Osiris is the Egyptian god of the underworld, ruler of the land of the dead and the afterlife, god of transition, resurrection, and regeneration. He is husband to Isis, firstborn son of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) and father of Horus (with Isis) and Anubis (with Nephthys). Osiris is believed to be his coronation name, his birth name is commonly believed to be Wennefer, Wser or Weser “The Perfect one” or “The Almighty”. Osiris was also known as The Lord of Love, King of the Living, and Eternal Lord. As ruler of the underworld, he is also considered to be the power that is responsible for all life while it is in the ground or that springs from the ground, such as sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River, regenerating the land of Egypt.
Osiris was thought to have had an actual physical existence where he fulfilled the role of god-king of Egypt, with Isis as his wife and queen. In one text of the temple of Dendera, for example, Osiris as king is described as a living giant, with very precise measurements making him 4,60m high. His throne was in upper Egypt, from where he established certain cultural values and installed order and harmony in the land, saving the Egyptians from destitution and savagery by teaching them agriculture and showing them how to honour the divine. He then left to travel the world to spread understanding about the nature of reality and the relation of the material world with the divine, teaching other peoples to live in peace and harmony and let go of their violent warmongering ways, only rarely having to resort to the weapons or according to Plutarch:“achieving the will of his intentions by the charm of his persuasive word and by the resources of song and music”.
Symbolically Osiris represents a much more earthly aspect than Isis, despite his god-attributes. Osiris is the first “green man”. A “green man” is a figure made up out of leaves, branches or vines or a man with green skin. Different variations of the “green man” exist in different cultures and traditions across the globe, but they all represent the spirit of nature, rebirth and the regenerative cycles of the seasons and nature in general. If Isis is the ruler of the mysteries and the spiritual world, Osiris seems to have taken on the role of first king of Egypt to teach humans how to live in harmony with each other, how to connect to the spirit world and how to create abundance on earth. He essentially showed them how to experience their incarnation as elements of the divine, how to consolidate their existence as spirits bound into matter.
One of the most important aspects of Osiris’s life and mythology is that of his death at the hands of Seth. The myth goes that Seth, Osiris’s and Isis’s brother, planned to get rid of Osiris out of jealousy of his brother’s power. He tricked Osiris into getting into a beautiful box made of cedar, ebony and ivory that he had built to fit him only. After Osiris got into the box, Seth sealed it to become a coffin and threw it into the river, killing Osiris. The river carried the box with Osiris’s deceased body out to sea and it washed up in another country, where it stayed, resting in the upper boughs of a Tamarisk tree when the waters receded. After his death, Egypt (and the world) plunged into chaos until Horus finally managed to defeat Seth.
Isis immediately set out to search for her lost husband, but it took her many years to find him and as time passed, the branches of the tree covered the box, encapsulating the deceased Osiris in the trunk of the tree. When Isis eventually found the box, she took it back to Egypt and hid it in the Nile while she prepared to bring him back to life. Unfortunately, Seth discovered the box and decided to get rid of Osiris once and for all, by cutting him into 14 pieces and scattering his remains all over the Nile River for the crocodiles to eat.
Isis immediately started looking for the pieces, assisted by seven scorpions, and rejoined them whenever she discovered a new piece. She recovered 13 pieces in total, the fourteenth, his penis was never found, so she replaced it with a clay one. Using the embalming ritual, as conceived by Toth and Anubis, combined with her own magic, she was able to bring him back to life. Once resurrected, Osiris descended into the underworld to take up his role as ruler of the afterlife, but his spirit frequently rejoined Isis and their son Horus.
There are multiple ways to read the Osiris myth and many layers of truth to be discovered. Symbolically, the murder of Osiris by Seth means the victory of chaos and violence over harmony and justice. The imbalanced masculine (Seth) wins from the balanced and divine masculine (Osiris), installing an imbalanced masculine as the new dominant form. Osiris not only represents the earth or the masculine, but he represents humanity as a whole, for in his role as king of Egypt he is the father of mankind. When Seth destroys Osiris, he destroys humanity’s access to the divine, he destroys the divine ladder that goes up the tree of life and allows us to travel up the chakra tree and set our spirit free, reconnecting to divine consciousness.
The dividing of Osiris into 14 pieces represents the division of the people of the earth by means of language, borders and cultures and the chaos that ensues. It represents the creation of the illusion of distance and difference to make human beings forget that, just like Isis and Osiris, we are all brothers and sisters and we all spring from the same source.
The fact that Isis is able to resurrect Osiris, however, means that hope is never lost and that we can always go back to harmony instead of letting chaos rule our world.
The tale of Osiris is an alchemical tale, it is a story of transformation and transmutation. He is destroyed and purified in the Nile River. The colour of his skin is green, which makes us think about green vitriol, signifying he already underwent a first purification. He is then reassembled by Isis, who breathes new life into him, successfully resurrecting him.
In analogy to Osiris’s tale we are currently going through the purification phase: we are collectively deconstructing and destroying all of the illusionary behaviours and institutions, we are purifying the chaos in ourselves and in the world, tearing apart every aspect of our reality that is not aligned with the laws of harmony and abundance. We have not been fully resurrected yet, we are in a transitionary phase where some of us are still deconstructing and some of us are already reassembling. We exist, but we are incomplete for we are missing our divine spark.
If we accept that Osiris represents humanity and the world, the myth takes on a wholly new significance and gives us some clear indications on how to become whole again. Osiris is missing his penis, which means the masculine is incomplete. This information points us in the direction of the area we need to heal most: our reproductive zone and sexual organs in a literal sense and in a more figurative sense our sacral chakra, the place in the body where primordial energy is separated into masculine and feminine polarities and duality is created.
Just like in the Osiris myth, we need to address ourselves to the holy spirit (Isis), so that she can help us repair and complete the masculine in order to vanquish chaos and rebalance our world. In other words: what we are experiencing currently is an excess of masculine energy and the divine masculine is subjugated and taken hostage by the perversion of the feminine and to harmonise the excessive masculine, we need to turn to the feminine and bring in more feminine energy in the world.
Seth, the evil brother in the Osiris myth, is not necessarily an inherently evil force. He represents enormous strength, the power of the masculine. He is the power that is needed to warm the earth and make the crops grow, but that same solar power would become a force of destruction were it not balanced with the coolness and rest of the night. He is a violent burst of power, he can move mountains and if channelled correctly by a harmonious and intelligent masculine and balanced by an equally present feminine, his power can be used to bring about sudden and powerful change.
- Djed: pillar-like symbol representing the backbone of Osiris, symbolically representing a human beings’ stability by alignment to the divine, the kundalini that rises through our chakra centres, or the axis of the earth. It represents the descent of spirit into matter and our access to the divine as a symbolic ladder.
- The Ankh: the Egyptian Cross
- Shepherd Crook: representing his kingship, he was a shepherd to his people, leading through example
- Flail: An agricultural tool used to separate grains from their husks. Represents the importance of agriculture and is the representation of abundance.
- Atef: White elongated crown of upper Egypt with an ostrich feather on each side. Symbolising his purity and his sense of justice (the ostrich feather is closely linked to the goddess Maat – justice) and truth.