Alphonse Constant, aka Eliphas Levi, gave a precise description of the « mysteries of Eleusis », of which this is the final scene:
« When the initiate had triumphed through all the trials, when he had seen and touched the holy things, if he was judged strong enough to bear the last and most terrible of all the secrets, a veiled priest came running towards him, and threw this enigmatic word into his ear: ‘Osiris is a black God’. Words darker and brighter than jet! »
André Breton, in his book Arcane 17, quotes these same words, ‘Osiris is a black God’, which he describes as a « magic formula » that « works ».
« So, every time an association of ideas treacherously brings you back to that point where, for you, all hope one day has been denied and, from the highest point you then hold, threatens, soaring in search of the wing, to rush you back into the abyss, testing myself the vanity of every word of consolation and holding any attempt at diversion as unworthy, have I convinced myself that only a magic formula here could work, but what formula could condense in it and instantly restore to you all the strength to live, to live with all the intensity possible, when I know that it had returned to you so slowly? The one I decide to stick to, the only one by which I find it acceptable to remind you to me when you suddenly lean towards the other side, is in those words of which, when you start turning your head away, I just want to touch your ear: « Osiris is a black God ». »
What is actually behind the name of this « magic », and whose help Breton invokes?
What do these words really mean: « Osiris is a black God »?
Anubis, funerary god, reigning over the necropolises, one of Egypt’s oldest deities, dates back to the pre-dynastic period, more than 5500 years ago. Anubis is usually represented as a large black canid. Is it a wolf? A jackal? A wild dog?
Being a hybrid, it has the ears of a fox, the tail and head of a jackal, and the silhouette of a greyhound.
Anubis is the adulterous son of Osiris, according to the version of the myth transmitted by Plutarch in his Isis and Osiris.
« Osiris rose again as king and judge of the dead. He bears the title of Lord of the Underworld, Lord of Eternity, Sovereign of the Dead. »
In some manuscripts Osiris is also represented with a black face.
It can be noted that the cruel death of Osiris murdered by his brother Seth, the dismemberment of his body and his resurrection are irresistibly reminiscent of an analogy, at least in form, between the faith of the ancient Egyptians and the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection in Christianity.
But why a « Black God »?
I propose the following down-to-earth explanation.
The flooding of the Nile (in its part called the « white » Nile) brought a black silt each year, allowing to cultivate its banks.
In those days, this phenomenon remained mysterious and unexplained for a long time.
It is from this black silt that Egypt’s ancient name, Kemet, comes from, which means « the black land », that is, the « arable land ».
Osiris is a « Black God » because he brings life, every year, covering land with black silt.
The three colours of the Egyptian flag, black, white and red, still bear witness to this mythical belief long after. These three colours are a reference, respectively, to Osiris, Isis and Set, Osiris being the black God, Isis the white goddess, and Set, bound to the desert, being symbolized by red.
Black is the colour of life, of eternal life.