Easter: Osiris, Christ and Myths of Transformation / by Sam Abelow

Christ as associated with the Orpheus-wilderness-nature cult. 

“And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.” [Corinthians 6:14]

“The Roman festival of Attis/Orpheus. The festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the resurrection.” [Gerald L. Berry, author of Religions of the World]

At the Council of Nicea, when the Church was formed and the bible canonized, in 325 AD, leaders decided to overlay Christ onto pagan rituals and holidays, commonly practiced by the people.

Let us disregard analyzing the historical meaning and look at the mythology symbolically and psychologically. On one level this myth represents the capability of the individual to sacrifice their past self to a new identity or personality.

This can be either from the transition from girl/boy to woman/man, or from adult to elder.

Sacrifices and Transformations of Modern Man

This transformation can also be embodied in the experience we all of have being confronted by life's struggles (chaos and darkness) and then our navigating that and coming back to a state of renewal (order and light).

The instinct that we must “sacrifice” to have the renewal is a fundamental representation of experience, found in our instinctual psyche. Our ancestors experienced the outside world, and inner world as a continuum. This meant that psychological processes had to be practiced outwardly to encourage consciousness, or rather capability towards sustaining themselves.

We owe our self-reflecting consciousness to these many generations of people. Now, we are able to sacrifice our pleasure today, for sustained happiness tomorrow. For example, parents sacrifice many nights of sleep in order to take care of a new born. Sacrifice is a part of existence, but now we are able to understand and act it out in a psychological way.

Osiris: Archetype of Transformation

One of the earliest transformation stories, which included a resurrection was the Egyptian Osiris-Horus myth. 

There are variations of the story but, Osiris and Seth were the sons of the great mother goddess Nut. Osiris was King of the wealthy lands of upper Egypt. Seth was jealous and murdered his brother, then cut him up in many pieces and threw his phallus in the ocean.

An European, Alchemical represenation: Isis gathering Osiris’ body parts. Boccaccio, Des cas des nobles hommes et femmes. 15th century

Isis, Osiris’s wife and sister, went and gathered the pieces of his body and restored them. His lost member, was replaced with a golden phallus.

In the Pyramid Texts it is described how “The double doors of heaven are open for Osiris, that he may ascend at daybreak.” [984a. 985b]

After his ascension, he became Horus, which is represented as a falcon, with a sun disk.

The pharaoh was said to be the incarnation of Horus. This means that man was elevated to the consciousness of a god. We can see in this myth, the transformation of a man.

Seth and Osiris are the archetypal “twins/brothers.” The brother motif (as exemplified in the bible with Cain and Abel) always included the pious and the aggressor. This represents the undifferentiated personalities within our psyches, which hold our repressed qualities — often including aggression. This is known as The Shadow in Jungian psychology.

So the brothers have their confrontation and Osiris is reestablished with a golden phallus. This is a symbol of his masculinity, which has become eternal, “made of gold.”

9th Century, Zodiac Christ | Christ as associated with the Sun God, The Father.

His final resurrection and ascension bring him towards the Sun. Just like Christ returned to his Father. This is symbolic of the illuminating effects of consciousness -- that is, of becoming a realized “man.”

Each of us, man or woman, go through the experience of childhood to adulthood, where we take on more responsibilities. Our child selves are sacrificed and we are born anew, as an adult.

There are many more elements of interest to this story. But for now this will suffice.

Interestingly, in one of his aspects, Osiris was associated with the God of Corn. “The Egyptian harvest, as we have seen, falls not in autumn but in spring, in the months of March, April, and May.” [The Golden Bough, Sir James George Frazer]. So, the Osiris rites were often practiced during the Spring Equinox. 

The Fundamentally Meaningful and Spontaneously Symbolic Psyche

So again, I am pointing out that there is a relationship between our personality sacrifice, transformation and renewal/resurrection, with the seasons, including the reaping of crops.

These myths have a meaning which can enrich our lives today. These stories, which speak to the undercurrent of our “religious”-symbolic-psyche are often portrayed in movies and literature. But, if we can understand the significance of these symbolic stories, our lives can be enriched and even go smoother.

Are you interested in reading more about these mythologies and how they can be understood psychologically?

Do you find Orpheus, Osiris, or Christ most intriguing?

This study of the archetypal connections between Great Mother and divine child can expanded much further.

In the meantime enjoy my song referencing sacrifice to the Great Mother and interspersed with a psychedelic guitar solo.