The very earliest of the ancient Egyptians believed that when the pharaoh died, he became a star in a constellation that represented Osiris. Osiris, a mythological character both man and god, was the great hero of Egyptian mythology, and beloved husband of Isis. The Egyptians are one of five ancient cultures that independently and exhaustively carpeted their sky with constellations. This is an important fact to keep in mind when attempting to identify Egypt’s Osiris constellation. There are countless websites stating that the Egyptian constellation of Osiris was the constellation we know today as Orion. This is incorrect. Orion is a Greek constellation, not Egyptian.
We know of Egyptian constellations from artwork on coffin lids and tomb walls. Osiris has been clearly identified, and while this constellation shares some stars with Orion, the two are not identical. From data published by Kurt Locher (New Arguments for the Celestial Location of the Decanal Belt and for the Origins of the S3h-Hieroglyph. Sesto Congresso Internazionale di Egittologia vol. II. Zaccone, Gian Maria & Tomaso Ricardi Netro, eds. Societa Italiana per il Gas p.a. Torino, 1993.), and using the sliced bread that is Google Earth, we see Osiris to be:
Orion’s belt is Osiris’s crown, and Osiris is facing east, towards stars (including Sirius) that make up Isis, his love. This makes all the sense in the world. Egypt is further south than Greece, and this more southerly constellation is easy to see from the lattitude of the Nile valley. Orion’s belt, the most arresting asterism in the sky, is the only fitting crown for the god-pharaoh Osiris. The constellation is very reminiscent of certain hieroglyphics, some versions of which indicated a king. Here are two similar ones from the Rosetta Stone:
And perhaps most compelling– if we count the actual number of stars in this constellation, 14 of them go to make up Osiris’s body, the others forming his crown and staff. According to myth, Osiris was killed when his evil brother Set chopped him into 14 pieces and threw him in the river. Isis had to recover these pieces to restore her husband and return him to life. Our sources for this story are largely fragmentary, but the Greek historian Plutarch attempted a comprehensive rendition. This is an edited excerpt:
Osiris had a bitter enemy in his brother Set. During the absence of Osiris his wife Isis ruled the country so well that the schemes of the wicked Set to take a share in its government were not allowed to mature. But on the king’s return Set fixed on a plan whereby to rid himself altogether of the king, his brother. For the accomplishment of his ends he leagued himself with Aso, the queen of Ethiopia, and seventy-two other conspirators. Then, after secretly measuring the king’s body, he caused to be made a marvellous chest, richly fashioned and adorned, which would contain exactly the body of Osiris. This done, he invited his fellow-plotters and his brother the king to a great feast. Now Osiris had frequently been warned by the queen to beware of Set, but, having no evil in himself, the king feared it not in others, so he betook himself to the banquet.
When the feast was over Set had the beautiful chest brought into the banquet-hall, and said, as though in jest, that it should belong to him whom it would fit. One after another the guests lay down in the chest, but it fitted none of them till the turn of Osiris came. Quite unsuspicious of treachery, the king laid himself down in the great receptacle. In a moment the conspirators had nailed down the lid, pouring boiling lead over it lest there should be any aperature. Then they set the coffin adrift on the Nile, at its Tanaitic mouth. These things befell, say some, in the twenty-eighth year of Osiris’ life; others say in the twenty-eighth year of his reign.
When news reached the ears of Isis she was sore stricken, and cut off a lock of her hair and put on mourning apparel. Knowing well that the dead cannot rest till their bodies have been buried with funeral rites, she set out to find the corpse of her husband…
…Arrived in Egypt, Isis opened the chest and wept long and sorely over the remains of her royal husband. But now she bethought herself of her son Horus, whom she had left in Buto, and leaving the chest in a secret place, she set off to search for him. Meanwhile Set, while hunting by the light of the moon, discovered the richly adorned coffin and in his rage rent the body into fourteen pieces, which he scattered here and there throughout the country.
Upon learning of this fresh outrage on the body of the god, Isis took a boat of papyrus-reeds and journeyed forth once more in search of her husband’s remains…
Why 14? This is pure speculation on my part, but I notice that 14 = 7 x 2, and that 7 is a holy number. Osiris was holy, but he was not just one man, he was also one god; he was double. Hence, 14. Your own thoughts on this are welcome.
The particular stars, with their right ascension, declination, and distance from Earth are listed below. I have also converted these into spherical coordinates, and rectangular (Cartesian) coordinates.
|β ORI||5:14:32.2||-8º 12′ 06″||910||78.6342||98.2017||910||177.5014||883.0290||-129.8191|
|δ ORI||5:32:00.3||-0º 17′ 57″||2300||83.0013||90.2992||2300||280.2439||2282.8314||-12.0106|
|ε ORI||5:36:12.7||-1º 12′ 07″||1200||84.0529||91.2019||1200||124.3049||1193.2790||-25.1707|
|ζ ORI||5:40:45.5||-1º 56′ 34″||1300||85.1896||91.9428||1300||108.9537||1294.6763||-44.0723|
|η ORI||5:24:28.6||-2º 23′ 49″||770||81.1192||92.3969||770||118.7681||760.1034||-32.2026|
|ι ORI||5:35:25.9||-5º 54′ 36″||1900||83.8579||95.9100||1900||202.2094||1879.0524||-195.6357|
|κ ORI||5:47:45.3||-9º 40′ 11″||2100||86.9388||99.6697||2100||110.5522||2067.2101||-352.7330|
|σ ORI||5:38:44.7||-2º 36′ 00″||1400||84.6825||92.6000||1400||129.6110||1392.5400||-63.5082|
|θ ORI||5:35:16.4||-5º 23′ 23″||1600||83.8183||95.3897||1600||171.5292||1583.6640||-150.2869|
|α LEP||5:32:43.7||-17º 49′ 20″||930||83.1821||107.8222||930||105.1060||879.1092||-284.6397|
|β LEP||5:28:14.7||-20º 45′ 34″||320||82.0613||110.7594||320||41.3270||296.3570||-113.4222|
|γ LEP||5:44:27.8||-22º 26′ 54″||26.5||86.1158||112.4483||26.5||1.6591||24.4357||-10.1190|
|ε LEP||5:05:27.6||-22º 22′ 16″||300||76.365||112.3711||300||65.3982||269.6029||-114.1812|
|ι LEP||5:12:17.8||-11º 52′ 09″||275||78.0742||101.8692||275||55.6123||263.3117||-56.5615|
|κ LEP||5:13:13.8||-12º 56′ 30″||96||78.3075||102.9417||96||18.9611||91.6200||-21.5001|
|μ LEP||5:12:55.8||-16º 12′ 20″||180||78.2325||106.2056||180||35.2507||169.2152||-50.2353|
|ς LEP||5:46:57.3||-14º 49′ 19″||72||86.7388||104.8219||72||3.9596||69.4915||-18.4187|
|β ERI||5:07:50.9||-5º 05′ 11″||65||76.9621||95.0864||65||14.6060||63.0750||-5.7628|
|α COL||5:39:38.9||-34º 04′ 27″||120||84.9121||124.0742||120||8.8150||99.0059||-67.2319|
I list all this because once, many years back, I wanted to know what heaven looked like from a dead pharaoh’s point of view. So I built a 3D model of the constellation in my living room with candles as stars. If you would like to do the same, I have spared you the trouble of coming up with the appropriate coordinates.