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The legend of Isis and Osiris

isis-osiris-horus-ankh-543poThe lord of all the earth is born.

In the beginning, there was the mighty god Ra and his wife Nut. Nut was in love with the god Geb. When Ra found out about this union he was furious. In his rage, he forbid Nut to have children on any of the 360 days that currently made up the year. Nut was very sad. She called on her friend, Thoth, to help her. He knew that Ra’s curse must be fulfilled, but he had an idea. Thoth engaged the moon goddess, Silene, in a wager. At the time, Silene’s light (the moon) rivaled the light of Ra (the sun). Thoth was victorious, he was rewarded with one seventh of Silene’s light. This is why the moon now wanes each month. Thoth took this light and added five days to the calender, bringing the year from 360 days to 365. This gave Nut 5 days on which she could have children, while at the same time obeying Ra’s commandment. On the first of these days, Nut gave birth to Osiris. On the second day Horus was born, Seth on the third, Isis the fourth, and Nephthys on the fifth day. At the time of Osiris’ birth, a loud voice was heard all over the world, saying, “The lord of all the earth is born.”
(from http://www.egyptartsite.com/osi.html)

Osiris was a great king, full of love and compassion. He married his sister Isis (which was customary in the old Egypt) and they ruled together in prosperity over the land. He taught the people how to grow crops, how to tend to animals and civilized the barbaric brutes by issuing laws and giving them places of worship.
Such benevolence was drilling down into the heart of his brother Seth who shortly began a plot to bring him down. He planned a party for Osiris and prepared for this event a box large enough to fit a person into and small enough that only Osiris would make the fit.
He offered the beautifully decorated box as a gift to anyone whom would fit in it. One at a time they tried to fit into the box until it was Osiris’ turn. As he lay in the box suspecting nothing, he was trapped, nails driven into his early coffin, lead poured on top to seal it through. To seal his fate, they threw him into the river.

This news reached Isis and she was grief stricken. She walked the earth in her mourning clothes looking for the remains of her husband so she can give him a proper funeral. Asking all, knowing nothing, grief stricken, she had finally found some children who have witnessed the event and thus managed to track down the chest in the land of Byblos where it had floated and become lodged in a tamarisk bush. When the box reached it, the bush shot up and became a magnificent tree, containing the box inside its trunk. The king of Byblos admired the great tree so much that he had it cut down and made into a giant pillar to support the roof of his palace.

Reaching Byblos Isis sits by a fountain and talks to no one, except to the maidens of the queen of Byblos. She talks her way into getting inside the palace and receives a job as the price’s nanny. She grows quite fond of the child and decides to grant the gift of immortality to him. So, every night, she would give him her finger to suckle on. During the night, she would put the child into a burning fire and she would transform herself into a swallow crying for her missing husband.
When the Queen found out what was happening, she quickly came to the prince’s chambers and catching Isis in the middle of the Ritual, destroyed it. Isis changed back into her normal form and sadly told the queen that her child will no longer walk among the gods and he will live like a human until the end of times.
Isis also explained to the queen why she had made the journey to Byblos and her desire to have the giant pillar in which her husband was encased. The queen granted her wish and so Isis quickly returned to Egypt.

When she arrived, she opened the box and wept over her dead husband. She was joined by her sister, Nephthys in her sorrow. The sisters turn into Kites and circle the chest screeching in mournful tones. But Isis’ thoughts soon turned to her infant son, Harpocrates, Horus the younger. She had left him in Buto and now had to retrieve him. She hid the box in a secret place, and went after her son.

That night, while hunting by the light of the moon, Seth stumbled upon the finely decorated box. He was blinded with rage at the sight of his brother. He ripped Osiris into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. Isis learns of this new crime, and her grief is renewed. She once again sets out to find her husbands remains. She used a boat made out of papyrus reeds to conduct her search. It was believed that, because of this, a crocodile would never attack a papyrus boat, fearing that it might contain the mighty goddess. Where ever she finds a piece of Osiris, she buries it, and builds a shrine in that place. This is the reason that Osiris has so many tombs in Egypt.

In the meantime, Harpocrates has grown to manhood, and he is called Horus. Osiris has been resurrected as the king of the dead in the underworld. One day, Osiris appears to Horus in the land of the living. He convinces Horus to avenge the wrongs that have been committed by Seth. So, Horus tracks down Seth and a huge battle begins. Victory is elusive and the battle turns first to one side, then to the other. It is said that this battle of good verses evil still rages, but some day, Horus will be victorious and on that day, Osiris will return to rule the world.

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