Egyptian deities

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Egyptian deities

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sat Jul 16, 2005 2:52 pm

Salvete

After that I did some research on Mesopotamian deities for this forum, I'm doing the same for the Egyptian Gods. So henceforth this topic. I shall not discuss all of them, but the most known deities of ancient Egypt
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Osiris

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sat Jul 16, 2005 2:54 pm

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Anyone with some fundamental knowledge on Egyptian mythology knows that Osiris was an important deity to the ancient Egyptians. His cult was widespread in ancient Egypt. People worshipped him because he was the God of Vegetation, Earth and the Underworld, Osiris symbolized in his death the yearly drought and in his miraculous rebirth the periodic flooding of the Nile and the growth of grain. He was a god-king who was believed to have given Egypt civilization.
This deity’s real Egyptian name is not Osiris. Osiris is the Hellenized version of his name. His real name is more like Asar, wesir, Ausar, Unnefer, Usire, and many others. Osiris is a God with many names. By the 12th century BCE Osiris had around 62 names. By 300 BCE he had mastered around 158 names. Over the years, he usurped many local deities and took their names as one of his own. This is not so uncommon within polytheism. It happens elsewhere as well. Local Gods are usually assimilated by national Gods. The ancient Greeks did it many of their Gods. The ancient Romans did it too. It happened even among the Mesopotamians.
Osiris probably kept his real Egyptian name, or the name(s) the Egyptians knew him best, until the rule of the Ptolemy’s. In the 4th century BCE, Alexander the Great overthrew the Persian Empire and was about to create his own empire when he died. What followed was a ruthless battle for succession where supposedly Alexander’s wife and child died by the hands of his generals. These generals took a province or Satrap of the Persian Empire for their own and ruled over it until the conquest of the Romans of the Middle East. This created a change in certain theological circles of the Egyptian deities. While the Egyptians did have contact with the Greeks and possibly this God’s name was known to them as Osiris, when the Greeks gained control over Egypt, the Egyptian Gods gained a Hellenic character. At times, they just received a Hellenized name, but sometimes, names of both Hellenic and Egyptian deities were synchronized. So we see names popping up like Hermanubis.
So who was the real Osiris than. Osiris was a God who was most likely already worshipped since the 4 millennia BCE and his cult could be older than that. One thing is certain, his cult along with the cult of Anubis are older than the Egyptian dynasties. At the beginning, he was nothing more than a spirit of the Nile or a agricultural deity of the ancient Syrians who emigrated to Egypt and brought Osiris with them; and he rose in popularity and status over the years.
In mythology, Osiris is married to Isis – a Sky Goddess, and is father to Horus, the god of sky, and protector of the dead. Osiris was the first child of Nut and Geb, and therefore the brother of Seth, Nephthys, and Isis. Osiris is also said to be not only the father to Horus, but also to Anubis, by Nephthys, who seduced him in the form of Isis.
Osiris is associated with the Hellenic God Dionysos because both deities were killed and resurrected later on with the help of another deity. The difference lies in the fact that Osiris was born twice, while Dionysos was born three times according to Orphici. Osiris has been associated with the Middle Eastern deity Attis, the Vegetation deity that died each year and resurrected the next year. While the stories of these 3 deities death differ, the story of Osiris’ death and resurrection went something like this. Osiris was killed by his brother Seth, who shut his body in a chest and threw it into the Nile, where it washed up onto the shore and was trapped in a huge tree. The King Byblos turned it into a pillar in his palace. Isis (who had been searching for her husband) discovered the trunk, and retrieved the trunk and the body. While Isis was away, Seth found the body, and chopped it up into many pieces, and scattered them throughout Egypt. Isis and her sister, Nephthys, found the pieces and made wax models of them to give to priests to be worshipped. When they found all of his pieces, they were so sad they wailed loudly enough for Re, the father god, to have pity on them. He sent Anubis and Thoth to help. They mummified Osiris, and put his body in a lion headed pier. Isis changed into a kite and fanned breath into Osiris. He was not allowed to stay in the land of the living, and was sent to the underworld to serve as king, and to judge the souls of the dead.
Osiris was killed by his brother Seth, but Attis was killed by his wife, Kybele. Than again Dionysos was died first as a mortal, than as a God, to return to Olympos as a resurrected God.
The symbols of Osiris were the crook and flail, Djed, White and Atef Crowns, bull, mummified form, throne, Bennu (phoenix). The Djed column is an Egyptian symbol that is depicted as a column with a broad base and capital. At the top of the column the capital is divided by four parallel bars. The image has been interpreted in several ways. It is said to be:
- four pillars, seen one behind the other
- a man's, or Osiris' backbone
- a Syrian cedar with its branches removed
- the pole around which sheaves of grain were tied
The djed column was the Egyptian symbol of "stability". It was the symbol of the tree that grew around Osiris's casket and was used as a pillar in a Byblos palace. The djed was considered necessary to aid in the transformation of human flesh into the spiritual form assumed by the deceased in eternity.
Osiris meanwhile had become the king of the Afterlife. He was believed to be willing to admit all people to the Duat, the gentle, fertile land in which the righteous dead lived, that had lived a good and correct life upon earth, and had been buried with appropriate ceremonies under the protection of certain amulets, and with the proper recital of certain "divine words" and words of power. His realm was said to lie beneath Nun, in the northern heavens or in the west.
It is as the King of the Afterlife that Osiris gained his supreme popularity. He was originally a minor god of Middle Egypt, especially in comparison to the gods of Heliopolis and Hermopolis, etc. Noting his increasing popularity, and sensing that Osiris would one day eclipse the adoration of their own gods, the priests of these cities adopted him into their own cosmogonies.
The elements of the story was seen as symbolic of real events that happened in Egypt. With his original association to agriculture, his death and resurrection were seen as symbolic of the annual death and re-growth of the crops and the yearly flooding of the Nile. The sun too with its daily re-birth and death was associated with Osiris, but to a lesser extent. The sun was said to cross the Underworld each night and had to fight of Apep and possibly even Seth. His rivalry with his brother Seth, the god of storms and the desert, was symbolic of the eternal war between the fertile lands of the Nile Valley and the barren desert lands just beyond. The pharaoh of Egypt was called Horus, while his deceased father was the new Osiris.
Like I mentioned earlier, “Osiris” was the Hellenic version of the Egyptian name “Asar” or “Usar”. There are several possibilities as to what the name really means. "The Strength of the Eye", is one of them. Another is "He Sees the Throne". The oldest and simplest form of the name is the hieroglyph of the throne over an eye (there are at least 158 versions of the name). At one point the first syllable of the name was pronounced "Aus" or "Us" and may have gained the meaning of the word usr, "strength, might, power". At this time the Egyptians supposed the name to mean something like the "strength of the Eye" (i.e., the strength of the Sun-god Ra.
Another possibility raised by an ancient hymn's author is that the name "Unnefer" (another name by which Osiris was known) comes from the roots un ("to open, to appear, to make manifest") and neferu, ("good things"). The author then wrote these lines in his hymn to the god, "Thy beauty maketh itself manifest in thy person to rouse the gods to life in thy name Unnefer". In any case, even to the ancients, the origin of Osiris' Egyptian name is a mystery.
Osiris was usually portrayed as a bearded, mummified human with green skin and wearing the atef crown. His hands emerge from the mummy wrappings and hold the flail and crook.
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Sat Jul 16, 2005 9:16 pm

Salve Quinte,

It was very intersting what you wrote about Osiris. I hope that you will also post how it happened that certain Egyptian cults esp. that one of Isis became so popular in the Roman Empire. I know only that they were but not why certain cults were more popular than others.

Is it also correct that Serapis is a mixture of the Apis and Osiris cults?

Thanks in advance for your kind answer.
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Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sun Jul 17, 2005 11:37 am

Salve Cleopatra

I have to check, but i think that is the case that Serapis is composed of the Apis bull and elements of the Osiris cult. He was created by the Hellenic pharaoh Ptolemy 1 and made him the official god of Egypt at the time. The reason for creating this deity was to create a common religious ground for the two cultures, to unify them and ease the tensions. I will also discuss Serapis in these articles.
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Anubis: an article on the Egyptian deity and its importance

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Thu Jul 21, 2005 2:34 pm

Salvete
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Anubis, the canine deity of mummification and the guardian of the Dead. The name Anubis is a Hellenic corruption of the Egyptian name Yinepu or Anpu. Like Osiris, his cult is quit old and prayers were attributed to him as early as in the oldest mastabas of the Old kingdom. He is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts in his most celebrated role as a guardian and protector of the dead.
It is safe to say that before the rise of Osiris, Anubis was the God of the Underworld. He is counted as a mysterious deity, whose translation of his name remains uncertain of which translation is the right one. Is it Royal Child or something else. What is interesting about this deity is that as one of Egypt’s oldest deities, who handed the Underworld over to Osiris, he would later be known as a son of Osiris. A remarkable change for a deity who was once ruler of the Underworld, now he is the son of the current leader. We don’t know that much of him, but we do know his symbols being the jackal, ox-hide hanging from a pole, embalming equipment, flail, flags and his cult centres were Heliopolis and Cynopolis.
The question of which animal Anubis represents is hard to answer. We don’t know the real answer to it. We know the animal is canine and most likely to represent a wild dog or jackal or perhaps a hybrid of both. Like with Seth, alterations can smudge the lines of reality. The deep black colour Anubis's animal is not reflective of its actual coat but is instead symbolic of his position as a funerary deity. The reason for Anubis's animal being canid is based on what the ancient Egyptians themselves observed of the creature -- dogs and jackals often haunted the edges of the desert, especially the cemeteries where the dead were buried. As mentioned previously, Anubis began in the position that Osiris would later command. In the earliest period of Egyptian religion Anubis was clearly the lord of the dead and Osiris the embalmed god while Anubis performed the act of embalming. Titles that were invested unto Osiris -- such as Khenty-Imentiu or "Foremost of Westerners" -- were originally Anubis'. As the drama of Osiris' death and vindication unfolded over the centuries, Anubis assumed the role of the guide who holds steady the scales on which their hearts are measured against the feather of Ma'at as "He Who Counts the Hearts". Should the heart be light as the feather, the soul would then be lead by Anubis (or, in some cases, Harseisis) to be presented to Osiris. Should the heart be heavy, it is fed to Ammit and the soul destroyed. As Imy-ut, or “He Who Is In The Place Of Embalming”, Anubis is the embalmer who washes the entrails of the dead and guards over their physical bodies as the places that house them. Priests who wore the masks of Anubis were responsible for the opening of the Mount ceremony that reawakened a dead person’s senses. In a reflection of the royal seal used on the tombs of the Valley of the Kings depicting pharaoh's victory over the "nine bows" (enemies of Egypt), Anubis is shown recumbent over nine bows meant to be hostile forces of the Underworld who he -- as "Jackal Ruler of the Bows" -- has triumphed over.
Anubis's parentage is a mystery. In one tradition, he is the son of Nebt-het (Nephthys) and Ra. In yet another, from the Coffin Text period, the cow goddess Hesat is his mother and, from the same source, Bastet is even accounted as his mother (most likely a pun on the ointment jars that comprise her hieroglyphs, the same jars that were used during the embalming process Anubis was lord of). The Pyramid Texts even supply Anubis with a daughter in the form of the goddess Qeb-hwt ("Cooling Water"), a celestial serpent or ostrich, Who purifies and quenches the monarch. Anubis is depicted most often as a man with the head of a black canid with alert, pointed ears. He is also represented by a full black canid wearing ribbons and holding a flagellum in the crook of its arm. Very rarely is he ever shown fully human, though there are some cases (such as in the temple of Ramesses II of Abydos) of this. Perhaps the most famous representation of Anubis, the gold-gilded wooden canid found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, was doubtlessly placed there as a protector of the dead and guardian of the tomb. I’m no practitioner, but I do think that Anubis could very well be seen as a God of the Dead and Underworld besides Mummification. The reason I think so is because, people rarely these days get mummified, so Anubis could evolve to a deity of the Afterlife which he once was. Whether people see him as the son of Osiris or not, it does not really matter. It does matter how people perceive him. Recently Anubis gained some global attention through the second Mummy movie where he’s depicted as a dark deity who made a pact with the scorpion king that he would command his army in return that he must gave his soul.
In reality, Anubis isn’t like that. Than again, that is what I like to call the “curse” of Christian thinking that everything must be black and white. Like that is the world is made up of. I must admit that ever since I came into contact with Egyptian mythology and its deities, the only deity that really fascinated me was Anubis. Don’t get me wrong, Ra and Osiris and Seth are also interesting, but Anubis is my favourite here.
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Fri Jul 22, 2005 9:44 pm

Salve Quinte,

whenever I read about Anubis I saw him referred to as a god with a jackal head and not as a (wild) dog. Maybe the jackal being a scavenger qualifies it as a symbol for an underworld god.
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