Sometimes it is hard to keep track of time or we just lose track of time. Interesting that the same thing applies to the god of time. We have lost track of him and because of it mythology has been thrown into confusion. If we could track down and harness this time, then things will become clearer and orderly.
So who is the god of time? From Greek sources we get the god of time being Chronos and from this we have the modern words such as chronicle, chronology, and chronic. Chronos means an indeterminable portion of time. He can be depicted with wings and also in the pose of 'Father Time' as a wise old man with a long, grey beard. Also Chronos was imagined as an ethereal god with three heads - a man, a bull and a lion - but serpentine in form. A common alternative name for Chronos was Aeon, eternal time, and this Aeon would be depicted in Greco-Roman mosaics as a man turning a Zodiac Wheel. In this form he was a youthful god.
Confusing this line of mythology is another Greek Titan god named Cronus who also had a connection to time. This Titan overthrew his father Uranus after castrating him and ruled over earth's Golden Age. Cronus was eventually overthrown by his son Zeus and sent to Tartarus. A little side trip to Tartarus now. Tartarus is an abyss below the underworld where the sinners were sent. Keep this point in mind.
From Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2. 24 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"[Khronos and the Titan Kronos are identical in this passage :] By Saturnus [Kronos] again they denoted that being who maintains the course and revolution of the seasons and periods of time, the deity so designated in Greek, for Saturnus’ Greek name is Kronos, which is the same as khronos, a space of time."
So at some point in the classical world there was a conflagration of these two deities with this amalgamation further confusing the concept behind the personification of time. To even further muddy the waters would be the Roman name for the the time god which was in latin Saturnus which we know today as Saturn. Saturnus was an agricultural god that reigned over harvest time. He ruled over the Golden Age and was also connected to the concept of justice. During the time of the winter solstice the Romans would partake in a great seven day festival known as the Saturnalia. More on the Saturnalia later. If that didn't confuse enough we have today the planet Saturn. Saturn was named after the Roman god of time, Saturnus. It is important to remember that the planet Saturn was named after, not because of, the god of time. That concept already existed and was applied to a planet afterwards. You will find numerous well intentioned references in books and on the internet that conflate the mythology of Saturnus with the dim, slow moving planet we call Saturn. You will be told that Saturday was named by the Romans after the planet Saturn - not true - they named it after their god of time, Saturnus. Get this planet out of your head and you can start to make sense of and unravel the whole huge edifice.
Now time to switch gears. As Plutarch tells us, the story of Osiris and Isis in ancient Egypt is a story of the love of these two as they ruled over an age where all was good and pure in the world. They educated man in the use of agriculture and tamed the barbarian so that mankind could enjoy civilization. This 'Golden Age' or as the ancient Egyptians called it: Zep Tepi (The First Time) ended upon the death of Osiris at the hands of his jealous brother Set.
Isis revives Osiris long enough to be impregnated by his seed and from this union she gives birth to Horus. Among other allusions to the dying and resurrected god man Osiris, the ancient Egyptians would see this aspect of Osiris in the the cyclical vegetation cycle where a seed (Osiris) is buried in the earth (Isis) at the end of the previous threshing season and from this is born the fruit in the following growing season. Inside the tomb of Tutankhamen was found seeded dirt or "corn mummies" in the shape of Osiris that would germinate in the darkness to help with Tutankhamen's resurrection.
John Ferguson, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Mysticism and the Mystery Religions
The foregoing survey of the myth and ritual of Osiris may suffice to prove that in one of his aspects the god was a personification of the corn, which may be said to die and come to life again every year. Through all the pomp and glamour with which in later times the priests had invested his worship, the conception of him as the corn-god comes clearly out in the festival of his death and resurrection, which was celebrated in the month of Khoiak and at a later period in the month of Athyr. That festival appears to have been essentially a festival of sowing, which properly fell at the time when the husbandman actually committed the seed to the earth. On that occasion an effigy of the corn-god, moulded of earth and corn, was buried with funeral rites in the ground in order that, dying there, he might come to life again with the new crops. The ceremony was, in fact, a charm to ensure the growth of the corn by sympathetic magic, and we may conjecture that as such it was practised in a simple form by every Egyptian farmer on his fields long before it was adopted and transfigured by the priests in the stately ritual of the temple.
The Golden Bough, Sir James George Frazier, pages 377-378.
From the representations we have of the more public Mysteries, it can be concluded that their fundamental theme is that of the permanence of life, even in face of the death inherent in every creature: there is no ultimate death, but only changes of state throughout an ever-renewing genesis from seed to the fruit which is the new seed. When the king himself cut the sheaves with his golden sickle in the harvest season it represented the death of Osiris. The threshing evokes his dismemberment by Seth, while the sowing is his entombment, and at the same time the posthumous fecundation of Isis (the earth) by Osiris (the grain).
Egyptian Mysteries - New light on ancient knowledge, Lucie Lamy, page 86.
Keep in mind that by 'corn' what is meant in modern day parlance is 'grain'.
A symbol of the latent reconstituted Osiris is the Djed pillar.
Osiris as the Djed pillar speaks of the permanence of the soul. It can be torn asunder, scattered but not destroyed. It is eternal. The fourfold nature of the pillar also symbolizes Osiris' dominion over the four corners of the earth. As we can see, Osiris is an agricultural deity as well as a symbol of permanence all in addition to his celestial role as Orion.
From the book Gods and Men in Egypt we can get a better understanding of Osiris' role as a time god:
But we know otherwise that the theologians made an immense effort to make of Re and Osiris two indissociable aspects of the divine, representing the course of the sun in its diurnal and nocturnal aspects, symbolizing yesterday and tomorrow. Neheh and djet are thus con-substantially associated. This double aspect is summarized with great concision in two complex but extremely evocative signs that were used in the Ptolemaic texts. The sun disk, appearing in the horizon and containing a falcon, an image of the sun god, represents neheh, while a serpent wrapped around a mummy, or better still, around Osiris himself, served to write djet, the prototype of the ouroboros. Time, in its form of neheh and djet, time that cannot be quantified, which is counted indefinitely in millions and millions, nevertheless had a beginning and undoubtedly an end.
Gods and Men in Egypt, by Françoise Dunand and Christiane Zivie-Coche, page 70.
Once again we see the concept of the serpent associated with the time god, this time with Osiris and his role as an eternal god of time.
In the Pyramid Texts, Osiris is described as a time god:
1520a. To say: Osiris dawns, pure, mighty; high, lord of truth
1520b. on the first of the year; lord of the year.
Okay let's start making some connections: from Richard Hinckley Allen's book, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning we get this from his chapter on the constellation of Orion:
Saturnus has been another title, but its connection here I cannot learn, although I hazard the guess that as this divinity was the sun-god of the Phoenicians, his name might naturally be used for Uruanna-Orion, the sun-god of the Akkadians.
Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning (New York: Dover Publications, 1963), page 308.
...Cronos had a Latin counterpart, Saturn, whose name probably came from that of an Etruscan god but is traditionally supposed to come from the verb 'serere', to sow. This folk etymology is worth taking seriously, simply because those who took over the worship of Saturn did so. It then becomes clear that we inherit the notion of time as both reaper and sower, which makes Cronos the god of harvest.
Hamlet's Mill, Santillana and von Dechend, page 332.
Saturnus was so named because the completed act of sowing in latin is "satus". Eusebius of Caesarea, known as the "Father of Church History" has claimed that El, which is used as a name for God in the Old Testament, was also the name for Saturn or the Greek Cronus. This he got from reading Philo of Byblos, a Greek writer who gives an account of this El in a tract called Sanchuniathon. In this account the Phoenician El is the son of the sky and earth, which is the parentage of Egypt's Osiris with the difference here being the sky is male and the earth female. El attacks his father sky with a sickle and castrates him to in order to force the sky and earth to remain apart so life could flourish. To appease his father sky, El offers his only begotten son as a burnt offering and circumcises himself.
Many ancient sources do compare Saturnus to the sun. In Babylonian astrological texts Saturnus is referred to as shamash - the sun. In Chaldean astronomy Saturnus was called alap-shamas - the star of the sun. Phaenon was a word used by the Greeks for Saturnus which means "the shining one". These appellations have confused scholars for years because they have never made the connection of Saturnus to Orion but held to the beliefs it referred to the planet Saturn. Staring them right in the face is the Roman festival called the Saturnalia, a seven day festival for Saturnus that ended with the birth of the new sun at the winter solstice. This false dichotomy spawned many incorrect assumptions that at some point in our ancient past the planet Saturn must have been as bright as the sun. It is strange to me that no one has ever bothered to look into the ancient Egyptian texts that clearly state that Osiris is the nocturnal sun.
The body of Osiris also played an important role in some of the New Kingdom Underworld Books. In the darkest hour of the night, the soul of the sun god Ra reached the cave where the body lay and became one with the soul of Osiris. This allowed Osiris and all the dead to awake and live again.
Egyptian Mythology, Geraldine Pinch, page 179.
A complex and particularly important relationship existed between Osiris and the sun god Re. Although Osiris was incorporated into the Heliopolitan theological system at a relatively early date, the god continued to grow in importance and by New Kingdom times his stature as an independent god was considerable; as is seen in titles which were applied to him such as 'lord of the universe', 'ruler of eternity' and 'king of the gods'. Osiris' position became, in fact, comparable to that of the sun god himself. He came to be regarded not only as the counterpart of Re in the netherworld, but also in some cases as the sun god's own body - so that Osiris and Re came to be considered as representing the body and soul, respectively, of a single great god. The solar cycle was thus imagined as the ba of Re descending into the underworld to unite with Osiris as his own corpse.
The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson, page 120.
As I have mentioned many times before Orion is the constellation that represents Osiris. Richard Hinckley Allen claims Saturnus is an appellation for Orion but he does not know why. If he was still alive I would personally tell him.
Alright now that we have made the connection of Osiris to Cronus to Saturnus to El and by inference Orion I'd like to add in a few more bits of knowledge that will give you pause for thought. The god of time's day is Saturday and it is the seventh day of the week. Here is Cronos as Saturday:
Saturnus always had a snake wrapped around its body seven times and sometimes you see the signs of the zodiac in the spaces between the snakes coils. Orion's belt in antiquity was known as the L or Ell.
Seamen have called it the Golden Yard-arm; tradesmen, the L, or Ell, the Ell and Yard, the Yard-stick, and the Yard-wand…
Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning (New York: Dover Publications, 1963), page 316.
It has been said dead men don't lie but also it seems the stars don't lie either. The ancient semitic Phoenicians called their great god El and we know this was Orion. We find Orion in the bible as Nimrod:
Later on the Jews called Orion Gibbōr, the Giant, considered as Nimrod bound to the sky for rebellion against Jehovah.
Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning (New York: Dover Publications, 1963), page 309.
Next blog will start looking for this time god in unexpected places.