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Cult of Ausar (Osiris)

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Forums -> Other Paths -> Cult of Ausar (Osiris)

Cult of Ausar (Osiris)
By: / Novice
Post # 1

Most of this information was referenced from my memory. That which was not directly referenced from my memory has been separated from the rest of the text, and given the origin within parentheses.

Kingship of the Gods:

Before the era where man ruled Egypt, the gods themselves directly ruled here. Oftentimes they would lead for many years, until finally they would be disposed due to their inability to keep Egypt safe. Often this was done by the son overthrowing his father, however there was also a change in hands when one god (I believe this was Shu) was nearly overthrown by his son (Geb) and so the Ra, Atum, or Amun passed it on to the son. It was done this way because it was believed that if a king was too weak to rule, he should not rule at all. In some myths other gods interject, such as Thoth coming between Geb and Ausar.

When Ausar came onto the scene as the king of all of Egypt, something interesting occurred. Two different myths tell of two different stories. The more commonly known being that Set was jealous of his brother, and seeking to gain the throne of Egypt, overthrew him. Another has Set ruling over Lower Egypt, while Ausar is ruling Upper Egypt, apparently in a joint effort to ensure that Egypt was protected by two very powerful gods. This second one does not last long in that Set, in an effort to gain all of Egypt for himself, decided to overthrow his brother by tricking him. Some of the members of the Kemetic Orthodoxy take this as Set assisting Ausar in giving the dead a friend in the afterlife, one that is like them unlike all of the other gods.

Ausar Legend:

The most commonly known form of this legend comes done to us from Plutarch, and so may or may not be entirely true to the Kemetics, however there is historical evidence that shows it to be at least partially true. I have added other details in of different ways it has been foretold in the attempt to be as through as possible.

Ausar, rules over Egypt as a goodly king, bringing many blessings to the world because of this; agriculture and civilization included. Set places himself here as the jealous brother, who due to not being born first, will not ever hold the crown of Egypt. Regardless, Set is jealous of what his brother has; the throne, the love of the people, the support and love of the other gods. He sees his brother has all these things, and it angers him, it makes him want to take it all from his brother and claim it for his own.

It's a bit weird for a reference, but it kind of reminds me of the Loki from the Avengers comic books and the movie. He is so consumed with what he doesn't have, that he doesn't see what he does have.

Set begins to plot against his older brother, deciding that since Ausar has no heir, he needs only to kill his brother, not only removing him from rule over Egypt, but also showing him to be a weaker man, and so allowing Set to take Ausar's place. So, he threw a very very lavish party, inviting everyone. Ausar, even though he is warned against it by Auset (Isis). At this party, Set comes out with an even more lavish chest/box. He offers the chest to any god or goddess who can fit perfectly within the chest. Unknowingly to all, he had Ausar measured, so that the chest would fit his body perfectly. Everyone tried, until it came around to Ausar's turn. In this moment, Set pounced upon his brother, slamming shut the lid and nailing it closed and pouring lead over it to ensure it would stay closed. He then threw the chest containing his brother into the Nile, and it floated away.

Auset begins mourning for her dead husband, and begins a search for the chest containing his body, so that funeral rites can be done so Ausar can rest. She asked everyone she met, until a group of children eventually told her that they saw Set throw the chest into the mouth of the Nile. She begins enquiring of lesser spirits of where her husband's body came to be, and eventually landed in Byblos, where it connected with a small sapling. This sapling grew up very fast, becoming of an amazing height and thickness. The king of Byblos came upon this huge tree, and had it cut down, and the trunk made into the central pillar for his palace. Auset went straight to this palace, and, speaking only to the queen's maidens, she treated them kindly, braiding their hair and breathing fragnant breath upon them. When they returned to their queen, she questioned them about their hair and perfume, and so it came about that Auset became a nurse to one of the princes.

She fed the boy by allowing him to suck on her finger, and every night she placed him in a fire, while she turned into a kite and lamented her fate. News of this reached the queen, and so she hid herself and watched this one night. The queen rushed to save her child, and by doing so, lost immortality for him. Auset then reveals her fate and her purpose to the queen, begging that the pillar be cut down and given to her. She was given the chest, and returned to Egypt with it.

When she returns, she mourns her husband, and Set comes upon her mourning. When his sister lays down to sleep, he took Ausar's body, and cut it up into 14 pieces, then scattered them throughout Egypt. Auset, realized what had happened, and then went in search of the 14 pieces. This part of the myth diverges two ways, the first is that she embalms, mourns, and buries each piece separately, erecting a temple each place that she finds and buries the piece. In this half of the myth, her child, Horus the Child or Horus the Son of Isis is already born. The other half, is the more important to the cult of Ausar.

She, sometimes alone and at other times with her sister and Set's wife Nephthys, finds and gathers each piece, until they have found 13 pieces. The only piece they did not find was that of Ausar's penis, which had been swallowed by a fish that was then thought of as sacred, and which was not to be eaten. In order to ensure he is whole, she creates for him a penis made of clay, and embues it with magic so that it works just like the real thing. (For the Kemetics, the penis was not only the seat of sexual power, but that of power in general. For Ausar to be left without his penis would leave him in a weakened and incomplete state forever.) Together with Ienpw (Anubis), Nephthys, and Djehuti (Thoth), she embalms, mourns, and brings her husband back to life. Once Ausar has been returned to life, she turns herself into a kite, flies over Ausar's penis, and becomes impregnated by him.

From here, Ausar's myth then carries over into Heru's myth.

A Kemetic Orthodoxy Member's Opinion:

I've seen many of the KO's members talk about Set's role within Ausar's myth as one that is not violent, jealous, and evil, such as what is common in the historical evidence. I think that this is due to someone's upg (unverified personal gnosis), or several someones' upg. Regardless, they view Ausar's murder as more a mercy killing than that of a true murder. This "mercy killing" was done so that those who died would have a god who was also dead with them, rather than gods who were living. The sense that I get from this view is that it is necessary for some of those who work with Set to view his actions as not as close to the more commonly known Kemetic view that Set was an evil bastard.

In an attempt to rationalize the ways of the gods with a modern attitude, I think that something is lost of the actual myth and its meaning. Though I do think that perhaps Ausar allowed himself to come to blows, because he knew it was his place within the world to die, much like Jesus of the Christian Bible knew that he had to die to fulfill his duty and did not struggle against his fate.

Cult of Ausar:

Origins of the Cult of Ausar:

It is often thought by Egyptologists, that the cult of Ausar began as the cult of a fertility god, which then evolved into a cult regarding death, life, and rebirth. While there is much evidence that I've seen that regards Ausar as a fertility god, it tends to be linked to the worship of Ausar as a god of rebirth after death more so than general fertility.

Others believe that Ausar's cult rose out of a need for a major religious movement based upon life after death. Previous to the rise of Ausar's cult, there was a cult of embalming the dead, which was linked to the Creator's beginning of the world. When he had begun the world, he gained help from some snakes which were within Nun (nothingness). When creation came into being, these snakes had to die, because they were a part of uncreation. The Creator then embalmed the snakes and buried them, and this, being the first act of embalming someone, was continued after.

The historical context of this is that originally people were buried in unmarked graves with some of their possessions, while being placed in a fetal position. It is thought that death cults and myths giving them an afterlife rose out of their rediscovery by the Kemetics.

The worship of the Apis bull as a symbol of Ausar is only true after the bull is dead. Before the death of the Apis, he is meant to represent Ptah, one of the gods attributed to the creation of the world. Once the Apis bull dies, he is embalmed, placed inside a sarcophagus, and worshipped as a representative of Ausar.

Re-Enactment of the Ausar's Rebirth:

Oftentimes, direct re-enactments would be made. Within these, people would "play" as each of the gods involved within the myth. That being said, it cannot really be said whether this worked as truly a play, or if the actors would channel the gods, and re-enact the happenings. There was another form of re-enactment which is well known, and that is that of the images of the gods leaving their temples, and going about a journey which would re-enact their myth.

In the case of Ausar, this would involve his image moving from Abydos to Peqer. This journey involved the image being placed within a portable barque, which was basically a small boat like image, and then being transported to an actual barque (a workable boat). Before being taken to his tomb in Peqer, in a place named Nedjt a battle would be re-enacted, and the side of the god would be victorious. (Information referenced from Ancient Egypt by Lorna Oakes and Lucia Gahlin.) This re-enactment would have taken place in the first month of the year, which was during Akhet or the Inundation.

One of the rituals I find the most personally moving is that of an image of Ausar coming to life. This I mean literally, but not in the way that you probably thought about it. When the Nile flooded, covering the fields with both water, and highly rich soil, the people would take some of the mud/clay and build a two part effigy of Ausar laying down (sitting on his back upon the ground). Inside this effigy, some of the highly rich soil would be placed, and seeds would be planted. Then, the cover (which had holes in it to allow growth of the plants) would be closed over the soil. While the fields around burst into new life, so would the effigy of Ausar, thus providing the people with a living metaphor of rebirth.

These were more commonly placed within tombs (though their appearance there in comparison to other things is highly rare), but there is some evidence that it was also done outside of the tombs as well.

For me, it is moving not just because of the plant aspect of it, but because what it must have meant for them to see their god coming to life, showing them that they too would live again after death. To know that one will not simply disappear when one dies, to give a person hope for a afterlife, to give a person a chance at touching the gods directly, it is both elegant and beautiful and somehow more to me.

By re-enacting these rites, the people ensured that the god stayed within his power.

Rebirth of the Dead:

One of the ways that the legend of Ausar was most re-enacted was through the care of the dead. Originally this level of care was given only to the god-king himself, but overtime anyone with enough money could pay for these rites to be enacted, ensuring that their dead loved one would have a place within the afterlife. It was thought that if these rites were not done properly, a person could be trapped within their khat or physical body, that they could truly die, or that they could wander the earth, seeking proper burial.

During these rites, which are documented through several different versions of the Book of Coming Forth by Day (aka the Book of the Dead) as well as through the Pyramid Texts (the writings which were placed on pyramid walls). The person's various body parts would be allowed to be used, the images of the person would get the same. They would be given all the tools to be used in the afterlife to either assist them in their journey to Ausar's home or in their comfort once they were there.

Much of the rites done upon a person's death were intended to be done by their son, son-in-law, or heir or a representative of their heir if he was unavalible (usually the heir was male, but there are a few instances of females being claimed as heirs, this is more common in the priesthood). This was in re-enacting the taking on of Ausar's possessions (aka Egypt) by Heru.

The act of re-enacting the death, life, rebirth was evident from the beginning. A person would attend the embalming of the person wearing a Ienpw mask. Whether this person was a priest or merely one of the embalmers is unclear. During the embalming process, incisions would have to be made upon the body in order to remove the internal organs and to stuff the body with natron and bandages. This was to dry out the body and give it shape. The person who did this was stoned after, with angry curses thrown at them that they intended to destroy the body of Ausar. During the embalming process, different amulets would be placed upon the body, and protection given over the whole by different gods and goddesses. Gods and goddesses of birth and/or rebirth were very common, as were fertility gods. Many of the objects within the tomb were also intended for protective purposes. Mourning would also begin, and it would continue on until the person was buried. Professional wailers were sometimes hired on, and these women would wail and bare their breasts at the dead, lamenting as Auset and Nephthys did.

It was thought that without the objects and items intended to protect or help someone on their journey through the Duat (netherworld) to Ausar's palace, that a person would become lost or worse yet, trapped. The Duat was a hell on par with the Christian hell. Various demons (as they are generally referred to) would lay in wait, seeking out those who had committed acts against any of the gods or against ma'at. These beings that would lay in wait were over highly violent individuals, who at times were also highly disgusting, such as the "demon" which feeds upon excrement. These "demons" are pictured as vicious animals such as lions, or they are combined animals such as lions, crocodiles, and hippopotami. They were also often pictured carrying knives with or without blood and at times they had blood in their mouths. It was thought that without the right words to tell these beings, that one would be doomed to their presence.

Becoming lost within the Duat was also a difficulty, as you may not want to ask directions due to the violent influences described above, and also due to the maze like place that was the netherworld. And even if one found the place where one was intended to go, you had to know the right words to tell 7 gatekeepers, otherwise you would go no further. And once in the hall of judgment, one would need to use the 42 purifications of the heart, the 42 declarations of innocence, or the 42 negative declarations. These were said in order to show one's ab (heart) to be equal to the feather of ma'at. If one's ab were too heavy or too light, it would be given to Ammit (the Devourer) to be eaten, and the person would forever be destroyed.

Identification of the Deceased with Ausar:

Those who had died were often identified with Ausar in death, and for several different reasons. By identifying the one who had died with Ausar, it was thought that the same amount of protection that had been given to Ausar upon his embalming and rebirth would be allotted to the dead man or woman. It was also thought that by linking the dead with Ausar, that the god would show the dead person favor both before and after reaching the Duat. The favor of your new king would be an important thing indeed. This wish to identify the person with Ausar was such to the point as people were called Ausar ___. In example, I would be called Ausar Khukua. It was also thought that these individuals would become one with Ausar, but while retaining some of their own individuality. Those who died were considered the Blessed Dead, and they were honored. Communication between the living and the dead was considered very important, as the dead were considered to be closer to the gods than the living.

The Kemetic Orthodoxy's stance on this is basically thus, except they call the Blessed Dead the Akhu, which also means the khu, which is one of the nine bodies that a person has. The khu is the spirit body, the one I equate to the spirit of a person, rather than their soul. However, rather than using the term khu, they use the term ka to describe this. And yes, it is confusing, even to me.

Miscellaneous:

Ausar one of the most important, if not the most important, gods due to his position as the god of the dead. His worship eventually overshadowed that of the major creator gods (Ra, Atum, Ptah, Amun), and as such his cult overshadowed the cults of the others. My reasoning behind this is that everybody dies, and because of that, and the need to actually have an afterlife, Ausar's worship took precidence over all of the rest.

Some common symbols associated with Ausar are the bull, the djed pillar (equated to his backbone or to the tree in which his body was found), the ankh, the crook and flail, mummies, mummy wrappings, and the Atef crown (which is the white crown of Upper Egypt flanked by ostrich feathers which represent ma'at and at times having a sun disk representing the link to Ra and the right to rule).

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Re: Cult of Ausar (Osiris)
By:
Post # 2

Brilliant and wonderfully written post. It is very enlightening to read and learn new things as well as have something refreshed for the mind and spirits' sake. I hope you continue to write this beautiful post on the traditions and magics of Ancient Egypt as I am sure most of us enjoy learning more.

Green Blessings,

Othala

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Re: Cult of Ausar (Osiris)
By: / Novice
Post # 3

Good to know someone enjoyed it Othala. And I may have to write up a few more things. It is a bit of a catch as I go thing, because half the time I am unsure of how to quite put something to paper, or type in this case, or type, and when I am I'm not sure where to begin.

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Re: Cult of Ausar (Osiris)
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 4
This thread has been moved to Other Paths from Misc Topics.
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