Isis: Goddess and Mother of Egypt

Isis is an integral part in the Osiris myth of rebirth and resurrection. The myth is gathered from pyramid and funerary texts. In the myth, Osiris is wretched apart by his brother Seth and his limbs scattered across Egypt. Isis, Osiris’s sister-wife puts him back together after gathering up all his limbs, and Osiris then becomes king of the underworld after fathering Horus who becomes king of the upper world.  Already, Isis is depicted as a devoted wife by her relentless searching of Osiris’s scattered limbs and the power that restores him to life. In the mythology, it is by suckling Osiris that he is reborn which Lesko uses to emphasize Isis’s role as a motherly figure. Pyramid texts depict milk as being essential in his resurrection.

Knapp argues using ectypal analysis that Isis is portrayed as a powerful woman with the power of resurrection, which is reflected in the power and equality of women at the time. Isis is also associated with the regular flooding of the Nile. This constant natural source of renewal can easily be associated with death and rebirth, and thus with Isis. This is also emphasized in the myth when her tears of mourning are the origins of the Nile flooding. Lesko refers to this also and links Isis to symbolizing fertility and harvest. This is similar to the representations of Demeter in Grecian myths. Isis can also be compared to Persephone in that Isis is later depicted as part of the council that judges the deceased along with her husband, Osiris just as Persephone and Hades reign over the their respective underworld. In the Ptolemaic period, the Lamentations of Isis are added to the funerary texts in which also depict Isis as a devoted and loving mother and wife. Lesko remarks that this depiction of Isis reflect the values of the time that women find admirable in other women especially mothers.  In a later version of the Book of the Dead, spell 142 lists Isis’s many identities, such as The Great, Mother of the God, the Divine, Daughter of Nut, Great of Magic, and Possessor of Magical Protection (Lesko, 1999). Once again, the emphasis is on her motherliness and the associated protection.

 

Knapp, Bettina. “The archetypal woman fulfilled: Isis, harmony of flesh/spirit/logos.” Symposium 50.1 (1996): 28+. Academic OneFile. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

Lesko, Barbara S. Great Goddesses Of Egypt. [N.p.]: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

Women’s Monumental Mark on Ancient Egypt
Barbara S. Lesko
The Biblical Archaeologist , Vol. 54, No. 1 (Mar., 1991), pp. 4-15
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3210327