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Ancient Egyptian cemetery with 40 MUMMIES and a necklace saying ‘Happy New Year’ is found along with 1,000 statues in the Nile Valley

Ancient Egyptian cemetery with 40 MUMMIES and a necklace saying ‘Happy New Year’ is found along with 1,000 statues in the Nile Valley. “THE MUMMIES RETURN,” The Sun says.

The necropolis was discovered near the Nile Valley city of Minya and includes four well-preserved jars designed to hold the mummified internal organs of the tomb’s owner.

By Mark Hodge

AN ancient cemetery containing 40 mummies and a necklace inscribed with the message “Happy New Year has been in Egypt.

The country’s Antiquities Ministry announced today the discovery of the necropolis near the Nile Valley city of Minya, south of Cairo.

An ancient coffin uncovered from the site in Minya, south of Cairo

A human skull is seen in the newly discovered Egyptian cemetery

 

An Egyptian excavation worker works on a finding at the site

 

A stone coffin, known as a sarcophagus, is pictured at the cemetery

 

The area is known to house ancient tombs from the Pharaonic Late Period and the Ptolemaic dynasty

Archaeologists also uncovered 40 coffins, known as sarcophagi, believed to belong to the priest’s family members, some bearing the names of their owners in hieroglyphics.

Another tomb includes several coffins, statues depicting ancient priests and other funerary artefacts.

Mostafa Waziri, head of the archaeological mission, said that four amulet necklaces were found with semi-precious stones were found.

One of the amulets was engraved with the phrase: “Happy New Year,” reports the Egypt Independent.

Another ancient coffin is pictured at the cemetery

 

An Egyptian excavation worker inspects what appears to be a small animal’s skull

Waziri says eight tombs have been uncovered so far and he expects more will be discovered soon.

“We will need at least five years to work on the necropolis,” Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said, “This is only the beginning of a new discovery.”

It is the latest discovery in an area known to house ancient catacombs from the Pharaonic Late Period and the Ptolemaic dynasty.

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The Temples of Philae

Philae is an Egyptian island located in Lake Nasser. During ancient Egyptian times, Philae was the cult center of Isis. It measures only about 1,500 feet by 500 feet. Due to its vulnerability to flooding, high walls with granite foundations were constructed around the island and its temples.

Temple of Philae

The nearby construction of the High (Aswan) Dam in 1970 left the island of Philae and its temples defenseless against flood waters all year round. UNESCO performed a “rescue mission” to move the island’s temples from Philae to a drier, more stable island nearby called Agilika.

The Temple of Isis at Philae

Although there are several temples and buildings located on Philae, the largest and perhaps the most famous is the Temple of Isis. Here, the ancient Egyptians worshiped Isis as well as Osiris and Horus (her son). Ptolemy II, Nectanebo I built the temple around 370 BC.

Temple of Isis, Philae

The main features of this temple include:

Gate of Ptolemy II: Two pink granite lions stand in front of the first pylon by this gate. Two pink granite obelisks at one time joined the lions together. These obelisks are significant because the hieroglyphs found on the base of the obelisks were compared to the Rosetta stone, and were instrumental in deciphering the Egyptian consonantal alphabet.


First Pylon: Reliefs and inscriptions are abundant in the Temple of Isis. For example, on the eastern tower of the first pylon, Dionysus is depicted as holding the enemies of Egypt by the hair while raising his club. Others in the scene include Hathor, Horus and Isis. Above this menacing depiction there are two smaller scenes. One is of the pharaoh offering his crown to Horus and Nephths, and one is of the pharaoh offering incense to Isis and Horus as a child.

Side of the First Pylon and the forecourt of the temple

Birth House: A common feature in Ptolemaic temples, the Birth House in the Temple of Isis depicts Horus as a hawk wearing a double crown standing among papyrus. There is also a relief of Isis carrying a newborn Horus in her arms while being protected by Wadjet, Nekhbet, Amun-Ra, and Thoth. Here, the king conducted rituals to validate his descendancy from Horus.

Second Pylon: The Western Tower depicts Ptolemy XII offering animals and incense to various gods including Hathor and Horus. Also depicted is the king offering flowers to Nephthys and Horus, and another of the king pouring water and presenting incense on an altar while in the presence of Horus, Isis and Osiris. A piece of granite along the Eastern Tower called a stele is carved of Ptolemy VI Philometor standing with Cleopatra II and Isis and Horus. The inscription is notable because it contains what is known as the grant of the Dodekaschoinoi, which lays claim to the land needed for the temple.

Inner Courtyard: A Hypostyle hall stands through a gateway from the second pylon. Ten columns remain here and all are painted to look like and represent a variety of the first flowers and plants. The floor represented the primeval mound and the ceiling the sky, with images of the Day Boat (Madjet) and the Night Boat (Semektet).

Sanctuary: Through the Inner Courtyard is Isis’ Sanctuary. The actual sanctuary is a small chamber with two windows. A pedestal, placed here by Ptolemy III Euergetes I, remains today. It bears the image of Isis in her sacred barque (boat).

Nectanebo’s Kiosk

The Kiosk of Nectanebo I

Nectanebo’s Kiosk is a pillared, roofless hall that originally had 14 columns, of which six remain. The walls of this vestibule are decorated with reliefs of the king sacrificing various items to the gods. Screen walls of the Kiosk are connected by Hathor columns and topped with uraei (serpentine) carvings.


Temple of Hathor at Philae

Built by Ptolemy VI Philometor and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II, the Temple of Hathor consists of a colonnade hall and a forecourt. Augustus decorated the hall to honor Isis and Hathor with depictions of festivals. Augustus is also depicted as presenting gifts to Isis and Nephthys. At The Temple of Hathor at Philae, the ancient Egyptians drank, ate and danced to music played by Bes (Dwarf God of humor, dancing and music) and his harp and tambourine.

Trajan’s Kiosk

Temple of Hathor

Considered by many to be the most appealing structure on Philae, Trajan’s Kiosk is today a roofless structure. In ancient Egyptian times, it was likely roofed and used as a shelter for Isis’ barque at the eastern banks. It is sometimes referred to as the “Pharaoh’s Bed”; Trajan was a Roman Emperor but the kiosk itself likely dates back to earlier times. It is heavily decorated with reliefs of Trajan burning incense to honor Osiris and Isis, while also offering wine to Isis and Horus.

Additional Structures on Philae

The island of Philae has much to offer with not just the Temple of Isis but also the Temple of Hoe-Anhur, and the Temple of Augustus. There are also chapels dedicated to Mandulis (the Sun God of Lower Nubia) and Imhotep (a commoner who achieved divine status after death, he was vizier to Djoser).

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Hathor and the Osiris Myth

Hathor is an ancient Egyptian goddess associated, later, with Isis and, earlier, with Sekhmet but eventually was considered the primeval goddess from whom all others were derived. She is usually depicted as a woman with the head of a cow, ears of a cow, or simply in cow form. In her form as Hesat she is shown as a pure white cow carrying a tray of food on her head as her udders flow with milk. She is closely associated with the primeval divine cow Mehet-Weret, a sky goddess whose name means “Great Flood” and who was thought to bring the inundation of the Nile River which fertilized the land.

After Set murdered Osiris and then hacked him into pieces, he scattered the body parts all across the land and flung some into the Nile. Isis gathered all the parts of her husband back together with the help of her sister Nephthys and brought Osiris back to life but he was incomplete because a fish had eaten his penis and it could not be restored. Isis then transformed herself into a kite (a falcon) and flew around Osiris’ body, drawing his seed into her and becoming pregnant with Horus. Osiris then descended into the underworld to become Lord of the Dead while Isis was left alone to raise her son and Set usurped Osiris’ place as king of the land.

Isis hid Horus from Set until the boy was grown; at which point Horus challenged Set for rule of the land. This struggle is sometimes represented as a battle but, in the story known as The Contendings of Horus and Set, it is a trial overseen by the Ennead, a tribunal of nine powerful gods, who are to decide who is rightful king. Chief among these gods is Hathor’s father Ra who, at one point becomes so upset with the proceedings, he refuses to participate. Geraldine Pinch relates the rest of the story:

Ra becomes angry when he is insulted by the baboon god Babi and lies down on his back. This implies that the creator sun god was sinking back into the inert state that would mean the end of the world. Hathor, Lady of the Southern Sycamore, visits her father and shows him her genitals. He immediately laughs, gets up, and goes back to administering justice. Hathor has aroused the sun god and driven away his evil mood (138).

Although clearly a sexual gesture, the abstract interpretation is of the importance of balance between the feminine and the masculine principles in maintaining order and harmony. Hathor reveals herself to her father in an unexpected gesture which lightens his mood and puts things in perspective. The balance between the duality of feminine and the masculine, between light and dark, fertility and aridity is emphasized throughout Egyptian culture in the gods and the myths relating to them.



The Temple of Hathor at Dendera, Egypt, a famous center of her cult.

Another Myth… Hathor and the Eye of RA

This balance is seen in the concept of the Eye of Ra, the female counterpart to the male aspect of creation embodied in Ra. The Eye of Ra, like the Distant Goddess, was associated with a number of female deities but, again, often Hathor. Geraldine Pinch notes that “the ancient Egyptian word for eye (irt) sounded like a word for “doing” or “acting”. This may be why the eyes of a deity are associated with divine power at its most interventional. Since the word irt was feminine in gender, divine eyes were personified as goddesses” (128). The Distant Goddess story is actually an Eye of Ra story in that the feminine aspect of the divine goes forth, acts upon its environment, and returns to bring transformation.

This same pattern is seen in the creation tale featuring Atum (Ra) and the ben-ben when he sends his children out with his eye to create the world. Hathor was often referred to as “The Eye of Ra” or “The Eye of Atum” and her sun disk is often represented as an eye from which the sun is born. In the story of the sun god’s voyage through the night sky and the underworld, Hathor stands in the prow keeping watch for any sign of danger from Apophis. Throughout Egyptian history she was known as the daughter of Nut and Ra, Wife of Ra, mother of gods, and great Mother Goddess (perhaps related to the even older goddess Neith) so it is no surprise that popular stories such as the Distant Goddess or concepts like the Eye of Ra would tend to feature her.

Horembheb facing the goddess of Hathor from Horembheb’s tomb, Valley of the Kings, Thebes, Egypt, ca. 1300 BCE.

Some ancient stories depict her as the mother of Horus the Elder and others as the wife of Horus of Edfu, resulting in the birth of Horus the Younger who was later regarded as the son of Osiris and Isis. Hathor’s early identification as the mother of Horus, the god most closely associated with the ruler of Egypt, attests clearly to her importance prior to the rise in popularity of the Myth of Osiris when Isis became Horus’ mother. Hathor was worshipped in every region of Egypt before the ascent of Isis and her cult was popular with both the poor working class of Egypt and the ruling elite.

Source and Images: wikipedia, ancient.eu.

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Anubis

Anubis is one of the most prominent and mystical gods of ancient Egypt. He was known since the earliest periods in the history of the civilization that was based near the Nile River.

Anubis (/əˈnuːbɪs/ or /əˈnjuːbɪs/;[2] Ancient Greek: Ἄνουβις, Egyptian: jnpw, Coptic: ⲁⲛⲟⲩⲡ Anoup) is the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists identified the sacred animal of Anubis as an Egyptian canid, that at the time was called the golden jackal, but recent genetic testing has caused the Egyptian animal to be reclassified as the African golden wolf.

A scene from a wooden Egyptian sarcophagus depicting Anubis, the god of mummification and the afterlife.

Anubis is the Egyptian god of mummification and the afterlife as well as the patron god of lost souls and the helpless. He is one of the oldest gods of Egypt, who most likely developed from the earlier (and much older) jackal god Wepwawet with whom he is often confused. Anubis’ image is seen on royal tombs from the First Dynasty of Egypt (c. 3150-2890 BCE) but it is certain he had already developed a cult following prior to this period in order to be invoked on the tomb’s walls for protection. He is thought to have developed in response to wild dogs and jackals digging up newly buried corpses at some point in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000-3150 BCE) as the Egyptians believed a powerful canine god was the best protection against wild canines.

Depiction and Associations

He is depicted as a black canine, a jackal-dog hybrid with pointed ears, or as a muscular man with the head of a jackal. The color black was chosen for its symbolism, not because Egyptian dogs or jackals were black. Black symbolized the decay of the body as well as the fertile soil of the Nile River Valley which represented regeneration and life. The powerful black canine, then, was the protector of the dead who made sure they received their due rights in burial and stood by them in the afterlife to assist their resurrection. He was known as “First of the Westerners” prior to the rise of Osiris in the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) which meant he was king of the dead (as “westerners” was the Egyptian term for departed souls in the afterlife which lay westward, in the direction of sunset). In this role, he was associated with eternal justice and maintained this association later, even after he was replaced by Osiris who was then given the honorary title ‘First of the Westerners’.

In earlier times, Anubis was considered the son of Ra and Hesat (associated with Hathor), but after his assimilation into the Osiris myth he was held to be the son of Osiris and his sister-in-law Nephthys. He is the earliest god depicted on tomb walls and invoked for protection of the dead and is usually shown tending to the corpse of the king, presiding over mummification and funerals, or standing with Osiris, Thoth, or other gods at the Weighing of the Heart of the Soul in the Hall of Truth in the afterlife. A popular image of Anubis is the standing or kneeling man with the jackal’s head holding the golden scales on which the heart of the soul was weighed against the white feather of truth. His daughter is Qebhet (also known as Kabechet) who brings cool water to the souls of the dead in the Hall of Truth and comforts the newly deceased. Anubis’ association with Nephthys (known as “Friend to the Dead”) and Qebhet emphasizes his long-standing role as protector of the dead and a guide for the souls in the afterlife.

Weighing of the heart scene, with en:Ammit sitting, from the book of the dead of Hunefer.

Name & Role in Religion

The name “Anubis” is the Greek form of the Egyptian Anpu (or Inpu) which meant “to decay” signifying his early association with death. He had many epithets besides “First of the Westerners” and was also known as “Lord of the Sacred Land” (referencing the area of the desert where necropoleis were located), “He Who is Upon his Sacred Mountain” (referencing the cliffs around a given necropolis where wild dogs and jackals would congregate), “Ruler of the Nine Bows” (a reference to the phrase used for traditional enemies of Egypt who were represented as nine captives bowing before the king), “The Dog who Swallows Millions” (simply referring to his role as a god of death), “Master of Secrets” (since he knew what waited beyond death), “He Who is in the Place of Embalming” (indicating his role in the mummification process), and “Foremost of the Divine Booth” referencing his presence in the embalming booth and burial chamber.

As his various epithets make clear, Anubis was central to every aspect of an individual’s death experience in the role of protector and even stood with the soul after death as a just judge and guide. Scholar Geraldine Pinch comments on this, writing, “Anubis helped to judge the dead and he and his army of messengers were charged with punishing those who violated tombs or offended the gods” (104). He was especially concerned with controlling the impulses of those who sought to sow disorder or aligned themselves with chaos. Pinch writes:

“A story recorded in the first millenium BCE tells how the wicked god Set disguised himself as a leopard to approach the body of Osiris. He was seized by Anubis and branded all over with a hot iron. This, according to Egyptian myth, is how the leopard got its spots. Anubis then flayed Set and wore his bloody skin as a warning to evildoers. By this era, Anubis was said to command an army of demon messengers who inflicted suffering and death.”

Wooden figures of the Egyptian gods Anubis (jackal), Thoth (ibis), and Horus (falcon). Holes in their bases suggest they were carried on poles as standards for use during funeral processions. Ptolemaic Period, 3rd-2nd century BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin)

In the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-2613 BCE) and Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE) Anubis was the sole Lord of the Dead and righteous judge of the soul, but as the Osiris myth became more popular, the latter god took on more and more of Anubis’ attributes. Anubis remained a very popular god, however, and so was assimilated into the Osiris myth by discarding his earlier parentage and history and making him the son of Osiris and Nephthys born of their affair. According to this story, Nephthys (Set’s wife) was attracted by the beauty of Osiris (Set’s brother) and transformed herself to appear to him as Isis (Osiris’ wife). Osiris slept with Nephthys and she became pregnant with Anubis but abandoned him shortly after his birth in fear that the affair would be discovered by Set. Isis found out about the affair and went searching for the infant and, when she found him, adopted him as her own. Set also found out about the affair, and this is given as part of the reason for his murder of Osiris.

After his assimilation into the Osiris myth, Anubis was regularly seen as Osiris’ protector and “right-hand man” who guarded the god’s body after death, oversaw the mummification, and assisted Osiris in the judgment of the souls of the dead. Anubis was regularly called upon (as attested to from amulets, tomb paintings, and in written works) for protection and vengeance; especially as a powerful ally in enforcing curses placed on others or defending one’s self from such curses.

Although Anubis is very well represented in artwork throughout Egypt’s history he does not play a major role in many myths. His early role as Lord of the Dead, prior to assimilation into the Osiris myth, was static as he only performed a single solemn function which did not lend itself to elaboration. As the protector of the dead, who invented mummification and so the preservation of the body, he seems to have been considered too busy to have involved himself in the kinds of stories told about the other Egyptian gods. Stories about Anubis are all along the lines of the one Geraldine Pinch relates above.



Worship of God

The priests of Anubis were male and often wore masks of the god made of wood in performing rituals. The god’s cult center was in Upper Egypt at Cynopolis (“the city of the dog”), but there were shrines to him throughout the land and he was universally venerated in every part of the country.Scholar Richard H. Wilkinson writes:

“The chapel of Anubis in the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri may have given continuity to an earlier shrine of the god in that area and provides an excellent example of the continuing importance of the god long after his assimilation into the cult of Osiris. Because he was said to have prepared the mummy of Osiris, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers and in the Memphite necropolis an area associated with the embalmers seems to have become something of a focal point for the cult of Anubis in the Late Period and Ptolemaic times and has been termed ‘the Anubeion’ by modern Egyptologists. Masks of the god are known, and priests representing Anumbis at the preparation of the mummy and the burial rites may have worn these jackal-headed masks in order to impersonate the god; they were certainly utilized for processional use as this is depicted representationally and is mentioned in late texts. The many two- and three-dimensional representations of Anubis which have survived from funerary contexts indicate the god’s great importance in this aspect of Egyptian religion and amulets of the god were also common. “

Although he does not play a major role in many myths, his popularity was immense, and as with many Egyptian deities, he survived on into other periods through association with the gods of other lands. The Greeks associated him with their god Hermes who guided the dead to the afterlife and, according to Egyptologist Salima Ikram,

[Anubis] became associated with Charon in the Graeco-Roman period and St. Christopher in the early Christian period…It is probable that Anubis is represented as a super-canid, combining the most salient attributes of serveral types of canids, rather than being just a jackal or a dog.

This “super-canid” offered people the assurance that their body would be respected at death, that their soul would be protected in the afterlife, and that they would receive fair judgment for their life’s work. These are the same assurances sought by people in the present day, and it is easy to understand why Anubis was such a popular and enduring god. His image is still among the most recognizable of all the Egyptian gods, and replicas of his statuary and tomb paintings remain popular, especially among dog owners, in the modern day.

Sources: Ancient.eu, Wikipedia.

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The Myth & Mysteries of Osiris

After the creation of the world, the first five gods were born of the union of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) and these were Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus. Osiris, as the first born, assumed rule as Lord of the Earth, with Isis as his queen and consort. He found the people of Egypt uncivilized and lawless and so gave them laws, culture, religious instruction, and agriculture. Egypt became a paradise under Osiris’ rule where everyone was equal and there was abundant food as the crops were always plentiful. Set was jealous of his brother’s success and grew resentful. Their relationship deteriorated further after Nephthys, Set’s wife, disguised herself as Isis and seduced Osiris, becoming pregnant with the god Anubis. Set had a beautiful coffin made to Osiris’ exact height and then threw a grand party where he presented this box and told the guests that whichever of them fit in it most perfectly could have it as a gift. When Osiris lay down in the coffin, Set slammed the lid on, fastened it shut, and threw it into the Nile, where it was carried away down river.

Osiris’ body traveled out to sea and eventually his coffin became lodged in a great tamarisk tree growing near Byblos in Phoenicia. The tree grew quickly around the coffin until it completely contained it. The king of Byblos, Malcander, came to the shore with his wife Astarte and admired the tree and the sweet scent which seemed to emanate from it. He ordered the tree cut down and brought to his palace as an ornamental pillar for the court, and there Osiris remained, trapped inside the coffin within the pillar, until he died.

Isis had meanwhile left Egypt in search of her husband and eventually came to Byblos, disguised as an older woman, where she sat down by the shore and cried for her missing husband. She was invited to the palace by the royal handmaidens who had come to the shore to bathe and there ingratiated herself to the king and queen so she was asked to be nursemaid for their young sons. Isis tried to make the younger boy immortal by bathing him in fire and, when Queen Astarte discovered this, she was horrified. Isis then revealed herself as the goddess and the king and queen promised her anything she wanted if she would only spare them. She requested only the pillar – which they swiftly granted to her.

Osiris as the kind and just ruler, murdered by his resentful brother, who comes back to life is the most popular and enduring image of the god.

After leaving the court, Isis cut Osiris from the tree and carried his body back to Egypt where she hid him from Set in the swampy region of the Nile Delta. She left him to go gather herbs to make a potion to return him to life, leaving her sister Nephthys to guard the body. While she was gone, Set learned of his brother’s return and went out to find his body. He managed to get Nephthys to tell him where it was, and when he found it, he hacked it into pieces and scattered it across the land and into the Nile. When Isis returned, she was horrified but quickly composed herself and went to work finding the pieces of her murdered husband. With Nephthys’ help, she recovered all of the body parts except the penis, which had been thrown into the Nile and eaten by the oxyrhyncus fish, which is why this fish was forbidden food in ancient Egypt.

Isis was able to revive Osiris and, once he was alive, she assumed the form of a kite and flew around him, drew the seed from his body into her own, and became pregnant with a son, Horus. Even though Osiris now lived, he was incomplete and could no longer rule the land of the living. He withdrew into the afterlife where he became Lord and Judge of the Dead. Isis, fearing what Set might do to her son, hid Horus among the swamps of Egypt until he was grown. At that point, Horus emerged as a mighty warrior and battled Set for control of the world. In some versions of the story, Set is killed but, in most, he is defeated and driven from the land. The chaos Set had unleashed on the world was conquered by Horus, who restored order, and then ruled with his mother.

Source: Ancient History (www.ancient.eu)

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Osiris

Osiris is the Egyptian Lord of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead, brother-husband to Isis, and one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt. The name `Osiris’ is the Latinized form of the Egyptian Usir which is interpreted as ‘powerful’ or ‘mighty’. He is the first-born of the gods Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) shortly after the creation of the world, was murdered by his younger brother Set, and brought back to life by his sister-wife Isis. This myth, and the gods involved became central to Egyptian culture and religious life. Osiris was originally a fertility god, possibly from Syria (though this claim is contested) who became so popular he absorbed the function of earlier gods such as Andjeti and Khentiamenti, two gods of fertility and agriculture worshipped at Abydos. He is associated with the djed symbol and is often depicted with black or green skin symbolizing the fertile mud of the Nile and regeneration. He is also frequently shown as a mummy or in a partially mummified form in his role as Judge of the Dead.

Images of Osiris as a living god depict him as a handsome man in royal dress wearing the crown of Upper Egypt as a plumed headdress known as the atef and carrying the crook and flail, symbols of kingship. He is associated with the mythical Bennu bird ( an inspiration for the Greek Phoenix) who rises to life from the ashes. Osiris was known by many names but chiefly as Wennefer, “The Beautiful One” and, in his role as Judge of the Dead, Khentiamenti, “The Foremost of the Westerners”. The west was associated with death and ‘westerners’ became synonymous with those who had passed on to the afterlife.

He was also known as The Lord of Love, King of the Living, and Eternal Lord. After Isis, Osiris was the most popular and enduring of all the Egyptian gods. His worship spanned thousands of years from shortly before the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-2613 BCE) to the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the last dynasty to rule Egypt before the coming of Rome. It is also possible that Osiris was worshipped in some form in the Predynastic Period of Egypt (c. 6000-3150 BCE) and probably that he originated at that time.

Although he is usually seen as a just, generous, and giving god of life and abundance there are also depictions of him as “a terrifying figure who dispatches demon-messengers to drag the living into the gloomy realm of the dead” (Pinch, 178) though these are the minority. Osiris as the kind and just ruler, murdered by his resentful brother, who comes back to life is the most popular and enduring image of the god.

Small statue of Osiris

Worship of Osiris

The myth embodied some of the most important values of Egyptian culture: harmony, order, eternal life, and gratitude. Set’s resentment of Osiris, even before the affair with Nepthys, grew from a lack of gratitude and an envy for someone else’s good fortune. In Egypt, ingratitude was a kind of “gateway sin” which opened the individual up to all others. The story dramatically illustrated how even a god could fall prey to ingratitude and the consequences which could follow. Just as importantly, the myth told the story of the victory of order over chaos and the establishment of harmony in the land; a central value of Egyptian culture and religion.

A sandstone relief stele depicting in the top panel Minhotep and his son Nakhtmin making offerings to Hathor, Anubis, and Osiris. The middle panel shows Minhotep and his wife Nefertari. The bottom panel shows Nakhtmin and his wife Sekhmet. New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, c. 1300 BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin)

Osiris’ rebirth was associated with the Nile River, which was considered a symbol of his life-giving power. Osiris’ festivals were held to celebrate the beauty of the god and his transcendent power but also his death and rebirth. The festival of the Fall of the Nile commemorated his death while the Djed Pillar Festival celebrated Osiris’ resurrection.

The city of Abydos was his cult center and the necropolis there became the most sought-after burial ground as people wanted to be buried as close to the god as they could get. Those who lived too far away or did not have the resources for such a burial had a stele erected there with their name on it. Osiris was most widely worshipped as Judge of the Dead but the ‘dead’ continued to exist in another realm and death was not the end of one’s existence. The festivals, therefore, celebrated life – both on earth and afterwards – and part of these celebrations was the planting of an Osiris Garden which was a garden bed molded in the shape of the god and fertilized by the mud and water of the Nile. The grains which would later grow symbolized Osiris rising from the dead and also the promise of eternal life for the one who tended the garden. Osiris Gardens were placed in tombs where they are known as an Osiris’ Bed.

Priests of Osiris tended the temple and statue of the god at Abydos, Busiris, and Heliopolis and, as was customary with Egyptian worship, the priests alone were allowed into the inner sanctum. The people of Egypt were invited to visit the temple complex to make offerings and ask for prayers, seek medical advice and counsel, receive aid from the priests by way of material goods or financial gifts, and leave sacrifices to the god in asking for a favor or by way of thanking the god for a request granted.

Osiris, the King, & the People

Osiris was considered the first king of Egypt who established the cultural values all later kings were sworn to uphold. When Set murdered the king, the country plunged into chaos and order was only restored with the victory of Horus over Set. The kings of Egypt identified with Horus during life (they each had a personal name and a ‘Horus Name’ they took at the beginning of their reign) and with Osiris in death. As Isis was the mother of Horus, she was considered the mother of every king, the king was her son, and Osiris was both their father and their higher aspect and hope of salvation after death.

A 2nd century CE Roman marble statue of the Egyptian god Osiris. (Palazzo Altemps, Rome)

It is for this reason that Osiris is so often depicted as a mummified pharaoh; because pharaohs were mummified to resemble Osiris. The image of the great mummified god preceded the practice of preparing the royal body to look like Osiris. All the Egyptian symbols and images which made up the Pyramid Texts on the walls of tombs were meant to remind the soul of the deceased what to do next once they arrived in the afterlife. Their appearance as Osiris himself would not only remind them of the god but also would drive away dark spirits by fooling them into thinking one was the great god himself. The king’s appearance as modeled after Osiris’ extended throughout his reign; the famous flail and shepherd’s staff, synonymous with Egyptian pharaohs, were first Osiris’ symbols as the flail represented the fertility of his land while the crook symbolized the authority of his rule.

Harmony and order had been established by the son of Osiris, Horus, and the king was Horus’ living representative who provided for the needs of the people. Osiris was credited with establishing both the kingship and the natural order and law of life and so, through one’s participation in one’s community and observance of rituals, one was following Osiris’ guidelines. The people, as well as royalty, expected the protection of Osiris in life and his impartial judgment after death. Osiris was the all-merciful, the forgiving, and the just judge of the dead who oversaw one’s life on earth and in the afterlife.

The Mysteries of Osiris

Osiris’ identification with eternal life, with life from death, gave rise to his mystery cult which would travel beyond the boundaries of Egypt as the Cult of Isis. Although no one knows what rituals were involved in the mystery cult of Isis, they may have developed from Osiris’ earlier mysteries celebrated at Abydos beginning in the Twelfth Dynasty (1991-1802 BCE). These were very popular festivals which drew people from all over Egypt to participate in the ritual. Bunson notes that “the mysteries recounted the life, death, mummification, resurrection, and ascension of Osiris” (198). Dramas were staged with the major roles given to prominent members of the community and the local priests who enacted the story of the Osiris myth.

The story known as The Contention Between Horus and Set was then acted out in mock battles between The Followers of Horus and The Followers of Set where it seems anyone could participate. Once the battle had been won by the followers of Horus, the people celebrated the restoration of order and the golden statue of Osiris was brought forth from the inner sanctum of the temple and carried among the people who lavished gifts upon the image. The statue was carried through the city in a circuit and finally placed in an outdoor shrine where he could be admired by his people and also participate fully in the festivities. The emergence of the god from the darkness of his temple to participate in the joys of the living symbolized Osiris’ return to life from death.

Although this festival was primarily held at Abydos, it was also celebrated at other cult centers dedicated to Osiris throughout Egypt such as Bubastis (which was another very important cult center), Busiris, Memphis, and Thebes. Osiris, of course, was the central figure of these celebrations but, in time, the focus shifted to his wife, Isis, who had actually saved him from death and returned him to life. Osiris was intimately tied to the Nile River and the Nile River Valley of Egypt but Isis eventually became detached from any given locality and was considered the Queen of Heaven and the creator of the universe. All other Egyptian gods were finally seen as aspects of the mighty Isis and in this form, her cult traveled to Greece, to Phoenicia, to Rome and throughout the Roman Empire.

The Cult of Isis was so popular in the Roman world that it outlasted every other pagan belief system once Christianity took hold of the popular imagination. The most profound aspects of Christianity, in fact, can be traced back to the worship of Osiris and the Cult of Isis which grew from his story. In ancient Egypt, as in the modern day, people needed to believe that there was a purpose to their lives, that death was not the end, and that some kind of supernatural being cared for them and would protect them. The worship of the great god Osiris provided for that need just as people’s religious beliefs do today.

Source: Ancient History (www.ancient.eu), feature image: wikipedia.

mummification-process

History and Secrets of Egyptian Mummification

Egyptian embalmers were so skilled that people mummified four thousand years ago still have skin, hair and recognizable features such as scars and tattoos.

The practice of mummifying the dead began in ancient Egypt c. 3500 BCE. The English word mummy comes from the Latin mumia which is derived from the Persian mum meaning ‘wax’ and refers to an embalmed corpse which was wax-like. The idea of mummifying the dead may have been suggested by how well corpses were preserved in the arid sands of the country.

The word mummy comes from the Arabic mummiya, meaning bitumen or coal and every Egyptian, except the most abject criminal, was entitled to be embalmed and receive a decent burial.

Early graves of the Badarian Period (c. 5000 BCE) contained food offerings and some grave goods, suggesting a belief in an afterlife, but the corpses were not mummified. These graves were shallow rectangles or ovals into which a corpse was placed on its left side, often in a fetal position. They were considered the final resting place for the deceased and were often, as in Mesopotamia, located in or close by a family’s home.

Graves evolved throughout the following eras until, by the time of the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt (c. 3150 – c. 2613 BCE), the mastaba tomb had replaced the simple grave, and cemeteries became common. Mastabas were seen not as a final resting place but as an eternal home for the body. The tomb was now considered a place of transformation in which the soul would leave the body to go on to the afterlife. It was thought, however, that the body had to remain intact in order for the soul to continue its journey.

Once freed from the body, the soul would need to orient itself by what was familiar. For this reason, tombs were painted with stories and spells from The Book of the Dead, to remind the soul of what was happening and what to expect, as well as with inscriptions known as The Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts which would recount events from the dead person’s life. Death was not the end of life to the Egyptians but simply a transition from one state to another. To this end, the body had to be carefully prepared in order to be recognizable to the soul upon its awakening in the tomb and also later.

The Osiris Myth & Mummification

By the time of the Old Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2613-2181 BCE), mummification had become standard practice in handling the deceased and mortuary rituals grew up around death, dying, and mummification. These rituals and their symbols were largely derived from the cult of Osiris who had already become a popular god. Osiris and his sister-wife Isis were the mythical first rulers of Egypt, given the land shortly after the creation of the world. They ruled over a kingdom of peace and tranquility, teaching the people the arts of agriculture, civilization, and granting men and women equal rights to live together in balance and harmony.

Stela of Neskhons Queen of Pinezem II

Osiris’ brother, Set, grew jealous of his brother’s power and success, however, and so murdered him; first by sealing him in a coffin and sending him down the Nile River and then by hacking his body into pieces and scattering them across Egypt. Isis retrieved Osiris’ parts, reassembled him, and then with the help of her sister Nephthys, brought him back to life. Osiris was incomplete, however – he was missing his penis which had been eaten by a fish – and so could no longer rule on earth. He descended to the underworld where he became Lord of the Dead. Prior to his departure, though, Isis had mated with him in the form of a kite and bore him a son, Horus, who would grow up to avenge his father, reclaim the kingdom, and again establish order and balance in the land.

This myth became so incredibly popular that it infused the culture and assimilated earlier gods and myths to create a central belief in a life after death and the possibility of resurrection of the dead. Osiris was often depicted as a mummified ruler and regularly represented with green or black skin symbolizing both death and resurrection. Egyptologist Margaret Bunson writes:

The cult of Osiris began to exert influence on the mortuary rituals and the ideals of contemplating death as a “gateway into eternity”. This deity, having assumed the cultic powers and rituals of other gods of the necropolis, or cemetery sites, offered human beings salvation, resurrection, and eternal bliss.

Eternal life was only possible, though, if one’s body remained intact. A person’s name, their identity, represented their immortal soul, and this identity was linked to one’s physical form.

The Parts of the Soul

The soul was thought to consist of nine separate parts:

  1. The Khat was the physical body.
  2. The Ka one’s double-form (astral self).
  3. The Ba was a human-headed bird aspect which could speed between earth and the heavens (specifically between the afterlife and one’s body
  4. The Shuyet was the shadow self.
  5. The Akh was the immortal, transformed self after death.
  6. The Sahu was an aspect of the Akh.
  7. The Sechem was another aspect of the Akh.
  8. The Ab was the heart, the source of good and evil, holder of one’s character.
  9. The Ren was one’s secret name.

The Khat needed to exist in order for the Ka and Ba to recognize itself and be able to function properly. Once released from the body, these different aspects would be confused and would at first need to center themselves by some familiar form.

BURIAL PRACTICE & MORTUARY RITUALS IN ANCIENT EGYPT WERE TAKEN SO SERIOUSLY BECAUSE OF THE BELIEF THAT DEATH WAS NOT THE END OF LIFE.

The Mummification Process

When a person died, they were brought to the embalmers who offered three types of service. It would seem, however, that people still chose the level of service they could most easily afford. Once chosen, that level determined the kind of coffin one would be buried in, the funerary rites available, and the treatment of the body. Egyptologist Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University at Cairo, has studied mummification in depth and provides the following:

The key ingredient in the mummification was natron, or netjry, divine salt. It is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium sulphate and sodium chloride that occurs naturally in Egypt, most commonly in the Wadi Natrun some sixty four kilometres northwest of Cairo. It has desiccating and defatting properties and was the preferred desiccant, although common salt was also used in more economical burials.

According to Herodotus, who lived in the fifth century BC, described the different methods:

In the most expensive type of burial service, the body was laid out on a table and washed. The embalmers would then begin their work at the head:

  1. Draw out the brain through the nostrils
  2. Take out the whole contents of the belly, and clean the interior with palm-wine and spices.
  3. Fill the belly with pure myrrh, cassia and other spices and sew it together again.
  4. Cover up in natron for seventy days.
  5. Wash the corpse and roll it up in fine linen.

In the second-most expensive burial, less care was given to the body:

  1. Fill the belly with oil of cedar-wood using a syringe by the breech, which is plugged to stop the drench from returning back; it dissolves the bowels and interior organs.
  2. After the appointed number of days with the natron treatment the cedar oil is let out and the corpse is left as skin and the bones.
  3. Returned the corpse the family.

The third and cheapest (For the Poor) method of embalming was “simply to wash out the intestines and keep the body for seventy days in natron”. The internal organs were removed in order to help preserve the corpse, but because it was believed the deceased would still need them, the viscera were placed in canopic jars to be sealed in the tomb. Only the heart was left inside the body as it was thought to contain the Ab aspect of the soul.

  1. Cleanse out the belly with a purge.
  2. Keep the body for seventy days of natron treatment.
  3. Return the corpse to the family.

Canopic Jars

Except for the heart, which was needed by the deceased in the Hall of Judgment, the embalmers removed all of the internal organs from the body. These were placed into four vases, called Canopic Jars. The lids formed the shape of the Four Sons of Horus. The liver was associated with Imset who was depicted with a human head. The lungs were associated with Hapi who was depicted with a baboon’s head. The stomach was associated with Duamutef with the head of a jackal. The intestines and viscera of the lower body was associated with the falcon headed Kebechsenef.

Canopic Jars

Embalmer’s Methods

The embalmers removed the organs from the abdomen through a long incision cut into the left side. In removing the brain, as Ikram notes, they would insert a hooked surgical tool up through the dead person’s nose and pull the brain out in pieces but there is also evidence of embalmers breaking the nose to enlarge the space to get the brain out more easily. Breaking the nose was not the preferred method, though, because it could disfigure the face of the deceased and the primary goal of mummification was to keep the body intact and preserved as life-like as possible. This process was followed with animals as well as humans. Egyptians regularly mummified their pet cats, dogs, gazelles, fish, birds, baboons, and also the Apis bull, considered an incarnation of the divine.

The removal of the organs and brain was all about drying out the body. The only organ they left in place, in most eras, was the heart because that was thought to be the seat of the person’s identity and character. Blood was drained and organs removed to prevent decay, the body was again washed, and the dressing (linen wrapping) applied.

Although the above processes are the standard observed throughout most of Egypt’s history, there were deviations in some eras.

Funeral Rites & Burial

Once the organs had been removed and the body washed, the corpse was wrapped in linen – either by the embalmers, if one had chosen the most expensive service (who would also include magical amulets and charms for protection in the wrapping), or by the family – and placed in a sarcophagus or simple coffin. The wrapping was known as the ‘linen of yesterday’ because, initially, poor people would give their old clothing to the embalmers to wrap the corpse in. This practice eventually led to any linen cloth used in embalming known by the same name.

Mummy Case

The funeral was a public affair at which, if one could afford them, women were hired as professional mourners. These women were known as the ‘Kites of Nephthys’ and would encourage people to express their grief through their own cries and lamentation. They would reference the brevity of life and how suddenly death came but also gave assurance of the eternal aspect of the soul and the confidence that the deceased would pass through the trial of the weighing of the heart in the afterlife by Osiris to pass on to paradise in the Field of Reeds.

Shabti box

Grave goods, however rich or modest, would be placed in the tomb or grave. These would include shabti dolls who, in the afterlife, could be woken to life through a spell and assume the dead person’s tasks. Since the afterlife was considered an eternal and perfect version of life on earth, it was thought there was work there just as in one’s mortal life. The shabti would perform these tasks so the soul could relax and enjoy itself. Shabti dolls are important indicators to modern archaeologists on the wealth and status of the individual buried in a certain tomb; the more shabti dolls, the greater the wealth.

Besides the shabti, the person would be buried with items thought necessary in the afterlife: combs, jewelry, beer, bread, clothing, one’s weapons, a favorite object, even one’s pets. All of these would appear to the soul in the afterlife and they would be able to make use of them. Before the tomb was sealed, a ritual was enacted which was considered vital to the continuation of the soul’s journey: the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. In this rite, a priest would invoke Isis and Nephthys (who had brought Osiris back to life) as he touched the mummy with different objects (adzes, chisels, knives) at various spots while anointing the body. In doing so, he restored the use of ears, eyes, mouth, and nose to the deceased.

The son and heir of the departed would often take the priest’s role, thus further linking the rite with the story of Horus and his father Osiris. The deceased would now be able to hear, see, and speak and was ready to continue the journey. The mummy would be enclosed in the sarcophagus or coffin, which would be buried in a grave or laid to rest in a tomb along with the grave goods, and the funeral would conclude. The living would then go back to their business, and the dead were then believed to go on to eternal life.

Sources: ancient.eudiscoveringegypt.com

horus-temple

Horus

Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists. These various forms may possibly be different perceptions of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality. He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner or peregrine, or as a man with a falcon head.

The name Horus is Greek. In Ancient Egypt he was known as “Heru” (sometimes Hor or Har), which is translated as “the distant one” or “the one on high”(from the preposition “hr” meaning “upon” or “above”). He was considered to be a celestial falcon, and so his name could be a specific reference to the flight of the falcon, but could also be seen as a more general solar reference. It is thought that the worship of Horus was brought into Egypt during the predynastic period.

He seems to have begun as a god of war and a sky god who was married to Hathor, but soon became considered as the opponent of Set, the son of Ra, and later the son of Osiris. However, the situation is confused by the fact that there were many Hawk gods in ancient Egypt and a number of them shared the name Horus (or more specifically Har, Heru or Hor). Furthermore, the gods Ra, Montu and Sokar could all take the form of a falcon. Each “Horus” had his own cult center and mythology, but over time they merged and were absorbed by the most popular Horus, Horus Behedet (Horus of Edfu).

He was the protector and patron of the pharaoh. As Horus was associated with Upper Egypt (as Heru-ur in Nekhen) and Lower Egypt (as Horus Behedet or Horus of Edfu) he was the perfect choice for a unified country and it seems that he was considered to be the royal god even before unification took place. The Pharaoh was often considered to be the embodiment of Horus while alive (and Osiris once he was deceased). The Turin Canon describes the Predynastic rulers of Egypt as “the Followers of Horus”, and the majority of Pharaohs had an image of Horus at the top of their serekh (a stylised palace facade in which one of the king´s name was written).

However, Sekhemhib (Seth Peribsen) chose to place Horus´ opposite and enemy Set on his serekh while Khasekhemwy placed both Set and Horus above his serekh. As a result, some scholars argue that the mythical battle between Horus and Set was once a real battle between the followers of Set and the followers of Horus. If this was the case, it would seem that the followers of Horus won as Horus remained a popular emblem of kingship while Set was gradually transformed into a symbol of evil. The Pharaoh also had a name (known as the “Golden Horus” name) which was preceded by an image of a sacred hawk on the symbol for gold which specifically linked the Pharaoh to the god. However, it is interesting to note that Set was also known as he of Nubt (gold town), so the symbol for gold could, in fact, relate to him.

Horus and Set were always placed in opposition to each other. However, the exact nature of their relationship changed somewhat over time. Set was the embodiment of disorder and chaos while Horus was the embodiment of order. Similarly, Horus represented the daytime sky while Set represented the nighttime sky. However, in early times the two were also seen as existing in a state of balance in which Horus and Set represented Upper and Lower Egypt respectively. They were often depicted together to indicate the union of Upper and Lower Egypt and there is even a composite deity named Horus-Set, who was depicted as a man with two heads (one of the hawk of Horus, the other of the Set animal).

At this stage, Horus was often considered to be Set´s brother and equal and the fight between them was thought to be eternal. However, the rise in importance of the Ennead resulted in Horus being cast as the son of Osiris and thus the nephew of Set. This changed the nature of the conflict between them, as it was now possible for Set to be defeated and for Horus to claim the throne of Egypt as his own.

The “Eye of Horus” was a powerful protective amulet and when it was broken into pieces (in reference to the time Set ripped out Horus’ eye), the pieces were used to represent the six senses (including thought) and a series of fractions.

Horus was also the patron of young men and was often described as the perfect example of the dutiful son who grows up to become a just man. However, this is perhaps debatable in the light of one of the stories concerning his fight with Set. The mother of Horus (Isis) was a great magician who most certainly had the power to destroy Set. However, when her chance came she could not take it. Set was, after all, her brother. This angered Horus so much that he chopped off his mother’s head in a fit of rage! Thankfully, Isis was more than able to handle this insult and immediately caused a cow’s head to grow from her neck to replace her head. Luckily for Horus, Isis was a compassionate and sympathetic goddess and she forgave her vengeful son his aggressive act.

The Egyptian God Horus was usually depicted as a falcon or a falcon-headed man. He often wore the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. In anthropomorphic form Horus appears as both an adult man and a child, wearing the sidelock of youth (as the son of Isis). There are also numerous depictions of a Horus the child hunting crocodiles and serpents and amulets are known as “cippi” were inscribed with his image to ward off dangerous animals.

Sky god

Since Horus was said to be the sky, he was considered to also contain the sun and moon. It became said that the sun was his right eye and the moon his left, and that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it. Later, the reason that the moon was not as bright as the sun was explained by a tale, known as the contestants of Horus and Set, originating as a metaphor for the conquest of Upper Egypt by Lower Egypt in about 3000 BC. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, and Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until eventually, the gods sided with Horus.

As Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as Harsiesis, Heru-ur or Har-Wer (ḥr.w wr ‘Horus the Great’), but more usually translated as Horus the Elder. In the struggle Set had lost a testicle, explaining why the desert, which Set represented, is infertile. Horus” left eye had also been gouged out, which explained why the moon, which it represented, was so weak compared to the sun.
Horus was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as Neferhor. This is also spelled Nefer Hor, Nephros or Nopheros (nfr ḥr.w) meaning ‘The Good Horus’.

The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and royal power from deities, in this case from Horus or Ra. The symbol is seen on images of Horus” mother, Isis, and on other deities associated with her.

God of war and hunting

Horus was also said to be a god of war and hunting. The Horus falcon is shown upon a standard on the predynastic Hunters Palette in the “lion hunt”. Thus he became a symbol of majesty and power as well as the model of the pharaohs. The Pharaohs were said to be Horus in human form. Furthermore, Nemty, another war god, was later identified as Horus.