Isis and Osiris were in the religion of Ancient Egypt the perfect couple. Despite the murder of Osiris, they could go on, Isis could revive her husband and both could have a boy. But Osiris was replaced by Apis.
Isis and Osiris. Relief from Abydos. XIX Dynasty. Photo: fineartamerica.
In the mortuary iconography of Ancient Egypt the union of Osiris and Isis was constant, as symbol of resurrection. However from the Saite Period, this icon suffered a transformation. Apis, the bull god of Memphis, was asimilated with Osiris, becoming after his death Osiris-Apis. And Apis in sometimes occupied the place of Osiris.
That is the case of the stele dedicated to Apis from the Louvre Museum. It dates from the reign of Psametik I and was found in the Serapeum of Saqqara. The god is identified as Osiris-Apis (that is Serapis) Khentamentiu and, following the traditional icon of Ancient Egypt, behind him stands Isis. She is not identified by any inscription, but by the hieroglyph of her head.
Stele to Apis. Reign of Psametik I. Louvre Museum. Photo: wikimedia
It has some consequences…
In ancient Egypt the dead needed many faculties for restarting his new life in the Hereafter: breathing, seeing, walking…and virility.
Sex was an essential aspect for the resurrection in Ancient Egypt and in the funerary rites some ritual practices were full of sexual symbolism.
Ushabti of Pay and Repit. Lateral view with ba bird. Louvre Museum. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Raven, M. J. The tombs of Pay and Raia at Saqqara. Leiden. 2005, plate 110.
In this line I would like to focus on the ushabti of Pay (from his tomb in Saqqara), dating from the XVIII Dynasty and exposed in the Louvre Museum (N2657).
It is a double-ushabti showing Pay and his wife Repyt both lying on the funerary bed. Man and woman were depicted in the typical posture for mummies in Ancient Egypt: with both arms crosses over the chests. However there is a great difference in the man’s image. He is being accompanied by a ba bird, with arms and face and whose hands touch the Pay’s body.
And this difference could have very deep sexual meaning….