Skin Deep

Osiris, Egyptian metal band logo. Founded in 1996 and revived in 2014. Lead by Ali Shinshi.

Dr. James Allan Douglas (artist, doctor, mentor, friend) sends me an email on September 11th, 2019 around this hour and I happen to come across it fourteen weeks later, as I happen to search for my last correspondence with him and, instead, find an email I had never opened. 

With his opening paragraph, he had attached a word document entitled “Instinctual Skin” about a new project he is working on and wanted to share. I read through the first 3 pages of ten, and got lost until he started to revise the ancient story of Osiris, Isis, Horus, Set, Nephtys and possibly Anubis. James did mention in his prelude that none of the first part will make sense until the second part is read. 

When I was 10, I had learned the story of Osiris. The great story of Osiris. He was the god of life, existence and fertility, the son of the sky and earth who was abhorred by his jealous brother Set, the god of chaos. Long story short, due to the hatred and jealousy Set had towards his own kin, who was; beautiful, successful and empowered by his purity and emblem of fertility, endurance, livelihood and existence, created law and order in the universe – Set had attempted a couple of times to get rid of him, first by suffocating him in a coffin that is dropped off in the Nile, and then eventually ending up with a quick cut up of Osiris into fourteen pieces and dispersing his body parts to the four corners of Egypt (metaphorically, the earth). As Isis (both Osiris’ sister and wife) tried to put him back together, she was also missing the most important part, his penis – making it impossible to revive Osiris, hence bestowing him into becoming the god of the afterlife. 

During this time, Set’s son, the half-man, half-jackal, Anubis (blue and black toned) was the protector of the underworld and an embalmer. By also being the child of Set and Nephtys, he had gotten demoted by Osiris when he became the god of the afterlife, and since getting killed twice won’t stop him, he went ahead and ruled the underworld to protect the divine kings in their non-physical continuance. So Anubis, here, the son of Set, was condemned to now serve Set’s brother of whom Set had killed in order to rule the physical world.  Notice, Osiris’ depictions have always been of a pale green and black undertone (suffocated by the river that was also an emblem to his birth) and since his body parts were thrown to all four corners of Egypt, to keep out of human reach, there is an unusual underlay between human existence and divine existence. Humanity mainly existed along the Nile (and still somewhat does). The oases dispersed throughout parts of the desert, only hosts parts of humanity, but not its entirety, making Egypt a symbol of Osiris’ body: the birth, life and existence, the flood, death, the afterlife and whatever else remains untold – hence the unknown continuance to non-existence. 

Set was mainly known as a crocodile for his sneak-like qualities, ability to slide into a river and then transform into a snake when motioning through the deserts (that’s my adaptation which also means I can be wrong, but I also like my take on Set). What is underwater, can also survive on land. He was represented by hypocrisy, deceit, and yes, absolute chaos. Chaos causes fear which causes control. To rule with evil is to rule with entirety. To lie, defy, deceive, only creates distrust and results in a dishonest empowerment. An anti-truth of empowerment causing those who follow to divide by; following blindly, questioning but remain in fear, or by becoming part of the resistance. 

Now, Horus. He was the savior and protector of the Kings. The only divinity that could help protect the righteous leaders of their world and allow them to conquer it well. Son of Isis and Osiris who was conceived via self-impregntation since his mom couldn’t find Osiris’ one bit, she had to improvise using a miracle in order to continue greatness and save humanity. Ramses’ lineage was known to acknowledge Horus, so was Khefre (the second of the three Kings of the Giza pyramids). They hold the two most known statuesque depictions showing Horus protecting their great kingship during the Middle and New Kingdoms. He embraces them both physically and in his manifestation as a falcon, standing strong and tall even at a distance. He oversees, knows it all and protects that divine being on earth, the king. 

Khafre Enthroned is a funerary statue of the Pharaoh Khafre, who reigned during the Fourth dynasty of ancient Egypt (c. 2570 BC). It is now located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Full frontal of the divine King, Horus is not seen. But come to the side, Horus appears protecting the King.
Khafre Enthroned from the side.

Akhnaten was the first king to possibly announce monotheism, since the time of Abraham. He was also assassinated somewhat with his family for defying the paganist culture and they tried to harm his statues and depictions for being too unshielded from the truth. Controlling society and being honest apparently don’t mix well for the controlling leaders. Whilst the ones who don’t seek out control unless with honesty, only begs the question; Can you control a people with truth? 

Akhnaten had  himself depicted as a tall, modest, skinny, Nubian king with an odd-looking egg-shaped head (no, not an alien), openly telling the stories of his children and his wife, the great Nefertiti of whose son was the great Tutankhamun, who mysteriously “died” at the age of 17 with a big hit on the head (a mace, maybe since that was a common blunt weapon since the time of Narmer). Akhnaten did not show muscularly proportionate godly-king-empowered-by-both-universes qualities; He showed the earthly and had become the humane behind his kingship, his truth was empowered by a religious revolution that defied the culture’s entire existence and resulted in its resistance by obliteration. 

Keeping all that in mind, let’s come back and take a quick look at Isis and her son, Horus. Look at their depictions, mother and child and then look at the depictions of Jesus and Mother Mary. Set that aside and go further back and look at Remus and Romulus where Isis did in fact overlap with the Greco-Roman culture in order to bring her brother/husband back from the Nile before he was chopped up and divided from her again. Showing the mothering nature of Isis, then Set’s desire to murder his own brother for the sake of power by destruction and then again, the depiction of motherhood, sacrifice, and Isis’ self-impregnation; it was the only way she could’ve constituted a continuance to Osiris’ legacy; the son of the earth and sky, an eternal king of love, endurance and resurrection. 

Isis nursing Horus, seventh century BCE.

Now, let’s quickly fast forward to the time of Moses, New Kingdom era that took place during Ramses II. We’re talking new kingdom, where the messenger of god is called upon to free his people from the power of a king who believes he is divine, and has enslaved a monotheistic culture who exist under the Yhwh culture – the thought of he who creates shall exist and later became known as Judaism – in other words, the chosen ones from the land of Israel who manifest all that is holy from the one creator. So far, we have a lot of action pulling from multiple directions as we dissect the understanding of how Osiris fits into this story, how Isis and Horus are emblematic examples to divine interventions that are also repeated with the depictions of the Madonna and Child a few thousand years later, and also intervened by the son of the tribe of Levi, who shows up in the new kingdom with the 10 commandments and identifies his tribe as the people of the book. 

We got this far and with the many elements overlapping, we are getting fed into the understanding of how our story tellers from the good old days chose to articulate some very complicated details pictorially, recitative and written. 

On a final note, since we have decay, resurrections, commandments, a singular belief in a god, incest, self-impregnations and miracles, I was curious to find out about the symbolism of the lamb or ram animal in the Egyptian culture, since it’s a sacrificial animal to the Jewish culture, however a godly animal to the Egyptians (which explains the latter’s irritation from the Yhwh culture for wanting to sacrifice their god). The ram/lamb re-arises as a symbol of obedience and endurance towards Christianity and here I am referring to Jan van Eyck’s 1432 Ghent altarpiece Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.  Then the ram continues to be ‘en mode’ as a sacrificial animal in Islamic cultures since it also represents Abrahams’ readiness to sacrifice Isaac hence back to referencing the original Yhwh culture(s) and the people of the book. Full circle. 

Now, we really just got looped back in with the conclusion that as a people; we’re all the same. A book – all the sacred texts are pretty much pumped with the same message that acts as a reminder to practice law and order, give and don’t take, evil isn’t cool, and human culture is very good at memory loss since we like to make things up and always try to get away with bad behavior. An education – invest in a universal understanding of human culture with an attempt to understand our universal purpose by learning the truth, right from wrong, good from bad, etc. Not to fret on the little things and get the bigger picture by becoming more aware. A universe – operate from an energy structure by being most current, most honest, most connected, seeking clarity and oneness with the universe by using good intentions and not get defeated by ill-intentions, and more importantly carrying the ability to read those who are well intended from those who just aren’t. A ram/lamb – symbolically representing endurance, follows orders due to it’s obedience, but we also recommend some haphazard resistance every now and then since as a follower or order, you can also come across some questionable or immoral demands and shouldn’t always comply with other people’s greed. Be wise, don’t plagiarize.

At this stage, it’s important to acknowledge the head banner of this article entitled “Osiris”. It is the official logo of the first heavy metal band in Egypt called Osiris that was created back in the mid-1990s by my ex-husband Ali Shinshi. He designed the shape and I had enforced it as an emblem to the cultural heritage by first re-creating his design in lapis lazuli and then engulfing it in gold. Ali is of Japanese-Egyptian descent and I felt it very important to acknowledge the band leader since he played an essential part in my own truth and journey. 

Scratching the surface like an urticaria – good night, James.

William Flinders Petrie, The Religion of Ancient Egypt, Edwards Professor of Egyptology, University College, London (1906). 

Helen Rosenau, “The Prototype of the Virgin and Child in the Book of Kells,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 83, No. 486 (Sep., 1943), pp. 228-231. 

The Editors of Encyclopaedia of Britannica, “Yahweh,” Encyclopaedia of Britannica, Inc. (Sep., 24, 2018).  

All visual references and further reading: Wikipedia. 

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