Osiris, one of the principal divinities of ancient Egypt. The inscriptions speak of him as "king of life," "king of gods," "lord of innumerable days," and "ruler of eternity." He is represented as having a human form, and always has the head of a man. He is colored green as the god of vivification. His sacred symbols are the evergreen, the tamarisk, and a sort of ibis with two long plumes at the back of the head. He is the son of Seb (Cronos, time), and represents the element of water, symbolizing in a higher sense, according to Brugsch (Histoire d'Egypte, 2d ed., 1875), finished existence, or the past. In the mythological legends he is represented as the originator of human civilization, and as engaged subsequently to his philanthropic services in a terrible contest with Typhon, or Evil (called in Egyptian Set or Sutekh). Typhon prevails; Osiris" is slain, and his dead body is fitted into a chest, thrown into the Nile, and swept out to sea. Isis, the consort of Osiris, learns of his death, and ransacks the world in search of his body.

She finds it mutilated by Typhon. Then Osiris descends into the infernal regions, and has a later and different existence under the name of Serapis. Typhon is eventually slain by Horus, the son of Isis. Ancient writers say the Egyptians believed that the soul of Osiris entered the bull Apis, and it is assumed that the temple of Serapis mentioned by the Greeks was the temple of Osarapi, or Osiris Apis. On the judgment of Osiris and his assessors, in the "hall of double judgment" to which all the dead are led, depended the eternal fate of the soul. The "Book of the Dead" (see Egypt, Language and Literature of, vol. vi., p. 477) gives an account of the pilgrimage of the dead to Hades, where they are judged by Osiris.