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Deities & Heros >> Egyptian
roman deity, egyptian deity, mother goddess, ancient egyptians


Author: Mirjam

Brought to you by Akhet

ISIS and ASET are really two different deities. When the worship of Isis rose, Aset had already been forgotten for hundreds of years, at this time only a small group of priests still knew how to read the hieroglyphs of the temple walls. Isis was more a Roman deity reminding of Demeter, a great and loving mother goddess, but her Egyptian origin had sunk into oblivion. The mixup with Aset comes from Greek and Roman interpretation.

The Egyptian Aset

ASET is the much older Egyptian deity, first mentioned in Dynasty IV when she was known in myth as the sister-spouse and mourner of Wesir (Gr: Osiris), mother of Heru (Gr: Horus) and sister of Nebt-Het (Gr: Nephtys) and Set, children of Geb and Nut of the Heliopolitan Ennead. Her name which means "throne" or "seat", indicating the seat of kings, is the same as the hieroglyph frequently seen above her head. This meant that she personified the Throne of Egypt who made the kings. Thereby she was the King´s symbolical mother and as such of special significance to him, but in the early days she was not everyone else´s s mother.

Together with her sister Nebt-Het (Gr: Nephtys) she is frequently seen on coffins in the form of a kite with outstretched wings protecting the deceased or in the Hall of Judgment standing protectively behind the throne of Wesir. In this aspect she is more a mortuary deity than a mother goddess.

In myth she seems more fierce than a mother goddess, quite strongwilled and could lash out against attackers if need be. She sometimes appears as the scorpion goddess Serket and as the star Sopdet (Sirius, Gr: Sothis) she is considered to bring on the inundation and the ancient Egyptians called her the "Eye of Re", giving her an association with the sun.

She could be quite cunning and earned the epithet "Mistress of Magic" as in myth she managed to trick Ra into telling her his secret name, thus getting access to great knowledge. In the "Contendings of Horus and Set" she uses all her magic and trickery to help her son regain the throne of Wesir (Osiris) from Set. And in the most wellknown myth about her it is told how she mourned and searched for her husband Wesir (Osiris) who had been murdered by his brother Set, and how she succeeded in giving him life and beget his son Horus. This myth goes back to the early dynastic days and became widely known in later Roman days.

In the Middle Kingdom her popularity rose among the common people, together with that of her husband Wesir (Osiris) and temples and shrines were built to her in those days. She had not been as popular as Het-Hert (Hathor), but in the New Kingdom Aset and Het-Hert began to merge and could only be identified, not by their iconography, but by their hieroglyphs. They were then both depicted wearing the sun-disc crowned with the two horns on top of their heads.

Her cult continued to develop throughout the New Kingdom, and ino the Late period. During this time she incorporated most of the traits of the other great goddesses and also some gods. It was probably easy for people to identify with her, especially for women, because of her sufferings as a widow and lonely mother. She was also greatly worshipped for her healing and protective powers and love spells and amulets (tyet knot) connected to Aset were frequently used. Her popularity grew and endured longer than any other Egyptian goddess into the Greek and Roman days when she became interpreted according to their cultural values and religious viewpopints:

The Roman Isis

ISIS is the Goddess of Ten Thousand Names, the Great Mother Goddess. She is the goddess above all for women, the protector at childbirth, for nurturing and caring of children. She absorbed most of the different Egyptian goddesses´ properties and abilities during the Roman days. Her popularity spread far beyond Egypt, all around the Mediterranean. She was even considered a Creator Goddess, as can be read in the 'Aretalogy of Isis'. Plutharch, who elaborated on the myth of Isis and Osiris, associated her with the moon, which must be considered a sign of Roman influence, since the older form, the Egyptian Aset was associated with the sun and also since in ancient days Thoth was associated with the moon. So there is a distinction to be made between the origins of Aset and the Romanized deity Isis. Both of them are equally valid, but to mention Isis and not seeing this distinction will blur the picture and be unfair to both aspects of the deity.

Main center of worship (in Roman times):

Iat-Rek/Philae,1st Nome, Upper Egypt

Other sites:

Esna/Contralatopolis (opposite Esna), 2nd Nome, Upper Egypt

Djamet/Medinet Habu (Deir el Shelouit), 4th Nome, Upper Egypt

Waset/Diospolis Magna/Thebes (at Shanhour, between Quis and Luxor), 4th Nome, Upper Egypt
for Isis, Mut and others.

Koptos/Gebtu/Qift 5th Nome, Upper Egypt

Iunet/Tentyris/Dendera 6th N,Upper Egypt

Diospolis Parva/Hut-Sekhem/Hiw 7th Nome,Upper Egypt

Sebennytos/Tjebnutjer/Sammanud 12th N,Lower Egypt

Island of Pharos, Alexandria, Lower Egypt

Festival Days: (exact dates not historically verified)

17th of July, the 4th of the Epagomenal Days, is the Birhtday of Aset

19th July - 1st Thuti - Marriage of Isis and Osiris

12 August - 25th Thuti - Feast of Lights of Aset (Isis)

13 August - 26th Thuti -Aset gains the Horns of Het-Hert (Hathor)

30th August - 13th Paopi - Day of Satisfying the Hearts of the Ennead

24th September - 8th Hethara - Day of Going Forth of Aset (Isis)

3rd October - 17th Hethara - Lamentations of Aset (Isis)and Nebet-Het (Nephthys) for

Wasir (Osiris)

10th October - 24th Hethara - Day of Going Forth of Aset (Isis)

29th October - 13th Koiak - Day of Going Forth of Het-Hert and the Ennead

12th November - 27th Koiak - Aset seeks the body of Wasir (Osiris)

13th November - 28th Koiak - Aset grieves the loss of Wasir (Osiris)

14th November - 29th Koiak - Aset rejoices as She finds Wasir (Osiris)

15th November - 30th Koiak - The Ennead feast in the House of Ra, Heru and Wasir

21st December - 6th Mechir - Winter Solstice - Feast of Aset (Isis)

25th December - 10th Mechir - Birth of Heru (Horus), the child of Aset (Isis), Day of elevating the Great Netjret (goddess) in all her names and manifestations.

7th January - 23rd Mechir - Festival of Aset (Isis)

8th January - 24th Mechir - Festival of Aset, Birth of Aion

10th January - 26th Mechir - Aset sees the face of Wesir (Osiris), Min Goes Forth to Coptos

23rd March - 8th Pachons - Festival of Aset

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