Egyptian goddess, daughter of Geb and Nut, sister and wife of Osiris, sister of Nephthys and Set, and mother of Horus the Child. One of the Ennead. Although Isis, who was the prototype of the good wife and mother, is usually considered in relation to the myth of the murder of Osiris by Set, and her struggle to put her son Horus on the throne, in actual fact she would appear to have been a goddess in her own right, and possibly even before Osiris.
   Her magical powers were shown when Set caused a scorpion to sting her son Horus, and she managed to avert any evil result by reciting certain spells. On another occasion, when Horus and Set were fighting and had assumed the forms of huge black bulls, she was sufficiently powerful to slay them both. She could transform herself into any kind of creature, and travel through earth, air, fire, and water with ease.
   On one occasion, however, she was defeated by Horus, who was so infuriated with her for releasing Set after a battle in which he had been captured that he cut off her head. Thoth, however, magically changed it into the head of a cow and reattached it to her body. This myth arises from the identification of Isis with Hathor in some localities, and also from the fact that she was under the care of Hathor in the swamps of the Delta when rearing Horus.
   The lament which Isis and Nephthys were said to have sung after the death of Osiris was the official Egyptian funerary dirge. The worship of Isis spread far and wide, and images of Isis were found in many parts of Europe. With the advent of Christianity these were taken over as ‘Black Virgins’. In the same manner there was a Black Aphrodite in Cyprus.
   On one occasion Isis desired to know the secret name of Ra. This she accomplished by collecting his saliva and forming it into a poisonous snake, which caused Ra to become very ill when it bit him. As Ra had not created the snake, as he had the rest of the world, he was unable to remedy the ill. Isis promised to cure him if he told her his secret name, by which she would become allpowerful. The god tried to avoid the issue by telling her his other names, but to no avail, and at the end he had to tell her and ‘it passed from his bosom to hers’.
   Isis was known by many names, including Aset, Aust, Eset and Hest.

Who’s Who in non-classical mythology . . 2014.

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