PBP Week 17 (Belated) – Isis

c. 1380-1335 v. Chr.
c. 1380-1335 v. Chr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the Pagan Blog Project is focuses on the pagan experience through the eyes of individuals, I’d be extremely remiss if I didn’t include at least one entry about Isis, the goddess whom I follow.  I always find writing about her a struggle.  As with all deities, there is so much about her that is unfathomable and unknown to me and I feel that anything I say will fail to do justice to the great and terrible beauty that she is. What I can comfortably speak of  are my history with her and how she’s come to be in my life.

First Things First – An Explanation

I feel that I need to begin with an apology (in the more classical sense of the word, that is), because I know that there are Kemetic reconstructionists out there who will get their kalasiris in a twist because I refer to Isis as an Egyptian deity.  Yes, I am aware of the Aset the Egyptian/Isis the Greco-Roman argument.  For the record, I see them as a single goddess, interpreted and named differently by two distinct human cultures, who focused on those aspects that were most important in each cultural context.  I believe that the gods can be as multifaceted as human beings, if not more so, and choose to show particular aspects to us as it serves their purposes.

Frankly, for my practices and path, the Aset/Isis debate is irrelevant.  My experience is this… the goddess that I follow has Egyptian roots but transcends that particular human culture.  Whether I call her Isis, Aset, Queen of Heaven, She of the Sheltering Wings, or George does not change the fundamental qualities of Herself nor would it change how I relate to her (although I might be more inclined to giggle if calling her George). Unless informed otherwise by the Lady herself, I’m sticking to my guns on this one, so don’t expect me to engage in a debate about it.  YMMV, I get and respect that.  We can always agree to disagree.

God is Great… and a Girl like Me

It’s been mentioned elsewhere on this blog, but as a child, I lived in a Christian household and sporadically attended Christian churches.  No matter what I might be otherwise told, I always envisioned ‘God’ as a woman.  Nothing could convince me that God was the bearded old man that everyone seemed to assume.  There was no doubt to me… then or now… that the face of God, my god, is that of a beautiful woman, neither young nor old, but timeless, powerful, and eternal.  I remember getting into no small amount of trouble when I was quite young  for telling one of my cousins that “God is a girl… like me.”  To say the least, it was a little confusing to me that this was would warrant an angry reaction from anyone.  At the time, I was too young to understand the tenacity to which people hold firm to their individual beliefs or the intolerance that such a statement could generate.

Walk Like an Egyptian

As sure as I was of my god’s gender as a child, I still called her simply ‘God’.  As my love of reading grew, I found myself attracted to mythical tales from all over the world.  I can’t say at exactly what point it was, but at some time in my late childhood, I began to form the opinion that this female ‘God’ of mine was related in some way to the tales of ancient Egypt.  For awhile, I thought… and really wanted… it to be Nut.  The reasons for this are lost to me now, but I remember pondering that this goddess of the sky could be thePicture of mural art, relief, showing the Egyp... face of ‘God’.  It made sense to me at the time, I think, because I was also developing an interest in astronomy and would spend summer nights stargazing.  Still, when I called upon Nut in my thoughts, there was only silence in response.  It didn’t take terribly long for me to get the hint that I was barking up the wrong proverbial tree.  It took me until my late teens to suss out the identity of this goddess of mine.

On Choosing to Serve Her

I think it happens to a lot of us when we discover the identity of a presence in our lives… we  have a moment of excitement  and say “Oh that’s nice/cool/scary/OMG… literally.”  After that initial sense of discovery, we tend to rock back on our heels and say “Now what?  Are you expecting something from me know that I know your name? Or should I expect something from you?  What do we do with this?”  For some of us and for some deities, a simple acknowledgement of “Oh, that was you. Got it. Thanks!” is enough.

In this case, the introduction was only a beginning.  It would take far too long for me to explain it all here, but over time, I came to understand that more was expected of me than simply acknowledging that she was the deity I’d always envisioned.  It was expected that, if I were to call her my own, that I had to be willing to let her guide me, to acknowledge her position of authority, and to trust other guides and teachers that she placed in my path. I was longing at the time for a sense of understanding, acceptance, and purpose and found those things came easily when I allowed her into my life.  So, I agreed to her terms with an understanding that I could severe my ties  with her if I so desired (even to this day, she’s more than willing to remind me that I follow her by my own choice).

It’s been almost two full decades since I accepted her terms… and I still struggle with them.  Again, the stories are too long to tell here, but I have mild problems with authority, tend to question it at every turn, and have no small difficulty trusting anyone who tries to push me out of my comfort zones. It’s become rather a joke that I can do things the easy (i.e., Her) way or my way.  I still usually opt for my way, at least until it is blatantly obvious to everyone that I’m failing miserably in my attempts. Did I mention that I can be a bit willful sometimes?

Tough-Loving Mama

I’ve been a devotee of Isis for a long while now and I sometimes I think that it was actually with her that the phrase “May you live in interesting times” originated.   I know that there are a lot of people who think of Isis as a very nurturing, mothering goddess, which she can be without a doubt. I think it’s absolutely awesome that some of her followers find her to be a gentle, loving Goddess who cradles them under her wings as if protecting her fledglings from the storms of life.

This is not the side of her that I see most of the time however. For me, she is the Goddess of Hard Lessons, the Goddess of Tough Love, the Goddess of What-Doesn’t-Kill-You-Makes-You-Stronger, the Goddess of Rising-Up-One-More-Time-Than-You-Are-Pushed-Down.    She pushes me far beyond my comfort zones, at times to the brink of my breaking point, ever reminding me that to appreciate joy one must also be willing to experience sorrow.  Although I occasionally grumble about this constant tough love, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I know it has made me stronger than I could have been otherwise.  I know that whatever interesting times she throws in my path, they’ll be full of valuable lessons.  For this, I am thankful.

There’s more that I could say, that I’d like to say, but I’m out of time for now.  Thanks for reading my ramblings!

The painted image of the goddess Isis from a s...

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