Isis: A Deep Dive into the Anceint Egyptian Goddess

Isis (Egyptian Auset)

Here follows a “deep dive” into the Goddess Isis. It provides information about her mythology and worship, as well as correspondences and hymns/prayers that can be used in modern practice. I hope this is both informative and useful for those who may not know much about Isis. It may even encourage some to consider her in your future spiritual pursuits:

Mythology of Isis

Isis was the daughter of the Sky Goddess, Nut and the Earth God, Geb. She was also the sister and wife of Osiris, the god of the afterlife as well as the mother of Horus. As well as Osiris, she had a brother Set(h) and sister Nephthys.

Osiris was murdered by Set, who was jealous of his status and popularity as King of Egypt. Set dismembered Osiris’ body and scattered the pieces across Egypt. In her grief, Isis searched for the pieces and reassembled Osiris’s body. She enshrined the body in her wings, the wind from which brought breath back to Osiris. This is why images on tomb walls often show the pharaoh enshrined in Isis’ wings. It is a symbol of her magickal power and protection. Her magic resurrected her husband just long enough for them to conceive their son, Horus. Osiris knew he was not longed for this world and took his place as Lord of the Duat (underworld).

Isis swore to protect her son from Set. She raised him in secret, hiding in the marshes of the Nile delta until Horus was old enough and string enough to avenge his father’s death. Throughout her sons long battle with Set, Isis stood by and supported Horus. Her magical power was used to protect, strengthen and heal her son. She even assisted in restoring his eye, which was plucked out by Set. Her divination powers were invaluable in allowing Horus to foresee what challenges lay ahead. Isis was able to advocate for her son, using her powers of persuasion and eloquence to convince the other God’s to support Horus.

Isis, Osiris, and Horus (youtube.com)

In some versions of the myth, Isis aimed to strike Set with a harpoon but misses, striking her son instead. In anger, Horus chops off his mother’s head. The God of wisdom replaced her head with that of a cow. The loving mother forgave her son, seeing his regret, and continued to support him until he was victorious and claimed the throne of Egypt.

Isis was powerful and clever. She knew that the power of Ra, the sun God, could be extracted by saying his secret name. Knowing this name would give her control over Ra and she could use his power to protect and heal others. She formed a poisonous snake from clay and Ra’s spit. The snake bit Ra and he became weak. None of the Gods could help him. Isis knew how to cure him and said she would, on the condition that he revealed his secret name to her. Knowing he had no choice, Ra revealed his secret name and thus gave Isis access to his power, which she used for the benefit of humanity. This earned her the title Great of Magic - Weret Heka.

The Secret Name of Ra - Egyptian Mythology (youtube.com)

Depictions of Isis

Isis is most depicted as a woman with black hair and wearing a red dress. Various aspects of Egyptian symbolism were also present in her depictions:

Isis was typically depicted in ancient Egyptian art as a woman with various distinctive attributes and symbols. Here are some common characteristics of Isis’s depictions:

Headdress: she is often shown wearing a headdress known as the “Throne” or “Isis Crown.” It has of a throne-shaped structure on top, symbolising her power, authority and role as Queen.

Wings: Sometimes, Isis is shown with outstretched wings attached to her arms. These represent her ability to provide shelter and protection.

Ankh and Sceptre: Isis is often shown holding an ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life. In her other hand, she may hold a sceptre, a symbol of her authority and power.

Nursing Horus: Another common image of Isis is her nursing her son Horus. She is shown sitting holding Horus. It is often said that thus is the inspiration behind the “Madonna and child” images from Christianity.

Cow horns: Isis’ crown us sometimes shown with cow horns, linking to myth of her head being replaced with that of a cow. It also represents her nurturing nature as cows were associated with femininity and nurture in Ancient Egypt. Infact, Isis was sometimes depicted as a cow rather than a woman.

Sometimes, Isis was depicted as a kite (bird). This was seen as a way for her to travel between the mortal world and the afterlife. Rarely, Isis was depicted as a scorpion as a means of offering protection and warding off evil.

Roles and Attributes

Isis had many significant roles in ancient Egypt:

Motherhood and Fertility: Isis was worshipped as a goddess of motherhood, childbirth, and fertility. She was often depicted nursing her son Horus, highlighting her nurturing and maternal qualities. Isis was seen as a protector of children and families, and she was invoked by those seeking help with fertility or assistance during pregnancy and childbirth.

Magic and Wisdom: Isis was considered a goddess of magic, wisdom, and knowledge. She was believed to possess great magical abilities and was considered a powerful magician. Isis was linked with healing, divination, and uncovering secret knowledge. She was the patroness of magic practitioners and was invoked for her guidance and assistance.

Love and Marriage: Isis was associated with love, marriage, and devotion. She was seen as a faithful and loving wife to her husband Osiris and played a central role in the story of their relationship, particularly in her quest to resurrect him. Isis was often invoked by those needing assistance in matters of love, relationships, and loyalty.

Funeral Rites and Afterlife: Isis had an important role in funerary practices. She was considered the protector and guide of the dead in the afterlife, seemingly from her role in the resurrection of Osiris.

Sovereignty and Royalty: Isis was also linked to the concept of sovereignty and queenship. She was seen as a queen and a powerful ruler. Isis was believed to have taught humans the arts of agriculture and governance. Her association with royalty and divine authority was symbolised in her headdress, which often included a throne. Isis was also the mother of Horus; the Pharaohs were the living embodiment of Horus and therefore, were viewed as children of Isis.

These roles and attributes of Isis varied across different periods and locations within ancient Egypt, and there may be additional aspects associated with her worship in specific cults or regions. Nonetheless, these descriptions provide a general overview of the important roles and qualities attributed to Isis in ancient Egyptian mythology.

Ancient Worship of Isis

Temples dedicated to Isis were important centres of worship and played a significant role in the religious and social life of ancient Egypt. These temples were constructed in various locations throughout the country, and several of them were renowned for their grandeur and sanctity.

One of the most prominent temple complexes dedicated to Isis was located on the island of Philae, near the southern border of Egypt. The Temple of Philae, also known as the Temple of Isis, was considered one of the most sacred sites associated with the goddess. It was a place of pilgrimage and religious activity, visited by people from all over Egypt and beyond. Philae consisted of multiple structures, including the main sanctuary, chapels and various other buildings. It remained a functioning temple to Isis until the 6th Century AD.

Temple of Philae (own photos)
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Another important place of Isis worship was the city of Abydos in Upper Egypt. Abydos was considered as one of the holiest cities in ancient Egypt, and the Temple had many shrines and chapels dedicated to different deities, with Isis being one of the central figures of worship. Isis is part of the Triad of Abydos, along with Osiris and Horus as this was said to be the burial place of her beloved husband.

The city of Memphis, near modern-day Cairo, also had a temple dedicated to Isis. The Temple of Isis at Memphis was situated within the larger religious complex, which included the temples of other deities.

Within these temple complexes, priests and priestesses served as mediums between the worshippers and the goddess. They conducted rituals, recited prayers and hymns, and performed sacred ceremonies to honour Isis. Offerings such as food, drinks, incense, and flowers were presented to the goddess as acts of devotion. Worshipers desired the blessings and protection of Isis, and they believed that prayers and offerings would gain her favour and assistance in various aspects of life.

Offerings were an important way of showing devotion to Isis. Worshippers would offer food and drink such as bread, fruits, wine, beer, milk, and honey to the goddess. Incense like frankincense, myrrh, and kyphi were often used to purify the space and invoke the Isis’ presence.

Devotees would offer prayers and recite hymns to praise Isis. These expressed love and gratitude, as well as asking for her protection, guidance, and blessings.

Processions were a huge part of Isis worship. During festivals or on special occasions, statues of Isis would be accompanied by priests, musicians, and dancers in a parade. These parades were public displays of devotion and an opportunity for the community to gather and worship Isis together.

Isis was associated with healing and magic, and her worshippers asked for her assistance in these areas. Rituals involving the use of amulets, charms, and magical spells were performed, with the belief that Isis could provide protection, physical healing, and even spiritual transformation.

The most important festival dedicated to Isis was the “Festival of Isis,” It was held during the month of Khoiak (October-November) and lasted for several days. The festival was celebrated throughout Egypt.

Dancers and performers would reenact her stories, such as her search Osiris’ body and the birth and raising of her son Horus. One of the highlights of the festival was the boat procession. A decorated boat would be carried to the river and released. This symbolised the journey of Isis in her search for Osiris.

Worship of Isis spread across the Mediterranean and was merged with practiced of other cultures e.g. the Greeks and Romans. In Greece, Isis was sometimes identified with the Greek goddess Demeter, and in Rome, she was sometimes equated with the goddess Venus. Temples dedicated to Isis were established in various cities throughout the Mediterranean, including Rome, Athens and Pompeii. The spread of the Roman Empire took Isis worship to places as far as England.

Isis and the Cosmos

The Goddess Isis has long been associated with the star Sirius, the brightest star in the sky (apart from the Sun). It is easy to spot in the sky as it is so bright. Sirius can also be found by locating Orion’s Belt and extending it to the left.

The Egyptians called Sirius Sopdet or Sothis. It was extremely important as its rising before dawn was associated with the annual flooding of the Nile, which brought fertility and abundance to the land. Isis is closely linked to cycles of nature, including the flooding of the Nile (as well as fertility cycles and life, death and rebirth). Therefore, she became associated with the star that signalled the start of the flood. The myth also says that, when Isis was searching for Osiris’ body, she transformed into a Kite (bird) and soared above the Nile. Her tears of grief flooded the river below, bringing life to the land.

Sirius also follows the constellation of Orion through the sky. The Egyptians associated Orion with Osiris. Therefore, it is a symbolic representation of Isis searching for her husband after his murder as they both move through the sky.

Comparisons with the Virgin Mary

Over time, comparisons have been made between Isis and Mary, the mother of Jesus. It has even been suggested that certain Christian iconography was influenced by those of Isis.

Both figures are associated with motherhood; Isis is the mother of Horus and Mary is the mother of Jesus. Isis was also believed to have conceived Horus by divine union with her husband Osiris after he was resurrected. In comparison, Mary conceived Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, Isis is described as a virgin who experienced an immaculate conception like Mary, but this is speculative.

Both figures are shown as nurturing and loving mothers. From ancient Egypt, many images and statues exist of Isis nursing the baby Horus. Similarly, Mary is often shown holding baby Jesus in her arms. Both mothers fled with their children to keep them safe. Isis fled to the marshes of the Nile Delta to protect her son from Set while Mary and Jesus escaped the wrath of King Herod by fleeing to…Egypt!

The concept of resurrection is prominent in both stories; Isis resurrected her husband, whom she saw killed by Set while Mary witnessed the death of her son on the cross and his subsequent resurrection.

Jesus’ birthday is celebrated on December 25th - there is also speculative evidence that Horus’ birthday was celebrated on this birthday - that is an issue for another article. :wink:

While these are speculative, it is an interesting thought and does raise the question of whether one figure influenced another.

isis&horus
Image from Amun-Ra Egyptology Blog: Isis, Horus and Madonna (amun-ra-egyptology.blogspot.com)

Working with Isis

Isis can be called up to:

Assist with the success of rituals and spells.

Assist with issues surrounding conception, pregnancy and birth.

Assist with healing and protection from illness, evil spirits and misfortune.

Guide with matters involving children.

Offer Emotional Healing and personal growth.

Provide guidance when pursuing spiritual growth.

Offer clarity and guidance when making important decisions.

An altar for Isis may include:

A statue or image of her.

A cow or scorpion (statue or image)

Symbols including the Tyet knot

White, blue or gold candles.

Crystals such as Rose Quartz, Diamond and Moonstone.

Flowers such as Roses, Sunflowers, Lilies or Lotus.

Symbols of pregnancy e.g. an image or the hieroglyph for pregnancy

Magickal items such as a cauldron, wand or book of spells

Suitable offerings for Isis include:

Milk, beer or wine.

Honey.

Almonds.

A sheaf of wheat.

Grapes.

Incense including Frankincense, Sandalwood, Lotus or Jasmine.

You may wish to use this essential oil diffuser blend:

Epithets

Isis was known as She of 10,000 names. Obviously, I will not list them all here but here are some of her most common epithets:

Great Mother

Great of Magic

The Magical Healer

Giver of Life

Queen of Heaven

Queen of the Throne

Mother of the God

She Who Knows Her Spells

She Who is Upon the Throne

Lady of the West

Lady of the Stars

Lady of Abundance

Lady of Bread

Lady of Words of Power

Clever of Tongue

Fiercely Bright One

She Who Seeks Justice for the Poor

She Who Seeks Shelter for the Weak

Her epithets can be summarised in the Ancient Egyptian phrase Auset em Renu Nebu, which means Isis in all of her Names.

Prayers/Hymns

Daily Prayer

Holy Goddess Isis,

Mother of all beings,

come to our hearts.

Grant us,

Thy children,

Love and Joy,

Wisdom and Abundance.

We offer Thee

our loving care

for all who are born of Thee.

Thanksgiving Prayer

We thank you

our Holy Mother Isis

for your Love, Beauty and Truth

which surround us now

and for evermore.

Source: FOI Prayers and Blessings (fellowshipofisis.com)

Blessed Be

Alan

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excellent job!
Thank you very much for sharing it with us! :pentagram: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :pentagram:

13 Likes

You are so good at delivering information.

13 Likes

Thank you. I hope you find it useful

11 Likes

This is amazing. I love that you included so much detail on working with Isis and even prayers/hymns! :star_struck: :black_heart:

I need to space for let my love for the Egyptian deities back into my life~ :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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Yeh i thought it was important incase anyone felt drawn to her. That way there is at least a starting point.

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Thank you @Cosmic_Curiosity!! I work with the Egyptian gods/goddesses. You have put a lot of great information in one place. I truly wish we could print it all out. You did a wonderful job. I will settle for a bookmark for future reference.

Thank you again.

Blessed Be
Audra

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You are welcome and I am glad you found it useful. I also work with the Egyptian deities so am planning to share more. I have also done something dimiliar for the cat goddesses and moon deities.

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@Susurrus can this please be added to Egyptian master post?

TIA

Alan

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@Cosmic_Curiosity it has been added to the masterpost by one of our lovely friends from the @moderators :hugs:

9 Likes

Oh thank you so much

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