Bob Dylan And Osiris

by Larry Fyffe

While the moon sometimes appears in the daytime sky, oddly enough the sun never appears in the sky at night.

According to the Old Testament, hidden baby Moses is found, and looked after by an Egyptian princess.

She’s a follower of Isis, the motherly Goddess of the Moon who restores Osiris, cut up by their jealous brother Set, and he puts Osiris in a coffin ; before Osiris goes off to the Underworld, Isis is able to restore him long enough to get pregnant with a son; names him Horus.

Thus, order is restored to the Cosmos – a story, told in the “Book Of The Dead”  (reminds a bit of the Roman/Greek mythology concerning Apollo, the Sun God, and his sister Artemis, the Moon Goddess):

And when she saw the ark among the flags, 
              she sent her maid to fetch it
And when she had opened it, she saw the child
And, behold, the babe wept
And she had compassion on him, and said
"This is one of the Hebrews' children"
(Exodus 2: 5,6)

Moses eventually  leads the Hebrews out of Egypt into the desert in search of the Promised Land as commanded to do so by their vengeful and jealous God who punishes Moses for taking credit for their survival; Moses dies in view of the Jordan River.

As he often does, singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan mixes mythological matters up; in the song lyrics beneath, it could be said the narrator takes on the persona of Osiris, the partially mummified God of the Dead. Take note that Osiris is also a symbol of renewal:

Hello, Mary Lou
Hello, Miss Pearl
My fleet-footed guides from the Underworld
No stars in the sky shine brighter than you
You girls mean business, and I do too
(Bob Dylan: False Prophet)

Bob Dylan’s works as whole tend to be interconnected. In the song lyrics below, it might even be construed that the narrator, in a very re-arranged mythology, takes on the persona of Set, who does away with Osiris; Set wants the beautiful Isis for himself:

I picked up his body, and dragged him inside
Threw him down in the hole, and put back the cover
I said a quick prayer, and I felt satisfied
Then I rode back to find Isis to tell her that I love her
(Bob Dylan: Isis ~ Dylan/Levy)

In the following song lyrics it seems that the narrator is once again either Set or Osiris, perhaps a mix of both:

Oh, sister, when I come to knock on your door
Don't turn away, you'll create sorrow
Time is an ocean, but it ends at the shore
You may not see me tomorrow
(Bob Dylan: Oh Sister ~ Dylan/Levy)


One thing’s for sure, all these verses are about the renewal of art forms – good artists are all versions of the mythological Osiris:

Music bid thy minstrels play
No tunes of grief or sorrow
Let them cheer the living brave today
They may wail the dead tomorrow

(Fitz-Greene Hallack: Young America)

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  1. There may be yet another connection to Bob Dylan’s use of Egyptian mythology…in Mozart’s last major opera, The Magic Flute, the temple of Sarastro was that of Isis and Osiris. Dylan hints at a Mozart connection in other songs of his as well, in particular Murder Most Foul, where he calls out to “Wolf-man Jack”…another song, “Black Rider” also has a Mozart connection.

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