Painting of Isis and Osiris by Olivia Robertson in the Healing Chapel, Temple of Isis at Foundation Centre
"God the Mother, the Creatress and Giver of Life"
by Lawrence Durdin-Robertson
FOI co-founder and ArchPriest
Baron Robertson of Strathloch
Priest of Isis
Part I. The Maternal Source. Egyptian.
(entry on Isis)
In the later period of Egyptian history, particularly during the Graeco-Roman era, it was Isis who was increasingly accorded the dominant position. And she “of the ten thousand names” was soon seen to hold the same role as that traditionally allowed to the primeval goddesses. A Theban tradition of the 14th century before this era, records a cosmogony starting with Isis: “In the beginning there was Isis. Oldest of the Old. She was the goddess from whom all Becoming Arose” (cit. Merlin Stone, Para. Papers, Intro.). In the Oxyrhynchus Litany she is “the First Name” (cit. Witt, 268). While the poet Isidorus, living in the Fayum in the 1st century before this era, sees her as the original creatrix. In his first Hymn to Isis he thus addresses her: “Because of you heaven and the whole earth have their being.” (v. 9). In her commentary Vera Vanderlip summarizes these verses: “Isis is the creator of the physical universe.” (p. 25). And in general she writes: “The early aretalogies emphasize Isis’ power, omnipotent and creative … [She is] the eastern creator who first established the cosmos and made man.” (p. 9).
Part II. The Generation of the Great Mother. Egyptian.
(entry on Isis)
… the daughters of Nut are “Isis, a spirit of dawn, and Nephthys, a spirit of twilight”. (Budge B.D. xcvi).
… The production of certain geographical features are seen as a result of the emanations of Isis. The Greek writer Pausanias records how; “At this time the Nile begins to rise and it is a saying among many of the natives that what makes the river rise and water their fields is the tears of Isis.” (X. xxxii, 18). “Sometimes Isis is seen as the bed of the river Nile, the river itself representing the parturient waters of the goddesses.” (Gdss. Chald. 290).
The creation of vegetation is often attributed to Isis. As Frazer writes: “Amongst the epithets by which Isis is designated in the inscriptions are ‘Creatress of green things’, ‘Green Goddess, whose green colour is like unto the greenness of the earth’, ‘Lady of Bread’, ‘Lady of Beer’, ‘Lady of Abundance’. According to Brugsch she is ‘not only the creatress of the fresh verdure of vegetation which covers the earth, but is actually the green corn-field itself, which is personified as a goddess.’ This is confirmed by her epithet Sochit or Sochet, meaning ‘a corn-field’ … The Greeks conceived of Isis as corn-goddess, for they identified her with Demeter. In a Greek epigram she is described as ‘she who has given birth to the fruits of the earth’ and ‘the mother of the ears of corn’; and in a hymn composed in her honour she speaks of herself as ‘queen of the furrow’s wheat-rich path’. Accordingly, Greek or Roman artists often represented her with ears of corn on her head or in her hand.” (Golden Bough, abdg. 382)
In the Classical period of Egyptian history, when Isis assumed the dominant position in the Pantheon, she is seen as ‘Thiouis’, the One; and cosmogenesis was in general attributed to her. Isidorus in his first hymn to her praises her in these terms:“O wealth-giver, Queen of the Gods; Hermouthis, Lady,
Omnipotent Agathe Tyche, greatly renowned Isis,
… Because of You heaven and the whole earth have their being,
And the gusts of the wind and the sun with its sweet light.
By your power the channels of the Nile are filled, every one, …” (p. 21)
In her introduction Vera Vanderlip writes: “The early aretalogies emphasise Isis’ power, omnipotent and creative”. Isidorus, in his second Hymn addresses her as:“Creator of both earth and the starry heaven,
And of all rivers, and many swift streams …” (p. 36).
In a resume of Isis’ position in the period, Dr. Witt states: “The most important aspect, however, is the omnipotence of Isis on a cosmic scale. She has separated earth and heaven. She has revealed the paths of the stars … All things bow to her … She is indeed Almighty”. (p. 106)
Isis is seen as cosmic nature by Apuleius; in his address to her he uses the words: “You set the orb of heaven spinning around the poles, you give light to the sun, you govern the universe … At your voice the stars move, the seasons recur, the spirits of earth rejoice, the elements obey. At your nod the winds blow, clouds drop wholesome rain upon the earth, seeds quicken, buds swell”. (Metam. xix).
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