Isis: Kite, Cow

Isis: Kite, Cow
2 records
Isis: goddess of motherhood and protection (Kite, Cow)

The goddess Isis is not mentioned in ancient Egyptian texts until the 5th Dynasty, or nearly the end of the Old Kingdom. Although her origins are obscure, she emerges as one of the most powerful and important goddesses in the ancient Egyptian pantheon. Mythologically, Isis is the wife and sister of the god Osiris. After Osiris’ brother, Seth, murdered him for the kingship of Egypt, he dismembered his brother’s body and scattered the pieces over the length of Egypt. As Osiris’ wife, Isis not only mourned her husband, but continuously searched for his scattered body parts. When she had gathered them all together, through her divine magic she made Osiris whole again and became pregnant by him with their son Horus. These important roles of Isis as wife of Osiris and mother of Horus serve as the foundation for her other divine aspects.

As the great number of amulets and statuettes of Isis and Horus attest, one of the most popular ways in which Isis was depicted was as a mother nursing her son on her lap. The sheer number of such objects speaks to the importance the ancient Egyptians gave to Isis’ role as the mother and protector of her son. Several myths give accounts of how Isis protected or healed Horus while he was an infant under her care. Many magical healing spells for children were modeled on the Isis-Horus relationship, with mothers playing the role of the goddess and their infants that of Horus.

As mother of Horus, Isis was therefore also the mother of the king, who was identified with Horus. Another of her more important associations is being a goddess great of magic. This reputation was well-deserved, considering her revival of the murdered Osiris and her other healing powers.

Most often Isis is represented similarly to Hathor, as a woman wearing a long sheath dress. She is distinguished by her headdress, most often wearing on her head the hieroglyph for “seat” which spells her name. However, in some cases she is also represented with the cow horns and solar disk on her head, just like Hathor. Typically in these cases a hieroglyph text identifies the goddess by name. Isis can also be shown with outstretched winged arms, which she can wrap around persons or things she protects. In full avian form she is represented by a bird known as the kite.