Isis is an ancient Egyptian protectress and mother goddess, and perhaps the most widely known goddess in that pantheon.
Though she originated as a kind of minor goddess of sovereignty, over time she absorbed the iconography of other deities and grew in importance as the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus.
Isis was first mentioned in Egypt during the Fifth Dynasty (circa 2494–2345 BCE). Her name is spelled with the hieroglyphic for throne, but it’s unknown whether this is deliberate — it may be a purely phonetic choice, or it may be intended to evoke her connection to royalty.
Some scholars posit that Isis may have originally been intended to be a personification of the physical throne itself. The throne metaphorically “birthed” a king, since it had the power to turn a regular man into a ruler. This would explain the theological view of Isis as the spiritual “mother” of the ruler of Egypt.
In Isis’ mythology, she is descended from the creator deity — Ra, Atum, or Geb and Nut. This creator passed his kingship and dominion over creation to his son, Osiris. Isis was her brother’s wife, and therefore also his Queen.
Osiris and Isis’ brother, Set, is a deity of storms, disorder, violence, and deserts. He killed Osiris to usurp his throne, desecrating his body by dismembering it and scattering the pieces.
Isis, Nepthys, Anubis, and other deities searched for all of Osiris’ pieces so that they could reassemble him.
Interestingly, Isis’ story provides a template for Egyptian funerary rites and mummification. She also offers a poetic look at the stages of grief — alternately sorrowful, physically missing him, and angry that he’s left her behind.
Isis’ emotions are powerful, and her prayers and intense feelings are what allow her to breathe new life into her husband’s corpse. He is revived, and they conceive the god Horus.
Isis serves as a maternal figure, as the mother of Horus and the spiritual mother of the rulers of Egypt, but also as a kind of nurturing mother to the spirits of the dead.
In many cases, Isis’ own power was downplayed — it was believed that male gods had the powers of rebirth and regeneration, while Isis’ role was to stimulate the process.
Later on, female deities gained more power in this regard and began to play central roles in welcoming the dead to the afterlife.
As a Goddess of Sovereignty, Isis was both spiritual mother and wife to the kings of Egypt.
She was the throne that made them rulers, and the lands and people to which they held a debt of responsibility. She was also regarded as a deity of magic and mystery.
Today, Isis continues her role as a kind of universal goddess. In Ptolemaic times, her power extended to the earth, sky, and land of the dead.
Some Greek hymns to her refer to her as the “essence of all the gods.” In some regions, she was also depicted as a supreme creator deity who formed the world and cosmos.
Symbols & Associations
Isis’ primary symbol is a throne. It’s in her name and depicted on her headdress. She’s also shown with the wings of a kite, a kind of carrion bird, which may allude to either her mournful cries or her search for Osiris’ body parts.
She’s also sometimes symbolized as a sow, a cow (which may be part of her link to Hathor), a scorpion, or a tree. Isis is often shown with a cobra or vulture-shaped crown, but not as a vulture or cobra herself.
Isis’ other primary symbol is the tyet. This is a looped figure similar to an ankh, sometimes called the “girdle of Isis,” used as a protective amulet in funerary rites.
Early on, Isis’ power was to elevate men to kinghood. Over time, she appears to have grown in power until she was responsible for creating the universe.
Because of this shift, it’s difficult to specifically list her powers. She is explicitly linked to:
- Restoring the soul.
- Guiding the dead.
The best offerings for Isis include:
- Dried fruits.
- Sweet foods or candy.
Signs Isis is Calling You
When Isis appears to you in dreams or visions, she most often shows up as a beautiful adult woman. She’s likely to appear with a vulture- or cobra-shaped crown, tyet amulet, or other symbol connected to her.
You might also dream of kites or swallows, or even see these birds in your waking life.
She frequently appears to mothers, widows, or people going through the process of welcoming a new loved one or letting another one go.
If you’re currently pregnant, trying to become pregnant, a new parent, or have someone close to you who may soon pass away, Isis may call to you to help you accept and adapt to this new stage of your life.
As a deity of magic and mystery, she also appears to people who are curious about or just embarking on a path of magical study. If you feel drawn to learn magic, it may be a subtle sign from her.
Crystals Associated with Isis
Depending on your relationship with Isis, you may find it useful to work with one or two of many different crystals. The best ones for connecting to her different powers and aspects include:
- Lapis lazuli, a sacred stone in ancient Egypt for its physical likeness to the heavens and life-giving water.
- Isis quartz, a type of clear quartz with a five-sided face at its termination.
- Rose quartz, a stone for emotional healing and nurturing.
- Morganite, a stone for healing the heart.
- Red jasper, the “blood of Isis,” from which tyet amulets were carved.
Herbs Associated with Isis
Isis is connected to myrrh, a resin used in the rite of mummification. She is also associated with vervain, flowers, and fig trees.
The latter makes sense, since is she is sometimes depicted as a tree in her aspect as a nourisher and restorer of souls.
The fig tree not only provides fruit, it does so at the cost of a life — tiny fig wasps must become trapped in fig blossoms in order to pollinate them, and they eventually die there and are broken down.
Isis is also associated with date palms and coconuts, which also produce nourishing foods.
Working with Isis
Working with Isis can be as simple as working through grief or healing emotional wounds, or as complex as creating a devotional practice to her.
You may wish to start by learning more about her evolution from a goddess of kings to a cosmic creatrix, and by reading the story of Isis and Osiris in particular.
If you like, you may also set up a home altar for her. Include an image or statue of her, an offering bowl, and holders for candles and incense.
You can decorate it however you like, with lapis lazuli stones, green, white, and blue candles, or even images of animals like cows, pigs, or kites.
Choose imagery that resonates with you and reminds you of her energy. Keep the altar clean and dust-free and make regular offerings there.
Learning more about magic is another way to draw her to you. Explore magical traditions and philosophies of the past, devote some of your magical practices to her and ask for her guidance.
You can also work with Isis through practical actions. Donate your time, money, or supplies to shelters or organizations that help children and mothers.
Dedicate some time to help clean up neglected gravesites. Do what you can to tend to the young and the dead, two groups that Isis is particularly connected to.
As a cosmic creator figure, Isis is particularly powerful. She’s also very benevolent. She restores the body and mind, healing both the physical self and the soul at once.
She provides food, water, guidance, and a clear demonstration of the immense power of love and grief. Isis’ magic is not to be ignored — if she calls to you, answer her.