Isis The ancient Egyptian mother Goddess, the prototype of the faithful wife and fertile, protective mother. Isis is associated with Sirius, the dog star, the rising of which signals the vernal equinox. Her symbol is the moon. She is often shown crowned with a lunar orb nestled between the horns of a bull or ram. The worship of Isis was adopted by the Greeks and romans.
The name Isis is the Greek word for the Egyptian hieroglyphic for “throne.” She was the sister and wife of the god Osiris. A mortal magician, Isis acquired immortality by tricking the sun god, ra, into revealing his secret name. She obtained some of his Spittle, made a snake from it and left the snake in his path. ra was bitten and in great agony. She offered to relieve the pain if he would tell her his secret name, and he relented.
When Osiris’ treacherous brother, Set (Seth), murdered and dismembered him, Isis scoured the land to find the body parts and used her Magic to put them together and breathe life into the body so that she and Osiris could be together one last time before he left to rule the underworld. A son, Horus, was born posthumously and in a virgin birth, and Isis protected the child against Set until Horus was old enough to fight. In art, she was often depicted holding Horus in her arms. After the child was born, Set returned and cut the body of Osiris into 14 pieces, which he scattered along the Nile. Once again, Isis went in search of them, but this time she buried each piece where she found it, so that it would fertilize the land.
Isis of the mysteries and Hermetic wisdom.
According to Plutarch, numerous ancient writers believed Isis to be the daughter of Hermes, while others said she was the daughter of Prometheus. Plutarch said her name meant “wisdom.” She was known as the goddess of 10,000 appellations. In the Egyptian mysteries, Isis represented the female aspect of the Deity to mankind; she was the Universal mother of all that lives; wisdom, truth and power. Statues of her were decorated with stars, the moon and the Sun. Her girdle was joined together with four golden plates which signify the four elements of nature. Her priests were adept at controlling and using the Unseen Forces.
According to Hermetic wisdom, Isis, the Goddess of Women, was schooled by Hermes. With him, she invented the writings of all nations, caused men to love women, invented sailing, gave mankind its laws, ended cannibalism, made justice more powerful than gold or silver, instructed mankind in the mysteries and caused truth to be considered beautiful. An inscription at her temple at Sais read: “I am that which is, which hath been, and which shall be; and no man has ever lifted the veil that hides my Divinity from mortal eyes.” The Isis of the mysteries is completely veiled by a scarlet cloth. To initiates who learn her mysteries, she lifts her veil, and they are to remain forever silent about what they have seen.
The Bembine Table of Isis.
In 1527, after the sacking of rome, a bronze tablet measuring 50 by 30 inches and decorated with Silver and enamel inlay came into the possession of a locksmith or ironworker, who sold it to Cardinal Bembo of Italy. The Bembine Table of Isis, or Isaic Table, is covered with hieroglyphics and inscriptions concerning mystical knowledge and an occult system of sacrifices, rites and ceremonies. It apparently was once used as an altar, perhaps in the chambers where the mysteries of Isis were revealed to initiates. Eliphas Levi believed the tablet was a key to the Book of Thoth, or the Tarot. The tablet is in the museum of Antiquities at Turin.
Isis as goddess of magic and healing.
Isis possessed powerful magic that made even Anubis, god of death, subject to her whims. Therefore, people prayed to her on behalf of the sick and dying. She was goddess of healing and childbirth. At night, she visited the sick, brushing them gently with her wings as she said magical incantations to heal them. Isis is identified as the Virgin in the constellation Virgo. In Christianity, she has been absorbed by the Virgin Mary. Her image is used in association with magical arts, the occult, thaumaturgy and sorcery.
See also : Hermetica.
The Great Lady; Queen of the Earth; Light Giver of Heaven; Mistress of Magic; The Many Named; Queen of the Throne; She Who Is Rich in Spells;Great of Sorcery; Redemptress; Star of the Sea; The One Who is All; Mother of Gods
Also known as: Au Set
Isis may be the most venerated goddess on Earth. Venerated in Egypt for thousands of years, her worship eventually spread from East Africa throughout Western Asia and Europe as far as England’s Thames River.
Isis is so multifaceted that the Greeks identified her with Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter, and Persephone. The myth of Isis and Osiris, her beloved twin brother/soul mate, is among the most beloved of all romantic tragedies. Isis is the lady of many names and many forms. She is the beautiful young, privileged princess and the grieving, poverty-stricken widow dressed in rags. She is the greatest sorceress on Earth, in possession of the Ineffable Name, the most powerful word in creation and the poverty-stricken single mother in hiding, forced to beg to feed herself and her son. Isis may be the unnamed narrator of the Gnostic poem, “Thunder, Perfect Mind.”
Isis is the most compassionate of deities because she has lived the life of an oppressed woman, and she is the most powerful, because as Mistress of Magic, she knows all and can do all. Isis can resurrect the dead and can bestow the gift of fertility. She heals the ailing and protects travelers at sea. There is no miracle that she cannot perform.
Isis was a relatively late goddess to appear in Egypt, first emerging in the Nile Delta but rapidly became one of the most beloved. Like Hathor, with whom she was identified, Isis is a cow-goddess. Her devotees traditionally refrain from consuming beef.
Veneration of Isis was officially introduced to Rome in 86 BCE, where she became extremely popular because, unlike other religions, her cult was open to all, including women and slaves. Her spiritual tradition developed a bad reputation in conservative Rome, because of its alleged licentiousness, and was legally suppressed at least five times between 59 and 48 BCE.
Even after abolition of Paganism, veneration of Isis was extremely persistent. Her last official temple on the southern Egyptian island of Philae survived until 537 CE, when Narses, Commander of Emperor Justinian’s Egyptian troops, ordered it shut. Votive statues of Isis, Osiris, and Min were confiscated and sent to Constantinople. Temple clergy was imprisoned. The walls of the shrine, previously adorned with images, were whitewashed, and the temple was converted to a Christian church.
Although Isis is mainly identified with ancient Egypt, the Romans carried her veneration throughout Europe. She became extremely popular in Gaul and was for a substantial period the preeminent goddess of Paris. Paris was considered her city as Lyon belonged to Kybele. Isis was among the last Pagan deities to be actively venerated, and she was perceived as a primary competitor by early Christians.
In Lucius Apuleius’ second-century CE Roman novel, The Golden Ass, Isis tells the narrator that only Egyptians and Ethiopians call her by her true name, but that she has countless names to which she answers. This may have been a tacit way of giving devotees permission to venerate her in other forms and under other names. Many believe that Isis assumed the mask of Mary, Mother of Christ. The earliest Christian statues of Mary were refurbished, renamed statues of Isis. Much Marian iconography is based on that of Isis. Many of Isis’ titles were bestowed on Mary as for instance Stella Maris; Theotokos, and Mother of God. Statues of Isis also traveled the Silk Road and may eventually have evolved into Kwan Yin.
Favored people: Theoretically everyone, but especially women, single mothers, orphans, occultists, and mariners
Manifestation: Isis is an incredible magician and can take any form she chooses. She may manifest as a cow, kite, or swallow. She may appear as a beautiful queen, a pregnant woman, or a woman absolutely devastated by despair and grief.
Iconography: Isis is portrayed in many forms:
• Traditional images of Isis are the prototype for the modern Madonna and child. A woman, frequently carved from black stone, which in Egyptian cosmology represents eternal life, holds a nursing baby to her breast.
• She wears a crown topped by a throne (the meaning of her name) or a crown of horns cradling the full moon.
• The Louvre Museum in Paris possesses a rare terra-cotta image of beautiful Isis weeping for her true love, Osiris.
Spirit allies: Isis is frequently accompanied by an entourage of spirits, including Anubis, Nephthys, Heket, Min, Bes, Khnum, Selket, and the Scorpion Guardians; she is a friendly, gregarious spirit and will share her altar.
Emblem: The tyet amulet, also known as the Buckle of Isis or Blood of Isis is a protective amulet usually formed from cornelian or red glass and representing the goddess’ menstrual blood-soaked sanitary pad.
Colors: Black, blue
Botanicals: Vervain, myrrh tree, sycomore fig
Sacred creatures: Snakes, cows, crocodiles, scorpions, kites (a type of raptor), swallow
Star: An Egyptian name for the star Sirius (in Egyptian Sothis) is “Soul of Isis.” (Sirius’ first appearance in the night sky signaled the annual Nile Flood.)
Sacred site: There is a theory that the name Paris derives from Par-Isis, meaning the barque or grove of Isis. In Roman times, Isis had a temple at the western limits of the city, the marshes on the Left Bank of the Seine. The churches of Saint Sulpice and Saint Germain-des-Prés are built over sites once dedicated to Isis.
Offerings: Traditionally Isis accepts offerings of milk, honey, flowers, incense, and candles.
See also: Anubis; Aphrodite; Black Madonna; Demeter; Harpokrates; Hathor; Heket; Horus; Io; Kwan Yin; Min; Neith; Nephthys; Osiris; Persephone; Serapis; Stella Maris; Zar
From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.