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Isis of Egypt - Strange Deities
928    Dibyendu Banerjee    21/01/2020   

Known as the Goddess with ten thousand names, Isis is one of the most important goddesses of ancient Egypt. Initially she was an obscure goddess, without any dedicated temples of her own. However, as the dynastic age progressed, she grew in importance and ultimately became one of the most important deities and subsequently her cult spread throughout the Roman Empire. The ancient Egyptians used to call her Aset or Eset, while she is known by her Greek name Isis, meaning the Queen of the Throne, which is reflected in her headdress.

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Isis is often depicted as a woman wearing a long sheath dress with and empty throne on her headdress, symbolizing her husband’s absence following his death and her role as the seat of the power of the Pharaoh. She is also seen as a winged goddess who brought fresh air to the underworld when she went to meet her husband. Sometimes she is also seen as a woman with a headdress of a solar disc and horn and more rarely, she is a woman with the head of a cow. Apart from that, she is shown with her son, Horus, with a crown and a vulture and also often seen as a woman holding a lotus.

Fresco from the Temple of Isis, Pompeii
Fresco from the Temple of Isis, Pompeii

Isis is the ancient Egyptian goddess of magic and was known as Weret-Kekau, which means the Great Magic. She was also the goddess of fertility, motherhood, death, healing and rebirth and was called Mut-Netjer, the Mother of the Gods. She was regularly portrayed as the selfless, giving, mother, wife and the guardian angel.

Isis Of Egypt

Her symbols are the scorpion, who kept her safe when she was in hiding, the kite, a type of falcon whose shape she assumed in bringing her husband back to life, the empty throne and the sistrum, a musical instrument of ancient Egypt. The star Sirius is her symbol in the heavens.

Isis Of Egypt

According to legends, Iris is the first daughter of Geb, the god of the Earth and Nut, the goddess of the sky and she was born on the first day of the first years of creation. She was the sister of Osiris, whom she married subsequently. The story goes that Isis and Osiris were in love with each other even in the womb. However, after their marriage, Osiris was killed by his jealous brother Seth, who trapped Osiris in a decorated wooden chest, which he coated in lead and threw into the Nile. But, Isis did not give up hope and eventually discovered Osiris, still trapped in his chest, in Byblos and brought his body back to Egypt. Seth, who became the king in the absence of Osiris, became furious to find the chest, hacked his brother into pieces and scattered the parts of his body far and wide.

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Transforming into a bird and helped by her sister Nephthys, Isis gathered the scattered parts of his body and using her magical powers, she reunited the parts, except his penis that was missing. As a result, Osiris became a bandaged mummy, neither living nor dead. After nine months Isis bore him a son, Horus and hid with her child in the marshes of the Nile delta and defended the child against the attacks from snakes and scorpions, until the child become fully grown and could avenge his father and claim his throne. Eventually, Horus was able to take the throne of Egypt and Osiris retreated to the underworld to become the king of the dead.

Isis Of Egypt

Though the cult of Isis originated in the Nile Delta and her most important sanctuary was there at the shrine of Behbeit El-Hagar in Lower Egypt, initially she was an obscure goddess. However, with time she became very much popular and all gods were considered mere aspects of Isis. The worship of Isis eventually spread to all parts of Egypt and she was the only Egyptian deity worshiped by everyone in the country.

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Along with her son Horus, she replaced the Theban Triad of Amon, Mut and Khons, who were once the most popular trinity of gods in Egypt. Isis, her consort Osiris and son, Horus are also referred to as the Abydos Triad.

Isis Of Egypt
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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