The influence of Egyptian goddess Isis was far-reaching. She was a popular goddess who was worshipped even outside of Egypt. Archaeologists have unearthed artifacts, temples and obelisks everywhere from Greece and Italy to Germany and Great Britain that honor the goddess Isis. Isis was the patron of magic and nature. She symbolized both the perfect mother and the ideal wife. Like most gods in cultures that practice polytheism, Isis was responsible for many aspects of Egyptian life. Patron of the slaves and sinners. An advocate for the penniless and supporter of the artisan. She was a symbol of fertility and the goddess of motherhood.
Isis was the firstborn daughter of Nut, goddess of the overarching sky, and Geg, the god of the Earth. In Egyptian mythology, Isis was married to Osiris, also a powerful god. The two had a son named Horus. One of Egypt’s most prominent folklore tales tells the story of how Osiris was betrayed by his enemy Seth. Seth tricked Osiris and drowned him in the Nile. Isis used her magical powers to resurrect her husband, but Seth was relentless and killed Osiris again, this time hacking his body into 14 pieces and spreading the remains across the lands.
Grief-stricken, Isis set out across the desert in hopes of finding the remains of her husband and making him whole again. Isis searched the desert for years and was finally able to piece back together the remains of her husband, Osiris, and bring him to life. Isis protected Osiris until he regained his strength.
Versions of the story differ but most suggest that Osiris was resurrected incomplete because Isis was unable to find his genitalia. In one tale, she fashioned a substitute from clay to ensure that she could become impregnated and give birth to her son Horus. Horus becomes a powerful god in his own right and exacts revenge on Seth, destroying him in retribution for his father’s death.
Isis was one of the few goddesses in Egyptian mythology to dwell amongst her followers. She taught women how to make bread from grain and weave cloth along with other household duties. Isis was worshipped as the goddess of wisdom and health. She was also considered the protector of the dead in the afterlife. Myths suggest that it was Isis’ tears at the loss of her husband that caused the annual flooding of the Nile.
Over time, Isis began to be identified with the sky goddess Hathor and was depicted wearing the solar disk and horns that were Hathor’s signature headdress. In the art of ancient Egypt, Isis is most often portrayed carrying a simple staff and the Ankh symbol. Frequently, she is portrayed with outstretched wings as a symbol of protection. Thought to be the symbolic mother of the king, her name also meant “throne.” A popular exhibit at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo depicts Isis nursing Horus. This was a common subject of Egyptian art that emphasized Isis’ protector role.
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“No Egypt tour is complete without a visit to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. With over 120,000 artefacts, the museum houses an unbelievable exhibit depicting ancient Egypt’s glorious reign. Mummies, sarcophagi, pottery, jewellery and of course King Tutankhamen’s treasures, it’s all there. The boy-king’s death-mask – discovered in its tomb – is made of solid gold and it has been described as the most beautiful object ever made.” (Egyptian Tourism Authority)
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Rob Mabry is a former military journalist living in San Antonio. He writes about travel, technology, film and the video game industry. Rob operates www.yourmuseumstore.com along with his wife Sherry.