Isis is the Egyptian Mother Goddess who also rules Magic and Sorcery, and is important in the Hermetic tradition. The name Isis is the Greek word for the Egyptian hieroglyphic for “throne.” 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.

The Mythology of Isis

In Egyptian mythology, Isis is the sister and wife of Osiris, god of the underworld. She 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, the Romans, and the Druids.

Isis originally was mortal and skilled in sorcery. She desired to become immortal like the gods and accomplished that by tricking the sun god, Ra, into revealing his secret and sacred 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. Isis offered to relieve the pain if he would tell her his secret name, and he relented.

When Osiris’s treacherous brother, Set, murdered and dismembered him, Isis scoured the land to find the body parts and used her magical skills to reassemble them. She breathed 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 of this union posthumously and in a virgin birth. 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 protected the child against Set until Horus was old enough to fight. In art she was often depicted holding Horus in her arms.

Isis of the Mysteries and Hermetic Wisdom

According to Plutarch, Isis was believed to be the daughter of HERMES, while others said that she was the daughter of Prometheus. Plutarch said that her name meant “wisdom.” She was known as the goddess of 10,000 appellations. In the Egyptian mysteries, Isis represents the female aspect of the Deity to humankind; she is the Universal Mother of all that lives; she symbolizes 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 the Hermetic wisdom, Isis, the Goddess of Women, was educated by Hermes. With him, she invented the writings of all nations, caused men to love women, invented sailing, gave humankind its laws, ended cannibalism, made justice more powerful than gold or silver, instructed humankind 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 secret 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 an as 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.

The Bembine Table of Isis
The Bembine Table of Isis

Isis as Goddess of Magic and Healing

Isis possesses such powerful magic that even Anubis, god of death, is subject to her whims. People have prayed to her on behalf of the sick and dying. She is goddess of healing and childbirth. At night, she visits the sick, brushing them gently with her wings as she intones magical Incantations to heal them.



The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.