Posted by: Isidora | June 16, 2012

What does the Knot of Isis mean?

Sorry I missed last Saturday’s post…I was away doing magical things. I had intended to post during the week, but life got in the way and here it is Saturday again already. So…guess we’ll just go from here.

Thanks to Alexandra-Shakira for her question via Facebook, today’s post will be about that sister of the ankh, the Tiet, Tyet, Tet, also known as the Knot of Isis, the Girdle of Isis, the Buckle of Isis, or the Blood of Isis. There’s a famous passage from the Book of Coming Forth by Day, commonly called the Book of the Dead, that tells us the words to use to magically charge this important amulet:

Spell for a knot amulet of red jasper. “You have your blood, O Isis; you have your power, O Isis; you have your magic, O Isis.” As for him for whom this is done, the power of Isis will be the protection of his body, and Horus son of Isis will rejoice over him when he sees him; no path will be hidden from him, and one side of him will be towards the sky and the other towards the earth. A true matter; you shall not let anyone see it in your hand, for there is nothing equal to it. (Formula 156, Book of Coming Forth by Day)

This is the classic Knot of Isis, or Tiet, amulet.

If you happen to have a Knot of Isis of your own, speaking the formula over it from time to time will keep it magically alive and active.

The image to the right is the standard form of the amulet; an open loop of material, tied with a sash that hangs down below the loop on two sides. The tiet looks similar to the ankh, the hieroglyph for “life” except that its crossbar is folded down. In fact, the tiet may be related to the ankh, for the tiet sign is often translated as “life” or “welfare.”

The origins of the amulet are unknown. As a knot, however, its symbolism revolves around the idea of binding and releasing, the joining of opposites, and, since a knot secures things, protection. Knot magic was well known in Egypt from an early period; an inscription in one of the pyramids states, “Isis and Nephthys work magic on Thee [Osiris] with knotted cords.” In addition to the formula above, the Book of Coming Forth by Day gives several other examples of the magical power of the knot. In this one, knots are tied around the deceased to help her come into the presence of the Deities: “The four knots are tied about me by the guardian of the sky [. . .] the knot was tied about me by Nut, when I first saw Maat, when the gods and the sacred images had not yet been born. I am heaven born, I am in the presence of the Great Gods.” In addition to these four knots, there were seven knots, or tesut, that were tied about the deceased to protect him or her.

The Knot of Isis is frequently paired with the Pillar of Osiris as in this modern amulet.

The tiet first appears in Egyptian iconography in the third dynasty. It was frequently used in association with the djed pillar of Osiris and so became almost exclusively associated with Isis. Used together, the two symbols could refer to the power of the Goddess and God to engender Life. Because of this, the symbols may also be seen as sexual symbols; the pillar referring to the phallus of the God and the knot to the vulva and womb of the Goddess.

It may have been the combination of the tiet’s connection with life and its association with Isis’ sexuality that led to it being called the Blood of Isis and so being made of red jasper, carnelian, or even red glass. It might represent the red lifeblood a mother sheds while giving birth. On the other hand, it might represent menstrual blood. Some say the amulet is shaped like the cloth worn by women during menstruation. Others have interpreted it as a representation of a ritual tampon that could be inserted in the vagina to prevent miscarriage. In this case, it would have been the amulet Isis used to protect Horus while He was still within Her womb. In addition to blood, the amulet’s red color could represent fire and the Sun—and the living, regenerative properties of Isis the Flame, the Radiant Solar Goddess and Lady of Rebirth.

Note the knots in the straps of the Goddess’ garment as well as the little loop between Her breasts.

Goddesses other than Isis could be accompanied by the tiet as well. In later periods, the tiet was associated with Isis’ sister, Nephthys, and Her mother, Nuet, especially in situations having to do with resurrection and rebirth. Earlier, it served as a badge of office in the cults of the Cow Goddesses Bat and Hathor. Yet the knot remains primarily associated with Isis. There are many representations of Isis with knots (surely, magical knots) tied into the straps of Her clothing. This tradition followed the Goddess into the Graeco-Roman world where the Knot of Isis was also tied into the robes of Her priestesses. This potent symbol of the Goddess is still worn by Her priestesses and priests today.

The Knot of Isis tied into the robes of a Priestess of Isis. This statue is from the Roman period and stood in the Emperor Hadrian’s villa at one time.

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Responses

  1. hehe Thanks! It sounds like the tyet is most likely the protective amulet used first for Horus

  2. […] The redness of the Tiet may represent the red lifeblood a mother sheds while giving birth. On the other hand, it might represent menstrual blood. Some say the amulet is shaped like the cloth worn by women during menstruation. Others have interpreted it as a representation of a ritual tampon that could be inserted in the vagina to prevent miscarriage. In this case, it would have been the amulet Isis used to protect Horus while He was still within Her womb. For a whole post on the Knot of Isis, click here. […]

  3. […] Isis and enclosing Horus in her/his arms, perhaps symbolized by the seven knots? There were indeed magical knots of protection for the dead. These passages inspired a protective ritual in Isis Magic called “The Rite of […]

  4. Reblogged this on Adventures and Musings of an Arch Druidess.

  5. […] that just has to do with imagery. In Egypt, the knot is more than just practical, it is also magical. And as Isis is Goddess of Magic, you may rely on the fact that She can do magic with […]

  6. […] been discussing the famous Knot of Isis, the Tet, lately, so let’s talk a bit more about Egyptian knot magic in […]

  7. Wonderful insights! Your research truly helped me to write my latest blog post on the history of menstrual devices you can take a look here: http://www.mommybloggerforhire.com/badassmotherblogger/2015/10/21/a-history-of-menstrual-hygiene-from-free-bleeding-to-flow-tracking-apps
    Thanks for this great post!

  8. […] Isis and enclosing Horus in her/his arms, perhaps symbolized by the seven knots? There were indeedmagical knots of protection for the dead. These passages inspired a protective ritual in Isis Magic called “The Rite of the […]

  9. I just tumbled across your blog today as I had a question, and I’m so glad I found it! My question is, what’s the difference between the knot of Isis and the Ankh? Which one is more specific/special to Her?

    • Hi, Lauren!

      Well, you’ve found this post on the Knot. Here’s another one about the Knot that might be of interest: https://isiopolis.com/2014/11/23/the-blood-of-isis/

      And here’s one about Isis and the ankh: https://isiopolis.com/2012/06/02/isis-the-ankh/

      In Egypt, most of the important symbols were shared by more than one—-and sometimes by many—-Deities. So you will find both ankh and Knot (tiet or tyet) among the symbols of more Deities than just Isis. That said, the ankh is more universal to the Deities of ancient Egypt and the tyet came to be more closely associated with Isis…which is why it eventually came to be called the Knot of Isis. Hope that helps!

  10. […] https://isiopolis.com/2012/06/16/what-does-the-knot-of-isis-mean/ […]

  11. […] https://isiopolis.com/2012/06/16/what-does-the-knot-of-isis-mean/ […]

  12. […] Isis and enclosing Horus in her/his arms, perhaps symbolized by the seven knots? There were indeed magical knots of protection for the dead. These passages inspired a protective ritual in Isis Magic called “The Rite of the […]


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