The most interesting aspect of Egypt for me is the abundance of fantastic myths and stories along with a mind boggling array of Gods almost rivalling those in the Hindu pantheon.
And the most intriguing among them is the myth of Osiris and Isis. The story of the murder, dismemberment and subsequent resurrection of Osiris (long enough for sister/wife Isis, in the form of a Kite, to conceive a child: the Falcon headed God Horus) is fascinating even if improbable. Do read about how she replaces his…ahem…family jewels, in order to facilitate the process.
Just as fascinating is the story of the Djed pillar, intrinsic to the same story. When the coffin containing Osiris runs aground in Byblos (Syria), there sprouts a sacred tree that is cut and used as a pillar by the local king.
Isis eventually locates it and releases and anoints the body of Osiris (before evil brother Set stumbles upon it again and goes about systematically cutting it into 14 bits and Isis finds, fixes him back and conceives Horus.)
That tree is considered the backbone of Osiris and a symbol of stability. The ceremony of raising the Djed – represented by a wood pillar – became a symbol of Osiris’s triumph over Set. Inscriptions abound of the pharaoh raising the Djed Pillar with the help of priests and Gods. The resurrected Osiris earns himself the title of Lord of the Dead and the afterlife. That is also the reason he is sometimes shown painted dark green.
Of the many temples to be found in and around Abydos, the memorial temple of Seti I (father of Rameses the great) is the most important. Three of the original seven chapels inside, dedicated to the trinity of Osiris, Isis and Horus and the Pharaoh himself, are decorated with exquisite reliefs – both raised and sunken – with the colours still visible.
Outside, is the Hall of Kings with an entire wall covered with cartouches in relief: the famed ‘List Of Kings’ showing names of pharaohs from Menes of the first dynasty until Ramesses I (father of Seti I). An incredible chronological record of nearly 1760 years from 3050BC to 1290BC. My favourite relief is that of the Pharaoh and his young son snaring a bull.
A long arched passage leads out to a ruined sunken temple believed to be the Osireion connected with the worship of Osiris. Is this where the relic of Osiris was found? That it was a place of pilgrimage from pre dynastic days is certified by the unearthing of offerings of ivory and gold including an ivory statue of Cheops (of the Great pyramid fame.)
Abydos is not on the standard tourist radar (Currently closed to tourists until further notice.), its spiritual ambience is undisturbed by noisy footfalls, its eerily lit chapels whisper untold stories of birth, death and the never ending cycle of life.