“In seafoam, in swirlings and imaginings I am fish, tadpole, crocodile. I am an urge, an idea, a portent of impossible dreams. I lie between heaven and earth, between innocence and evil, patience and explosion. I am innocent and rosy as dawn. I sleep with my finger in my mouth, the cord of life curled beside my ear. Like a child in its mother’s belly, I am with you but not among you. I know no ending for I have no beginnings. I have always been here, a child in the silence of things, ready to wake at any moment. I am possibility."
From: Awakening Osiris by Normandi Ellis
Isis is the Goddess of many names and forms. She is the beautiful young princess and the grieving poverty stricken widow dressed in rags. She is the most powerful sorceress on Earth and She is the poor, frightened single mother forced to beg for herself and Her son. As the Mistress of Magick, She knows all and can do all. She can restore the dead, bestow the gift of fertility, heal the sick and protect sea farers. There is no miracle that She can’t perform. She taught women to grind corn, bake bread, spin flax, weave cloth, and, perhaps most importantly, she taught them to tame the men so the women could live with them!
Isis was introduced to Rome in 86 BCE, where She became very popular because Her cult was open to all, including women and slaves. She was so beloved by the people, that even after Paganism was abolished, Her last official temple on the Egyptian Island of Philae survived until 537 CE. It was finally ordered shut, votive statues of Isis, Osiris and Min were confiscated, and sent to Constantinople. Temple clergy were imprisoned, and the temple was converted to a Christian Church.
Isis was worshiped as the ideal mother and wife as well as patroness of nature and magick. She was the friend of slaves, sinners and the downtrodden, and would also listen to the prayers of the wealthy. Isis became a symbol of Pharaoh’s power. Pharaoh was said to have been born of Isis, and the throne that he sat upon was provided for him by Isis. After Isis was assimilated with Hathor, she was sometimes depicted with the twin horns of a cow on Her head, with a solar disc between them.
Isis was the first daughter of Geb the Earth God and Nut the Sky Goddess. Because of Her parentage Isis could balance both heaven and earth. She married Her brother Osiris and as a Moon Goddess She gave birth to Horus, the God of the Sun. Together, mother and child created all life and sustained it.
Isis, the Mother of Life also has a contradictory aspect – She was also the Crone Goddess of death. That title comes from what happened with her brother/husband Osiris. Incest between brother and sister was allowable for the gods to keep the bloodlines pure. When Osiris became her husband, he became the first King of Earth. Set, their brother, was jealous and killed Osiris, sealed up his coffin and threw it in the river Nile. Isis grieved mightily, shredded her robes and chopped off her hair. Then she set out to find the body of her husband so she could bury him with proper honor and respect.
As she searched for her love, she met Queen Astarte in Phoenicia. Making a long story short, Astarte realized that Osiris’s body was hidden in her palace. Isis carried him back to Egypt and hid it in the swamps of the Nile delta while she prepared for his funeral. Her wicked brother, Set, found the coffin, furiously hacked Osiris’s body into 14 pieces, and scattered them in different directions. Searching and searching, Isis recovered thirteen of the pieces. Only his penis was missing, so she made one from gold and wax (some myths say mud or clay). Promptly inventing the rites of embalming, and with her magical powers in full force, Isis brought Osiris back to life and conceived their child Horus. Now that she was no longer grieving, Osiris was free to descend and became the King of the Underworld, ruling over the dead.
Isis is often shown wearing the symbol of an empty throne on her head, suggesting her husband’s absence and that she, herself, was the seat of the Pharaoh’s power. She carries the ankh, the Egyptian hieroglyph of eternal life. When in her funerary role, and as the protector of the dead, she is shown with wings. The ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile River flooded each year because of the tears Isis wept for her dead husband, and every year there was a ceremonial death-and-rebirth ritual.
When Christianity was trying to gain a foothold over paganism, the mother-and-child images of Isis and her son Horus in the many temples of Isis across the land were converted into images of Mary with her infant son Jesus, while images of Isis holding the body of her dead husband across her lap became Mary with the crucified Jesus.
Isis worship was revived in modern times by The Order of the Golden Dawn, who recognized Isis as a powerful Triple Goddess. Later She was incorporated into modern Wicca by Gerald Gardner.
Many contemporary Pagan traditions have adopted Isis as their patron Goddess and She is often found at the heart of Dianic Wiccan groups and other female-centered covens. Although modern Wiccan worship does not follow the same structure as the ancient Egyptian ceremonies that were once used to honor Isis, today's Isiac covens incorporate Egyptian lore and mythology into a Wiccan framework, bringing the knowledge and worship of Isis into a contemporary setting.
There are countless eclectic Wiccan groups throughout the world that have selected Isis as their deity. Because of the strength and power displayed by Isis, spiritual paths that honor her are popular and Her worship has seen a resurgence as part of the "Goddess-oriented" spirituality that has become a notable part of the New Age movement.
Isis may be the most well-known and respected Goddess on Earth. She was venerated in Egypt for thousands of years, and so beloved was She that her worship spread throughout Western Asia and Europe as far as the Thames River in England.
FAVORED PEOPLE: Everyone, but especially women, single mothers, orphans, occultists and mariners.
MANIFESTATION: Isis may take any form She chooses, some more common manifestations include a cow, swallow, beautiful queen, a pregnant woman, or a woman devastated by despair and grief.
ICONOGRAPHY: Isis is portrayed in many forms:
- Traditional images of Isis are a prototype for the modern Madonna and child.
- A woman carved in black stone holding a nursing baby to Her breast.
- Isis wears a crown topped by a throne, or a crown of horns cradling the Full Moon
- The Louvre in Paris has a terra-cotta image of Isis weeping for Her true love Osiris.
EMBLEM: The tyet amulet, also known as the Buckle of Isis or Blood of Isis is a protective amulet usually formed from carnelian or red glass.
COLORS: Silver, white
HERBS: Vervain, myrrh tree, fig
SACRED ANIMALS: Snakes, cows, crocodiles, scorpions, kites, swallows
SACRED SITE: It is thought that the name Paris is derived from Par-Isis. In Roman times Isis had a temple at the western limits of the city, on the Left Bank of the Seine. The churches of Saint Sulpice and Saint Germain-des-Pres are built over sites once dedicated to Isis.
OFFERINGS: Milk, honey, flowers, incense and candles.
Encyclopedia of Spirits – Judika Illes
Isis and Osiris: The Love Story of Ancient Egypt – Deborah King
Isis: Mother Goddess of Ancient Egypt - Patti Wigington