Literature and Art
The Divine Goddess
story of the
Divine Goddess is traced back to the beginnings of Egyptian
Mother Goddess in the ancient Egyptian religion and many different
used in her worship. Through religious
scripture, pyramid texts, poetry and art, the story of Isis
have been passed on through generations, making her cult one of the
longest lived. Colum’s Myths of the
World, J. Geyns
Griffith’s translation of the pyramid texts, Apuleius’ The Golden
and the Isis Aretalogies from The Nag Hammadi Gospels, are all examples
literature telling the story of Isis. There are also important and evocative works
of art made in
honor of Queen Isis. The Statuette of
Isis and Horus and Aphrodite-Isis are both statues made to
maternity and the beauty of Isis. The Temple of Dendur is on display at
the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This
great temple was built for the honor and worship of this great goddess.
The myth of Isis is told in Myths
of the World. This myth was written in
and was translated and edited in the early 20th century.
In Egyptian mythology, the story of Osiris
and Isis is one of the most important and central of all legends. These two supreme gods are descendants of Re,
the god of the sun, and are essential to the story of creation. Qeb, the goddess of the sky, and Nut, the god
of the earth, gives birth to Osiris and when he
was born “a voice came
world crying ‘Behold, the Lord of all things is born!’” (Colum, p. 3). Isis is
Osiris’s twin, and the story describes their eternal love from
beginning of their lives. Osiris and
Isis then marry, and become supreme rulers of the land.
Osiris and Isis are essential to the story of
creation. They are among the earliest of
gods and they were considered to be the two forces that held nature
together. Isis, the mother goddess and
Osiris, the god of the underworld are important and central gods in
The couples' brother
betrays Osiris because of his jealousy:
“Seth’s hatred was growing over the land—vine and grain and
flowers. Many times Seth tried to
destroy his brother Osiris, but always his plots were baffled by the
care of Isis” (Colum, p.4). Eventually Seth thinks of a plan that even Isis does not expect, and is able to trap his
brother in a
wooden chest, bringing him to his death.
Although Osiris is subsequently reincarnated (several times) he
becomes the God of the Dead.
is an essential part of this story because of her ever growing love
follows Seth all over many lands searching for her beloved. Isis is able
to find her husband because of a vision she sees. Osiris
becomes a part of a column and Isis
goes to the King of Byblos’ home to find him. When
she arrives she finds a child
being the Divine Mother, nurses the baby and performs a ritual on the
make it immortal. She places the baby in
the fire, without burning the child. Isis feels
connected with the baby because it has been born in the house where her
rests. She wishes to
make this child immortal to honor her husband.
When discovering the column she:
“strips the wood from the
(p.6). Isis is quick to return to Egypt
and open the chest: “She breathed into
his mouth, and, with the motion of her wings (for Isis,
being divine, could assume wings), she brought life back to Osiris”
(p.6). The reincarnation of Osiris was an
piece of Egyptian myth. This scene shows
how Isis can assume other beings to
Osiris is eventually
killed again by his brother, “and all the beauty and all the abundance
come from Re would be destroyed if the pieces that had been the body of
were not brought together once more” (p.6-7).
Isis finds all the parts of her
“and as the body of Osiris was formed once more, the wars that men were
died down; peace came; grain and the vine and the fruit-trees grew once
(p.7). After she retrevies the chest,
Isis’s role in this myth is
to the fate of Egypt. Her efforts throughout the story showed her
ability to be a powerful divinity worthy of great worship.
Her transformations from being herself to
becoming a bird truly showed her abilities and desire to save her
In the ancient pyramids
people wrote the myths of the gods in the hieroglyphics painted on the
walls. In J. Gwyns Griffith’s translation
of the pyramid
texts, he discusses how the texts imply that Horus, the child of Isis
and Osiris might have been
after the death of Osiris: “…for the
great Isis, who tied the girdle at Khemmis, when she brought his
her incense in front of her son, Horus the young child, that he might
the earth with his white sandals, and go to see his father Osiris”
p.7). The relationship of Isis and Horus
is central to the myth.
The story discusses their love for Osiris and the desire to
is depicted in many other pyramid texts, but she is always shown
husband and brother, Osiris. The myth
that even though women were gaining more power in Egypt, when Cleopatra was
the ruler of Egypt, they still needed to
protected men. She is an essential role
in the protection of Osiris and Horus and without her the Egyptian
believed that the world would come to an end.
The story of The
Golden Ass, told by Apuleius, was written in the second century. This story is about the power of Isis’s worship. Lucius,
the main character, is turned into a donkey because of his curiosity
and desire. Lucius prays to the Goddess in
hopes that she
will tell him how to become human again.
The Great Divinity comes to him in a dream.
Apuleius uses powerful and vivid imagery to
describe how Lucius envisions the Supreme Goddess, Isis:
“I drowsed and fell asleep… a god-like face
emerged from the midst of the sea with lineaments that gods themselves
revere” (Apuleius, p.236). Lucius then
goes on to describe her “abundance of hair…upon her divine neck”
(p.237). He seems truly obsessed with her
her divine presence in his dream.
tells Lucius that she has been moved by his prayer and describes to him
important she is: “I, the natural mother
of all life, the mistress of the elements, the first child of time, the
divinity, the queen of those in hell, the first among those in heaven,
uniform manifestation of all the gods and goddesses…” (Apuleius, p.
desperately wants Isis
to save him. He makes sure to follow
every direction the goddess gives him. Isis
explains to Lucious that she is the Divine Mother and if he was to
worship her, she would protect him.
Supreme Goddess will answer his prayers if Lucius meets certain
all remaining days of your life must be
dedicated to me and nothing can release you from this service except
(Apuleius, p. 238). She informs him that if he eats a rose bush, during
religious procession, he will become a man,
“Men and women of all classes and ages who had all
initiated into the mysteries of the goddess…”
(p.241) are in a procession that Lucius witneness.
recited a spell that returned the ass to a man once again:
“Lo, here is Lucius who rejoices in the
providence of might Isis. Lo, he is loosed from the bonds of misery and
victorious over his fate” (p. 244).
Lucius obeys her wish of Isis and spends the rest of his life
Hammadi Gospel, entitled, The Thunder, Perfect Mind, was
was meant to describe the powers of the Divine Goddess.
This poem was featured in The Gospel of
the Egyptians and was found in the early 20th century in the are of
Nag Hammadi. It is unsure who actually wrote this poem. This poem
is apart of the sixth Codex. It was originally
that these texts were destroyed in the early Christian struggle, but
discovered in the 1970s. This text
also called the Isis Aretalogies, deals with education,
and sexuality. Aretalogies
means a string of ‘I am’ statements. This
poem reflects the views Isis is said
to have on personal and social issues. This
poem gices interesting perspective on
how the Goddess speaks to her people.
depicted in the first person, instructs her people: “Do not be ignorant
For I am the first and the last…I am the whore and the holy one; I am
and the virgin” (Thunder, line 10-15).
She is the Divine Goddess, and she does not want her people to
ignorant of her powers: “Be on your guard! Do not hate my obedience;
and do not
love my self-control. In my weakness, do
not forsake me; and do not be afraid of my power” (Thunder, line 60-65). Isis is a
powerful goddess, but she was loyal to her people and she does not want
them. This poem also focuses on how the
divinity wants the listener to relate to her. Isis
tells the reader to find herself,
reaching salvation. Depicted in
many texts, Isis can also be found in many different works of art.
Goddess was sculpted as the perfect depiction of motherhood in
330 BC. In The
Statuette of Isis and Horus,
featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Isis
is shown breast feeding her son, Horus. There
is a symbol on her head that represents her name. She
is also wearing a head covering that
resembles a vulture. To the ancient
Egyptians this is animal represented a queen or goddess.
Horus lies naked on his mother's lap, suckling
her breast. It was typical of early Egypt
to show children naked. Nakedness
represents innocence and childhood. The
symbol of motherhood was very important to the early Egyptians. Made during the Ptolemaic Period, the statue
of Horus was seen as an image of rebirth. The blood that flows through
veins is the blood of his father, an important deity in the Egyptian
religion. Osiris becomes the God of the
Underworld, and symbolizes an important part of Egyptian mythology.
the Egyptian Greco-Roman period, between the second and third
statue called Aphrodite-Isis was constructed to honor the
and Aphrodite. The figure is shown nude
with an elaborate crown on her head. The thorns on her crown represent
Isis, and her long flowing blonde locks are a typical perception of
during that time. Both Goddesses are
associated with conception, marriage, and childbirth.
They were both seen a divine mothers. Aphrodite,
the goddess of love, and Queen
Isis were considered to be very similar and were integrated into both
Temple of Dendur was built in 15 BC during the Roman period in Egypt. In Egyptian culture, temples represented
the Egyptian world. Inside this temple
there are drawings of the Nile and
that prosper from it. The Temple of Dendur was built to honor the
Isis. Carvings of Isis, Osiris and Horus
have been sunken into the walls so that when the light hits them it
great shadow that makes the deities look as if they are coming out of
walls. The middle room was used to make
offerings to the Supreme Divinity. These
offering rituals were important to the Egyptian people.
They wanted the goddess to be pleased with
them, so that she would protect Egypt.
the fourth century a beautiful black stone was carved honoring the son
Horus. The stone called Magical Stela
was extremely important to the ancient Egyptian religion.
There is a scene carved into the front,
showing Isis reciting a spell to the people of Egypt. This spell was to be recited if a person was
bitten by something poisonous or hurt in battle. This is another image
depicting Horus is as a healer. This
quality he shares with his mother. Isis is seen as a nurturer.
Horus seen as a healer is similar because
they both possess a desire to help and protect the Egyptian people.
myth, religious texts, poetry and art, the legend of Isis
still lives on today. Her strong and
powerful cult was able to generate remarkable literature and art that
was able to
be seen in different religious cultures.
These works reflect the power and centrality of Isis as a powerful deity in Egyptian and
Roman myths. Isis was
a very important goddess in ancient Egypt, and her
influence can still be found in text and art today.