The White Moon Gallery Presents
Created by Willow Moonswan
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Isis Worship: A History
Isis, known as Au Set in Egypt, is the "Oldest of the Old." She was born on the morning of the first day in the Delta of the Nile (8). Her worship has survived for thousands of years. She is known as the "Lady of Ten Thousand Names," whose true name is Isis (8). Her worship spanned the known world from the Delta of the Nile to as far as west and north as Great Britain, and the Rhine River regions.
The true beginning of her worship cannot be dated, but documents in the form of ancient hieroglyphs on pyramid walls dating as far back as 3,000 B.C.E. refer to her as "the Great Isis." Her worship has survived, if not openly, for over 4,000 years even after being publicly suppressed by the Theodosian law of AD 426 (6). Reverencing Isis did not disappear with the suppression of her public worship; instead, she was absorbed into developing Christian beliefs. Many statues of Isis nursing her son Horus were painted over into statues of the Madonna and Christ Child (6). Over time, many of the titles and roles of Isis were transferred to the Virgin Mary. For instance, the titles of Divine Mother and Star of the Sea are shared by both Isis and Mary, transferred when it was no longer safe to worship Isis openly (11),(12).
©David Roberts (enhanced)
The Greatest temple to Isis is on Philae, an island in the Nile close to the Nubian border. This temple dates back to 380 B.C.E. The ancient Egyptians believed that from the vantage of her temple on Philae Isis protected Egypt from invasion (11).
Isis has come to represent faithfulness and the power of restorative love. The myth of Isis and Osiris is similar to the myth of Demeter and Persephone. The Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris is one of death and rebirth and relates the origins of the Egyptian practice of embalming. It begins with Isis marrying Osiris, her brother. They are happy together and work side by side to bring civilization to humanity. Jealous of the couple's happiness, their brother Set attacks and kills Osiris.
Isis is devastated by the loss of Osiris. She cuts her hair and tears her clothes in her grief. In despair, Isis sets out to locate Osiris' body. Her travels bring her to the home of Queen Astarte in Phoenicia, who does not recognize the grief stricken goddess. Isis takes a job as nursemaid to Queen Astarte's infant son. She soon becomes fond of the infant and decides to bestow the cloak of immortality on the child. She is discovered placing the infant in the hearth fire and is stopped by the horror stricken Queen.
Isis reveals her identity to Queen Astarte and explains everything, including her search for Osiris. The Queen makes a connection between a fragrant tree in the palace garden and Isis' tale. She figures out that Osiris' body is on the palace grounds and leads Isis to Osiris. Isis is relieved to have Osiris' body back and returns with it to Egypt.
Set is angered that Isis found Osiris and he steals the body again, this time hacking it into a dozen pieces. Not to be defeated, Isis finds all the pieces except one, his phallus. She could not retrieve it, for a crocodile ate it. The resourceful goddess creates a replacement phallus out of gold.
Once Osiris' body is reassembled, Isis created the embalming rites and together with magick words brought Osiris back to life. Being the first living god to die, Osiris takes his place as Ruler of the Dead.
Egyptians viewed Isis as the Great Magician. As an incredibly intelligent and powerful goddess, Isis desired a place at the head of the gods for herself and her son, Horus. She devised a scheme to achieve the power required for such leadership. One day, coming upon the Great Sun God Re while he was slumbering, Isis collected some of the drool from his mouth. She then mixed his saliva with clay and fashioned a poisonous snake out of it. Isis brought the snake to life by blowing magick upon it. she was able to place the snake in a position from which it could strike Re. Once bitten, Re became very ill. All of the gods came to his call of pain, but only Isis had the power to cure him. She agreed to cure Re if he would tell her his secret name, his name of power. He refused her several times before overcome with pain he agreed to give her his secret name. His only condition was that she could only share the name with her son Horus. Isis found this a reasonable request and agreed to heal Re. Ironically, Isis used Re's secret name to cure him of the poison [(2),(8),(11),(12)].
Black Winged Isis from sacred source
Isis was the most powerful magician of all the Gods to the Egyptians (11). She shared magick with humanity by introducing the magick of making and blowing knots to the Egyptian people (1). Many of her magickal workings were done with Thoth, the god of wisdom, and his wife Ma'at, the goddess of the natural order of things. The tempering of magick with wisdom and the laws of nature is a fundamental element of Isian magick (6).
Isis is a compassionate Goddess, who loves healing people. She introduced many medicines to civilization. Manuscripts have been found that include recipes and healing rituals based on the teachings of Isis. One such manuscript describes a recipe and ritual to cure burns and fevers, through a symbolic change of identities. The injured or sick person takes on the identity of Horus. Ritual words are spoken and a medicine spread over the ill or injured person (11).
Isis is not only a compassionate goddess, she is also forgiving. In one myth, Isis and Horus are held prisoner by Set. Thoth rescues them and sends 7 scorpions to aide and protect Isis and Horus. The two seek shelter in a village and a wealthy woman turns them away. A poor woman takes the goddess and her son in and makes them welcome. The scorpions are affronted by Isis' treatment. Six of them infuse the seventh with their venom and it stings the wealthy woman's child. Isis upon discovering this heals the child. The woman is grateful to Isis and ashamed of her earlier behavior. The woman shares her wealth with the poor woman who did shelter Isis (11).
Isis is credited with bringing civilization to humanity. She is responsible for teaching weaving, spinning, agriculture, grinding corn, healing, and the arts, especially metal working to humanity. Her priests were called mesniu, which translates as smiths (1). The Egyptians viewed Isis as an approachable Goddess. They would pray to her directly for her intervention in their fates. She was sympathetic to people due to her own experiences with grief. As the weaver of fate and destiny, she would sometimes bend the rules in a supplicant's favor.
Isis and Horus from sacred source
The Mysteries of Isis: Celebrated every fall, they begin on October third with the Festival of Lamentations. This feast day is in honor of Isis mourning Osiris (7).
The weeks of the festival culminate in three nights representing the trials of Isis, November 12, 13, and 14. The first day honors Isis' search for Osiris. The second day honors Isis' grief when she could not locate Osiris and the final day honors her finding Osiris' body (7).
There are several Midsummer Festivals associated with Isis. July 17th, known as the Night of the Cradle is celebrated as the birthdate of Isis and is shared with her sister, the Goddess Nut (7).
July 18th was known as the Night of the Drop, sometimes called the Night of the Teardrop (12). This is the Egyptian New Year's Eve and represents the night Isis' tears overflowed the banks of the Nile in her grief (7).
A fall festival for women was celebrated on October 16th, celebrating the motherhood of Isis. She represented supreme fertility to the Egyptians with her ability to conceive Horus from the artificial phallus she had constructed for Osiris. The feast was called the Opening of the Bosom, and centered on fertility and women's sexuality (7).
The Egyptian celebration of Isidis Navigatum, the Blessing of the Fleets, on March third, and the Roman celebration of Sellisternia, on May 31st both celebrate Isis in her role as a sea goddess. She is seen as a protectress of seafarers and for opening the Mediterranean to navigation. In Rome, this celebration is under her title Stella Marris, star of the Sea, and is ritually celebrated with a festival processional to the sea (7). Her worshippers believe that Isis has the power to control the winds through binding her hair up, or letting it hang loose. Priestesses of Isis were thought to share this ability (1),(2). Her power to control the winds makes her the patron Goddess of seafarers.
As Queen of Sorcery, Isis is invoked for all magickal workings. She is revered as one of the most complete Goddesses in history. Call on Isis for healing rituals, building spiritual awareness, grieving, divination, childbirth, fertility, initiations, matters of fate and destiny, and matters of civilization and domesticity [(2), (6), (10)].
Isis Blessing for Divination
by Willow Moonswan
As Tait, weaver of fate, Isis has knowledge of our destinies and takes a hand in helping us to weave our own lives. Invoke Isis' blessing for all methods of divination.
Light some Isis incense, or any incense from the correspondences chart, and gather your tools for divination. Chant this blessing over tarot cards, scrying mirrors, water filled cauldrons, pendulums, teacups, candles or any other items used for seeing between the veils.
"Isis, Queen of Sorcery,
your golden light shines through the veil
between what is, was and will be.
Life of the Nile, Weaver of Fate,
Guide my wanderings through past, present
and future as I travel the hidden all.
May my vision be true, and my path
guided by your wisdom. Blessed Be."
Isis Spirit Healing Meditation
created by Willow Moonswan
"Cease your tears now, for I have come to help you.
I looked down and saw the sorrows of your life.
All things will soon change for you, as under my watchful light
your life is restored, renewed."
The above passage from Robert Graves translation of The Transformations of Lucious, or the Golden Ass found in Patricia Monaghan's The Goddess Path, so eloquently demonstrates the depth of love Isis has for humanity and her compassion towards our sorrows. Her words offer hope after loss, and a promise to our spirits that there is strength in moving onward even in adversity. Transformation is a necessary part of life's cycles, and sorrow can be a cause of defeat. Isis understands this concept. Isis' own journey through loss, grief, sorrow and despair gave her the wisdom that only through facing our feelings may we emerge strengthened, transformed into a survivor.
Perform this meditation ritual to heal your spirit when you are faced with the loss of a loved one, a dream, hope, or even your optimism.
You will need a gold candle to represent Isis (a white candle will do if you do not have a gold candle), the Isis healing brew from the recipe by Scott Cunningham above (if necessary substitute an oil from the correspondences chart), pen and paper.
First begin by taking a ritual bath, or shower. Imagine the life giving waters of the Nile surrounding you, washing away your anxieties. When you are through, annoint yourself with the Isis healing brew while picturing yourself enveloped by the golden light of Isis. Feel the heat from the light soak into your body relaxing your muscles and releasing the tension from your body.
Once you are feeling relaxed, cleanse your ritual space and cast your circle in the manner you are most comfortable with. When your circle is open, light your Isis candle. Next you will need your pen and paper. Write on the paper what is in your heart. If you are angry, sad, alone, frustrated, release all of your feelings, write them on the paper. Relinquish the emotions that have been surrounding you, suffocating you, and give them voice on the paper. This may be an intense experience, but remember you are safe in your circle and Isis is there enfolding you in her wings as you continue to be bathed in her golden light. Give yourself the freedom to cry, scream, or moan if needed. It is important to acknowledge your sorrow. Take as much time as needed and when you are ready and feel that you have written everything you need to say, then begin your meditation visualization.
Begin by staring into the golden candle's flame. The flame is Isis' star Sirius and it gets larger as you watch it. The flame expands until you are encompassed by it, you are now in the star surrounded by golden light. You are walking through the star, your paper is in your hands. Ahead of you stands Isis. She is sitting on the floor waiting for you. As you approach her, she holds out her arms and you run to her. She enfolds you in her arms and the warmth of her love is as soft, if not softer, than the feathers of the wings she has draped around you. You feel safe, and comforted. She is the mother goddess rocking you back and forth, she murmers that you are strong, that she is with you, and that loss is a beginning, not an end. You tell her that your mind knows this, but your spirit is in pain. You show her the paper and say, "this is my heart, see how it is broken." She takes the paper from you and says, "I see your heart, but it is not broken." You tell her you do not understand. She reaches one hand out to place it above your heart and replies, "We have the strength to rebuild our lives, and that strength lies here within our hearts. Do not let despair defeat you. You are strong, you have not lost hope. It is only hidden behind these words."
Isis then holds up the paper and you see your words on the page. As the goddess begins to speak again the words start to disappear. "As I fanned breath into Osiris, may my wings fan the words of your heart to your spirit, so that you may be one and are restored, renewed." You realize that your feelings are yours and they are validated by the goddess. You cannot change what has happened, but you can change who you are by how you react to the adverse events in your life..
Isis smiles at you. You are in control of how you will face the challenges in your life, but there are some events that are not within your control. When you acknowledge this you feel a sense of freedom. The guilt that had been weighing your spirit down is released and you know what it is to smile again. Isis hugs you and you get up to leave. This time instead of the path, you float back to your spot before your meditation candle, carried by gentle breezes that Isis creates for you.
Before extinguishing the candle, burn the letter that you wrote releasing those feelings. As you watch the paper turn to ashes, imagine the strength and fortitude of Isis, and the positive possibilities present in rebirth. Save the ashes to scatter them outdoors for the wind after the ritual.
Slowly take in several deep breathes, and savor the experience. Take a moment to just breathe, and in doing so acknowledge life. Ground yourself and open your circle with the words, "Isis, stay if you will, go if you must. Blessed Be"
by Willow Moonswan
Lady, When the wind caresses my skin,
I know you are present.
Moonlit magic fills me within,
as I spread my wings with you.
Thy sacred mysteries revealed to me,
as we soar o'er the world.
Thy blessings nourish my soul,
and joyous is she who knows your love.
Thou soar above the clouds dancing in the winds.
I sing the circle bright as thy Moon's fullness,
enraptured by thy healing touch.
Thou shine brightly in the fields, sands and seas.
May thy ever giving spirit purify my heart.
Thanks to thee, Lady Isis, for thy compassion,
for strength, wisdom, and magick,
and for thy blessing, a reawakening to life.
1. Conway, D.J. Magick of the Gods. St.Paul: Llewellyn. 1997.
2. --- Maiden, Mother, Crone. St.Paul: Llewellyn. 1994.
3. Cunningham, Scott. The Complete Book of Incense, Oils, & Brews. St.Paul: Llewellyn. 1989.
4. ---. Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic. St.Paul: Llewellyn. 1988.
5. ---. Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. St.Paul: Llewellyn. 1985.
6. Farrar, Janet. and Stewart Farrar. Witches' Goddess. Blaine: Phoenix Pub. 1987.
7. Monaghan, Patricia. Goddess Path. St.Paul: Llewellyn. 1999.
8. ---. The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines . St.Paul: Llewellyn. 1981.
9. Reed, Ellen Canon. Circle of Isis. Franklin Lakes: New Page P. 2002.
10. Telesco, Patricia. 365 Goddess. San Francisco: Harper. 1998.
11. The Way to Eternity: Egyptian Myth. ed. Time Life Books. London: Duncan Baird Pub. 1997.
12. Walker, Barbara G. The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. SanFrancisco: Harper. 1983.