The Search of Isis for the Body of Osiris
When Set killed Osirus by shutting him in a box and
throwing the box in the Nile, children playing along the Nile and
the seashore saw the beautiful box floating by. The box was thrown
up on the shore at Byblos and the roots of a tamarisk tree grew
around it, pulling it into the heart of the tree. The tamarisk tree
drew upon the power of the god Osirus's body and grew into the most
fragrant tree in the land.
The King Malcander and his wife Queen Astarte were told of the
fragrant tree, and they cut it down and made a pillar for their
great palace at Byblos. The fragrance of the tree filled their palace
and it was the marvel of the countryside.
Isis, who carried the son of Osirus, Horus, grieved the loss of
her husband and vowed to find his body and bury him with all ceremony
so that he could travel to the Duat, the Land of the Dead. But first
she awaited the birth of Horus on a floating island in the Nile
Delta, protected and hidden from Set by the Goddess Buto.
When Horus was born, she left him in the care of Buto and set out
to find the body of Osirus, her husband.
Children along the Nile saw Isis searching in the reeds and when
she asked them about the boxe, they reported that they had seen
the beautiful box float down the Nile. Isis traveled down the Nile,
asking as she went, and traveled along the coast when she came to
the Great Green Sea. Finally she came to Byblos where she heard
about the marvelous fragrant tamarisk pillar. Using her magic, she
saw a vision of the chest within the heart of the tree and knew
that the fragrance of the wooden pillar in the palace was the fragrance
of the god Osiris who was hidden inside.
Isis turned herself into an old woman and spoke to the hand maidens
of the Queen when they came down to the shore to wash and bathe
in the sea. She taught them to braid their hair and make themselves
beautiful with flowers and trinkets from the sea shore.
Queen Astarte saw the new ornaments and hair styles of her haid
maidens and asked who had taught them this new art of beauty. When
they told her, she asked them to bring the old woman to the palace.
When she met the old woman, the Queen could see that she was wise
and skilled in the arts of beauty and adornment. She invited to
Isis to come to the palace and join her household, taking care of
her sickly son Diktys.
Diktys grew stronger in Isis care, and Astarte was glad, but she
was also fearful because the maid said that Isis shut them out of
the nursery at night and they heard strange sounds from behind the
So one night Astarte hid herself in the nursery and watched as
Isis closed the doors behind the maids. She was horrified to see
that Isis built a fire surrounding her son Diktys and once he was
encircled, she chaged into a swallow and flew around and around
the fragrant wodden pilar in the room.
Astarte rushed forward and pulled the child out of the fire, only
to find him unharmed.
Isis changed from a swallow into her mortal form and stood before
the Queen in all her majesty and beauty. The Queen was dazzled and
Isis took the child and held him for his mother to see, saying
"Foolish woman, you have prevented your son becoming immortal
and one of the gods, as I am. I could have made him so. But now
he will live a normal lifespan, and die as all men do."
The Queen could only beg Isis for her forgiveness and promise her
gold and riches to continue tending to Diktys. But Isis refused,
saying "My magic has been interrupted and cannot be continued,
but I can give you my blessing if you will pay me what I ask."
The Queen offered Isis anything she wished to secure her continued
blessing for her son. Isis asked for the fragrant wooden pillar.
The Queen consented for she could see that the life of her son had
been saved and that the blessing of Isis would ensure his health
and happiness into the future.
Once Isis had the pillar, she asked for it to be split open. The
workmen found the coffin of Osirus inside the heart of the pillar.
Isis removed the coffin and poured perfume and oils on the pillar.
"Take this pillar into your temple and it will become a powerful
relic that many pilgrims will come to see to seek its healing powers,
for it has contained the body of a god."
And the Temple of Baalat in Byblos became famous for the the wooden
relic "The Lady of Byblos."
And Isis took the body of Osirus home that he might be buried and
pass into the Duat. There he became the King of the Dead who judged
all souls. The worthy souls dwelled with him in the Duat and the
unworthy were doomed to eternal nothingness.