Behold the Goddess Isis
Historically, Isis is well known as an Ancient Egyptian deity. She is the wife of Osirus, the most beloved God in Egyptian mythology, and the mother of Horus, the Sun Child. In Egyptian mythology She was the strong Woman behind two of the most well known deities of the Egyptian pantheon. Isis was thought to originate from the Delta region of Egypt in an area that was better known in the ancient world as “Lower Egypt”. It is my theory that her worship spread throughout Egypt after the first unification of Egypt in 2950 B.C.E. when Narmer conquered Lower Egypt and merged it with his existing sovereignty in Upper Egypt.
Anyone familiar with Egyptian history knows how politically fragile the nation was. Without a strong central government, Egypt typically splintered back into Lower and Upper Egypt. Rulers since Narmer experienced the social and political pressure to keep Egypt unified – especially during times of great distress. Evidence of the emphasis of keeping Egypt united can be seen in their art and written texts. In ancient texts, the rulers were referred to as the “King of Upper and Lower Egypt”, and figures of the King on Temple reliefs or statues show him often show him wearing the Crown of Upper Egypt and the Crown of Lower Egypt. The emphasis of a united Egypt is even seen in their iconography as the Lotus flower of Upper Egypt is joined with the Papyrus reed of Lower Egypt.
What has been observed, as a common pattern in Egyptian history, is that when the country was divided, a ruler from Upper Egypt reunited it once more. As stated earlier, the first King to unify the nation was Narmer, who bore the crown of Upper Egypt in his famous “Narmer Palette” that depicts him in battle defeating his enemies (see below picture).
His successful conquest of Lower Egypt not only united the nation, but began Dynasty I and an era that is known today as the “Early Kingdom.” In the picture, one can see what the Crown of Upper Egypt looked like – the crown was very similar to the crown worn by Osirus in many of his depictions.
Throughout history, it has been evidenced that when a nation conquers another country, it tends to demonize the beliefs of the conquered peoples. The very first example can be found in the remains of Sumeria, the first human civilization on the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The Goddess Erishkigal was the Sumerian Goddess of the Underworld. The innermost part of her Underworld, where she resided, was only reached through seven gates. When neighboring Akkadia rose to power and subsequently conquered the Sumerians, Erishkigal was vilified as a demon. The seven gates to the center of Erishkigal’s domain was later known as the “Seven Gates of Hell.” In recent times, we see outsiders of the Christian faith in Medieval Europe persecuted for their beliefs in famous witch hunts that saw 9 million people dead and their Pagan religions either forced underground, merged into Christianity or completely demonized.
In Ancient Egypt, after reunification under the rule of a King from Upper Egypt, I believe a popular male deity from Lower Egypt by the name of Set (Seti) was also demonized. In Egyptian myth, Set became Osirus’ jealous brother who killed and dismembered Osirus for the throne of Egypt. Set later became known as the God of Chaos in the Egyptian Pantheon. He would be viewed as Satan in modern Christian beliefs. The stem word “Set” was however still very popular in the Delta, even around 1291 B.C.E., when Seti I, the father of Ramesses, began the 19th dynasty. During his reign, Seti saw his legitimacy to the throne questioned because of his name. To assuage fears throughout the rest of the country, he built the great Temple of Osirus at the location of Abydos. The construction of the Temple was a strong political statement to show his allegiance to the Beloved God Osirus. What is rather interesting however is that Isis’ Egyptian name, “Au Set” (or Iset), includes the stem word “Set” (“Isis” in actuality is a Greek variation of her Egyptian name). As stated earlier, she was originally from the Delta area of Egypt. It is my theory that to keep Egypt united, the God of Upper Egypt married the Goddess of Lower Egypt. The myth, although religious, had strong social and political ramifications for a shaky nation.
It is a common belief throughout the Pagan community that all the myths in the World are not meant to be historically accurate. Rather, they are meant to convey a deeper meaning and inspire us to understand the nature of the Divine.
Isis would later go on to be very popular throughout Egypt. Later, Isis would gradually incorporate the attributes of other female Deities from Egypt and outside Egypt as an expression of Her. Her original image shows Her with a throne on Her head. Overtime, Hathor, a popular Cow-Goddess worshipped for love, maternal nurturing and protection would also become syncretised into an expression of Isis. Hathor was notable for her crown which was made of cow-horns when she manifested in human form. After she was incorporated as an attribute of Isis, Hathor’s Cow Horns replaced Isis’ traditional “Throne Crown.” With the arrival of Greek migrants and the Roman conquest of Egypt, Isis worship spread to as far as England. Many modern Churches rests on the site of old Pagan temples, of which, many belonged to Isis. The internal granite columns of Basilica di Santa Maria of Trastevere in Rome even had its columns made of reused columns from an old Temple of Isis. Isis would go on syncretising other Goddesses as attributes of Her wider feature. Some even believe that Isis’ ability to survive outside of Egypt’s borders was due to her own trials of sorrow, which many see as Universal and part of Existence and thus she of all Goddesses could relate to the trials of tribulations of human existence. And when those trials and tribulations surmount, She is the comforter of those in need, as the following quote from Apulieus, a first century Roman priest of Isis, clearly demonstrates in his famous literary work, “The Metamorphosis”:
“Behold…I have come; thy weeping and prayer hath moved me to succor thee. I am She that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of the powers divine, queen of all that are in the underworld, the principal of them that dwell in heaven, manifested alone and under One form of all the gods and goddesses. At my will the planets of the sky, the wholesome winds of the seas and the lamentable silences of hell be disposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world, in divers manners, in variable customs, and by many names.
For the Phrygians that are the first of all men call me Mother of the Gods at Pessinus; the Athenians, which are sprung from their own soil, Kekropian Minerva; the Cyprians, which are girt about by the sea, Paphian Venus; the Cretans which bear arrows, Dictynnian Diana; the Sicilians, which speak three tongues, infernal Prosperpine; the Eleusinians their ancient Goddess Ceres; some Juno, others Bellona, others Hekate, other Rhamnusia [an epithet of Fate], and principally both sort of the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient and are enlightened by the morning rays of the sun, and the Egyptians, which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustom to worship me, do call me by my true name, Queen Isis.” -- “The Metamorphosis”, by Apuleius.
The above verse, written by Apuleius around the first century in Ancient Rome typifies syncretism or the idea of “combining different forms of beliefs or practices.” In modern times, Goddess worshippers such as Wiccans invoke the Goddess through a common phrase: “Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hekate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna!” Dion Fortune, a modern practitioner of Wicca famously said, “All the Goddesses are One Goddess.”
The reason for syncretism is the belief that the Goddess comes to worshippers through ways the worshipper understands Her. For Romans, their idea of the Goddess was of European stock with fair hair and light colored eyes, such as Juno or Venus. For Africans, the nurturing blackness of Oya or Yemanja brought peace. For the Chinese, the Goddess Kuan Yin was popular with her flowing white gown and long, silky oriental hair. But above all, the main belief is that the Goddess truly is formless and faceless. She is complex and profound that one only understands Her through Her personified attributes. Her romantic attribute is personified as Venus (Rome), Aphrodite (Greece), Astarte (Phoenicia), or Ishtar (Babylonia). Her nurturing aspect is personified by Kuan Yin (China), Hathor (Egypt) or Parvathi (India). The aspect of Wisdom can be found in her names as Saravati (India) or Athena (Greece). While many modern worshippers are aware of Her many names and the corresponding attributes, there is a general consensus amongst Pagans that the all-encompassing Goddess is simply known as “The Goddess.”
In Ancient times however, all the various Goddesses throughout the world was known as the various attributes of “Isis, Full of Magic”, the all-encompassing Goddess. There are no other examples in history of a Goddess enveloping the attributes of other deities from Her original pantheon and from foreign pantheons as Isis had done. She is the only Goddess who was the Maiden, Mother and Crone aspects of the Feminine Divine in Her sacred mythology. There is also an intriguing pattern that many who start the Pagan path might have noticed: They are greeted to the Pagan path with a dream of Isis. Later they veer off to discover other deities until they have reached a state of fulfillment in their life, which is when they have learned all that they are meant to know. This stage in their life is culminated with the reemergence of Isis. Also, I believe that her Egyptian name, “Au Set”, appropriately describes her true nature. Au Set (or Isis) means “throne”, and those who sit on her thrown are everything that lives for they are her children. Lastly, although Isis is known for many attributes – as mother, as devote wife, as nurturer of lost children, protectress of the Dead – Her strongest title is that of “The Timeless Magician.” Anyone aware of Goddess worship knows that all things are Magick – from the Sun rising in the East to the act of breathing. Therefore Existence is Magick…and Existence only belongs to Isis the Magician, the all-encompassing Goddess and Mother of All Living Things.
Our Organization, Intuitive Supernatural Investigative Services (ISIS), was appropriately named for Isis, because one of Her many attributes is that of the Protectress of the Dead. And also as The Timeless Magician, we believe she has given us great gifts of intuition or clairvoyance to help others. With gratitude to Isis for her many gifts, including life, our mission is to help others free their lives of hauntings, while learning more about the other realm, which we regard is part of “Reality.”
Article written by: Sathish Victor
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