Cor Hendriks – De Twee Broers (2): Osiris en Seth (met PDF)

De twee broers, die elkaars vijanden zijn, komen we in de Egyptische mythologie tegen als Osiris en Seth. Het verhaal wordt verteld door Plutarchus, die Seth de naam Typhon gaf. Het verhaal begint met de toevoeging van de vijf dagen om het jaar te corrigeren.

The Egyptians even now call these five days intercalated and celebrate them as the birthdays of the gods. They relate that on the first [p. 33] of these days Osiris was born, and at the hour of his birth a voice issued forth saying, “The Lord of All advances to the light.” But some relate that a certain Pamyles, while he was drawing water in Thebes, heard a voice issuing from the shrine of Zeus, which bade him proclaim with a loud voice that a mighty and beneficent king, Osiris, had been born; and for this Cronus entrusted to him the child Osiris, which he brought up. It is in his honour that the festival of Pamylia is celebrated, a festival which resembles the phallic processions. f) On the second of these days Arueris was born whom they call Apollo, and some call him also the elder Horus. On the third day Typhon was born, but not in due season or manner, but with a blow he broke through his mother’s side and leapt forth. On the fourth day Isis was born in the regions that are ever moist; and on the fifth Nephthys, to whom they give the name of Finality and the name of Aphroditê, and some also the name of Victory. There is also a tradition that Osiris and Arueris were sprung from the Sun, Isis from Hermes, [356] and Typhon and Nephthys from Cronus. For this reason the kings considered the third of the intercalated days as inauspicious, and transacted no business on that day, nor did they give any attention to their bodies until nightfall. They relate, moreover, that Nephthys became the wife of Typhon; but Isis and Osiris were enamoured of each other and consorted together in [p. 35] the darkness of the womb before their birth. Some say that Arueris came from this union and was called the elder Horus by the Egyptians, but Apollo by the Greeks.

13. One of the first acts related of Osiris in his reign was to deliver the Egyptians from their destitute and brutish manner of living. This he did by showing them the fruits of cultivation, by giving them laws, and by teaching them to honour the gods. b) Later he travelled over the whole earth civilizing it without the slightest need of arms, but most of the peoples he won over to his way by the charm of his persuasive discourse combined with song and all manner of music. Hence the Greeks came to identify him with Dionysus.
During his absence the tradition is that Typhon attempted nothing revolutionary because Isis, who was in control, was vigilant and alert; but when he returned home Typhon contrived a treacherous plot against him and formed a group of conspirators seventy-two in number. He had also the co-operation of a queen from Ethiopia who was there at the time and whose name they report as Aso. Typhon, having secretly measured Osiris’s body c) and having made ready a beautiful chest of corresponding size artistically ornamented, caused it to be brought into the room where the festivity was in progress. The company was much pleased at the sight of it and admired it greatly, whereupon Typhon jestingly promised to present it to the man who should find the chest to be exactly his length when he lay down in it. They all tried it in turn, but no one fitted it; then Osiris got into it and [p. 37] lay down, and those who were in the plot ran to it and slammed down the lid, which they fastened by nails from the outside and also by using molten lead. Then they carried the chest to the river and sent it on its way to the sea through the Tanitic Mouth. Wherefore the Egyptians even to this day name this mouth the hateful and execrable. Such is the tradition. They say also that the date on which this deed was done was the seventeenth day of Athyr [November 13], when the sun passes through Scorpion, d) and in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Osiris; but some say that these are the years of his life and not of his reign.

14. The first to learn of the deed and to bring to men’s knowledge an account of what had been done were the Pans and Satyrs who lived in the region around Chemmis, and so, even to this day, the sudden confusion and consternation of a crowd is called a panic. Isis, when the tidings reached her, at once cut off one of her tresses and put on a garment of mourning in a place where the city still bears the name of Kopto. Others think that the name means deprivation, e) for they also express “deprive” by means of “koptein.” [The word kopto, “strike,” “cut,” is used in the middle voice in the derived meaning “mourn” (i.e. to beat oneself as a sign of mourning). Occasionally the active voice also means “cut off,” and from this use Plutarch derives the meaning “deprive.”] But Isis wandered everywhere at her wits’ end; no one whom she approached did she fail to address, and even when she met some little children she asked them about the chest. As it [p. 39] happened, they had seen it, and they told her the mouth of the river through which the friends of Typhon had launched the coffin into the sea. Wherefore the Egyptians think that little children possess the power of prophecy, and they try to divine the future from the portents which they find in children’s words, especially when children are playing about in holy places and crying out whatever chances to come into their minds.

They relate also that Isis, learning that Osiris in his love had consorted with her sister [Nephthys ] through ignorance, in the belief that she was Isis, f) and seeing the proof of this in the garland of melilote which he had left with Nephthys, sought to find the child; for the mother, immediately after its birth, had exposed it because of her fear of Typhon. And when the child had been found, after great toil and trouble, with the help of dogs which led Isis to it, it was brought up and became her guardian and attendant, receiving the name of Anubis, and it is said to protect the gods just as dogs protect men.

15. Thereafter Isis, as they relate, learned [357] that the chest had been cast up by the sea near the land of Byblus and that the waves had gently set it down in the midst of a clump of heather. The heather in a short time ran up into a very beautiful and massive stock, and enfolded and embraced the chest with its growth and concealed it within its trunk. The king of the country admired the great size of the plant, and cut off the portion that enfolded the chest (which was now hidden from sight), and used it as a pillar to [p. 41] support the roof of his house. These facts, they say, Isis ascertained by the divine inspiration of Rumour, and came to Byblus and sat down by a spring, all dejection and tears; she exchanged no word with anybody, save only that she welcomed the queen’s maidservants and treated them with great amiability, plaiting their hair for them b) and imparting to their persons a wondrous fragrance from her own body. But when the queen observed her maidservants, a longing came upon her for the unknown woman and for such hairdressing and for a body fragrant with ambrosia. Thus it happened that Isis was sent for and became so intimate with the queen that the queen made her the nurse of her baby. They say that the king’s name was Malcander; the queen’s name some say was Astartê, others Saosis, and still others Nemanûs, which the Greeks would call Athenaïs.

16. They relate that Isis nursed the child by giving it her finger to suck instead of her breast, c) and in the night she would burn away the mortal portions of its body. She herself would turn into a swallow and flit about the pillar with a wailing lament, until the queen who had been watching, when she saw her babe on fire, gave forth a loud cry and thus deprived it of immortality. Then the goddess disclosed herself and asked for the pillar which served to support the roof. She removed it with the greatest ease and cut away the wood of the heather which surrounded the chest; then, when she had wrapped up the wood in a linen cloth and had poured perfume upon it, she [p. 43] entrusted it to the care of the kings; and even to this day the people of Byblus venerate this wood which is preserved in the shrine of Isis. d) Then the goddess threw herself down upon the coffin with such a dreadful wailing that the younger of the king’s sons expired on the spot. The elder son she kept with her, and, having placed the coffin on board a boat, she put out from land. Since the Phaedrus river toward the early morning fostered a rather boisterous wind, the goddess grew angry and dried up its stream.

17. In the first place where she found seclusion, when she was quite by herself, they relate that she opened the chest and laid her face upon the face within and caressed it and wept. The child came quietly up behind her and saw what was there, and when the goddess became aware of his presence, she turned about and gave him one awful look of anger. e) The child could not endure the fright, and died. Others will not have it so, but assert that he fell overboard into the sea from the boat that was mentioned above. He also is the recipient of honours because of the goddess; for they say that the Maneros of whom the Egyptians sing at their convivial gatherings is this very child. Some say, however, that his name was Palaestinus or Pelusius, and that the city founded by the goddess was named in his honour. They also recount that this Maneros who is the theme of their songs was the first to invent music. But some say that the word is not the name of any person, but an expression belonging to the vocabulary of drinking and feasting: “Good luck be ours in things like this!”, f) and that this is really the idea expressed [p. 45] by the exclamation “maneros” whenever the Egyptians use it. In the same way we may be sure that the likeness of a corpse which, as it is exhibited to them, is carried around in a chest, is not a reminder of what happened to Osiris, as some assume; but it is to urge them, as they contemplate it, to use and to enjoy the present, since all very soon must be what it is now and this is their purpose in introducing it into the midst of merry-making.

18. As they relate, Isis proceeded to her son Horus, who was being reared in Buto, and bestowed the chest in a place well out of the way; but Typhon, who was hunting by night in the light of the moon, happened upon it. [358] Recognizing the body he divided it into fourteen parts and scattered them, each in a different place. Isis learned of this and sought for them again, sailing through the swamps in a boat of papyrus. This is the reason why people sailing in such boats are not harmed by the crocodiles, since these creatures in their own way show either their fear or their reverence for the goddess.

The traditional result of Osiris’s dismemberment is that there are many so-called tombs of Osiris in Egypt; for Isis held a funeral for each part when she had found it. Others deny this and assert that she caused effigies of him to be made and these she distributed among the several cities, pretending that she was giving them his body, in order that he might receive divine honours in a greater number of cities, b) and also that, if Typhon should succeed in overpowering Horus, he might despair of ever finding [p. 47] the true tomb when so many were pointed out to him, all of them called the tomb of Osiris.

Of the parts of Osiris’s body the only one which Isis did not find was the male member, for the reason that this had been at once tossed into the river, and the lepidotus, the sea-bream, and the pike had fed upon it; and it is from these very fishes the Egyptians are most scrupulous in abstaining. But Isis made a replica of the member to take its place, and consecrated the phallus, in honour of which the Egyptians even at the present day celebrate a festival.

Reliëf met Seth, Horus en Osiris (foto Tutenstein Wiki - Fandom)

Reliëf met Seth, Horus en Osiris (foto Tutenstein Wiki-Fandom)

19. Later, as they relate, Osiris came to Horus from the other world and exercised and trained him for the battle. After a time Osiris asked Horus what he held to be the most noble of all things. When Horus replied, “To avenge one’s father and mother for evil done to them,” c) Osiris then asked him what animal he considered the most useful for them who go forth to battle; and when Horus said, “A horse,” Osiris was surprised and raised the question why it was that he had not rather said a lion than a horse. Horus answered that a lion was a useful thing for a man in need of assistance, but that a horse served best for cutting off the flight of an enemy and annihilating him. When Osiris heard this he was much pleased, since he felt that Horus had now an adequate preparation. It is said that, as many were continually transferring their allegiance to Horus, Typhon’s concubine, Thueris, also came over to him; and a serpent which pursued her d) was cut to pieces by Horus’s men, and now, in memory of this, the people throw down a rope in their midst and chop it up. [p. 49] Now the battle, as they relate, lasted many days and Horus prevailed. Isis, however, to whom Typhon was delivered in chains, did not cause him to be put to death, but released him and let him go. Horus could not endure this with equanimity, be laid hands upon his mother and wrested the royal diadem from her head; but Hermes put upon her a helmet like unto the head of a cow.

Typhon formally accused Horus of being an illegitimate child, but with the help of Hermes to plead his cause it was decided by the gods that he also was legitimate. Typhon was then overcome in two other battles. e) Osiris consorted with Isis after his death, and she became the mother of Harpocrates, untimely born and weak in his lower limbs.

33. But the wiser of the priests call not only the Nile Osiris and the sea Typhon, but they simply give the name of Osiris to the whole source and faculty creative of moisture, believing this to be the cause of generation and the substance of life-producing seed; and the name of Typhon they give to all that is dry, fiery, and arid, in general, and antagonistic to moisture.

The ancient Egyptian gods Seth and Horus crown pharaoh Ramses the Great (foto tripadvisor)

The ancient Egyptian gods Seth and Horus crown pharaoh Ramses the Great (foto tripadvisor)

[38 …] The outmost parts of the land beside the mountains and bordering on the sea the Egyptians call Nephthys. This is why they give to Nephthys the name of “Finality,” and say that she is the wife of Typhon. Whenever, then, the Nile overflows and with abounding waters spreads far away to those who dwell in the outermost regions, they call this the union of Osiris with Nephthys, which is proved by the upspringing of the plants. Among these is the melilotus, by the wilting and failing of which, as the story goes, Typhon gained knowledge of the wrong done to his bed. c) So Isis gave birth to Horus in lawful wedlock, but Nephthys bore Anubis clandestinely. However, in the chronological lists of the kings they record that [p. 95] Nephthys, after her marriage to Typhon, was at first barren. If they say this, not about a woman, but about the goddess, they must mean by it the utter barrenness and unproductivity of the earth resulting from a hard-baked soil.

39. The insidious scheming and usurpation of Typhon, then, is the power of drought, which gains control and dissipates the moisture which is the source of the Nile and of its rising; and his coadjutor, the Queen of the Ethiopians, signifies allegorically the south winds from Ethiopia; for whenever these gain the upper hand over the northerly or Etesian winds which drive the clouds towards Ethiopia, d) and when they prevent the falling of the rains which cause the rising of the Nile, then Typhon, being in possession, blazes with scorching heat; and having gained complete mastery, he forces the Nile in retreat to draw back its waters for weakness, and, flowing at the bottom of its almost empty channel, to proceed to the sea. The story told of the shutting up of Osiris in the chest seems to mean nothing else than the vanishing and disappearance of water. Consequently they say that the disappearance of Osiris occurred in the month of Athyr [November], at the time when, owing to the complete cessation of the Etesian winds, the Nile recedes to its low level and the land becomes denuded.

41. But the Egyptians, by combining with these physical explanations some of the scientific results derived from astronomy, think that d) by Typhon is meant the solar world, and by Osiris the lunar world; they reason that the moon, because it has a light that is generative and productive of moisture, is kindly towards the young of animals and the burgeoning plants, whereas the sun, by its untempered and pitiless heat, makes all growing and flourishing vegetation hot and parched, and, through its blazing light, renders a large part of the earth uninhabitable, and in many a region overpowers the moon. For this reason the Egyptians regularly call Typhon “Seth,” which, being interpreted, means “overmastering and compelling.”
[…] There are some who give the name of Typhon to the Earth’s shadow, into which they believe the moon slips when it suffers eclipse. 45. [369] Hence it is not unreasonable to say that the statement of each person individually is not right, but that the statement of all collectively is right; for it is not drought nor wind nor sea nor darkness, but everything harmful and destructive that Nature contains, which is to be set down as a part of Typhon.

Horus and Seth pacified performing the Sema-Tawy Ritual (lotus and papyrus entwined, the Union of the Two Lands, Upper and Lower Egypt)

Horus and Seth pacified performing the Sema-Tawy Ritual (lotus and papyrus entwined, the Union of the Two Lands, Upper and Lower Egypt) (King Senusret I statue, details from the throne depicting Horus and Seth with the symbol of unity of the two countries which make up Egypt. From Al Lisht. Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty.)

De paragrafen over Ohrmazd en Ahriman hebben we in de vorige aflevering gezien. Plutarchus vervolgt over Osiris en Seth:

49. The fact is that the creation and constitution of this world is complex, resulting, as it does, from opposing influences, which, however, are not of equal strength, but the predominance rests with the better. Yet it is impossible for the bad to be completely eradicated, since it is innate, in large amount, in the body and likewise in the soul of the Universe, and is always fighting a hard fight against the better. So in the soul Intelligence and reason, the Ruler and Lord of all that is good, is Osiris, b) and in earth and wind and water and the heavens and stars that which is ordered, established, and healthy, as evidenced by season, temperatures, and cycles of revolution, is the efflux of Osiris and his reflected image. But Typhon is that part of the soul which is impressionable, impulsive, irrational and truculent, and of the bodily part the destructible, diseased and disorderly as evidenced by abnormal seasons and temperatures, and by obscurations of the sun and disappearances of the moon, outbursts, as it were, and unruly actions on the part of Typhon. And the name “Seth,” by which they call Typhon, denotes this; it means “the overmastering” and “overpowering,” and it means in very many instances “turning back,” and again “overpassing.” c) Some say that one of the companions of Typhon was Bebon, but Manetho says that Bebon was still another name by which Typhon was called. The name signifies “restraint” or “hindrance,” as much as [p. 123] to say that, when things are going along in a proper way and making rapid progress towards the right end, the power of Typhon obstructs them.

50. For this reason they assign to him the most stupid of the domesticated animals, the ass, and of the wild animals, the most savage, the crocodile and the hippopotamus.

In regard to the ass we have already offered some explanation. At Hermopolis they point out a statue of Typhon in the form of an hippopotamus, on whose back is poised a hawk fighting with a serpent. By the hippopotamus they mean to indicate Typhon, d) and by the hawk a power and rule, which Typhon strives to win by force, oftentimes without success, being confused by his wickedness and creating confusion. For this reason, when they offer sacrifice on the seventh day of the month Tybi, which they call the “Coming of Isis from Phoenicia,” they imprint on their sacred cakes the image of an hippopotamus tied fast. In the town of Apollonopolis it is an established custom for every person without exception to eat of a crocodile; and on one day they hunt as many as they can and, after killing them, cast them down directly opposite the temple. And they relate that Typhon escaped Horus by turning into a crocodile, and they would make out e) that all animals and plants and incidents that are bad and harmful are the deeds and parts and movements of Typhon.

51. Then again, they depict Osiris by means of an eye and a sceptre, the one of which indicates forethought and the other power, much as Homer [Iliad, VIII.22] in [p. 125] calling the Lord and King of all “Zeus supreme and counsellor” appears by “supreme” to signify his prowess and by “counsellor” his careful planning and thoughtfulness. They also often depict this god by means of a hawk; for this bird is surpassing in the keenness of his vision and the swiftness of its flight, and is wont to support itself with the minimum amount of food. f) It is said also in flying over the earth to cast dust upon the eyes of unburied dead; and whenever it settles down beside the river to drink it raises its feather upright, and after it has drunk it lets this sink down again, by which it is plain that the bird is safe and has escaped the crocodile, for if it be seized, the feather remains fixed upright as it was at the beginning.

Everywhere they point out statues of Osiris in human form of the ithyphallic type, on account of his creative and fostering power; and they clothe his statues in a flame-coloured garment, [372] since they regard the body of the Sun as a visible manifestation of the perceptible substance of the power for good. Therefore it is only right and fair to contemn those who assign the orb of the Sun to Typhon, to whom there attaches nothing bright or of a conserving nature, no order nor generation nor movement possessed of moderation or reason, but everything the reverse; moreover, the drought, by which he destroys many of the living creatures and growing plants, is not to be set down as the work of the Sun, but rather as due to the fact that the winds and waters in the earth and the air are not seasonably tempered when [p. 127] the principle of the disorderly and unlimited power gets out of hand and quenches the exhalations.

Voor Jordan Petersons kijk op deze Egyptische goden, zie (15:00).

De onderstaande PDF bevat de hele tekst van Plutarchus over Isis en Osiris.

Plutarch – Isis and Osiris

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