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Ancient Egypt /
Religion
1. Introduction
2. Gods
3. Concepts
4. Cult
5. Cult centres
6. Necropolises
7. Structures

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Osiris



Statuette of Osiris, wearing the Atef crown.
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Statuette of Osiris, wearing the Atef crown. Photo: Schristia.

Sarcophagus of Psusennes 1 (ca. 1000 BCE) formed as Osiris, with crook and frail placed to form a cross. From National Museum, Cairo, Egypt.
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Sarcophagus of Psusennes 1 (early 10th century BCE) formed as Osiris, with crook and frail placed to form a cross. From National Museum, Cairo.

From a copy of the Book of the Dead, Osiris overseeing the Weighing of the Heart. Behind him stand Isis and Nephthys.
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From a copy of the Book of the Dead, Osiris overseeing the Weighing of the Heart. Behind him stand Isis and Nephthys.

Osiris in the Temple of Opet, Karnak, Luxor, Egypt.
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Osiris in the Temple of Opet, Karnak, Luxor. Photo: Horus3.

God of ancient Egyptian religion.
Osiris was one of the most important gods in Ancient Egypt, but started first as a local god in Busiris, but his centre was later moved to Abydos.
Osiris was the son of Geb and Nut, the brother and husband of Isis, and the father of Horus. Osiris is one of the main characters of the most famous story of Ancient Egyptian mythology, where he is slain by Seth, divided into 14 pieces, and spread all over Egypt. Isis, Osiris' wife, searched for these 14 pieces, found them and had them buried. Except the phallus of Osiris, which she kept, and used to conceive Horus, by whom Osiris was revived.
Osiris was a representative for the setting sun, he was the ruler of the dead and the resurrected king, as well as god of fertility. The apparent duality between being god of the dead and god of fertility, is best explained by the fact that many cultures through the history of religions have seen fertility as growing on the death of someone or something.
Egyptian mythology soon developed into giving the pharaoh at his death the status of being Osiris, while the new pharaoh was given the status of Osiris' son, Horus. By 2000 BCE, this had developed into the popular belief that every man at his death became Osiris.
Osiris is the god to whom the credit of learning the Egyptians skills of law, agriculture, and religion, is given.

Official cults

From the time around 2000 BCE, we learn that the cults of processions and nocturnal rites at Abydos with Osiris as the central deity, had become very popular and even public participation was permitted. Later it became popular to be buried along the processional road in Abydos, even for normal people.
Osiris was celebrated all around Egypt, and central to these cults were the Osiris gardens, which were representations of Osiris' vital strength and fertility powers. These gardens were watered with Nile water, and sown with grain.

Visual representation

We find few representations of Osiris before the middle of the second last millennium BCE. From this period he is depicted as a mummy, with hands folded on the chest, with a crook and a flail in his hands.






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By Tore Kjeilen