Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Isis and Osiris

Here's a version of the story we have been reading, taken from

The Golden Casket
Osiris, the king of Egypt, and Isis, his queen, was beloved by all his people. He was kind and just and taught them to plow the earth, how to honor the gods and he gave them laws to live by. But his brother Seth was jealous and plotted against him to take over the throne. Queen Isis was constantly on her guard when Osiris traveled around his kingdom, she never felt safe from Seth´s scheming.

One day Osiris held a big banquet for his court and as he was kind and just Seth was also invited. This was the moment he had long waited for. Together with his accomplices he could set his plan in motion. He began to describe a wonderful coffin that he had been given, and soon enough he was asked to have it brought in for people to see. It was indeed beautiful, made of the finest wood and gilded and painted. He promised to give it as a gift to whomever fitted exactly into it. And as he already had acquired Osiris´measures, the king was the only one that fitted into the coffin, and when he was persuaded into taking place in it, Seth´s accomplices quickly nailed the lid to it and while the rest of the court was held back, it was taken away and thrown into the Nile where the current carried it away.

Isis was overcome with grief and cut off a length of her hair, dressed herself in mourning clothes and went on her way to look for the coffin with her husband´s body. She wandered everywhere and searched all over Kemet and beyond without finding a trace, until she heard some children saying that they had seen the golden coffin being thrown into the waters.

The Wonderful Tree
She wandered for a long time, weeping and searching for the casket, and often she heard rumours that a golden casket had been seen floating by some village. So she kept following after until she left Egypt and came into the land of Byblos. Here the rumours spoke about a wonderful tree that suddenly had started to grow on the shore. Isis understood then that the coffin had floated ashore and got stuck in a bush. Nurtured by the divine presence of Osiris´ body, the bush had sprouted and grown into a large tree which the king of Byblos had let cut down and used in the buildings of a palace. When Isis reached the place, she was shown to the palace by the villagers.

The Burning Prince
She waited outside the palace until she met the Queen´s maidens. She told them she was an Egyptian headdresser and plaited their hair and breathed on them so that a divine scent surrounded them. And they brought her before the queen who took a liking to her and asked her to take care of her young son, the prince. Soon enough she found the treetrunk that enclosed her husband´s coffin. Isis stayed there, and every night while the little prince slept, she went into the room where the pillar enclosing the coffin with her husband´s body was and she wept and mourned for him. And every day she looked after the little prince, and shortly she became so fond of him, that she decided to make him immortal.
In the night she brought him to the pillar where the casket was hidden. There she lit a fire and speaking the magic words she laid down the sleeping boy in the flames. The fire started to burn away all that was human in him, but she did not watch over him, she turned herself into a swallow and began to fly around the pillar, wailing and mourning over her dead husband. The queen, who slept nearby, was woken up by the sound of the flames, and hastened to the room. When she saw her child surrounded with flames, she raised a cry of horror and the swallow turned into woman again and the magical fire died. Isis then revealed herself to the queen and told her that now it was impossible for the prince to become immortal. The queen then regretted her ignorance and asked how she could repay Isis. And Isis asked for the pillar with the coffin. She instantly cut it into pieces so that the coffin could be taken out, then she drenched the bits of wood in oil, wrapped them in fine linen and asked the queen to keep them in the temple of Byblos.
Then she left Byblos by boat and headed for Egypt. After a long journey, when she finally could bring the casket ashore by the Nile again, she opened it and embraced Osiris and wept for him. He looked as if he was only sleeping. Then the coffin was closed again and she continued on her way home through the marshlands to bury him.

Lost Again
But that one night Seth and his men were out hunting nearby. When he happened upon the casket, he recognized it, realized his treachery had been found out and feared that Isis would punish him. While she slept he broke into it and tore Osiris´ body into several pieces which he spread out all over the land. Only then did he feel safe that Isis would not be able to find them.
When Isis saw the empty casket, her cry of anguish shook heaven and earth. She called out to her sister Nephtys who came to console her and once more she went on her way, now with Nephtys by her side. For many long, sorrowful years they searched the lands together. Wherever they found a piece of Osiris´ body, they erected an altar, giving thanks to the gods. When at last all the parts had been assembled, Isis made Osiris into the first mummy. She then proceeded to use her powerful magic and breathed new life into Osiris and so she was able to conceive the child Horus. After this Osiris became in time the King of the Land of the Dead, while Horus fought against his uncle Set and won his father´s throne and became the Living King of Egypt.

How do the two versions compare?
Which details are the same?
Which details are different?


  1. It's different because they nailed the coffin shut and in the other one they didn't. Isis did not set the prince on fire in the other one. In the other one they teared him up, cut him up into 14 pieces exactly.

    In both stories, Isis searched for many years and Osiris became king of the underworld.


  2. Well done Seb! You have read the story very carefully and analysed the differences too! Brilliant reading.

  3. It's very wierd that how come that Orisis din't push the coffin open? And why was there no air inside the coffin and why did Seth wanted to be king of land In the first place?

    Poon and Tinn from Y3w

  4. It is diffrent because in the other story Seth dosent nail the chest and Isis dosent burn the prince and she dosent look after a prince

    Jessie,Annabel, Jessica


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