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    Default Egyptian Trinity

    Egyptian Trinity


    In the Egyptian myth, Horus and his father, Osiris, are frequently interchangeable, as in “I and my Father are one.” John 10:30. Egypt, where the myth of Osiris was originated, shares borders with Palestine, where Jesus lived. Ancient Egyptians, just as the Christians, recognized in words the unity of the Godhead, while worshipping many deities that possessed certain influence on human affairs. Ancient Egyptians acknowledged One infinite God, Almighty, and Creator but added the confusing concept of trinity to the Unity of God. This is against all the teachings of all the Prophets before and after Jesus. This is the eternal Satanic step by step to confuse humans.

    According to Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets: “Of all savior-gods worshipped at the beginning of the Christian era, Osiris may have contributed more details to the evolving Christ figure than any other. Already very old in Egypt, Osiris was identified with nearly every other Egyptian god and was on the way to absorbing them all. He had well over 200 divine names. He was called Lord of lords, King of kings, God of gods. He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, the God who made men and women to be born again. From First to Last, Osiris was to the Egyptians “the god-man” who suffered, and died, and rose again, and reigned eternally in heaven. They believed that they would inherit eternal life, just as he had done.”


    From right to left: Isis, her husband
    Osiris, and their son Horus, the
    protagonists of the Osiris myth, in a
    Twenty-second Dynasty statuette
    According to Egyptian scriptures, "As truly as Osiris lives, so truly shall his follower live; as truly as Osiris is not dead he shall die no more; as truly as Osiris is not annihilated he shall not be annihilated." These same concepts still exist in the Christian theology. Osiris coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion, which point directly to Osiris' star in the east, Sirius, as a sign of his birth. Angelic voices hailed the coming of the 'Universal Lord' on this occasion, which marked the rising of the Nile flood.

    Certainly, Osiris was a prototypical Jesus. His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat, the plant of Truth. Osiris was 'Truth,' and those who ate him became 'Truth' also. Each of them became another 'Osiris,' a 'Son of God,' a 'Light god,' a dweller in the 'Light-god.' Egyptians came to believe that no god, except Osiris, could bestow eternal life on mortals. He alone was their 'Savior,' the Good One.' Egyptians were much afraid of death's corruption awaiting them without the kindly intervention of Osiris.

    The cult of Osiris contributed a number of ideas and phrases to the Bible. The 23rd Psalm copied an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris the Good Shepherd to lead the deceased to the “green pastures” and “still waters” to restore the soul to the body, and to give protection in the valley of the shadow of death. The Lord’s Prayer was prefigured by an Egyptian hymn to Osiris - beginning by Amen, “O Amen, O Amen, who are in heaven.” Amen was also invoked at the end of every prayer. This word Amen is one of the left over rituals of the monotheistic origin of all polytheistic mythologies.

    As Col. James Chruchward naively exclaims, “The teachings of Osiris and Jesus are wonderfully alike. Many passages are identically the same, word for word.” Osiris was also the god of the vine and a great traveling teacher who civilized the world. He was the ruler and judge of the dead, just like Jesus. In his passion, Osiris was plotted against and killed by Set. Like that of Jesus, Osiris’ resurrection served to provide hope to all that they may do likewise and become eternal.

    Osiris’ brother Seth envied his power and popularity and killed him by luring him into a coffin, which he sealed with lead. Seth set the coffin adrift in the Nile. It washed up in Lebanon and a mighty tree grew around it, which a king cut down and put in his palace. Osiris’ wife, Isis, could not rest until she had buried him properly. She tracked down his coffin and returned it to Egypt. Seth was so angry, he cut the body into pieces and scattered them across Egypt. But Isis found the pieces, made wax copies of them to be worshipped in a temple and, preserving Osiris’ body with linen bandages; she breathed life back into him. He rose, and ruled as god of the underworld.

    Horus was conceived magically after the death of Osiris and brought up by Isis on a floating island. The child was weak and in constant danger from the scheming of his wicked uncle Seth, who sent serpents and monsters to attack him. But his mother, Isis was great in the magical arts and she warded off this evil by using a spell against creatures biting with their mouths and stinging with their tails and the young Horus survived and grew.

    M. D. Aletheia suggested that at least 2500 years before Jesus, the Egyptian god Osiris (Horus), in some accounts, was crucified on “an accursed tree” in an event of sin-atonement. “Osiris, after being put to death, rose from the dead, and bore the title of the Resurrected One,” he said “The suffering, death, and resurrection of Osiris formed the great mystery of the Egyptian religion.” While some might dispute the Egyptian’s god legend of crucifixion, there is no denying that the stories of Jesus and Horus are quite similar. Even the name Horus has been suggested as a contributing factor in the name Jesus. Originally, because Horus was depicted as a hawk or a falcon-headed god, the Romans turned Horus into an eagle-headed god and the eagle symbol was transferred to Christianity. Hence, the podiums and pulpits in the Roman Catholic Churches often bear eagle symbol taken directly from the Egyptian god Horus.

    At least 2500 years before John baptized believers in the Jordan River, ancient Egyptians baptized believers in the Nile, or in burial chambers. In both cases, the purpose of baptism was to cleanse and rejuvenate individuals - whether alive or dead - into a new state of "eternal blessedness". Furthermore, just as Christians today are assimilated with Jesus through baptism, ancient Egyptians were assimilated through baptism with their god, Horus. In addition, just as Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptist, Horus was baptized by lesser gods.

    Isis was part of a sacred triad. The Egyptians deified so-called 'emanations' of the supreme, unknowable godhead, typically grouping them into trinities (in fact, a whole hierarchy of trinities). Thus Isis-Osiris-Horus, Amun-Re-Mut-Khons, Atum-Shu-Tefnut-Mahet, etc., reigned for forty centuries, as eternal, evolving godhead. Crucially, the Egyptian priests linked the gods directly to their ruling kings. Throughout the 4000 years of Egyptian history every Pharaoh was the incarnation of the youthful Horus, and therefore the son of Isis, the Goddess Mother who had suckled and reared him. After death, Osiris took care of the dead Pharaoh in the kingdom of the dead.

    According to the Egyptian mythology, the 'Father' and 'Son' were inseparable and of 'one essence.' The pharaohs stepped into trinity on Earth (as Horus) and became the heavenly element (as Osiris) after death. In the endless cycle Isis functioned as sister, wife and mother, a sort of 'holy spirit', keeping the whole thing going.

    According to author and theologian Tom Harpur: "[Author Gerald] Massey discovered nearly two hundred instances of immediate correspondence between the mythical Egyptian material and the allegedly historical Christian writings about Jesus. Horus indeed was the archetypal Pagan Christ."

    The following are examples of quotes by Horus, according to Tom Harpur, and the corresponding quotes of Jesus from the New Testament:

    "I have given bread to the hungry man and water to the thirsty man and clothing to the naked person and a boat to the shipwrecked mariner."
    "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me..." Matthew 25:35-36

    "I am Horus in glory...I am the Lord of Light...I am the victorious one...I am the heir of endless time...I, even I, am he that knoweth the paths of heaven."
    Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

    Egyptian priests practiced "transubstantiation", claiming to be able to transfer the sun god Osiris into a circular wafer. In rituals prefiguring Catholic Mass, the faithful then ate the "body" of their god to nourish their souls. The letters IHS on the sun-shaped wafers stood for Isis, Horus, and Seb (later, Roman Catholics claimed they were the first three letters of Jesus' name in Greek).

    The myth of Osiris included some monotheistic features, such as belief in the hereafter, resurrection of the dead, Day of Judgment, and beginning and ending the prayer with Amen. This suggests that Osiris might have been a prophet of God, and his original message was not preserved and corrupted by time. Some scholars believe that Prophet Idris (Enoch in the Bible) was the same as the Egyptian god Osiris.

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    Default The Original Trinity, Brought to You By Egypt

    The Original Trinity, Brought to You By Egypt

    Today, when we think of “The Holy Trinity,” we instantly think of “The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit” as found in Catholicism. Yet it is possible that this trinity influenced by another that came a thousand years before. We’re talking about the Egyptian trinity of The Father Osiris, The Mother Isis and The Son Horus. In this blog, I will not say that the Osiris/Isis cult is the same thing as Christianity, but it is very probable that a lot of the ideas from this early trinity later had an influence on the development of Christian ideas.

    A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE OSIRIS/ISIS/HORUS MYTH

    I will give you a very brief summary of the Osiris/Isis/Horus myth so that you will understand what is going on in the rest of this article. Osiris was the first son of the Gods. He married his sister Isis and the two became queen and king over Egypt. This was at a time when mankind was corrupt and was in need of justice. It is said that men even practiced cannibalism and human sacrifice before the advent of Osiris and Isis. Perhaps this is an Egyptian metaphor for the depraved state of mankind before civilization.

    Osiris’s brother Set was jealous of his power. As a result, he had Osiris chopped up into several pieces and had these pieces of his body scattered throughout the land. Osiris’s wife Isis went on a quest to find the lost pieces of her husband, used her magic to put him back together and then Osiris got his revenge on Set. In later versions of the story, it was their son Horus who avenged his father by killing Set.

    A MERCIFUL GOD OF REPENTANCE AND ETERNAL LIFE
    osiris2.jpg
    I’m going to tell you about a God who was referred to as the “king of kings” and the “Lord of Lords.” He died, but then was resurrected from the dead. With his resurrection he brought humanity the promise of eternal life. This God was referred to as a “Merciful Judge of the Dead.” Am I talking about Jesus? No, I’m talking about a Deity much older, I’m talking about Osiris.

    Here are some quotes about Osiris.

    Osiris as Lord of Eternity
    [I]Hail to thee, Osiris, lord of eternity, king of the gods (Hymn to Osiris)

    Lord of Heaven and Earth
    O thou lord to whom commemorations are made, both in heaven and in earth. (Hymn to Osiris)

    Similarities Between The Pyramid Text and The New Testament: (The birth of Osiris and Jesus)
    PT — This is my son, . . . my beloved, . . . with whom I am pleased.
    NT — This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.

    Osiris takes on a human form.
    Here we see that the condition of Osiris has changed; he has taken on the clothes of human form. His spirit was among the gods, but now it has changed to earth. He is exhorted to be careful in his earthly habiliments, that he not exceed the boundary of the earthly form. He could, as God, exceed the limits of the human form he took on voluntarily. Hymn 224:

    More on the Merciful Judge of The Dead
    Osiris was the God of the Afterlife who humans would confess their sins to in death. When a human died, they would come to the hall of Ma’at (justice) and make the 42 negative confessions, a list of things that they did not do in their mortal life. If the human lived a pure life, they would get to reside in heaven for eternity, and if not, they were eaten by Ammit, a gruesome part lion, part crocodile, part hippo creature. Some legends even say that Ammit would cast the heads of sinners into a Lake of Fire.

    Did Egypt Influence Christian Ideas About Heaven and Hell?
    If you read The Old Testament, you will find that there is very little mention of Heaven, Hell or The Afterlife. This is a concept that is more elaborated upon in The New Testament. The Christian Lake of Eternal fire certainly relates a lot to the Egyptian Lake of Fire. Heaven, as an eternal paradise for those who are pure of heart is also very similar in both ideologies.

    Osiris was referred to as “Chrestos”
    Among the days of the early Christian fathers, Jesus was referred to as Jesus the Chrēst. This is an epithet that closely resembles “Chrēstos,” which was also applied to Osiris. It often meant “anointed” or “good.” This was a term that was applied to several deities in Ancient Times.




    SIMILARITIES BETWEEN JESUS AND HORUS?

    Horus.jpgEgyptian myths changed over time, as any myth would over more than a thousand years. Over time, Horus, the son of Osiris, took on many of the characteristics of his father. Where Osiris was originally the one who defeated the evil Set and restored balance to Egypt, Horus eventually took over this role. Horus is the falcon headed son of Osiris and Isis. He was a God of The Sky, Warfare and Hunting.

    There have been attempts to say that Jesus was a direct rip off of Horus. However, it has been later found that many of these claims are exaggerated.

    Horus was not the result of a virgin birth, he was not crucified and he did not have 12 disciples. However, one thing to note is that depictions of Isis suckling her son Horus were very popular in Rome at the time that Christianity first came about.

    A MURAL IN THE ROMAN ERA OF ISIS AND HORUS

    THE “REGINA CAELI LAETARE”

    reginacaelilaetare.jpg
    Isis who suckles Horus



    This was the early Roman “Madonna” with her son so to speak.




    SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE CULT OF ISIS AND EARLY CHRISTIANITY?

    isis.jpgIsis was originally worshiped in Egypt as Queen alongside her brother Osiris. Her name literally means “Throne.” She was the mother of magic, life giver and the one who used her magic to bring Osiris back from the dead. In other words, she was a Goddess of Resurrection. Through the process of Hellenization her worship eventually spread to the Greco-Roman world where her Cult became tremendously popular, especially among women and members of the lower class. The other appeal of the Isis Cult is that it was a universal religion, meaning anyone could join regardless of class or gender.

    The Roman emperors were originally afraid of this “Eastern Cult.” Augustus called it “pornographic” and tried to stop it. This is probably because of his antagonistic relations with Antony in Egypt at the time. However, the later emperor Caligula embraced the religion. Temples to Isis were permitted and Isiac festivals became a part of the public and civil calendar.

    The Cult of Isis satisfied many concepts that were missing in the Greek and Roman religion. It brought ideas of freeing oneself from moral pollution, reconciliation, equality of the sexes and equality among the rich and poor.

    When Christianity later came to the Roman World, it had a similar appeal among women and members of the lower classes. Many of the statues to The Mother Mary were even built upon places where statues to Isis once were. However, in this new Christian Cult, the role of The Goddess was diminished. In the Roman Cult of Isis, The Goddess was arguably the most powerful member of The Trio, since she is the one who had the power of resurrection. Yet as the Romans constructed their official version of Christianity, they replaced The Cult of Isis with Patriarchal ideas that were more fitting to the Roman Public.

    Some say that The Cult of Isis was destroyed by the arrival of Christianity, others say that it was absorbed by the new Religion. However, it can’t be denied that The Cult of Isis was an incredibly popular religion in Rome at the time that Christianity arrived. There is no doubt that Christianity wasn’t at least influenced by this very popular Egyptian Cult.

    The Cult of Isis and Early Christianity

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    Default Isis "regina caeli"

    ISIS "REGINA CAELI"

    The names of the Great Mother are so many: Inanna for the Sumerians, Ishtar for the Akkadians, Anat at Ugarit, Atargatis in Syria, Artemide-Diana at Ephesus, Baubo at Priene, Aphrodite-Venus at Cyprus, Rhea or Dictynna at Crete, Demeter at Eleusis, Orthia at Sparta, Bendis in Thrace, Cybele at Pessinus, Ma in Cappadocia, Bellona in Rome.

    In Egypt her name is Isis. Daughter of Nut, goddess of the Sky, and of Geb, god of the Earth. Bride of Osiris, killed by Seth, god of the desert, and risen from the death thanks to the same Isis.

    Isis is the mother of Horus, the god little boy who appears in numerous representations in the arms of Isis who suckles him. Osiris reincarnates himself in Horus, born by the union with Isis after his resurrection.

    The triad Isis, Osiris and Horus represents the continuity of life, the victory over death, the life after death.

    With the coming of the Ptolemaic dynasty (323 b.C.) the cult of Isis spread in the whole Mediterranean. Isis became the prototype of the Mother and of the Son.

    Testimonies of the cult of Isis are found in Athens, at Tithorea near Delphi (where there was the most sacred of the Greek sanctuaries of Isis), in many centers of Greece, in the islands of the Aegean Sea (particularly at Delos), in Asia Minor, in Northern Africa, in Sicily, in Sardinia, in Spain, in Italy (especially in Campania at Pompeii, Pozzuoli, Ercolano), in Gaul and in Germany.

    In Rome the cult had great success. Towards 88 b.C. it was in operation in Rome a college of pastophori: a brotherhood of priests who brought in procession small shrines with the divine images.

    In 65 b.C. an altar devoted to Isis on the Capitol was destroyed by order of the Senate.

    The followers of Isis, belonging to all the social classes, were involved in the political and social struggles of the last times of the Republic. The Senate ordered the destruction of temples, altars and statues of the goddess in 58, in 54, in 50 and in 48 b.C..

    In 50 b.C. the consul Emilius Paolus didn't find any worker willing to demolish the sanctuary of Isis.

    In 43 b.C. the triumviris (Mark Antony, Octavian and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) promised to consecrate an Isis's temple at the Republic's expenses. But the promise was not kept.

    After the battle of Actium (31 b.C.) and the death of Cleopatra (69 b.C.-30 b.C.) and of Mark Antony (81 b.C.-30 b.C.) the persecutions against the Greek-Egyptian cults resumed.

    In 28 b.C. Augustus (63 b.C.-14 AD) prohibited the cult of Isis within the sacred enclosure of the city (pomoerium).

    In 21 b.C. Agrippa, in absence of August, prohibited the Alexandrine cults within a kilometer and a half from the city.

    In 19 AD Tiberius (42 b.C.-37 AD) ordered to demolish the temple of Isis and to throw in the Tiber River the statue of the goddess.

    The situation changed with Caligula (12-41 AD), descendant of August and of Mark Antony, who built a great temple devoted to Isis in Campus Martius: the Iseum Campense.

    Claudius (10 b.C.-54 AD), Nero (37-68 AD) and Vespasian (9-79 AD) gave their support to the cult of the goddess. Vespasian, before celebrating together with his son Titus the victory on the rebellious Hebrews, spent a night of prayer in the Iseum to thank the great goddess. In 71 a medal was coined with the Iseum Campense.

    Domitianus (51-96 AD) saved himself by the partisans of Vitellius hiding himself in an Isis's procession. When the Iseum Campense was destroyed by a fire in 80 AD Domitianus reconstructed it.

    In the second century AD Rome became the center of the religion of Isis: it became the sacrosancta civitas according to the denomination of Apuleius in the Metamorphoses.

    Adrianus (76-138 AD) wanted to build in his imperial villa of Tivoli a Canopus in miniature culminating in a Serapeum. In 126 he inaugurated a sanctuary devoted to Isis at Luxor. In 127 he ordered to build an Iseum at Ostia.

    Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) invoked the aid of the Egyptian gods to save himself during a military crisis in Bosnia.

    Commodus (161-192 AD) made himself shaved as a pastophorus. The coins of his time show him together with Isis and with Sarapis.

    Septimius Severus (146-211 AD) supported the Isis's cult. Over the coins of Julia Domna, second wife of the emperor, Isis is seen suckling Horus.

    Caracalla (188-217 AD) readmitted the Isis's cult within the sacred confinements of the city of Rome. The religion of the great goddess reached its apogee.

    Alexander Severus (208-235 AD) restored the Iseum Campense and the other temples of the goddess.

    Diocletianus (245-316 AD), who reigned up to 305 when he decided to abdicate, probably built the Iseum of the III Regio (district) of Rome. He made to coin a lot of coins with the goddess Isis.

    In the whole Roman Empire symbols of the goddess are found on jewels, pins, clasps, rings. Sanctuaries, statues and monuments were built in a lot of places.

    Two solemn festivities connected to Isis were celebrated in the Roman empire: the Navigium or vessel of Isis, on March 5 and the Inventio of Osiris, from October 29 to November 1°.

    This happy age finished in 312 with the coming to the throne of Constantine (280-336).

    After the edict of Constantine (313 AD) the Christians began to persecute the other religions.

    In 380, with the edict of Thessalonica, Theodosius (347-395) declared the Christianity religion of state. All the other cults were forbidden, the temples destroyed, the statues dejected, the priests and the believers tried by the authorities or lynched by the crowds led by bishops and fanatical monks.

    In 391 Theophilus, the Christian patriarch of Alexandria, called the monks "to purify" the city of the Serapeum.

    In 394 the last official rites were celebrated in honor of Isis in Rome.

    In 396 the Barbaric Alaric, the Goths' king, to whose retinue were the "men dressed of black" (the Christian monks), set on fire the sanctuary of Eleusis.

    In 415 a group of Christian monks, followers of the patriarch of Alexandria, saint Cyril (375-444), lynched Hypatia (370-415), woman who had reached a great fame in philosophy and in mathematics, remarkable figure of the Neo-Platonic school, leading figure of the pagan intellectual world. With her death it began the decline of Alexandria as a cultural center.

    In 536 the emperor Justinian (483-565) ordered the closing of the last temple of Isis, situated in the island of Philae on the Nile at the borders with the Nubia, and made it turn into a Christian church.

    Was the cult of the "Goddess with many names" ended for ever?

    In 431 the Christian bishops had gathered at Ephesus, the sacred city to the goddess Artemis, one of the manifestations of the Great Mother. The Council decreed that Mary, mother of Jesus, had to be called Theotokos, Mater Dei, God's Mother. The ancient title of the great goddess Isis.


    REGINA CAELI LAETARE

    reginacaelilaetare.jpg
    Isis who suckles Horus
    (Mural painting - Roman Epoch - Karanis, Fayyum)


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    Default Egyptian Trinity - Cult Of Isis

    Cult Of Isis


    Genesis in the Land of the Pharaohs

    Isis ("Aset" in the native language) had her start as a comparatively minor deity of Egypt. She was a protector of the throne of Egypt, perhaps in some ways the personification of Royal Power. But she had been subordinate in the official Egyptian pantheon to deities more intimately connected with the great king, like Ra and Horus.

    egyptian_diety_family_tree.jpg

    The collapse of the Old Kingdom brought about several sweeping changes in Egyptian religion. Eternal life, which had once been viewed as the sole province of the King, came to be seen as the reward for all those willing to submit to the proper cults. In this new paradigm Isis took center stage and became the central goddess in the popular religion of the Egyptian people.

    Myth tells how Osiris, the first god-king of Egypt, introduced laws and agriculture to humankind. He was then deceived and murdered by his scheming brother Seth, god of chaos. Seth hacked Osiris' body into pieces and scattered them across Egypt, intending to rule Egypt himself. Isis collected the pieces and magically revived her brother-husband Osiris, who became King of the Underworld. She also magically conceived a son, Horus. Isis and her supporters warred against Seth for the throne of Egypt. A council of gods eventually decided that Horus, as son of Osiris, was the rightful ruler, and Seth was demoted to fighting nocturnal demons. A new paradigm emerged in which Osiris ruled the underworld, Horus ruled Egypt (and the Pharaohs were considered the incarnation of Horus) and Ra the sun god ruled the heavens.

    But Isis as mistress of magic resurrected Osiris, and thus was superior to him. She conceived her son Horus magically and was superior to him. With her magic, she even had power over Ra the sun god. In short, she was the real power behind the universe, which lead her cult adherents to proclaim her as Mistress of Heaven. More importantly, she had the power over life and death and could resurrect her followers in the same manner that saved her husband from oblivion. As the myth of Isis and Osiris grew, Isis began displacing other deities in the loyalties of the population.


    The Hellenes Conquer and are Conquered by Egypt

    The conquest of Egypt by Alexander opened a new era for the cult. In trying to find a religious cult that would unite both Egyptian and Hellenic subjects, Ptolemy Soter crafted the Isis cult as it would be introduced into Greco-Roman society. Osiris was renamed Serapis and identified with a variety of Egyptian and Hellenic gods (Osiris, Apis, Dionysus, Hades). He became a god of healing and the underworld. Isis was identified with Hellenic deities such as Demeter or Aphrodite. Greek iconography was introduced to the cult which made it visually appealing to the Hellenes. In those days when the provincial city-states of the Hellenic world fell to Alexander's universal empire, the traditional gods of the city-state no longer sufficed. Gods like Isis and Serapis were not connected with any specific town and were truly universal in scope. More importantly, the exotic Egyptian mysticism could offer the Greeks of the Hellenistic age something their own gods could not - a way to cheat fate and death.

    Isis and Osiris were honored by Greeks and by Egyptian emigrants as a kind of holy trinity, but always it was Isis who was the dominant member of the trio. Isis became the protector of family (especially women), the protector of newborns, the goddess of fertility and good fortune, and the goddess whose magic could cheat Fate and Death. She was also thought to be a protector of sailors, and sailors sailing from the great port of Alexandria took her cult all over the Mediterranean. Backed by the Ptolemaic regime, the new cult spread throughout the Hellenistic Kingdoms.


    The Nile Flows into the Tiber

    The Roman Senate was not amused with Ptolemy's attempt to craft a universal religion. When the cult of Isis swept into Rome via Hellenistic sailors and Egyptian emigrants, it became outstandingly popular with women and the lower classes, including slaves. Fearing a religious unification of the lower strata of Roman society, and fearing the loss of piety in the traditional Roman gods of the state, the Senate repeatedly placed restrictions on the new cult. Private chapels dedicated to Isis were ordered destroyed. When a Roman Consul found that the demolition team assigned to him were all members or sympathizers of the cult and refused to destroy their chapel, he had to remove his toga of state and do the deed himself.

    Augustus found the cult "pornographic," though the cult was known to proscribe periods of sexual abstinence to its adherents. The real reason for Augustus' wrath was that the cult was linked to Egypt and thus the power base of his rival, Antony. Cleopatra had even gone so far to declare herself Isis reincarnated. Nonetheless, Augustus' scorn did little to stem popular opinion. Officials and servants of the imperial household were members of the cult. It seems even his own infamous daughter was a member; whether her belief was genuine or merely another aspect of her defiance against her father cannot be determined.

    Tiberius, upon hearing of a sexual scandal involving the cult, had the offenders crucified and images of Isis cast into the Tiber. But much like Christianity, periodic and sporadic persecutions did nothing to stem the tide. What was death when one's deity promised salvation and resurrection?

    As part of undoing the policies of Tiberius, Caligula legitimized the religion. Temples to Isis were permitted construction. Aspects of the Isiac festivals became public and part of the civil calendar (though there were still mysteries celebrated in private). It is also known that Caligula had an Egyptian chamberlain who exerted influence on the emperor and helped him progress in the mysteries of the goddess. Perhaps this even helped play a role in Caligula's infamous promotion of himself as an autocratic, Hellenistic-like ruler. Whatever the truth, Isis was now part of Roman paganism for good.

    The emperor Vespasian became acquainted with the cult while serving in the Eastern legions, and seems to have adopted Isis and Serapis as his personal savior deities. Domitian owed his life to fleeing opponents in the garb of Isiac cultists, and continued the family's association with the cult.

    Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius were friendly to the cult, but most likely not initiates. Commodus, on the other hand, shaved his head bald like the priests of Serapis. He used to beat those around him with a mask of Anubis that was common in the processions of the cult.

    Septimus Severus was fascinated with the cult, and his son Caracalla dedicated a giant temple to Serapis that rivaled the one built to Jupiter, Rome's original patron god. The meaning was clear - the gods of the East that had once been maligned by the ruling classes of the Republic were now on equal footing with the traditional gods of the State. Among the common people, they were more important.

    Stoic and Neoplatonic intellectuals tried to reinterpret the cult in terms of their own highbrow philosophies, with the deities of the cult serving as metaphors for great cosmic principles. While this may have held some influence in the literate classes, its doubtful it had any impact on the vast majority of followers. To the average person Isis was not a metaphor or concept; she was as real to her followers as the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is to billions of Christians around the world today. More to the point, she performed much the same function.


    The Un-Roman Roman Cult

    The Cult of Isis was, thanks to Ptolemy, Hellenized to a degree that the Roman mind could understand it, and yet still foreign enough to be exotic and alien.

    Unlike most religious structures in the Roman world, the Iseum did not open to the streets or forum where public spectators could view the proceedings inside. The Iseum was walled off from the surrounding world, suggesting a space of inner sanctity. Even within its walls, there was a "sanctuary" much like modern monasteries where only clergy and the initiated could enter. In there rituals involving fire, water and incense were conducted in front of a sacred statuary of the deities concerned. This secret religious life that was set apart from the community and the State is what helped arouse the suspicions of the conservatives back in the days of the Republic.

    Not much is known about the details of the inner workings of the mysteries, as they were by definition secret. Prospective initiates were called to the goddess by dreams and visions. Intense preparations of purification and meditation (and abstinence) were followed by exotic rites designed to recreate the myth of Isis and the resurrection of Osiris. By enduring these rituals, the adherent was reconciled to the magic of Isis and effectively granted a favorable afterlife. He or she was in a sense spiritually reborn in a manner common to Greco-Oriental savior religions.

    But there were more public festivals too that didn't require initiation. The first was conducted on March 5th. In honor of Isis sailing the seas to find pieces of her lost husband, a colorful procession of costumed people, including especially sailors, marched to port and ritually blessed a boat. The second festival was held October 28th to November 3rd. This was an ancient passion play Again, costumed enactors took to the streets, this time to reenact the death and resurrection of Serapis. Roman conservatives complained the festival was too loud and colorful.

    People also had private shrines to Isis and Serapis in their homes.

    The subject of the ethics of the cult is a complicated one. We know that Egyptian culture as a whole was free with sexuality compared to Roman culture. Isis was in fact rather popular with courtesans and other such professions, and there are speculations that Isiac cults may have promoted a kind of "positive sexuality" among a more conservative Roman population. Augustus and Tiberius took this as proof of a "pornographic" cult. Yet the Isiac cult also demanded regular periods of sexual abstinence from its adherents for purposes of ritual purification, and even apparently courtesans readily submitted to these observances. Curiously enough, the early Christians who were quick to complain about the degeneracy of pagan cults could not offer as much criticism about Isis as they could about some other cults in the Empire.


    Universal Religion

    Unlike Mithraism which was confined to a small percentage of "middle class" Roman males, the Isis cult was truly universal. Unlike Mithraism it could be practiced by both men and women, and it was women who perhaps took it up most enthusiastically. Unlike Mithraism it appealed to all classes; the lower classes and slaves were the mainstay of the cult, but as we have seen even those at the very top of the social strata were also adherents. Unlike Mithraism which was mostly confined to the Latin West, Isis was honored in both halves of the empire. Isis was long honored in the Greek East, and penetrated into the Latin West in even barely Romanized areas such as Britain or northwest Gaul. Isis was however a cult of city dwellers; we see little evidence of Isiac cults in rural areas outside of her native Egypt.

    There was little danger of the small cult of Mithras, influential though it was, stemming the tide of Christianity and taking over the world. However, the cult of Isis had the numbers and the appeal to mount a serious threat to Christianity. Some scholars assert that the Holy Trinity of Isis, Serapis and Horus were not really defeated - they were merely absorbed into the new Holy Trinity of Christianity. The reverence for Mary among high Christian churches is similar to faith in Isis. We should consider at the very least that many chapels to the Virgin were built purposely on the remains of temples to Isis, and that furthermore the iconography of the Madonna and Christ is quite similar to Isis and Horus.

    Today, Isiac religion is undergoing something of a revival. Among New Age crowds, Isis is a popular symbol among those seeking an alternative to "patriarchal" religions. In fact, Isis worship is part of the "goddess spirituality" movement promoted by feminist and other postmodern identity groups. However, their understanding and practices related to Isis are sometimes more conditioned by revisionist politics than by anything resembling history or archaeology. Nonetheless, alternative religious movements have coincided with periodic bursts of "Egyptomania" to open the door for a second look at the Isiac cults.

    Did you know...?

    The symbol of Isis in the heavens was the star Sept (Sirius), which was greatly beloved because its appearance marked not only the beginning of a new year, but also announced the advance of the Inundation of the Nile, which betokened renewed wealth and prosperity of the country.

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