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Whitehead, C. (1986). The Horus-Osiris Cycle: A Psychoanalytic Investigation. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 13:77-87.

(1986). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 13:77-87

The Horus-Osiris Cycle: A Psychoanalytic Investigation

Clay Whitehead


The little known myth of Horus and Osiris is examined. This myth sustained the rule of the Pharaoh for 3, 000 years and inspired construction of the great pyramids of Egypt. It is the story of a sibling murder which is followed with vengeance by the victim's son.

The study employs a multilevel analysis but focuses on psychodynamic meanings. The myth is shown to represent problems of sibling rivalry, intergenerational reciprocity, and mutually affirmative interdependence. The story can also be interpreted as the first psychiatric case report and therapeutic interaction in history.

The Egyptian story illustrates the dynamics of separation and individuation and contrasts with the famous oedipal myth. It is proposed that the Horus Cycle may serve as a useful complement to the Greek story to create a more normative and non-pathologically focused characterization of the father–son relationship. Thus, it seems possible that this 5, 000 year old mythopoetic creation may be useful in our continuing struggle to understand mankind's efforts at conflict management in an increasingly fragile world.

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