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A Shakespearean Tragedy of Egyptian Proportions


“I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done. I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of ‘Red Cloak’.” – R.T Rundle Clark Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt

The temples of lower Egypt are more than monuments built by Pharaohs to honour the Gods. They tell a story with all the makings of a Shakespearen tragedy. Love, jealousy, betrayal, murder and revenge.

Let me tell you the story of Isis, Osiris, Seth and Horus.

Osiris, the king of Egypt, along with Isis, his queen, was beloved by all his people. He was kind and just and taught them to plow the earth, how to honor the gods and he gave them laws to live by. But his brother Seth was jealous and plotted against him to take over the throne. Queen Isis was constantly on her guard when Osiris traveled around his kingdom, she never felt safe from Seth´s scheming.

One day Osiris held a big banquet for his court and as he was kind and just, Seth was also invited. This was the moment Seth had long waited for. Together with his accomplices he could set his plan in motion. He began to describe a wonderful coffin that he had been given, and soon enough he was asked to have it brought in for people to see. It was indeed beautiful, made of the finest wood and gilded and painted. He promised to give it as a gift to whomever fitted exactly into it. And as he already had acquired Osiris´measures, the king was the only one that fitted into the coffin, and when he was persuaded into taking place in it, Seth´s accomplices quickly nailed the lid to it and while the rest of the court was held back, it was taken away and thrown into the Nile where the current carried it away.

Isis was shattered with grief. She cut off a length of her hair and dressed in mourning, setting off to look for the golden casket. She searched all over Egypt and abroad in the land of Byblos, until she came across a group of children who told her they had seen the casket at the base of a great tree.

Isis found her husband’s coffin under a magnificent tree and took it back with her to Egypt in order to give Osiris a dignified burial. She hid the casket in some marshes, but unfortunately, fate had it that Seth found it while he was out hunting. Seth was so enraged he cut Osiris into many pieces and scattered his parts all over Egypt.

Isis was once again in anguish and set off looking for her husband’s remains throughout the land. She managed to recompose the body of Osiris, although one part was missing, she then wrapped him up in bandages to keep the parts together.

It is said that Isis and Osiris conceived their son Horus when Isis breathed back life into her dead husband, after which Osiris became the King of the Land of the Dead while Horus fought the hateful Seth to avenge his father’s death.

Osiris was declared the King of the Underworld while his son Horus was the King of the living and Seth the ruler of the deserts and the god of chaos and evil.

Eventually Horus was killed by Seth, as his father had been. Father and son were re-united in the underworld and they returned to fight and defeat Seth at Edfu in flesh and bones under the form of a winged sun disc.

A trip down the Nile, visiting the temples of Philae and Edfu are carved with reliefs that tell the tragic story of the Egyptian Gods. It’s worth doing the trip with a qualified Egyptologist, such as Ahmed, who brings the story to life with his knowledge and passion for the topics.

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About The Amateur Adventurer

I call myself an amateur adventurer. You don't need to be a "professional" backpacker, you don't have to drop out to travel. I'm an ordinary person with a 9-5 job and everyday responsibilities. But I've made a point to have extraordinary experiences. And so can you. Follow me on my adventures and find out how.

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