Understanding Ancient Egyptian Views on the Afterlife through the Story of Osiris

by | May 7, 2023 | 0 comments

Osiris was a prominent figure in ancient Egyptian mythology and the central god associated with the afterlife. Ancient Egypt had complex beliefs about death and the afterlife, which were closely intertwined with their religious and cultural practices.

Egyptians believed that death was merely a temporary interruption to life rather than the termination of life. Their religious doctrines featured three ideologies of the afterlife: belief in an underworld, eternal life, and rebirth of the soul.

One reason for the belief was to explain the sun’s orbit around the earth. For instance, other realms mimicked life’s natural patterns. The ideology with the general path to the underworld was that as night overshadowed the land, the deceased would begin their journey. And when the sun rose, not only did a new day begin, but a new life did as well.

The son of the earth god, Geb, and the sky goddess, Nut, he became the king of the gods. Osiris was known for his wisdom, generosity, and just rule. However, his jealous brother Set plotted against him, ultimately leading to his death and dismemberment.

Isis, Osiris’ wife and sister, managed to reassemble his body and bring him back to life for a short time. Osiris then descended into the underworld and became the god of the afterlife and resurrection. As the god of the underworld, he had the power to bring the dead back to life and ensure their survival in the afterlife. 

In addition, Osiris was believed to possess immense wisdom and knowledge, making him a respected figure in Egyptian mythology. He was believed to have control over the flooding of the Nile River, which was essential for agriculture in ancient Egypt. Osiris was also known for his ability to grant fertility and abundance and was associated with the growth of crops and the regeneration of life.

Osiris was depicted in various forms, including as a mummified figure or as a green-skinned man holding a crook and flail. His disciples spread widely throughout Egypt with many temples and festivals dedicated to his worship.

The Egyptians believed in a complex system of the afterlife, which varied depending on social class and wealth. The ultimate goal of the afterlife was to achieve eternal life, which was believed to be possible through a series of rituals.

One of the most important rituals was mummification. The Egyptians believed that preserving the body was necessary for the soul to survive in the afterlife. The body was carefully prepared and wrapped in bandages, with various amulets and charms placed inside to protect the deceased.

The Book of the Dead was another important aspect of Egyptian afterlife beliefs. It was a collection of spells and prayers intended to guide the deceased through the afterlife and protect them from various dangers. The Book of the Dead was often buried with the deceased or inscribed on tomb walls.

The Egyptians believed in a complex underworld, which was divided into various realms. The god Osiris judged the souls of the dead and determined their fate. The soul underwent a series of trials and tests, including a weighing of the heart ceremony, which determined whether the deceased was worthy of eternal life.

The path to the underworld was a difficult one. Various fates, doors, and pylons litter the underworld for the deceased to pass through, some have more than a thousand to get through. Each gate has a diety guarding them, and souls capable of pronouncing their secret, which usually inspired terror or evoked fearful powers, as passwords to move on. This kept the unworthy from being granted a second life.

Those who were deemed worthy were granted access to the Field of Reeds, a paradise-like realm where the deceased could live for eternity. The Field of Reeds was a place of abundance, with lush gardens, flowing rivers, and endless food and drink.

The Egyptian afterlife beliefs also included the concept of Ma’at, which represented truth, justice, and balance. The soul was believed to be judged based on its adherence to Ma’at, with those who lived a just and righteous life being rewarded with eternal life.

Ramses the Damned: The Reign of Osiris by Anne and Christopher Rice blends Christian and ancient Egyptian beliefs, focusing primarily on the god Osiris to compare the means of judging souls after their deaths. And as the characters are confronted with the being who inhabits the statue of Osiris, does the existence of an immortal being affront the ancient god whose primary role is to governed dead souls?

The Rice duo has us questioning what we knew about death, the afterlife, and the divine. Join us on May 27th at 1pm CT for our live discussion of Ramses the Damned: The Reign of Osiris. Pick up your copy and join us on Facebook Live.

Happy reading y’all.


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