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Isis and her plight to find Osiris's body

Guest Author - Heather Dodd

Isis, who was also called Aset, was the sister and wife of Osiris (a.k.a. Usir), God and King in ancient Egypt. Osiris’s younger brother, Set, was jealous of Osiris, and wanted the throne for himself. One day, Set tricked Osiris into lying down in a large box. Once Osiris was in the box, Set and his comrades slammed a lid on the box and nailed it shut. They poured melted lead into the cracks to seal it completely. Thus the box became Osiris’s coffin.

Set ordered his followers to cast the coffin into the Nile River. The heavy coffin, instead of sinking to the bottom of the river, floated down the Nile heading toward the sea. Isis was far from home when this happened. As soon as she heard, she ran all day and night chasing the coffin down the river, but it soon disappeared into the Mediterranean. She was very bereaved, tearing her hair, moaning and crying out.

Eventually, the coffin floated back to shore away from the Nile. It landed in a tree or shrub (the stories vary), and the tree quickly and miraculously grew and grew until the coffin disappeared into its trunk. The king of the area saw the beautiful tree and ordered it cut down to be used as a pillar in his house.

Back at the mouth of the Nile, Isis wept. Then a bird appeared to Isis telling of the magnificent tree it had lived in until the king cut it down. Isis knew that her husband had to be in that tree for the tree to have grown so fast and magnificently. She made her way to the tree, disguised as a normal human.
She found the tee of which the bird spoke, and sat on its stump crying, for she knew she was in the right place, but did not know where the coffin had gone.

There are different versions of the story at this point. One tale is that some handmaids from the castle saw her and talked to her and felt in their hearts that she was good. They told the queen of the woman crying down by the stump, and the queen said “bring her to me”. The queen had just had a baby, and sensed good in the woman who had been weeping by the tree stump. The queen asked her to be the nursemaid to her newborn son. Isis accepted the position. Once alone with the child, she created a magical fire and placed the baby in it to be made immortal. The queen heard the child’s screams and tore him out of the fire. Angry at the interruption, Isis made herself known as a goddess and demanded that the fire be rebuilt using the large pillar in the castle. When the workers chopped down the pillar, they discovered the coffin with Osiris’s remains. Isis let out such a cry of agony, that the little prince suffocated and died.

Another version is that Isis went directly to the castle and announced herself. She requested the pillar be brought to her, and opened it to find the coffin.

Isis had planned to give her husband a proper burial. She hid the coffin and began funeral preparations. While she was away, Set discovered the coffin. In a fit of rage, he tore the body into 14 pieces and scattered them around Egypt. Isis was able to find and collect thirteen of them, but the fourteenth had been eaten by some creature and would never be recovered.

Isis pleaded with Ra (the main Egyptian God) to help her. He made the fourteenth piece out of clay and gave it to Isis. For one night, she was able to use her magic to restore life to Osiris. They lay together, and in the morning, Osiris was dead, but Isis was pregnant with a boy that she named Horus.

Napoli, Donna Jo. “Treasury of Egyptian Mythology.” Washington, D.C. National Geographic Group, 2013. Print

Schmonp, Virginia. “The Ancient Egyptians.” New York. Marshall Cavendish, 2008. Print

Cotterell, Arthur and Storm, Rachel. “The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology.” London. Anness Publishing Ltd, 2014. Print
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Content copyright © 2015 by Heather Dodd. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Heather Dodd. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kelly "Ky" Greene for details.


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