How did Osiris die in Egyptian Mythology?

Osiris’ reverence in ancient Egypt was primarily centered around his death. Known as the god of the afterlife, vegetation and resurrection, Osiris was worshiped as a divine king. Thus he was considered the ruler of the afterlife and the judge of the dead.

In the article below, we delve right into the myths surrounding the death of Osiris in ancient Egyptian mythology.

Who killed Osiris and why?

Osiris and Seth

Unknown to Osiris, Seth purposely built the casket to fit Osiris. Once the casket was sealed shut, Seth threw the casket into the Nile

In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was killed by his brother Seth (also known as Set). The reason for the murder was mainly motivated by jealousy and a thirst for power. Osiris was the king of Egypt and widely revered for his wisdom and benevolence. Seth, feeling envious of his brother’s popularity and position, sought to eliminate Osiris to take the throne for himself.

Source of Seth’s hatred of Osiris

The source of Seth’s hatred towards Osiris is rooted in their family dynamics and power struggle. In Egyptian mythology, both Seth and Osiris were siblings and sons of Geb and Nut, making them part of the divine family. Seth was associated with chaos, storms, and desert lands, while Osiris was associated with fertility, agriculture, and kingship.

Seth’s jealousy and animosity towards Osiris grew when Osiris became the ruler of Egypt and enjoyed the love and admiration of the people. Moreover, Seth’s wife, Nephthys, was infatuated with Osiris, which added to his resentment.

Myths and facts about Seth

The tipping point came when Seth, consumed by envy and desire for power, conspired to kill Osiris and take his place as the ruler of Egypt. The exact motivation for Seth’s actions may vary in different accounts, but the underlying theme is the struggle for power and dominance among divine beings.

Murder of Osiris

In Egyptian mythology, Seth (Set) killed Osiris through a treacherous plot. According to the myth, Seth tricked Osiris into entering a beautiful, intricately decorated chest or coffin, claiming that whoever could fit inside it perfectly would receive the chest as a gift. Once Osiris was inside, Seth sealed the chest and threw it into the Nile River, drowning Osiris.

Some variations of the myth suggest that Seth may have enlisted the help of accomplices to carry out the murder. Regardless of the specific details, the common thread in the myth is Seth’s deceitful and malicious act leading to Osiris’ death.

The dismembering of Osiris’ body

After Osiris’ death, his body was dismembered by his brother Seth, who was jealous and resentful of Osiris’ power and popularity. Seth cut Osiris’ body into multiple pieces and scattered them across Egypt to prevent him from being properly buried and resurrected.

Upon learning of this gruesome act, Osiris’ wife and sister, Isis, embarked on a quest to retrieve and reassemble his body. She traveled throughout Egypt, collecting the scattered body parts, and carefully put them back together. However, there was one part missing: Osiris’ phallus, which had been thrown into the Nile and eaten by a fish.

Osiris – the first mummified king in ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians believed that by mummifying the deceased, they could ensure the person’s safe journey to the afterlife and eventual resurrection, much like Osiris had experienced. The mummification process involved preserving the body and preparing it for its journey to the realm of the dead.

Despite this missing piece, Isis successfully reassembled the rest of Osiris’ body and performed powerful rituals, which brought him back to life temporarily. During this time, they conceived their son Horus.

The above explains why during the mummification process, priests and embalmers often recited prayers and rituals that invoked the power of Osiris and other deities associated with death and the afterlife. These ceremonies were believed to ensure the deceased’s safe passage and resurrection in the realm of Osiris.

Did you know…?

  • According to one tradition, all of Osiris’ body parts were recovered by Isis except for his phallus. It was believed that this missing piece remained in the land, ensuring its fertility and prosperity.
  • In the search and reassembling of Osiris’ body, Isis solicited the help of Egyptian deities like Nephthys, Thoth, and Anubis. It’s believed that Thoth, the Egyptian god of the moon, knowledge, and time, provided guidance. Anubis, the god of the dead, developed the art of embalming to preserve Osiris’ divine beauty.

The gods Osiris, Anubis, and Horus. Wall painting in the tomb of Horemheb (KV57)

Resurrection of Osiris

Osiris’ story also provided a spiritual context for the mummification process. His death and resurrection symbolized the eternal life that the ancient Egyptians sought in the afterlife. Through mummification and proper burial, they hoped to secure a similar destiny of immortality.

Osiris’ resurrection, even if temporary, affirmed his role as the god of the afterlife and the symbol of regeneration and rebirth in Egyptian mythology. He became associated with the cyclical nature of life and death, and his story became a central theme in ancient Egyptian beliefs surrounding death and the afterlife.


As the god of the afterlife and resurrection, Osiris represented the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, which was intricately tied to the process of mummification.

Aftermath of Osiris’ death

Horus Story | From right to left – Isis, her husband Osiris, and their son Horus, the protagonists of the Osiris myth, in a Twenty-second Dynasty statuette

Grief-stricken and heartbroken, the goddess Isis is said to have wept and mourned intensely for Osiris. As a powerful and revered goddess, she was determined to find his body, which Seth had dismembered and scattered across Egypt. With unwavering devotion and resourcefulness, Isis embarked on a quest to gather and reassemble the pieces of Osiris’ body to restore him to life.

As for Horus, the surviving son of Osiris, it’s said that the falcon-headed god was deeply affected by his father’s death. He also felt a strong sense of duty to avenge his father’s murder and claim his rightful inheritance as the rightful heir to the throne of Egypt. Horus grew up under the protection of Isis and later sought to challenge Seth’s claim to the throne.

Together, Isis and Horus waged a fierce struggle against Seth, seeking justice for Osiris’ death and the rightful rule of Egypt.

This ongoing conflict between Horus and Seth became a significant aspect of Egyptian mythology and symbolized the eternal battle between good and evil, order and chaos.

Eventually, Horus emerged victorious, and Osiris became a revered god of the afterlife, closely associated with the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

Anubis and mummification

The myth of Osiris became a central element in ancient Egyptian funerary beliefs and practices. It served as an important allegory of death, resurrection, and the afterlife. The Egyptians believed that by identifying with Osiris, they too could experience eternal life and be granted passage to the afterlife. Image: A painting of Anubis attending to a corpse during the mummification process

Soul of Osiris

The soul of Osiris, known as “ba” in ancient Egyptian beliefs, played a crucial role in the myth. It represented his individuality and personality and was believed to journey to the afterlife after death. The journey of Osiris’ soul was closely associated with his resurrection and eventual rulership of the underworld.

Read More: Meaning of the Soul in Ancient Egyptian Religion

Popular questions about the life and murder of Osiris

Who were Osiris’ parents?

Osiris was the son of Geb, the god of the earth, and Nut, the goddess of the sky. He was also the brother of Isis, Nephthys, and Seth. According to the mythology, Osiris married his sister Isis and became the king of Egypt.

Who was Osiris’s chief consort?

According to the myths, Osiris married his sister Isis, the goddess of magic, healing, women, and children.

What was the relationship between Seth and Osiris?

In ancient Egyptian mythology, both Seth and Osiris were siblings and sons of Geb and Nut, making them part of the divine family. Seth was associated with chaos, storms, and desert lands, while Osiris was associated with fertility, agriculture, and kingship.

While Osiris took his sister Isis as his consort, Seth married the goddess Nephthys.

RELATED: The Ennead of Heliopolis in ancient Egypt

What did Osiris do for the people of Egypt?

Among other things, Osiris was most revered for introducing agriculture and civilization to the people of Egypt.

Who was Osiris’ rightful heir?

After killing his older brother Osiris, Seth – the god of chaos and destruction – is believed to have usurped the throne, denying the succession of his nephew, the falcon-headed god Horus.

Why was Seth jealous of Osiris?

Seth, also known as Set, was jealous of Osiris primarily because of the latter’s popularity and success as a ruler and deity.

Osiris became the ruler of Egypt and was beloved by the people for his wisdom, benevolence, and contribution to the prosperity of the land. His reign was seen as a time of peace and abundance. This widespread adoration and admiration of Osiris fueled Seth’s jealousy, as he desired to be the sole ruler and gain the same level of reverence from the people.

Moreover, Seth’s wife, Nephthys, was infatuated with Osiris, which further fueled his resentment and rivalry towards his brother. Image: Ancient Egyptian goddess Nephthys

How did Seth kill Osiris?

The story goes on to say that Seth tricked Osiris into getting into a coffin, then sealed it and threw it into the Nile River. Osiris drowned, and his body was later found and retrieved by his wife, Isis.

Despite his death, Osiris became the ruler of the underworld and a symbol of resurrection and eternal life.

Why did Seth dismember the body of Osiris?

After Osiris was killed by his brother Seth, his body was hidden and scattered across Egypt. The dismemberment of Osiris’ body was symbolic of his death and the fragmentation of life, but it also served to prevent his resurrection and return to power.

How did the gods mourn the death of Osiris?

After the death of Osiris, both Isis (his wife) and Horus (his son) were devastated and deeply mourned his loss. They were determined to seek justice and restore Osiris to his rightful place.

It is said that the tears that Isis and Nephthys shed for their brother, Osiris, were so intense that they ended up flooding the Nile.

What happened to Osiris’ body after his death?

Isis, Osiris’ wife and sister, searched tirelessly for his scattered body parts. Eventually, she managed to locate all the pieces except for one, which was said to have been swallowed by a fish in the Nile River. With the help of the god Thoth, Isis magically reassembled Osiris’ body and restored him to life briefly.

How was Horus born?

In the brief period that life was restored to Osiris, the goddess Isis and Osiris conceived their son Horus, who would later become a central figure in Egyptian mythology.

How did Osiris become ruler of the underworld?

With her magical powers, Isis then resurrected Osiris, allowing him to briefly return to life. However, this resurrection was not permanent, and Osiris eventually passed into the afterlife, becoming the ruler of the underworld, also known as the Duat. In this new role, he became the judge of the deceased souls and presided over the afterlife with his sister-wife, Isis, by his side.

After this brief resurrection, Osiris became the ruler of the underworld, the realm of the dead. Image: Painted relief of Osiris and Isis in Temple of Pharaoh Seti I at Abydos

What significance does Osiris’ death hold in Egyptian mythology?

The death of Osiris is one of the most significant and enduring myths in Egyptian mythology. It symbolizes the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, as well as the concept of resurrection and eternal life. Osiris’ death and subsequent resurrection also represent the seasonal cycles of agriculture, with his death symbolizing the dry season and his resurrection symbolizing the return of fertility and life to the land during the inundation of the Nile.

Furthermore, the story of Osiris, Isis, and Seth reflects complex themes of family, betrayal, and divine kingship. It served as a foundation for the concept of divine legitimacy for Egyptian pharaohs, as they were often associated with Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, symbolizing the rightful heir to the throne.

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