Isis, a mother goddess of Ancient Egypt, is one of the key figures in the ancient Egyptian pantheon that would continue to be worshiped by later cultures. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and even some today worship her. She has been identified as the sister-wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus.
Isis has been depicted in art in a number of ways:
- A woman with a throne
- A woman with a solar disc between cow's horns
- A woman with sheltering wings
- A woman holding an ankh (sign of life) in her hand
- A woman holding a papyrus stem
The hieroglyph for her name is a throne and some have even said she is the personification of the throne. However, there is some disagreement as to whether the association with the throne actually means anything.
Groups of gods were very important in Ancient Egypt – usually in threes. She is part of a triad consisting of Isis, Osiris, and Horus.
Centers of Worship
Facts about Isis
- Appears over 80 times in the Pyramid Texts helping the deceased king
- Sister-wife to Osiris
- According to the sun cult – Isis and Osiris were the children of Geb and Nut
- Symbolic mother of the pharaoh
- Associated with the star Sirius – sometimes merged with the goddess Sothis
- Represents mourners in Egyptian literature and art
- Often holds the ankh sign and a papyrus staff
- Depicted in art with her arms around Osiris (sometimes with wings stretched around him or his sarcophagus)
- Depicted as a kite (bird), scorpion, or a cow
- Worshiped in the Graeco-Roman world (sometimes as Isis-Aphrodite)
- Said to have been present and assisted at the birth of Queen Hatshepsut
Isis in Ancient Egyptian Myths
Re's Secret Name
In Ancient Egypt, names were chosen carefully as they were considered to play a part in a person's character. There is a story about how Isis tricked Re, the sun god, into telling her his secret name that held his supreme power. She left a venomous snake where Re would walk and be bitten. She offered to cure him if Re told her his secret name.
Eventually he agreed – only if she promised to make her son, Horus, also promise not reveal his name. Isis cured Re and became known as the 'Mistress of the Gods who Knows Re by his Own Name.'
The Death of Osiris
The husband of Isis, Osiris, was invited to a banquet held by his jealous brother, Seth. Seth promised to gift a carved and painted box to anyone who could into the box (which had been built specially to fit Osiris). Once Osiris was inside the box, Seth closed the lid and threw the box into the Nile River.
Osiris drowned and the box was washed ashore at Byblos (where a tree grew around it). Isis traveled the world looking for her husband and – after finding him – returned to Egypt with his body. While Isis was sleeping, Seth stole the body of his brother and cut it up into 14 pieces which he scattered throughout Egypt.
Isis and her sister, Nepthys, traveled looking for the pieces of Osiris. After finding the pieces, Anubis and Thoth helped embalm and restore the body and Osiris became the King of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead.
- Isis and the Seven Scorpions
- The Days of the Year
- As the mother of Horus
- Powerful Magician
- Mourner and Protector of the Deceased
To read more about Ancient Egypt, please visit my post about Bastet.