Relief of Osiris

Detail of a wall relief depicts Osiris, Lord of the underworld, god of fertility, agriculture, the afterlife, the dead, resurrection, life, and vegetation. Osiris was the god of afterlife, the underworld and the dead, green-skinned with a king’s beard, wearing the atef crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and holding a symbolic crook and flail.

Osiris standing and mummiform. His arms are crossed at the chest and his hands, held in their fists, hold the heka and nekhakha scepters. The cult and images of the god have undergone profound changes over time. For example, Osiris, lord of the underworld, is also included in the solar cycle: it is the dead, nocturnal sun that encloses the regenerating principle of life.‬

Relief of the God Osiris. Tomb of Horemheb (KV57)
Relief of the God Osiris. Tomb of Horemheb (KV57)

His sacred city was Abydos, in Upper Egypt, yet there are no traces of his cult in the earliest phases (predynastic and protodynastic): then, the divinity of the place was the jackal god Khentamenti, which Osiris absorbed over time.

“Osiris is usually represented as a standing, or enthroned mummiform male figure wearing the atef crown (a high crown adorned on each side by an ostrich feather). He holds a crooked scepter and flagellum in his fists, which protrude on his breast from a tight-fitting white robe. His face and hands are sometimes black, sometimes green.

In the ancient Egyptian symbolism of colors, white was the color of mourning and Osiris was the god of the dead, the ruler of the other world, the kingdom of the dead. Green symbolized freshness, prosperity, and rebirth, and black the fertile soil of the Nile Valley. Thus Osiris was also the god of vegetation and fertility, and his story reflected the life-giving powers of nature and the agricultural cycle from sowing to harvest, and the expectation of new crops.”

Temple of the World: Sanctuaries, Cults, and Mysteries of Ancient Egypt by Miroslav Verner, The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt, 2013

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Horemheb, ca. 1319-1292 BC. Tomb of Horemheb (KV57), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes.