Relief of the Goddess Isis

A bas relief depicts Isis kneeling on a stool in the shape of the Nebu or gold symbol in hieroglyphs, goddess of motherhood, magic, healing, and rebirth.

In addition to her traditional roles as wife, mother, healer, and protector of the dead, Isis was worshiped as the goddess of good fortune, the sea, and travel. Decorative detail from the coffin of Thuya.

Relief of the goddess Isis, decorative detail of sarcophagus of Thuya
Relief of the goddess Isis, decorative detail of sarcophagus of Thuya

Magic plays a central role in all the events involving this goddess: it is through magic that Osiris comes back to life, Horus is conceived and protected, and the deceased assisted in the afterlife. The magic of Isis was also invoked in many spells of protection and healing.

Many myths highlight her great magical ability and in one in particular – in which she learns the true name of the god Re – she consolidates her position as one of the most important deities in terms of magical knowledge and power.

In this myth, Isis creates a snake to bite Re, the sun god. Re is poisoned and can only recover from the bite by revealing his true name to the goddess: knowing the name of someone/something was tantamount to having great power over them…and that is exactly what Isis achieves! Re is healed and Isis strengthens her power.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III, ca. 1391-1353 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.