While some of us are under a crazy last-gasp-of-winter storm, lucky ones (like me) are enjoying a first-breath-of-spring day.
The coming of the light, the green uprisings from the dark earth, the deep, needed breath. These things open us, make our spirits expand, and give us hope—even as we and the world still struggle with a historic pandemic.
Do you feel it? Even now? Even today, as things are? I hope you do. I wish for you that you do, just as we human beings always have…
The ancient Egyptians certainly knew that feeling and celebrated it. In his essay “On Isis and Osiris,” the Greek priest Plutarch mentions an Egyptian festival that he says marked the beginning of spring and was called ‘The Entry of Osiris Into the Moon.’ Here’s what he says about it:
Further, on the first day of the month of Phamenoth they hold a festival, which they call ‘The Entry of Osiris into the Moon,’ for it is the beginning of spring. Thus they locate the power of Osiris in the moon and say that Isis, as the creative principle, has intercourse with him. For this reason they also call the moon the mother of the world and they believe her nature to be both male and female since she is filled and made pregnant by the sun while she herself in turn projects and disseminates procreative elements in the air.Plutarch, “On Isis and Osiris,” 43
In his discussion of this passage, Egyptologist J. Gwyn Griffiths notes that there is no festival by that name in any known Egyptian calendar.
The closest thing is a temple carving from Denderah that shows Osiris in a boat with Isis and Nephthys and explains that Osiris is “entering into the Left Eye.” The Left Eye, as you may know, is usually an Egyptian designation for the moon. In the Denderah text, spring is not mentioned, but Osiris is said to do His entering on the 15th of the month, that is, at the full moon.
Plutarch is seeing things in a Greek way, with Isis as a lunar Goddess and Osiris in a solar aspect. But for the Egyptians, the moon was associated with Gods—Thoth, Iah, Khonsu—not Goddesses. And though Osiris is united daily with the Sun God Re in the Underworld, He too is more associated with the moon than the sun.
Nevertheless, in this case, it seems we should be envisioning a solar Osiris as He enters into and unites with the moon—thus establishing His power there—in order to create the brilliant light of the full moon (if we can include the Denderah text in our understanding).
Yet there is a slight problem. Plutarch says that this festival happens on the “noumenia tou Phamenoth,” the new moon of the spring month of Phamenoth. And indeed, the Egyptian lunar calendar, the temple calendar, starts with the new moon. This would mean the minuscule bits of evidence we have for this festival of Osiris entering into the moon are in conflict. Does the God enter at the new moon or full?
If we just look at what Plutarch says, then Osiris enters into the new moon and Isis, the Creative Principle, unites with Him in sexual intercourse. She becomes the Mother of the World; Isis the moon is filled and made pregnant by the Osirian sun. During this time, the moon is both male and female since Isis and Osiris are united in it. But pregnancy is a process of growth. Could both of our tiny bits of information be right? What if the festival was not meant as a one-day event? What if the 14 days from new moon to full were envisioned as a sort of spring break retreat for the Goddess and God? They come together, make love, and 14 days later the full, round, and shining evidence of the Goddess’ pregnancy can be clearly seen. It’s just speculation, but it does provide some coherence between the few pieces of evidence we have for this festival.
Whatever the case, I very much like the idea of a spring sexual rite for Isis and Osiris. In fact, it was this intriguing Plutarchian reference that inspired the multi-day rite of sacred sexuality in Isis Magic called (yes, of course) ‘The Entry of Osiris Into the Moon.’
Plutarch’s essay is also responsible for the idea that Isis and Osiris were so in love with each other that They made love while still within Their mother Nuet’s womb. He writes, “Isis and Osiris were enamored of each other and consorted together in the darkness of the womb before Their birth.” Perhaps Their coming together at the first of spring each year may be seen as a kind of return to the womb of the Great Mother for renewal of both Deities as well as humankind…the very same renewal we all feel every spring.
What’s more, as famous lovers, Isis and Osiris are also to be found in the Greco-Egyptian Magical Papyri (Papyri Graecae Magicae, abbreviated PGM) in a variety of old-fashioned love spells. While many of the so-called “love” spells in the papyri are coercive and more like magical roofies than what I would call “love” magic, there is one I particularly like because it seems the lover does want love and not just sex from the object of his desire.
In a spoken part of the spell, the lover says, “The Goddess in heaven looked down upon him, and it happened to him according to every wish of his soul. [Name of the lover] says: From the day [and] from the hour, I [name of the lover] do this act to you; you will love me, be fond of me, and value me . . . [until] I die. O Lady, Goddess Isis, carry out for me this perfect charm.” The rite takes place before sunrise, as the lover anoints himself with myrrh, “the myrrh with which Isis anointed when She went to the bosom of Osiris.” As the sun rises, the lover asks Isis to wake up his beloved and again to “carry out this perfect charm.”
If you’re feeling in need of a love spell yourself, here’s one to try.
And so, with loving thoughts, I wish you blessings of the coming season of wild uprisings, renewed love, and new life in whatever best form it takes for you. We all need it and we all deserve it.