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The myth of Isis and Osiris: death, resurrection and cosmic order

Isis and Osiris form the most famous divine couple in the Egyptian religion. The myth of which they are protagonists is certainly among the best known and most represented. They were born from Ra who generated them as brothers together with Seth, god of war, and Nephthys, goddess of the underworld.
Isis is often depicted in the form of a woman, sometimes with a wing. Osiris, on the other hand, is represented as a mummified king with green skin. Their iconography is deeply linked to the myth that explains their true nature, a very ancient story that spread widely throughout Egypt.

According to the myth, Osiris was the first civilizing king in the world. His brother Seth, envious, decided to kill him. Seth locked him in a rich sarcophagus by means of a deception and threw him into the Nile.

Isis, desperate for the death of her companion, began to search for his body. After numerous adventures she managed to find it and hide it. Attempting to revive him, the goddess lei remained fertilized and she gave birth to the god Horus, raised in great secrecy.

The body of Osiris was unfortunately found by Seth who, furious, tore it to pieces and scattered the parts so that they could no longer be reassembled. But Isis did not give up. She and her sister Nephthys reassembled the corpse and mummified it so that she could be reborn. In this way Osiris became king of the underworld and reigned there together with Isis for eternity.

It fell to the couple’s son to avenge the killing of the god of the dead. Horo violently clashed with Seth and won him. As a legitimate heir and triumphant over chaos, he became the first pharaoh.

The themes of this myth are numerous. In particular:

  • the contrast between chaos (Seth) and universal balance (Osiris)
  • the importance of the female figure as an element of protection and motherhood (Isis)
  • the origin of mummification the birth of the first divine triad (Osiris, Isis, Horo)
  • the definition of the kingdom of the afterlife the cycle of floods of the Nile deeply connected to the rebirth of Osiris
  • the legitimation of the figure of the pharaoh as guarantor of the cosmic order (Horus).

Among the Mediterranean myths it is not difficult to create associations and connections even between apparently distant cultures. Serapis, for example, was a deity born around the fourth century BC. C from the fusion between Osiris and Apis (worshiped at Memphis). He was often identified with Greek gods such as Zeus, Hades, Dionysus and Asclepius.

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