graphic and glyph by Bradley Naragon (copyright 2015 all rights reserved)
Osiris was discovered on September 24, 1960 by Cornelis Johannes van Houten and Ingrid van Houten-Groeneveld at Palomar Observatory near Pauma Valley, California.
At this time, Pluto was conjunct the North Node of the Moon in the sign of Virgo. The Virgo Pluto and North Node was also trine Saturn in Capricorn and sextile Neptune in Scorpio. Uranus was in Leo in a balsamic phase with Pluto in Virgo- within five years they would be conjunct.
I took part in a book club discussion group with Dr. Thom Cavalli, the author of Embodying Osiris: The Secrets of Alchemical Transformation, in May 2012 on the Depth Psychology Alliance network. In our discussions Dr. Cavalli made the point that creating an archetype for Osiris is extremely difficult because of the vast array of dissonant qualities he embodies. Nonetheless, I found that his teaching regarding Osiris resonated with astrological archetypes, and even though Osiris embodies a huge diversity of archetypal meaning, it is a fact astrological archetypes such as Pisces are incredibly vast and beyond our abilities to confine their meaning to singular categorizations. I do want to make the point, however, that I am merely exploring the idea of an Osiris archetype at an early stage of development here, and I am hoping to receive comments from anyone reading this about the possible meaning of Osiris in their own life.
The “birth” signature for the discovery of the Osiris asteroid in 1960 brings up some of the major themes I feel that the Osiris archetype embodies: Virgo, Pisces (by polarity), Scorpio, Taurus (by polarity), Capricorn, Cancer (by polarity), Leo, Aquarius, Uranus, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto, and the modern astrological interpretation of the North Node of the Moon being about an evolutionary development of Soul purpose. I have also been interested in exploring the archetype of Isis associated with the Isis asteroid, and will do so to a greater extent in a subsequent article. For now, I want to draw attention to the cyclic conjunctions of the Isis and Osiris asteroids, which happened again last week. In connection with the myth of Isis and Osiris, I feel like this conjunction cycle could have the effect of “re-animating” the Osiris archetype in collective consciousness, and I am curious if anyone reading this can sense any correlations to this idea in their life.
On March 2, 2013 the asteroids Isis and Osiris were conjunct at 11 degrees of Aquarius. From what I can tell, both the Osiris and Isis asteroids have orbits of around four years and have a cycle of conjunction about every two years (August 2007 at 21 degrees Leo; April 2009 at 13 degrees Aquarius; June 2011 at 12 degrees Leo; March 2013 at 11 degrees Aquarius; and the next one will be April 29, 2015 at 6 degrees Leo). The fact that these recent conjunction points have all been along the Aquarius-Leo axis also goes along with the importance of both archetypes in relation to the Osiris myth. The Aquarius archetype and it’s relationship to consensus culture, the Saturn and Capricorn archetypes, in particular feels resonate to me with Osiris, so it is fitting that this recent conjunction happened in the strong 10-11 degree range of Aquarius.
Even more fitting to the Osiris archetype, this latest conjunction and new cycle between Isis and Osiris also happened to be within a degree of a square to Saturn retrograde in Scorpio. The degree of the Isis-Osiris conjunction in Aquarius has the following Sabian Symbol in Dane Rudhyar’s Astrological Mandala (p. 255):
Aquarius 11 : During a silent hour, a man receives a new inspiration which may change his life.
Keynote: The need to rely upon inner inspiration and guidance at the start of new developments.
What is implied here is the essential value of keeping open to the descent of spiritual or Soul forces, especially when a new period of individual activity is about to begin. The individual should not depend mainly on outer circumstances and on traditional- and in a sense external, because collectively formulated- incentives. There is a creative power within, a power that can be tapped, or rather that should be allowed to flow into the brain-consciousness or the hands which write or fashion materials into original forms . . . It refers to the OVERSHADOWING of the individual consciousness by an inner, yet transcendant, Power.
This symbolism from the point of the Isis-Osiris conjunction, in square to Saturn retrograde in Scorpio, reflects the deep cathartic potential of these intense times as we get closer to the next Uranus-Pluto square in May. Saturn in Scorpio at this time, in square to Osiris-Isis reflects intense tests and challenges from our environment requiring us to go deep within ourselves to confront the core issues interfering with our ability to merge our true sense of Self into the greater world. In my opinion, this symbolism also integrates some of the meaning of the Osiris archetype: regeneration from within, transformation of collective conditioning through a process of artistic manifestation, and an inner “gold” we have inside of ourselves that we can access to transcend the limitations of our conditioning.
Recent significant Osiris transits:
March 2, 2013: conjunction with Isis at 11 degrees of Aquarius
December 20, 2012 (Winter Solstice 2012): conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn at 9 degrees of Capricorn
September 12, 2012: conjunction with Juno and the North Node of the Moon at 29 degrees Scorpio
Look to the House and Sign position of the Osiris asteroid (#1923) in your chart to find a place where you have been wounded by consensus societal conditioning, and where you have a need for self-exploration, self-transformation, and regeneration.
Osiris involves many diverse qualities, but especially involves archetypal themes of Taurus, ruled by Venus, and Scorpio, ruled by Mars in traditional astrology and Pluto in modern astrology.
In Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas linked Isis and Osiris with Pluto, as well as Shiva, Kali, Shakti, Pele, and other deities of “destruction and regeneration, death and rebirth” (p. 99)
Themes of individuating, themes of becoming, themes of regeneration.
According to Cavalli, “Osiris is best understood as a complex consisting of a cosmic deity, an earthly deity, and an underwold deity that still exists within the realm of psyche.” Osiris is a “personal archetypal figure” who intermediates between the divine Ra, “the archetype of wholeness that includes everything conscious and unconscious,” and Horus, “the defender of the Earth” (Embodying Osiris, p. 40).
Some of the possible meanings of an Osiris archetype involve individuation, Self transformation, and alchemy. Dr. Thom Cavalli’s book Embodying Osiris: The Secrets of Alchemical Transformation connects the etymological meaning of “alchemy” with the mythic figure Osiris. While “al” means “the,” and “chemy” means “black,” it does not mean that alchemy is “black magic” or some other dark or evil form of witchcraft- this perspective comes from uninformed bias. Dr. Cavalli makes the point that “the black” has a clear link to the black, dark, moist, and regenerative soil of the Nile River in Egypt, a historically significant area of agricultural development that led to one of the world’s first dominant and extensive civilizations in the Age of Taurus (roughly 4,420 – 2,260 B.C.). Osiris was a major deity of this civilization, the fertile River God of the Nile, and he has his roots as a God of Agriculture and Fertility in a similar manner to the Great Goddesses of this time period. Thus, there is not only the link to Taurus through the historical astrological age (a time of Bull worship around the region), there is also connection to the Goddess energy of Venus fertility. In addition, after undergoing symbolic and literal death in the myth, Osiris transforms into a Plutonic deity who rules the underworld and heals the souls of the dead, linking him to the Scorpio archetype and Pluto and Mars (Nergal, the Babylonian Mars in astrology and myth, was an underworld ruler). Finally, the 8th house (Scorpio) mastery of unconscious forces Osiris achieves can be utilized ultimately as a 2nd House (Taurus) resource: “Osiris, then, is the archetypal energy activating the unconscious so that it is not only a repository of memory, but also an incredible resource in everyday life” (p.41).
Moreover, in Embodying Osiris, Cavalli wrote that the myth of Osiris “represents an evolution of the human species from the wiles of nature into a new, civil dimension of reality . . . The ‘rising up’ of Osiris represents a new alignment of the spinal cord, a new spatial orientation, and the seminal emergence of individual identity” (p. 118). Since the Egypt of this time period is one of the earliest dynasties of civilization in our recorded history, the Osiris archetype also connects with the dogmatic cultural beliefs and conditioning that come from the impact of societal development, the creation of civilizations with consensus rules for behavior, on personal consciousness. In addition, the impact of societal oppression on individual consciousness can be seen in the Egyptian dynasty use of slaves, including targeting a specific social identity as slaves, such as the Jewish people. Osiris is an archetype going to the root of our deepest unconscious memories as a collective of souls, and so when we are in contact with him, we can feel the oppressive conditioning of our historical and modern cultural context more intensely:
[Osiris is] the personification of the collective unconscious, all that existed in the collective unconscious psyche, but which was not included in the conscious religious forms of that time.
–Marie-Louise von Franz, from The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man
This connection of the Osiris to consensus cultural conditioning involves the archetype of Saturn. In our book group discussions, Dr. Cavalli illustrated the significance of Saturn in the alchemical process, and it’s connection to lead in the alchemical process and our ability to regenerate “gold” from within ourselves. He said that Carl Jung described a spectrum of development with instinct at the bottom and archetypes at the top, and that individuation involves an evolution of consciousness from its dark, Saturnian base to higher spiritual levels. He said that the alchemists believed that no such evolution could ever happen if there was not at least a spark of gold already latent in the lead (in alchemy Saturn is associated with lead)- this his how the germination of gold can happen. In his book, Cavalli wrote that “lead does not respond to light, yet contains it’s own light” and that it became a metaphor amongst alchemists for human beings because “in the midst of our very darkness we contain the light and fire of consciousness” (p. 92-3). This goes with the following Jung quote:
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but making the darkness conscious
–Carl Jung, Archetypal Studies
In Embodying Osiris, Dr. Cavalli wrote that the value Carl Jung placed on alchemy, to which he obsessivly dedicated the last thirty years of his life to study, had “less to do with recipes for transmuting metals than with demonstrating psychophysical methods of transforming consciousness” (p. 49). Jung felt that alchemy was not a replacement for nature, but instead was a method to speed up the evolutionary individuation process: “We might conjecture that instead of having to live many lifetimes, a person could accomplish the goal of individuation in a single lifetime by applying alchemical methods” (p. 49). In our Book Club, Dr. Cavalli said that the often quoted concept of “confronting one’s shadow” has been used to describe the alchemical process of applying operations to the Lead (I’d like to insert here our “Saturn” archetype) in order to heat up the inner spark to manifest Gold. In his book Cavalli included this apt quote from astrologer Liz Greene:
In many ways, the ancient art of alchemy was dedicated to this end: for the base material of alchemy, in which lay the possibility of gold, was called Saturn, and this base material, as well as having a concrete existence, was also considered to be the alchemist himself. Modern psychology, which is paralleling more and more the path of the alchemists, also seeks to make a friend of Saturn although here he is called by other names. —Liz Greene, Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil
In our book club, Dr. Cavalli also commented that another method in this alchemical process could be to exhaust the instincts, which goes very well with the Evolutionary Astrology process described by Jeff Green in which we work toward evolutionary development through exhausting our deep soul desires, the resonate soul desires related to our current lifetime being symbolized by the house, sign, and aspects of Pluto in the birth chart. The “gold” we can reach through this process is like a potential we could reach that would be so whole and balanced it would need no more transformation. Cavalli described this “Divine Self” as “the conscious union of ego and Self, instincts and archetypes, feminity and masculinity, psyche and soma- having an active relationship with the unconscious; mastering the technique of active imagination; integrating shadow; recognizing projections; and, finally, achieving ‘object love’ with individuals, the collective, nature, and God” (p. 49) .
In the Osiris myth, the archetype of lead enters the story through the manipulative and power hungry Seth character, who tricks Osiris into becoming sealed inside a coffin, and sends him down the Nile. Seth was angry with Osiris because of his infidelity with Nephthys, who was the wife of Seth, a mating that produced the offspring Anubis. As a result of his rage, jealousy, and desire for power, Seth not only murders Osiris but cuts his body up into various fragmented pieces. After a long journey, that in some scenes has thematic parallels to the myth of Demeter/Ceres searching for her daughter Persephone, Isis finds Osiris, puts his body back together, makes love to him, and reanimates him long enough to produce their offspring Horus. Ultimately, Osiris descends to the underworld and resurrects himself as the ruler and healer of souls of the dead. In the myth, Seth represents an archetype that seeks power within societal hierarchies; he is Machiavellian and by the mere fact of having this political nature necessitates the existence of a “civilized” power structure to climb and conquer. This symbolism is why I feel the Osiris archetype also involves the Aquarius-Leo archetypal need of liberating from dominant societal conditioning in order to find and self-actualize one’s true heroic journey, the special purpose one has incarnated into this lifetime to achieve. Fascinating to me is that there is a mirror of the Osiris myth in the story of Moses in the Bible, who liberated the Jewish people from their Egyptian oppression in the Age of Aries. Moses was also sent down the Nile River, but in this version he is a baby who had been born into a Jewish slave family, only to be rescued by a member of the House of the Pharaoh and taken into the inner circle of the Pharaoh. Moses grows up surrounded by Osiris and Isis and sees firsthand how the role of the Pharaoh had become distorted through oppressive use of power. Moses eventually becomes the liberator, and is one of many heroes in humanity’s history whose life has echoes of Osiris running through it.
Part of the trigger that led to this mythic journey of Osiris was his mating with the wife of his brother, Nephtys. In some versions Osiris seduces her, in other versions Nephthys tricks Osiris by disguising herself as his wife Isis, but in all the versions there is the cultural taboo of infidelity explored. This part of the myth connects with the archetypal axis of development from Taurus to Scorpio, and how sometimes it takes us exploring a cultural taboo in order to find our true value system. In Embodying Osiris Dr. Cavalli wrote that “the world soul, Anima Mundi, and the transcendent Self envision this light that is trapped within our decaying body, a self-serving ego, and, more generally, the unconscious. From time immemorial there have been taboos to keep one from discovering this divine inner light, for unless we are ready to receive it we will either misuse this sacred light or destroy ourselves” (p. 101). Scorpio has multiple levels of symbols, the scorpion being the lower, the phoenix and the eagle a Scorpio who has moved on to a higher level of consciousness. One key aspect of Scorpio as part of an individuation process ultimately leading to higher levels of consciousness, can at times be exploring cultural taboos and ultimately finding more of one’s true self by the end of the process. In healing work, confronting and becoming aware of the shadow side can often involve experiencing taboos of a culture or testing taboos in different ways- often leading to a lot of shame and guilt and depression, but in the end an awareness of the shadow that can propel one through a spiral process into higher states of awareness and consciousness. In this way, the location of Osiris in your chart could indicate a place where you go into an underworld journey of shame or depression as a result of testing certain cultural taboos that society conditions us to believe makes us a “bad” person, but that in the end through confronting and facing these deep issues we can ultimately regenerate a truer version of ourselves. This is because the “true gold” of our soul journey has been inside us all along.
Isis epitomizes love and loyalty; Seth, antagonism, opposition, and limits; . . . But when it comes to Osiris we encounter a psychological complex far more difficult to comprehend than that of most Egyptian deities. His relationship to life and death cannot be easily assigned certain fixed values. Rather than a state of being, his nature has more to do with the process of becoming (Cavalli, p. 63).
Furthermore, another interesting connection with Saturn, Capricorn, and collective responsibility is that this individuating process is not meant to serve our selfish ego needs, but is an act of opening ourselves to what the universe or Spirit wants from us. Cavalli wrote that if we wish to embody the Osiris archetype, “we must take into account his ‘individuation’ as he matures into a cosmic archetype. What he does is not for self-gain but for the benefit of all. Ultimately, the spirit of the dead arrives in the duat, the fitting place for him to reign as god of the dead and master of unconscious forces” (p.1 75). In this way the Osiris archetype can reflect the Aquarian liberation from Capricorn conditioning to ultimately make a Piscean surrender to having Capricorn responsibility for an inner power that is for the good of all, an inner power that can have a Scorpio knowledge of how to merge and use resources for the greater collective interest.
This is not easy work- the myth of Osiris symbolizes how we can become dismembered and put through death experiences in society, how our psyche can become fragmented through the experience of trauma and harsh societal conditioning. At times it seems like it would take an act of divine intervention from a Goddess like Isis to reanimate our psyche and make us whole again. However, as the alchemical symbolism suggest, we have this spark of golden being inside of ourselves, awaiting our self-activation and actualization.
From the book Embodying Osiris by Dr. Thom Cavalli:
Osiris is a model of submission. He allows all the terrors that befall him to occur, just as the prima materia endures the tortures of the laboratory. such deliberate sacrifice is meant to serve as a model for personal individuation. It justifies all the pain we daily suffer in order to transcend this world and leave it wiser and more enlightened. Submission and trust in this process allow love to enter the vessel. We are then embraced by the Mother and taken into her arms. Her only aim is that we bring something new and unique into the world. The dead ask no less of us. In the Red Book Carl Jung reveals that the dead want us to take up their unresolved burdens. We are left to reassemble our lives by submitting to our ancestral destiny. In this way, individuation is shaped by the Mother (Anima Mundi) and the souls of the departed who want us to bring their purpose to its rightful conclusion. And so, in similar fashion, we die, but our relationships live on for a time equal to the contribution we’ve made while living.
Just as Osiris dies but is not nonexistant, we too live beyond physical death. Having an active relationship with the unconscious, we are not surprised by death nor, as Jung suggests, are we ever alone! We have prepared ourselves for this transition- another point of constriction that we have faced before in so many different ways. With Osiris in the underworld, the unconscious becomes a safe place for death during our lifetime. Here it is a powerful resource and teacher. Death serves to remind us that physical life is limited and that we must enjoy every finite moment before entering a timeless place. This realization casts a special beauty over everything that occurs in life. Darkness enhances life’s treasures; death tinges the light with softness. The melancholy of an Indian flute, the sound of a foghorn in the mist, tears at the cinema- these are subtle pleasures that emanate from the deepest places in our soul. Darkness adds mystery to the soul; it colors the personality. Even sad and depressing events are welcomed because they remind us that life oscillates between joy and sadness; each limits and expands the other. This is the dynamic order of life, what the Egyptians recognized in the rule of Ma’at- the constant rhythms found everywhere in the universe (p. 205-206).
Comments, questions, and correlations about possible meanings for an Osiris archetype are not only welcome, but sought.