Egyptian stories have been highlighted in all three Mythstories museum sites, but in very different ways. When Mythstories museum opened in Carnarvon Lane, Shrewsbury the Ancient Myths Gallery featured a wall mural of Goddess Isis flanked by Gods Osiris and Horus.
Alongside this was displayed the written synopsis of their story and a photo-story of the tale made in a 1992 project by Mythstories’ artist in residence Dez Quarréll working with primary school children from St Leonard’s Primary School, Bilston.
The story had been in Dez’s repertoire since the late 1980’s and was used to create a number of different arts in education workshops. One particular project delivered at Westcroft Special School for The Learning Through Landscapes Trust had students making a model of Osiris and cutting it into 14 pieces and hiding them around the school grounds. Then there was a race to find and gather the pieces between a student dressed as Isis and five students roped together playing the part of the ten-legged hungry crab who consumed the 14th piece in the story.
For the written two part story click the accordion items below…
Part One: Osiris is Tricked
In the days before men had learnt to rule themselves it fell upon the gods to dwell on earth to command the kingdoms of humanity. The fourth Pharaoh of Egypt, Osiris was such a god. Indeed, he was the great grandson of Ra, the Creator.
Osiris was both good and wise, the very model for every mother’s son. This most blessed of times was graced also with the perfect queen. For, as was the custom, Osiris had taken his sister, the goddess Isis, to be his consort.
Osiris and Isis ruled over Egypt wisely and well for many years leading the people from the paths of evil. Osiris taught his people to farm the land, how to make bread and wine. While Isis told her people how to cure many diseases and ills with powerful herbs, how to weave cloth for clothes and many other skills.
Their life together was happy and contented. They were well loved by their people who rejoiced at the birth of their son, Horus, the sun god.
Osiris was not yet content with his deeds. Egypt was civilised but beyond its boundaries people still lived as little more than animals. It was his challenge to go beyond his kingdom to free all people from the slavery of their primitive existence. He bid farewell to Isis and left her to rule over Egypt while he was gone.
Trouble was brewing in Egypt. Osiris had an evil brother, Set, who desired all that Osiris owned. Set was hungry for power and wealth; he hated his brother’s goodness and piety. He began to plot and scheme the demise of Osiris.
Set’s task could not be rushed, for Isis kept a close control over the kingdom and was every vigilant. Soon, though, Set came upon a clever plan. He gathered around him seventy-two fat men who together formed themselves into an admiration society to heap false praises onto Osiris.
Osiris was so trusting he suspected nothing and, on his return, he happily accepted the society’s invitation to a feast in his name.
All was well and everyone drank and ate in plenty until Set came forth with an amusing challenge for all at the feast. Set showed the assembled diners a marvelous box encrusted with jewels and made out of many precious metals. He offered it as a reward to anyone present who could fit inside it. The chest was far too small for all the fat men to squeeze their bulk inside, all tried and all failed. Osiris laughed to see their attempts and became more and more interested in the challenge until, finally, he stepped forward to try his chances. Osiris was tall and strong, but by no means fat. After a short struggle he managed to get into the chest. His delight was quickly turned to anger and confusion when Set rushed forward and slammed the box shut and Set’s fat friends chained and bolted this coffin around Osiris’ body.
Part two: Isis comes to the Rescue
The coffin was taken up onto the shoulders of the wicked group who took it to the River Nile and threw it into that great river’s waters.
Osiris, in his box, floated for many days as the Nile went to join the sea. Aimlessly adrift on the ocean the chest was finally caught by a current and washed up upon a lonely island shore. It came to rest against a tamarisk tree whose bark grew to enclose the box.
Many years passed until one day a king came hunting for materials to build a palace for himself. When he saw the tree of great beauty he decided that it must form the central pillar of his throne room. He cut down the tree and took it away with him.
When the palace was complete all marvelled at its grandeur, but above all news spread of the miraculous scent emitted by the tamarisk tree at its very centre.
Soon Isis, in the misery of mourning for her lost husband heard of this godly tree and immediately knew that this was Osiris calling to her. She went and recovered Osiris’ body to return it for proper burial to the now sad land of Egypt where Set had begun to wield his evil rule.
Before the noble queen could complete the ceremonies Set stole in by night and took Osiris’ body from the coffin. He cut the body into fourteen pieces and secreted them in all the far places of his kingdom.
Isis was thunderstruck but did not give up on her quest to save her husband. She travelled far and wide to recover the elements of Osiris’ body. Eventually after a long and tiring search she found all but one, which had been consumed by a hungry crab.
Calling upon all her knowledge of herbs she took special medicaments and perfumed oils and needle and thread and, with a little aid from her godly magic, embalmed Osiris’ body.
Osiris awoke and took his wife into his arms, together again after so many years. Thus, tired of their earthly existence, Osiris and Isis left the mortal world and went to rule over the kingdom of the dead.
Their son Horus bid them farewell and went to avenge their death, and after many a cruel battle succeeded in ridding the world of the evil Set.
At The Morgan Library in Wem, Mythstories museum centred the Egyptian exhibits around the beautiful Ushabti Doll Dress made by fashion student Jo Bloodworth. After the dress had been modelled in the finale of student fashion week Jo loaned it to the museum together with her process diary on the making of the dress. The design was inspired by the Egyptian collection at Nottingham Museum.
Jo had been fascinated by the tiny Ushabti dolls which had been encased in the Pyramids to serve the Pharaohs (both male and female) in the afterlife. Jo decided to make a death dress for a female Pharaoh and secrete Ushabti dolls into pleated pockets inside the dress. The dress and workbook have now been returned to Jo.
At University Centre Shrewsbury Mythstories’ Egyptian exhibit was centred around an Applique Cloth depicting Horus, the falcon-headed son of Isis and Osiris. The cloth was acquired by storyteller, Helen East on a trip to Egypt and was loaned to the museum from 2003 until its return to Helen in 2022.