Sometimes I just find little bits and pieces of Isis information that don’t really warrant a whole post by themselves, but which together may be of interest. So on this Solstice Day, I am gathering up some of those end-of-the-year tidbits to share with you.
These particular bits come from the collection of Chester Beatty Papyri translated by Alan Gardiner, who as being assisted by R.O. Faulkner at the time. The texts were written in hieratic, which is a cursive method of writing hieroglyphs that developed and was used alongside formal hieroglyphs—because, frankly, hieroglyphs are a hard and tedious way to write. “Hieratic” means “priestly,” a name that it received in the 2nd century CE when it was being used only by the priests. Egyptian official and business documents were by that time being written in demotic, apparently a northern version of hieratic that eventually came to be adopted generally.
Call on Isis to banish bad dreams
Remember last week when we were talking about dreams? Well, from the context in one of the dream books, it seems that Horus was considered to be the archetypal dreamer. And when the archetypal dreamer had bad dreams, He turned to His mother Isis for help, speaking this spell (my capitalization):
“Come to Me, come to Me, My mother Isis. Behold, I am seeing what is far from Me in my city.” [And Isis replies,] “Here am I, My son Horus, come out with what Thou hast seen, in order that Thy afflictions throughout Thy dreams may vanish, and fire go forth against Him that frighteneth Thee [Set]. Behold, I am come that I may see Thee and drive forth Thy ills and extirpate all that is filthy. Hail to Thee, thou Good Dream which art seen by night or by day. Driven forth are all evil filthy things which Seth, the son of Nut, has made. Re is vindicated against His enemies; I am vindicated against My enemies.”
Once that invocation is spoken, then you take a little bread and some fresh herbs moistened with beer and myrrh, then rub your face with it. Sounds like it would work, too, though I might prefer to eat the bread.
Just a phrase I like
From a poison-curing spell related to the story of Isis & Re, there’s a phrase for asking Isis to send you magic:
“Lay a spell upon me, my mother Isis…”
A magical gesture?
The first part of the spell says “I have enclosed in my right hand. I have enclosed in my left hand. I have enclosed [missing text] Horus [missing text], enclosed it in seven knots.” It is another poison-releasing spell and in the end Horus calls upon Isis.
I wonder whether the magician here is taking the part of 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 Tiet.”
The scorpion as “the orphan girl”?
The spell asks Isis, Nephthys, and Thoth to “speak against the bite of the orphan girl. Whether the bitten die or the bitten live, it is Thoth Who replies, ‘Flow out, scorpion.'” I wish I knew the myth that explains how the scorpion is an orphan girl.
The holy butt of Isis
In a formula that lists the powers of Thoth, identifying each one with a human body part, and then further identifying that body part with a Deity, the “backside” of the human is associated with the Thoth-power “free from stealing and carrying off” and is further identified as “the backside of Isis.” Perhaps we can interpret this as “Isis has your back(side)!”
Water from the breasts of Isis
Not only does nourishing milk come from Isis’ breasts, but also cooling water. In an offering formula, Amun is asked to “take to Yourself what flows from the breast of Your mother Isis,” while water in menza-vases is being offered. In another offering formula, figs are offered as the priest says, “take to Thyself the breast of Isis of which the Gods taste.” That one gives me a little magical tingle and I shall be running out for some figs to offer.
In a related offering formula, Re is being reborn of Isis that He may live and grow to become old—and no doubt be born again:
“…Horus became the Oldest of the Old ever since He was ill, and went forth after His eye alive, when Seth had seized it; and He received it from Isis in Djeba’t-‘aryt. Come Thou forth whole between the loins of Thy mother Isis, that She may bear Thee and Thou become a stripling having been born; that Thou mayest become Re and mayst suck the milk which is in the breast of Thy mother Isis. Let Her cry be raised in She-‘adi, and mayst Thou go forth from the arms of Thy father Osiris. Make Thy life from it, and be Thou whole from it—from the sweet libation which comes forth from Thy father Osiris on the eastern side of the Great Green. Mayet Thou circle about the Ila-nebu and live on the east wind which comes forth from the eastern side of the Great Green. Mayest Thou live being small, and become a stripling, grow warm and be vigorous. And mayst Thou grow old of this Thy old age and this Thy wholeness.”
On taking action
In a different telling of the Isis & Re story, the text says that “the children of the Gods came every man with His mourning, but Isis came with Her skill.”
Mythic bits like that can sometimes make all the difference; they can inspire us or make us stronger in a difficult situation. So I hope at least one of these little bits of information has intrigued, inspired, or interested you in some way. And I wish you a happy, peaceful, and Isis-blessed Winter Solstice as the Light begins Its return and the Holy Infant, the Sun of Isis, is reborn.
I wonder if maybe the priestess was praying for an orphan girl who was bitten by a scorpion.
Very interesting tidbits. Nightmares, emergency medicine, may She, indeed, have our backs.
Oh! Interesting thought. The papyrus is damaged in places so we can’t tell from this…but it makes me want to do more research indeed.
The scorpion as “orphan girl” makes me think immediately of Tabithet, who frequently appears in such spells, though to my knowledge she’s never identified in them as an orphan. If it is the victim, rather, who is being identified as “orphan girl”, which I think is less likely because of the way these spells are usually phrased, I’d think of the way that the term “orphan” might be applied to Horus or to Horit as children of Osiris, and thus to the patient. Tefnut is sometimes called “orphan”, which perhaps has something to do with her as the Distant Goddess; I suppose that this could be applied to the spell in a couple of different ways.
That makes a lot of sense…I hadn’t heard of Tefnut as an orphan. Will need to check into that. Thank you!