I adore Thee
in the moon pool
and the dawn star,
in the dark night
and the golden day.
Each one reminds me
to Whom my heart belongs.
-M. Isidora Forrest,
If you've ever experienced a broken heart and a loss of a beloved, the Goddess Isis can empathize with your pain. Isis is an ancient Egyptian Goddess known for her magical healing powers, her maternal care of her son Horus and her devotion to her beloved husband, the good King Osiris.
Her name means throne and her headpiece is shaped as one.
Her dark evil brother, Set (the root is related to the word Satan) plotted to overthrow Osiris by crafting a plan to kill him. Set designed a box that fit Osiris' body perfectly and he tricked him to get inside. When he did, the box was thrown into the Nile.
Isis mourns the loss of her husband and goes on a quest to find the chest, which she completes. But Set finds the chest and lays his hands on Osiris' body chopping it into fourteen pieces and scattering it across the land. Again, Isis is grieved. She mourns for her beloved and then takes on another quest to recover the pieces of his body. She finds all of his pieces except his phallus, so she recreates a magical one and they conceive their son, Horus. In this myth, the good king is dismembered by the tyrant king who rules in violence while trying to hunt down the divine child, Horus. (Does this sound like King Herod after Jesus' birth?) Isis protects her son and keeps him safe until he is old enough to avenge his father's death and recover the true throne.
Isis is a bird goddess. She is often depicted with wings like an angel and her energy is one of sheltering and protection. She is often associated with the black kite bird or carrion, a bird of prey as she flies across the land looking for the dead pieces to recycle them back in the natural order of life. Birds are also associated with the spirit world, and the Holy Spirit is often depicted as a bird, as are the angels. The Goddess Isis prefigured and influenced early Jewish, Islamic and Christian stories that also came out of the land of Egypt.
Isis protected her son, Horus when Set took the throne. She hid with him in the reeds along the banks of the Nile River (does this sound like the Moses story?). Isis was celebrated far and wide, all the way up to Alexandria and the Greco-Roman world. Many early Christians saw status of Isis and Horus and attributed them to Mary and Jesus. The stories of Isis are found as far back as 2494 to 2345 BC.
Sexuality and motherhood unite in Isis who is an admirable lover and mother. She holds the opposites of the virgin/whore split that much of our psyches still suffer from. The pop singer Madonna revealed this split in our psyches as she held the opposites in her persona that rocked the world in the 80s and 90s. The culture was able to have a more conscious conversation about the taboo desires many men have to marry a mother/wife type woman and have affairs with a whore/lover and why this split was difficult to hold together in one woman who is naturally both mother and lover. The psyche naturally splits in development (but especially so in traumatic development) and parts of self can remain hidden like Osiris' body scattered across the land. Ancient humans understood the energy of Isis as healer--she had the ability to reconnect the fragmented selves and bring love back to life.
Horus' birth is traditionally celebrated on the Winter Solstice--a time when humanity gathers on the darkest day of the year to remember that the light will return. Across ancient cultures people anticipated the birth of a hero at this time. Christianity moved its celebration of Jesus' birth to this time of year to overlap this ancient practice, even though most scholars place the birth of Jesus sometime in the summer.
The fourteen pieces of Osiris' body relate to the waxing and waning moon. The Hebrew people, like the ancient Egyptians and much of early human civilizations followed a lunar calendar. The moon cycles through symbolic death and resurrection as the light dims and grows again. The moon has inspired people to see the energies of growth and change as positive, though painful, and necessary to renew life. Women's menstrual cycles also naturally follow the moon--especially when we are more connected to the earth and refrain from artificial lights which can tamper with this natural connection.
As a woman who has typically fallen for wounded men, the energy of the Goddess Isis resonates with me. As yoga teacher and practitioner of Reike, I feel her passion to help others as she flies through the air looking for all the parts of her beloved so that she might restore his body. My eldest son also shares a winter solstice birthday like her son, Horus. <3 I look to Isis to help me mother and protect my children when I'm feeling especially alone.
Isis energy also provides shelter and safety in the presence of Set/Satan who comes to destroy the divine child within us all. In some variants of the story Isis even empathizes with her brother Set/Satan and longs to heal him too-- in a fateful moment she pauses and her son Horus beheads her as he feels betrayed.
Humanity's ultimate healing comes from this ongoing search to resolve the split between the Light and the Dark. Under patriarchy, the feminine wisdom is still beheaded and silenced. When people don't want healing for themselves or others they attack the energy of the Goddess Isis, much like Set/Satan. What drives this energy of Set's dividing and conquering? How do we participate in that? Whose physical or energetic bodies are we dividing in order to maintain rule by a tyrant king in ourselves or in our world? The refusal to face the suffering fragments, the refusal to honor the cycles of life and resurrection have confused us about who is really fragmented, who is really healing and who is really disguising themselves as the good king while ruling like the tyrant king? These are ancient patterns of energies that are still looking to us for resolution.
The dividing and conquering energy of Set/Satan reminds me of the scary image of Bluebeard in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale who perpetually chops up his wives into pieces in his secret bloody room. In this tale, the feminine hero braves the violent fear and gathers all of the pieces of her sisters who have been cut into pieces by the tyrannical energy. Much like Isis, the feminine hero outwits the tyrant king and reassembles the pieces of her sisters' broken bodies which restores them to life.
There is a theory that Mary Magdalene was actually a Priestess of Isis. In Christianity the image of Jesus' broken body is presented at each Eucharist. In the New Testament scriptures (Corinthians 12) there is a beautiful analogy of how each person is a part of Christ's body--one is an eye, the other a hand, etc. There is an early ancient Christian hymn that echos the stories of Osiris: the bread that was scattered upon the mountain is gathered into one.
In some traditions of shamanism and in progressive therapies, recovering the fragmented pieces of our souls and integrating them into our awareness is the work of ongoing healing. We could use this myth and see how all of these characters are moving about in our inner worlds. When we honor our healing, we honor the life giving energy of the Goddess Isis, who carried the ankh, the staff of life which is an early representation of the tree of life in the Kabbalah, and also the cross of Jesus. The loop at the top is seen as a womb, the horns of the bull (which were demonized and deviated into images of a horned devil) actually represent the creative powers of the uterus and the ovaries.
As I was reflecting on the roots of Jesus and his possible relationship and connection to the Egyptian cult of the Goddess Isis I thought: gosh their names are similar! And I remembered from my studies of ancient languages that the J's and I's were interchangeable. So I looked into it further: in Latin Jesus is spelled Iesus, in ancient Greek (I-ee-sous).
In my own life, I struggle to balance the relationship between so many different parts of myself, my obligations, my shadows and my gifts--I often wondering how I'll ever "hold it all together." Meditating on Isis' power to hold together and reunite the fragments has been soothing to me as I work to hold the tension of opposites within--a tension that Carl Jung likened to a sort of death and resurrection.
Isis puts me in touch with that mothering energy within me that can gather and hold the little vulnerable ones and offer comfort and protection through the distressing moments of life as we gather strength to face the tyrants within, to recover our souls and move into more abundant life.
Ever since I drew a picture of Isis on my altar, feathers have been appearing everywhere in my life. I sense her presence like an angel watching over me and my children as we make our way in a world that still allows many forms of tyranny to rule.
The heart chakra is located around the area of the heart. In Sanskrit it is called 'Anahata' which means literally unstruck or unbroken. There is a place in the heart--a place of divine love--that can never be divided by evil. There is a place here where joy always resides. This is the place to which the energies of Isis/Horus and Mary/Jesus/Magdalene tether us to our wholeness which is found in eternal love. The Goddess Isis has been called, She Who is All because she cares about all of the wounded lost fragments of self and she knows that ultimately it is our complete integration and compassion for all of us that will bring about the healing of humanity.
I imagine the Goddess Isis in the yoga pose of Thunderbolt, seated calmly in her nest sheltering the divine child within us all with her wings wide, giving us sacred space to mature until we are strong enough to face our own tyrant kings.
Download the coloring page for the Goddess Isis.
Begin the Coloring Journey with our first entry: Divine Like A Girl