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Painted on the northern wall of Sennedjem's tomb, located at Deir El Medina, is this beautifully intact mural of Osiris, God of the ancient Egyptian Underworld. When Gaston Maspero discovered the tomb in 1886, nothing had been disturbed, yet, of the 11 mummies found, only 1 head survived the trip to the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale. Happily, effort has been made to preserve the richly colored walls over which Osiris presides, as the images depict a journey into the afterlife.

The story of Osiris and his magical family, though sounding like a soap opera, gave the ancient Egyptians clues and symbols of how to achieve a good life, a good death and immortality.

~ The Story of Osiris ~

5000 years ago an extraordinary man visited Egypt. He brought with him his wife, Isis, his sister Nephthys and his brother, Seth. As this man, Osiris, traveled through the land he realized that the people had difficulty finding enough food to eat even though they lived in a paradise. He decided to stay and teach them how to irrigate and use tools for farming. The results were so good that the people wanted Osiris to be their king. When Seth heard about this he became jealous. Planning his revenge, Seth invite rich and prominent Egyptians to a party. Osiris and his wife are also invited but Isis, who is pregnant, doesn't feel well and stays home.

At the party Seth brings out a huge ebony & ivory box. The guests 'ooh' & 'ah' and say "Gee, I sure wish I had a box like that in my living room!" Seth replies that whoever can fit into the box perfectly may have it. Many try, many fail. Then Osiris gets in. Not only is it a perfect fit, but Seth & his henchmen slam on the lid, nail it shut and throw out the other frightened guests. Seth conjures a terrible storm, takes the box to the Nile and dumps it into the water to drown his brother. As soon as the box sinks, the storm becomes calm.

When Osiris did not come home that evening, Isis got worried and went to look for him. No one would tell her anything until she asked the children. They were not afraid to talk and told her where the box had washed up on the shore. Now Isis knows magic and was about to return her husband to life when she felt birth pains. She hid the box in the reeds and goes to her sister's house to have her baby. The next day Seth comes by in a boat, hunting and feeling very pleased with himself that he is now king. He accidentally finds the box and is outraged. He chops up the box & his brother and rides up and down the Nile throwing parts overboard into the mud on the banks of the Nile.

When Isis returns with her baby son Horus, she cannot find the box. Again, only the children will tell her what happened. She collects all the pieces of Osiris and puts them back together like a puzzle. When she wraps them together with strips of linen fabric she makes the first Egyptian mummy. Her magic is not strong enough to bring him back to this life, however she can bring him back to life in the afterlife, which she does. There he becomes king once more - King of the underworld.

Symbolism of the Osiris Tale

Sometimes, things that seem bad can become beneficial. When Seth threw the coffin overboard during the storm, he did not know that Osiris used his magic to stop the storm, but not the flood. This is the inundation of the Nile that brings new water to the land to nourish plants. (Priests used Nilometers to monitor the annual rise and fall of the water of the Nile.) When Seth cut up Osiris' body and buried the pieces in the mud, this allowed Osiris' magic to infuse the soil with his life-giving abilities. When Osiris became King of the underworld, he made sure that plants would move upward, out of the ground to find the sunlight. This is the story of spring, Egyptian-style. The ancient Egyptians depicted Osiris with green skin and a 'flowery' crown to symbolize his closeness to vegetation, and is seen as a mummy.

When Horus grows up he battles Seth for vengeance and the thrown. Even though he wins, Horus' eyes are badly damaged. He is healed by some of his magical relatives and his eyes become the symbols of the sun and moon, regeneration, prosperity and spiritual abilities. His all-seeing nature is protection from evil. It also symbolized security of kingship and the name Horus was added to the pharaohs' name when he took the thrown.


1 pc. wall board, 8" x 8"
$0.12 apiece, $2.40/class of 30
White, yellow & brown paint
RAFT / COF / Michael's
Free ~ $1.00
Paint brushes
COF storeroom
Glue (glue stick, white glue,..)
COF storeroom
Markers or water colors
Dollar Store or Catalogue
$1.00 or your choice
Masking tape
Discount School Supply
$1.95 / roll
  Total (approx.)   $3.00
1) Cut wall board on a table saw into 8" x 8" squares. ( Also known as: plaster board, gypsum board, dry wall).
2) Paint white paint over entire front surface of wallboard.
3) While white paint is wet, rub a dab of yellow and then a dab of brown onto the white paint with fingers, making a mottled effect. Put aside.
4) Cut out figure of Osiris. It is not necessary to cut right up to the line of the image.
5) Apply glue to the back of the paper outline and place it on the front about an inch from the bottom if the board.
6) To hide the portion of the cutout that is extending beyond the outline, take a bit of yellow or brown paint mixed with white & paint up to the edge of the figure.
7) Underneath Osiris, paint or draw a green pedestal.
8) On either side of Osiris draw the eyes of Horus, which BTW, is Osiris' son.
9) Put tape around edge of wallboard to seal plaster. This creates a nice border and keeps plaster from being messy.


Alex Kent   ©  2007