To the ancient Egyptians, Isis was the nucleus,
the rock, the center of their universe. She was the epitome of the good loyal
wife and the envy of all mothers. But she was also a force not to be reckoned
with. She was ingenious, cunning and astute. She was a very creative and
intelligent magician. She was the wife of the god Osiris and the mother of
Horus. Just as the the pharaohs were the divine lineage of Horus in life and
Osiris in death, the queens were forever bonded the same way with Isis in life
and death. So many of them potrayed themselves as the goddess in
Isis was the first daughter of Geb, god of the
Earth, and Nut, the goddess of the Overarching Sky. Isis was born on the first
day between the first years of creation, and was adored by her human followers.
Unlike the other Egyptian goddesses, the goddess Isis spent time among her
people, teaching women how to grind corn and make bread, spin flax and weave
cloth, and how to tame men enough to live with them. Isis taught her people the
skills of reading and agriculture and was worshiped as the goddess of medicine
Isis became the most powerful of the gods and
goddesses in the ancient world. Even more powerful than Ra, the God of the Sun,
who originally had the greatest power. But Ra was uncaring, and the people of
the world suffered greatly during his reign.
The goddess Isis tricked him
by magically mixing some of his saliva with mud to create a poisonous snake that
bit him, causing him causing him to suffer greatly which she then offered to
cure. He eventually agreed.
informed Ra that, for the cure to work, she would have to speak his secret name
(which was the source of his power over life and death). Reluctantly, he
whispered it to her.
uttered his secret name while performing her magic, Ra was indeed healed. Isis
then possessed his powers of life and death, and quickly became the most
powerful of the Egyptian gods and goddesses, using her great powers to the
benefit of the people.
Isis was called the Mother of Life, but she was
also known as the Crone of Death. Her immense powers earned her the titles of
"The Giver of Life" and "Goddess of Magic". Her best known story illustrates why
she is simultaneously known as a creation goddess and a goddess of
Isis was the Goddess of
the Earth in ancient Egypt and loved her brother Osiris. When they married,
Osiris became the first King of Earth. Their brother Set, immensely jealous of
their powers, murdered Osiris so he could usurp the throne.
(see Eye of Horus, this is another
Set did this by tricking
Osiris into stepping into a beautiful box made of cedar, ebony and ivory that he
had ordered built to fit only Osiris. Set then sealed it up to become a coffin
and threw it into the river. The river carried the box out to sea; it washed up
in another country, resting in the upper boughs of a tamarisk tree when the
As time passed, the
branches covered the box, encapsulating the god in his coffin in the trunk of
In a state of inconsolable
grief, Isis tore her robes to shreds and cut off her beautiful black hair. When
she finally regained her emotional balance, Isis set out to search for the body
of her beloved Osiris so that she might bury him properly.
The search took Isis to Phoenicia where she met
Queen Astarte. Astarte didn't recognize the goddess and hired her as a nursemaid
to the infant prince.
Fond of the
young boy, Isis decided to bestow immortality on him. As she was holding the
royal infant over the fire as part of the ritual, the Queen entered the room.
Seeing her son smoldering in the middle of the fire, Astarte instinctively
grabbed the child out of the flames, undoing the magic of Isis that would have
made her son a god.
When the Queen
demanded an explanation, Isis revealed her identity and told Astarte of her
quest to recover her husband's body. As she listened to the story, Astarte
realized that the body was hidden in the fragrant tree in the center of the
palace and told Isis where to find it.
Sheltering his broken body in her arms, the
goddess Isis carried the body of Osiris back to Egypt for proper burial. There
she hid it in the swamps on the delta of the Nile river.
Unfortunately, Set came across the box one night
when he was out hunting. Infuriated by this turn of events and determined not to
be outdone, he murdered Osiris once again . . . this time hacking his body into
14 pieces and throwing them in different directions knowing that they would be
eaten by the crocodiles.
Isis searched and searched, accompanied by *seven scorpions*(see bottom of page) who assisted and protected
her. Each time she found new pieces she rejoined them to re-form his
But Isis could only recover
thirteen of the pieces. The fourteenth, his penis, had been swallowed by a crab,
so she fashioned a replacement one made from gold and wax. Then inventing the
rites of embalming, and speaking some words of magic, Isis brought her husband
back to life with a little help from Thoth. Sharing a night of passion, the
deities conceived Horus and Osiris died again, and went on to become Lord of the
His spirit, however, frequently returned to be
with Isis and the young Horus who both remained under his watchful and loving
Decoration on Amenophis II's
Isis wearing the throne headdress
The foot end of the painted sarchophagus shows
Isis kneeling upon the sign for gold and flanked by teo columns of hieroglyphic
text. AmenophisII's tomb was found on March 9, 1898 by Victor
The literal meaning of her name is "female of the
throne". When first appearing she was originally wearing an empty throne as a
headdress, representing the throne that belonged to her beloved Osiris whom Seth
She was also frequently depicted as a human queen
wearing the vulture headdress with a royal serpent on the brow. In these two
forms she occasionally carried a lotus bud or the glyph of the sycamore
She was also commonly depicted as a queen or
goddess wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt along with the feather
of Ma'at. There are also numerous representations of Isis with her son, Horus,
which bear a marked similarity to later images of the virgin Mary with baby
Isis was also depicted as a winged goddess or a
kite (one of her sacred animals). In this form her wings spread a heavenly scent
across the land and brought fresh air into the underworld.
From the New Kingdom she also adopted the
headdress of cow's horns on either side of a sun disk between them. Occasionally
she was depicted as a cow or a woman with a cow's head.
In her form of the snake goddess,Thermouthis, she
was depicted as a cobra crowned with the throne headdress. And last but not
least, the sistrum.
The Tjet amulet was also known as the "Knot of
Isis", "Buckle of Isis", or the "Blood of Isis". Although the meaning of the
Tjet is fairly obscure, it is thought that it may have represented a woman's
sanitary cloth (hence the connection with blood) or may relate to the magical
power in a knot (again linking it with Isis the great magician). The Tjet was
used in the funerary rites and seems to have been linked with the ideas of
resurrection and rebirth.
According to the Book of the Dead, Isis is
described as "She who gives birth to heaven and earth, knows the orphan, knows
the widow, seeks justice for the poor, and shelter for the weak".
In the ancient Grecian period she was known as
Demeter, in the Roman period as Ceres.
According to some, the symbol of Isis is the star
Sept/Sirius. It marked the beginning of a new year along with letting them know
that the Inundation of the Nile was close at hand.
As we all know Isis was the companion of
whose soul dwelt in the star Sah/ Orion.
The first notions of Isis date at in or around
the 5th dynasty. However, she only had a huge impact in later dynasties.
Eventually the cult began to spread outside of Egypt to the Middle East then on
It is said that in the early years that the
priesthood had indeed included men as well as women. As time passed by it turned
into an all female cult during the Greco/Roman era. Most of priestesses became
mid wives, healers, enchantresses, shaman, others would dabble in oneiromancy,
they say that some had the power to control the weather by brushing or braiding
ones hair in which the ancients believed that "knots" held magical
With all that being said, it wasn't until the
30th dynasty that Isis was worshiped on an individual basis. She was always in
everyone else's temple and most always portrayed with other gods. Temples
distinctively devoted to Isis only appeared during the Roman
After the conquest of Alexander and the
Hellenistic era settled in, Isis became the sailors guardian. She becomes one of
the most important perplexed figures in ancient world religion. It is said that
the demise of the cult of Isis came to an end by the hands of the Roman ruling
elite. Augustus believed that the rituals associated with Isis were lewd and
offensive and would ultimately suppress Roman values and morals. Her worship at
the Island of Philae was eventually banned by Justinian in the 6th century.
The Philae Temple complex, prior to its removal
and restoration, set alongside Biga Island. To the ancient Egyptians, Biga was
the sacred mound, the first ground created from Nun out of Chaos. This was the
legendary burial place of Osiris. The earth was considered to be part of his
body so that only priests and temple servants were permitted to live
Goddess Isis,Tomb of Horemheb, Dynasty XVIII, 1330-1305
Isis and the seven
One version of the story
After the murder of Osiris Isis tried to hide
from Set, but he found her and imprisoned her in a spinning-mill and left her to
weave her husband´s funeral linen. Thoth realised that Isis would be in danger
if Set realised she was pregnant and came to her aid. He freed Isis from the
mill and advised her to go into hiding in the marshes with seven scorpions named
Tefen, Masetetef, Petet, Tjetet, Matet, Mesetet and Befen who swore to protect
her and her unborn son. The goddess disguised her true form and began her
journey. It was a long journey to the marshes and so she decided to stop at the
house of a rich woman named Usert to ask for sustenance and a place to sleep for
However, when the rich woman saw Isis (in the
guise of an old beggar woman) and the scorpions, she rudely slammed the door in
her face, enraging the scorpions. Isis continued on to the house of a poor
fisher-girl who welcomed her warmly and invited the goddess into her home.
However, the scorpions were not about to forget the rich woman´s cruel actions
and so they put all of their combined poison into their leader, Tefen, and he
bit the woman´s child. The poison racked the poor boy´s body and his distraught
mother ran into the town with her child looking for help, but no-one could aid
her. But, Isis heard the cries of the child and overcome with pity for the boy
she returned. She called out the name of each scorpion and commanded the poison
to leave the child´s body. The rich woman was overcome with remorse when she
realised that she had snubbed the goddess while the poor girl had invited her
into her home. To make amends she took all of her own property and gave it to
the poor fisher-girl, causing the goddess to rejoice.
This story and the spell to cure scorpion stings
were inscribed on numerous stelae and "cippi", the most famous of which is the
Metternich Stela (composed during the reign of Nectanebo II during the Thirtieth
Temple pictures from
Tahani is no longer online