Osiris, the Egyptian god of death: myth and symbolism

Osiris is one of the most important gods of Egyptian mythology, revered for his role in death and rebirth. In this article, we'll explore the origins of Osiris, the story of his life and death, his role in the afterlife, and the artistic representations and symbolism associated with the god. We'll also highlight the importance of Osiris in Egyptian culture and his impact on global mythology.

Osiris' origins

Sources vary as to Osiris' birth. According to some texts, he was the son of Geb, the god of Earth, and Nut, the goddess of Heaven. Other sources claim that he was born of Isis and Osiris, two gods parents. It is also said that Osiris had a sister-wife named Isis.

During his childhood, Osiris was raised by the deities of the Nile, notably Sobek, the sacred crocodile, and Hapi, the river god. He soon became a very powerful and benevolent god, loved by all Egyptians.

The Osiris myth

The story of Osiris is a tragic one of betrayal and murder. His jealous brother, Set, envied his popularity and power, and so decided to kill him. Set trapped Osiris and killed him by throwing him into the Nile.

Isis, Osiris' sister-wife, was devastated by her husband's death and set out on a journey to find the remains of his body. When she found him, she set about resurrecting him using magical rituals. She succeeded in restoring his body, but Osiris nevertheless remained dead.

However, Osiris' rebirth was not definitive. He remained a prisoner of the afterlife as the god of the dead. This story represents the recurring theme of death and rebirth in Egyptian mythology . It also reflects the Egyptians' belief in eternity in the afterlife.

Osiris' role in the afterlife

The cult of Osiris was rooted in the funeral rites of ancient Egypt . At the end of their lives, Egyptians believed they would be judged for their actions by Osiris himself. If the judgment was favorable, they would enter the afterlife as eternal companions of Osiris.

The funerary cult of Osiris included complex ritual ceremonies to help the deceased reach the afterlife. It also included funerary offerings, such as sculptures and amulets representing Osiris and other gods associated with the cult.

Osiris was considered the ruler of the afterlife and governed the realm of the dead. He was often depicted wearing a white crown or a mitre, symbolizing his kingship.

Representations of Osiris in Egyptian art

Osiris was often represented as a mummified man carrying a scepter and an ankh cross, symbolizing eternal life. He was also often depicted with a false beard, a headband, and sometimes with falcon wings.

Symbols associated with Osiris in Egyptian art include the crocodile, the scorpion, the iris and the lotus. The crocodile symbolizes strength and royalty, the scorpion represents death and resurrection, the iris symbolizes rebirth and the lotus represents spiritual regeneration.

Artistic representations of Osiris have evolved over the centuries according to different eras and regions, with variations in the size, posture and details of the various depictions.


Egyptian mythology is rich in fascinating stories, and that of Osiris is one of the best-known and most spellbinding. Death and rebirth, justice and spiritual regeneration are all themes associated with this god. The cult of Osiris was central to Egyptian religion, and its importance has been recognized for thousands of years. The story of Osiris allows us to explore the essential concepts of life and death, justice and regeneration, resurrection and rebirth in ancient and modern cultures. If you're interested in Egyptian mythology, Osiris is an interesting facet to explore and one that's sure to surprise you.