Last time we came up with two markers for priest/esshood among the ancient Isiacs: service and knowledge.
Yet we have virtually no information about what it meant inwardly and spiritually for individuals to serve as priestesses or priests of Isis. Nonetheless, there is reason to think that indeed there WERE inner experiences. There is a record from the the reign of Thutmose III that provides a hint that priestly initiations meant something spiritually.
A new royal vizier who was made Prophet of Mayet or Maat said of his experience:
“My abilities were not as they had been: my yesterday’s nature had altered itself, since I had come forth in the accouterments of a vizier, having been promoted to be Prophet of Mayet.”
This man felt truly changed by his experience of becoming a Prophet of Mayet. We can assume that the priestesses and priests of Isis and of other Deities had no less an experience than this vizier.
In fact, the Egyptian reputation for religious and philosophical knowledge was immense. It would only make sense that those who were sincerely following their path would have important personal experiences—just as people have always done. Yet we have no specific record of such things. Why? Because that’s just not the way the ancient Egyptians did things. That’s not what they considered important to write down.
In fact, the closest thing we do have to a personal account of spiritual experiences related to Isis is in a novel by a North African named Apuleius. The book is called The Golden Ass and is about an initiation into the Mysteries of Isis.
It is from the third century CE (that’s the 200s) so it’s late—but it IS from the time of the most widespread popularity of Isis. Because it is novelized, it gives us a glimpse of the protagonist Lucius’ interior state. And while Lucius is an initiate of Isis and not a priest, one could make an argument that he would probably qualify as what WE would call a priest of Isis today. He is an initiate, he remains involved with the religion, serving in its special ranks or grades—and he outwardly marks himself as an Isiac by shaving his head.
So I think we should at least look at what his spiritual experience with Isis was like for clues.
In the novel, Lucius has had a spiritual crisis: after being magically turned into an ass, he has gone through trials and tribulations and finally throws himself upon the mercy of the Moon Goddess.
The Moon Goddess reveals Herself as Isis. She says that though She is called by many names, Her true name is Queen Isis.
Isis tells Lucius not to fear:
“But above all things beware thou doubt not nor fear of any of those things as hard or difficult to be brought to pass…”
In other words, She tells him to have faith.
She also says:
“and know this of certainty, that the residue of thy life until the hour of death shall be bound and subject to Me; and think it not an injury to be always serviceable towards Me whilst thou shalt live, since as by My means and benefit thou shalt return again to be a man. Thou shalt live blessed in this world, thou shalt live glorious by My guide and protection, and when after thy alloted space of life thou decendest to the Underworld, there thou shalt see Me in the subterranean firmament shining (as thou seest Me now) in the darkness of Acheron, and reigning in the deep profundity of Styx and thou shalt worship Me as one that hath been favourable to thee. And if I perceive that thou art obedient to My commandment and hold to my religion, meriting by thy constant chastity My divine grace, know that I alone may prolong thy days above the time that the Fates have appointed and ordained.”
As an initiate of Isis, Lucius’ life is to change. He is to be Hers forever; and in return, She will not only save him from his present difficulty, but prolong his lifespan.
The priest who is overseeing his initiation tells Lucius that to take Isis’ holy orders was like a “voluntary death and slow recovery.” Yet, even if someone were on the edge of death, and had but the strength to receive Her mysteries, that person could be made new-born and healthy once more.
He advises Lucius to: “Accept of your own free will the yoke of service.”
By his initiation, Lucius is to be born again and he is to serve the Goddess. The mental and emotional state of Lucius after his initiation is one of pure love and wonder. He is passionately in love with the Goddess-and so he remains throughout the days of his life.
I’ve had an experience like that. One thing that happened to me with Her that I have remembered all the days of my life since then and which has made me passionate in my love of Her and dedication to Her. Have you had such an experience? Would you care to share it?
I will share =)
I have been in dire straits in my life two times… the first found me alone, and very depressed. I was sitting on the side of my bed, wondering what the hell to do… I was alone in the room, and there was no tv or radio playing. I was not under the influence of any kind of drug or alcohol.
As I sat there, I heard a voice in my ear. Actually, not only heard, but felt the breath of that voice. It was soothing and feminine, and it said ‘Have Courage’. I almost jumped out of my skin, I can tell you. I looked around, and saw nothing. My heart was pounding, and I thought ‘Am I going mad?’ But something in that voice, as scary as it was at the time, gave me hope and strength. I sat there the rest of the day thinking about my past, my present and my future. I decided that I would not wallow, but turn my energies to positive things… and I did.
From that day on, I worked at what I wanted with a peace and happiness that was quite enjoyable. I started the career I always wanted , and succeeded at it very well. I found the perfect woman for me and married her. But, I didn’t know where that voice had come from, until during the course of my studies I found a notation that said Isian believers used to write ‘Have Courage’ on walls to encourage each other. I started my studies and learned all about the Goddess.
I began saying small prayers of thanks to Her… as I read about Her worship, I followed what I could, giving libations of water and milk in thanks… I offered small cakes to her and it all felt so right. I created a small altar with her image, as well as other idols that felt right.
As the years passed, things have been so good. A couple of summers ago, I fell prey to some malicious gossip, and wound up in jail for something I had not done. I sat in a dingy cell and wondered just what was going on. This is the second time I heard her voice. ‘Trust Me’ she said… and my fears left me. I was at peace, and things turned out well. I was freed in short order, with no lasting effects on my life.
I know She is there… watching, protecting and guiding my life. I know She does not want me to be a priest… She does have a purpose for me… in a very vivid dream, I was told to ‘built my temple’… what that means, whether physically or whatever, I want to do just that. How, I don’t know, but I’m sure it will all come clear when She is ready to make it so.
Goddess Protect You,
Thank you for sharing that, Scott. I heard that voice once, too. She just said my name, as loud and clear as if someone (or Someone) were standing behind me.
Do you remember where you found the info about Isiacs doing Have Courage grafitti? I would love to find it and document it! Sounds rather Roman to me 😉
The word is ‘eupsuchei’, which was pretty much the motto of the Isiac religion. I’ve seen it translated as ‘Have courage’, ‘be of good courage’ and ‘be of good cheer’… I found one reference on-line at sacred-texts.com, but this is not the original reference I found… that was so many years ago. I do have notes from back then, but it will take some time to go through them. I’ll start doing so, and report back when / if I find the original ref…
Goddess protect you,
Ah! The word is Greek and literally means “good” (eu) “soul” (puche or pyche). And that form of it (with the i on the end) would mean something like “one of good soul.” I checked out sacred-texts.com where they had it as found on Isiac graves. That would make sense…an Isis initiate would be a good-souled one. And I bet it could indeed be translated as “of good courage”…maybe we would say “of good spirits.” Thank you so much. I had not found that before and I love it.
I love it as well… it would be wonderful to begin to use it again, especially in these tough times… I holds a special meaning for me, in light of my tale told about. Also, I looked through the notes I had, but could not find the original reference I saw it in… but I see you’ve found some as well.
Goddess protect you, and be of good spirit!
I remember that moment of ‘pure love and wonder’. It was 1976 and I had had an experience where I acknowledged that I was a Goddess woman. I asked the Goddess for a message/mantra that this was for real. .I was driving along Mulholland Drive and this voice said to me “The Priestess of Isis remembers the Goddess is everywhere.” That was it – I didn’t know what it meant but spent years finding out and I have belonged to Isis since then.
Her Priestess, Laura