Mythology Monday ~ Goddess Isis

Goddess Isis is the most legendary goddess of ancient Egyptian mythology. Most dynamic of all, she is goddess of almost everything — most famously known as goddess of love, motherhood, fertility, magic, mystery, healing, death, and rebirth. Her Greek name is “Isis” while the ancient Egyptians called her “Aset” or “Iset.”

In the beginning times, Isis directly and physically interacted with human beings, and taught them many useful skills. Isis was a healer who used both traditional medicine (such a medicinal herbs) and psychic ability to cure the sick. She taught women how to weave clothing and make bread. She propelled the start of civilization and eventually went on to marry Osiris, who became mother and father of Horus.

Isis is kind and caring, with a passionate heart, who desires to help those in need. She is also studious, smart, and clever — a brilliant minded woman. Still, just like all the gods and goddesses, she is not perfect. Her greatest flaw is her thirst for power.

Depiction

Isis has wings and is typically depicted kneeling. She wears a headdress and a gown. Often she carries an ankh in her hand, sometimes also a lotus flower or spear. Rarely she is depicted with a cow’s head. Statues of Isis typically include her nursing her son, Horus.

Artwork of Isis is powerful and provokes feelings of strength and passion. When displaying her wings, they are always spread high and proud, even when she is down on her knees.

Goddess of 10,000 names

Legend has it that Isis has ten thousand different names! Most of these names have been lost overtime. However, many of these names have been preserved throughout history, some of which include: (just to name a few!)

Africa, Alexandria, All-recieving, All-hearing, Amenti (The Hidden One), Ankhet (Producer and Giver of Life), Aphrodite, Aset, Athena, Au Set, Bride of God, Child of Nut, Cornucopia of All Our Goods, Creation, Daughter of Geb, Daughter of Nut, Daughter of Thoth, Divine Mother, Divine One, Earth, Epekoos (The All-hearing), Euploia (Giver of Good Sailing), Eye of Ra, Female Horus, Female Ra, First Offspring of Time, Freedom, Gentle, Giver of Life, Goddess of All Goddesses, God-Mother, Great Goddess, Great Goddess of the Underworld, Great Lady, Great Virgin, Green Goddess, Guardian, Guide, Hallowed, Hera, Hestia, Ineffable Mistress, Isis-Aphrodite, Isis-Fortuna, Isis-Hathor, Joy, Lady Isis, Lady of Beauty, Lady of Beer, Lady of Bees, Lady of Flame, Lady of Life, Lady of Love, Lady of Peace, Lady of the Sea, Lady of Warmth and Fire, Lady Who is a Chariot in the Form of Fire, Lochia, Lotus-bearing, Maia, Many-formed, Many-named, Matter, Meri (Isis as sea-goddess), Mistress of All the Elements, Mistress of Eternity, Mistress of the Pyramid, Mistress of the World, Moon, Most Great, Mother of God, Mother of the Gods, Nanaia, Nature, Nurse, One, Only One, Panthea (The All-Goddess), Persephone, Phronesis (personification of Wisdom), Pluonumos (Isis of the Many Names), Polyonymos (The Many-named), Power That Heals the World, Pterophoros (The Winged Isis), Queen of Heaven, Queen of Peace, Queen of Earth, Ray of the Sun, Renenet (Goddess of the Harvest), Savior of Mankind, Selene (the Moon), Sesheta (Goddess of Literature and the Library), She of the Moon, Skilled in Writing, Sophia (Divine Wisdom), The Beautiful Goddess, Urthekau (She Who is Rich in Magic Spells), Wife of the Lord (Osiris)

In Greco-Roman mythology, Isis is most strongly associated with Aphrodite (Greek) / Venus (Roman), who is best known as “the goddess of love and beauty.” Both Isis and Aphrodite/Venus draw many similarities including their connection to the sea, as well as their main role in marriage, fertility, and motherhood.

Other possible manifestations of Isis in Greek form include Io (mistress of Zeus), Persephone (bride of the dead), and Demeter (goddess of harvest, mother of Persephone). Isis could also be Norse goddess Freya, as they both have strong connections with cats and chariots. Isis also draws many parallels to the Christian Mary. Many ancient temples that were once dedicated to Isis had the name changed to Mary after the rise of Christianity. Statues of Isis are often represent her holding Horus, just as Mary holds Jesus.

Egyptian goddess Isis seems to have a connection to practically every single god and goddess of each culture, another reason for why she is known as “the goddess of 10,000 names.” There are some ancient cults who believe Isis to be the one and only single goddess, as they consider every other goddess to be an alternative manifestation of her. However, Isis’s connection to all gods and goddesses may simply be an example of just how powerful she truly is, and a reminder that all things in the universe are connected.

Correspondences

Animals linked to Isis include: cow, cats, dogs, dolphins, eagles, hawks, lions, peacocks, pigs, rams, scarab beetles, scorpions, snakes, sphinx, hawks, vultures, and the phoenix.

Colors: black to representing mourning over Osiris, gold to represent the sun, red to represent flame, erotica, and power, colors of the sea such as blue, green, and turquoise, silver to represent the stars, and white the represent the moon.

Gems and stones: amethyst, aquamarine, beryl, carnelian, coral, crystal, emerald, granite, jacinth/hyacinth, gasper, vapid lazuli, malachite, marble, moonstone, pearls, peridot, ruby, sapphire, and turquoise.

Symbols: anchor, ankh, bread, cornucopia, harpoon or aquatic spear, lantern, lotus flower, crescent moon, full moon, pentagram, phallus, robe, rudder, sail, ship, throne, triangle, wand, wheat, wings, and yoni.

Isis & Ra ~ Power Struggle

Ra is the Egyptian sun god, who may be the true father or grandfather of Isis. He was the original ruler of the world. However, overtime with age, he became tired and weak. Yet Ra refused to give up his power, thus causing harm and chaos among the world.

Eager to take his place, Isis schemed to create a poisonous snake out of clay that would bite him. Ra was wandering the desert when struck by the snake. Isis was the only one who could cure him. Taking advantage of his desperation, Isis refused to help him unless he would utter to her his secret name. And so, he agreed, and Isis used magic to save him — but now she also had his power. In the end, Isis & Ra have shared power.

Isis & Osiris ~ Queen & King

Isis & Osiris were queen & king of Egypt. Their shared benevolence and giving nature changed humankind for the better. They are credited with bringing agriculture, writing, medicine, religion, and arts into the world. They also put an end to cannibalism. The royal couple aimed to progress civilization so that the people would be efficient and peaceful.

Unfortunately, Osiris had a jealous brother named Set who murdered him out of envy and spite. And then, he cut his body into several pieces and scattered them across the land. A devastated Isis transformed herself into a bird and flew everywhere, looking for all of his pieces. Eventually she found all of his parts — except the phallus, which she replaced with gold. Using magic, she was able to conceive their son named Horus. Osiris became king of the dead, or “king of the Underworld.”

Isis and Osiris are said to be brother and sister just as their siblings include Set and Nemphys, all born of Geb and Nut. Personally I think that the terms “brother and sister” are simply used to signify that through marriage, they became family. Although another consideration is how they are god/goddess and one of the first generations of beings to ever exist. Nevertheless, that term obviously meant something completely different in the beginning of time compared to today, and so I’d rather avoid using it.

Bastet (Bast) ~ Cat Goddess

Of all other Egyptian goddesses, Isis is most closely linked to Bastet. Most likely, Bastet is another form of Isis. Broken down, “Ba-Ast” translates to “Soul of Isis.” Or possibly, she may be a daughter of Isis.

Bastet is a cat goddess. She is either depicted as a cat, or a human with a cat’s head, typically wearing gold jewelry. Bastet is both calm and fierce. She represents dancing, music, intoxication, and sexuality. It is said that during the Festival of Bastet, more beer would be drank than any other day of the year.