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OSIRIS ō sĭ’ rəs. One of the principal gods of ancient Egypt.

According to Egyp. mythology, Osiris’ brother Seth cut up his body and scattered the pieces. Isis, Osiris’ wife, assembled his body and restored him to life. Their son Herus avenged his father by defeating Seth in single combat (Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, 12-20).

Osiris was connected with vegetation and the life-giving water of the Nile. His annual festival celebrated the sprouting of the grain.

Osiris was also king of the dead. He judged each person after death according to truth and moral laws. Acting as judge he often is represented as a seated mummy, holding a flail and shepherd’s crook and wearing a conical crown flanked by two feathers. The chief center of his worship was Abydos in Upper Egypt.

Later the worship of Osiris became popular outside of Egypt as a mystery cult mourning his death and celebrating his revival. In Ptolemaic times he was combined with the bull-god Apis as Serapis (Osiris + Apis), who was widely worshiped.


S. A. B. Mercer, The Religion of Ancient Egypt (1949); H. Bonnet, “Osiris,” Reallexikon der ägyptischen Religionsgeschichte (1952), 568-576.

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