Now a days, when we hear the name Isis, we automatically think of terrorism and destruction. This is mostly thanks to the media continually using it to refer to a group known for these attributes, which has actually switched between many different acronyms in short periods of time. However, the name Isis once was revered, not feared, and still is by certain people who understand its true origin.
Isis is the ancient Greek name meaning ‘the throne,’ and is commonly used to refer to the Egyptian goddess, Aset, one of the oldest goddesses of ancient Egypt. She was a mother goddess as well as the goddess of magic. Her back story takes on many different twists, but the most widely known as being the oldest daughter of Nut, the sky goddess, and Geb, god of earth.
She and her husband, Osiris, traveled Egypt teaching the people new methods of agriculture, which later earned them their titles of King and Queen of Egypt. Unfortunately, their happiness and bliss didn’t last long. Envious of his brother’s success, Set, the god of chaos, killed Osiris to gain his power. He then took his brother’s body, cut it into fourteen pieces, and scattered the remains across Egypt, which disabled Osiris from entering the afterlife.
In response, Isis and her sister, Nephthys, searched the lands and collected thirteen of the fourteen pieces—Osiris’s penis being lost to the fish of the Nile—and bandaged him in wrappings. Using clay to form the final piece and her magic, she revived her husband, who was able to pass into the afterlife in peace. Meanwhile, now Osiris’s widowed wife, Isis gave birth to their son, Horus, and raised him in the Delta of the Nile, away from his uncle Set’s eyes, until he came of age to take his rightful place on the throne of Egypt.
Her loyalty to her murdered husband and infant child, her courage in defying Set, and her compassion towards all people made Isis one of the most beloved goddesses in Egypt. She was considered the paragon of motherly virtues, and her image with the infant Horus is seen throughout much of Egyptian art and religion—much like Mary and the infant Jesus in Christianity.
Her priestesses were skilled healers, midwives, and sorceresses. It was even rumored they could control the weather by braiding or combing their hair. The Tjet (known as the “Knot of Isis”) amulet her priestesses wore was thought to represent the magical power of a knot or braid. Because of this, it was often used in the funerary rites, potentially linked with the ideas of resurrection and rebirth.
There are many more wonderful myths and knowledge about the goddess Isis, how she obtained her powers, and the sacrifices she had made to mankind. As well as some debate that, though she is mostly known to be a goddess, she was once a mortal woman who ruled over Egypt. Real or not, this is the woman’s name should be honored rather than stained. And it’s her bravery and compassion that sparked my series, the Descendants of Isis, to life.
- Fassone, A. and Ferraris, E. (2008) Dictionaries of Civilization: Egypt. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
- Faulkner, R.O. (2010) Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. New York, New York: Fall River Press.
- Hill, J. (2010). Ancient Egypt Online. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk
- Oakes, L., and Gahlin, L. (2003). Ancient Egypt: An illustrated reference to the myths, religions, pyramids and temples of the land of the pharaohs. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
- Strudwick, H. (2013). The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York, New York: Metro Books.
- Wilkinson, P. (2009). Myths & Legends: An illustrated Guide to Their Origins and Meanings. New York, New York: Metro Books