A Statue of Osiris For Our Ancestor Shrine
October 8, 2016
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When my wife and I visited the Earth Lore Pagan store in Plymouth, Michigan a few weeks ago, I found this little statuette of Osiris on the discount shelf. It was marked down to just three dollars, and at first I couldn’t understand what was wrong with it. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the top of Osiris’ crown is broken off, and that the hieroglyphs surrounding His base have been scratched up. But aside from that, the statuette is in pretty good condition.
Seeing Him on the discount shelf made me feel a little sad. Here was this wonderful little image – a bit damaged, but mostly all right – and probably no one would want Him simply because He wasn’t “perfect.” It made me think of how we tend to treat our ancestors here in the West. Some cultures continually revisit their ancestors, tending to their graves at regular intervals, making offerings to them, and perhaps even digging them up, giving them new clothes and burying them again. Hell, many people in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia buried their loved ones beneath their living room floors, so that they’d always be close and well-guarded. But Westerners more often want to forget about our dead after we’ve buried them; “Out of sight, out of mind.” Thinking about the dead too much can be considered “unhealthy” at best (and “creepy” at worst), so we just let them rot in their graves and forget all about them, just like this broken Osiris on the discount shelf.
Well I decided right then and there that I had to own this little guy. What the hell, I figured; most any statue you find that’s actually from ancient Egypt will be broken somehow anyway, so what’s the difference? And wouldn’t He make a fine addition to our ancestor shrine at home? Just in time for Samhain, to boot.
When we arrived back home, I presented the statuette of Osiris to Set, politely asking the Red Lord to welcome His brother into our home. I know there are some Osirians out there who are really uncomfortable with the idea of these two Gods being put together, like it’s “disrespectful” to have both of Them in the same place somehow. I can see the logic of this belief, but I also think the relationship of Set and Osiris is much more complex than that. After all, the Pyramid Texts describe an adventure in which Set and Horus both help Osiris climb the Ladder of Heaven. Given that one of Set’s epithets is “the Friend of the Dead,” this makes a lot of sense; it shows that there’s a whole other side to His relationship with His brother. (I don’t believe He really “kills” Osiris out of jealousy, either; to me, it’s more like necessity, as when a gardener trims a rosebush.) In any case, it seems to me that Set doesn’t mind if Osiris joins our ancestors at the shrine in our kitchen.