Isis: The Goddess of Fertility in Egyptian Mythology


     Isis is, in Egyptian Mythology, the Goddess of Fertility. She was one of the most worshiped deities in the Egyptian world; she was also, as popular that myth of her reached from Greece, as ancient Rome. Learn more about Isis.

Isis in Egyptian Mythology:

     Isis was a great goddess in ancient Egyptian religion whose worship spread throughout the Greek and Roman world. Isis was first mentioned in the Old Kingdom (2686 to 2181 BC) as one of the main characters in the Osiris myth, in which she resurrects her dead brother and husband, the divine king Osiris, and produces and protects his heir, Horus.

     In Egyptian Mythology, she was believed to help the dead enter the afterlife, as she had helped Osiris, and was considered the divine mother of the pharaoh, who was compared to Horus. Her maternal help was invoked in healing spells to benefit the common people. Originally, she played a limited role in royal rituals and temple rites, although she was more prominent in funerary practices and magical texts.

     This Egyptian Goddess was usually depicted in art as a human woman wearing a throne-like hieroglyph on her head. During the New Kingdom, when Isis took on traits that originally belonged to Hathor, the prominent goddess of earlier times, Isis was portrayed wearing Hathor's headdress: a sun disk between a cow's horns. That's why they associate Isis as the Goddess of Fertility, until then she was Hathor.

Isis is the Mother Goddess:

     Isis is treated as the mother of Horus, even in the earliest copies of the Pyramid Texts. However, there are signs that Hathor was originally considered his mother, and other traditions make an older form of Horus the son of Nut and a brother of Isis and Osiris. The Goddess Isis may have become the mother of Horus only when the myth of Osiris took shape during the Old Kingdom, but through her relationship with him she came to be seen as the epitome of maternal devotion.

In the developed form of the myth, Isis gives birth to Horus, after a long pregnancy and difficult childbirth, in the papyrus thickets of the Nile Delta. As her son grows up, she must protect him from Set and many other dangers - snakes, scorpions and simple diseases.

     In some texts, Isis travels among humans and must seek their help. According to one such story, seven lesser scorpion deities travel with her and guard her.

     They take revenge on a wealthy woman who refused to help Isis by stinging the woman's child, making it necessary for the goddess to heal the innocent child. Isis' reputation as a compassionate deity, willing to alleviate human suffering, did much to her appeal.

Check: Nephthys, the Goddess of Death

Isis was also Goddess of Magic:

     Isis, in addition to fertility, was known for her magical power, which allowed her to revive Osiris and protect and heal Horus, and for her cunning. By virtue of her magical knowledge, she was said to be "smarter than a million gods".

     In several episodes of New Kingdom history, Isis uses these abilities to trick Set during her conflict with her son. On one occasion, she transforms into a young woman who tells Set that she is involved in an inheritance dispute similar to Set's usurpation of Osiris' crown.

     When Set calls this situation unfair, Isis teases him, saying that he has misjudged himself. In later texts, she uses her transformation powers to fight and destroy Set and his followers.

Isis in Greek and Roman influence:

     In the Hellenistic period (323-30 BC), when Egypt was ruled and colonized by Greeks, the Fertility Goddess Isis was worshiped by Greeks and Egyptians, along with a new god, Serapis. Her worship spread throughout the wider Mediterranean world. Greek devotees of Isis attributed to her traits taken from Greek deities such as the invention of marriage and the protection of ships at sea, and she maintained strong links with Egypt and other Egyptian deities that were popular in the Hellenistic world, such as Osiris and Harpocrates. .

     As Hellenistic culture was absorbed by Rome in the first century BC, the cult of Isis became part of Roman religion. Devotees of her were a small proportion of the population of the Roman Empire, but were found throughout its territory.

     Her followers developed distinctive festivals as well as initiation ceremonies similar to those of other Greco-Roman mystery cults. Some of her devotees said that she encompassed all the divine feminine powers in the world.

End of the cult of Isis:

     The worship of Isis ended with the rise of Christianity in the fourth to sixth centuries AD. His worship may have influenced Christian beliefs and practices, such as the veneration of Mary, but evidence of this influence is ambiguous and often controversial.

     Isis continues to appear in Western culture, particularly esotericism and modern paganism, often as a personification of nature or the female aspect of divinity.

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