Queen of the Earth. Mother of Magic. She moves around you in the quiet and gently envelopes you in her feathery, protective wings. She is the Star of the Sea and the Great Redemptress. Her name is Isis Goddess of Ancient Egypt. If you’ve recently been called by this amazing Egyptian goddess, you might be wondering who she is and how to honor her. Here we talk about Isis’ origins, myths, her spiritual domains, signs she’s calling you. And 12 ways to work with her in your pagan or witchcraft practice.
Isis, also known as Au Set, is one of the most venerated deities on the planet. Her cult was one of the largest in ancient times and stretched from Eastern Africa to Asia to Europe and beyond. She was the wife to Osiris, god of the underworld, and mother of Horus, god of the skies. But she was much more than a mother and wife, she was Queen of the Earth and over the gods. The Great Sorceress knew how to use words to heal any ailment and to bring the dead back to life. And she is a master shapeshifter. But where did she come from?
Interestingly, with all we know about Isis, we don’t know much about her true origins. Some speculate she arose from the Hathor cult, a cow goddess of love and motherhood who predates Isis and seems to have all the same divine qualities. The Greeks associated her with multiple deities including Artemis, Aphrodite, Demeter and Persephone. Unlike many other ancient Egyptian gods, Isis has no clear cult center or city from which her belief arose. It seems she may have originated in the 5th dynasty, but there’s no evidence to prove it or prove otherwise. As time passed, Isis merged with other important deities throughout the ancient world including Hathor, Sothis, Bastet, Astarte and Nut.
One of the most well-known myths of Ancient Egypt is the tragic love story of Isis and Osiris. Set, Osiris and Isis’ brother, was so envious of Osiris that one day he nailed him into a box and threw him into the Nile River. The box carrying Osiris floated far away, into a foreign land, and became entangled in some reeds. These reeds enveloped the box and became a great cedar tree. By this time, Osiris’ dead body remained inside while Isis searched the land far and wide for her husband. But she couldn’t find him.
The king of the foreign land comes across a beautiful, aromatic cedar tree growing from the water. And he decides to move the tree into his palace, so he can enjoy its beauty every day. He didn’t know the coffin with Osiris body was still inside. After much searching and tribulations, Isis finds Osiris’ body and brings him home. But Set finds out and tears Osiris’ body into 14 pieces. Isis uses her magic to impregnate herself with Osiris baby and bears a divine child. The child is born Horus or Heru Sa Aset and Isis does whatever she possibly can to protect the child from her evil brother Set. She even tricks Ra into giving her his sacred, secret name…enabling her with his powers. To which she uses to protect Horus.
The story demonstrates Isis’ undying love for her husband and her son. And the great lengths she will go to to protect her son. She is the Great Mother. But the myths also illustrate a darker side to Isis – one in which she will do ANYTHING, even to the gods, to acquire power. Yes, this power is used to save her child, but it’s also to grab the keys to the kingdom so to speak. Thereafter, Isis becomes the Queen of the Earth. And in this it is evident that she embodies sacred polarity. She is powerful and uses whatever means to acquire this power. So, while she’s the Great Mother, she’s also not one to be messed with. Especially when it comes to her children.
When Isis Goddess of Motherhood manifests, she’s almost always a beautiful woman in childbearing years. Sometimes bearing a pair of feathered wings. She wears a headdress of horns that hold a golden disc or the sun between them. But Isis is also known to appear as a swallow, cow, kite, as a young princess and as a widowed beggar. Much of her survived iconography depicts her seated on a throne holding her baby Horus to her breast. In fact, historians believe many of the Mother Mary and Jesus statues from the East African region were originally Isis and Horus. Some also believe her image was taken to Asia by way of the Silk Road and she became Kuan Yin.
The Great Mother rules motherhood, obviously, but she also rules over many other spiritual domains. She’s a sorceress therefore magic falls under her dominion, including shapeshifting, incantations, and spells of all kinds. Healing is one of her number one qualities, and she uses words to eradicate illness and make one whole again. She is a mourner, mourning the death of her husband Osiris in the mythos, and rules over the grieving process and some funerary rites. We can assume with her mythos and connection to the ankh, that she also has access to the life/death/rebirth cycle.
Her cult inspired a fictional novel in ancient times called The Golden Ass, in which the author speaks of the mysteries of Isis. These mysteries illustrate rituals of deep importance, including an elaborate purification ritual before initiation. Therefore, Isis rules over purification and initiation rituals in general. Some scholars believe her mysterious rites influenced initiation rites still being performed today in churches, secret societies, and even fraternities.
How you choose to practice your beliefs and spirituality is completely up to you. But if you’re needing some tips on how to work with Isis, the Great Mother, here are our suggestions.
When you’re getting to know a deity, it’s crucial to read all you can about them. For Isis, there are myths to study but also archaeological evidence of her cult. Look up her iconography, history, and how the church forced her followers to convert. Study ancient Egyptian religion and daily life to understand Isis better. Read everything you can get your hands on.
Setting up an altar for Isis will aid in connection with her. Giving her sacred space within your space shows a willingness to communicate with her and to honor her. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy, if you don’t want it to be. Something as simple as a bookshelf or corner of a counter does the trick. Add candles, offering cups, and images of Isis. Use her colors black and blue and burn incense for her there.
Giving offerings to deities isn’t required, but it shows our gratitude. Isis appreciates fresh milk, flowers, incense, perfume, and candleflame. You don’t have to provide offerings every day, but every week or even every month is appropriate. Isis also appreciates being invoked in magical and healing rites, as well as moments in motherhood.
Isis is the Great Healer. She uses words to mend broken bones, heal wounds, and eradicate illness. If you’ve been called to heal, Isis will guide you in your studies and practice. Call on her when performing a healing ritual, concocting a remedy, or engaging in energetic healing of any kind. Ask her for the words to use to heal any disease, whether physical or mental.
The sistrum is a rattle that was popular in ancient Egypt. It was played for entertainment but also as part of sacred ritual. Because this instrument is linked to Isis, consider purchasing one and playing it when you invoke her to your circle. OR play it simply to please her.
Nearly every deity has a symbol or two that represents their divinity and powers. Isis is no exception. Use her symbols to connect with her: ankh, solar disc, moon, tyet amulet, the knot of Isis, and sistrum. Draw them on your body before and during ritual. Paint her symbols on her altar cloth. Or simply draw them in the air during ritual and to bless her space.
Isis’ sacred plants include vervain, myrrh, fig, date, palm and rose. Vervain can be purchased as a loose leaf herb and used in her offerings and herbal preparations. Burn myrrh incense or use myrrh essential oil to anoint her image. Offer dates, figs, and roses to her in gratitude. If you want to take it to the next level, grow one or all of her favorite plants. No one ever said no to a rose bush.
According to modern tradition, Isis is connected to Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and can be invoked on those days with ease. In addition, celebrate her on her most holiest of days including her birthday on July 17th, the Advent of Aset on January 2nd, and Navigium Isidis (a Roman feast day for Isis) on March 2nd. My recommendation is to research traditions that were once upheld for each fest day and recreate it in your own way.
At one point, Isis takes over the role of being the Eye of Ra, solidifying her role as a solar deity. However, there were many times in ancient Egyptian history where the people also linked her indefinitely to the moon. Cast magick using the sun and the moon in honor of Isis. And invoke her to bless your sun and moon waters. Then use these waters to cleanse her altar, add to ritual baths, and cleanse your magical tools. Or how about making a sun tea infused with rosebuds? Then offer a bit to Isis Goddess of Beauty in thanks.
Isis started out as the wife of Osiris but over the centuries rose to be honored above even the god of the underworld. She became the Queen of the Universe. She was also associated with the star Sirius, which was called the “Soul of Isis”. Get out your telescope and gaze at the wonders of Isis’ creation including the moon and the stars.
Because she’s the Great Mother, milk has long been her sacred liquid. Flowing from her body, nourishing ours and the entire universe. Isis also appreciates purity and purification rituals, so take a ritual milk bath before meeting her in ritual.
1. First clean yourself thoroughly in the shower before the bathing ritual. Egyptian Gods were adamant about cleanliness and the Egyptian priests/priestesses and pharaohs were required to be “clean” before approaching the gods.
2. Put on some relaxing music. If Egyptian music gets you in the mood, use it.
3. Light the Frankincense/myrrh incense. State “Great Mother Isis, may the smoke rise and fill your sacred place with my gratitude. I come to you as a humble soul in awe of your beauty and power.”
4. Light the white candle. Turn down the lights and get into a relaxed state of mind. Slow you’re breathing, quiet your mind, etc.
5. Draw a bath. While the water is filling the tub, pour the cup of milk. State, “this is mother Isis’ milk. I am ever grateful. May it nourish me and strengthen me – body, mind and soul.”
6. Next, put a handful of rose petals in the tub. State “roses for the love of Mother Isis. May she grant her undying love to heal my weary soul.”
7. Lastly, put a handful of jasmine in the tub. State, “Mother Isis, grant me your magic so that my soul may see in the darkness, heal and become whole.”
8. Disrobe and get into the tub. Bathe and lie in the tub as long as you’d like. Visualize the bathtub as a conduit of Isis’ loving, healing energy. Full of white light, drawing the very essence of the moon into your purifying bath.
9. When you’re finished, stand up and emerge a cleansed soul. State, “I’ve emerged a newborn, whole being wrapped in the loving wings of Isis. Thank you, O Great Mother.”
10. For the rest of the day/night, wear all white. This is the sign of purity and healing and was often worn by priests/priestesses in Ancient Egypt.
Many deities, especially Egyptian, appreciate when their devotees work with their sacred animals. Isis is no different. Her sacred animals include the cow, pig, scorpion, and multiple birds. You can add their images to her altar, offer Isis representations of them, and meet them in meditation and visionary journeying.
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