Our Lady of Egypt

Isis is one of the three great goddesses of the Bronze Age along with Inana/Ishtar, of Mesopotamia and Cybele of Anatolia (both of whom I write about in other posts).  Like Inana/Ishtar, Isis was also considered to be the Queen of Heaven and Earth as well as the Underworld.  She was the wife of Osiris (god of the dead) and mother of the falcon god Horus.   She was the archetype of good wife and mother.  After her husband Osiris was slain and dismembered by his evil brother Seth, she collected all his scattered parts, reassembled them as a mummy and revived him to become the god of the dead and Ruler of Eternity. He sits in the underworld and judges the souls of the dead. She was a great healer and had powerful magic.

There were many local goddesses in ancient Egypt, but Isis rose to prominence and she incorporates many of the attributes of other goddesses, which were absorbed into her.  She was worshipped for over 3,000 years from pre dynastic time until the second century AD when her cult and imagery -  throned and holding or suckling Horus – was transferred  to Mary and Jesus as the new Christian faith took over.

I have portrayed her nursing her son, Horus, in the Papyrus swamp while hiding from the evil Seth.  I have placed Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt (also sometimes pictured, as in this instance, as a serpent) and Wedjat, the serpent goddess of Lower Egypt on each side of her.  They wear the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Her headdress is the sun disk between cows horns. She shares this headdress with Hathor when she embodies Hathor’s creative powers.  Hathor was also a very ancient mother goddess of Egypt who brings forth life and sustains and nourishes it with her eternal milk. She is sometimes depicted as a cow.

The hieroglyph for the name of Isis is a high backed throne.  She was considered the throne and source of the power and authority of the king.  He ascended the throne to sit upon her lap and received divine nourishment from her breasts.    Sometimes pharaohs are depicted on her lap suckling at her breasts.

This symbolism of the breast as a sacred source of nourishment is very meaningful to me personally.  Egypt is not the only ancient culture where this view appears.   It seems that today women’s breasts have been objectified and reduced to  merely a symbol of sex. It is shocking and indecent for too much of a woman’s breast to be seen, yet it seems there is also a lot of effort to show as much as possible and call attention to them to look sexy.  Since the advertising industry know that sex sells, it’s always helpful to include a beautiful woman with good cleavage in a commercial or ad.  I find these attitudes demeaning to women.  Our culture has lost the appreciation of what a wonderful thing it is for a mother to have mammary glands that produce the perfect nourishment for her infant.  Nursing mothers have to be undercover about engaging in this sacred act.  It goes along with the sad fact that our culture undervalues the feminine principal of the nurturer. It is also related to the fact that we have not valued our own Mother Earth who nurtures us – leading to the current eco crisis.

I have cast Our Lady of Egypt in two different mediums, handmade paper pulp and in cold cast bronze.  You can see the different effects of the different mediums in these two photos.

Our Lady of Egypt in Handcast Paper Pulp

Our Lady of Egypt in Cold Cast Bronze with Blue Patina

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 16th, 2010 at 10:00 am and is filed under Misc. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply