Isis - The Narrative of Isis

The Narrative of Isis
Text found on the Metternich Stele, also known as the Cippi of Horus

Based on a translation by E. A. Wallis Budge
As it appears in “The Legends of the Gods”

I am Isis, I have come forth from the dwelling, the prison, wherein my brother Set placed me. Behold the god Thoth, the great god, the Chief of Maat both in heaven and on the earth, said unto me, “Come now, O Isis, thou goddess! Moreover, it is a good thing to hearken, life is given to one who shall be guided by the advice of another. Hide thou thyself with thy son the child, and there shall come unto him these things. His members shall grow, and two-fold strength of every kind shall spring up within him. He shall be made to take his seat upon the throne of his father, whom he shall avenge, and he shall take possession of the exalted position of Heq of the Two Lands.”

I came forth from the dwelling at the time of evening, and there came forth the Seven Scorpions which were to accompany me and to strike for me with their stings. Two scorpions, Tefen and Befen, were behind me, two scorpions, Mestet and Mestetef, were by my side, and three scorpions, Petet, Thetet, and Maatet, were ahead, preparing the road for me. I charged them very strictly and my words penetrated into their ears: “Have no knowledge of any, make no cry to the Tesheru beings, and pay no attention to the ‘son of a man’ (i.e., anyone) who belongeth to a man of no account,” and I said, “Let your faces be turned towards the ground that ye may show me the way.” So the guardian of the company brought me to the boundaries of the city of Pa-Sui, the city of the goddesses of the Divine Sandals, which was situated in front of the Papyrus Swamps.

When I had arrived at the place where the people lived I came to the houses wherein dwelt the wives and their husbands. And a certain woman of quality spied me as I was journeying along the road, and she shut her doors on me. Now she was sick at heart by reason of those scorpions which were with me. Then the Seven Scorpions took counsel concerning her, and they all at one time shot out their venom on the tail of the scorpion Tefen; as for me, the woman Taha opened her door, and I entered into the house of the miserable lady.

Then the scorpion Tefen entered in under the leaves of the door and smote (i.e., stung) the son of Usert, and a fire broke out in the house of Usert, and there was no water there to extinguish it; but the sky rained upon the house of Usert, though it was not the season for rain.

Behold, the heart of her who had not opened her door to me was grievously sad, for she knew not whether he (i.e., her son) would live or not, and although she went round about through her town uttering cries, there was none who came at the sound of her voice. Now mine own heart was grievously sad for the sake of the child, and I wished to make to live again him that was free from fault. I cried out to the noble lady, “Come to me. Come to me. Verily my mouth possesseth life. I am a daughter known in her town, and I can destroy the demon of death by the spell which my father taught me to know. I am his daughter, the beloved offspring of his body.”

Then Isis placed her two hands on the child in order to make to live him whose throat was stopped, "O poison of the scorpion Tefent, come forth and appear on the ground! Thou shalt neither enter nor penetrate. O poison of the scorpion Befent, come forth and appear on the ground! I am Isis, the goddess, the mistress of words of power, and I am the maker of words of power, and I know how to utter words with magical effect. Hearken ye unto me, O every reptile which possesseth the power to bite (i.e., to sting), and fall headlong to the ground! O poison of the scorpion Mestet, make no advance into his body. O poison of the scorpion Mestetef, rise not up. O poison of the scorpions Petet and Thetet, penetrate not. O poison of the scorpion Maatet, fall down on the ground.”

Chapter of the Stinging

And Isis, the goddess, the great mistress of spells, she who is at the head of the gods, unto whom the god Keb gave his own magical spells for the driving away of poison at noon-day, and for making poison to go back, and retreat, and withdraw, and go backward, spake, saying, “Ascend not into heaven, through the command of the beloved one of Ra, the egg of the Smen goose which cometh forth from the sycamore. Verily my words are made to command the uttermost limit of the night. I speak unto you, I am alone and in sorrow because our names will suffer disgrace throughout the nomes. Do not make love, do not cry out to the Tesheru fiends, and cast no glances upon the noble ladies in their houses. Turn your faces towards the earth and the road, so that we may arrive at the hidden places in the town of Khebt. Oh the child shall live and the poison die! Ra liveth and the poison dieth! Verily Horus shall be in good case for his mother Isis. Verily he who is stricken shall be in good case likewise.”

And the fire was extinguished, and heaven was satisfied with the utterance of Isis, the goddess.

Then the lady Usert came, and she brought unto me her possessions, and she filled the house of the woman Tah, for the Ka of Tah, because she had opened to me her door. Now the lady Usert suffered pain and anguish the whole night, and her mouth tasted the sting her son had suffered. And she brought her possessions as the penalty for not having opened the door to me. Oh the child shall live and the poison die! Verily Horus shall be in good case for his mother Isis. Verily everyone who is stricken shall be in good case likewise.

Lo, a bread-cake of barley meal shall drive out the poison, and natron shall make it to withdraw, and the fire of the hetchet-plant shall drive out fever-heat from the limbs.

“O Isis, O Isis, come thou to thy Horus, O thou woman of the wise mouth! Come to thy son” - thus cried the gods who dwelt in her quarter of the town - “for he is as one whom a scorpion hath stung, and like one whom the scorpion Uhat, which the animal Antesh drove away, hath wounded.”

Isis ran out like one who had a knife in her body, and she opened her arms wide, “Behold me, behold me, my son Horus, have no fear, have no fear, O son my glory! No evil thing of any kind whatsoever shall happen unto thee, there is in thee the essence which made the things which exist. Thou art the son from the country of Mesqet, come forth from the celestial waters Nu, and thou shalt not die by the heat of the poison. Thou wast the Great Bennu, who art born at the top of the balsam-trees which are in the House of the Aged One in Anu . Thou art the brother of the Abtu Fish, who orderest what is to be, and art the nursling of the Cat who dwelleth in the House of Neith. The goddess Reret, the goddess Hat, and the god Bes protect thy members. Thy head shall not fall to the Tchat fiend that attacketh thee. Thy members shall not receive the fire of that which is thy poison. Thou shalt not go backwards on the land, and thou shalt not be brought low on the water. No reptile which biteth shall gain the mastery over thee, and no lion shall subdue thee or have dominion over thee. Thou art the son of the sublime god who proceeded from Keb. Thou art Horus, and the poison shall not gain the mastery over thy members. Thou art the son of the sublime god who proceeded from Keb, and thus likewise shall it be with those who are under the knife. And the four august goddesses shall protect thy members.”

Horus was bitten in Sekhet-An, to the north of Hetep-hemt, whilst his mother Isis was in the celestial houses making a libation for her brother Osiris. And Horus sent forth his cry into the horizon, and it was heard. Thereupon the keepers of the doors who of the holy Acacia Tree started up at the voice of Horus. And one sent forth a cry of lamentation, and Heaven gave the order that Horus was to be healed. And the gods took counsel concerning the life of Horus, saying, “O goddess Pai, O god Asten, who dwellest in Aat-Khus! Oh, bring thou the things which are thine to cut off the poison which is in every member of Horus, the son of Isis, and which is in every member of him that is under the knife likewise.”

Thus spake the goddess: “I am Isis, who conceived a child by her husband, and she became heavy with Horus, the divine child. I gave birth to Horus, the son of Osiris, in a nest of papyrus plants. I rejoiced exceedingly over this, because I saw who would make answer for his father. I hid him, and I concealed him through fear of that. I went away to the city of Am, the people gave thanks through fear of my making trouble. I passed the day in seeking to provide food for the child, on returning to take Horus into my arms I found him, Horus, the beautiful one of gold, the boy, the child, without life. He had bedewed the ground with the water of his eye, and with foam from his lips. His body was motionless, his heart was powerless to move, and the sinews of his members were helpless. I sent forth a cry:

“I, even I, lack a son to make answer. My two breasts are full to overflowing, but my body is empty. My mouth wished for that which concerned him. A cistern of water and a stream of the inundation was I. The child was the desire of my heart, and I longed to protect him. I carried him in my womb, I gave birth to him, I endured the agony of the birth pangs, I was all alone, and the great ones were afraid of disaster and to come out at the sound of my voice. My father is in the Tuat, my mother is in Aqert, and my elder brother is in the sarcophagus. Think of the enemy and of how prolonged was the wrath of his heart against me, when I, the great lady, was in his house.'

“I cried then, ‘Who among the people will indeed let their hearts come round to me?’ I cried then to those who dwelt in the papyrus swamps, and they inclined to me straightway. And the people came forth to me from their houses, and they thronged about me at the sound of my voice, and they loudly bewailed with me the greatness of my affliction. There was no man there who set restraint on his mouth, every person among them lamented with great lamentation. There was none there who knew how to make my child to live.

“And there came forth unto me a woman who was known in her city, a lady who was mistress of her estate. She came forth to me. Her mouth possessed life, and her heart was filled with the matter which was therein, ‘Fear not, fear not, O son Horus! Be not cast down, be not cast down, O mother of the god. The child of the Olive-tree is by the mountain of his brother, the bush is hidden, and no enemy shall enter therein. The word of power of Tem, the Father of the gods, who is in heaven, maketh to live. Set shall not enter into this region, he shall not go round about it. The marsh of Horus of the Olive-tree is by the mountain of his brother; those who are in his [Set] following shall not at any time enter it. This shall happen to him: Horus shall live for his mother, and shall salute with his mouth. A scorpion hath smitten him, and the reptile Aun-ab hath wounded him.’ ”

Then Isis placed her nose in his mouth so that she might know whether he who was in his coffin breathed, and she examined the wound of the heir of the god, and she found that there was poison in it. She threw her arms round him, and then quickly she leaped about with him like fish when they are laid upon the hot coals:

“Horus is bitten, O Ra. Thy son is bitten. Horus is bitten, the flesh and blood of the Heir, the Lord of the diadems of the kingdoms of Shu. Horus is bitten, the Boy of the marsh city of Ateh, the Child in the House of the Prince. The beautiful Child of gold is bitten, the Babe hath suffered pain and is not. Horus is bitten, he the son of Un-Nefer, who was born of Auh-mu. Horus is bitten, he in whom there was nothing abominable, the son, the youth among the gods. Horus is bitten, he for whose wants I prepared in abundance, for I saw that he would make answer for his father. Horus is bitten, he for whom had care in the hidden woman, in the womb of his mother. Horus is bitten, he whom I guarded to look upon. I have wished for the life of his heart. Calamity hath befallen the child on the water, and the child hath perished.”

Then came Nephthys shedding tears and uttering cries of lamentation, and going round about through the papyrus swamps. And Serq: “Behold, behold, what hath happened to Horus, son of Isis, and who hath done it? Pray then to heaven, and let the mariners of Ra cease their labours for a space, for the Boat of Ra cannot travel onwards whilst the son Horus lieth dead on his place.”

And Isis sent forth her voice into heaven, and made supplication to the Boat of Millions of Years, and the Disk stopped in its journeying, and moved not from the place whereon it rested. Then came forth Thoth, who is equipped with his spells, and possesseth the great word of command of maa-kheru, “What, what, O Isis, thou goddess who hast magical spells, whose mouth hath understanding? Assuredly no evil thing hath befallen thy son Horus, for the Boat of Ra hath him under its protection. I have come this day in the Divine Boat of the Disk from the place where it was yesterday - now darkness came and the light was destroyed - in order to heal Horus for his mother Isis and every person who is under the knife likewise.”

And Isis, the goddess, said: “O Thoth, great things are in thy heart, delay belongeth to thy plan. Hast thou come equipped with thy spells and incantations, and having the great formula of maa-kheru, and one formula after the other, the numbers whereof are not known? Verily Horus is in the cradle of the poison. Evil, evil is his case, death, misery to the fullest. The cry of his mouth is towards his mother. I cannot bear to see these things in his train. My heart hath not rested because of them since the beginning I made haste to make answer for Horus-Ra , placing myself on the earth, since the day I was taken possession of by him. I desired Neheb-ka .…”

And Thoth said: “Fear not, fear not, O goddess Isis, fear not, fear not, O Nephthys, and let not anxiety be brought to you. I have come from heaven having life to heal the child for his mother, Horus is protected. Let thy heart be firm; he shall not sink under the flame. Horus is protected as the Dweller in his Disk, who lighteth up the Two Lands by the splendor of his two Eyes; and he who is under the knife is likewise protected. Horus is protected as the First-born son in heaven, who is ordained to be the guide of the things which exist and of the things which are not yet created; and he who under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected as that great Dwarf (nemu) who goeth round about the Two Lands in the darkness; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected as the Lord in the night, who revolveth at the head of the Land of the Sunset; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected as the Mighty Ram who is hidden, and who goeth round about in front of his Eyes; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected as the Great Hawk which flieth through heaven, earth, and the Other World; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected as the Holy Beetle, the mighty wings of which are at the head of the sky; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected as the Hidden Body, and as he whose mummy is in his sarcophagus; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected in the Other World and in the Two Lands, who goeth round about ‘Those who are over Hidden Things’; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected as the Divine Bennu who alighteth in front of his two Eyes; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected in his own body, and the spells which his mother Isis hath woven protect him. Horus is protected by the names of his father in his forms in the nomes; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected by the weeping of his mother, and by the cries of grief of his brethren; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise. Horus is protected by his own name and heart, and the gods go round about him to make his funeral bed; and he who is under the knife is protected likewise.”

And Thoth said: “Wake up, Horus! Thy protection is established. Make thou happy the heart of thy mother Isis. The words of Horus shall bind up hearts, he shall cause to be at peace him who is in affliction. Let your hearts be happy, O ye who dwell in the heavens. Horus, he who hath avenged his father shall cause the poison to retreat. Verily that which is in the mouth of Ra shall go round about, and the tongue of the Great God shall repulse opposition. The Boat of Ra standeth still, and travelleth not onwards. The Disk is in the same place where it was yesterday to heal Horus for his mother Isis, and to heal him that is under the knife of his mother likewise. Come to the earth, draw nigh, O Boat of Ra, make the boat to travel, O mariners of heaven, transport provisions of Sekhem to heal Horus for his mother Isis, and to heal him that is under the knife of his mother likewise. Hasten away, O pain which is in the region round about, and let the Boat descend upon the place where it was yesterday to heal Horus for his mother Isis, and to heal him that is under the knife of his mother likewise. Get thee round and round, O bald fiend, without horns at the seasons, not seeing the forms through the shadow of the two Eyes, to heal Horus for his mother Isis, and to heal him that is under the knife likewise. Be filled, O two halves of heaven, be empty, O papyrus roll, return, O life, into the living to heal Horus for his mother Isis, and to heal him that is under the knife likewise. Come thou to earth, O poison. Let hearts be glad, and let radiance go round about.

I am Thoth, the firstborn son, the son of Ra, and Tem and the Company of the gods have commanded me to heal Horus for his mother Isis, and to heal him that is under the knife likewise. O Horus, O Horus, thy ka protecteth thee, and thy Image worketh protection for thee. The poison is as the daughter of its flame; destroyed because it smote the strong son. Your temples are in good condition for you, Horus liveth for his mother, and he who is under the knife likewise.”

And the goddess Isis said:

“Set thou his face towards those who dwell in the North Land, the nurses who dwell in the city Pe-Tept, for they have offered very large offerings in order to cause the child to be made strong for his mother, and to make strong him that is under the knife likewise. Do not allow them to recognize the divine ka in the Swamp Land, in the city of Nemhettu, in her city.”

Then spake Thoth unto the great gods who dwell in the Swamp-Land: “O ye nurses who dwell in the city of Pe, who smite with your hands, and overthrow with your arms on behalf of that Great One who appeareth in front of you in the Sektet Boat, let the Matet  Boat travel on. Horus is to you, he is counted up for life, and he is declared for the life of his father. I have given gladness unto those who are in the Sektet Boat, and the mariners make it to journey on. Horus liveth for his mother Isis, and he who is under the knife liveth for his mother likewise. As for the poison, the strength thereof has been made powerless. Verily I am a favoured one, and I will join myself to his hour to hurl back the report of evil to him that sent it forth. The heart of Ra-Heru-Khuti rejoiceth. Thy son Horus is counted up for life, which is on this child to make him to smite, and to retreat  from those who are above, and to turn back the paths of the Sebiu fiends from him, so that he may take possession of the throne of the Two Lands. Ra is in heaven to make answer on behalf of him and his father. The words of power of his mother have lifted up his face, and they protect him and enable him to go round about wheresoever he pleaseth, and to set the terror of him in celestial beings. I have made haste ...…”

Budge added the following paragraph in another one of his works titled “Literature of the Ancient Egyptians”:

Then the child Horus returned to life, to the great joy of his mother, and Thoth went back to the Boat of Millions of Years, which at once proceeded on its majestic course, and all the gods from one end of heaven to the other rejoiced. Isis entreated either Ra or Thoth that Horus might be nursed and brought up by the goddesses of the town of Pe-Tep, or Buto, in the Delta, and at once Thoth committed the child to their care, and instructed them about his future. Horus grew up in Buto under their protection, and in due course fought a duel with Set, and vanquished him, and so avenged the wrong done to his father by Set.


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Another version of this story is available on this site: The Scorpions of Isis