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Who was he?
From a painting by Judith Page
May you grant power in the sky, might on earth and vindication in the realm of the deadâŚto go in and out without hindrance at all the gates of the Netherworld.
Book of the Dead: Hymn to Osiris
He is known by many names, Wasir, Wâsr, Asar to name but a few and described as a god in anthropomorphic form holding two sceptres in the shape of a 'crook' and a 'flail', wearing a conical crown decorated with two feathers called the 'atef' crown.
But, we are not really describing Osiris at all! This is a description of an earlier god originally worshipped in the mid-Delta in the Lower Egyptian Nome 9. His Name was Andjety which means âhe who comes from the Andjety watersâ, called Busiris.
One is prone to imagine â without being able to prove it â that, this Andjety had once been a chieftain who fell in battle fighting against the eastern Bedouins and became deified after his death. However that may be, he later gave his form to Osiris, as the double name OsirisâAndjety indicates, Osiris then completely replaces him and receives from him the description âlord of Busirisâ.
As early as the beginning of the 4th Dynasty, Pharaoh Snofre, the builder of the first true pyramid tomb is pictured wearing the antef crown of Andjety. The close relationship between the god Andjety to the monarch is also apparent from the earliest references in the Pyramid Texts, where the kingâs power as a universal ruler is much enhanced by his being associated to Andjety keeping order over the eastern districts.
Perhaps Andjety is an embodiment of sovereignty through his symbols of office. As such he would readily be absorbed into the nature of Osiris.
But it doesnât end here. Andjety is very much evident in a funerary text as well. The idea that he is responsible for rebirth in the Afterlife is almost certainly the reason for the substitution for the two feathers instead of the bovine uterus; symbol for rebirth in early writings of his name in the Pyramid Texts.
There is an obvious identification in the Underworld between Andjety and Osiris as ruler. For this reason, in the Temple of Sety 1st at Abydos the king is depicted burning incense to the god Andjety-Osiris who holds the âcrookâ sceptre, wears two feathers in his headband and is accompanied by Isis.
âLord of the Abju (the watery abyss and also semen) and Lord of the earth. He also holds dominion over the soil that reflects the role of water in fructifying the earth thus making possible the development of vegetation, communications and civilizing mankind. He was also considered the supreme god of wisdom and magick, and the keeper of the divine laws.â
The above is not a description of Osiris it is of Enki! For those who are interested in the Egyptian-Sumerian parallels we must look at the comparisons between Osiris and the Nile River, and Enki who bestows the powers of the fertile sweet waters upon Sumer. The only difference between these two gods is Osiris dies and is resurrected annually when the Nile floods, whereas Enkiâs watery power never dies, and is a living joyous force.
In art Enki is represented as a seated god with a beard, wearing a long wig and cap surmounted with many ribbons, and garbed in a long robe. Early representations of Osiris he is depicted the same, except that in his hands he holds the crook and flail.
In 1869 the German scholar Jules Oppert led a team of archaeologists in Iraq to discover traces of Sumerian artefacts speculating that it was Sumer and not Egypt that was the legendary one true beginning of world civilisation. Bearing this in mind, there is every reason to believe that the Sumerians played a dominant role in the early stages of civilisation in Ur- Egypt bringing their own gods with them.
Not content with usurping the identity of Andjety, Osiris moved on to the pre-dynastic town of Abdjw, Abydos the sacred site of Khentamenthes who was the original god of the dead. Primarily he was represented as a sitting dog (akin to the Set animal), the protector of the necropolis. The irony is that his name âKhentamenthesâ signifies â âfirst of the westernersâ, that is, of the dead.
However Abydos did not become an historical memory to an ancient dog-god, but gained rather a timeless everâpresent importance, based on an imported god called Osiris.
So who then was Osiris? Perhaps the Path to this multifaceted Neter will give us a clue? Or perhaps not!
Our journey takes you to the desert just beyond Abydos. The sands stretch into infinity, broken only by the many mirages that emerge out of the shimmering air, only to disappear with the blink of an eye. The silence is heavy and tinged with a sadness you cannot hope to comprehend â yet. Suddenly the howling of a dog breaks into this reverie and a voice behind you speaks, it is Djehuty.
Djehuty â Thoth
From a painting by Judith Page
âHe was known as Khenta-ment-hes and came from the dog group of Candides, he was the protector of this resting place. An ancient king built a temple to him, a shrine of mud, reeds and wicker. This was his region, he held supreme dominion over all the winds of heaven, till the sun and moon changed places, and the Night-sun set eastward, till the sky was red with sunrise, till the pallid moon and the Night-sun, rose above the sombre Abju.â
The desert sand blows away revealing mound upon mound of small terracotta clay pots; they are the libation vessels left by the many mourners who came to this sacred place to honour their loved ones who were all in the protection of the dog-god.
You walk with Djehuty amongst the spiritual resting place of thousands; the earth appears to be stained with the blood of many sacrifices that were offered up for the fertility of the land. Stooping down you gather up two cups of ancient giving, and with your hands uplifted, you look skyward.
Deep within you feel both joy and sadness; a tingling sensation passes from the vessels to your fingers. With a sense of knowing in your being, you send a joyous prayer to heaven dropping the clay pots earthward into the soft white sand of Abju.
Looking expectantly towards the horizon, something awaits but you, but what? A voice bids you to venture further into the desert and your feet carry you deeper into its heart. A strange sensation sweeps through your body as you hold our breath in anticipation. At first your vision is blurred, then clears revealing an apparition.
Gliding forward like a phantom appears the wondrous god Osiris clothed in finest, whitest linen. On his head he wears the crown of Upper Khemit; in his hands he holds the crook, flail and sceptre. Around you is a wondrous aroma of honey, jasmine and lotus.
A cry wells up in your throatâs as you gaze upon the divine god before you. Osiris speaks, his voice is woman-like:
âRegard Atâ Ur the river!â he gestures âBehold the waters; see how they are swollen by inundation. Behold again as the waters fall. Now behold the birds and insects.â
From nowhere butterflies and birds fly swooping between you and Osiris who wanders through the paradise created in the sands around you.
A load roar splits the air as the god Set arrives on the scene.
Set â the Return
From a painting by Judith Page
âWhat have you done?â he screams, âDo you place yourself above me? Am I not a god in equal status with you? Are you saying that this is all this your creation? Dear brother, you weave a seductive tale that promises much but crumbles under closer scrutiny. Why wonât you share this prize with me? What are you fearful of losing?â
Osiris answers with haughty coolness, his complete indifference is evident, his mood changed.
âTrue, our father gave it to us both, but we have a right to choose how we divide it, a pledge for good or a pledge for evil.â
You hang on every word as Osirisâs voice echoes across the desert-scape. He watches the fury of Set, his sibling, and unwisely draws closer to speak to him. Only the gods know what is coming next.
Osiris feigns a yawn and waves his right hand in gesture dismissing his troubled brother to leave his garden, saying:
âThis is the world I am revealing to you my dear brother; a land in peace awaits you where all the gates stand open and welcome you. But, if you come in warlike vengeance, rage and hatred, then I order you to go now as I am weary of your quarrels and your thirst for bloodshed, and I tire of your threats for vengeance.â
These words infuriate Set, and like the âbull of his motherâ he bellows:
âAll is not well between us brother I have listened to your empty verbiage and your words of stasis, long have I waited for this moment.â
Hunching his massive shoulders and lifting his golden sword, Set rushes headlong towards Osiris who still has his right hand extended regally holding his sceptre. Setâs mighty sword cuts right through it making the hand disappear from his thin wrist sending the sceptre flying across the garden. So complete is this act that Osiris stands in amazement still clasping the crook and flail in his left hand.
You sit stunned, unable to take in the sight before you and look sideways at Djehuty, who is completely absorbed in the spectacle not batting an eyelid.
Osiris reels back screaming and in anguish clutches his handless stump. But before Osiris reaches the edge of the garden, Set is right behind him, and seizing his stump as a handle, drags his brother to the centre of the lawn and throws him sprawling, where he lay on the grass shrieking: âO dear brother please spare me!â
Set stands there in all his splendour, dressed in colours of red, black and yellow, laughingly tosses his red tresses, saying ever-sweet and child-like:
âNow you fear me gentle brother as you lie down, pleading and writhing like a cut snake.â
You want to cry out: âSpare Osiris!â But you continue seated not daring to move.
With his one remaining left hand Osiris reaches out to paw at Set who grabs his brothers left arm inspecting it like a butcher inspects a piece of meat.
Echoes of a past audience scream across the sands of time:
âCut it off!â Kill him, kill him!â Around you mass a mythic audience of spectators including the great Pharaoh Rameses the second himself whose mood has also swung against this god. All sit upright to look and listen. Set has stirred their souls to passion and, with the blood lust of the many he now moulds them all to hatred.
From a painting by Judith Page
Deftly he raises his gold sword once more and, with a casual sweeping forward passes it through Osirisâs limb causing that to disappear as well.
Triumphantly Set holds his magickal blade above his head as his brother falls at his feet.
Weakly Osiris tries to rise up but has no strength left in him, he writhes kicking out his legs in futile spasm. His head whips forlornly sideways screaming for mercy. The audience sit enthralled at the spectacle happening before them.
All the while Setâs laughter fills the air whilst his brother continues to cry: âHelp me, help me!â
All watch on knowing a deeper tale unfolding. Meanwhile Set points his sword again at the body cutting it in to three pieces, and picking each body part up, hurls it out to the captivated audience.
But all they receive is gold dust and not their godâs body at all. Roaring with frenzy they grab at the precious ore floating like a fine mist through the air. The crowd surges forward clamouring, and shouting:
âGive us a charm, a talisman!â
Set hears voices calling to him for the greatest prize of magick.
âWhat more do you want? Havenât I already given you enough of your dear and wondrous saviour? What other prize do you crave?â he teases.
âA talisman, give us a talisman!â they call in unison.
âSo you want all his magick then?â
The audience continues screaming for the utmost charm of any great god who controls the darkest forces of the Apep demon. They want the fourteenth segment the only fragment worth possessing, the only piece never to be recovered by his sister Nephthys, as the god Set had thrown the phallus member into the watery Nile to be eaten by a fish! Set denies them their prize but still they roar for this treasure:
âGive us the Talisman of Osiris!â
Set reaches down through sodden linen of the now blood-soaked limbless body of Osiris and laughs in wild abandon as the crowd begs:
âGive it to us! Give us the power of his phallus!â
Still Set ignores their pleas, and cries to Pharaoh:
âAs your God of Darkness, I offer his phallus of magick to the greatest Pharaoh on this earth! A gift from one mighty god to another!â
Set now bounds toward his patron and places the mark of Osiris at the feet of Ramses who gathers up the power relic. Spellbound beneath paint and powder Ramses smiles down at this prize, and believing it to be a magickal symbol, holds it up for all to gaze on.
Set is well pleased that his gift has been accepted and returns to the scene to complete more acts of vengeance on his brother who is still alive, but now in limbo. From Osirisâs eyes the tears are flowing, his body shrunk and dwindled, drowning in a pool of life-blood that is fast becoming gold dust.
Aeon of Set
From a painting by Judith Page
With a swing of his sword, Set severs Osirisâs head and stands there victorious holding up his final trophy. Osirisâs tongue hangs speechless and his eyes swivel wildly looking upon the world he once ruled. As they dull and cloud over, Set throws the head of Osiris directly towards you. The shock and surprise of this action makes you reel back in horror. Tears flow copiously from Osirisâs eyes, only to turn into gold dust floating away on the breath of the wind. A once mighty god reduced to this! You cannot comprehend such a thing happening, the Neters are eternal and unchanging.
Set whispers in your ear:
âEternal? Unchanging? Why do you compel us to dwell in a mythic land of your imaginings Pilgrim? Your static perception of life serves no purpose. Perpetual sunshine only creates deserts. By shutting yourself away in your âparadisiacalâ little world do you think you can keep the forces of change at bay? Wake up from your dream and face the truth â FACE YOURSELF.â
Setâs laughter echoes through your head. You find yourself back in the empty desert wastes. The mythic audience has disappeared. It was all an illusion. You are convinced of this. Or are you? You feel shattered, unsure of the truth?
âWhose truth have you been following Pilgrim and are you capable of thinking for yourself?â
Setâs words gently taunt you as he places his hands on your shoulders. He turns you around, before you are the entire theatrical company of this sacred drama. Shining Osiris stands tall and complete. How can this be? This wondrous god fell prey to his murderous brotherâs rage time and time again. It was a history that was played out across aeons and was enshrined within the sacred scripts of this ancient land. You feel confused. The divine assembly stand silent and majestic as they await your verdict. Djehuty offers a small bow in your direction and invites your deliberations.
Think back on all that has disturbed you. Is it a truth you have not been aware of?
Judith Page & Ken Bales authors of Invoking the Egyptian Gods published by Llewellyn Worldwide ISBN 9780738727301
This book is both spiritual and practical. Not only will it be an aid to the advanced practitioner, it will also be a valuable learning tool for those who are just beginning to practice invoking.
Throughout the book, you will be calling on many gods and goddesses based on ritual invocational rites.
Each chapter is accompanied by a brief outline explaining the meaning and purpose behind each invocation. Our invocations and meditations are not empty verbalism; they greatly enhance and enrich our lives as we enter into the realm of the gods.
As Ken Bales rightly says, âWhen you invoke a god or goddess, you are invoking part of yourself. You are communicating with that part of you that is divine.â
Many invocations that have been written are so cosmetically perfect, offering you only a faĂ§ade and never really getting in touch with the chosen god.
This book is only the tip of the pyramid, as so much more has yet to surface. A lot of rituals and invocations are purely ceremonial with no intent of reaching out to the god. Our work is an elegant way to approach an Egyptian god. It is also to the point, and truthfully written. We have held nothing back.
We have attempted to understand the spiritual and aesthetic aims of the ancient Egyptians. In short, we have endeavored to reconstruct their creative process. Clearly, it is possible only partially to succeed in doing so. We may have an idea of what it may have been to perform invocations to the ancient gods, but as much as we try, we must accept that these were people working against a background very different from ours. We cannot put ourselves in their place, even with the help of the knowledge we have collected about their civilization.