, and he hath come forth crowned 19. by the command of Seb. he hath received the sceptre of the two lands, and the White Crown is stablished upon his head. He judgeth the earth according to his plans, and heaven and earth are open before his face. He layeth his commands upon men, and spirits, and upon the pat and hen-memet beings, and Egypt, and the Ha-nebu, and all the region 20. wherein the Disk revolveth are under his plans, as well as the north wind, and the river flood, and the celestial waters, and the staff of life, and every flower. {He is} Nepra, and he giveth his green herbs; he is the lord of tchefau food, he leadeth on abundance, and he giveth it unto all lands.

21. There is joy everywhere, {all} hearts are glad, {all} hearts are glad, every face is happy, and every one adoreth his beauties. His love is doubly sweet unto us, and his active beneficence embraceth all hearts, and the love for him is great in every body, and they do what is right 22. for the son of Isis. His enemy hath fallen before his wrath, and he that worketh evil hath fallen at the sound of his voice; when the son of Isis, the avenger of his father, the son of Isis, cometh against him, he shooteth forth his anger in his season. Holy and beneficent is his name, and the awe of him abideth in its place. 23. His laws are stablished everywhere, the path is cleared, the roads are opened, and the two lands are content; wickedness departeth, evil goeth away, the earth is at peace under {the rule of} its lord, and Maat is stablished by 24. its lord, and setteth its back against antiquity. The heart of Un-nefer, the son of Isis, is glad, for he hath received the White Crown, and the rank of his father is his by right in the house of Seb; he is Ra when he speaketh the Thoth when he writeth. 25. The assessors {of Osiris} are content; let what hath been decreed for thee by thy father Seb be performed according to his word.

May Osiris, Governor of Amentet, lord of Abydos, give a royal offering! may he give sepulchral meals of oxen, and fowl, and bandages, and incense, and wax, and gifts of all kinds, and the {power to} make transformations, and mastery over the Nile, and {the power} to appear as a living soul, and to see the Disk daily, and entrance into and exit from Re-stau; may {my} soul not be repulsed in the Underworld, may it be among the favoured ones before Un-nefer, may it receive cakes and appear before the altar of the Great God, and snuff the sweet breath of the north wind."

Hymns To Osiris, and Osiris Un-nefer, from the Book of the Dead

Glory be to thee, Osiris Un-nefer, the great god who dwellest within Abtu (Abydos), thou king of eternity, thou lord of everlastingness, who passest through millions of years in the course of thine existence. Thou art the eldest son of the womb of Nut, and thou wast engendered by Seb, the Ancestor; thou art the lord of the crowns of the South and North, thou art the lord of the lofty white crown, and as prince of gods and men thou hast received the crook, and the whip, and the dignity of his divine fathers. Let thine heart, O Osiris, who art in the Mountain of Amentet, be content, for thy son Horus is stablished upon thy throne. Thou art crowned lord of Tettu (Mendes), and ruler in Abtu (Abydos). Through thee the world waxeth green in triumph before the might of Neb-er-tcher. He leadeth in his train that which is, and that which is not yet, in his name Ta-her-sta-nef; he toweth along the earth by Maat in his name of 'Seker'; he is exceedingly mighty and most terrible in his name 'Osiris'; he endureth for ever and for ever in his name of 'Un-nefer.'

Homage be to thee, O King of kings, Lord of lords, Ruler of princes, who from the womb of Nut hast ruled the world and the Underworld. Thy members are {like} bright and shining copper, thy head is blue {like} lapis-lazuli, and he greenness of the turquoise is on both sides of thee, O thou god An of millions of years, whose form and whose beauty of face are all-pervading in Ta-tchesert (i.e., the Underworld)."

II. "Praise be unto thee, Osiris, lord of eternity, Un-nefer-Heru-Khuti, whose forms are manifold, and whose attributes are majestic, Prah-Seker-Tem in Annu (Heliopolis), the lord of the Hidden House, the creator of Het-ka-Ptah (Memphis) and of the gods {therein}, thou guide of the Underworld, whom {the gods} glorify when thou settet in the night sky of Nut. Isis embraceth thee with conent, 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. Those who have lain down (i.e., the dead) rise up to look upon thee, they breathe the air and they look upon thy face when the disk riseth on the horizon; their hearts are at peace inasmuch as they behold thee, O thou who art Eternity and Everlastingness."

III. "1. Homage to thee, Khabesu (i.e., Starry deities), in Annu (Heliopolis) and Hememet in Ker-aha, thou god Unti, who art more glorious than the gods who are hidden in Annu. 2. Homage to thee, O An in An-tes, Great One, Heru-khuti, thou stridest over heaven with long strides, O Heru-khuti. 3. Homage to thee, O soul of eternity, thou god Bai, who dwellest in Tettu (Mendes), Un-nefer, son of Nut; thou art the lord of Akert (i.e., the Underworld). 4. Homage to thee in thy dominion in Tettu; the Ureret crown is stablished upon thy head; thou art Oe and thou makest the strength which is thine own protection, and thou dwellest in Tettu. 5. Homage to thee, O lord of the Acacia Tree, the Seker Boat is upon its sledge; thou drivest back the Fiend, (Sebau), the worker of evil, and thou causest the Utchat, to rest upon its seat. 6. Homage to thee, thou who art mighty in thine hour, thou great and mighty prince, who dwellest in An-rut-f; thou art the lord of eternity and the creator of everlastingness, thou art the lord of Suten-henen (Herakleopolis Magna). 7. Homage to thee, O thou who restest upon Maat, thou art the lord of Abtu, and thy limbs are joined unto Ta-tchesertet; what thou abominatest is falsehood (or, deceit and guile). 8. Homage to thee, O thou who art within thy boat, thou bringest along Hapi (Nile) from out of his source; Shu shineth upon thy body, and thou art he who dwelleth in Nekhen. 9. Homage to thee, O creator of the gods, king of the South and North, Osiris, whose word is maat, thou possessor of the two lands in thy seasons of operative power; thou art the lord of the Atebui (i.e., the two lands which lay one on each side of the celestial Nile)." The above nine addresses form, in reality, a litany, and after each of them the deceased said to Osiris, "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."

IV. "Homage to thee, O Osiris Un-Nefer, whose word is maat, thou son of Nut, thou first-born son of Seb, thou mighty one who comest forth from Nut, thou king in the city of Nifu-ur, thou Governor of Amentet, thou lord of Abtu, thou lord of souls, thou mighty one of strength, thou lord of the Atef crown, in Suten-henen, thou lord of the divine form in the city of Nifu-ur, thou lord of the tomb, thou mighty one of souls in Tattu, thou lord of {sepulchral} offerings, whose festivals are many in Tattu. The god Horus exalteth his father in every place, and he uniteth himself unto the goddess Isis and unto her sister Nephthys; and the god Thoth reciteth for him the mighty glorifyings which are within him, and which come forth from his mouth, and the heart of Horus is stronger than that of all the gods. Rise up, then, O Horus, thou son of Isis, and avenge thy father Osiris. Hail, O Osiris, I have come unto thee; I am Horus and I have avenged thee, and I feed this day upon the sepulchral meals of oxen and feathered fowl, and upon all the beautiful things offered unto Osiris. Rise up, then, O Osiris, for I have struck down for thee all thine enemies, and I have taken vengeance upon them for thee. I am Horus upon this beautiful day of thy fair rising in thy Soul, which exalteth thee along with itself on this day before thy divine sovereign princes. Hail, O Osiris, thy double (ka) hath come unto thee and rests with thee, and thou restest therein in thy name of Ka-Hetep. It maketh thee glorious in thy name of Khu, and it maketh thee like unto the Morning Star in thy name of Pehu, and it openeth for thee the ways in thy name of Ap-uat. Hail, O Osiris, I have come unto thee, and I have set thine enemies uner thee in every place, and thy word is maat in the presence of the gods and of the divine sovereign chiefs. Hail, O Osiris, thou hast received thy sceptre and the place whereon thou art to rest, and thy steps are under thee. Thou bringest food to the gods, and thou bringest sepulchral meals unto those who dwell in their tombs. Thou hast given thy might unto the gods, and thou hast created the Great God; thou hast thy existence with them in their spiritual bodies, thou gatherest thyself unto all the gods, ad thou hearest the word of maat on the day when offerings to this god are ordered on the festivals of Uka."

V. "Homage to thee, O Governor of Amentet, Un-nefer, lord of Ta-tchesert, O thou who art diademed like Ra, verily I come to see thee and to rejoice at thy beauties. His disk is thy disk; his rays of light are thy rays of light; his Ureret crown is thy Ureret crown; his majesty is thy majety; his risings are thy risings; his beauties are thy beauties; the terror which he inspireth is the terror which thou inspirest; his odour is thy odour; his hall is thy hall; his seat is thy seat; his throne is thy throne; his heir is thy heir; his ornaments are thy ornaments; his decree is thy decree; his hidden place is thy hidden place; his things are thy things; his knowledge is thy knowledge; the attributes of greatness which are his are thine; the power which protecteth him protecteth thee; he dieth not and thou diest not; he is not overcome by his enemies and thou art not overcome by thine enemies; no evil thing whatsoever hath happened unto him, and no evil thing whatsoever shall happen unto thee for ever and ever.

"Homage to thee, O Osiris, son of Nut, lord of the two horns, whose Atef crown is exalted, may the Ureret crown be given unto thee, along with sovereignty before the company of the gods. May the god Temu make awe to thee to exist in the hearts of men, and women, and gods, and spirits, and the dead. May dominion be given unto thee in Annu; mayest thou be mighty of transformations in Tattu (Mendes); mayest thou be the lord greatly feared in the Aati; mayest thou be mighty in victory in Re-stau; mayest thou be the lord who is commemorated with gladness in the Great House; mayest thou have manifold risings like the sun in Abtu; may triumph be given unto thee in the presence of the company of the gods; mayest thou gain the victory over the mighty Powers; may the fear of thee be made to go {throughout} the earth; and may the princes stand up upon their statios before the sovereign f the gods of the Tuat, before thee the ighty Sekhem of heaven, the Prince of the living ones, the king of those who are in {his train}, and the Glorifier of thousands in Kher-aha. The denizens of heaven rejoice in thee, O thou who art the lord of the chosen offerings in the mansions above; a meat offering is make unto thee in the city of Het-ka-Ptah (Memphis); and the 'things of the night; are prepared for him in Sekhem (Letopolis). Behold, O mighty god, thou great one of two-fold strength, thy son Horus avengeth thee. He doeth away with every evil thing whatsoever that belongesth to thee, he bindeth up in order for thee thy person, he gathereth together for thee thy members, he collecteth for thee thy bones, and he bringeth to thee whatsoever belongeth to thee. Thus thou art raised up, O Osiris, and Ihave given unto thee thy hand, and I make thee to stand up a living being for ever and ever."

VI. "Homage to thee, O Governor of those who are in Amenti, who makest mortals to be born again, who renewest thy youth, thou comest who dwellet in thy season, and who art more beautiful than....., thy son Horus hath avenged thee; the rank and dignity of Tem have been conferred upon thee, O Un-nefer. Thou art raised up, O Bull of Amentet, thou art stablished in the body of Nut, who uniteth herself unto thee, and who cometh forth with thee. Thy heart is stablished upon that which supporteth it, and thy breast is as it was formerly; thy nose is firmly fixed with life and power, thou livest, and thou art renewed, and thou makest thyself young like Ra each and every day. Mighty, mighty is Osiris in victory, and he is firmly stablished with life."