Fellowship of Isis History Archive - The Fellowship of Isis: An Article by Steve Wilson
The Fellowship of Isis
By Rt. Rev Steve Wilson, Priest Hierophant, FOI
Since early childhood, Olivia Robertson has heard the call of the Goddess Isis. Her early experiences led both her and her brother Lawrence into a lifelong exploration of religion, leading in 1976 to the formation of the Fellowship of Isis. A multi-faith, non-hierarchical organization, it has around 9000 members in more than 60 countries. Membership simply involves accepting the Fellowship manifesto and applying; there are no fees of any sort.
As a multi-faith grouping, we have no strict theology, and the Fellowship Centres (Iseums) each organize according to the wishes of their members. To give some idea of the variety involved, the forty or so Iseums in the UK include covens, feminist circles, ritual magick and ecological groups; a new Iseum in London is primarily concerned with Celtic and Arthurian traditions. In Nigeria, a single Church of Isis organizes throughout Yorubaland and has thousands of members. As a third of the Fellowship’s 9000 members come from Nigeria and have difficulty in obtaining books and “Isian News” due to currency restrictions, the FOI has a charitable trust to alleviate the situation. Arch Priest the Rt. Rev. Michael Okoruwa topped the Nigerian bestsellers list with his book “The Auror” and his healing ceremonies are so poular they have to be held in football stadia! Some centres attempt new syntheses, such as the Church of Isis, while recently a group of Egyptians whose forebears have been practicing the ancient Isian faith in secret since time immemorial joined us.
Members may be ordained into the priesthood of Isis to serve the Goddess of their choice. For instance, among the members of the Iseum I serve we have priestesses of Sekmet and Hecate, and a priest of Nuit. The title of Priest and Priestess Hierophant is given to those who have taken on a teaching duty within the Fellowship. While the activities of each Iseum is their own concern, a series of initiations and other rituals are available. Written through Olivia, they constitute a complete liturgy and are practiced in an increasing number of Iseums. It is perhaps through these that the flavour of the Fellowship is best experienced. Each ritual is magical, mystical and religious; there is no attempt to reduce our Deities to “archetypes” or other such psychobabble. Each involves the invocation of Goddesses and Gods, from different Pantheons. Working with the deities of many systems magnifies rather than dilutes the forces of each one, and I can only say that I have never felt such powerful energies in any of the many systems I have explored as those achieved in the Fellowship liturgy. The coming age is of a world culture and its essence can only be experienced through direct involvement in the world’s pagan religions.
The liturgy comprises several series of rituals. The Sophia series consists of twelve Zodiacal rituals aimed at achieving consciousness of the cosmos. The Urania series are ceremonial magical rituals for the planets, time and space, and the elements. Panthea gives eight seasonal rituals and four initiations, including a pagan equivalent of a christening and a funeral ceremony, while Dea gives morning and evening rites and still more festivals (we like festivals). In addition, there are rites for initiation into the fellowship, ordination as a priestess or priest, and the Isis Wedding Rite. While many centres were working groups before joining, more and more Iseums are being founded to specifically work the liturgy. Readers may be interested to know that leading members of SOL, the Green Circle and both OTO groups are long-time members.
Since my own ordination five years ago, I have at last found what I felt was lacking in the western mysteries. What I see in the development of the FOI, is the emergence of a pagan life, embracing all aspects of existence just as it does in countries where paganism has been relatively uninterrupted, such as India or Nigeria. In the FOI, one can follow whatever path one chooses; there are no demands that only “our” heritage or tradition is followed. The nonsensical games that plague the “scene” are difficult to play in the context of the FOI; there are no ranks to achieve as Initiates, Priestesses, Priests and new members are all equal, and such positions as do exist are duties that do not bestow any special privileges. The manifesto and nature of the liturgy, and the multi-faith, multi-cultural international basis of the FOI makes racism and intolerance of other cultures ridiculous, and the feminine emphasis melts, not reinforces, the ego.
The dedication and modesty of Olivia and Lawrence, and the forces that work through them, put most of the scene-leaders and publicity seekers to shame. And above all, the FOI delivers what it promises. Members of the Iseum I serve will attest to the peace, power, energy and above all the reality of the FOI liturgy, both during and after the actual performance of the rites.
Originally Published in Pagan News, November 1989. Permission to feature this article on FOI Central Website was granted by the author, Steve Wilson.
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