"Legends of the Gods - E. A. Wallis Budge (1912). Part III - A Hymn to Osiris and Legend of the Origin of Horus".

Art work "Eye of Horus" by Stephen Johnson  ©


The text which contains this legend is found cut in hieroglyphics upon a stele which is now preserved in Paris. Attention was first called to it by Chabas, who in 1857 gave a translation of it in the Revue Archeologique, p. 65 ff., and pointed out the importance of its contents with his characteristic ability. The hieroglyphic text was first published by Ledrain in his work on the monuments of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, [Les Monuments Egyptiens (Cabinet des Medailles et Antiques), In the Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes, Paris, 1879-1882, plate xxii. ff.] and I gave a transcript of the text, with transliteration and translation, in 1895. [First Steps in Egyptian, pp. 179-188].

The greater part of the text consists of a hymn to Osiris, which was probably composed under the XVIIIth Dynasty, when an extraordinary development of the cult of that god took place, and when he was placed by Egyptian theologians at the head of all the gods. Though unseen in the temples, his presence filled all Egypt, and his body formed the very substance of the country. He was the God of all gods and the Governor of the Two Companies of the gods, he formed the soul and body of Ra, he was the beneficent Spirit of all spirits, he was himself the celestial food on which the Doubles in the Other World lived. He was the greatest of the gods in On (Heliopolis), Memphis, Herakleopolis, Hermopolis, Abydos, and the region of the First Cataract, and so. He embodied in his own person the might of Ra-Tem, Apis and Ptah, the Horus-gods, Thoth and Khnemu, and his rule over Busiris and Abydos continued to be supreme, as it had been for many, many hundreds of years. He was the source of the Nile, the north wind sprang from him, his seats were the stars of heaven which never set, and the imperishable stars were his ministers.

All heaven was his dominion, and the doors of the sky opened before him of their own accord when he appeared. He inherited the earth from his father Keb, and the sovereignty of heaven from his mother Nut. In his person he united endless time in the past and endless time in the future. Like Ra he had fought Seba, or Set, the monster of evil, and had defeated him, and his victory assured to him lasting authority over the gods and the dead. He exercised his creative power in making land and water, trees and herbs, cattle and other four-footed beasts, birds of all kinds, and fish and creeping things; even the waste spaces of the desert owed allegiance to him as the creator. And he rolled out the sky, and set the light above the darkness.

The last paragraph of the text contains an allusion to Isis, the sister and wife of Osiris, and mentions the legend of the birth of Horus, which even under the XVIIIth Dynasty was very ancient, Isis, we are told, was the constant protectress of her brother, she drove away the fiends that wanted to attack him, and kept them out of his shrine and tomb, and she guarded him from all accidents. All these things she did by means of spells and incantations, large numbers of which were known to her, and by her power as the "witch goddess." Her "mouth was trained to perfection, and she made no mistake in pronouncing her spells, and her tongue was skilled and halted not." At length came the unlucky day when Set succeeded in killing Osiris during the war which the "good god" was waging against him and his fiends. Details of the engagement are wanting, but the Pyramid Texts state that the body of Osiris was hurled to the ground by Set at a place called Netat, which seems to have been near Abydos. [Pepi I., line 475; Pepi II., line 1263]

The news of the death of Osiris was brought to Isis, and she at once set out to find his body. All legends agree in saying that she took the form of a bird, and that she flew about unceasingly, going hither and thither, and uttering wailing cries of grief. At length she found the body, and with a piercing cry she alighted on the ground. The Pyramid Texts say that Nephthys was with her that "Isis came, Nephthys came, the one on the right side, the other on the left side, one in the form of a Hat bird, the other in the form of a Tchert bird, and they found Osiris thrown on the ground in Netat by his brother Set." The late form of the legend goes on to say that Isis fanned the body with her feathers, and produced air, and that at length she caused the inert members of Osiris to move, and drew from him his essence, wherefrom she produced her child Horus.

This bare statement of the dogma of the conception of Horus does not represent all that is known about it, and it may well be supplemented by a passage from the Pyramid Texts, [Mer-en-Ra, line 336; Pepi II., line 862] which reads,

"Adoration to thee, O Osiris. [I omit the king's names] Rise thou up on thy left side, place thyself on thy right side. This water which I give unto thee is the water of youth (or rejuvenation). Adoration to thee, O Osiris! Rise thou up on thy left side, place thyself on thy right side. This bread which I have made for thee is warmth. Adoration to thee, O Osiris! The doors of heaven are opened to thee, the doors of the streams are thrown wide open to thee. The gods in the city of Pe come [to thee], Osiris, at the sound (or voice) of the supplication of Isis and Nephthys. . . . . Thy elder sister took thy body in her arms, she chafed thy hands, she clasped thee to her breast [when] she found thee [lying] on thy side on the plain of Netat."

And in another place we read: [Teta, line 274; Pepi I., line 27; Mer-en-Ra, line 37; and Pepi II., line 67] "Thy two sisters, Isis and Nephthys, came to thee, Kam-urt, in thy name of Kam-ur, Uatchet-urt, in thy name of Uatch-ur . . . . . . . Isis and Nephthys weave magical protection for thee in the city of Saut, for thee their lord, in thy name of 'Lord of Saut,' for their god, in thy name of 'God.' They praise thee; go not thou far from them in thy name of 'Tua.' They present offerings to thee; be not wroth in thy name of 'Tchentru.' Thy sister Isis cometh to thee rejoicing in her love for thee. [Pyramid Text, Teta, l. 276] Thou hast union with her, thy seed entereth her. She conceiveth in the form of the star Septet (Sothis). Horus-Sept issueth from thee in the form of Horus, dweller in the star Septet. Thou makest a spirit to be in him in his name 'Spirit dwelling in the god Tchentru.' He avengeth thee in his name of 'Horus, the son who avenged his father.'
Hail, Osiris, Keb hath brought to thee Horus, he hath avenged thee, he hath brought to thee the hearts of the gods, Horus hath given thee his Eye, thou hast taken possession of the Urert Crown thereby at the head of the gods. Horus hath presented to thee thy members, he hath collected them completely, there is no disorder in thee. Thoth hath seized thy enemy and hath slain him and those who were with him." The above words are addressed to dead kings in the Pyramid Texts, and what the gods were supposed to do for them was believed by the Egyptians to have been actually done for Osiris. These extracts are peculiarly valuable, for they prove that the legend of Osiris which was current under the XVIIIth Dynasty was based upon traditions which were universally accepted in Egypt under the Vth and VIth Dynasties.

"Homage to thee, Osiris, Lord of eternity, King of the gods, whose names are manifold, whose transformations are sublime, whose form is hidden in the temples whose Ka is holy, the Governor of Tetut, [More fully Pa-Asar-neb-Tetut, the Busiris of the Greeks; Busiris = Pa-Asar, "House of Osiris," par excellence. The variant Tataut also occurs] the mighty one of possessions (?) in the shrine, [An allusion, perhaps, to the town Sekhem, the capital of the second nome (Letopolites) of Lower Egypt] the Lord of praises [lord whose praises are sung] in the nome of Anetch, [Letopolites] President of the tchefa food in Anu, [Heliopolis] Lord who art commemorated in [the town of] Maati, [i.e., a famous sanctuary in the Letopolite nome where Ptah was worshipped.]  the mysterious (or, hidden) Soul, the Lord of Qerret, [The region of the First Cataract, where the Nile was believed to rise] the sublime one in White Wall, [Memphis] the Soul of Ra [and] his very body, who hast thy dwelling in Henensu, [Herakleopolis, the {hbw XaNeS} of Isaiah] the beneficent one, who art praised in Nart, [A name of Herakleopolis] who makest to rise up thy Soul, Lord of the Great House in the city [Khemenu or Hermopolis, the city of Thoth] of the Eight Gods, [These gods were: Nu and Nut; Hehu and Hehut; Kekui and Kekuit; Kerh and Kerhet] [who inspirest] great terror in Shas-hetep, [The capital of Set, the eleventh nome of Upper Egypt; the chief local deity was Khnemu] Lord of eternity, Governor of Abtu (Abydos).

Thy seat (or, domain) reacheth far into Ta-tchesert, [A name of the Other World] and thy name is firmly stablished in the mouth[s] of men. Thou art the twofold substance of the Two Lands [i.e., the two Egypts, Upper and Lower] everywhere (?), and the divine food (tchef) of the Kau, [The Doubles of the beatified who are fed by Osiris in the Other World] the Governor of the Companies [Three Companies are distinguished: the gods of Heaven, the gods of Earth, and the gods of the Other World] of the Gods, and the beneficent (or, perfect) Spirit-soul [The indestructible, immortal Spirit-soul as opposed to the Ba-soul or animal-soul] among Spirit-souls. The god Nu draweth his waters from thee, [Here and in other places I have changed the pronoun of the third person into that of the second to avoid the abrupt changes of the original] and thou bringest forth the north wind at eventide, and wind from thy nostrils to the satisfaction of thy heart. Thy heart flourisheth, and thou bringest forth the splendour of tchef food.

Art work "Black Isis" by Sami Edelstein ©
The height of heaven and the stars [thereof] are obedient unto thee, and thou makest to be opened the great gates [of the sky]. Thou art the lord to whom praises are sung in the southern heaven, thou art he to whom thanks are given in the northern heaven. The stars which never diminish are under the place of thy face, [i.e., they are under thy inspection and care] and thy seats are the stars which never rest.[i.e., the stars which never set. The allusion is probably to certain circumpolar stars] Offerings appear before thee by the command of Keb. The Companies of the Gods ascribe praise unto thee, the Star-gods of the Tuat smell the earth before thee, [i.e., do homage] the domains [make] bowings [before thee], and the ends of the earth make supplication to thee [when] they see thee.

Those who are among the holy ones are in terror of him, and the Two Lands, all of them, make acclamations to him when they meet His Majesty. Thou art a shining Noble at the head of the nobles, permanent in [thy] high rank, stablished in [thy] sovereignty, the beneficent Power of the Company of the Gods. Well-pleasing [is thy] face, and thou art beloved by him that seeth thee. Thou settest the fear of thee in all lands, and because of their love for thee [men] hold thy name to be pre-eminent. Every man maketh offerings unto thee, and thou art the Lord who is commemorated in heaven and upon earth. Manifold are the cries of acclamation to thee in the Uak [One of the chief festivals of Osiris, during which the god made a periplus] festival, and the Two Lands shout joyously to thee with one accord. Thou art the eldest, the first of thy brethren, the Prince of the Company of the Gods, and the stablisher of Truth throughout the Two Lands. Thou settest [thy] son upon the great throne of his father Keb. Thou art the beloved one of thy mother Nut, whose valour is most mighty [when] thou overthrowest the Seba Fiend. Thou hast slaughtered thy enemy, and hast put the fear of thee into thy Adversary.

Art work "Black Pyramids" by Stephen Johnson  ©

Thou art the bringer in of the remotest boundaries, and art stable of heart, and thy two feet are lifted up (?); thou art the heir of Keb and of the sovereignty of the Two Lands, and he (i.e., Keb) hath seen thy splendid qualities, and hath commanded thee to guide the lands (i.e., the world) by thy hand so long as times [and seasons] endure. Thou hast made this earth with thy hand, the waters thereof, the winds thereof, the trees and herbs thereof, the cattle thereof of every kind, the birds thereof of every kind, the fish thereof of every kind, the creeping things thereof, and the four-footed beasts thereof. The land of the desert [This may also represent the mountainous districts of Egypt, or even foreign countries in general] belongeth by right to the son of Nut, and the Two Lands have contentment in making him to rise [To make him rise like the sun, or to enthrone him] upon the throne of his father like Ra.

Thou rollest up into the horizon, thou settest the light above the darkness, thou illuminest [the Two Lands] with the light from thy two plumes, thou floodest the Two Lands like the Disk at the beginning of the dawn. Thy White Crown pierceth the height of heaven saluting the stars, [Or, "becoming a brother to the stars," or the Star-gods] thou art the guide of every god. Thou art perfect [Or, beneficent] in command and word. Thou art the favoured one of the Great Company of the Gods, and thou art the beloved one of the Little Company of the Gods.

Art work "Nodes and Gnosis of Isis" - Sami Edelstein ©
Thy sister [Isis] acted as a protectress to thee. She drove [thy] enemies away, she averted seasons [of calamity from thee], she recited the word (or, formula) with the magical power of her mouth, [being] skilled of tongue and never halting for a word, being perfect in command and word. Isis the magician avenged her brother. She went about seeking for him untiringly.

She flew round and round over this earth uttering wailing cries of grief, and she did not alight on the ground until she had found him. She made light [to come forth] from her feathers, she made air to come into being by means of her two wings, and she cried out the death cries for her brother. She made to rise up the helpless members of him whose heart was at rest, she drew from him his essence, and she made therefrom an heir. She suckled the child in solitariness and none knew where his place was, and he grew in strength. His hand is mighty (or, victorious) within the house of Keb, and the Company of the Gods rejoice greatly at the coming of Horus, the son of Osiris, whose heart is firmly stablished, the triumphant one, the son of Isis, the flesh and bone of Osiris. The Tchatcha [Literally, the "Heads," I.e., the divine sovereign Chiefs at the court of Osiris, who acted as administrators of the god, and even as task-masters] of Truth, and the Company of the Gods, and Neb-er-tcher ["He who is the lord to the end (or, limit) of the world," a name of Osiris] himself, and the Lords of Truth, gather together to him, and assemble therein.[i.e., in the House of Keb] Verily those who defeat iniquity rejoice [Or perhaps "take their seats in the House of Keb"] in the House of Keb to bestow the divine rank and dignity upon him to whom it belongeth, and the sovereignty upon him whose it is by right.


The End of Part III (last)

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