Egypt: Exploring The Egyptian goddess Isis

Exploring Isis

By Catherine C. Harris

The Egyptian goddess Isis is one of the most important goddesses of ancient Egypt, and she remains one of the most well known goddesses of this age. Isis is most well known for her role as devoted wife and mother. In the Osiris legend we can see the reasoning behind this pattern of thought.

Isis is one of the five children of Nut, the sky goddess. When Isis was very young, she was determined to increase her powers. In order to do so, she would have to get the secret name out from Ra. Isis was clever and used Ra's own saliva to create an invisible snake that bit him. Thus Ra was poisoned and could not heal himself because he didn't know the nature of the wound. Ra was weak and near the end of his reign, and Isis took advantage of him. Isis offered to heal Ra if he would tell her his secret name. Faced with death from the unknown wound, Ra told Isis the name and in doing so he transferred his knowledge and power to her.

Isis later married Osiris, and together they ruled over Egypt. Due to Set's jealousy over the throne, Osiris was tricked into climbing in a box. Once he was inside the box, the lid was slammed closed and nailed shut. The box was then covered with melted lead and thrown into the Nile. Isis was furious and grieved for her husband.

Eventually, word reached Isis that Osiris was found in Byblos. Isis traveled to Byblos where she used the magic taught to her by Thoth to bring her husband back to life long enough to conceive a child by him. She hid on the island until she gave birth to her son, Horus.

While Isis was away one day, Set found the body of Osiris. He had the body cut into 14 pieces and had them scattered throughout Egypt. Isis returned and was grief stricken. Isis began her search for the body parts of her beloved Osiris. She found all of the pieces except for his manhood, which had been eaten by a crab. With help from several other deities, Isis performed the needed magic to rejoin the body parts of her departed husband, Osiris. Isis performed the Rite of Rebirth in order to give Osiris eternal life, at which time Osiris ascended to the immortal world.

Isis stayed in hiding with Horus as he grew and trained. She knew he would need to be strong to regain control of the throne, which was rightfully his. Isis exposed Horus to wild animals and scorpion bites in an effort to give him strength. Each time he was attacked or poisoned he was protected. Osiris, his father, came down to teach him weaponry.

Eventually, Horus challenged Set for the throne of Egypt. Horus went before the elder gods and petitioned for them to appoint him the rightful ruler. Set tried to convince everyone that Horus was not strong enough to rule. Despite the World Mother's declaration that Horus was indeed the rightful heir the tribunal sided with Set. Isis struck fear into the tribunal by putting curses on everyone.

The tribunal was moved to an island that was thought to be out of the reach of Isis. Isis would not be thwarted, however, and bribed the ferryman to take her to the island. Once there she disguised herself as a young and beautiful maiden. She trapped Set into saying that her son was the rightful heir to the throne. Once Set realized what he had done he returned to tell the tribunal.

Set demanded that the matter be settled by combat between himself and Horus. The two men dove into the Nile to see which one could hold his breath the longest. Isis became so concerned for her son Horus that she threw a magical spear into the water. It struck Horus by mistake, and he emerged for his mother to remove the spear. Isis again threw the spear into the water, and this time it hit Set. Set emerged from the water, as Horus had done, for Isis to remove the spear. Horus was so enraged at his mother's interference that he lashed out at her with the spear and chopped her head off. The god Thoth replaced Isis' head with that of a cow. In the end, after much turmoil, Horus was named the rightful heir. Set would never accept it and continued to be a thorn in their sides.

The Egyptian goddess Isis is one of the goddesses that stood the test of time. Isis is the Greek form of more ancient Egyptian names, and the name Isis is associated with the word for "throne." Originally, Isis was known as Aset, or Eset. Isis is worshipped today, just as she has been for thousands of years, as the Lady of Heaven, The Great Enchantress, Goddess of Magic, The Goddess of Love and War, the Giver of Life, Queen of the Gods, and Goddess of Marriage and Protection.

Isis was able to give the gift of immortality. For this reason, she is often portrayed wearing or carrying an Ankh. The Ankh is an ancient symbol for eternal life. The symbol is similar to that of a cross, but it has a looped top. Isis is sometimes seen wearing horns and a solar disk atop her head. She is sometimes pictured with wings. Isis is occasionally shown with a cow's head or with the sign of a throne on her head.

Isis is one of the only winged deities in Egyptian myth. She is sometimes representative of the wind, as in the legend of Osiris. One version of the legend tells of Isis using her wings to fill Osiris' mouth and nose with air. For those people who recognize Isis as a force at work in their life; the wind takes on a magical face. The simple act of walking outside on a windy day brings about a refreshing of the soul.

Isis is viewed as the protector and patron of women. Isis guided women in childbirth, marriage, and in the loss of loved ones. She has the qualities that endear her to women of all ages. Isis is full of compassion, tenderness, love and devotion. Isis is the Great Mother Goddess.

As a divine healer, Isis shared the secrets of healing and preparation of medical potions to her priestesses. Isis is also credited for bringing us the secrets of law and agriculture. If you ask anyone that esteems Isis to the role of goddess in this present age; you will surely hear them proclaim that Isis holds life in here hands. Isis, with her ability to breathe life into something once dead, is worshipped today as she has for centuries.

There are ways to bring the goddess Isis into everyday life. Her colors are white, gold, and cobalt blue. Many view these as the colors of royalty and comfort. The gems and stones equated with Isis are pearl, coral, lapis, geodes, and moonstone. Wearing jewelry with these stones embedded is just one way to bring the goddess near. Fragrances of the goddess are myrrh, rose, iris, and eucalyptus. Candles and essential oils are useful in bringing the fragrance of Isis into the home.

Isis is the Mistress of all elements, and she is a powerful wind that blows constant. Isis is the Goddess of Countless Names, and she will continue to make her presence known.