by Tim Kavi
Isis is the Egyptian patron saint of magic and nature. Isis appears as protector of children and a protector of the dead. She is commonly depicted as being a friend to artists, sinners, slaves and the downtrodden, though she would also listen to the prayers of rulers, aristocrats, the wealthy and maidens.
Isis is the mother of Horus, the god of protection and war. Her name literally translates to “throne” and she wears a throne on her head to depict this, though it is believed that she was seen as a wife or assistant to deceased pharaohs in the Old Kingdom. She acts as a symbol of the power of the pharaoh, and the current pharaoh would frequently be depicted as her child, sitting on her throne. The myth of Isis became exceptionally popular in the Greco-Roman period, though the image of Isis mothering the leader of the Egyptian world was translated to an image of Mary suckling her son Jesus as the Christians moved to suppress “pagan” religions.
Temples to Isis were built throughout Rome, Iraq and Greece, though it was understood that Isis remained with her husband Osiris in Egypt. These temples would become home to healers believed to have special powers to control the weather or interpret dreams which was accessed by braiding the hair in a special way. The cult of Isis widely believed that knots held special power which could be accessed by adorning your body with them. Very little about the rituals of the Isis cult is known because they were disbanded during the Greco-Roman area.
It was frequently believed that her tears would cause the Nile River to flood. Isis would weep for the death of Osiris as he died and would become reborn each year, contributing to the flooding cycle that occurred each spring. Her cult remained quite local to this area, even after Egyptian mythology proceeded to spread to further reaches of the kingdom. Egypt is seen as her home, though she would see leaders on to the afterlife in some depictions. Isis is considered the mother of the four sons of Horus, the deities in charge of protecting the canopic jars which held a pharaoh’s internal organs after death. Isis was especially associated with Imesty, the protector of the liver jar.
In the New Kingdom, the role of Isis evolved as the cult of Ra rose in prominence. Ra was paired with Horus, and since Isis was paired with Horus, she rose in prominence throughout the ancient world. During this time, the myth of Isis and Osiris became one of the most important myths in Egyptian culture. Set murdered his brother Osiris in order to usurp the throne. Osiris’s wife Isis, brokenhearted, restored her husband’s body so she could conceive a son with him posthumously. This son was Horus, who would frequently battle Set for the throne, a battle which eventually became victorious. As Horus became the protector and representation of the pharaoh, Isis became the protector of the pharaoh who would see him to victory in his endeavors.