knot or buckle, and the sustrum (rattle)
In the Book of the Dead, Isis was described as She who gives birth to heaven and earth, knows the orphan, knows the widow, seeks justice for the poor, and shelter for the weak. Some of Isis' many other titles were:
- Queen of Heaven,
- Mother of the Gods,
- The One Who is All,
- Lady of Green Crops,
- The Brilliant One in the Sky,
- Her Latin name was Stella Maris, or Star of the Sea,
- Great Lady of Magic,
- goddess of magic, fertility, nature, motherhood,
- underworld Mistress of the House of Life,
- She Who Knows How To Make Right Use of the Heart,
- Light-Giver of Heaven,
- Lady of the Words of Power,
- Moon Shining Over the Sea.
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.
whose soul dwelt in the star Sah - Orion.
As the mighty earth-goddess her name was Usert.
As the Great Goddess of the Underworld she was Thenenet.
As the power which shot forth the Nile flood, she was Sati, and Sept.
As the embracer of the land and producer of fertility by her waters she was Anqet.
As the producer and giver of life she was Ankhet.
As the goddess of cultivated lands and fields she was Sekhet.
As the goddess of the harvest she was Renenet.
As the goddess of food which was offered to the gods, she was Tcheft, and lived in the Temple of Tchefau.
As the great lady of the Underworld, who assisted in transforming the bodies of the blessed dead into those wherein they were to live in the realm of Osiris, she was Ament - the "hidden" goddess. As Ament she was declared to be the mother of Ra.
In this last capacity she shared with Osiris the attribute of 'giver of life,' and she provided food for the dead as well as for the living.
At a comparatively early period in Egyptian history Isis had absorbed the attributes of all the great primitive goddesses, and of all the local goddesses such as Nekhebet, Uatchet, Net, Bast, Hathor, etc., and she was even identified as the female counterpart of the primeval abyss of water from which sprang all life.
It is manifestly impossible to limit the attributes of Isis, for we have seen that she possesses the powers of a water goddess, an earth goddess, a corn goddess, a star goddess, a queen of the Underworld, and a woman, and that she united in herself one or more of the attributes of all the goddesses of Egypt known to us.
Her origins are uncertain but are believed to come from the Nile Delta; however unlike other Egyptian deities she did not have a centralised cult at any point throughout her worship. First mentions of Isis date back to the 5th dynasty, but her cult became prominent late in Egyptian history, when it began to absorb the cults of many other goddesses. It eventually spread outside Egypt throughout the Middle East and Europe, with temples to her built as far away as the British Isles. Pockets of her worship remained in Christian Europe as late as the 6th century.
Little information on Egyptian priests of Isis survives; however it is clear there were both male and female priests of her cult throughout her early history. By the Graeco-Roman era, all priestesses of Isis are female. Many of them were healers and midwives, and were said to have many special powers, including dream interpretation and the ability to control the weather by braiding or combing their hair, the latter of which was because the ancient Egyptians considered knots to have magical power.
Worship - Temples
Most Egyptian deities started off as strictly local, and throughout their history retained local centers of worship, with most major cities and towns widely known as the hometowns to their deities. However, no traces of local Isis cults are found; throughout her early history there are also no known temples dedicated to her.
Individual worship of Isis does not begin until as late as the 30th dynasty; until that time Isis was depicted and apparently worshipped in temples of other deities. However, even then Isis is not worshipped individually, but rather together with Horus and Osiris. Temples dedicated specifically to Isis become wide-spread only in the Roman times.
By this period, temples to Isis begin to spread outside of Egypt. In many locations, particularly Byblos, her cult takes over that of worship to the Semitic goddess Astarte, apparently due to the similarity of names and associations.
During the Hellenic era, due to her attributes as a protector, and mother, and the lusty aspect originally from Hathor, she was also made the patron goddess of sailors. Throughout the Graeco-Roman world, Isis becomes one of the most significant of the mystery religions, and many classical writers refer to her temples, cults and rites. The cult of Isis rose to prominence in the Hellenistic world, beginning in the last centuries BC, until it was eventually banned by the Christians in the 6th century.
Despite the Isis mystery cult's growing popularity, there is evidence to suggest that the Isis mysteries were not altogether welcomed by the ruling classes in Rome. Her rites were considered by the princeps Augustus to be "pornographic" and capable of destroying the Roman moral fibre.
Tacitus writes that after Julius Caesar's assassination, a temple in honour of Isis had been decreed; Augustus suspended this, and tried to turn Romans back to the Roman gods who were closely associated with the state. Eventually the Roman emperor Caligula abandoned the Augustan wariness towards Oriental cults, and it was in his reign that the Isiac festival was established in Rome. According to Josephus, Caligula himself donned female garb and took part in the mysteries he instituted, and Isis acquired in the Hellenistic age a "new rank as a leading goddess of the Mediterranean world."
Roman perspectives on cult were syncretic, seeing in a new deity merely local aspects of a familiar one. For many Romans, Egyptian Isis was an aspect of Phrygian Cybele, whose orgiastic rites were long naturalized at Rome, indeed she was known as Isis of Ten Thousand Names.
In the Golden Ass (1st century), Apuleius' goddess Isis is identified with Cybele.
Temples to Isis were also built in Iraq, Greece, Rome, even as far north as England where the remains of a temple were discovered at Hadrian's Wall.
At Philae her worship persisted until the 6th century, long after the wide acceptance of Christianity.