Come to your house, Osiris!
Long, long have I not seen you
My heart mourns you.
Shall I not see you, Good King?
Come to your beloved
Gods and men look for you, weep for you together
While I can see I call to you . . .
In ancient Egypt, each person hoped to make the pilgrimage to Abydos at least once in their lifetime to attend the Osirian mysteries, observed in early November, near the end of the season of Akhet, the annual flooding of the Nile.
As the waters began to recede, they left behind rich black silt, leaving the land fertile for another year’s crops. Until the late 19th century, no one knew why the Ninle so dramatically flooded most of the country, or where all the excess water came from, and yet, the Nile, with its accompanying cycle of flooding, sowing, harvest and dry season, was the most powerful force in Egypt. With a reliable food source and a way to travel through the country, ancient Egypt became the richest and most powerful country in that part of the world.
The ancients carried a memory of the great ones who came before them, the children of Ra named Osiris, Isis, Nephthys and Set (the Egyptians called them Asar, Aset, Nebt-Het and Sety). Firstborn and king Osiris, with his sister wife Isis, ruled the land with care, teaching the people to weave linen, make papyrus, brew beer and wine, and beautify (embalm) their dead.
But the most important lesson, the mystery of life, death and rebirth, came through the story of Osiris, which Temple Osireion presents annually as a ritual drama. It is a timeless story, with echoes in other mysteries throughout the classical world - Demeter and Persephone, Attis, Dionysus and Jesus.
The festival opened with a procession in the streets led by a priest wearing the mask of Anubis (Anpu). The soon-inebriated crowd re-enacted the murder of Osiris by his brother Set. Inside the temple, priests conducted the sacred rituals in private. Two priestesses played the parts of Isis and her sister Nephthys, each reciting a solemn lamentation. The first day, the priests placed seeds in a coffin-like container with water and soil. On the third day of the festival the priests opened the container to reveal that the buried seeds, like Osiris, had germinated and come to life.