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god of wisdom, ancient egypt, giver of life, baby son

Isis and her son Horus

Author: Mirjam

Brought to you by Archetypal Astrology

We are now in the sign of Cancer, which has quite a few things to do with the concept of the Mother. But to be sure, without the child there is no mother, so the story is just as much about the relationship between the two. In our lives, there is probably no person as important as our mothers, whether she was present or not when we grew up. And, to the mother the event of giving birth to a child is often of such magnitude as to change her life for ever. The world of myth abounds with stories of mother and child and sometimes it is depicted how the mother not only is the giver of life, but also has the power of devour her offspring, that is to say, not wanting to let the child go once it has grown up.

I have already touched upon the story from Ancient Egypt of Isis, her husband Osiris and her son Horus. (See January) It is one of the oldest stories about a mother and her child. I will not repeat the part that deals with Osiris, but go directly to the story of Isis and her son Horus.

Son of a God

When Isis conceived after having rescued Osiris and restored him to life for one night of love, she had to flee from Seth, her husband's brother and murderer, and hide in the marshes of Chemmis where she gave birth to Horus, the son of Osiris. His childhood was filled with dangers and Isis watched constantly over him so that Seth shouldn't find them. Unfortunately they fell for his trickery and was imprisoned in a weawing-house under guard so that she had no chance to flee with the young child. Eventually Thoth, the god of Wisdom saw her need and came to her aid.


In the dark of the night Thoth helped Isis out of her prison. He sent seven magical scorpions to help and to guard her on her way. And so, now for the third time, Isis set out wandering, now carrying her baby son in her arms and preceded by the seven scorpions. After many days of tiresome travelling she reached a lonely village where she stopped outside a rich house in the hope of being invited to rest for the night. But the rich woman would not let her in and she had to continue with the sleeping child in her arms until a poor fisher woman asked her to share the humble hut with them.

In the night Isis was awakened by screams coming from the rich woman's house and she found out that the scorpions had stung the woman's young child so that it was dying. Isis took pity on the child and as she was the Mistress of Magic, she cured him by laying her hands upon him. The rich woman could not express her regret and gratitude enough, but the next morning Isis continued on her way carrying Horus in her arms.

She reached the marshes of Chemmis again where she hid Horus in the papyri and lotus thickets. Then she left him to search for food.

For the third time Seth found out about them, but as he could not pass unseen through the brushes, he transformed himself into a snake. That way he could reach the child, sting it and then get quickly away.

When Isis returned to the hiding place, she found her child lying lifeless on his back and she could hardly hear his heartbeat. She did not know what kind of illness her son had, and when she began working with her magic, her power had deserted her. She was alone, her husband was dead, none of the gods were near to help her and she despaired. Then she understood that this must somehow be the doings of Seth and her anger rose.

Shaking Heaven and Earth

She let out such a great wail that the earth shook and the sunboat stopped its course in the sky, When Ra, the King of the Gods heard Isis´ voice and noticed that his sunboat had stopped, he sent Thoth to see what had happened. Isis told him that Horus had been poisoned by Seth and that she wished she had died together with Osiris. She had no reason to live now.

But with Thoth´s help the poison was driven out from Horus and he was brought back to life again. But Isis and her son had to stay in the swamps until Horus has grown big enough to revenge his father and take the throne back from Seth. To make sure they were safe, Thoth ordered the people of the marshes and all birds and animals to keep constant watch over them.

The Fight Between Horus and Seth

When Horus was big enough to claim his rights, Isis supported and helped him in several ways. She changed herself into an old woman to get access to the council of the gods and later into a young woman to trick Seth into admitting that Horus was the rightful heir to the throne. And when Seth challenged Horus to fight with him in the guise of a hippopotamus at the bottom of the Nile, she could not restrain herself from trying to help her son by throwing a harpoon, first accidentally hurting her son, then hitting Seth who pleads with her to let him go. Horus became furious with her for intervening and cut her head off. But as she was the Mistress of Magic she soon resumed her usual shape. All the while Horus goes away and gets into other trouble which in the end becomes solved and he finally is given the throne back.

The connection to Cancer

I think we see here some important traits of the Mother. In the first part of the myth (see January)Isis is the courageous wife and lover who stops at nothing in order to find her husband, and she exerts her powers as mistress of Magic to restore him to life again, if only for a single night. From that night on she becomes the Mother, focussing all her efforts on the son, fleeing with him, hiding him and protecting him until he becomes mature. One could say that here ends her responsibilities, but Isis makes the same mistake as many other women, she keeps on caring to the degree that she also meddles in his grow-up life. While there is nothing wrong with caring, there might be all the wrong in interfering. Horus is able to manage without the help of his mother and rightfully become so angry with her that he hacks her head off.

A woman bearing children is a mother for lifetime. For some of us it can come as quite a surprise when the children are grown up and don´t need us any more. For other women it can be a time of relief and freedom. Just because we are women does not have to mean that we must "mother" our children until we die, nor transfer this "mothering" to a husband or even a pet when the task of mothering is past. We have to let go, and for those with Cancer strong in their chart this can be tricky sometimes.

The challenge in Cancer might be knowing when to stop nurturing. Too much food makes one grow fat and the same goes for the soul. If you overeat you cannot digest and the surplus becomes dead weight, hindering you instead of being an asset.

Mothering isn't only about children or even people. We can just as easily be mother for a project, a company, an association, almost anything that we consider is in need of special attention and care. The driving force behind is more of wanting to see something grow from its initial stages.

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