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Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology


Osiris was an ancient corn-deity who followers, who came probably from Syria, identified their god with a pastoral deity called Andjeti and established themselves in his Delta city in predynastic times.   The cult object, or fetish, known as the Djed Column and thought to represent four pillars seen one behind the other, or a man's backbone, or more probably a leafless cedar, was brought from Syria after which came the name of the city of Djedu.   The city was subsequently renamed Per-Usire or Busiris after Usire, the Egyptian form of Osiris' name.   Although, the meaning of this name is uncertain, it has been interpreted as "to create a throne" and as Seat or Power of the Eye.

The Osiris fertility cult soon spread, apparently peacefully, to many parts of Egypt.   The god's associations with burial rites were also established early, because by the 5th Dynasty he had absorbed the funerary gods of Abydos and dead pharaohs were identified with him.   Since the funerary aspect ultimately became paramount, Osiris became the supreme god of Egypt.   However, when speculating about the beliefs concerning the "First Time" when Osiris was incorporated by mythology into the Heliopolitan Ennead, it is easy to imagine the vegetation god being the son of Geb, the earth god.

Plutarch, in his treatise, present a fairly complete account of the Osiris myth with its accuracy confirmed by certain details in the Pyramid Texts and other documents of an earlier date.   Accordingly Nut gave birth to Osiris at Thebes on the first of the five intercalary days that Thoth created for Nut because he was in love with her.   At the birth of Osiris a voice was heard in the temple crying that the great and good king was born, or that the lord of all was entering the light.   Re acknowledged Osiris as his heir, and at times is said to have begotten both Osiris and Horus, Thoth fathered Isis, and Geb only Set (Seth) and Nephthys.   Also, according to legend, Osiris and Isis fell in love while still in the womb and then produced Horus the Elder.   They were later married and Osiris succeeded his father Geb on the throne.

According to the First Time legends concerning Osiris the people of that time were barbarous cannibals.   It was Osirs who instructed in the ways of civilization, teaching them what to eat and the methods of agriculture.   He taught the proper worship of the gods, and drew up laws for them.   Thoth helped by serving as Osiris' scribe, as well as inventing the arts and sciences, and naming things.   Osiris governed by persuasion, not by force; and when having civilized Egypt by these methods, he decided to teach the rest of the world.   He left Isis as regent during his absence.   Osiris took with him on his mission many musicians and minor gods.   Through arguments and hymn singing he persuaded other peoples of the things that he had taught his own people.   However, during his absence Isis administered his kingdom, assisted by Thoth, but she was hard pressed by the tactics of Set who not only coveted the throne, but also was enamored of her, and sought to change the order of things.

Not long after Osiris returned Set, assisted by the queen of Ethiopia, Aso, and seventy-two conspirators, was determined to do away with him.   Their plot was successful as Osiris fell to the conspirators, and it was Set who cast his body into the floodwaters of the Nile.   Isis sought and found the body of her husband, and with her own magical powers, assisted by Thoth, Nephthys, Anubis, and Horus, restored Osiris to life.   But Osiris already belonged to the world of the dead, though after his resurrection he could have resumed the throne, but it is thought he preferred to maintain his kingdom in the land of the dead, leaving his earthly vindication in the hands of his posthumous son Horus.

The Book of the Dead contains roughly 100 litanies to Osiris as Judge of the Dead.

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One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc
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