You are on page 1of 43

Putting Osiris Back Together:

Reclaiming Culture and Story in Egyptian Mythology

David Ketter and Marlin Klingensmith

Geneva College
Spring 2010

In Parts...


Theory and Method:

No More Metamyths by David Ketter
The Story of Stories by David Ketter

Culture and Story:

The Ra Saga by Marlin Klingensmith
The Tale of Osiris by Marlin Klingensmith

This project came into being through a number of discussions between the

authors on mythology, culture, story, theology, history, and “problems” in the world. As

people who love good story and appreciate culture and value the ways these things are

told, the way mythology is often treated in the modern era is unfair and cruel compared

to the earnest passion of the cultures that produced them. In a culture that has failed to

recognize its own mythology and puts all others in an encyclopedic, archetypal story for

historical and folksy curiosity. Our sense is that isnʼt the way it ought to be. At the

encouragement of a friend, we decided to try our hand at presenting an alternative way

of dealing with myth, reconciling it with the cultures that produced it and the art of story.

We chose Egyptian mythology because of its placement in our culture. People

are curious about Egypt and its mysterious ideas. They also have some recognition of

its deities and famous figures. But their stories are mostly unknown, so misconceptions

and popular notions are not as difficult to unseat. Additionally, the Egyptian value for the

written word has offered us a variety of mythological sources, robust scholarship, and

controversy enough to find our position where we need to.

Our thanks go to Drs. Jonathan Watt and Suhail Hanna for their oversight of this

project. We also want to acknowledge the scholarship of Willem VanGemeren and E.A.

Wallis Budge as irreplaceable and of great assistance in this study. We are both, as

lovers of myth and language and good story, indebted to J.R.R. Tolkien. The space for a

redemptive approach to myth would have proved near-impossible without his work.

Finally, we are indebted to God, who through Jesus is “the Lord, of Angels and Men —

and of Elves.” Soli Deo gloria.

No More Metamyths:

A Rejection of Joseph Campbellʼs Methodology

And the Unitary Theory of Myth

David Ketter
Geneva College
Spring 2010
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: No More Metamyths 1

In the course of a decade (1949-59), Joseph Campbell applied Jungian

archetypes and Freudian psychosexual stages of development to the development and

evolution of world mythologies (which subsequently were reduced to monomyths). His

theories and applications and revolutionary claims about the fundamental unity of all

myths and cultural development have continued to influence the study of world religions

and mythology to this very day. While an extended engagement with Campbell's

theoretical framework and methodology is impossible within the context of this study, a

general rebuttal of some of his foundational premises regarding mythology will suffice

for the purpose of reading and understanding the cultural texts that we have inherited

from the pages of history.

For the purposes of this paper, Campbell's ideas will be engaged in three main

areas: (1) the origin, (2) purpose/nature, and (3) the effects of mythology. If Campbell

can be challenged on the metaphysical origin and ontology of myths, it will certainly

affect our interpretation of the elements of their stories and teaching. This necessarily

affects the practical impact that myths have on their own cultures and others that

interact with them. Campbell's ideas have been drawn specifically from The Masks of

God: Primitive Mythology, published by Viking Press in 1959. The reasons this work

was chosen include that it directly interacts with Egyptian mythology specifically, in

addition to dealing with the fundamental nature of mythology where other works concern

particular aspects of mythology.

In regard to the origin of mythology, many in the past have been hesitant to make

authoritative claims. Medieval Europeans viewed them as complete fabrications by

Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: No More Metamyths 2

pagans who had disposed of any Scriptural truth. Enlightenment thinkers generally

either prized literary value or dismissed them as juvenile fancies of irrational man. When

Campbell writes The Masks of God in 1959, yet, he has a few more claims to make

about mythology:

Mythology is not invented rationally; mythology cannot be rationally

understood. Theological interpreters render it ridiculous. Literary criticism
reduces it to metaphor. A new and very promising approach is opened,
however, when it is viewed in the light of biological psychology as a
function of the human nervous system, precisely homologous to the innate
and learned sign stimuli that release and direct the energies of nature⎯of
which our brain itself is but the most amazing flower (45).

According to Campbell, humans cannot help but create mythology. It is a direct fruit of

our own psychological existence, biologically driven in the evolutionary development of

humankind. Humanity, for Campbell, did not construct myths for the sake of accessing

some transcendent truth, or to preserve their culture, or enforce morality, or even just to

pass on a good oral tradition. Myth exists because it is a psychological necessity borne

out of our own genetic structure. More precisely, it is borne out of our experience of

suffering and joy. All mythology, Campbell claims, is derived from the human experience

of suffering and joy (56).

Where Campbell errs in his premise is fundamental to his entire framework.

Simply stated, biological psychology forms no basis for any comparative or unitary study

of mythology. Mary Lefkowitz, in opposing Campbell's application of Jungian and

Freudian psychology, wrote the following:

The myths, at least as Campbell tells them, perform the function of a

thinking man's Ann Landers, since they offer the comfort that everyone
everywhere has been, is, and will go through the same experiences as
themselves. [...] [However], no one should hope to find in it an
authoritative guide to any religion other than Campbell's own. (Lefkowitz
432, 434).
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: No More Metamyths 3

Earlier in her article, "The Myth of Joseph Campbell," Lefkowitz identifies Campbell's

religion as that of self-development. Thus, for present day scholarship, Campbell's

eisegetical imposition of his own values and understanding of human nature is not only

lacking in scholarly rigor, but also in general use for understanding the mythological

texts. There is no doubt that humans love to tell stories. Humans deal and relate in

story. There is a universal sense of story, but by no means is there any unitary story

arising out of neurological impulses. The human responses and explanations of

suffering extend far beyond principles of pleasure and pain, but delve deeply into the

views of the universe around them that cultures adopted and maintained.

J.R.R. Tolkien, in a 1944 letter to his son Christopher, reflects much on the nature

and origin and direction of myth (called "fairy-story" by Tolkien):

For [this fairy-story essay] I coined the word 'eucatastrophe': the sudden
happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I
argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was
there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a
sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and
effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of
joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives — if the story has literary
'truth' [...] that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World
for which our nature is made. [...] Man the story-teller would have to be
redeemed in a manner consonant with his nature: by a moving story
(Tolkien 100-101).

Thus, in Tolkien's perspective, myth certainly relates to joy and sorrow, but it is much

more part of the creational order. Myth is the fruit of the natural story-teller in all of

humankind. It is the human urge to find and express and experience redemption, and

every human being is driven to find it, and so we have myth, which tells us the way

things the way things are and the way things ought to be. "After all, I believe that

legends and myths are largely made of 'truth', and indeed present aspects of it that can
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: No More Metamyths 4

only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were

discovered and must always reappear" (147).

For what one would think to be an essential aspect of dealing with the theory of

mythology, Campbell doesn't deal with the purpose of mythology within cultures as

much. It can be supposed that this may be derived from Campbell's reliance on Jung

and Freud, which would reduce action to chemical and biological eventuality, rather than

motivated or reasoned developments. This, of course, goes back to Campbell's original

statement that it "is not invented rationally" (Campbell 45). But there are a few things

that Campbell did see in mythology from Masks of God:

Let us say, then, to summarize, that a mythology is an organization of

images conceived as a rendition of the sense of life, and that this sense is
to be apprehended in two ways, namely: 1) the way of thought, and 2) the
way of experience. As thought mythology approaches⎯or is a primitive
prelude to⎯science; and as experience it is precisely art (179).

For Campbell, myth is the way that men instinctively organize their rational observations

and satisfy their aesthetic urges. It is a natural precursor to science, which is to

Campbell, higher rational thought. Art, as "precisely art" can only change form, which

doesn't mean it changes in value. That does not mean that Campbell thinks myth is

without value or that it does not impact human life and culture, but that it is no more and

no less than pre-scientific artistic expression. Wilhelm Dupré, writing in 2005, argues

very differently about the nature and purpose of mythology:

[Myth is] above all an indispensable element in and for the constitution of
cultural reality and personal consciousness. In its primary meaning, myth
is not a story [...] but the configuration of evidences by which people live,
in which they are aware of themselves and all reality [...] Myth speaks in
the tale of being human (Dupré 155).
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: No More Metamyths 5

In a certain sense, what Dupré says is no contradiction of Campbell's thesis, but what it

does demonstrate is that Campbell is too superficial and lacking in depth of explanation

to account for mythology. A mere biological eventuality cannot have the same import or

impact on a culture's life and development as the cultural phenomenon that involves all

of its aesthetic and theological genius. Myth is a culture's lifeblood. It cannot be a pre-

scientific encyclopedia, because it is lived out in the day-to-day interactions of the

humanity that birthed it. We are humans and, in order to explore and explain our own

humanity, and our relationship to the cosmos and whatever or whoever else may be, we

live within myths, and tell the story. As Butler says it, "The total body of myths belonging

to a culture forms a comprehensive paradigm of the cosmos as expressed within that

cultural sphere" (Butler 32).

Progressing from the purpose of myth and coming to see its import, the next

analysis is its impact. Campbell's claim is simple:

It is conceived, finally, not as a reference either to history or or to the

world-texture analyzed by science, but as an epiphany of the monstrosity
and wonder of these; so that both they and therewith ourselves may be
experienced in depth (Campbell 181).

Campbell's biological and psychological commitments have led him to see life in a sort

of evolutionary reductionism. Life simply exists, develops, evolves, and cycles. This is

intuited by human beings as well, who, suppressing the despair that could come without

rational enlightenment, create myth to give a depth of experience, awe, and revelation

to the evolutionary history and natural process that would otherwise suggest a

monotony of continuity. So, myth can only be a mask of upon what would be to the

unenlightened, unscientific mind, a dreary world cycle of birth, life, decay, and death.

This results in a number of questions and cynical theories about the nature of myth, of
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: No More Metamyths 6

history, and "unscientific reality", as it were, as Heehs demonstrates in his essay "Myth,

History, and Theory."

[...P]osivitivist historiography declares that myth has nothing to do with

history; academic mythology replies that history has nothing to do with
myth. Certain contemporary historians study myth as an object or category
of historiography. Others go so far as to view history as a sort of myth.
History so conceived assumes the adequacy of its narratives to the factual
matters they deal with ⎯ quite a different thing from the view that facts
can demonstrate the adequacy of the narrative, and also from the notion
that narratives evolve towards a never-attained final adequacy (Heehs 5).

This is, plainly, an undeserved and ignoble fate for humanity, that history and myth and

their subjects would be reduced to being mere accounts of interest, failing in the end, to

have any adequacy, to pass muster in the "survival of the fittest" notions propounded by

theorists within these disciplines. The end result is something like cultural homicide and,

if followed through with thoroughly, cultural suicide. This eugenics of the human

experience and day-to-day life cannot be the result of good rational thought, but rather

the fruits of ideological commitments that are unsustainable in an ethic that demands


If we accept what Tolkien and Dupré suggest about myth, however, we are

opened to the possibilities of analyzing and exploring the import of myth in the creation

and development of culture, religious creed and practice, political structures, ideologies,

and inter-cultural relationships. "From the theoretical point of view the quest for myth

underlines the dependence on myth and the need to acknowledge the mythic

predicament of our being" (Dupré 161). To understand ourselves as human beings, we

should skillfully understand mythology and learn more of ourselves, the truth that has

been preserved and the art of story.

Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: No More Metamyths 7

Works Cited

Butler, Edward P. "The Theological Interpretation of Myth." Pomegranate 7.1 (2005):

27-41. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Feb. 2010.

Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. New York, NY: The Viking
Press, Inc. 1959

Dupré, Wilhelm. "The Quest for Myth as a Key to Implicit Religion." Implicit Religion 8.2
(2005): 147-165. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Feb. 2010.

Heehs, Peter. "Myth, history, and theory." History & Theory 33.1 (1994): 1. Academic
Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Feb. 2010.

Lefkowitz, Mary R. "The myth of Joseph Campbell." American Scholar 59.3 (1990): 429.
Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Feb. 2010.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Carpenter, Humphrey. Boston,
MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1981.
Story of Stories

The Place of Myth in Culture and Truth

David Ketter
Geneva College
Spring 2010
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: Story of Stories 9

Students of history, archaeology, sociology, psychology and a number of other

disciplines have contested throughout the lives of their respective studies on the place

of myth. Historians from Herodotus to Peter Heehs openly acknowledge the question.

Archaeologists make their best attempts to reconcile the literary myths with the ones

that are unearthed in excavations. Sociologists and psychologists dispute on the nature

and impact of myths on human life. Joseph Campbell attempted to bring some

resolution to the question but failed to account for the depth and presence that

mythology has. It may be, however, that Willem VanGemeren and J.R.R. Tolkien have

provided the pieces to construct a framework from which we can understand and see

mythology within its own context and so read it more accurately and with better results.

But first, we ought to address the question of the significance of mythology and

the goal of knowing and understanding it. Dupré argues that the quest for myths itself is

“one of the strivings that mark the unfolding of humanity” (Dupré 148). He goes on to

explain a few paragraphs later:

In fact, if myth should turn out to be a necessary presupposition of

theoretical reasoning, we have every reason to study myth as thoroughly
as possible and defend the position [...] that reflective thought and myth-
making continue to influence each other, and that the denial of myth
hinges on the generation of new myths in the act of this denial (149).

The strength that Dupré offers to this discussion is an argument that reflects the story-

teller that exists in the human person. We are driven to know, to explore, to explain and

the communicate in language that is creative and narrative, something that reflects the

tone and pace of everyday life. We inherently realize it is not enough to simply

acknowledge and explain the superficial. What is of value to human beings and what is

remembered by human beings matches the sense of story that our cultures carry.
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: Story of Stories 10

Myths, then, are the stories that frame all the others. We live in worlds

constructed by the myths that we have created and continue to tell. And what Dupré

wisely notes is that if we attempt to dismiss or otherwise neglect myths, we will only

succeed in creating new ones. So we are left with the task of recognizing and

understanding mythology in order to rightly access cultures, past and present. But

having the task is not enough, as we need to figure out how to access the content and

direction of myths.

In Interpreting the Prophetic Word, VanGemeren provides two frames of

reference, one revelatory and one religious. For the purpose of this study, the distinction

between revelatory and religious, and even the question of the validity of his revelatory

framework of reference, is irrelevant. This framework appears as follows:



(VanGemeren, Williem. “Figure 3. Religious Framework of Reference” 21)

Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: Story of Stories 11

In VanGemerenʼs understanding, all religion is framed by vox populi and

realpolitik, which is to say that it is driven by the human desire for salvation at the

individual and collective level. Salvation here being defined as “that complex of acts,

structures and institutions by which human beings individually and collectively define,

determine, and control their happiness” (21). Itʼs framework, then, is always

manipulative and subject to human selfishness. Within that framing nature, however,

cosmology and mythology are utterly foundational, since they provide the means for

humans to “understand themselves and in terms of which they explain all that is beyond

rational explanation” (ibid). Here, VanGemeren has some level of agreement with

Campbell, insofar as myth is not perceived by him to be rational. He could not, however,

dismiss its impact on its own culture, since “Salvation is understood differently by each

nation and culture, as shaped by their cosmogony, mythology, divination, and

magic” (ibid.).

Some may question VanGemerenʼs association of mythology with salvation.

Tolkien agrees, however, asserting that the stories that form the heart of myth are

redemption stories (Tolkien 101). In another letter, Tolkien explains how it is that

evidences and notions of redemption serve such a life-giving purpose in cultures, even

in the “pagan pre-Christian days” (144). In what he argues, however, he makes a

connection that connects the stories that we have told to the story that we have all lived:

[C.S.] Lewis recently wrote a most interesting essay (if published I donʼt
know) showing of what great value the ʻstory-valueʼ was as mental
nourishment [...] His point was that [...] the beauty of the story while not
necessarily a guarantee of its truth is a concomitant of it, and a fidelis is
meant to draw nourishment from the beauty as well as the truth [...] I do
not now feel either ashamed or dubious on the Eden ʻmythʼ [...] Genesis is
separated by we do not know how many sad exiled generations from the
Fall, but certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: Story of Stories 12

long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best
and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the
sense of ʻexileʼ (109-110).

The human story is pervaded with this sense of exile, the longing for return, and how

each culture expresses that longing is key to understanding it and its stories. Tolkien

wrote before these letters that “It is precisely the colouring, the atmosphere, the

unclassifiable individual details of a story, and above all the general purport...that really

count. (“On Fairy Stories” 19). Tolkien goes on to argue that “the Tree of Tales” and “the

tangled skein of Language” find their truest expression in myth and that it is certainly

important to seize the “living monument” that it provides.

But what of history? If we are looking to the stories we tell for beauty and the

remnants of truth, surely we need to consider the role of history in it. Even Tolkien

acknowledges that “History often resembles “Myth” because they are both ultimately of

the same stuff” (30). Heehs provides an elaborate explanation of current theories of how

history and myth interact (or donʼt), but when he acknowledges the oft-cited conflicts

between history, law, science, and other things termed logos against mythos, he

proposes the following understanding:

A different sort of dialectics might help resolve the conflict between mythos
and logos. Such a resolution would seem to be necessary if historiography
is to recover its explanatory power and not become just another literary
genre. [...] Historical narratives are by definition stories that correspond in
some way to actual events in the past. Yet it must be conceded that
historians can no longer leave unexamined such matters as the
problematic relation of documents to events, and the culturally conditioned
—and therefore “mythical” — nature of the reality-grid through which they
view the past. Since logos and mythos interpenetrate, and apparently
cannot easily be extricated from one another, it would seem worthwhile to
try to approach them dialectically (Heehs 16).
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: Story of Stories 13

What Heehs goes on to describe is that myth becomes the means we write and

understand history. The claims of narratives ultimately have both aesthetic and social

force (mythos) as well as their correspondence to reality (logos). What we do in

approaching history with and compared with myth is come into contact with cultural and

religious perspectives on the events of the past. They are the reconciliations of exile in

men who are longing for restoration and redemption. History finds its relationship to

myth as the reminder of exile, the evidence of our loss and brokenness. Myth is how we

describe it, and how we pass on hope for the future. By reading history and reading

myth, we gain a glimpse into the mind of cultures on the brokenness that they were

aware of and the kind of redemption they hoped for.

So, when we are exploring mythology, we ought to recognize (1) the aspects of

exile portrayed, (2) the form of redemption offered, and (3) the hope that results. What

VanGemeren, Tolkien, Heehs, and the Christian tradition as a whole offer is a lens

through which we can uncover beauty and truth in the midst of a broken world. And

where beauty and truth are found, we can direct them to God. Our responsibility is not

to be crusaders of a mythic iconoclasm, but emissaries of mythic restoration. Tolkien

speaks to this in relation to consummation:

The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but [the Gospel story] is
pre-eminently (and infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and
joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God
is the Lord, of angels, and of men — and of elves. Legend and History
have met and fused. But in Godʼs kingdom the presence of the greatest
does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy still
go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it
has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still
to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope and die; but he may
now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be
redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he
may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: Story of Stories 14

assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may
come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as
unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like
and unlike the fallen that we know (Tolkien 72-73).

By reading, preserving, reconstructing and understanding myth, we are contributing to

the work of Creation, confident that the grace God has given us extends to the universe

around us, that when Creation is redeemed, the work of men in their stories and art and

efforts will also be redeemed and purified and rendered to their true intent and form. Our

responsibility as people engaging culture, as Christians who care about history,

sociology, about people, is to work faithfully in the arena of myth, to uncover and display

its beauty, its truth, and put forward its hope of redemption, confident that it will one day

be redeemed completely.
Ketter Putting Osiris Back Together: Story of Stories 15

Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. New York, NY: The Viking
Press, Inc. 1959

Dupré, Wilhelm. "The Quest for Myth as a Key to Implicit Religion." Implicit Religion 8.2
(2005): 147-165. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Feb. 2010.

Heehs, Peter. "Myth, history, and theory." History & Theory 33.1 (1994): 1. Academic
Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Feb. 2010.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Carpenter, Humphrey. Boston,
MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1981.

Tolkien, J.R.R. Tree and Leaf. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1965.

VanGemeren, Willem. Interpreting the Prophetic Word. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
The Ra Saga

Creation and the Ordering of the World

Marlin Klingensmith
Geneva College
Spring 2010
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 17


In the beginning there was Nu, and Nu was in the watery void that was before the

world, and he was the void. For he is Nu, the Great Father, first of the Gods, Maker of

all, but not the greatest. He was alone in the beginning, floating in the waters. And he

thought to make a son for himself, and so he created a being that was unlike himself.

He fashioned an egg, a confined space--opposite to his own vastness, and he made

that space of substance different than his own. That substance was fire, and it burned

with a fierce light that shone out over the waters. So was Ra born, and the light of his

face shone upon the watery abyss.  

Now Ra was greater than Nu from whom he arose. His face shone with power

and he desired to rule, but there was nothing to rule. At his desire a mountain rose out

of the waters. And on that mountain Ra made his home but there was no-one to rule on

this hill, so he created more gods from himself so that he might have others to rule over.

First he created the calm Shu and to the lioness Tefnut. To Shu he gave power over the

winds, and to Tefnut he gave power over the moisture. Ra, with the help of the twins

separated the waters and the air over the mountain and so formed the body of Geb,

who was the earth, and Nut, who was the sky. 

Ra spoke the words of creation, and commanded the earth and the heavens to

rise out of the waste of water. And at his command they appeared. Nut formed the vault,

which is arched over Geb, who lies prostrate beneath her, at the eastern horizon she is

poised upon her toes, at the western horizon, she rests upon her fingertips. And for the

first days of creation Geb and Nut were locked in loving embrace. And from their union

came the birth of Osiris and Isis and then Set and Nephthys. And these gods were the
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 18

first and foremost throughout all the ages of creation. Theirs are the works that bless

and trouble the world most fully. From them came all the other gods and all the

creatures, and things that are in the world. 

Men sprang forth from the eye of Ra, to be pleasing in his sight. And he placed

them on the face of the earth and he encouraged them to grow in the presence of his

light. And he saw that the world that he had created was good, so he desired to go

down into it and to work in it as a master over all. So he descended from the heavens,

leaving the protective embrace of Nut and he took on a body like our own. And he

became king over the first nation of the Earth. He built his palace on the banks of the

Nile, creating the great nation of Egypt, the nation blessed of the gods. And he caused

Maat to come out from him and bring peace and order to the world. 

The Names of Ra

Ra has many great  names that are not know to minds of men. He has been

called Atum, Amun, and Kheperi by various peoples at various times. Among these

names there is one that is not known even to the other gods. This is the name that is

written in the scroll of Nu. This name gives Ra divine power and makes him king over all

the gods. Now long ago Isis, the great enchantress, would wander the depths of the

void, searching for knowledge of the secret things. As she wandered there she came to

know Nu, and she saw that he carried with him always a pouch around his neck. She

asked Nu "What is this that you carry at your throat?"

And Nu responded "What is kept in here is a secret known only to Ra."

Now, Isis was always looking for things that she did not know. And she was

seized by her curiosity and used her powers to bind Nu in the void, for she was strong in
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 19

the ways of magic. And she took the pouch from around his neck, and tried to open it.

But the cords that bound the pouch would not yield to her will. Nu shook his head in

sadness. "The seal cannot be broken by anything other than the secret name of Ra."

This caught Isis's attention, and she left Nu and sought to gain the power of Ra.

She plotted a way that Ra might give up his name and power to her. 

She knew that Ra was strong in body and in heart, and that her magics would

have no power over him. So she came up with a cunning plan to use his strength

against him: for only Ra could hurt Ra. She waited at Ra's palace until the great god

rested from the powerful works of his days. When at last Ra fell asleep she crept into

where he rested and used an enchanted knife to slice away a piece of his shadow

which she stored in a jar. She retreated quickly lest Ra wake and find her with a piece of

himself, and she retreated to her own  home on the earth, where she lived as a woman

magician. At her place she worked long and hard over the piece of shadow, she

fashioned it with knowledge and secret powers and created from it a snake whose

venom would poison even Ra.

She delighted in her work and took the serpent to one of the places that Ra

regularly visited in the course of his travels. 

And so it happened that as he walked about the kingdom surveying what he had

created that a snake hidden in the bushes struck him in the heel causing him great pain.

Ra cried out so loudly that the whole earth shook. 

The gods that were with him looked on in concern and asked him "Ra, mighty

beyond thought, what troubles you that you cry out so?"
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 20

But Ra could not answer, for his body was shaking so badly that his teeth rattled

together so that he could not speak. The venom overwhelmed his body. After a while he

managed to compose himself and fight the poison enough to speak "Gather around, my

children, so that I can tell you of my troubles. I am wracked by a pain that I have never

felt before. And the cause of my pain is hidden now from my great sight. Great is the

power that afflicts me. Never before have I met a power that was thus able to harm me:

I am a god and the son of the one god; I am the Mightiest One. Father forged my name

in a secret place and he concealed it in his scroll so that no magician might ever know it

so that it might not be used against me. I am the sun: Khepera at dawn, Ra at high

noon, and Tum at eventide. By these names I call upon the power that works upon me

to release its hold."

Now Isis felt the power of this command, and she cowered in fear, because she

was afraid that her work would be undone by the powerful will of Ra. But the power of

Ra's words did not come upon her because the venom was made out of Ra's own

shadow, which answered to none of the names Ra spoke. If she had worked the spell

without the aid of Ra's shadow Ra's words would have destroyed her then. 

Ra cried out in despair when the pain did not cease at his words. "I am the Great

god Ra, all things were created out of my will. My will worked all things, why does my

will fail me on this?" And he went into a great despair and the world went dark. 

Isis went to the other gods and gathered them together and spoke to them. "Ra,

our great-father is ill, he must be made well, call all of our brothers and sisters and have

them come and bring the greatest cures they know that they might work healing upon

Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 21

And so all the children of Ra gathered together full for fear and sadness, for it

was unheard of that a god should die. And the thought of Ra weakened frightened them

all. Even those who lusted after his power were brought to terror. And Isis came with

them, pretending to sorrow greatly, she put forth a great show with much wailing and

lamenting as all the other gods attempted by their words and magics and cures, to

make Ra well. But all of their attempts failed to even ease the pain that wracked Ra's

body, for none of their powers could work against the power of Ra. Once all the other

gods had made their attempt Isis came forth "What ails you father?" she asked, her

tongue weaving between her teeth. She examined Ra's body. "Thou hast been bitten by

a serpent, great Ra, one of the creatures thou didst create. Why can you not work your


"My eyes grow dim, a strange fire burns through my body while at the same time

waters quench my own inner fire. Why do my powers fail me?" Ra cried out. 

"Do not worry father Ra," Isis said, "I will weave great spells, I will thwart your

enemy with magics. But I fear that I cannot prevail on my own. I must overwhelm the

serpent with the brightness of thy glory. But first, you must reveal your secret name to

me, for your name will allow me to deliver thee from thy distress by the power of thy


Ra heard her in great sorrow and he said: "I have created the heavens. Behold! I

have even framed the earth, and the mountains are the work of my hands; I made the

sea, and I cause the Nile to flood the land of Egypt. I am the Great Father of the gods

and the goddesses. I gave life unto them. I created every living thing that moves upon

the dry land and in the sea depths. When I open my eyes there is light: when I close
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 22

them there is thick darkness. My secret name is known not unto the gods. I am Khepera

at dawn, Ra at high noon, and Tum at eventide. What I command my will works." But his

words did not work healing in him. 

Isis heard Ra's lament, and rejoiced in her heart. For she knew that her desire

was close at hand. "Divine father, thou hast not yet spoken thy name of power. If thou

shalt reveal it to me I will have strength to give thee healing."

And as Isis spoke these words, fires of venom burned stronger in Ra's heart. And

he looked up into the eyes of Isis and he beheld her plan, and he did not desire that any

of the gods have power over him. He hid his understanding and pretended to cry out in

pain again. "It is my will that my name go out from me and be revealed to Isis." And then

he pretended to fall into a deep sleep, the fires of the sun retreated completely from the

world and the gods were left in darkness. 

Isis rejoiced secretly in her heart as the knowledge of the name came to her.

"With this knowledge I will be able to command the eyes of Ra, the sun that sees in the

day and the moon that sees in the night." And so she called on her powers and soothed

Ra's pain. "Depart, O venom of Ra, from Ra; come forth from heart and flesh; flow out,

shining from his mouth. By my will and by the secret name of Ra I command you." And

the venom spilled out of Ra's mouth, shining bright silver. "Behold! I have overcome the

serpent and caused the venom to be spilled upon the ground, because the secret name

of the divine father hath been given unto me . . . . Now let Ra live, for the venom hath

perished." And the venom was destroyed. 

And so was Ra made whole. The venom departed from his body and there was

no longer pain in his heart or any sorrow. He opened his eyes once more, shedding light
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 23

on the world, and his eyes blinded Isis standing before him and he shook his head. "If

you wanted more power and place among the gods all you needed was to ask and I

would have granted it to you, for you were favored among the gods. Your power is great

that you managed to fool me for a time, and that you have learned my secret name. But

I compel you by the full force of my will to never share or use the knowledge you have

gained to control me." And Isis felt the weight of Ra's words descend on her, and she

knew that her effort was in vain, the secret knowledge was locked as surely within her

as it was within Ra and within Nu's pouch. "For saving my life I grant you one wish to

compel the world as you desire by my name, whatever you want of it, so long as it does

not seek to unseat me from my power. However, for causing me this pain I will curse

you with a great tragedy that will destroy everything that you love. Now go and be wise."  

Rebellion Against Ra

As Ra ruled over the people of Egypt his body body began to age, like the body

of a man. His subjects in the lower kingdom began to speak disdainfully about him

behind his back. "Our king Ra grows old" they said, "his bones, once strong, grow weak.

His skin is aged bronze, not the burnished gold it once was."

They thought that their words were spoken in secret, but all things come back to

Ra in the end, just so these words came back to Ra, and he grew angry that his people

would speak such words against him and he said to himself. "Am I not gracious Ra,

have I not been good to my people, has my face not shone on them and given them

great prosperity? What have I done that they should mock me? These are my creations,

they should not say such things. I am god, the greatest of gods. What is it to them that

my body grows old? I am still strong." And so he called together and spoke to his
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 24

servants, the other gods, and he said to them "Bring before me Shu and Tefnut, Seb

and Nut, the first of the gods, bring Nu before me also. Let the great gods come here,

and gather in secret that men not behold them and take flight in fear."

The great gods came and bowed before Ra, hiding their coming from men. And

once they had gathered they came before Ra's great sun-throne and said, "Speak what

you wish of us, we will work as you command."

Ra was very pleased with this gathering, his face shone with his pleasure as he

looked over the gods. "Nu," he said, "Eldest of gods, my father, who wrote words that

started creation, I did not know if you would come. But it pleases me much that even

you have come to my call."

Nu bowed his head. "You are the greatest god. Even your creator comes to serve


And Ra was greatly pleased as he turned to the other gods. "My children, who

were with me before the world was fully formed. There are men who have spoken evil

words against me. Men, who came out of my will dare to speak words that are against

me. They think that I have grown weak in my age. But they do not know the power of

the gods. They dare even to consider raising arms against me. I asked you heare to

counsel me in this matter. I am hesitent to punish mankind until I have heard from you

what you think should be done about this matter."

"Why do you seek our counsel?" Seb asked, "you are first among gods and if you

desire to punish any it is your right."

Ra looked down from his throne, his eyes burning brightly with fire. "I asked you

here because I desire in my heart to destroy completely what I have created. Their
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 25

foolish words have spurred me to anger. If it were left to me I would wash the world with

the fire of my wrath and return everything to the watery void from which it began.

Leaving me and no-one else alive save for Osiris and Anubis: for Anubis must remain

alive to rule over the vast number of the dead. But Osiris will rule over a new world

remade as a mountain of fire from a throne of burning gold.' 

The gods were dismayed at Ra's words of anger. For they too would be punished

by Ra's wrath against man. They all recoiled in fear. Until Nu, in his watery peace spoke

forth words of wisdom "Hear me, my son, greatest of gods and mightier than me.

Remember back to the begining as I speak this words, and hear my counsel.

Remember that I gave thee life in the beginning, and that I wrote your secret name in

my scroll. Your kingdom is secure, your throne is great. Even if these rebellious people

were to come up against you all their works would be futile. They could no more slay

you than a sand beetle could slay a full grown man. Your might is great, but let not your

wrath consume the whole world. Your power can work against the rebels without

destroying everything. Send out your eye, your daughter Hathor, to seek out the rebels

in the kingdom."

Ra was pleased with this counsel and sent the other gods away. Summoning his

daughter Hathor. "There are people among the lower kingdom," he told her. "Evil rebels

speaking words against me. They wish to rise up and slay me."  

Hathor bowed before him. "As you created me from your body. As I watch over

and care for the growing things of this world. I will not allow you to be destroyed," she

said, her eyes flaring with anger. "I will seek out those who have wronged you and I will
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 26

destroy them. Until their blood flows freely on the ground I am no longer the gentle-

mother cow. I shall be the bloodthirsty Sehkmet."  

And she rose up and went forth from Ra, and went into the lower kingdom and

sought out those who had spoken so against Ra. And she happened upon them

cowering in caves in the hills. And she slew them quickly. And she rejoiced as she slew.

And she went forth from the caves and found more who saught to oppose Ra. And she

slew them too. She decended into a murderous rage, slaughtering the enemies of Ra

across the countryside of the lower kingdom, leaving a swath of bodies in her wake. For

many days and nights she rejoiced in her work, Sehkmet the bloody walked the earth

and she waded in the blood. And Ra in his glory stayed in the sky for these days

watching with pleasure as his anger worked out through his daughter.  

As the days of slaughter continued. Ra began to grow thirsty, sitting as he was,

always in they sky. So he sent his servants to gather the barley of the lower kingdom,

and he brewed beer from the blood of the rebels. And as he tasted it and his anger was

abated. And he had pity on the remnant of the rebels. They had tasted his anger long

enough. But he could not calm Sehkmet from her anger. And she would surely purge

them entirely. So he devised a plan. He looked at the seven thousand jars of beer that

he had made from the blood of his enemies and he smiled.  

Sehkmet rested that night in the sight of Ra, and Ra commanded that his servent

take the beer he had made and empty the jars where she slept. And the land was

flooded with the blood. So that when Sehkmet awoke her heart was glad and she saw

her glorious face reflected in the surface of the blood. And she began to drink. She did

not stop drinking until she was so drunk that she wandered across the land covered in
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 27

blood and paid no heed to mankind. And as she was drunk Ra came to her and calmed

her. "return to me in peace, oh beautiful daughter" he entreated her.  

And so Hathor returned, no longer was she Sehkmet, but she was again the

gentle daughter of Ra.

Ra's Retreat to the Heavens

After Hathor returned to Ra, he spoke to her about how his body had aged. He

was growing old. He had spent long enough ruling the earth as a man. "I am pained," he

said. "I can feel the age in my body. My mind is still strong, but the years have come to

torment me. I grow weary. I have lost my desire to live among men. They rose up

against me and spoke ill of my age. But I did not destroy them completely in my mercy."

And the gods that were with him grew excited, at the thought that Ra would be

leaving them and they would have their chance at power. "Rest for a time," they told

him. "Leave this world to us. You have created a great thing. You have earned your


And Ra answered them. "My body grows weak, and my streangth fails me. I will

not travel here any more, and I shall not wait for my body to fail completely. Bring me

Nu, my father."

The gods brought Nu and left the two of them alone at Ra's command. Nu asked

Ra. "What ails you my son. Did I not create you to be eternal? Is not your name written

in my scroll?"

Ra answered. "My name is in your scroll, but the body I have created is like that

of man. It ages and grows old."

Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 28

"Then take on your old body," Nu said, "Or a new one, that does not bear the

frailty of man."

Ra nodded his assent. "I took this body to share the pain of men and to rule over

them justly. But they have betrayed the balance of Maat, and I have no desire to

continue as they are. Come, call my children. Shu, and Nut, and Hathor. They shall help

me as I take my new body."

And Shu and Nut came. "Lift me onto your back, Shu. Carry me into the


And darkness fell again on the land. Men cried out in fear as the light of Ra left

the world. They were afraid that the punishment worked by Sehkmet would continue

again. That the darkness was a sign of Ra's continued wrath. And they begged for Ra to

only slay those wicked who profaned his name and kingship. And they wept all the

night, and were afraid.  

Until the bright light of Ra shone from the east. As he was born up into the sky,

his eyes turned down on the world from above. Where he could now see everything

from afar and did not have to worry about the pains of age. Or the machinations of

human enemies. His glory illuminated the whole world once more. And the men rejoiced

and took up their arms and marched into the lower kingdom, where enemies of Ra still

dwelt. And they slew them, completing the work that Hathor had been stayed from. Ra

looked down from the heavens and he was pleased. And he spoke to his high priest.

"Now is your sin forgiven. Death pays for the words that have been spoken. Sacrifice:

life slakes wrath. Worship me and speak not wrongly of me. And I will shine my light

upon you and uphold you through all trials."

Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 29

And the priests were grateful and the people went out and gathered animals and

sacrificed a thousand bulls to Ra that day, offering up life and blood as a pleasing aroma

to Ra. 

Ra smelled the sacrifice rising to him. And he ate of the flesh. And he looked

down on the earth. He turned to Nut. "From now on I will rule from the heavens. My

body is renewed every morning, as I am birthed every morning by my daughter Hathor. I

see day and night through my eyes, the sun and moon, which now shine from above.

This is my throne, I will no longer reign from on earth." 

And he went through the heavens, creating lands there apart from the lands

below. The fields of Aalu. He gave life to the stars the shone in Nut's garments. They

came to life and they worshiped Ra, like unto him, but lesser in glory.  

And he crafted the halls of the underworld, and granted reign there to Anubis and

he commanded Thoth to record the sins of men, to take the names of his enemies and

bind them in Duat when they have left the mortal world.  

And the sun-throne of Ra circles the world, passing through the twelve hours of

day above and the twelve hours of night below, through Duat, the underworld. He called

to his priests. "In the evening," he told them, "when I grow old in the sky. And I am Tum,

say seventy-five invocations of power to defeat the demons of darkness who wait on the

horizon for me to descend to Duat. Your words will be heard and Anubis will open the

western gate, and all the dead will pass into the underworld with me, to have their

deeds read by Thoth." 

Ra carries a scepter in one hand, to judge the people. And he bears the Ankh of

life in the other. And through the underworld he passes every night. And he faces the
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Ra Saga 30

demon of darkness, the great sun-swallower Apep. The night serpent, who desires to

devour him, but he sheds his light in the Underworld, giving light unto the souls of the

dead. And then he passes over the watery abyss of Nu and is lifted up into the heavens

and is born of Hathor and carried across the sky that is Nut.  
The Tale of Osiris

Marlin Klingensmith
Geneva College
Spring 2010
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Tale of Osiris 32

In the time when the gods still walked the world, after Ra left this world to make

his daily circuit through the heavens and the underworld. The throne of the living world

was granted to Ra's favorite, his grandson, the son of Geb and Nut. Born of earth and

sky. He bridged the gap between heaven and the underworld, ruling kindly over the

realm of mankind. After the slaughter of the lower kingdom Osiris knit the people back

together again in one kingdom. He watched over the harvest and assured that the crops

would grow well. This was a time of great prosperity and peace. The land was fruitful at

his suggestion, the sky brought forth rain to water the crops. The Nile was ever-full in

the flood-times. All of the land prospered. And Isis, the firstborn of Geb and Nut, was his

wife, ruling at his side. She used her great cunning and wisdom, which rivaled that even

of Ra's wisdom, to help Osiris to rule and to protect him.  

Maat, the goddess of balance, was appeased by the rule of Osiris, and she kept

the world in balance. And peace was over the entire world, for it was the golden age.

And all of mankind was at peace, for they could do nothing against the might of the

gods. But there was one among the gods who was jealous of Osiris's position. Set,

Osiris's brother, who defends the sun-boat of Ra from the Serpent-destroyer Apep every

night thought that he should have been raised to the throne when Ra retreated to the

heavens. His heart was poisoned by desire. He wanted what Osiris had. He passed

over the world every day, looking at the peace, and the joy. And he saw the beauty of

Isis, and the golden palace of Osiris. And then every night he would descend into the

darkness with his mighty spear to defend the sun boat as it passed through the

darkness. His prowess at combat was greater than Osiris's. If Osiris had to guard the

sun-boat than Ra would be devoured by the great serpent. But even though his might at
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Tale of Osiris 33

arms was greater than that of Osiris he would not be able to defeat the magics that Isis

had placed around him. Isis, the blessed enchantress was endowed with great power

over magic. Her spells were more powerful than any others. And Set did not want to

anger her. For he desired to win her love.  

Every time he would go to bed with his wife, Nephthys, he did not have any

desire for her, for his mind was on Isis, his other sister. His desire for Isis was so great

that Nephthys, despite her greatest effort could not awaken the spark of love in Set. And

she was greatly distressed, and began to suspect the reason for Set's lack of interest in


One day as Set thought upon his revenge and rested on his bed, Nephthys

conspired to dress herself as Isis and came to Set and offered herself to him. But Set

was so caught up in his plots against Osiris that he did not notice that it was not Isis, but

he was also so caught up in his plans that even his wife dressed as Isis was not enough

to bring him peace. And he began to hate Osiris even more, and he spoke to his wife

who was disguised as Isis and told her of his plans. And she was angered and revealed

herself to him. And he beat her until she was senseless. 

Set left from his bed in anger and he went to the palace of Osiris as Osiris slept

and he measured the body of Osiris and he took the measurements to the craftsmen on

the earth, and he had a box made to the exact measurements of Ra. And he had it

inscribed with great magics that would prevent escape. Set returned to his home and he

rested. Nephthys could do nothing against the wrath of Set though she tried to come to

him again. Begging him not to carry through with his plan. For she did not want him to

be killed. For this was before any of the gods had been slain. 
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Tale of Osiris 34

A feast was being held among the gods, and the male gods were known to have

great tests of strength and power while the women-gods gave gifts to the people in the

courtyard. Set brought with him the box and he challenged anyone to get into the box,

whoever fit in the box would earn it as a prize, for it was made of fine gold. So Osiris,

drunk on fine beer, and seeing that the box was desirable, climbed into the box. 

"It fits so well," he said. "almost as if it was made for me."

Set, in a single movement slammed shut the lid of the box and poured molten

lead into it. And in the presence of all the assembled gods he lifted the box above his

head and carried it to the Nile, where he threw it in. Osiris was trapped in the box, and

could not escape as the lead poured over his body. He was seared, and he could not

breath. So it was that he died in the box. As it was thrown into the river. The box sank to

the bottom of the Nile and was carried far to the south. 

Nephthys approached Isis during the feast and warned her what was going to

happen. But Isis was too late to prevent Set's plan. But she agreed to Nephthys plans

and Nephthys disguised herself as Isis and went in to Set, pretending to be impressed

by his victory. And Set in his victory went in to her, and Nephthys was made happy.

And Isis traveled south. Following the path of the Nile. 

Set took the throne of Osiris, and ruled the land. The gods followed him out of

fear. And Ra turned his face from the world and wept bitter tears for the passing of his

favorite child. In the world, darkened by Ra's mourning, the peace that had been

granted by Maat began to crumble. For Maat was displeased by the actions of Set. And

she was mistreated by Set. She alone set her face against him. Causing the people to

rise up. And there was a great war between the people and those who followed Set.
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Tale of Osiris 35

There was much prayer from the children of the gods. But Ra did not listen for he

was so struck by grief. Set's tyranny continued. And war reigned. 

Isis at last found the body of Osiris, still in the box, where it had come to rest

against a bush that had now grown into a great tree. She worked her magic and

removed the box from the tree. And she carried it through the desert on her way back to

the great city where Osiris's great temple was. As she traveled she worked every night,

tirelessly trying to open the box and undo the magics that Set had worked upon it. 

At last she managed to open the box and she looked down upon the body of

Osiris. And she wept and threw herself upon him. And she cried bitter tears. And she

prayed a mighty prayer that was so strong that it drew Osiris's spirit back into his body.

And he held her in his arms and gave her comfort. 

But it happened, that as the bonds that chained Osiris in the box were broken Set

felt them. And he looked upon the face of his lover, and he realized that he had been

deceived and he rose in a wrath, and struck Nephthys a mighty blow and gathered a

great army and stormed out into the desert. He traveled fast, by chariot, across the face

of the world. And he came to where Osiris and Isis were locked in loving embrace.

Anger filled him, and he struck Osiris through the heart with his spear. And he picked

him up with his bare hands and he tore him into pieces, first he removed his manhood

and devoured it, the rest of Osiris's body he tore into 12 pieces which he gave to his

army to take to the far reaches of the world where they would not be found. 

Set then forced himself upon Isis and entered where Osiris had been but

moments before. And he raped his sister. Who he thought he had as wife for the course
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Tale of Osiris 36

of his rule. And he was filled with the flood of victory. For the manhood of Osiris

nourished his own.

When he woke the next morning he found that Isis had left him and he

descended again into a mighty rage, but all his power could not reveal to him where Isis

had gone. So he returned to his palace where his tyranny grew greater. 

Isis wandered the far reaches of the world, trying to find the pieces of her

beloved that had been distributed. She went first to Nephthys, while Set slept in the

desert who agreed to help her and then she went to Thoth who provided her with

wisdom and also agreed to help. For wisdom did not see any growth under the rule of

Set as it had in the day of Osiris. And together they worked a spell that allowed Isis to

locate in turn all the pieces. And she bore a son of her last encounter with Osiris, and

she named him Horus, and he traveled beside his mother, waiting for his time to

revenge his mother's rape and his father's murder. Isis found Osiris's head in the far

north reaches, past the Mediterranean sea. His feet she found in the deserts far to the

south, where no man had lived. But in the end she managed to gather all the pieces

together. She bound his body in linen strips to keep it together. And she prayed to Ra.

"Remember the time that you granted me a wish, to re-shape the world as I pleased by

your name. When I conspired to trick your true-name out of you? I call on that promise

now, oh great maker. Remember me, and remember your son, Osiris, your favorite." 

And so it was that she was granted the power to do as she pleased, and she re-

awoke the spark of life in Osiris, and he was restored, his body was made whole again,

save for his manhood that had been devoured by unholy Set. Though Isis fashioned him

one of the finest gold. And Osiris embraced his wife Isis and held her in his arms again.
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Tale of Osiris 37

"Thank you faithful, beautiful, Isis whose works are beyond all praise. You have

granted me restoration and rebirth." Osiris praised his wife. "But, you know that Maat

has a law that once something has been dead it cannot live in this world any longer. I

must not stay in this world over-long for fear of angering Maat. I can not rule the world

above as I had. I must descend to the world of the dead."

Isis was tearful. "But I worked so hard to have you back, must you certainly leave


Osiris wrapped her again in his arms. "Do not think that your works have been in

vain. For my spirit has a form, and the gods may pass between the gates of the dead,

so I shall see you again. But the balance must be maintained. I will not go against the

will of Maat. For the world would descend into turmoil."

"I understand, beautiful Osiris. I will come to you. Not even death or Maat can

keep me you from my love." Isis said and then introduced their son Horus to his father. 

And Osiris was glad to see the glorious face of his son and commanded that

Horus should take the throne from Set and gave him his blessing. 

So Osiris descended to the underworld, where he was welcomed by Anubis, who

recognized the great power of the one reborn and stepped aside saying, "Here has

come one greater than me, whose sandals I am not worthy to unlace. I will take my

place, opening the doorway for the souls of the dead. You, my lord must rule the lands


Horus then went with his mother to the palace of Set, armed with magic granted

him by Isis, and a magical knife created by Thoth. And Ra's face shined again on the

world. And Horus stormed through the gate. And none of the gods or men that served
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Tale of Osiris 38

Set dared stand in his way as he made his way to his father's throne, where Set sat,

ruling in tyranny over the world. And Horus challenged Set to a duel, and faced him. And

there was a great battle that lasted for many days. Set was defeated, but before the

final blow fell Horus withdrew his hand. And he smiled down on his wicked uncle. "Today

I have defeated you, but I graciously allow you to live, if you withdraw your claim to the

throne." But Set would not withdraw his claim. And the gods began to fight again. And

so Horus was forced to the final blow. His sword fell one last time, and removed Set's

manhood. In disgrace Set fled into the darkness. And Horus ascended the throne, to

rule as his father did.   

Set fell into the shadows, and he conspired with the world-serpent Apep, and his

jealousy now works against the Sun-boat of Ra every night int he darkness, but the

strength of Horus makes Set impotent in the face of Ra. 

Osiris rules the land of the dead as well as he ruled the land of the living. He

weighs the balance of Maat, providing the scales of judgment against which every soul

of the dead is weighed. He commends the just to the lands of the blessed. And he

condemns the wicked to be devoured. 

Horus ruled peacefully for a long time, until his rule stirred up dissent among the

people. The people grew impatient always serving the same ruler, who never changed

and was always the same. For they changed, and their needs changed. And it was hard

for a god who was always the same to serve their needs in rule. So it was that Horus

retreated to the realm of the gods and did not show his true face upon the earth. But he

sent an incarnation to take his place on the throne, to live as a man and to die as a man

when it was time. And that way he satisfied the balance of Maat. And change could
Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: The Tale of Osiris 39

occur, and the people could develop into a mighty power. Ruled ever by a changing

man-god incarnation of Horus. 

And so it is that Horus watches over the people while they live, and gives

guidance to the people, in his incarnation as Pharaoh and his father Osiris watches over

them in the next life. So it is that the gods are at peace. So it is that Set, wicked Set,

eternally strives for revenge, battling Horus at every turn. When Horus wins, Maat is

upheld and the world is at peace. When Set wins, the world is in turmoil. But we know

that dark times do not last forever, and the face of Horus will shine over the world again

again. In the last days, Horus and Set will fight one last time for the world. Horus will

defeat Set forever, and Osiris will be able to return to this world. On that day, the Day of

Awakening, all the tombs shall open and the just dead shall live again, and all sorrow

shall pass away forever.

Klingensmith Putting Osiris Back Together: Ra Saga/Osiris Tale 40


Budge, E.A. Wallis. Gods of the Egyptians: Studies in Egyptian Mythology. Vol. 1 & 2.
New York, NY: Dover. 1969.

Hart, George. The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. New York,
NY: Routledge. 2005.

Hornung, Erik. The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife. New York, NY: Cornell
University Press. 1999.

Pinch, Geraldine. Egyptian Mythology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2002.