|The Story of Isis|
One of the most important Goddesses of ancient Egypt is Isis. Originally known as Aset or Eset in Egypt, Isis being the Greek form. A moon goddess, she gives birth to the sun, creates and sustains all life, and is the saviour of all people. The Isis cult spread from Alexandria to all the Mediterranean countries especially Greece and Rome after the 4th century BC. It reached its peak in the 3rd century BC and died out in Rome due to the spread of Christianity by the middle of the 6th century AD. The last Egyptian temples to Isis closed around 550 AD. On her Temple in Sais is inscribed ‘I, Isis, am all that has been, that is or shall be; no mortal man hath ever me unveiled’
Early in Egyptian history Isis absorbed the attributes of all the primitive and local Goddesses. Goddess of countless names, Isis is the Great Mother mostly identified with Demeter Hera and Selene, as she is patron of the moon, agriculture, divination motherhood, protection, re-incarnation, initiation, fertility, purification and domestic life. To the Greeks Isis was known as Demeter and to the Romans as Ceres. Her Latin name being Stella Maris or ‘Star of the Sea’
The name Isis is associated with the word for throne and her original headdress was
a representation of an empty throne chair belonging to her murdered husband Osiris. As the personification of the throne, she was an important source of the Pharaoh’s power. Other symbols linked with Isis include the tat, the girdle or 'knot of Isis', which represents her regenerative powers. She was often shown with her musical instrument, the sistrum, a kind of rattle. In addition she may be shown with the sistula, a breast-shaped container for milk, and a jug for carrying the holy waters of the Nile.
Isis is commonly portrayed with protective winged arms, meaning ascension, one of the only Egyptian winged deities, and with the moon perched upon her head, she is occasionally shown with a cows head or horns.
She is a sacred part of the holy trinity along with Osiris her husband, and Horus her son and is also linked with the phoenix, female bird of resurrection. The symbol of Isis in the sky was the star Sept [Sirius]. Its appearance marked the beginning of a new year and announced the flooding of the Nile, which indicated renewed wealth and prosperity of the country. Isis possesses the powers of a water goddess, an earth goddess, a corn goddess, a star goddess, Queen of the Underworld and woman. Goddess of medicine and wisdom.
Isis possessed great skill in working magic. As mistress of word she not only used words of power but had knowledge of the way in which to pronounce them so that whatever had the words addressed to them would be compelled to fulfill her bequest.
Isis is the fourth of five children of the Earth God Seb (also known as Geb) and the Sky Goddess Nut Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.
As a young woman Isis wished to increase her magic powers and to do this she devised a plan. Isis tricked the Great God Ra into giving her his secret name.
Isis obtained some of Ra’s saliva and by mixing it with dust Isis made an invisible venomous snake and by saying certain words of power over it She made it bite Ra as he passed by.
Ra was poisoned and not knowing the nature of his wound and being weak and about to die he was unable to heal himself. Isis offered to heal Ra if he gave her his secret name. Ra agreed thus giving Isis his knowledge and magical power. Isis used words of power to remove the poison from Ra’s body and he recovered.
Isis later married Osiris and when Seb and Nut abdicated the throne of Egypt, Isis and Osiris took over rulership. Osiris King of the Earth, became a kind and gentle ruler and was loved by his people. He taught them agriculture, gave them laws to live by and showed them how to worship the Gods. After civilising his people Osiris journeyed to Memphis leaving Isis to rule for him. Isis ruled Egypt and was equally loved by the people as she too ruled justly and fairly.
Osiris’s brother Set was jealous and wanted the throne for himself. Whilst Osiris was away, Set plotted against him. Set and his 72 followers devised a plan. Set secretly obtained Osisris’s measurements and had a magnificent chest made that would fit only Osiris. Set then invited Osiris to a banquet and offered the chest to anyone that would fit into it. Osiris suspecting nothing and trusting his brother, layed in the chest.
Set quickly nailed the lid shut and sealed it with lead to make sure Osiris couldn’t get out. Set then along with his fellow conspirators threw the chest into the River Nile, and by doing so claimed the throne as his own.
The chest eventually washed up at Byblos and a Tamarisk tree grew around it. The Chest containing Osiris’s body was found when the tamarisk tree was cut down to make a pillar for the palace of the Phoenicia King of Byblos.
Isis set out to find the body of her beloved husband Osiris. The search took her to Phoenicia where she met Queen Astarte.
Astarte not recognising the goddess hired her as a nursemaid to her infant son. Isis became very fond of the young boy and decided to bestow him with immortality.
Part of the ritual was to hold the baby boy over a fire. The Queen entered the room and seeing her son in the middle of the fire instinctively pulled the child from the flames thereby undoing the magic of Isis that would have made her son a god.
In explanation Isis revealed her identity and told Queen Astarte of her quest to find her husbands body. Astarte realized the body was hidden in the Tamarisk tree in the centre of the palace and told Isis where to find it.
Isis proceeded to bring Osiris back to life. By using magic words taught to her by Thoth she created light with her hair, turned herself into a kite [in some stories she is portrayed as turning into a sparrow hawk] and with the wind from her wings brought Osiris back to life long enough to conceive a child by him. Isis hid the chest containing Osiris body in the swamps belonging to Buto the cobra goddess. She remained with Buto until her son Horus was born.
Set refused to give up the throne and whilst hunting one day he found the chest containing Osiris’s body. And while Isis was away Set had Osiris’s body cut up into 14 pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. When Isis returned she was grief stricken and immediately began her search for the parts of her husband Osiris. She found all the pieces apart from Osiris’s penis which had been eaten by a Nile crab.
With the help of her sister Nephthys, Isis joined the body parts together and fashioned a new penis out of clay. Along with Anubis, Thoth [Lord of Divine Words], and Horus, Isis performed the first rites of embalming and the rite of rebirth giving Osiris eternal life. Osiris then ascended to Duat the abode of the dead where he became Lord of the Dead. Osiris being a good husband and father often came to look after his wife and son.
Isis hid her son from Set, again in the swamps of Buto, until Horus was strong enough to avenge his father. To make him strong Horus was exposed to many dangers. He was attacked by wild beasts and poisoned by scorpions. Always the magic of Thoth and Isis saved him. As he got older, Osiris came to teach him how to use weapons, so that Horus could eventually claim the throne which was his by birth and take his revenge upon Set.
The way Isis tricked the Great God Ra
In all theologies especially those of early peoples and among primitive societies today the name of the deity is an important aspect of their nature. Not only is the name symbolic of the deity and their power but also the pronunciation of that name brings forth their dynamic essence to work that power. Also on the human level an individual’s name is considered to be a vital part of a person and identified with their essence or soul. Therefore the name can be used magically to work an influence upon them. For this reason a person will have two names, one by which he is generally know and his real one which is kept secret so that he wont fall into his enemies power.
Therefore whoever knows the God/dess real name has control over him/her thus using their power.
In ceremonial magic spells the deity or spirits name is called to bring forth the spirit, which then must do the magicians, desire. This is how Isis was able to attain Ra’s power. It is not known what Ra’s real name was only Isis was to know this and only so that she would cure Ra of the poison. Since Isis created the poison only she could recall it thereby blackmailing Ra.
A widely used technique in sorcery is to obtain something from the body of the victim or intimately associated with him by contact which would contain his essence, this is the reason Isis used saliva from Ra mixed with dust to form the snake which poisoned him.
Isis has played an important role in the development of modern religions. During the 4th century when Christianity was taking hold in the Roman Empire her followers founded the first Madonna cults in order to keep her influence alive. Some early Christians called themselves Pastophori, meaning the shepherds or servants of Isis, which could be where the word Pastor originated. The influence of Isis is still seen in the Christian icons and the ancient images of Isis nursing the infant Horus influenced the style of portraits of mother and child for centuries including those of the Madonna and Child found in religious art
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