The Osirian Resurrection and the Major Arcana

The cycle of stories known as the Osirian Resurrection was the most important part of Ancient Egyptian myth. It was central to their religion for over 3,000 years. The myth of the death of Osiris and his resurrection by Isis became the foundation of the faith of the Egyptian people confirming their belief in a life after death.

There is a close conformity between the traditions of the Major Arcana and the myth of Osiris. The cards fall naturally into two groups; the early cards, numbered O to 8, introduce the major gods; the later cards, 9 to 21, tell the story of the death and resurrection of Osiris.

The world is created by Amun (The Fool), from the darkness of Nuit. His word is embodied in the god of time, Thoth (The Magician). The High Priestess is Isis, the sister-wife of Osiris. Next is Hathor (The Empress), another aspect of Isis. The first ruler of the newly-created world is Amun-Ra (The Emperor), and his successor is Osiris (The Hierophant). The parents and grandparents of the gods appear in The Lovers. The Chariot shows Horus, the child of Osiris and Isis. As the power of Ra diminishes, Sekhemet (Strength) seeks to bring his errant subjects back to his rule.

The Hermit shows Osiris in his journey to the East where he spread the knowledge of civilization amongst the uncivilized peoples. In The Wheel of Fortune, the creator god Khnumn stands before the ever-turning wheel of fate. The rule of Osiris and Isis was a time of justice and equality for all Justice). Eventually Osiris returns to Egypt, but realises that he must surrender his position (in a form of self sacrifice) before he can advance spiritually ('I~he Hanged Man). He permits his body to be trapped in a casket (Death). Isis and her sister Nephthys (Temperance) search for the body of Osiris. Set (The Devil), with his aid Apophis, takes control of Egypt, enslaves the population, and mankind is put in chains. Osiris is discovered but his body is again taken by Set and broken into pieces. His great works are destroyed, his temples ruined, his earthly embodiment is shattered for ever (The Tower). Isis (The Star) again searches, here with the aid of Thoth (in the guise of an Ibis). The body of Osiris is discovered for a second time. Magically Horus is conceived, and the dead god passes on to the gates of the netherworld where he is soon to become its ruler (The Moon). The child Horus is born in perfect balance (The Sun). Judgement shows Osiris resurrected as Lord of the Underworld, Amenti, the land to the west, his subjects freed from their bindings. Finally the universal balance is restored in the goddess Nuit (The World).

This is but a brief sketch of the content of the Major Arcana. There is a wealth of deeper symbolism to be found in each card. This is expanded upon in the individual descriptions of the cards.