One of the best known of the ancient goddesses, Isis Goddess represents the archetype of wifely love and devoted motherhood. Her life as the wife of Osiris was pleasant until Seth’s jealousy led him to murder his elder brother and to persecute his widow. Isis Goddess mourned her husband and located his body. She hid it from his vindictive brother and gave birth to Horus, who was to avenge his father’s death and succeed him as chief god on earth. Seth feared the powers of his nephew and sought his death too, so Isis Goddess had to hide and protect her son until he was old enough to take care of himself. Her ordeals and the faithfulness with which she followed her duty earned her the title of “Great Mother.”
|Isis Egyptian Goddess|
The love she bore her husband is beautifully expressed in a lament she sang for him after his death:
I am seeking after love:
Behold me existing in the city, great are its walls:
I grieve for your love for me
Come, you only, now and that you have departed!
Behold your son, who caused Seth to retreat from destruction!
Hidden am I among the plants, and concealed is your son that he cannot answer you, while this great calamity remains!
Yet concerning you
There is no likeness of your flesh left:
I follow you alone and surround the plants, each of which holds danger for your son—
Look truly, I, a woman, in front of all.
Isis Goddess ’ behavior to those about her was full of contradictory passions. On one hand, she could be ruthless in the pursuit of her husband’s body. The king of Byblos offered the protection of his home and the help of his empire in recovering the body; her anguish, however, led to the deaths of two of his sons-horrible repayment for his friendship. In another myth she inflicted great Pam on Ra, her great-grandfather, in order to gain the power of his secret name, and she called on the other gods to bring total destruction on her enemies. Yet on the other hand, when she saw Seth, her husband’s murderer, about to be defeated in a battle she had ordered, she took pity on him and used her magic to permit his escape, a deed that rightly earned her the anger of her son.
Her power was often the result of her use of magic. She learned magical charms from Thoth in order to restore life to Osiris, and she practiced them later when Horus was bitten by Seth’s scorpions. Throughout her life she used her magic on both friend and foe, and this secret knowledge gave her the reputation as a great healer of the sick, which lasted into the Christian era.
The usual drawing or statue of Isis Goddess showed her with human features. On her head she wore at different periods a vulture headdress, the horns of Hathor with a solar disk between them, or the throne. This last symbol, the throne, evolved from the sound of her name and associated her with regal authority. She was sometimes identified by an amulet, called the blood of Isis Goddess now, but called the thet by the ancient Egyptians.
This charm was made of a red, semiprecious stone and placed in coffins to provide the dead with the power of the goddess who had raised her own husband and son from the dead. It resembles the! With its arms folded down and was often drawn alongside the djed pillar, the symbol of Osiris. The nineteenth-century scholar E. A. Wallis Budge suggested that the shape of the amulet resulted from the identification of Isis Goddess as the universal mother, and was a stylized representation of the vagina and uterus In the Book of the Dead Isis Goddess was usually depicted standing immediately behind Osiris and alongside her sister Nephthys; the two goddesses provide support for their brother in his role as supreme judge of the dead. The vignettes also show the feminine pair as vultures guarding the bier on which rests the body of the dead person who has now assumed the characteristics of Osiris.
One of the most common depictions of Isis Goddess was of her nursing her son. This scene-in statue, wall paintings, and papyri-sometimes showed other gods, such as Thoth, in attendance bringing gifts to the mother and child. The resemblance of Isis Goddess and her son to the Madonna and Child was observed early in the Christian era and probably helped ease the way for the early acceptance of Christianity along the Nile.
The most important shrine to Isis Goddess is the Temple of Philae, on an island on the lake between the two dams at Aswan. This beautiful temple, one of those moved to preserve it from the rising waters, associated Isis Goddess with the Nile and reaffirms some scholars’ notion that in the most ancient days Isis Goddess was a corn (that is, grain) goddess in consort with her husband, the corn god. The largest of the temples here was built by Nectanebo I and later renovated by Ptolemy II, which makes it more recent than some of the other important temples to the north.
At Luxor Isis Goddess was represented on the walls of the Temples of Luxor, where she watches over Khnum as he molds a child on his potter’s wheel in the Birth House. Across the river in the tomb of Seti I, she and Nephthys provided special protection for the king who through death has become a god. She was distinctly represented in the treasures of Tutankhamun found in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings and now residing in the Egyptian Museum. This museum contains many additional representations of Isis Goddess , including Pieces from Abydos and Saqqara.
Outside Egypt Isis Goddess is probably the most famous of the Egyptian gods. Her powers were well known in Greece and Rome, thanks especially to Plutarch, who featured her in one of 1S books and who saw similarities with the Greek Artemis and the Roman Diana. Palestine and other countries of the Middle East were hospitable to her, and her fame has lasted into modern times.
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