There’s been a Cleopatra-Isis meme weaving about lately. Several new biographies have been published. Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra: A Life (which I haven’t yet read) and Duane Roller’s Cleopatra: A Biography (which I have) are helping redefine Cleopatra from the seductive femme fatale of legend to the real-life Queen of Egypt that she was. Rumors of a Cleopatra movie, starring Angelina Jolie, have added to the buzz. There’s a Cleopatra exhibit making the rounds of museums in the US. And Egyptologists have made several new discoveries that they believe may be putting them on the path to finally discovering Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s tomb. Here’s a link to a National Geographic article that tells how Cleopatra’s devotion to Isis may be offering a clue as to her body’s whereabouts. And another blogger who doesn’t buy it.
Novelists have taken up the Cleopatra theme, too. Interestingly, several have published stories about Cleopatra’s daughter, Selene. One is Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray. In Stephanie’s book, Selene, like her mother, is a devotee of Isis. You might be interested to know that Stephanie used my Isis Magic as a resource for the Isian rituals that appear in her book; she even used excerpts from some rites (with my permission, of course). Nevertheless, it was a bit strange seeing my rituals in this fictionalized form. But have no fear, Stephanie’s work is very respectful and I’m looking forward to seeing additional ritual excerpts in her upcoming two books on Selene’s further adventures.
I wish I could know how personally devoted Cleopatra was to Isis. She identified herself as “The New Isis,” just as her father, Ptolemy XII, called himself “The New Dionysos.” This could certainly have been a political stratagem. Isis was the most well-known Goddess of the time; identifying as Isis would be a power play. On the other hand, Cleopatra could have been entirely sincere. Egyptian monarchs had long been identified with Deities. Even more important, Egyptian magic has the tradition of what I’ve called Kheperu (“Transformations” or “Forms”), but which you may know as the Assumption of God/dessform or Drawing Down the Moon. This technique enables the priestess, priest, and/or magician to “become” the Deity—under certain ritual conditions and for the limited period of the rite. I have a rather lengthy article about Kheperu just sitting around on my hard drive. Maybe I’ll start posting excerpts.
In the meantime, enjoy the links—and I do hope you’ll check out Lily of the Nile. It’s a good read—and if you’re familiar with the rites in Isis Magic, it may give you a little thrill in several places as it did for me.