A POEM/PONDERING OF THE ISIS/OSIRIS MYTH

Anyone who knows me or has read my work is probably aware that I am fairly obsessed with myth, especially the myths of Hades/Persephone, Osiris/Isis, Jesus/Mary Magdalene.  All of these myths are resurrection myths. To me, all of these stories echo the same truth—love is stronger than death.

As a girl, I was both fascinated and repelled by Egyptian culture. Their fixation on death seemed dark and macabre, and yet, I was still drawn to the mysterious beauty I sensed just below the surface.  I didn’t really begin to study it until, as an adult, I started dreaming the stories. (Weird, I know.  Ask me about my dreams sometime.  They’re nuts.) The Isis/Osiris myth is complex and sometimes confusing. I’ve read myriad versions, tried to find the details that are consistent, and in many ways, made it my own.  Here is my simplistic summary of an incredibly nuanced tale.

In the Isis/Osiris story, Egypt is a dark place where cruelty and cannibalism reign. The benevolent, beautiful Osiris wanders the realm, healing it with his sacred music and teaching the people the way of peace. He and his wife Isis rule over Egypt with grace and love. But Osiris is tricked by his jealous, loveless brother Set into climbing into a golden coffin. Set says that if Osiris fits in the coffin, he can keep it, so in a manner of speaking, Osiris is killed by his own greed. As soon as he climbs in, Set closes the coffin, and Osiris suffocates inside. Set makes himself the ruler of Egypt and quickly transforms it into hell.

Set dismembers Osiris, and his devoted wife Isis wanders the world, wailing and gathering his parts. When she has them all, she reanimates them long enough to make love with Osiris. She hovers over him, a hawk-woman, and conceives Horus, a hawk-child, who is considered the reincarnation of Osiris. But Horus (Osiris 2.0) has been purified. He carries his mother’s love and courage in his DNA. He has passed through the gates of death into life again. He is not driven by mortal greed, and when he comes of age, he defeats Set, banishes him to the desert, and brings Egypt into the light.

To me, the most beautiful part of this story is the fact that Isis’s love is the bridge between life and death, corruption and purity. Love is the thing that turns greedy Osiris into pure Horus, a force capable of saving the world. Love is the gateway.

I write from Isis’s perspective often.

 

FROM ISIS TO OSIRIS, AS HE SCREAMED IN HIS SARCOPHAGUS

My king, the coffin they forged for you was soundproof,

but still, I heard you crying as you died.

 

In my dreams, I see the sacred letters I wrote to you

whipped by hell’s winds, heaven’s words sent skittering

into the hands of monsters who read them and roar,

their triple chins rippling.

They rip my love born pages ragged

with their festering, yellow teeth.

 

I see you entombed, the walls of your prison

closing in, crushing you.

I watch your flesh fall away, weep at the way your bones

grow brittle near to breaking.

I see the needles and the powders.

I see you try. I see you die.

Their lie has grown large.

It has become the Godzilla that swallowed Tokyo.

 

My love, alone in my crude boat, I ride winds blown by God.

I sail on torrents of my mother’s breath

to safe nest after safe nest.

Every place my mother has made for me is a wonder,

and yet, I wail alone each night in my plush bed.

All heavens are hells without you.

 

Oh, sea, carry this message to the Beloved One.

Know this.  I know.  Know this.  I love you.

Know this. My spirit hovers over you even now,

a dove. Listen to her whispering.

Rise up, my love. Break your chains.

Wake up. Open eyes and singe the horizon

with the fire of your sacred gaze.

 

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