October 31st is the eve of All Souls Day in the Catholic calendar…it is thus the hallows-eve, or Halloween. That date has absolutely nothing to do with Isis.
However, the concept of the day has much to do with Isis, for Isis has much to do with the Dead. Death is arguably the greatest Mystery human beings face; and it was an important part, either more or less emphasized, of the majority of Pagan Mystery Religions. Quoting from Themistius’ essay On the Soul, Plutarch writes of death as an initiation in the Mysteries:
but when that time comes [of death], it is an experience like that of men who are undergoing initiation into great mysteries; and so the verbs teleutan [die] and teleisthai [be initiated], and the actions they denote, have a similarity.
He could easily have been talking about the Mysteries of Isis. For in this realm of mystery, magic, death, and rebirth, we inevitably find Isis present. Isis is at home in the Land of the Dead. In fact, She is the Goddess Who calls one to death. In this role, She is called the Mooring Post, for “to come to moor” was a common Egyptian metaphor for dying: “the Mooring Post summons you as Isis, the Mourning Woman calls to you as Nephthys. . .”
Though She is the caller to death, Isis is also a comfort, a mystagoge, and a Lady of Transformation. The Coffin Texts tell us that the Mourner of Osiris, Who can be none other than Isis, “makes a spirit of the Bull of the West; [and] at seeing whom the Westerners Rejoice; Lady of All in the Secret Place. Later in the same formula, She is asked to “spiritualize me, O you who split open my mouth for me and who guide my soul on the paths of the Netherworld.”
She is called the Mistress of the Old Ones, Lady of Many Faces in the Secret Place, Mistress of the Hidden Mysteries; She “guides the Lord of the West” and is the one “at Whom Osiris rejoiced when He saw Her.” Another lengthy formula from both the Coffin Texts and the Book of Coming Forth by Day, identifies Isis as the keeper of secret mysteries. The formula is in the form of a dramatic reading, with various characters speaking in turn. In the formula, first Horus allies Himself “with the Divine Isis.” Then He sends a messenger, to whom He has given His own form, on a journey to His father Osiris. The messenger is none other than the deceased and must pass tests and provide the proper tokens along the way until he comes to
the House of Isis, to the secret mysteries, I have been conducted to her hidden secrets for she caused me to see the birth of the Great God.
Finally in possession of the hidden secrets, the deceased delivers his message to Osiris: all is well on earth because Horus, the Son of Isis, rules His father’s kingdom.
Isis also acts on behalf of the dead, ensuring that their initiation into death proceeds as it should. In a formula for being accepted into the Land of the Dead, the deceased hails the underworld for having arrived safely and states “true is Isis who acted on my behalf.”
In the great initiation of death, the deceased could expect to meet Isis the Mysterious One and could hope for Her guidance and help in negotiating the obscure and frightening paths in the Land of the Dead. And so do we hope for the same today.