Story by Brandon L. Parsons (2016)
All in the family!!!
Among the gods and goddesses of the world, family issues seem to be a theme. Sibling rivalry, family feuds and various tiffs punctuate the legends of many a civilization, almost as if to show the mortals that worship them that such things happen, even to the gods! And almost every civilization has a myth or legend that lays down a story of an evil brother, or stepfather or relative of some kind that dethrones (or tries to) the good king or queen god or goddess of that land. In doing so, it forces someone, usually a son, lover or close friend, to go on a quest to find a way to undo what has been done and bring peace back to the land. In Greek mythology, an example would be Jason of Iolcus going to find the mythical Golden Fleece so that he can rid the kingdom of his evil uncle, who has killed Jason's father and has completely and evilly screwed up the kingdom beyond recognition. Every culture had a tale like that one, a coming of age tale for a younger generation of gods, where in going to avenge the older folks, the younger folks set the stage for their rise to power later on down the line.

Osiris and Isis
Osiris and Isis

The Egyptians have a similar story, a complex and thrilling story, that begins with a god and great ancient king of Egypt named OSIRIS, who could trace back his ancestry all the way to the sun god, Ra. Osiris' mother was Nut, the sky goddess, so Osiris definitely had some god-blood flowing through his veins. Osiris was married unquestioningly to ISIS, the dazzlingly beautiful goddess of magic and life (and, also Osiris' sister; yes, that's how things went in Egypt.) The two were seen as the greatest and the best of rulers, and the kingdom along the Nile flourished in their wisdom and solid guiding hands. Isis gave the people barley and wheat to grow in their fields so that they could be fruitful.

The enlightened kingdom of Osiris and Isis!
The enlightened kingdom of Osiris and Isis!
Taking over from there, Osiris had then taught his subjects how to plant seeds after the Nile had risen in the yearly floods and then sunk again, leaving fresh fertile mud over the fields. He taught them how to tend and water the crops, how to cut the corn when it was ripe, and how to thresh the grain on the threshing floors, dry it and grind it to flour and make it into bread. He showed them also how to plant vines and make the grapes into wine and taught them how to brew beer out of the barley. Once food was covered, Osiris went on to teach them laws, and how to live peacefully and happily together, delighting them with the luxurious and beautiful gift of music and poetry.

Set...a real nice guy...

As soon as Egypt was filled with peace and plenty, Osiris set out over the world to bring his blessings upon other nations. While he was away he left Isis behind as his right-hand-woman to rule over Egypt, which she naturally did both wisely and well. The people of Egypt were seriously cool with their king and queen for all of the helpful skills they passed around (and probably doubly impressed by the music, wine and beer part of it) and the kingdom was healthy, happy and prosperous. Things carried on that way for some time, but as anyone knows, what goes up, must sometimes go down. What Osiris and Isis didn't know was that while Osiris was out of the country on his goodwill tour, his jealous brother, who HATED both Osiris and Isis, the nasty, whiny, dangerous and overall evil Set, was plotting and scheming to bring the whole show to an end and get himself on the throne, toot-sweet. Set was the jackal-headed god of the desert, storms, disorder, violence and foreigners, so you already know that having him on the throne would be an apocalyptic disaster for the folks in Egypt. Foreshadowing, right?

external image by_the_gods_11_set_osiris_by_dazzy_p-d71lx0z.jpg

Set unveils the sarcophagus...
Set unveils the sarcophagus...

On the very day that Osiris returned from his journeys abroad, Set recommended to Isis that she throw a huge palace bash for the higher-ups of the kingdom; anyone who was anyone was invited and no expense ws spared. Set made sure to beef up the guest list with people who supported him; in fact, he had 272 people who were in on his plans for the evening! At the party, Set announced a extremely odd contest for the people in attendance to take part in. The storm-god had constructed an exquisitely carved sarcophagus, or coffin, that he offered up to anyone who could fit its size perfectly. The sarcophagus was ridiculously expensive and was fashioned from the rarest and most costly woods in the known world; cedar brought from Lebanon, and ebony from Punt at the south end of the Red Sea. All agreed that it was a masterpiece, fit for a king. The winner of Set's little contest got to keep the beautiful-yet-creepy party favor as a gift, to save away for their eventual death. This must have been a huge deal, as everyone attending the gathering wanted to give it a try. What no one knew was that Set had built it exactly to the height and width of his brother, Osiris.

Set's sarcophagus...
Set's sarcophagus...

Person after drunken person jumped into the coffin, yet no one fit perfectly; too tall, too short, too fat or too scrawny. The half-tanked and cheering crowd encouraged their king, Osiris, to give it a go, and at last, wanting to humor his guests, Osiris agreed. He climbed up into the coffin, lay down and found it to be a perfect, cozy fit. Before Osiris could say a word or move an inch, the coffin's heavy golden lid slammed shut, magically locking into place. No amount of push or shove would loosen it up, and no matter how hard Osiris banged on the bottom of the lid, it stayed stubbornly closed. The palace went into a frothy frenzy of panic; it didn't need to be said that the party was over. Set called for his large group of traitorous supporters and they sealed the entire coffin with molten lead and had it dumped without much ceremony into the nearby Nile River, Set's brother Osiris inside and trapped! The sarcophagus drifted off down the Nile, amid the crocodiles and river reeds, the doomed king floating off to his watery end. Osiris the man suffocated and died in the sealed airless sarcophagus, but his spirit rose out of its prison and flew west, across the Nile and down into the Duat, the Place of Testing, where every person's soul was judged before it could go on to the underworld. One small problem; Osiris could NOT go on to the underworld until his body was properly buried, with all of the special preparations and honors, even if he was judged to be a good soul...

Isis sets out on her search...
By the time Osiris' queen, Isis, found out about Set's vicious trickery, it was too late; Seth had had himself crowned as the new king of Egypt, and immediately began showing his true colors as a cruel, brutal and oppressive tyrant. Anguished and beyond heartache, Isis set out from the palace to seek out her beloved husband, dead or alive. If he had truly died, she knew that she would need to give him the proper burial rights to ensure that he would be well received in the afterlife. If alive, they would return to deal with Set. She searched the entire kingdom, asking all that she met if they'd heard anything or had seen anything. Finally, a traveler filled her in on what stories he had heard and on where the sarcophagus had washed up:

Tamarisk tree...

The Nile River had carried it out into the Great Green Sea (the Mediterranean Sea) where it was tossed for many days upon the swelling waves, until finally it came to rest on the the shores of Phoenicia (the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, in what is today Israel), near the great city of Byblos. At that spot, the waves cast it into a huge tamarisk tree that grew upon the shore. Instantly, it was as if the tree took on a life of its own as it magically shot out long tendrils of leafy branches and flowers to wrap around the sarcophagus, to make a fit resting place for the body of Osiris. Eventually, the tree completely absorbed the coffin into itself, and it wasn't long until it became famous throughout the land. King Malcander, the king of Phoenicia, caught wind of the amazing tree, and so he and his wife, Queen Astarte, traveled out to the seashore to take a look-see for themselves. By that point, the branches had grown and twisted together, hiding Osiris' sarcophagus inside the trunk itself. King Malcander was mightily impressed and gave orders that the tree should be cut down and fashioned into a great pillar for his palace. His workers got right to work and when the pillar was finished, it stood proudly as a part of the king's towering home. All the people of the kingdom stopped by to wonder at the pillar's beauty and amazing fragrance, but none could have guessed that it held the body of a god.

Buto's island getaway...
Buto's island getaway...

Isis, discovering that her husband's sarcophagus was still around to be found, hurredly prepared to high-tail it out of Egypt to travel to Phoenicia. Another problem; Osiris and Isis had a newborn infant, the still powerless godling Horus. Set knew that if he was to keep his mitts on his ill-gotten throne, he would have to off Horus, and had swiftly sent his men out to hunt down the location the infant to do the dastardly deed. Fearing for the life of her son, Isis fled with him into the marshes of the Nile Delta to find a place to stash him where he'd be safe while she went searching for Osiris. She found shelter on a small island where Wadjet, the cobra goddess, lived, and entrusted Horus with her for safekeeping (you might be thinking that leaving an infant alone with a cobra-deity might be bad parenting, but Wadjet was actually quite nurturing!). As a further safety feature against Set's hunting Horus down, Isis disconnected the island from its foundations, and let it float around aimlessly through the swamps so that no one could find it. That done, she hoofed it swiftly to Phoenicia.

Wadjet, the cobra goddess (Artwork by dmarshallarts)

Isis arrives in Byblos...

After days of travel, Isis arrived at Byblos and being extremely tired from her journey, she kicked back and relaxed by the soothing crash of waves at the seashore. The young maidens who attended to and served Queen Astarte sauntered down to the beach to bathe there in the surf and when they finished and came out of the water, Isis kindly taught them how to braid their hair, which was something they had never seen. When the maidens went back up to the palace again, they carried with them a strange yet wonderful perfume which clung to them (Eau de Isis!); Queen Astarte marveled at the mesmerizing scent and at their intricately braided hair, and asked them for the details. The maidens told her all about the strikingly beautiful yet infinitely sad woman who wistfully looked out upon the ocean from upon the rocks down by the beach.

Queen Astarte of Byblos (Dante Gabriel Rosetti)

Queen Astarte, moved by what she had heard from her maidens (and not knowing she was a goddess), sent for Isis and asked her to serve in the palace, tending her children; young Maneros and baby Dictys, who was sick and could not seemingly be healed. Astarte had no clue that she was asking the greatest of the goddesses of Egypt to work as a nanny for her, but Isis, who was looking for an in to the palace so that she could search for the sarcophagus, cheerfully and gladly agreed to take up the job. Shortly thereafter, as if by miracle, baby Dictys was strong again and seemingly cured of all his ailments, although all Isis had done was give him her finger to suck on. She became very fond of the little guy and decided that she would use her goddess powers to turn him immortal. That process included burning away all of his mortal parts while she flew around him in the form of a bird, a flaming swallow. When this process began in the middle of the night, Astarte had been watching her secretly and when she saw that Dictys seemed to be on fire, she flew into the room screaming bloody murder at the top of her lungs. In doing so, she distracted Isis from her work and broke the magic midway through the ritual.

Isis brings Osiris out of the sarcophagus...
Isis brings Osiris out of the sarcophagus...

Not a wise thing to do to a goddess who is trying to concentrate. Isis, irritated, blew her stack and went full-out-goddess on the queen, and transformed into her own shining, nearly blinding goddess form. That did the trick of silencing the screaming Astarte, who crouched down in terror when she saw the luminous goddess and discovered, in complete and total shock, who she really was. It didn't take more than a few minutes for King Malcander and Queen Astarte to start offering up Isis gifts galore; all of the
richest treasures in Byblos were hers for taking! Isis didn't want treasure; she came to Byblos for one thing and one thing only. All she asked for was the great tamarisk pillar which held up the roof of the palace, and for who was still inside it. When it was taken down, replaced and given to her, she put her hands upon the wood and shattered it into a billion splinters, unsealing the sarcophagus inside, completely preserved. Isis opened it up and saw the limp body of her beloved, not breathing, silent, dead. The beautiful goddess flung herself down upon his body, screaming out with so terrible a cry of sorrow that the entire city of Byblos heard it and mourned with her.

Isis mourns for Osiris... (Artwork by Amy Wilbur)
Isis mourns for Osiris... (Artwork by Amy Wilbur)

After several days of mourning, Isis placed the sarcophagus on a wooden ship which King Malcander provided for her, and set out to return to Egypt. Over the days, the Great Green Sea was calm and tranquil, making it an easy journey. Isis came safely back to her familiar lands and before returning to the floating island of Wadjet to pick up her own little Horus, she hid the sarcophagus in the marshes of the river delta, among the reeds.

Set: The Anger and the Hatred... (by Egypt Club)

It was sheer dumb luck that now-King Set had come hunting wild boars in the swamps with his royal hunting dogs, going out by night, which was his preference, since he loved the darkness in which evil things abound. The night, with its shadows and unknowable secrets, was his place to be, where he felt most at home. Stalking and rummaging around through the reeds by the river, and by the light of the moon, he came across a very familiar site; a sarcophagus made of cedar wood, inlaid with ebony and ivory, with gold and silver, and recognized it immediately. Hatred and anger welled up inside him, boiling up through him in a murderous red cloud. He raged like a hungry panther of the deep jungles to the south. He ripped open the lid to the sarcophagus, gazed upon the body of his hated, despised brother Osiris and shredded it up into fourteen smaller pieces-parts. With his divine god-like strength, he threw the pieces into the air and scattered them up and down the whole length of the Nile, across the kingdom of Egypt, completely hoping that the hungry crocodiles might find them and chow down on Osiris Nuggets. When he was done throwing his temper tantrum, he yelled to the skies "It is not possible to destroy the body of a god! Yet I have done it, for I have destroyed Osiris!" With that, his dark and evil laughter echoed across the dark land, and anyone out and about who heard it scrambled for a hiding place from which to quake in total, miserable fear.

Set scatters Osiris' body parts across Egypt! (by Zanten)
Set scatters Osiris' body parts across Egypt! (by Zanten)

"Nephthys" by C. Temares
When Isis discovered what her utterly vile brother-in-law had done, she doubled up on her efforts. She wasn't about to let Set stop her from giving Osiris a proper burial and a ticket to the afterlife. So, rolling up her goddess' sleeves, she began her search
once again, determined to find all of the scattered pieces of her husband and join them back together. This time, however, she had a super-team of sorts to help her in her search. Nephthys, the protective goddess of the dead (and wife to Set himself!), realized what a total snot Set had been and actually left her wicked husband to join her sister. Nephthys' jackal-headed son, Anubis, also decided to join in the search. As Isis traveled all over Egypt, she was also escorted and protected by seven large scorpions (not a bad way to keep Set or any of his goons away!) When she went searching up and

down the Nile and down the many marshy streams of the delta in a boat made of papyrus reeds, she made a compact with Sobek, the crocodile god, who made certain that the smaller crocodiles, children of Sobek, out of respect and reverence for Isis, agreed to leave the many pieces of Osiris alone, as well as avoid her boat. According to the legend, after Isis' quest, anyone who sailed the Nile in a boat made of papyrus was safe from the crocodiles, because they believed that it was only Isis, still searching for the chunks of her husband's corpse.

Isis searches in the Nile Delta...

Reassembling Osiris
Reassembling Osiris

Slowly but surely, piece by ragged piece, Isis found the scattered fragments of Osiris. And wherever she came across a piece, she formed by magic the likeness of his whole body in statue-form and caused the priests to build a shrine and perform his funeral rites. That being done, there were thirteen places in Egypt which claimed to be the burial place of Osiris. Having Osiris "buried" in thirteen places also made it much tougher for Set to screw around further with the body of the dead god. Isis wasn't messing around!

Isis reconnects Osiris' body...

After much traveling, exploring and mucking around in the swamps, she had finally found thirteen of the fourteen pieces of Osiris. There was only one piece she could never find, because it had been eaten a group of fish who must not have gotten the memo that Osiris' parts were off limits. So bad was the insult, that that certain type of fish kind were cursed forever by Isis, and no Egyptian would touch or eat them. (The piece they ate? Well...let's just say that Osiris would have had a hard time taking a quick pee break without it.) Isis didn't let that small detail stop her from rebuilding her beloved like the "$6,000,000 Dollar God"; she gathered all of the shredded pieces together and assembled Osiris back into a human being again. He was supernaturally rejoined through her goddess magic, good...no, BETTER than new! The missing piece? Using the same magic, she made a likeness of the missing "member" out of gold so that Osiris was finally, at long last, complete (and upgraded!) Her heart and her constant willpower allowed her to bring her much-loved husband to back to some kind of life, even if by the rules he had to then go to the underworld. He wasn't really alive as he'd been, but he was whole, and his soul could now be judged and taken to a glorious afterlife. That is TRUE dedication on the part of his wife!

Osiris' new gig!

Following the ancient rights of burial, she had the body of her dead husband embalmed, mummified and hidden away in a hidden tomb, the location of which only she knew. FINALLY, Osiris' soul could pass on into the Amenti, the land of the dead. From that point on, Osiris became the god and lord of the dead, the god of the afterlife; he mercifully ruled over the spirits who came to the Amenti, welcoming souls that had been judged as worthy into an eternity of good living. The god was more than just the ruler of the afterlife; he was the underworld source that granted ALL life, including allowing new crops to grow in the fertile ground each year. In his reign in the Amenti, He was described as the "Lord of Love", "He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful" and the "Lord of Silence", becoming one of ancient Egypt's most beloved gods. Not so bad after having been hacked to pieces by his loser of a brother.

Osiris and Isis, rulers of the Underworld: The Duat and the Amenti
Osiris and Isis, rulers of the Underworld: The Duat and the Amenti

Osiris_and_Isis (1).gif
Osiris and isis: Reunited in the underworld...
His wife, Isis, didn't cry many tears of sadness, as she knew there was a prophecy that would someday bring Osiris back to her, alive. The prophecy said that their son, Horus, would grow up and challenge Set to a duel, utterly conquer him, and bring balance back to Egypt. And not only that, but both Isis and Horus, as gods, could descend down to the underworld to visit with Osiris. Osiris, being an awesome dad, taught Horus much, and prepared him for the final epic showdown against his foul uncle.
Osiris said to the boy: "Tell me, what is the noblest thing that a man can do?" And Horus answered: "To avenge his father and mother for the evil done to them." Osiris smiled and knew that his son would indeed avenge him and take back the kingdom that Set had stolen from their family and people. In the years that followed, brave and loyal Isis was able to spend time with her beloved and she counted the days until Horus would rise up and knock the living daylights out of Set so that the prophecy would come to pass. And of course, eventually, Horus, the good son, would rise to the occasion and do just that. Set suffered a beating that he would never, ever forget and Horus would put things to right in the kingdom. Osiris was again able to return to the earth and Set was cast down with his face in the dirt. But that's a whole other story!

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Horus and Set (Artwork by GlaringDragon)

Artwork by Thalia Took
Artwork by Thalia Took