Exploring myth

By the Blood of the Lamb: The Lunar Osiris Easter Special, Part 4


Fig. 1

Being a god, Osiris was not restricted to just one bodily form. He had alter-egos, known in ancient Egypt as “ba,” as thoroughly established in a previous article here at Mythicism. The alter-egos were usually theriomorphic in appearance.

Ba was also the term used for what might be described as the physical manifestations of certain gods.

Dr. Ian Shaw, Exploring Ancient Egypt [1]

The term bA often denotes the theriomorphic incarnation of a god.

Dr. Alan B. Lloyd, in Hommages a Maarten J. Vermaseren Vol. II [2]

For example, in his alter-ego as a lunar god, Osiris would often manifest with the head of a bull, for his horns represented the crescent of the moon. In this form he was known as Apis, or Ser-Apis.[3] Hence in Memphis, where their favorite form of Osiris was Apis, they kept a mascot of Osiris in his temple there. It was, of course, a sacrificial bull.[4] This is not at all dissimilar to the aforementioned “Good Shepherd” of the Levant, who was likewise represented by a sacrificial bovine- “Understand ye how in all plainness it is spoken unto you; the calf is [The Good Shepherd], the men that offer it, being sinners, are they that offered Him for the slaughter.”


Fig. 2

In the city of Mendes, however, the mascot they kept of Osiris was a ram. And that is because another alter-ego or ba of Osiris was his solar aspect, which had an ovine form, known as Banebdjed.[5]

Osiris, foremost of the West, perfect of face, high of Atef-crown; lord of the two horns … mysterious ram-form.

Tomb of Imiseba, TT65, pl. 38A (12th cen. BCE) [6]

The ram of Mendes is the ba of Osiris.

Book of the Heavenly Cow, § 85-90 (14th cen. BCE) [7]

A god is manifested in sacred animals. The ram of Mendes is the Ba of Osiris.The ram of Mendes, and the sacred bull Apis, all of them, under different aspects, represent the Ba of Osiris.

Dr. Louis V. Žabkar, A Study of the Ba Concept in Ancient Egyptian Texts [8]

Osiris was to remain “the Mendesian bai, the precious deity” “rejuvenated as the ram” (Dendera X, 288:12) and Banebdjed to become, through Osiris, “the living bai of the gods.” … In the beatification text on the only inscribed ram-sarcophagus lid yet to be found at Mendes, Banebdjed as Osiris is described in a distinctly solarized form.

Dr. Susan Redford and Dr. Donald B. Redford, Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt  [9]

Ram gods were often regarded as manifestations of other deities. Banebdjedet could be shown with four rams’ heads representing the four bas of the creator sun god. This linked Banebdjedet with Osiris, who was often named as a ba of the sun god.

Dr. Geraldine Pinch, Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt  [10]

Another funerary god who appeared in the scenes was Banebdjedet. This god was the local deity of the Delta city of Mendes, called Pr Banebdjedet, the capital of the Sixteenth Lower Egyptian Nome. He was represented as a ram with a strong body and long curved horns. His name meant the soul of the lord of djedt. This god was also called the lord of Djedet and was regarded as the ba of the god Osiris.

Dr. Abeer el-Shahawy, The Funerary Art of Ancient Egypt: A Bridge to the Realm of the Hereafter [11]

There is a hymn to the Mendesian Ram (the ba-ram form of Re-Osiris[12]), at the conclusion of which the speaker identifies himself with this deity.

Dr. David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram: Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple [13]

The fact that Osiris manifested as a ram, i.e. a male sheep, and that his mascot was in Mendes in particular is interesting in light of a comment made by Herodotus (5th century BCE) in Histories 2.42.2:

Egyptians do not all worship the same gods in the same way. Only the gods Isis and Osiris … are worshiped in the same manner by all Egyptians. For example, those who have a sanctuary of Mendes or are of the Mendesian district sacrifice sheep but not goats.[14]

He notes that in Mendes they sacrificed sheep, and this right after mentioning the universal worship of Osiris, who himself was worshipped as a sheep in Mendes. How conspicuous. It seems as though this slaying of sheep in Mendes was done in remembrance of the slaying of the sheep Banebdjed- Osiris himself. Thus it may be said that Osiris was the lamb of God that was slain, but through his shed blood death will passover us, so that we may passover into the kingdom of everlasting life.

Banebdjed at Esna

Fig. 3: Banebdjed, a ram form of Osiris; relief from the Temple of Esna.


Fig. 4: From the Temple of Hathor in Denderah.

Banebdjed Metropolitan Museum of Art 664-30 BCE

Fig. 5: Statue of Banebdjed, 7th-1st century BCE, currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hypocephalus of Neshorpakhered.

Fig. 6: Osiris as Banebdjed, being worshipped by four simian beasts; from the Hypocephalus of Neshorpakhered, 4th-3rd century BCE, currently at The British Museum.


Fig. 7: From the Hypocephalus of Tasheritkhons, 4th-1st century BCE, currently at The British Museum.

This scene depicted above was quite popular for hypocephalus of that time, centuries prior to the Common Era. That imagery of the ovine Osiris being worshipped has a familiar vibe to it. It could accurately be described as- “Lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, sat a Lamb as it had been slain, having [eight] horns and [eight] eyes.”  “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying: Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen.”

Now the point in even bringing up this fact about Osiris’ identity as a ram is to bring this back around to the topic covered in Part 3, that being the drinking of Osiris’ blood. Of particular interest is the bodily resurrection spell of Coffin Text 226. Concerning this spell, Egyptologist Dr. William Ward wrote the following:

The emphasis on ram-gods here suggests that “the Great God whose name is unknown” is none other than the Ram of Mendes which did not possess a name but was known only as “the Ram.”[17]

It being the case that the ram of this spell is indeed the ram of Mendes, i.e. the symbol of Osiris’ ovine form, then this is yet another text which involves drinking the blood of Osiris and eating his bread, and doing so as part of the procedure for bodily resurrection.

Ho N! Sky and Earth are opened for you, the great gates are opened for you, the gates of the plebs are thrown open for you, Geb [the earth god] has opened his jaws on your account, even he the chiefest of the gods. Ho N! The Ram conducts you to his altars, Sopd being at his … Ho N! They remove the dimness of your sight and the wrinkles which are on your limbs; they open your blind eyes, they extend your contracted fingers. Ho N! Lift yourself up upon your left side, place yourself upon your right side. Ho N! Eat your portion, consisting of this pure bread which is issued, namely the collected loaves of this great god whose name is unknown. Ho N! Drink your portion, consisting of this pure water which is issued upon this plateau of the citizens, for that Ram who is in his blood has given to you what is in his redness. Ho N! Ptah South-of-his-Wall and Sokar have granted to you an appearing in the Hnw-bark of Geb, chiefest of the gods. Ho N! May you go out by day and by night; may you eat bread and drink beer; may you receive the invocation-offerings which are yours. Come, O invocation-offerings!—four times.

Coffin Texts, Spell 226 III, 257-59 (21st-18th century BCE)  [18]

Dyson Perrins Apocalypse J. Paul Gett Museum 1255-60

Fig. 8

May we “overcome by the blood of the lamb, and by the word of our testimony.”

Now onward to the next article.

And the Third Day He shall Rise Again: The Lunar Osiris Easter Special, Part 5

Back to Part 3

Back to Part 2

Back to Part 1

More on Easter

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[1] Ian Shaw, Exploring Ancient Egypt (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 21.

[2] Alan B. Lloyd, “Strabo and the Memphite Tauromachy,” in Hommages a Maarten J. Vermaseren, Vol. II, eds. M.B. de Boer and T.A. Edridge (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1978), 618.

[3] Shaw, op. cit.
Lloyd, op. cit.
John G. Griffiths, “Osiris,” in Lexikon der Ägyptologie:Band IV Megiddo-Pyramiden, eds. W. Helck and W. Westendorf (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz GmbH & Co. KG, 1982), 629.
Jan Assman, The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs, trans. A. Jenkins (New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1996-2002), 374-75.
Geraldine Pinch, Egyptian Myth: A very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 105.
Anne Burton, Diodorus Siculus, Book 1: A Commentary (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1972), 242, n.2.
David A. Leeming, Creation Myths of the World: An Encyclopedia (Santa
Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 1994-2009), 405.
Bojana Mojsov, Osiris: Death and Afterlife of a God (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), 24.
Benjamin Acosta-Hughes and Susan A. Stephens, Callimachus in Context: From Plato to the Augustan Poets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 186.
Susan A. Stephens, “Egyptian Callimachus,” in Callimaque: Sept exposés suivis de discussions, eds. F. Montanari and L.A. Lehnus (Geneva: Fondation Hardt, 2002), 249.
William W. Batstone, “Notes and Comments: Tibullus,” in Latin Lyric and Elegiac Poetry: An Anthology of New Translations, eds. D.J. Rayor and W.W. Batstone (New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1995), 205.
Eleni Manolaraki, Noscendi Nilum Cupido: Imagining Egypt from Lucan to Philostratus (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, 2013), 34.
René L. Vos, “Varius coloribus. Some remarks on the colours of Apis and other sacred animals,” in Egyptian Religion: The Last Thousand Years, Pt. I, eds. W. Clarysse, A. Schoors, H. Willems (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 1998), 716.
John E. Stambaugh, Sarapis Under the Early Ptolemies, (Leiden: E.J. Brill,
1972), 91.
Gertruda J.F. Kater-Sibbes and Maarten J. Vermaseren, Apis, I: The Monuments of the Hellenistic-Roman Period from Egypt (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1975), ix, 9.
Jan Zandee, “An ancient Egyptian crossword puzzle: An inscription of Nebwenenef from Thebes,” Mededelingen en verhandelingen van het Vooraziatisch-Egyptisch Genootschap Ex Oriente Lux, XV (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1966), 30.
Tibullus, Poem I.7., in Latin Lyric and Elegiac Poetry: An Anthology of New Translations, trans. Rachel Hadas, eds. D.J. Rayor and W.W. Batstone, (New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1995), 41.
Strabo, Geography, in The Geography of Strabo Vol. VII, trans. H.L. Jones (London: William Heinemann Ltd., and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1932-82), 87.
Plutarch, Moralia, in Plutarch’s Moralia: Volume V, trans. F.C. Babbitt, (London: William Heinemann Ltd., and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1936-62), 71.
Robert K. Ritner, The Libyan Anarchy: Inscriptions From Egypt’s Third
Intermediate Period (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009), 187, 397, 400, 445, 588.

[4]  “It is not lawful for it to exceed a certain number of years of life, and they kill it by drowning it in the fountain of the priests, proceeding with lamentation to look for another to put in its place, and they go on mourning till they have found one.”- Pliny the Elder, Natural History 8.184, in Pliny: Natural History, Books 8-11, trans. H.
Rackham, (London: William Heinemann Ltd., and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 1940-67), 129.

[5] “There is little doubt today that the Mendesian animal was a sheep.”- Redford (2005), 169.
See also Salima Ikram, Choice Cuts: Meat Production in Ancient Egypt (Leuven: Peeters Press, 1995), 17.

[6]  John C. Darnell, The Enigmatic Netherworld Books of the Solar-Osirian Unity: Cryptographic Compositions in the Tombs of Tutankhamun, Ramesses VI and Ramesses IX (Fribourg: Academic Press Fribourg, 2004) 398.

[7] Edward F. Wente Jr., “The Book of the Heavenly Cow,” in The Literature of
Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions, Stelae, Autobiographies,
and Poetry, ed. W.K. Simpson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 296.

[8]  Louis V. Žabkar, A Study of the Ba Concept in Ancient Egyptian Texts(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1968), 13. (Emph. added.)

[9] Susan Redford and Donald B. Redford, “The Cult and Necropolis of the Sacred Ram at Mendes,” Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt, ed. S. Ikram (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2005), 165.

[10] Pinch (2004), 114.

[11] Abeer el-Shahawy, The Funerary Art of Ancient Egypt: A Bridge to the Realm of the Hereafter (Cairo: Farid Atiya Press, 2005), 70. (Emph. added.)

[12] Mark J. Smith, On the Primeval Ocean (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2002), 121.
E.g. the union of Re and Osiris into a single form; from the Litany of Re in the tomb
of Nefertari, 13th century BCE, as seen here.

[13] David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram: Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis
Temple, Yale Egyptological Studies 6 (New Haven: Yale Egyptological Seminar,
2006), 33.

[14] Herodotus, Histories, in The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories, ed. R.B. Strassler, trans. A.L. Purvis (New York: Anchor Books, 2009), 136.

[15] William Ward, The Four Egyptian Homographic Roots B-A: Etymological and Egypto-Semitic Studies (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1978), 159. (Emph. added.)

[16] Raymond O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, Vol. I (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, Ltd, 1973), 179. (Emph. added.)

3 comments on “By the Blood of the Lamb: The Lunar Osiris Easter Special, Part 4

  1. Pingback: And the Third Day He shall Rise Again: The Lunar Osiris Easter Special, Part 5 | Mythicism.Net

  2. Pingback: YHW=Horus?!? Syncretism with Gentile Gods | Mythicism.Net

  3. Pingback: Drinking the Blood of Osiris as Wine: The Lunar Osiris Easter Special, Part 3 | Mythicism.Net

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