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SOPHIA (CHOKMAH/SHEKHINAH)

SOPHIA

God’s wisdom and the co-creatrix of the world considered by many Christian philosophers and artists to be a female manifestation of God appearing to the humankind and Holy Spirit,the third person of Trinity. Sophia means Wisdom in Greek.

ABOUT GODDESS

The concept of Sophia i.e. Wisdom has already been known in the times of antiquity, Pitagoras, Socrates and Plato perceived philosophy literary as philo (‘love for’) – sophia (‘wisdom’). According to Plato, Wisdom was one of four cardinal virtues (as Prudence) therefore it was believed that the philosophers should rule the Utopian country because such rulers would admire prudence. The love for wisdom itself was also shown in the behaviour of Socrates when he said I know that I know nothing. Contrary to what may seem, such statement opens the mind for Wisdom because this makes it resemble an empty jar which can be filled with knowledge; it is also a contrast to the attitude of Sophists who claimed they were able to teach wisdom, for an appropriate price of course. Later the Hellenistic philosophers merged the concept of Sophia with Logos (‘Word’), this idea was then adopted by the author of the Gospel of John (introduction: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God) and it is resulted in perceiving Jesus as the Word of the Father.

Sophia has a special status in monotheistic religions. Wisdom is called Chokmah/Hokmah in a Jewish tradition and she is the subject of many books of the Old Testament (Proverbs, Song of Songs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Book of Wisdom, Wisdom of Sirach). The part which is crucial for the interpretation of Divine Wisdom is the quote from Proverbs when Wisdom speaks about herself

The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;

I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be (…)

I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,

rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.

(NIV Bible, Proverbs 8:22).

This fragment is widely discussed, some claim that it the basis to assume that Chokmah is a divine person while others believe that it is only a symbolic representation. Honestly speaking  I am not surprised at all by the latter attitude because the female element is usually treated in a symbolic way in monotheistic religions . The description of creating the first human is an additional reason to believe in a personal, not symbolic interpretation of Chokhmah

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”

  (NIV Bible, Genesis 1:26).

If God was all alone, he would probably have said ‘my’, not ‘our’. And from limited but still logical human point of view the personal interpretation seems to be justified, in the end you need both male and female energy for the act of creation.

Those interested in the Kabballah are aware of the fact that  Chokmah is the name of the Tree of Life’s sephirot, which together with Binah is the closest to the sephirot Kether (it must be said however that Chokmah represents male energy there). The word Shekhinah meaning God’s Presence on Earth (e.g. in the Temple of Jerusalem, in the burning bush when God appears to Moses, in the inspiration of the prophets and King David when he creates psalms) is feminine which allows some researchers to identify her as Chokmah basing on what she speaks about herself, I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind (NIV Bible, Proverbs 8:22).

According to the Jewish law Shekhinah is where at least seven pious Jews gather. In Kaballah Shekhinah is also called Matronit and in some religious songs she is identified as the Bride from Song of Songs. According to the Jewish tradition Shekhinah is the essence of womanhood with whom every man contacts through his wife.  Kabballah teaches that every pious Jew has two partners, one on Earth and the other in Heavens; the mystery of matrimony reflects in the fact that mating with his earthly companion he becomes close to the heavenly one in a natural way because the one on Earth represents the one in Heavens. There are also different interpretations of the name Ruach Ha Kodesh which is used to describe God in Psalms 51:11 and in the Book of Isahiah meaning ‘the Divine spark, the Divine inspiration, insight, breath, wind, invisible moving force’ (‘ruach’ is also feminine).

In Christianity Divine Wisdom is also one of the most important themes as it appears in gospels and apostolic letters. She is particularly worshipped in the Eastern Christianity where she is identified as Divine Word (Logos) which was incarnated into Christ. In the Orthodox liturgy the priest is introducing the reading of the Bible with the word Sophia! to make everyone pay attention. The best example of the big respect shown to Divine Wisdom is certainly basilica Hagia Sophia (which had been built in Christian Constantinople, later it was turned into a mosque and it is a museum now).

 

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

However in the Western Christianity there were also people who had a special reverence to Sophia. These were among others  Hildegard of Bingen (below you will find her picture of Sophia), Jakob Böhme , 16th century visionaire whose philosophy strongly influenced other thinkers or Jane Leade, 17th century English mystic who was describing her visions and dialogues with Sophia (similarly to Vladimir Solovyov who will be presented later).

It may seem natural for Christianity to follow the Jewish tradition of Chokmah and Shekhinah and to attribute the feminine features to the Holy Ghost. Indeed the representation of the Holy Trinity as Father, Son&Sophia remained in the church in Urschalling in Upper Bavaria

However, when the Old and New Testament were translated into Greek, the Holy Ghost was described with the word pneuma (literary ‘breath’, it is neuter) and in Latin the form Spiritus Sancti was used (it is a second declension so the gender is definitely masculine). The Holy Ghost was therefore presented either as a man (below you will find a famous icon Trinity by Andrei Rublev, all the three divine persons are young men) or as a dove.

It should be mentioned that doves have always been connected to womanhood (below the picture of Aphrodite from the deck by Hrana Janto).

Nevertheless if you asked an average Christian what does the Holy Trinity look like, the answer would probably be, An old man, a young man and a bird .

It was Gnosticism, the religious and philosophical movement popular in the East of the Roman Empire in the first and the second century, which developed the concept of Sofia. The Gnostics were inspired by many beliefs and religious systems such as Judaism, Christianity, Zoroaster and Hellenic and Roman philosophers. Its main assumption was the belief that the material world in which we live is imperfect and gnosis (cognition) is the only way to liberate oneself from its limits. It is difficult to analyse it nowadays because not many materials remained and particular Gnostic currents differed from one another but there are some common points for all of them:

1. Sophia is a female emanation from the very beginnings (which connects her to SigeSilence Before Creation). It is in Pleroma (Fullness, Oneness) with other  emanations (aeons). It is associated with the Divine Wisdom known from the Jewish stories which was co-creating the world, although in the Gnostic version it happened in quite an untoward manner. Sophia is an emanation of God and represents his female aspect who extracted herself spontaneously from the unnamed highest creature, the primary aeon (Jah/Bythos) as his „reflection”, mental power and wisdom. She is his lowest and furthest emanation together with Christ (aeons are paired, male and female ones exist together).

2. She experiences the first cognition, Sophia becomes pregnant all by herself, without the participation of God, and brings Demiurge (also called Archon or Yaltabaoth – ‘Child of Chaos’) to the Universe (quoting The Secret Book of John from the Nag Hammadi archives, And an imperfect product appeared from her, and it was different from her pattern because she created it without her partner. And it was not patterned after the likeness of its Mother, for it had a different form. When she saw (the product of) her will, it was dif­ferent, a model of a lion-faced serpent. His eyes were like flashing fires of lightning. She cast him out from her, outside of those places so that none among the immortals might see him, for she had cre­ated him in ignorance).

Demiurge organises the material world which is not perfect because it lacks a spiritual element. He is not aware of God’s existence therefore he considers himself to be God and together with seven Archons (‘Rulers, Watchers’) keeps the mankind in the veil of illusion thus breaking the primary divine oneness. There are different reasons given to explain why Sophia becomes pregnant, it is either the will of disconnecting from God or haughtiness  or an uncontrolled need of creating or madness.

3. Through disconnecting from the divine oneness it is also Sophia who has to exist in two forms: Sofia Ennoia i.e. the High Sofia, Neverending One, The Power of the Thoughts as well as the Low Sofia called the Small Sophia or Sophia of Death. In this way Sophia combines two elements: the divine and the human one.

4. After the creation of the material world, Sophia gets stuck there and God feeling compassion for her, sends Christ to help her. Thanks to him, Sophia gets rid of low motives and comes back to the Oneness with Divinity (in another version it remains in the material world for the sake of the humankind whom she loves). Christ comes to Earth to teach people how to recognise wisdom so that they could participate in Pleroma, too.

In 19th century a movement based on the Gnostic tradition called sophiology was born in Russia. Sophiology is a belief in the metaphysical cognition of the Absolute through the contemplation of Sophia as his emanation. The Russian movement was started by Vladimir Solovyov, a thinker and esoteric whose doctrine was called ‘a mystic intuition of Sophia’. According to what he said himself he had experienced three meetings with Sophia which enlightened him; his first vision occurred when he was nine and during the service he saw a female image of God. When he grew up and this image kept appearing in his dreams, he decided to take up theological studies. He was particularly impressed by the texts of Jakob Böhme and Emanuel Swedenborg, he also got interested in Kabballah and then Sophia reappeared to him and ordered to go to Egypt to continue his study about her. Probably because of that Sophia had some aspects of Isis: the vision was accompanied by the scent of roses, goddess’ flowers,  besides it was Egypt where the cult of Isis began to transform into the belief in Sophia identified as Mary and all the doctrines assuming the faith in the female aspect of God’s Wisdom such as Hermetism, Gnosis and alchemy also originated from Egypt. Sophia’s message to Solovyov and other people was that the world is changing through love and human choices which allow to return to the divine Oneness.

Solovyov paid attention that regardless of a language her name is always feminine: in Hebrew it is ‘Chokmah’ (Wisdom, Knowledge), in Greek and Russian – ‘Sophia’ (Wisdom), in Hindi ‘Maya’ (Idea, female image of divinity), in Latin ‘Sapientia’ (Wisdom). He also claimed that throughout the Jewish and Christian tradition she has never been a separate deity but a female emanation of God. He perceived Sophia through the Gnostic and Kabballistic tradition as both Chokhmah and Shekhinah (a female beginning in God). The messages conveyed by his automatic writing survived  and among them there was one with the notice An-Soph, Jah, Soph-Jah wchich can be translated as An Soph – ‘Hidden God of Kabballah’, Soph – ‘End’, Jah – ‘Unnamed God’. The whole notice means that Sophia is  ‘the end of God’, a link between God and human kind, a mediator between energy and matter (which corresponds to the Gnostic tradition of Sophia as the aeon closest to Earth). Solovyov also maintained the Jewish belief that a female aspect of God is reflected in the beloved woman on Earth and love allows to see his visible image in the material world. He was following the philosophy of Jakob Böhme about death being the disintegration which began when the sexes of a primary androgenic creature were divided. He also assumed that a human who comes back to Oneness can become immortal therefore a harmonious relationship based on higher feelings can lead to the eternal life.

It is interesting to notice that in the 19th century Solovyov had only been capable to study Gnosticism from the texts of its opponents such as St.Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria or Hippolytus of Rome because a great number of Gnostic works was not discovered until the forties of last century when the archives of libraries in Nag Hammadi and Qumran were discovered. And yet despite Solovyov’s unacquaintance of these essential texts, his sophiological concepts are surprisingly consistent with the main assumptions of Gnocistism.

Solovyov has created very personal and sensual poems to Sophia which somehow resembled the relation between a priest and his goddess. He was calling her Eternal Friend, Queen, Goddess, Mystical Bride, Nature of the Universe, Most Beautiful Lady, Heavenly Maiden, Maiden of the Rainbow Gate, Dawn (Aurora), Ewig Weibliche, Boehme, etc. Sophia has many names in his works because she is divine therefore she can be anything. Solovyov has showed a special appreciation to love making because it is a chemical bond of two creatures thus it leads to the oneness. Even maternal love cannot be compared to it because it is always accompanied by the mother’s loss of individuality. This is why building good relationships with other people especially with women was for him the best expression of worship Sophia as woman had an exceptional position in sophiology.

Solovyov has immediately found many followers even though revelation is an individual and very intimate experience. Among those who shared his belief in Sophia were his brother Mikhail and nephew Sergey Solovyov, Alexander Blok, Boris Bugaev (Andrei Bely), also Pavel Florienski, Nikolai Berdyaev and most of all Sergey Bulgakov who perceived Sophia not as a part of Trinity but a being co-existing with the Trinity, equally powerful and acting as a female force apart from male Trinity (which was considered to be a heresy). Why was sophiology so popular in Russia? A possible explanation is that unlike Western Europe this country has not gone through the Age of Reason with its cult of logics and rational perception while the Orthodox Christianity retained some aspects of old religions with its visions of a cosmic order which resulted in mysticism and following spiritual leaders. Moreover, if you take a closer look at the Western culture, art and literature in the second part of the 19th century, you will find an image of a femme fatale as a main representation of womanhood (the motif of Salome with the head of John the Baptist was particularly popular). Such attitude was probably caused by progressive emancipation of women and men’s fear of losing their position. Meanwhile in Russia the trend was totally different. Some kind of mental revolution occurred in the middle of 19th century which promoted the image of woman being an intellectual partner for a man as the ideal image of a woman. This is why the well – born maidens were educated and encouraged to develop themselves, of course it was only possible in those families who were able to afford it.

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

In Hellenic culture Sophia was rather a philosophical concept but sometimes her personifications have been made (here is her allegoric figure from the Library of Celsus in Ephesus).

It was similar with Shekhinah as the Israeli were forbidden to represent God through sculptures or pictures thus there are no figures nor other images of Wisdom neither.

As it has already been mentioned the most popular symbol representing Sophia in the Western Christianity is a dove while in the Eastern one the sophiological iconography is well developed.

Sophia’s symbol in the Christian culture is also a circle of seven pillars of knowledge (Proverbs again: Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars. Proverbs 9:1)

There is also a certain riddle concerning The Creation of Adam fresco by Michelangelo. Here it is if you don’t remember the details

Have a closer look at the person with blond hair, distinct eyes and slender silhouette who is embracing the Creator and differs from other cherubs.

The identity of this person was discussed; some believe that because of her female beauty this may be the figure of Eve waiting to be created, however if you look at the other parts of the fresco you will find Eve painted in a completely different manner

So who can that be? At least a couple of researchers believe it is Sophia herself.

According to Proverbs, I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be (…) Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind, which implies that Sophia must have been present at the creation of the first human (additionally look at Genesis 1:26, Then God said, “Let US make mankind in OUR image, in our likeness”).

It makes sense for me 🙂

I also highly recommend the article by Miguel Conner from Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio about Sophia and her connections to pagan myths.

DIVINATION MEANING

Person

This card represents someone who is wise, not only intelligent. Unlike the card of Athena which concentrates on facts and cold logic the card of Sophia pays attention more to an inner wisdom gathered by observations and not necessarily based on the bookish knowledge. In my personal understanding the card of Athena means studying Science while the one of Sophia talks about Humanities and Foreign Languages). This knowledge is based on love and understanding for others regardless of age, education or race. The person shown by this card is open and forgiving and in negative superficial, unable to predict the consequences of their acting and conceited.

Professions:  a scientist, a lecturer, a teacher (rather on university level than on primary school), an inventor, a person using the intellect and language in their work, a mediator and any kind of intermediary.

ADVICE

Your thoughts create your reality, filter those which may harm you.

Look deeper. Observe without judging. In the situation you are inquiring about you may be expected to behave on a higher level than others. Trust your own wisdom, no those who surround you. Know when it is good to speak and when it is better not to. Do not be discouraged by difficult beginnings, help will come.

This card confirms that your way of perceiving the world is correct. You may feel like being caged in structures, superstitions and superficiality. You may feel lonely and underestimated. Loneliness is often the price of wisdom but remember that wisdom itself has not got a high value if it is not shared.  Others may learn from you and you from them.

Find inspiration.

Education. Understanding. Enlightenment. Time to think. Communication. Mediation.

Love

If you are in the relationship: this card often signifies the beginnings of a relationship, time of joy and playing but accompanied by other cards it also suggests the need of strengthening the bond and behaving in a more careful way. Your partner’s mistake comes from their ignorance, not malice.

If you are single: your loneliness may be caused by the fact that you have not become mature enough for a stable relationship.

Finances

In the situation you are inuring about you may need to consult a specialist or a intermediary. Beginnings of a new project which is very probable to be successful despite initial problems. Do not focus only on profit, look from a wider perspective.

Health

Beware of psychosomatic illnesses and those resulting from stress. Migraines. Insomnia. Possible miscarriage or premature delivery. Endangered parts of the body: psyche rather than a particular part of the body.

CARDS

My favourite image of Sophia and the favourite card of all the possible decks is the one from Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews (referring to Gnostic philosophy)

The image of Sophia in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr resembles the style of Orthodox icons which undoubtedly makes sense if you take into account the respect shown to Sophia by Eastern Christianity

Sophia in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky is presented as being pregnant (again in accordance with a Gnostic tradition), she is holding a chalice of wisdom in her hands and is accompanied by a dove (a Western Christian tradition), you can also see the halo of Shekhinah above her head (a Jewish tradition)

Sophia in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst has the face of Black Madonna and roses attributed to both Isis and Mary

Sophia in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took, I have an impression that this deep look of her eyes somehow refers to the fresco by Michelangelo which was discussed above

Sophia in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc (as Chokmah)

Sophia in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

Based on:

Rzeczycka Monika, Fenomen Sofii-Wiecznej Kobiecości w prozie powieściowej symbolistów rosyjskich (Andrieja Biełego, Fiodora Sołoguba, Walerija Briusowa), Gdańsk 2002, Divine Sophia: the Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov by Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, Judith Deutsch Kornblatt (available here), The Christian Goddess: Archetype and Theology in the Fantasies of George MacDonald Bonnie Gaarden (available here), http://youtu.be/Azrh3IwLFTM, http://www.jstor.org/pss/3045958, http://www.jstor.org/pss/1483492, http://www.oocities.org/athens/agora/6776/break1.htm , http://northernway.org/presentations/godwife/33.html , http://northernway.org/presentations/godwife/38.html ,http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/apocjn-long.html and English Wikipedia. All the quotes from the Bible come from http://www.biblegateway.com (NIV)

And because that was the most complex and the most extensive post I have ever written about any goddess then let me reward myself with an appropriate music which may suit you too

Therion The Perennial Sophia

And one more, very different but also equally moving:

Victoria Williams Holy Spirit

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ISIS (ISET, ASET, AUSET)

ISIS (ISET, ASET, AUSET)

An Egyptian goddess of magic, wisdom, renewal, healing, power, love, marriage, motherhood and the deads. Sister and wife of Osiris, mother of Horus. One of the most famous and the most influencial goddesses not only in Egypt but in the whole ancient Roman Empire and perhaps even in the modern era because Catholic and Orthodox Marian cult is largely based on the one of Isis. Her original name was probably Aset and it meant ‘She Of The Throne’*.

ABOUT GODDESS

According to most of the myths Isis is the eldest daughter of Geb (Earth) and Nut (Sky) born on the fourth day of intercalation and the sister of Osiris, Seth and Nephthys. According to most myths Osiris married Isis and Seth – Nephthys; the first pair represented the fertility and fruitfulness of nature while the second was the symbol of wildness and vastness of desert. A lot of legends about the children of Geb and Nut survived into modern times but I am going to concentrate on the most famous one telling the story of Seth’s jealousy towards Osiris resulting in the assasination and the resurrection of his brother.

This myth has a couple of versions but the most detailed one comes from De Iside et Osiride by Plutarch. Viscious Seth  gave the banquet in honour of his brother where he showed a beautifully decorated chest and announced that the one who fits it perfectly may keep it as a gift. Many tried but they did not realise that Seth had already measured Osiris while he was asleep and the chest could only fit him. When Isis’ husband entered it, Seth slammed the cover, sealed it with lead, carried the chest away and threw it straight into the waters of the Nile. Goddess started to search the coffin to bury her husband in an appropriate manner** but a swift current of the river has already taken it to Byblos in Phoenicia and placed on a cedar tree (or tamarisk). Isis took the coffin back to Egypt and hid it in the swamps, alas Seth went hunting at night and found it. He was so furious that he chopped Osiris’ body into fourteen (sixteen or forty – two in other versions) pieces and scattered them all over Egypt so that his wife could not make a proper funeral for him. Then both sisters, Isis and Nephthys, turned into kites, keen-eyed birds of prey, and went searching. They found thirteen of the body pieces except of the penis which had already been swallowed by a fish. Isis, not discouraged at all, made a penis of gold, put her husband’s body together again and she wrapped it with resin – soaked linen strips with the help of Anubis, god of embalming. She created a cobra from spitting which Amon Ra the highest deity left on the ground and then she made the cobra bite him. I am the only one who has got the antidote for its venom, she announced. I will give it to you if you reveal to me your Secret Name. Wise goddess understood that knowing Secret Name will give her the power of his owner including performing rituals connected with resurrection. Amon Ra had no choice but to agree.  By chanting and making magical spells Isis managed to resurrect  Osiris and she conceived Horus with him (according to other versions she only used a golden penis). Horus was born in the Nile delta, however Osiris having already passed the gate of death, could not stay in the world of the living and he became the ruler of the Underworld. Isis took care of the child herself protecting her son from the anger of Seth. She was teaching him to guard the Egyptians from his uncle and Osiris kept coming back as a ghost to talk with Horus about the responsabilities of a ruler. When Horus grew up, he was fighting long battles with Seth and he nearly killed him but Isis stood between her son and brother and did not let that happen (the goddess even hurt Horus so that Seth would be able to escape but she healed him later). Eventually after the boat race won by Osiris’ son, Seth had to resign and to give the power over Egypt to him.

As her name reveals Isis was closely associated with the power of pharaohs and she represented literally their authority (she was depicted with a miniature of a throne as a headdress, pharaoh was Isis’ child whom she was giving her throne to). It has to be said that she was a very versatile goddess and all the classes adored her; she was guarding both rulers and noble or rich people  as much as craftsmen, slaves, sinners and the rejected and she particularly supported the deads and children. She is often mentioned in the funeral papyri of the rulers and later in those of nobility and ordinary people. Not only she is protecting a pharaoh in the Underworld but she is also ‘the mother of Horus’ four sons’, four deities guarding the canopic jars where the organs taken away before the mumification were stored. Isis herself was protecting the jar with liver, Nephtys was watching over the one with lungs and both these goddesses were shown with arms outstretched on the coffins  and sarcophagi so that no one dared to undermine the peace of deceased. Isis is depicted as pharaoh’s guardian, wife or mother.

Here she is shown together with Hathor when they are passing Queen Nefertari to the Underworld

Isis’ cult probably began in Sebennytos at least 3100 b.C. and soon spread all over Upper and Lower Egypt. She was especially venerated in the Nile delta, in the Per-Hebitet (modern Behbeit El-Hagar) sanctuary and the Philae island which used to be situated next to the First Cataract of the Nile. When the Aswan Dam was built in 1970, the remainings of temples were relocated to the  island on Lake Naser created as a result of inudating the areas near the dam. According to Herodotus she was the only goddess worshipped by all the Egyptians, both in Upper and Lower Egypt. From the times of New Kingdom Osiris, Isis and Horus were forming trinity of the most important Egyptian deities which was later transformed in the Hellenistic times into Serapis (an Alexandrian god who came into existence when Egyptian and Hellen religious beliefs merged), Harpocrates (one of representations of hellenised Horus) and Isis who kept her position.

Priests and priestesses of the goddess were considered to be healers, they were also able to explain the meaning of a dream or even to control the weather through braiding or not combing their hair (this is why Isis’ knot was believed to be magical). The cult on the Philae island survived until 6th century when Emperor Justinian ordered to destroy it. It was the last ancient sanctuary to be closed down.

At the beginning particular deities were worshipped locally but then their cults began to spread all over the country and gods and goddesses were merged. Isis was identified as goddes Hathor and around that time the myth of resurrecting Osiris has become more and more popular. From the Hellenistic  period throughout the whole era of Roman Empire the cult of Isis became increasingly popular in the lands far from Egypt and she became of one the main deities of the ancient world. She was venerated during the mysteries called Navigium Isidis (literally The Vessel of Isis) in Rome on March 5th. The celebrations included processions with the offerings of milk and spices, flowers, torches, laterns and her sacred objects; her worshippers were singing and dancing. Another popular Roman celebration was Isia which was taking place between October 28th and November 3rd/4th. It was retelling the story of ressurecting Osiris; both priests, priestesses and common believers were divided into guilds: pastophori were carrying small chapels during processions and melanephors were wearing black gowns to remind about Isis’ grief after Osiris’ death. She was venerated by many inhabitants of Rome including emperors: Caligula built a temple of her on the Campus Martius which was called Isis Campensis i.e Isis of the Fields, among her worshippers were also Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian, Galerius and others. To understand her importance one should read the quote from Metamorphoses by a Roman writer Apuleius

‘I come, Lucius, moved by your entreaties: I, mother of the universe, mistress of all the elements, first-born of the ages, highest of the gods, queen of the shades, first of those who dwell in heaven, representing in one shape all gods and goddesses. My will controls the shining heights of heaven, the health-giving sea-winds, and the mournful silences of hell; the entire world worships my single godhead in a thousand shapes, with divers rites, and under many a different name. The Phrygians, first-born of mankind, call me the Pessinuntian Mother of the gods; the native Athenians the Cecropian Minerva; the island-dwelling Cypriots Paphian Venus; the archer Cretans Dictynnan Diana; the triple-tongued Sicilians Stygian Proserpine; the ancient Eleusinians Actaean Ceres; some call me Juno, some Bellona, others Hecate, others Rhamnusia; but both races of Ethiopians, those on whom the rising and those on whom the setting sun shines, and the Egyptians who excel in ancient learning, honour me with the worship which is truly mine and call me by my true name: Queen Isis. I am here in pity for your misfortunes, I am here with favour and goodwill. Cease now your weeping, put an end to your lamentation, banish your grief: now by my Providence the day of your release is dawning. Attend therefore with your whole mind to the orders I give you. The day which will be born of this night has been consecrated to me by immemorial religious usage. It is the day on which the tempests of winter have abated and the stormy sea-waves have subsided, when the ocean is again navigable and my priests sacrifice a brand-new ship as the first-offering of the season’s trade. It is this ceremony that you must await without anxiety and without unholy thoughts. ***.

In the Hellenistic era, after Alexander the Great’s conquest of the East, Isis was identified with such goddesses as Demeter, Astarte or Aphrodite, at that time she gained the titles which were associated with them: Queen of Heaven  and Star of the Sea (Latin Stella Maris, Hellenic Pelagia – ‘Of the Sea’, in this represenation she was depicted with a sail) as a guardian of seafarers and merchants who were spreading her cult throughout the Mediterranean area. Her temples were called Isidions (Isideons) and were situated not only in such important cities of the ancient world as Delos, Delphi, Eleusis or Athens, but also in Gaul (contemporary France), Spain, Portugal, the British Isles, Panonia (the area of modern Austria, Hungary and the Balcans), Germany, Asia Minor and Arabia. Archeologists have also found the remainings of her temple in Pompei and Herculanum. The cult of Isis was only abandoned when Christianity was introduced as an official religion of the Empire and pagans were persecuted.

But was it really abandoned?

Isis was depicted as a devoted wife and mother, the protector of the poor and the slaves and when Christianity was becoming increasingly popular, one of its most important drawbacks was the lack of female element accompanying the cult of Jesus.  It was a serious shortage in the ancient world where divinity had both male and female form. To complete this deficiency Mary the mother of Jesus was given the features of Isis, often literally, on pictures and sculptures:

Of course, those of us who have been ‘initiated’ into this topic, are aware of the issue but an average Catholic or Orthodox would be really surprised that in reality they worship an eternal Egyptian goddess under the disguise of Mary.

There are also other, indirect but symbolic associations of Isis with Christianity through Magdalene and her participation in the mystery of Jesus’ death. It is Magdalene whom he appears to as the first person after resurrection, Isis is guarding a canopic jar and Magdalene is also often depicted with a jar. As a curiosity I am showing an image Madonna with a Child and St. John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene by Giovanni Battista Cima/Cima de Conegliano (around 1510, Musée du Louvre) where Magdalene is wearing a knot in the shape of Isis’ Tyet,   (read below).

She is the goddess who is quite adeqately referred to as  Isis of Ten Thousand Names, here go some of them: Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea, Mother of the Gods, Divine Mother, Great Lady of Magic, The One Who is All, Lady of the West, Lady of the Pyramid, Lady of Green Crops, The Brilliant One in the Sky, Mistress of the House of Life, Lady of Truth (together with Nephthys), Ideal of the Throne, She Who Knows How To Make Right Use of the Heart, Light-Giver of Heaven, Life – Giver, Lady of the Words of Power, Moon Shining Over the Sea, She Who Seeks Justice For the Poor People, She Who Seeks Shelter For the Weak People, She Who Seeks the Righteousness In Her People, She Who Gives Birth to Heaven And Earth, Lady of the Osiris’ Tomb, She Who Knows the Orphan, She Who Knows the Widow Spider.

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

The animals closely related to Isis are birds of prey especially a hawk and a kite. Hawk has been connected with power, the sun, the wind and masculinity, the canopic jar with a liver which Isis was guarding had a the figure of hawk at the top, her son Horus has also been depicted with the head of this bird. Kite is a similar species to a hawk and an eagle which lives on the areas of Europe and northern Africa. It is capable to fly high and when it is endangered, a mother sends a signal to her young to pretend they are dead and they do it so convincingly that a predator usually leaves them alone. Quoting Wikipedia, a kite may attack aggressively other birds of prey even the bigger ones to grab their victims. This is the only possible expanation of the remainings found in kites’ stomaches; the birds of the size of a kite are not be able to catch such victims by themselves. Kite has weak legs but very long wings and its flight is considered to be very elegant.

Isis’ plants are lotus, cedar tree, sycamore tree  (pharaoh Thutmose III, Hatshepsut’s nephew, was depicted as drinking milk from a sycamore tree which had a breast, it may also be an association with his mother Iset, one of Thutmose II wives) and roses which began to be attributed to her in the Hellenistic era probably because of the associations with Aphrodite and her symbols. It is interesting that the demand for the roses necessary for rituals and rites was so big that a rose industry which was aimed at supplying the flowers became very profitable. A garland of roses was being left in the tombs as the symbol of Isis.

The planet associated with Osiris and Isis is Syrius (this star’s appearance was announcing the Nile’s flooding and thus fertile soil, abundant harvest and small chance of hunger). They are also both connected with the Moon and lunar cycle through the aspect of waxing and waning. Because of identifying her as Aphrodite and Astarte during the Roman times, she was also related to the  planet Venus.

Isis is also related with a type of knot called Tiet, Tyet or Tet (or simply Isis’ Knot). Its name can be translated as welfare or life and as it can be easily observed it is linked to the symbol of ANKH. The knot was probably the part of clothing of deity and it is possible it was also worn by the priestesses of the goddess. When made of red wood, glass or stone, it was the Blood of Isis , a  funeral amulet which probably represented menstrual blood flow from the goddess womb and the magical properties of birth – death – rebirth cycle.  The Blood of Isis is mentioned in the 156th verse of the Book of the Dead: You possess your blood, Isis, you possess your power, Isis, you possess your magic, Isis. The amulet is a protection for this Great One, which will drive off anyone who would perform a criminal act against him.

As it was already mentioned Isis was initially presented with a miniature of a  throne as a headdress, here she is also carrying a sceptre with flower often carried by goddesses and ANKH, the symbol of eternal life as the guardian of the deads.

From the time when she started to be identified with goddess Hathor, she was shown as the mother of Horus and her headdress changed into the one with a solar disc (the symbol of Ra whose mother was originally Hathor) and cow horns as a representation of abundance and fertility. At that time she is also attributed objects symbolising fun such as sistrum and menat necklace which had been so far associated with Hathor. Her headdress also acquired the vulture which had previously been the symbol of goddesses  Nekhbet and Mut as well as uraeus (cobra) of goddess Wadjet. All these goddesses were related to the power of pharaohs.

In the Book of the Deads Isis is depicted standing on the prow of the Solar Bark with her arms outstretched. And here are modern representations of Isis – Hathor

DIVINATION MEANING

Person

The person represented by this card is talented, versatile, educated, universal and incredible. S/he is able to arrange literally everything and convince everyone. This person has a huge wisdom but is young at heart regardless of real age. Someone not only intelligent but also wise. A person of high – ranking, a boss or superior but also a parent.

Professions: a physician, an official, a scientist, an inventor, a psychologist, regardless of profession this person is of either high – ranking or of great achievements.

ADVICE

Personally this card is always positive to me unless it is accompanied by really ‘heavy’ cards.

In the situation you are inquiring about there is nothing that you would not be able to fix.

Respect yourself and the others will respect you too. Straighten up, go ahead, be assertive. You have the right to feel power and authority. Do not believe anyone who perceives you as weak or helpless.

Do not be afraid of changes, you will adapt to a new situation easier than you expect. Going abroad is beneficial for you.

Do not try to force your loved ones to stay with you. Even if it is you who brought them to this world or was supporting them in difficult moments, it does not mean you must guard them until death. You have to know when it is time to let go.

In negative this card may show inability to solve problems at once, trying to kill many birds with one stone or problems with  balancing professional and domestic life.

Power. Healing. Magic. Mystery. Intuition. Self – Awareness. Determination. Cycle. Natural Adaptability Skills. Versatility. Past Returning. Invention. Courage. Care

Love

If you are in the relationship: time of renewal. Relation which requires effort but provides emotional satisfaction. Mature love. Deep feelings which remain even if attraction is gone.

If you are single: this card suggests that sooner or later you will find your true love. Single parenthood.

Finances

Time for learning, developing and educating on higher levels. You have the potential you must not waste. Expanding your activity to other fields or including new products in your offer is recommended. Profits from the abroad.

Health

This is a card of regeneration and renewal. Check your circulatory system. If you have already been examined, it is suggested to repeat the tests. Endangered parts of the body: liver.

CARDS

Isis might have been the most important goddess in the whole antiquity so it is no wonder that she appears in all the decks I have come across. However, it has to be noticed that in none of them she appears in her original throne appearance but instead on most images she already has the attributes of Hathor.

This time I am starting with Tarot decks and the assignments to Major Arcana: in the deck by Kris Waldherr Isis is the Mage while in the deck by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano she is the High Priestess. It is probably the only situation when I agree that the classification to both these cards is correct. Despite big diferrences in meaning this particular goddess suits perfectly both Major Arcana. Isis has courage, skills and need for acting of the Mage and secret wisdom, tenderness and protectiveness of the High Priestess. In fact the second Major Arcane comes from the tradition of Isis – Hathor (it can be seen especially in the Rider – Waite – Smith deck where the High Priestess is wearing her crown, also the moon and the sea are related with her).

And if someone should classify Isis as the Empress, it would also be well – founded on the base of mythology.

Isis – Hathor as the Mage in The Goddess Tarot and in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr accompanied by kite/hawk and behind her there are images of  Osiris and Horus on the wall

 

A cartoon – like Isis – Hathor as the High Priestess in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano . But at least she is sitting on the throne  . Maybe it is just me but doesn’t she look like an Italian woman?  Even considering her cartoon – like appearance… Both authors come from Italy, perhaps this is a self – portrait or an image of a mother, a sister or a friend?

Isis with a throne, wings, ANKH and Horus in Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin&Paul Mason

Isis in Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin&Paul Mason

A beautiful representation of Isis with Osiris and baby Horus in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky (according to some sources Isis resurrected Osiris by covering him with wings)

Isis – Hathor with double ANKH in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews

Isis with a cobra in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Isis in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Isis – Hathor with roses, sistrum, Solar Bark and the sea in the background in The Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter&Jo Dosé

A blue eyed Isis in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Isis – Hathor and Osiris in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Isis-Hathor and Osiris in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Isis – Hathor in Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue (image by the same Jonathan Earl Bowser who painted Ishtar – Cleopatra http://jonathonart.com/isis.html , on the website you can see clearly that Isis is being observed by her mother Nut – Heaven)

Isis in Ascended Masters Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue

Isis – Hathor in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst stylised on contemporary images

Isis in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

Isis in Goddess: A New Guide to Feminine Wisdom by River Huston&Patricia Languedoc

Isis in The Goddess Power Pack by Cordelia Brabbs

A combat and war – like Isis – Hathor straight from fantasy game ‘Resurrect Osiris’  in Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

Isis as a special guest star on the card of Osiris in Gods&Titans by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

Based on Wikipedia and the following pages

http://www.symbolizm.obrazy-olejne.org/symbol-jastrzab/457/
http://www.thegoddesstree.com/GoddessGallery/ISIS%20Final%20Project.htm
http://www.nemo.nu/ibisportal/0egyptintro/1egypt/index.htm
http://www.knotofisis.net/Tiet.html
http://www.path-ways.com/forums/showthread.php?t=80
http://www.thaliatook.com/AMGG/isis.html
http://www.egyptianmyths.net/mythisis.htm
http://books.google.pl/books/about/The_Cult_of_Isis_Among_Women_in_the_Grae.html?id=1MkUAAAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y
http://www.naderlibrary.com/goldenass.11.htm

*‘Isis’ is a Hellenic form, similary to other languages of the Middle – East, in native Egyptian vowels were not marked in writing, Egyptologists guess that her name was pronounced as Iset, Auset or Aset, moreover a female suffix ‘t’ vanished with the time.

**It has to be said that according to the beliefs of ancient Egypt, body must have been preserved afer death so that soul did not suffer in the Underworld thus the custom of balming the corpses.

*** A fragment of Metamorphoses or Golden Ass by Apuleius translated by E. J. Kenney.