Isis, Osiris, Horus

In the Life of Ancient Egypt Religion

ancient Egypt Isis

Isis, Osiris, Horus in the Life of Ancient Egypt Religion

Profound, too, was the myth of Isis, the Great Mother.

She was not only the loyal sister and wife of Osiris; in a sense she was greater than he, for like woman in general she had conquered death through love.

Nor was she merely the black soil of the Delta, fertilized by the touch of Osiris-Nile, and making all Egypt rich with her fecundity.

Isis was, above all, the symbol of that mysterious creative power which had produced the earth and every living thing, and of that maternal tenderness whereby, at whatever cost to the mother, the young new life is nurtured to maturity.

isis represented in Egypt as Kali, Ishtar and Cybele represented in Asia, Demeter in Greece, and Ceres in Rome the original priority and independence of the female principle.

Creation and in inheritance, and the originative leadership of woman in tilling the earth; for it was Isis (said the myth) who had discovered wheat and barley growing wild in Egypt, and had revealed them to Osiris (man).

The Egyptians worshiped Isis with especial fondness and piety, and raised up jeweled images to her as the Mother of God.

Her tonsured priests praised her in sonorous matins and vespers; and in midwinter of each year, coincident with the annual rebirth of the sun towards the end of our December.

The temnles of her divine child, Horus (god of the sun), showed her, in holy effigy, nursing in a stable the babe that she had miraculously conceived.

These poetic-philosophic legends and symbols profoundly affected Christian ritual and theology.

Early Christians sometimes worshiped before the statues of Isis suckling the infant Horus, seeing in them another form of the ancient and noble myth by which woman (i.e., the female principle), creating all things, becomes at last the Mother of God.

These Ra (or, as he was called in the South, Amon), Osiris, Isis and Horus were the greater gods of Egypt.

In later days Ra, Amon and another god, Ptah, were combined as three embodiments or aspects of one supreme and triune deity.

There were countless lesser divinities: Anubis the jackal, Shu, Tefnut, Nephthys, Ket, Nut; . . . but we must not make these pages a museum of dead gods.

Even Pharaoh was a god, always the son of Amon-Ra, ruling not merely by divine right but by divine birth, as a deity transiently tolerating the earth as his home.

On his head was the falcon, symbol of Horus and totem of the tribe; from his forehead rose the urteus or serpent, symbol of wisdom and life, and communicating magic virtues to the crown.

The king was chief-priest of the faith, and led the great processions and ceremonies that celebrated the festivals of the gods.

It was through this assumption of divine lineage and powers that he was able to rule so long with so little force.

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