Seth hated his brother, Osiris. Osiris, King of Egypt, civilized his people, and taught them to cultivate the land with barley and grain, and laws to live by. The opposite of Seth’s chaos and drought.

Finally, with the help of the Queen of Ethiopia and 72 other conspirators, Seth decided to destroy him.
Seth held a great feast, and a coffin was offered as a prize. All the guests slipped into it, trying it out for size, however, always one was too tall, too small, too fat, too skinny.

When Osiris tried out the coffin, it fit exactly.

Immediately the conspirators nailed shut the coffin and poured molten lead into the cracks, cutting off all air as Osiris took his last breaths on earth.

Osiris became Triumphant and ruler of the dead.

They launched his coffin into the river Nile. But the currents carried it up the coast to Byblos, instead of sinking to the bottom, as Seth desired. There on the shore near a great tamarisk tree, the coffin finally rested. The tree immediately sensed that this was a great God, and quickly reached out its long branches and embraced the coffin in loving protection. In time, the branches and roots grew around the coffin, and the tree increased in size and splendor.

“Ah, what a great tree!’ all the people of Byblos said, admiringly. “Just look at its size and beauty! It is as if from the Gods!”

The people admired it so much, that the King of Byblos ordered it cut down and placed inside the palace hall as a support, unknowing that the coffin was entwined inside.

Back in Egypt, Isis was distraught over her husband. No one knew where he had disappeared. She placed her son, Horus, in good care with the Cobra Goddess Wadjet, and then fled for the Delta in search of her husband. She knew that the souls of men did not rest without the correct funeral rites.

Wandering throughout Egypt, she searched for her husband everywhere.

“Have you seen my husband? Have you seen his painted coffin?” she asked. None had.

Finally, it was some children she met that said they had seen his coffin floating down the Nile. As she continued her journey, again she sought out children to ask, until she found Byblos and sat at the mouth of the Nahr al-Kalb, the Dog River. There the maidens of the Queen of Byblos came to bathe and do the washing. Isis lovingly adjusted their jewels and a sweet aroma accompanied the maidens back to the palace.

“What is that heavenly scent? The Queen asked, and the maidens said it was from the sad woman down by the shore. The Queen immediately brought Isis into the palace and they talked of their children together. The Queen said her young son, the Prince of Byblos, was ill and near death. Isis was a great healer and worker of magic spells.

“I will heal your son, but only if I can do it my way and you must never disturb me,” Isis said. The King and Queen agreed. Day in day out with Isis, the young prince Diktys grew healthier, bigger and stronger.
“Tell me,” The queen asked. “What is she doing in there?” But none of the maidens could answer.

“All we know,” the maidens said, “is that we hear a strange twittering when she enters the hall of the pillar.”
The Queen could stand it no longer and hid in the great hall to see what Isis was doing with her son.

She watched as Isis bared the great doors, and then created a huge fire. She placed the boy in between two logs in the flames, then turned in to a swallow and circled around and around the pillar she knew was her husband, lamenting and crying.

Horrified, the Queen rushed to rescue her son and tried to escape from the great hall.

Isis returned to her real form and confronted the woman.

“Oh, you foolish woman! You should not have disturbed me. In only a few more days, everything immortal in your son would have been burnt away and he would have become like the gods, forever young and immortal.”
Isis asked that the pillar and what it contained be given to her. Servants where brought to bring down the pillar and they split it open, revealing Osiris. Isis returned the pillar to the people of Byblos, and they worshipped it there for many years.

Isis placed the coffin in a boat and sailed back to Egypt. She hid the coffin in the delta under a bush while she went to check on her son Horus. A scorpion had bitten him, and she stayed with him until he recovered.

But while Isis was away, Seth went hunting in the marshes for wild boar. The moonlight glistened on top of the coffin and revealed its hiding place. Seth tore the coffin’s lid off, took Osiris’s body out and shredded it into 14 or 16 tiny pieces. Then he scattered all the pieces throughout Egypt. “It is impossible to destroy the body of a God, but I have!” he said laughing. “I have destroyed the body of Osiris!”

When Isis returned and saw the broken coffin, she knew it was Seth who did the deed. Out of papyrus she made a small boat and again set out in search of her husband. She sailed through the marshes and up the river searching endlessly for his pieces. Each time she found a piece, she created a shrine and performed the funeral rites for Osiris, as to trick Seth. But she kept the pieces until she found every one of them.

“Oh, my beloved, I have finally found you.” Then using her magic powers, she united the body of Osiris and he was resurrected. But Osiris preferred to remain and reign in the Duat, the heavenly afterworld, as the judge and ruler of the dead. Until one day he shall rise again rule Egypt as before.

M.V. Seton-Williams, Egyptian Legends and Stories, Barnes and Noble Books, 1988
Gahlin, Lucia, The Myths and Mythology of Ancient Egypt. Arness Publishing, London 2003.
The National Geographic Society, Ancient Egypt: Discovering its Splendor, 1978, Washington D.C.
Cooper, J.C., An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols, Thames and Hudson, London, 1978
Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Harper Collins, NY 1983

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