ISIS: Eternal Goddess of Egypt and Rome
By Lesley Jackson
244 x 170mm Perfect Bound (Paperback), 299 pages, RRP 14.99, ISBN 978191019102
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“Isis has the gift of universality. She is neither confined nor contained. Isis can respond to the various demands and expectations of each time and locality and can constantly be reinterpreted whilst retaining her important Egyptian soul and origins. Isis is infinitely adaptable; like a web of energy connecting many nodes she can embrace and encompass all, and each new addition strengthens and expands her web.” ~ Lesley Jackson
Isis – the Eternal Goddess of Egypt and Rome is a thought-provoking study of one of the most enduring and enigmatic ancient goddesses, Isis. The ancient Egyptians knew her as Aset and her name was written with the hieroglyph of a stylised throne, emphasising her association with royalty and kingship. She was the sister of the mysterious goddess Nephthys, mother to Horus, wife and sister to Osiris, known as a great magician and healer – and associated with events of cosmic significance.
Throughout the millennia of her worship she held many roles, evidenced by the many temples, symbols and writings left behind by her devotees. As the popularity of her cult grew in importance and diversified over time the Greco-Roman Isis kept all her Egyptian powers and added more from the strong Greek influence in Egypt. She became a beneficial Goddess of nature, a Saviour and to many the sole Goddess. The author examines this and questions whether the Isis of the Old Kingdom of Egypt was the same Isis who became the All-Goddess of the Greco-Roman period. Her worship spread beyond Egypt before the Greek conquest as Egyptian diplomats, merchants and other travellers who spent time in Egypt spread her cult overseas.
In this extensive work the author Lesley Jackson draws on two of the principle sources of information on Isis, the texts of the Ancient Egyptians and those of the Classical writers to present the most complete presentation of her worship to date. She considers her beginnings, her birth, her place of origin, her names, her attributes, her iconography, her relationships, her symbols (including the ankh, tyet, sistrum and situla) and the development of her cult.
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Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE ORIGIN OF ISIS AND HER MANY NAMES
ANIMALS ASSOCIATED WITH ISIS
THE OSIRIS MYTHS
THE HORUS MYTHS
THE POWER OF TWO
RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER GODS
ASSIMILATING EGYPTIAN GODDESSES
INTERACTION WITH NON EGYPTIAN GODDESSES
KINGSHIP AND ISIS
THE GREAT MAGICIAN
ISIS AND THE AFTERLIFE
THE HEALING POWERS OF ISIS
PROTECT AND SAVE
THE ELEMENT OF WATER
GRECO-ROMAN ADDITIONS TO THE CHARACTER OF ISIS
THE DARK SIDE OF ISIS
WORSHIP IN THE PHARAONIC PERIOD
THE CULT OF ISIS
FESTIVALS FOR ISIS
THE TEMPLES OF ISIS
OUT OF EGYPT
CHRISTIANITY AND BEYOND
THE CONTINUING JOURNEY OF ISIS
TEMPLES OF ISIS IN EGYPT AND NUBIA
EVIDENCE OF ISIS OUTSIDE EGYPT
About the Author
Lesley Jackson has always had an interest in, and a yearning for, the mysterious geographical, be it lost worlds, otherworlds or the sacred places of this world. A career in IT was merely a logical façade. Many years of involvement in the local archaeological society deepened her interest in ancient cultures and their religions.
Since being blessed with early retirement, Lesley has devoted much of her time to researching and writing about early religion and mythology. Ancient Egypt is an enduring passion, but other paths are always beckoning from around the misty hills. She is the author of Thoth: The History of the Ancient Egyptian God of Wisdom (Avalonia, 2011) and Hathor: A Reintroduction to an Ancient Egyptian Goddess (Avalonia, 2013).
She lives in the remote East Riding with a tolerant husband and an ever increasing volume of books and rocks. Any remaining spare time is spent travelling or baking and making chocolates.
Extract: From Chapter 1
“Isis is one of the best known of the Egyptian goddesses and so is quite hard to introduce. How do you summarise an All-Goddess? I originally titled this chapter ‘Defining Isis’ but quickly realised that was somewhat optimistic. There are a number of questions and themes running through this book but before we can attempt to understand Isis we need to get to know her in more depth. The worship of Isis spans many millennia and Isis in the Old Kingdom was very different to Isis at the end of the Greco-Roman Period; in what follows, I have tried to illustrate how she changes.
When we are getting to know someone there tends to be a standard set of questions we ask directly or try to ascertain; what is your name, where are you from, what do you do, what is your status and how do you relate to other people? Most of us define ourselves in the same way. As with anyone, it is possible to define Isis both by her attributes (such as Magician) and by her relationships (as the wife of Osiris).
Isis was originally significant because of her relationships with others, namely Osiris and Horus, and she is probably most revered as a loving wife and devoted mother. She also has a very close bond with her sister Nephthys but these are not her only partnerships. Relationships are very important to Isis and this may be why it was so easy for her to absorb other goddesses as she began to grow into the All-Goddess of the Greco-Roman Period. One of the questions that I am interested in is whether Isis is still the same Isis that came from the Old Kingdom or whether Isis has become the Great Mother Goddess who was with us in the very beginning. The interconnectedness of all life is central to the concept of the Great Mother and Isis becomes increasingly connected through her relationships with the other deities and her assimilation of other goddesses.
Many deities are strongly associated with specific aspects of life or the personification of places or concepts. It is too clumsy to classify a major deity by reference to one of their many aspects but looking at attributes is a way of getting to appreciate them and understand them a bit more. I will investigate the various aspects of Isis and these change considerably over time. Originally Isis was connected with royalty and not with any part of the cosmos but her role in the Osiris myths linked her to events which were of cosmic significance. As the cult of Isis and Osiris grew so did her importance and her aspects started to diversify. The Greco-Roman Isis kept all of her Egyptian powers and added more from the strong Greek influence in Egypt, particularly in the Delta region. She eventually becomes a beneficial Goddess of nature, a Saviour and, to many, the sole Goddess. There is a danger of being ‘all things to all men’ and through that losing uniqueness and individuality. Did this happen to Isis? Have we lost the character and essence of Isis as she transforms into the generic All-Goddess? How much of the Egyptian Isis was present for her followers in the Classical Period? From about 500 BCE Isis develops from an Egyptian Goddess into a pan-Mediterranean Goddess that virtually everyone could find a connection to. What was behind this meteoric rise? Was it Isis or the aspects attached to her which were so important and how much was manufactured for political reasons?”
– From Isis: Eternal Goddess of Egypt and Rome by Lesley Jackson, Avalonia, 2016
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