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Before we visit
During our visit
The Myth of Osirus
Methods of Burial
Gods, Religion & the Afterlife
After our visit
School Link - The Myth of Osirus

Knowledge and understanding of events, people and changes in the past

2 Pupils should be taught:

a) about characteristic features of the periods and societies studied, including the ideas, beliefs, attitudes and experiences of men, women and children
in the past

The Myth of Osiris

The ancient Egyptians had many myths, but one of the most important ones, which explained the order of things, is the myth of Osiris. Myths were very important stories which were passed by word of mouth in a population where only 3 out of 10 Egyptians could read and write there own language, myths were very important. The ancient Egyptians had a great sense of humour and as we can imagine, this story was passed over the generations, before being recorded by the priests into words, bits of the original story must have been added and developed.


The ancient Egyptians tell us, in this myth that before people lived in the land of Egypt, the gods themselves lived there. One day the gods left Egypt to become the night time stars, they gave the land of Egypt to there favourite son Osiris, however Osiris had a very jealous brother called Seth and Seth plotted against his brother Osiris. Seth decided to have a party and at this party were his followers together with a prize lead coffin.Seth said to Osiris and all of his guests, (who were of course Seth’s followers), who ever fitted inside the lead coffin perfectly, could have the coffin for their funeral. All the guests tried the coffin and when it was Osiris turn and as the back of Osiris head touched the coffin, Seth and his followers rushed forward and slammed the lid on top of the coffin, and then through the coffin into the Nile, as the coffin sank deep into the Nile the water rushed into the coffin and drowned poor Osiris. But the Egyptians tell us in the myth that Osiris was a lucky god because he had a dutiful wife called Isis. Isis searched the land of Egypt looking for her missing husband Osiris, eventually Isis did what all woman do when they have lost there husbands, she sat down by the bank of the Nile and started to cry and as the goddesses tears left hers eyes and touched the surface of the water, it drew attention to what was living in the Nile. Now in some versions of this myth a Hippopotamus saw the tears of Isis in another version it was a Frog, anyway the Frog swam to the surface and asked the goddess why she was crying, “woo woo I have lost my husband” she said. So the Frog dived back into the Nile and swam the length of the Nile looking for Osiris and could not find the God any where but what he found was a lead coffin, so this Frog which must have been able to eat four shredded wheat every day, dragged the lead coffin up to the bank of the Nile, Isis opened the lid of the coffin and inside was Osiris as dead as a door nail. Just at that movement Seth was walking along the bank of the Nile and in fear of her life Isis used her secret of magic and transformed herself into a cow and hid in the Papyrus marsh. When Seth saw his dead brother in the coffin, whom he thought he had done away with, he grew angry and started tearing at the dead body of Osiris, scattering bits of Osiris body all over Egypt, Isis saw what Seth had done to her husband Osiris and fashioned a basket made out of papyrus and travelled round Egypt picking up all the bits of her dead husbands body.

Isis then sowed the bits of Osiris body back together again and used her secrets of magic to bring Osiris back from the dead. Osiris became the world first mummy and at the moment of Osiris rebirth Horus was born, the son of Osiris and Isis. Unfortunately Osiris could not stay in the land of the living and had to die a second time to become the god of the dead and sit in judgement of the spirits who wanted to enter the afterlife. Osiris son Horus grew-up to be a strong hero and when the time was right he gathered together his followers and waged war against his wicked uncle, Seth, who was ruling Egypt as king. During this terrible battle between Horus and Seth, the gods in the heavens were awoken and sent Thoth to intervene in the battle and pass judgement. Thoth heard both cases of Horus and Seth and passed judgement. Thoth said because of his treachery of killing his brother Osiris Seth could have Deshret, the red lands of the dessert, were the fly’s, snakes and scorpions live and Horus, because he was the son of Isis and Osiris and Osiris was given the land of Egypt by the gods then Horus should inherit the land from Osiris, so Horus was given K.M.T. (kemet, which means the black lands and Kemet is what the Egyptians called there country after the black silt which would come with the great annual flood, so, Horus became the legal ruler of Egypt.

To explain this myth in detail would take far too long, but what the Egyptians were trying to say within this myth is that Horus was the legal ruler of Egypt and should inherit the land of Kemet. When Narmer unified the two lands of Upper and Lower Egypt he embraced this myth and made him self the living Horus on earth thus transforming himself into a living god, Narmer also called himself the Menes, a mythical king who would unite the two lands.