When I was a baby Kemetic, surfing the KO website for a name of a goddess I could give my attention to, I found the name of Ma’at listed there. I was immediately entranced with this goddess because she was both a being and a concept. Almost nothing of value that I had access to at the time was written about her, but I chose her to be my starting point on this path. It took me a long time to realize that she had no interest in me.
During this childlike phase, I had a dream that seemed to indicate I needed to get a tattoo in her honor. So, I had one of my local tattoo artists put her name in a cartouche on my shoulder. I also had a feather of ma’at placed above her name. Years later, I was told that I got the message wrong. It was about living in ma’at, not the goddess herself. The tattoo is permanent so it’s a reminder nowadays to be really sure I know what the fuck the gods want from me.
We all make mistakes when it comes to the messages our gods send us. I am no different.
Hell. I still get shit wrong.
It was mid-to-late 2018 when the song from Lord Huron would crop up in my liked song list more often than usual. When it would play on my walks, while I cleaned, driving somewhere, I could feel my heart rate pick up and a feeling of uneasiness come over me. The message was from Sekhmet; a reminder that death is waiting for us all and not to be scared when the Year of Rebirth began. It took far longer than I am willing to admit to realize that the message was never from Sekhmet. A different god was pulling the strings on this.
I was coldly furious when I realized the truth. How dare he use my relationship with her to contact me thus? How dare he use my carefully curated playlists to speak to me? How dare he come to me at all? I think TTR was amused when I admitted the truth of the matter; it took me so fucking long to figure it out. But from cold rage to acceptance I went and began creating a playlist for Osiris too, one that put the song right at the top as a reminder that I wasn’t afraid to die.
Osiris didn’t want too much from me; only my death. A benefit for all gods involved (Ra, Sekhmet, him) with me as the catalyst. He recommended that I beef up my calendar for the year of 2019 and almost threatened to see me later. Sekhmet took the first few months of rebirth; Ra the middle portion; and Osiris formed the basis of the last four months. It was a busy time, trying to ensure that all gods were reaping the benefits of the Year of Rebirth project.
When Ra’s presence began to dim out around Samhain and the clock change, Osiris geared up and began taking his place. He spoke to me at first via the ancestors since it is through him that they have any basis at all. But as Ra faded down to a pinprick of light in my life, Osiris was there in stereo to take over the reigns. As the cold of winter began sweeping through the world, it was the green-faced one who spoke the loudest out of all of them. Though speak is a euphemism; he seems to prefer intuition and dreams to actual speech.
He was gentle, but firm. I needed that after years of not engaging with him on purpose. He was never supposed to be for me, much like Ra was never supposed to be mine. My engagement with Osiris had been minimal at best. I knew enough to get by but not nearly as much as others. He didn’t seem to mind how limited my information about him was. As it stands, I know more than I give myself credit for and the thanks for that falls squarely on TTR’s shoulders.
He watched me die and I was grateful for the audience.
As the closing of the Year of Rebirth and the Year of Rites came ever closer, the world around us continued to cool. And in the frost of the mornings and the frozen air of the afternoon, he spoke of a future that encapsulated more than mere death but a continuous rebirth cycle from here until forever. We dreamed of green plants and cookies together. He said the grave was only the beginning.
Beyond the Grave
Those of us who have had associations with Osiris often see him within the paradigm of a river. I am no different. I often see him standing thigh-deep in charcoal gray waters, looking introspective as he takes in the sights. But beyond the river stands the idea that it is through Osiris that all things have come into being. No matter which portion of history attributed various identifiers to his mythos, one keeps coming back to the fact that Osiris is as much the alpha and omega as Ra is.
Years ago, I was reading MHMM and a specific passage relative to Osiris pinged loudly for me:
Next the ostracon hymn continues with an unusual evocation of Osiris as the backbone of Egypt, the ground upon which the whole of Egyptian culture is built. Upon his spine rest the houses, the temples, the monuments, all the fields and tombs, and it is proclaimed that there are no empty spaces on the god’s body…
Without this stable foundation which is provided by Osiris, it is impossible to imagine that Egyptian culture could have survived three thousand years. He is the solid base, the enduring ground upon which the whole of Egypt rested.
It is as the base of the pillar that I spied Osiris staring back at me. It was as if he always knew that I would end up in this space, looking at him with a mix of fear and worry. I got the distinct image of a house’s foundation: a thick gray square of concrete open-mouthed and yawning at the sun that passed over it every day. This imagery was the very same foundation ping that I often came across in my relationship with Ptah, and by its association, with Ptah-Tatenen.
The image of the gray foundation morphed into a gray and dusty spinal column. From each nodule of the bones, I could see flowers and wheat, corn and apple trees. I had come full-circle, it seemed; from one who sees him only in death to one who finally saw him in the cycle of life.
One of the things that TTR and I have talked about at length is that Osiris is more than simply a deity associated with death. The myth cycle that we know tends to lose the thread of his associations with rebirth, rejuvenation, and green-living because most people only remember him as the god who was murdered by his brother and his son had to hide till adulthood to fight his uncle for the right to rule. While not everyone forgets this, it’s easy to push off the green aspects of his domain because we hear people talk about The Contendings so frequently.
But as we moved forward, I saw him more and more in the world around me. The golden shimmer of winter wheat and the ornamental grasses that populated the road side. It was as if he were telling me that he had always been there, I merely had to look with opened eyes and not the closed one that I preferred.
This felt a little like a game of hide-and-seek. As the winter wrapped its chilly fingers around the world around me, I began to see him in everything. I found him in places he had no business being and shrank back from the implications of every new instance until I came to a sort of acceptance about it all.
He was here, and he was here to stay.
The Appointed Time
At the time change in November, Osiris came upon me with a dramatic flourish just as Ra was leaving. It was as if he had been waiting in the wings, waiting for this very moment, to appear to me and say that it was time for us to truly begin this journey together. He began appearing around an ancient festival that began on Halloween, a festival about Horus welcoming the Nile.
Within two weeks of Osiris coming to me and Ra leaving, the Osiris Mysteries were upon me and I began to catalogue the differences between what I had known before and what I was beginning to suspect would occur after all of this was over. Osiris asked merely for the trappings of the Osiris Mysteries; he seemed to be implying that more serious things would come later.
He claimed the winter absolutely and totally. Everything about that winter whispered his name to me. The snow upon the ground, cold and crusted over with ice. The flittering red wings of cardinals fighting over resources in the backyard. The twinkle lights of Christmas on barren shrubs and trees. The false spring that caused old-timers and farmers to whisper about climate change. The roar of winter’s breath decimating sensitive skin on cheeks and lips. Everywhere I looked, there he was. He assured me that he would never leave with promises that both frightened me and beckoned to me.
As the world entered the beginning of spring, Osiris became pushy and forceful but only in small doses. He would come upon me as if I were waiting for him and give me direction, or a reminder of something. His presence seemed to be growing dimmer, not unlike what happened with Ra the previous fall. It was as if the louder the animals in the backyard grew and the higher the plants climbed above the soil, the quieter he became. It felt a bit like he was throwing all of his energy into the push for spring, the push of new life that was just around the corner.
As I looked to the calendar to remember when things would most likely change, I found three final Osiris holidays added to my calendar at some unknown previous time. The three holidays were scheduled to take place just after the time change. They seemed to be the types of farewell that he needed to truly leave to give Ra the chance to take over again. These holidays felt a bit like a good-bye before the switch between gods could truly begin.
Go Back to Start
When I began to question what the purpose of this religious life was, I knew that things would change. I didn’t know how the questioning would cause things to change, but I knew that what I had grown with and created over the years would change in its entirety. I’ve come to accept this, although [as always] I doubt that I am truly ready for any of this.
Around Imbolc, I found myself researching plants that are most often associated with the holiday. As I had mentioned then, I found it difficult to see my gods in those commonly ascribed plants. But eventually, I did find Osiris in many places that I couldn’t find in a book. I found other gods there, too, of course, but it was the presence of Osiris that ensnared me like I was a fly caught in the web of a spider. He seemed to be speaking to me soul to soul instead of mouth to ear.
As the months go by, I’ve come to realize that I like the idea of finding gods in the world around me, which is why I often ask myself whether this is a good thing or not. I’ve thought about why this means so much to me now when nothing before seemed to mean as much. I think it’s because, as a child growing up in a Methodist church, I could never really feel like God was anywhere but inside the church that we attended. I don’t know why I couldn’t see that God in the world around me, but I couldn’t. And as I continue moving forward on this unused path ahead of me, all I can do is see my gods in everything.
I asked him once what he thought about being a local god to a place that had never known him. I had the distinct impression that he took my question seriously, but he never really gave me an answer. I didn’t exactly expect one because he doesn’t seem to like answering in that way. He seems to prefer the idea of strewing clues about on the ground for me to find as I stumble across them. As my dreams have oft shown, he seems to like the concept of making me build the puzzle on my own.
But that question bothers me more and more as the days go by. It nags me in a way that I can’t quite explain. Who am I to see foreign gods in a land that was brutally stolen from indigenous cultures? How dare I stumble upon my gods here? But are these beings even my gods? Is it possible someone else’s gods wear the face of mine to whisper sweet nothings in my ear because they want, more than anything they want, to be remembered?
I’m hoping that one day, I find the answer to these questions. And that the guilt of this ancestor of colonial brutalizers can perhaps, maybe not be fully absolved, but reconciled with.
Just before Osiris left to make way for Ra, I found myself listening to The Yawning Grave by Lord Huron over and over again. I couldn’t have said what it was about the song that hit me so palpably until Osiris came to me in a dream, singing to me as if he were the singer of the song. He hit me hard with it, as if he needed to inject a little piece of himself into me while we separated for a while.
Osiris, like Ra before him, made it crystal clear that there was no going back now and that he would return in the fall. The cycle has begun again and there is nothing I could do to stop it. I don’t really want to because, as I’ve mentioned, I am quite interested to see where all of this is going and I haven’t felt that type of interest in my religion in a long time. It’s possible I become dissatisfied with these changes, but a part of me believes this direction is exactly where I needed to go when I wrote about how unhappy I was with the way things were.
One morning, shortly after Ostara, we woke up to snow on the ground. It was a dusting really and it disappeared as quickly as it came on us. I stood outside under the awning, marveling at the beauty of pure white snow on pine needles and at the base of my favorite tree. I felt the icy, cold fingers of Osiris on my cheek as if in final parting. And I knew that while the months ahead will be hot and belong to Ra, I would be looking forward to the cooler months and shorter days of Osiris.