Some people collect stamps, others old photographs. I collect myths, and I really dig ones that explore female energy. For the record, female energy can inform the life of a man or woman.
As Jung called it, this is the anima.
Or, as some others call it, this is a bunch of hippy-dippy bullshit, but I happen to find it fascinating and informative. And since you’re still reading, I’m guessing you find it interesting, too. So, without further ado, I’ll share a bit about the myth of Isis, the most kickass story in the history of ever.
I first encountered Isis in college, when I read a translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Regrettably, I did so sober, which may inform the reaction I had, which can be summed up in three words:
What. The. Fuck.
Before reading The Egyptian Book of the Dead (and yeah, I did it for fun), I knew that the Isis story arguably stretched 20,000 years before the founding of what we now call ancient Egypt. The image of Isis with Horus on her knee was even more arguably the model for the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. The Isis myth fed one of the longest-running empires in recorded history, and here it is:
Isis and Osiris were god and goddess consorts. Osiris got tricked by his brother Seth into climbing into a sarcophagus (no, I am not kidding) whereupon Seth chopped his brother up into little bits and chucked the pieces all over Egypt. Isis brought the pieces back together, brought her husband back to life, had sex with him, and had a baby boy, Horus. The End.
And once again I say, what the fuck.
It’s taken me twenty-plus years to piece together what that story was really about, and I’m proud to say it was absolutely worth the wait. My upcoming book, Angelbound, is inspired in part by the Isis tale. But to understand the story, I needed to first understand some important shizz about ancient Egypt. Here’s what I found out.
Important Shizz in Ancient Egypt #1: You don’t have a god without a goddess, and vice versa
We’re used to monotheistic religions today, but that wasn’t the norm in ancient times. IMHO, it had to do with the way daily life went. Let’s say you lived by the Nile in 2000 BCE. You’re gone all day, bringing in crops or hunting wild animals or whatever. While you’re out, your consort does cool stuff like care for your kids and brew beer (the Nile’s also your toilet so no one drinks that stuff straight and lives.) You have a sexual division of labor, but it’s an equal one. If you don’t have someone to brew beer for you while you’re out, you die, end of story. There was no stopping by the Store-24 for a six pack, you know what I mean?
I think this daily reality got reflected in how ancient folks saw their deities, too. A god without a goddess couldn’t last, and vice versa. This wasn’t a guideline, this was a hard and fast RULE. If you had a goddess roaming around without a god consort, the shit was coming down. It was just a matter of when.
Important Shizz #2: When I say sarcophagus, you think Ferrari
Ancient Egyptians lived their current life for the one that comes after, and your sarcophagus was where you’d spend eternity. As a result, having a nice one was a status symbol, even if you were a god and presumably immortal (nice move, Osiris).
Important Shizz #3: Seth was the god of Chaos, but that doesn’t mean he was a bad guy
Weird, right? This was a total mind-blower to me when I figured it out. Yeah, Seth chops his brother up into little bits, but it’s nothing personal. He’s Chaos, you know? What do you expect when he offers you the chance to climb into his sarcophagus? I mean, while Osiris was climbing into that coffin-o-death, Seth must have been thinking ‘damn, this guy’s an asshole.’ In the ancient Egyptian mind, no one wants to get rid of Seth, really. For example, the solar boat which ensures the sun rises every day needs Seth; he’s the only one who can fight certain monsters on the path to dawn. So no Seth, no sunshine, no nothing. Bottom line: Chaos is an important (if irritating) part of life. Don’t be a dick and take stupid gifts from it.
Important Shizz #4: Sometimes bad shit happens, and it’s not your fault, but you pull up your big girl panties and fix it anyway. Because you can.
To me, this is the essence of the Isis myth. Isis’s husband made a big mistake and got tempted by what I think most closely translates to our modern idea of materialism. Long story short, he got chopped up into little bits and scattered everywhere. Isis was a powerful goddess. She could have flown back into the clouds, said ‘fuck it,’ and taken up with another, lesser god. But she doesn’t. Why? Because that ultimately leads to an imbalance that destroys everything, one way or another. Instead, Isis goes on the original odyssey and finds all the little pieces of her guy, puts them back together, and literally works her magic on them. She beings him back to life, they make love one last time, and she has a child: Horus, whose male energy balances her female energy. All is right in the universe once more.
Interesting footnote (to me anyway): the Virgin Mary (inheritor of the Isis myth imagery) wasn’t always ascended into Heaven. In other words, she wasn’t always physically present in the afterlife like her son, who was physically ascended from the get-go. That addition was made sometime in the Middle Ages. To my mind, it’s the power behind the Isis myth returning on an unconscious level: there should be balance in Heaven, and if the son is physically ascended, then the mother should be, too.
Interesting footnote part deux: Not surprisingly, around the time the above ascension was decided, women in Europe were enjoying some of the most autonomy and power they’d had in a while. The plague had left many of them wealthy landowners, as the sickness struck men in far greater numbers. The general air of awesomeness lasted until the witch trials, which (no pun intended) focused on wealthy single women because, hey, if you said a wealthy chick was a witch–and there wasn’t anyone around with a big stick to kick your ass–then you got all their stuff. Huzzah!
From time to time, I still research the Isis myth in particular, and ancient Egypt in general. Every time I re-examine the myth and period, I learn something new that helps me today. That’s what makes it a hobby, I guess. I hope you found a few tidbits on this page useful as well.