As with yesterday’s day of contemplation, today we begin another monthly practice: honoring a specific deity. Roderick’s first candidate is Isis. He gives us a list of correspondences for her, gives three paragraphs of what she represented through the different ages, and then asks us to do the following exercise:
In honoring Isis today, create an altar to her using the various symbols, images, candles, and incense that evoke her presence. Once you have created your altar, take time to face it and slowly, vocally intone her name, one syllable at a time (I-sis), until you feel or sense her presence surrounding you. Once you become aware of her energies filling your magical space, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to align with this aspect of deity. Take time to ask Isis what it would mean to live life through her energy and listen for her answer. Spend the day honoring this goddess by fulfilling another person’s desire.
Now, I’ve never really worked with Isis before. The Egyptian pantheon is largely a mystery to me. And Isis herself is confusing.
See, the ‘Ancient Egyptians’ really weren’t one consistent nation. They changed over the different kingdoms and dynasties. Other nearby cultures were assimilated by them. New gods and goddesses were added and some fell out over the years. Others, like Isis, became representative of so much that it is difficult to really say “this is Isis.” Heck, by the time the Romans got to her, she became a goddess of the seas–not something the Egyptians ever really troubled themselves with. So you can see how I might have a little trepidation honoring what currently appears to be an ambiguous deity.
Now, I did 50 days before. I knew this day was coming up, and I knew I struggled with it before, so I made sure to secure a book by an excellent Wiccan author, Ellen Cannon Reed. During her lifetime, Mrs. Reed was a well-regarded priestess in the Isian Tradition and published two books dealing with Ancient Egyptian magic and modern Wicca: Circle of Isis and Invocation of the Gods. Unlike some traditions that try to recreate every last detail of some ancient way (good luck, mates!), Mrs. Reed was explicit in stating that recreation was not her game. In fact, the notes on the back of her Circle of Isis actually say “this book does not pretend to recreate the religion of ancient Egypt, but rather will bring knowledge and worship of its deities into modern Pagan practice.” So I made darn sure to get this book and give it a read-through before we got to this day.
Unlike other pagan authors, Mrs. Reed went to academic publication to help bolster her knowledge of the Egyptian pantheon. But she also expounded upon this knowledge through her own meditations. Through her I learned that Isis and Osiris (or Aset and Asar) were the rulers of that pantheon. Isis lost her love, Osiris, so those who needed comfort reached to her. Those who suffered in love reached to her. She defended her son against everything, so parents reached to her for protection for their children. Those who need a Mother turn to her. Those who need a friend turn to her. She is the power behind power, beautiful and strong.
In her discussion of Isis, Mrs. Reed also makes a beautiful point that I think Roderick misses. The aspects of divinity are not just energies. In Wicca, our gods are both immanent and transcendent. They are energies that surround and infuse, yes…but they are also wonderfully immediate. They are personalities we can know and have relationships with. Mrs. Reed emphatically says that “they are real beings, not archetypes, not representatives of certain kinds of energy. You can come to know them personally.” Isis is such a profound friend to Mrs. Reed that Reed actually has difficulty even addressing her feelings for this deity. Instead, she offers the experience of Willie, a friend and fellow priestess of Isis. I think it is worth quoting in its entirety:
In 1977 I had been a pagan for a couple of years. Like a good Christian turned Pagan I worshiped and revered my Goddess from afar. I meditated, prayed, lit candles to Her, but there was nothing personal in our relationship. One day I fell, nothing serious but bruises and lots of aches and pain. That night I just couldn’t find a comfortable position to sleep. Finally, in desperation, I cried out, “My friend, please help me!” I heard laughter that held all the music of the spheres and a gentle voice full of mirth saying, “It’s about time you called me friend.” A healing warmth filled my body and my pain was gone. I was able to fall asleep and when I awoke, so were all my bruises.
Isis had let me stumble around for a couple of years until I realized that a relationship with Her is very much in-your-face personal. She doesn’t want to be adored from afar, She wants to be a part of your daily life. To serve Isis you should not be on a level where you are removed from Her as an untouchable Deity to be petitioned, but as energies that are lived with, loved with, and laughed with on an intimate, daily basis. Since then, she has been my best friend and confidant.
Is this a relationship I am ready for? Isis does sound like someone I would be proud to call friend, and whom I would work to please for the joy of pleasing. Would a taste of her energy be enough? Could it even offend a deity who wants so much to be an active part of our lives?
Well, I tried. I set up a small altar with some myrrh stick incense, a green (Mother!) candle, some rosewater, and salt. In the center I placed my compass, a small stone once chosen to represent myself as part of REDE, and a piece of chrysocolla. I purchased the stone just days before I got the Reed book and was shocked to see that she considered it a symbol of Isis–the coincidence seemed fated. Chrysocolla is a “tranquil, sustaining stone” that I purchased to help me meditate and communicate. The shop owner told me that “it can help you to accept with serenity situations that are constantly changing, invoking great inner strength.” Another source says that it it is a stone of “tranquility and peace, intuition, patience, and unconditional love.” Both of those seem very, very Isian to me.
As far as the rest of the practice goes…I rather think Isis was as hesitant about me as I was about her. I felt her poking at my consciousness and became very aware that I was sitting in my arm chair as though it were a throne and felt very confident and centered. It wasn’t, however, an undeniably strong experience.
I do think I’ll continue learning about Isis and the Egyptian pantheon, though.