Four divine siblings are born together into the land of Egypt one after the other, on special days that did not exist before their birth.
•Osiris (known in Egypt as Ousir)– the spirit of vegetation and the river Nile, which rises and falls each year.
•Set (known in Egypt as Suti, or Seth) – the desert spirit; wild, chaotic and sometimes destructive.
•Isis (known in Egypt as Auset) – the spirit of the deltas, lush and rich and bearing the throne of the land.
•Nephthys (known in Egypt as Nebthet) – spirit of in-between places, meeting the edges of desert and fertile land
Isis and Osiris have Governance over the fertile lands in Egypt and they teach the arts of cultivation and civilisation. Set represents the ancient tribal ways of the desert, which cannot be controlled or even understood by those who belong to the city-states. Nephthys is close to each one; true sister to Isis, partner to Set and secret lover of Osiris; she is the mediator and mysterious force that strives for union.
One night at a special feast Set produces a jewel-encrusted sarcophagus which he offers as a prize to whomever it fits the best. When Osiris lies down in tomb – which has been built to his exact measure – Set immediately closes and bolts the lid. He ensures the coffin is carried to the Nile and thrown in.
Isis eventually discovers and retrieves the sarcophagus. But before she can complete her magic to bring Osiris back to life Set intervenes, dismembering the body into fourteen pieces. Isis retrieves all the pieces but one – the phallus of Osiris, which has been eaten by an oxrhynchus fish. By magical rites, and with the help of Nephthys and Anubis and Thoth (deities linked with the Underworld), Osiris briefly returns to life and he and Isis conceive Horus.
Osiris then passes onto the Land of the Dead, becoming the keeper of the rituals and mysteries of death and embalmment. Later, his death and rebirth were mimed by priests and priestesses on his feast days.
Nephthys and Isis conceal themselves in the reed beds beside the Nile until Horus is born. Horus is both a re-embodiment of Osiris and the fifth deity that completes their pantheon; as well as also a powerful symbol of the future.