Updated: Apr 10, 2022
At the apex of her influence, this Goddess of Rebirth was worshiped throughout the Greco-Roman world. Her temples were finally closed in the 4th century AD, but her role as Mother of God, as well as many other Christian borrowings from her mythos, were assumed by the Virgin Mary. Originally Isis was known as Au Set, a predynastic Egyptian Goddess dating from 3000 BCE. She laid upon the dead body of her husband-brother, Osiris (whose annual death symbolized the fertilizing of fields by Nile floodwaters), and conceived Horus, the falcon-headed deity who is the original "son of God(ess)." The name Isis means "throne woman," and she was venerated as the inventor of agriculture, law and medicine, and as the Mother who placed the Sun God Ra in the sky. According to Egyptian scriptures, "in the beginning there was Isis, Oldest of the Old, the Goddess from whom all becoming arose."
Isis was the most important Goddess of all Egyptian mythology to embody the archetype of Great Mother. She was the sister and wife of Osiris, sister of Set, and twin sister of Nephthys. She was the mother of Horus the Child (Hoor-par-kraat). She was the female counterpart of Osiris. In human terms, she was his sister. Just as mankind is of two opposite yet equal genders, male and female; the nature of the divine cannot be expressed without reference to the same two aspects.
Isis was the female nature of the human aspect of God. She was equal and opposite to Osiris, yet her function was very different. Isis was not only the divine earth mother; she was the female aspect of creation. Without her magical powers nothing could have come into being. The supreme function of Isis was the same as that of every woman, she was the divine mother.
Isis was the triple Goddess of Birth, Life and Death. The cat goddess Bast is her lunar/fertility aspect, holding an ankh in her left hand and the sacred poppy in her right. The Mother goddess aspect is represented by her sun-disc/moon crescent crown. She is the prototype of the Mother of God, who was later adopted by the Christian tradition. Sekmet, the ravaging lioness, with her burning solar eye, is the goddess's destroyer/devourer aspect.
Wings spread and on bended knee, the Great Goddess Isis was the original Divine Mother; praised in hieroglyphic hymns as "she who made light with her feathers and wind with her wings." Her form was painted on sarcophagus in order to catch the departing soul in her wings and shepherd it to a new life. As a winged goddess she may represent the wind; in the Osiris legend there are references to Isis wailing and moaning like the wind. She continually travels up and down the land in search of her lost husband. Upon finding Osiris' body, she takes the shape of one of the swiftest birds, a kite. Darting above his dead body she wails in mourning. She restores life to Osiris by flapping her wings and filling his mouth and nose with air.
Isis was a great enchantress, the goddess of magic, worshiped throughout the Greco-Roman world, venerated as inventor of agriculture, law and medicine, the Mother who placed the Sun God Ra in the sky.
Isis was also a goddess of healing and magic. She lived with her brother/husband Osiris until he was killed by his brother Set. Isis, with the help of her sister Nephthys, found a part of his body in Phoenicia in a tamarisk tree, and returned it along with the other parts to Egypt for a proper burial. After Set's second attempt to dispose of the body, Isis brought Osiris back to life and later conceived a child with him, Horus. In the Osiris legend she is seen as a dutiful wife, a grieving widow and as a protector of the dead. Together with Thoth, she taught mankind the secrets of medicine. She is often rendered on the foot of coffins with long wings spread to protect the deceased.
Isis created a snake that bit Ra, highest of the gods. He asked her to heal him but she claimed that she could not until he whispered his secret name to her; he did and, in curing him, she gained eternal power over him. She was the Goddess of motherhood, marital devotion, healing the sick, and the working of magical spells and charms. She was believed to be the most powerful magician in the universe, due to the fact that she had learned the Secret Name of Ra from the god himself.
Her festivals are celebrated January 9, February 5, March 5, March 20, May 14, June 24, July 3, July 19, August 12, August 27, October 28 - November 3, November 13 - 14, December 22.
According to Crowley's Liber 777, she is associated with the Tarot (Twos, Threes, Fours, Tens, Emperor, Hermit, Hanged Man). Her gems are ruby, star ruby, turquoise, sapphire, star sapphire, pearl, amethyst, rock crystal, peridot, beryl and aquamarine. Her plants are amaranth, cypress, opium poppy, olive, shamrock, willow, lily, ivy, tiger lily, geranium, snowdrop, narcissus, lotus, and all water plants. Her animals are Man, woman, unicorn, sphinx, ram, owl, lion, virgin, anchorite, any solitary person or animal, eagle, snake and scorpion. Her minerals are phosphorus, silver and sulfates. Her perfumes are musk, myrrh, civet, cedar, dittany of Crete, dragon's blood, narcissus and onycha. Her Magical weapons are the lingam, Inner Robe of Concealment, Wand, Sceptre, Crook, Magic Circle, Triangle, Horns, Energy, Burin, Lamp, Wand, Bread, Cup and Cross of Suffering, Wine. Crowley gives more correspondences for Isis than for any other goddess, he attributes her to seven of his thirty-two paths.