Part Two of The Giza Discovery
The Myth and Religion of Osiris the God
By Peter Goodgame
"Glory be to thee, Osiris Un-nefer, the great god who dwellest within Abtu (Abydos), thou king of eternity, thou lord of everlastingness, who passest through millions of years in the course of thine existence. Thou art the eldest son of the womb of Nut, and thou wast engendered by Seb, the Ancestor... Let thine heart, O Osiris, who art in the Mountain of Amentet, be content, for thy son Horus is stablished upon thy throne... He leadeth in his train that which is, and that which is not yet... he is exceedingly mighty and most terrible in his name 'Osiris'; he endureth for ever and for ever in his name of 'Un-nefer.' Homage be to thee, O King of kings, Lord of lords, Ruler of princes, who from the womb of Nut hast ruled the world and the Underworld. Praise be unto thee, Osiris, lord of eternity, Un-nefer-Heru-Khuti, whose forms are manifold, and whose attributes are majestic... thou guide of the Underworld, whom (the gods) glorify when thou settest in the night sky of Nut... Those who have lain down [i.e., the dead] rise up to look upon thee, they breathe the air and they look upon thy face when the disk riseth on the horizon; their hearts are at peace inasmuch as they behold thee, O thou who art Eternity and Everlastingness."
"Hymn to Osiris" from the Egyptian Book of the Dead (c.1400 BC)
When the pyramids of Giza were built by pharaohs of the Fourth Dynasty (circa 2600-2500 BC) the center of Egyptian religion was located at the city of Anu or Iunu, later known to the Greeks as Heliopolis the "City of the Sun." This religious capital was located on the opposite side of the Nile from the Giza plateau about twelve miles to the northeast. The pyramids were built as a religious monument and if we are to fully understand them we must first have a basic understanding of Egyptian religious beliefs at the time.
According to what is called the Ennead System of creation, which was developed and promoted from Heliopolis, there were nine major gods at the head of the Egyptian pantheon. The chief god was Atum, also known as Ra or Re. It was he who emerged alone out of the primordial nothingness and he was represented and worshiped as the sun. The next stage was Atum's creation of the elements 'air' and 'water,' deified as the god Shu and goddess Tefnut. From this union came the next generation of Egyptian divinities who were the god Geb (also known as Keb or Seb) who represented the earth, and the goddess Nut or Nuit, who was a deification of the sky and the heavens. This pair, the sky and the earth, were eventually separated as the picture shows, with the canopy of the heavens arching over and covering the prostrate earth.
It was from the union of Geb and Nut that Egyptian history began, because prior to their separation Nut became pregnant and gave birth to four children: the brothers Osiris and Set, and the sisters Isis and Nephthys. According to ancient Egyptian accounts from every era Osiris was the very first king of Egypt who ruled wisely and compassionately in a primordial Golden Age referred to as Zep Tepi—the "First Time."
The Myth of Osiris
The story of the life and death of Osiris is related in the myth called "The Legend of Osiris and Isis." This myth is recounted in bits and pieces throughout Egypt in hieroglyphic inscriptions, in papyrus funerary texts, and in paintings and sculptures, but it was not set down in a complete modern literary form until the Greek writer Plutarch summarized it in the first century AD. 
Briefly, according to this version of the myth, when Osiris appeared the land of Egypt was in chaos and the people lived as ignorant barbarians. Osiris civilized the Egyptians and brought order to the land by teaching them agriculture and writing, by giving them a code of laws, and by instructing them in the proper worship of the gods. After his great success in the land of Egypt Osiris set out on a journey to civilize and bring order to the entire earth. While he was gone his sister/wife Isis ruled in his stead, while his jealous brother Set plotted how to get rid of him and take over his throne.
During a return visit to Egypt Set held a banquet in Osiris' honor. He had secretly measured Osiris' body and had fabricated a beautiful chest to his exact specifications. During the party this chest was brought out and admired by all. As if in fun Set remarked that he would give this beautiful object to whomever could fit perfectly inside it. Everyone at the party tried to fit inside, but only Osiris fit perfectly, and then when he was inside Set, along with seventy-two fellow conspirators, slammed the door of the chest shut and fastened it with nails and molten lead. They then carried the chest out and tossed it into the river, whereupon Osiris drowned and the chest was carried out to sea.
Eventually this chest came to the shore near Byblos, where the ocean-side shrubbery grew up around it and covered it. This shrubbery grew thicker and thicker so that it appeared as a tree trunk, after which it was cut down, with the chest hidden inside, and installed as a pillar in the court of the local king. After a series of miraculous events Isis eventually found the chest, recovered the body of Osiris and brought it back to Egypt where she hid it. Unfortunately, while out hunting one night the evil Set came upon this chest, discovered the body of Osiris, cut it up into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout the land. Isis then went throughout the land to recover these pieces, setting up a shrine or tomb for Osiris at each place. She found every piece of Osiris except for the phallus and magically put him back together again. In place of the phallus she created an artificial one and consecrated it to the gods, after which she copulated with Osiris and became pregnant. The body of Osiris was then mummified and buried at an undisclosed location, which is the first historical or mythological reference to the practice of mummification. Osiris was the world's very first mummy, which is an important fact to remember.
The son born to Isis from Osiris was named Horus and he was raised to adulthood in secret. The spirit of Osiris would often visit his son, instructing him in warfare and in the proper way to rule as a king. Horus gradually became skilled and knowledgeable enough to challenge his uncle Set, and faced off against him in a number of epic battles. Horus eventually overcame Set militarily and then also legally, when the Council of the Gods gave Horus the authority to rule over the whole land of Egypt. Osiris was also rewarded for the virtue that he displayed in his life by being transformed into a god and given authority as the Judge of the Dead and Ruler of the Underworld. From then on every king of Egypt was known as a descendent of both Horus and Osiris.
The Symbols of Osiris
In Egyptian art Osiris is almost always depicted as a figure who is mummified in white linen from his neck down, with only his arms or hands unbound. He is usually shown wearing the white crown—the hedjet, which is the crown that always refers to Upper Egypt (southern Egypt). There was also a red crown—the deshret, which was usually reserved for Lower Egypt, and there was also a double crown—the pschent, which symbolized the wearer's authority over both Upper and Lower Egypt. Osiris almost always wore the White Crown, and rarely the Red Crown, but Horus was often pictured wearing the Double Crown.
Osiris is also depicted with green skin, which Egyptologists explain as a reference to the fact that he is dead, or as an allusion to his role as an agricultural god. Osiris is often shown holding a crook or hooked staff and a flail. The crook was a shepherd's tool, while the flail was used as a threshing tool in agriculture. These became symbols of royalty and were adopted by pharaohs down through the ages, including King Tutankhamen. 
Images of Osiris are also often accompanied by the hieroglyphic symbol known as the ankh, which looks like a cross with a loop at the top, as shown at the bottom right of the picture. This hieroglyph is the ancient Egyptian symbol meaning "life," and it was used in the case of Osiris, as with the Cross of Christianity, to refer to life after death and eternal life. Another symbol used in connection with Osiris that had the same connotation was the Bennu bird, or phoenix, the legendary bird of prey that dies a fiery death but is always reborn from the ashes. Some accounts state that this bird first emerged from the heart of Osiris, while others equate the Bennu bird with the soul of Ra-Atum. As we will continue to show, the theme of "Resurrection" is a constant companion to the figure of Osiris.
Another important symbol for Osiris is the constellation Orion. As Part 1 explained, this is a connection still debated within the field of Egyptology, yet the evidence seems to be clear. Below are translations of several inscriptions that date to approximately 2175-2350 BC. They are the earliest references to Osiris in existence and they clearly connect the god with the constellation Orion:
"In your name of Dweller in Orion, with a season in the sky and a season on earth. O Osiris, turn your face and look on this King, for your seed which issued from you is effective."
"This Great One has fallen on his side, he who is in Nedit is felled. Your hand is taken by Ra, your head is lifted up by the Two Enneads. Behold he has come as Orion, behold, Osiris has come as Orion... O King, the sky conceives you with Orion, the dawn-light bears you with Orion. He who lives, lives by the command of the gods, and you live. You will regularly ascend with Orion from the eastern region of the sky, you will regularly descend with Orion into the western region of the sky..."
"O King, you are this great star, the companion of Orion, who traverses the sky with Orion, who navigates the Netherworld with Osiris; you ascend from the east of the sky, being renewed at your due season and rejuvenated at your due time. The sky has born you with Orion, the year has put a fillet on you with Osiris, hands have been given to you, the dance has gone down to you, a food-offering is given to you, the Great Mooring-post cries out to you as (to) Osiris in his suffering." 
These inscriptions are part of the Pyramid Texts which are an important key to unlocking the mysteries of Egyptian religion, the origin of Dynastic Egypt, and the historical identity of Osiris—the man who became a god.
The Pyramid Texts
The three main pyramids of Giza were built during Egypt's Fourth Dynasty (c.2600-2500 BC) and they are curiously devoid of any kind of ritualistic hieroglyphic inscriptions. Less than two hundred years later another major pyramid complex began to be built at Saqqara, about ten miles southeast of Giza. Altogether five kings from the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties erected five main pyramids at this new cult location. These pyramids were much smaller than those of Giza and they were also different by the fact that the halls and chambers within these pyramids were completely covered with the inscriptions that are known today as the 'Pyramid Texts.'
There are over seven hundred groups of inscriptions, known as 'utterances,' carved throughout these five pyramids, and the majority of them are spells or ritualistic verses whose purpose is to "ensure the welfare of the dead king in the hereafter." Strangely, the very first of these utterances appear to have much in common with the early pages of the New Testament:
"The King is my eldest son... he is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
"Recitation by Geb: 'The king is my bodily son...'"
"...The King is my beloved son, my first-born upon the throne of Geb, with whom he is well pleased, and he has given to him his heritage in the presence of the Great Ennead. All the gods are in joy, and they say: 'How goodly is the King! His father Geb is pleased with him.'" 
Throughout the Pyramid Texts the king is the focus and his relationship with the gods is explained. He is referred to often as Osiris or as Horus, and he is referred to repeatedly as the son of Ra—the chief god of the Ennead, or as the son of Geb—the earth god of the Ennead. During his life the king was viewed as a sort of living or reincarnated Osiris/Horus and then at his death he took his place in the Netherworld among the gods and stars after undergoing a judgment presided over by Osiris. One of the most important doctrines of Egyptian religion is thus developed, as the French Egyptologist Ledrain explains,
"Osiris was the god through whose sufferings and death the Egyptian hoped that his body might rise again in some transformed or glorified shape, and to him who had conquered death and had become the king of the other world the Egyptian appealed in prayer for eternal life through his victory and power. In every funeral inscription known to us, from the pyramid texts down to the roughly written prayers upon coffins of the Roman period, what is done for Osiris is done also for the deceased, the state and condition of Osiris are the state and condition of the deceased; in a word, the deceased is identified with Osiris. If Osiris liveth for ever, the deceased will live for ever; if Osiris dieth, then will the deceased perish." 
Giza and the Cult of Osiris
Evidence that Giza was built as a magnificent memorial to Osiris can be found throughout Egyptian history. In his book Secret Chamber (1999), author and researcher Robert Bauval gathers much of this evidence and organizes it into a formidable argument.
For instance, in the Book of the Two Ways, which dates to c.2000 BC, Bauval cites a reference to the "Highland of Aker, which is the dwelling place of Osiris," and another that states: "Osiris who is in the Highland of Aker." Bauval then refers to Egyptologist Selim Hassan whose research has concluded that Aker, a lion-figured deity pictured often in connection with Osiris and the Netherworld, is most likely symbolized by the Great Sphinx, and that the "Highlands of Aker" must then refer to the raised Giza plateau upon which the Sphinx and the Pyramids were built. In other words, Giza is the dwelling place of Osiris. 
Another reference comes from the inscription on the Shabaka Stone which dates to c.700 BC. However, the scribe who carved the text states that the inscription is a copy from an earlier original, one that scholars believe may date as far back as the Pyramid Age:
This is the land ////// the burial of Osiris in the House of Sokar. ////// Isis and Nephthys without delay, for Osiris had drowned in his water. Isis [and Nephthys] looked out, [beheld him and attended to him]. Horus speaks to Isis and Nephthys: "Hurry, grasp him ///."
Isis and Nephthys speak to Osiris: "We come, we take you ///."
////// [They heeded in time] and brought him to [land. He entered the hidden portals in the glory of the lords of eternity]. //////. [Thus Osiris came into] the earth at the royal fortress, to the north of [the land to which he had come...] 
According to this text Osiris was buried in the "House of Sokar" after his body had been taken by Isis and Nephthys and brought to the land, whereafter he entered the "hidden portals" and "came into the earth at the royal fortress," which was in the north of the land of Egypt.
The Pyramid Texts explain that Sokar is merely another name for Osiris. Some current researchers believe that Sokar was an ancient deity originally distinct from Osiris but their evidence is thin and based primarily on conjecture and supposition . Sokar may have been a name by which the Egyptians originally knew Osiris, and one of his many aspects, but Sokar was never completely distinct from Osiris.
In Utterance 300 of the Pyramid Texts the king, who is often identified as Osiris, states, "...I am Sokar of Rostau, I am bound for the place where dwells Sokar..." In Utterance 532 the connection is made more explicit: "...they have found Osiris, his brother Seth having laid him low in Nedit; when Osiris said 'Get away from me,' when his name became Sokar." The "House of Sokar" is therefore the very same as the "House of Osiris."
The next question is, what and where is Rostau? Remember that in Part 1 Zahi Hawass was quoted as referring to Osiris as the "Lord of the Underground Tunnels"? Well the word Rostau means underground tunnels, and "Lord of Rostau" is one of the many titles held by Osiris. "Rostau" was simply another name for the Giza plateau and the many tunnels underneath it.
This understanding is clarified by a stela that once stood between the paws of the Sphinx that is attributed to Thutmose IV (c.1400 BC). Line seven of this stela states that the Sphinx lies "beside the House of Sokar ... in Rostau." 
Bauval finds further proof that Rostau refers to Giza in the so-called Coffin Texts which were inscribed in burial chambers near the end of the Old Kingdom (c.1800-2000 BC):
"I am Osiris, I have come to Rostau in order to know the secret of the Duat ... I have come equipped with magic, I have quenched my thirst with it, I live on white emmer, filling the Winding Waterway..."
"...on the day of concealing the mysteries of the deep place in Rostau ... I am he (Osiris) who sees the secret things in Rostau... O you who opens up ways and open up paths for the perfected souls in the House of Osiris..."
"...Sokar... (is) happy and content when (he) sees that this mansion of mine is founded among the waters... while Sokar belongs to Rostau..."
"I have travelled by the roads of Rostau on water and on land... these are the roads of Osiris and they are in the sky..."
"I have passed over the paths of Rostau, whether on water or on land, and these are the paths of Osiris; they are at the limit of the sky..."
"I shall not be turned back to the gates of the Duat. I ascend to the sky with Orion... I am one who collects for himself his efflux in front of Rostau..." 
Robert Bauval first made his mark internationally with the book The Orion Mystery, co-written with Adrian Gilbert in 1995. This volume put forth the hypothesis, which has steadily gained popular support, that the three pyramids of Giza were laid out and built as a deliberate representation of the three belt stars of Orion on earth. Rostau, Giza, the "Highland of Aker," the "House of Sokar" or "House of Osiris," by whatever name it is known, was built to be a picture of the heavens on the earth. Bauval explains,
"Giza, the earthly Rostau, is located on the west bank of the River Nile. Thus by transposition, we can deduce that the celestial Rostau is a region of the starry sky on the west 'bank' of the Milky Way. Furthermore Giza... is a counterpart of a portion of the sky near the Milky Way which contains Orion, Sirius and the constellation of Taurus and Leo. Everything thus strongly points to the idea that we are invited to consider this celestial region as a sort of 'guide map' – one, perhaps, that may lead us to the 'tomb' or 'burial place' of Osiris." 
Many researchers believe that the Tomb of Osiris, as well as his bodily remains or "efflux," will be found and publicized in the very near future. However, there are other references among the Coffin Texts that appear to state that the remains of Osiris may in fact be supernaturally protected:
"This is the sealed thing which is in darkness, with fire about it, which contains the efflux of Osiris, and it was put in Rostau. It has been hidden there since it fell from him, and it is what came down from him onto the desert sand; it means that what belongs to him (his body) was put in Rostau..." Coffin Texts Spell 1080
"This is the word which is in darkness. As for any spirit who knows it, he will live among the living. Fire is about it, which contains the efflux of Osiris. As for any man who shall know it, he will never perish there, since he knows what shall be in Rostau. Rostau is hidden since he fell there... Rostau is (another name) for Osiris..." Coffin Texts Spell 1087 
Perhaps it is not up to us to find it, but up to something or someone else to allow it to be found, when the time is right.
The Mysteries of Osiris
Here is what the celebrated Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge had to say about Osiris "the single most important Egyptian deity" at the beginning of his book Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, first published in 1911 (and dedicated to Lionel Walter Rothschild):
"The religious literature of all the great periods of Egyptian history is filled with allusions to incidents connected with the life, death, and resurrection of Osiris, the god and judge of the Egyptian dead; and from first to last the authors of religious texts took it for granted that their readers were well acquainted with such incidents in all their details. In no text do we find any connected history of the god, and nowhere are stated in detail the reasons why he assumed his exalted position as the judge of souls, or why, for about four thousand years, he remained the great type and symbol of the Resurrection. No funerary inscription exists, however early, in which evidence cannot be found proving that the deceased had set his hope of immortality in Osiris, and at no time in Egypt's long history do we find that the position of Osiris was usurped by any other god. On the contrary, it is Osiris who is made to usurp the attributes and powers of other gods, and in tracing his history... we shall find that the importance of the cult of this god grew in proportion to the growth of the power and wealth of Egypt, and that finally its influence filled both the national and private life of her inhabitants, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sixth Cataract at Shablûkah. The fame of Osiris extended to the nations around, and it is to the hands of foreigners that we are indebted for connected, though short, narratives of his history."  (emphasis mine)
Osiris became one of the most revered gods in Egypt and even throughout the civilized world in the millennia before the appearance of Christianity, but his origins still remain obscure. Was he a historical figure, or was he a product of man's imagination? The ancient Egyptians would emphatically argue that he was once a flesh-and-blood man before he died and became a god.
Robert Bauval agrees with the ancient Egyptian understanding of Osiris. He believes that Osiris once walked the earth, but like Budge he is mystified by many of the unknowns that surround this figure. Bauval writes,
"There is a great paradox in Egyptology that so far has not been properly explained. Although the earliest reference to Osiris is found in the Pyramid Texts which date from c.2300 BC, a cursory study reveals that the mythology, doctrines, liturgy and rituals which they contain could not possibly have developed overnight, but would have required a long process of intellectual and religious evolution long before that date. Although all Egyptologists seem to agree to this, none can agree, however, on how long before that date this process would have begun. A tentative date of around 6000 BC was suggested by Jane B. Sellers on astronomical grounds, but an even earlier date of around 10,500 BC also based on astronomical considerations is, in my opinion, more likely. Furthermore, the Egyptologists are also at a loss to explain why in the large quantities of inscriptions that predate the Pyramid Texts, not one single mention of Osiris has been found. It is as if the cult of Osiris, with its rituals, doctrines, liturgies and mythology, suddenly materialised out of nowhere and, almost overnight, was readily adopted as the principle religion of the pharaonic state." 
In the quote from Budge above he theorized that the origins of the Osiris cult trace back to about 4000 BC. Bauval's quote refers to Sellers who believes that the cult goes as far back as 6000 BC, while Bauval personally believes that the Osiris cult traces back even further to 10,500 BC. These are all interesting conjectures yet the fact remains, as Bauval concedes, that prior to 2300 BC among the large quantities of inscriptions that have been found, absolutely none of them mention or refer to Osiris or to his alter-ego Sokar. With this fact in mind it is far more likely then that the historical figure of Osiris is to be found only a few hundred years, rather than a few thousand years, before his appearance, fully-evolved and fully-functional, at the heart of Egyptian religion.
The search for the historical Osiris will continue in the next installment.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Plutarch's "Isis and Osiris":
2. Crook and flail of Tutankhamen: http://touregypt.net/museum/tutl63.htm
3. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, translated by R.O. Faulkner, 1969
4. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, translated by R.O. Faulkner, 1969, inside dust jacket
5. Ibid, p.1
6. Ledrain, Les Monuments Égyptiens de la Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1879, pll. xxi-xxvii.
7. Secret Chamber: The Quest for the Hall of Records, Robert Bauval, 1999, pp.82-83
8. Ibid, p.85
Shabaka Stone text from http://nefertiti.iwebland.com/texts/shabaka_stone.htm
9. See www.kheraha.co.uk and the work of Simon Cox and David Alan Ritchie
10. For further corroboration also see http://www.guardians.net/hawass/osiris1.htm
11. Secret Chamber: The Quest for the Hall of Records, Robert Bauval, 1999, p.88
12. Ibid, pp.92-94
13. Ibid, p.95
14. Ibid, Coffin Texts from p.88 and p.94 respectively
15. Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, E. A. Wallis Budge, 1973 (1911), page 1
16. Secret Chamber: The Quest for the Hall of Records, Robert Bauval, 1999, pp.95-96
September 11, 2005