In support of Isis
We love to abuse names and twist tales. This is one such tale. Recently someone posted a meme vilifying the most American of soft-drink makers for having this name on their cans: Isis. If you pay attention, you’ll note that the spelling is not an acronym. The poster asked everyone to boycott the Coca Cola Corporation, nonetheless. ISIS is one of the names assigned to the developing Caliphate intended to house all Muslims. It is not the name chosen by the group. Neither did they pick ISIL or even IS. All these are English translations. They don’t reflect what the group is after — the Caliphate spanning all Muslim lands. Whether you use “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant” or some other variant, you aren’t giving the group enough credit for its aspirations. The Coca Cola Corporation has very little to do with it.
The Egyptians lived their religious traditions long before Jews and Christians developed their one-God theory and religious doctrine. Isis, not the acronym, was at first a minor goddess, but over time became one of the most significant deities. She wasn’t only worshipped in Egypt, but throughout the ancient world from England to Afghanistan1. Isis gets credit as goddess of 10,000 names, though the actual count is much lower. Her true claim to fame is actually quite different. She was, and in some circles still is, revered as the original mother.
That’s a pretty important fact. When Christians think of the original mother, they usually refer to Mary, mother of Jesus. Jesus is the son of God, the one God. Isis is also the mother of god and according to various legends, hers was a virginal pregnancy as well. There was no begetting going on here. Horus, her son, just kind of happened. This anomaly leads Isis to be revered as a goddess of fertility. So Isis, about 3000 years older than any mention of Jesus or his mother, was already having the virgin birth. Isis was not just a virgin and mother of god, but also part of a ruling trinity of gods — with her son and husband.
When I was being indoctrinated in Christian mythology as a child, they taught us Judaism was the first school of theology to boil the pantheon of gods down to one. I’m not a theological historian, nor am I versed in sacred texts, but there seem to be a few correlations between the later faiths and their Egyptian predecessors. Christians copied Jews and made their God nicer. Of course they also added a Savior, which Jews are still waiting for. All these reach back to the Egyptians, the same folks who held Jews hostage for quite a long time. Over a couple of hundred years, something might have rubbed off.
Religion is a series of wonderful tales, regardless which one you select. All share common themes and generally hold sacred those things that make society workable. Stealing, murdering, and other such infractions are by and large frowned upon by the gods. Courage, child-birth, honesty and loyalty are held dear. Societies work better that way. The Egyptians for all their gods were no different than we are today. They had a ruling class who wanted to stay in power. Religion was a terrific mechanism for keeping the lower classes in line — that whole ruling by divine right thing. That they had a cool story to go along with it, makes them all the more human.
Isis, the goddess, deserves as much support as any of her successors. Or perhaps as little, depending on your point of view. Whether or not her name is printed on a can of Coke, or the letters of her name happen to approximate something assigned to the worst group of terrorists in recent times, she’s no better or worse a goddess than anything we’ve come up with after her. So feel no regret sucking sugary caramel water from a tin can with an Isis label on the outside. You aren’t supporting terrorists, but the goddess will thank you for your consideration of her ancient name. I support Isis, the goddess.
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