Osiris and Isis

Tonight, we take a detour to Egypt. Back to a time when it was ok to be in love with your sister…so knowing that this is an incestuous love story, it's still one that shows absolute devotion, which is what I like about it.

There are many versions of this story, all of which have a slightly different twist, so I am going to relay the one which was told to me as I stood in front of the valley of the kings.

Osiris was the son of Geb (God of the earth) and Nut (Goddess of the sky). As first born he assumed the role of king of the land. Now being a god king, there weren't that many goddesses to chose from, hence his marriage to his sister Isis.

Osiris was a great king. He brought civilisation to the Egyptian people after his creation, teaching them about agriculture as well as bring religion, law and culture. Under Osiris' rule Egypt became a paradise where everyone was equal and food was abundant.

Osiris had a brother, Set, who also married one of their sisters, Nephthys (again, lack of choice…) and he grew jealous and resentful of his brothers success. This was magnified when Nephthys disguised herself as Isis and seduced Osiris. It really got under Set's skin that Nephthys then became pregnant and gave birth to the god Anubis.

Set came up with a vengeful plan. He had a beautiful coffin made to Osiris' exact measurement. He then threw the mother of all parties. As guests arrived, he told them that who ever fitted in the coffin could have it as a gift. Of course no one else fitted in it, and when Osiris lay down in it, Set slammed the lid down, fastened it shut with lead and flung it in the Nile, where it was carried down the river (God knows how as it must have weighed a tonne).

The box then travelled out to sea and eventually it became lodged in a tamarisk tree growing near Byblos. The tree grew quickly around the coffin and consumed it within its truck. When the king of Byblos saw the tree he was so taken with it that he ordered it to be cut down and taken to his palace due to its sweet fragrance. When the tree was brought to the palace it was made in to an ornamental pillar, and this is where Osiris remained until he died.

Mean while Isis had left Egypt in search of her beloved Osiris. Arriving in Byblos she disguised herself as an old women, but after searching for some time, she sat in the shores of Byblos crying for her missing husband. A passing royal handmaiden, invited her back to the palace, which she accepted and integrated herself to palace life, so much so that the king and queen of Byblos asked her to nursemaid their sons. When Isis tried to make the youngest son immortal by bathing him in fire (obviously) the queen was horrified, just as she was about to throw the old womenout when she reveals herself as the goddess, the king and queen became scared and offered her anything if she would only spare their lives. Isis requests the tamarisk pillar.

On leaving the palace, Isis cut Osiris out of the tree and carried his body back to Egypt. She then hid his body in the swampy part of the Nile delta and called upon her sister, Nephthys, to watch him while she goes to collect herbs to make a spell (personally I'm not sure that I would have trusted Nephthys if she was my sister) so that Set won't find him.

Set, inevitably finds out, and makes Nephthys tell him where the body is (bet you couldn't see that coming). Set finds the body and hacked it in to 26 pieces, scattering then across the land and in the Nile.

Now if I was Isis, I would have the real hump by now, but she didn't, she set to work on finding all the pieces of poor old Osiris. She found all of them except his penis, which had been eaten by a fish. Isis then bound all of the pieces back together, and revived Osiris with a spell her father, Geb, had taught her. Isis then assumed the form of a kite (the bird, not the aggravating device that becomes tangled in trees) and drew the seed out of his body, impregnating herself and later gave birth to Horus. As Osiris was now incomplete he could no longer rule the land and withdrew to rule the afterlife, becoming the lord and judge of the dead.

Isis, after giving birth to Horus was worried that Set would kill him, so hid him in the reeds of the Nile until he was grown, when he emerged as a mighty warrior and battled Set for the land….but that's another story.

This story, predates the Greek and roman myths and the bible, but you can draw some real parallels with other stories I have talked about. Horus being like Perseus, but also born of a virgin birth (its an unpopular theory I found out when discussing this with my Egyptian guide as he vehemently denied there being any similarities in the stories).


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