Ausar (Asar, Wasiri, Osiris) is an ancient Kemetic diety whose center of worship and study was Abydos, a town in the eighth nome of Egypt. Ausar became the central deity in all mortuary rituals. Ausar is ruler of the underworld (Dwt, Duat) and is the personification of the resurrection principle. He is also associated with agricultural renewal.
In addition, Ausar is one of the main figures in the creation myth, which includes Auset, Heru, Set, and Nebhet. The story contained in this myth (commonly called the Ausarian Drama) is the basis for many rituals and festivals and is alluded to several times in the Prt em Hrw (Book of the Coming Forth by Day). Ausar became a central figure in priestly life, and his shrine is located in one of the oldest predynastic cities in Ta-Merri, often referred to as Anu, Abju, or Abydos.
Many have speculated as to the origins of Ausar. The most prominent explanation is that he was imported from Waset (Thebes) and brought into Anu. Ausar is not attested to by name until the 50th dynastic period in the Pyramid Texts. The probable antiquity of many of the Pyramid Texts makes it plausible that he was recognized at an earlier period, perhaps under the name Khenti Amentiu (Lord of Amenta or Lord of the Perfect Black; Amen-the Hidden One-blackness).
A central element of the later Ausarian myth, the pairing of Heru and Set, is attested from the middle of the 1st dynasty, predating the first attestations of Ausar by six centuries or more. Abbe Emile Amelineau, a French Egyptologist, discovered a series of tombs in present-day Om El Gaab (Anu), in which the Tomb of Ausar was found. This makes probable the notion that Ausar may have been a real-life personage who was later deified by the people of Kemet.
Over the centuries, the temple of Ausar was successively rebuilt or enlarged by Pepi I, Ahmose I, Thutmose III, Ramses III, and Ahmose II. Statuettes of Ausar have been found as far away as in the Shaba region of the Republic of the Congo in Central Africa.
Among the centers of worship for Ausar were the temples at Abju, 8th Nome, Upper Egypt; Saqqara, 1st Nome, Lower Egypt; Hut-Heryib/Athribis, 1st Nome, Lower Egypt; Djedu, 9th Nome, Lower Egypt; Taposiris Magna, west of Alexandria, Lower Egypt; Djan'net Tanis, 19th Nome, Lower Egypt; Bigeh, 1st Nome, Upper Egypt; Waset, 4th Nome, Upper Egypt; and at Karnak there were five chapels built for Ausar.
The earliest depictions of Ausar are of his head and torso on a block during the 5th dynasty of King Isesi. Ausar's name is written in Mdw Ntr (hieroglyphics) on the block, and above it the symbol of an eye (Iri), which means “to do” or “to make,” and of a throne (As). Ausar is often depicted in human form, usually in a black or green color. When he is depicted in the black color, it is a representation of the people of Kemet, as well as the richness of the Earth. Often he is depicted green as a symbol of the resurrection principle in agriculture. At times he is in Wi (mummy) form with his arms protruding out holding the signs of kingship: staff and flail. The Atef crown (White) of Upper Kemet is also associated with Ausar.
The Djed or Tet symbol is used in association with Ausar. Djed is usually to mean “stability” or “steadfastness.” The Djed pillar is the earliest known symbol associated with Ausar and may actually be predynastic. In the Book of the Coming Forth by Day, often called the Egyptian Book of the Dead, it is said that the Djed pillar is the vertebrae of Ausar. Some believe that the pillar is actually a pole in which grain was tied. It is often seen used in decorative friezes, together with the Ankh and Was sceptre hieroglyphs, but just as frequently with the “Tyet” knot, symbol of Auset. This may be the reason that Ausar is often spelled Wasiri because his early depictions included the Was sceptre.
Ausar was also associated with the Sahu or Sah (Orion) star system of the southern sky. Sahu is a constellation in the equatorial zone, visible to the naked eye thanks to its brilliant stars, which form a quadrilateral enclosing a shape like a “T.”
According to Kemetic mythology, Ausar was murdered by his brother, Set, and then brought back to life by the love of his sister and wife, Auset. The love of Auset is symbolic of regeneration and the promise of eternal life. The cycle of destruction, death, and rebirth was repeated each year in the annual flood of the Nile, the river that provided the essential ingredients needed to sustain life, giving birth to one of the first civilizations. Ausar and Auset had a son named Heru. Together they represent a holy family: god, goddess, and divine child. In the New Kingdom, the main temples throughout Ta-Merri venerated a holy family modeled on the Ausar, Auset, and Heru triad.
Plutarch describes Ausar as a human king who taught the craft of husbandry, established a code of laws, and bade men to honor the ancestors. During initiations, initiates would take on the name of Ausar in addition to their own name (i.e., Ausar Ani) as a way to associate themselves with the dead king. Mystery plays were used to honor Ausar among the masses, although special rituals were reserved for the priests in the temples.
Ceremonies and Festivals
Recognition of Ausar was constant, and it represented the way the Kemetic people responded to the presence of the divine among them. Ausar was written into the fabric of the society because of the holy days reserved for him in the culture. Among the celebrations were the following:
- 1st Epagomenal Day
- Birthday of Ausar
- 25th Thuti
- Ausarian Mysteries
- 13th Paopi
- Day of Satisfying the Hearts of the Ennead
- 16th Paopi
- Feast of Ausar
- 19th Paopi
- Ceremony of Raising the Djed Pillar
- 30th Paopi
- Kemet in festival for Ra, Ausar, and Heru
- 12th Hethara
- Ausar goes forth to Abju
- 11th Koiak
- Feast of Wasir in Abju
- 12th Koiak
- Day of Transformation into the Bennu Bird
- 13th Koiak
- Day of Going Forth of Het-Hert and the Ennead
- 14th Koiak
- Coming forth of the Bennu transformed
- 12th Koiak
- Raising the Djed Pillar
- 30th Koiak
- The Ennead feast in the House of Ra, Heru, and Wasir
- 18th Tybi
- Going forth of the Netjeru of Abju
- 17th Mechir
- Day of keeping the things of Ausar in the hands of Anpu
- 6th Pamenot
- Festival of Jubilation for Ausar in Per-Ausar
- 28th Pamenot
- Feast of Ausar in Abju
- 30th Pamenot
- Feast of Ausar in Per-Ausar; The Doorways of the Horizon are opened
- 30th Parmutit
- Offerings to Ra, Wasir, Heru, Ptah, Sokar, and Atum
- 18th Payni
- Wasir Goes Forth from His Mountain
These festive occasions were repeated enough that they became the norm for the society, and people believed that Ausar was essential to the happiness of the country.
- Asante, M. K. (2001). The Egyptian Philosophers. Chicago: African American Images.
- Diop, C. A. (1981). Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books.