Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Isis (Meri?) - A Pre-Christian Virgin?

‘The miraculous birth of Jesus could be viewed as analogous to that of Horus, whom Isis conceived posthumously from Osiris, and Mary was closely connected with Isis by many other shared characteristics(1)’

Who are these the words of? Helena Blavatsky? Jordan Maxwell? Manly P Hall? No. These are the words of renowned Egyptologist Dr. Erik Hornung of the University of Basel. Much controversy has arisen due to the increasingly mainstream contention that Isis was in fact a virgin, some are mindlessly propagating the view that such a claim is historically erroneous!(2) Despite the clear lack of logic and rejection of scholarly consensus some possess on this issue, let us examine some of the evidence used by mainstream scholarship to come to such conclusions.

Firstly, it is important for us to examine where the epithet Meri comes from, what it means, and where it is appropriately used in Hieroglyphs. It is important to note, that such an appellation was in no way exclusive to Isis, in fact, as asserted by Dr. Denise Doxey: ‘Among the most common epithets found in the Middle Kingdom inscriptions are those introduced by a form of the verb mri, ‘love’(3). However, to have the audacity to assert that such an appellation was never possessed by Isis is close to laughable.

Meri simply means ‘beloved’, ‘desired’, ‘delight’, ‘lover’, or ‘loving’(4) etc, and thus one would expect such a term to be used frequently in Egyptian scripture, often in reference to government officials, priests and Deities themselves. However, one should pay close reference to the context of ‘divine love’ being used, as before the New Kingdom such love was never issued by a subordinate, moreover it was passed on to subordinates by those of higher power (such as the deities themselves)(5). During the New Kingdom however, divine love was reciprocal, such as a King being loved by his people, and the King loving his people; this lead to the increasingly frequent application of such an epithet to the Deities themselves(6) - Resulting in them being invoked through divine love, and thus being known as ‘Mery’, or ‘Meri’. Doxey remarks that ‘Mry, followed by the name of a God or a Goddess is the second most common form of epithet referring to Deities’(7). As stated previously, Kings often had the epithet of Mery applied to them, usually in combination with that of a God or Goddess’, such as ‘Auset-Meri’(8), and ‘Ast-Meri’(9), literally translating as Isis Meri. Thus the King (here the subordinate) is receiving divine love from Isis.

It has been established that those said to be ‘loved by Isis’ would carry such an epithet accordingly, which in turn would leave Isis frequently associated with Meri, thus forming such a rhetorical allegiance. A further demonstration of this is Isis being paired with her Sister-Goddess Nephthys as the ‘Merti’ or ‘Mertae’(9), showing a clear etymological intertwining. Egyptologist Dr. Alfred Weidemann, a professor of Oriental Languages at the University of Bonn states: ‘The Egyptian word Meri means, very generally, ‘the loving or the beloved’, and serves in this sense, as a title of Goddesses, and is as often used as a proper name…’(10) This is attested to by a spell in the Book of the Dead that invokes ‘The Goddess greatly beloved with red hair’(11). Other examples of Isis being ‘beloved’ or ‘Meri’ herself are in the ‘Isis Book’ (Metamorphoses, Book XI), in which is discussed an inscription from Thessalonica, Greece asserting that ‘Osiris is said to ‘make the beloved Isis rejoice…’(12). Also, by the time of Latin writer Lucius Apuleius, Isis was the ‘All-loving mother’(13), another name that would bestow the ‘Meri’ epithet onto her in Egyptian.

Regardless of this, the question is; would the Egyptian word ‘Mery’, have influenced the naming of the Christian successor, ‘Mary’? One should note that in the original Greek, the New Testament asserts Mary’s name to be, in actuality, Maria(14). Why then, was the name shortened to Mary? Could it be perhaps due to Isis being worshipped and assigned the name ‘Mery’ centuries into the Common Era? To brush something off as a ‘coincidence’ would be bordering on absurdity, as upon further study, it becomes apparent that Mary as a derivative of ‘Mery’, may very well be the case.

‘Mary’ is often asserted to come from the Hebrew’ Miriam’, meaning ‘rebellion’. However, surely such a title would be nothing less than a misnomer? Mary certainly was no ‘rebel’ by any means, if anything she was the opposite – completely subservient to the will of God. Surely the term ‘the beloved’ would make much more sense, especially as Mary was a subordinate of God’s, thus perfectly adequate in receiving ‘divine love’ from a higher power. The Catholic Encyclopaedia itself asserts: ‘it is possible that their sisters name Mary was also of Egyptian origin…’(15).

As is perpetually clear, there is much evidence for this contention, although such evidence is all too quickly shunted aside by those who do not wish to hear it. For the sake of time, and conciseness I shall move on from this and now assess whether Isis can be deemed a virgin.

I shall start with the Pashcal Chronicle, a Christian source, compiled in the 3rd cent. CE and finished around 6th century. Regarding this, Arthur Thompson states: ‘The Chronicle of Alexandria has preserved the traditions of the practice of exhibiting the sun on the supposed day of his birth as a new-born infant being held sacred in the mysteries of Egypt’, he then goes onto quote the Paschal Chronicle; ‘Up to the present time Egypt has held sacred the delivery of a virgin and the birth of her son, who is exposed in a cradle to the adoration of the people. King Ptolemy having asked the reason for this practice, the Egyptians told him that it was a mystery taught to their ancestors by a venerable prophet’(16). The original Greek is also provided from Thompson’s rendition – the word translated as virgin, is ‘parthenos’ thus verifying the rendition. The mention of Ptolemy is also of importance as it indicates that such a custom dates back to at least the time of the Ptolemies, that is; centuries prior to the Common Era. The custom being a ‘mystery’ also indicates that it wasn’t necessarily stressed to the masses; hence a less abundant record demonstrates such things

Furthermore, the solar hero being born in a manger, or crib, is further attested to by the Book of the Dead, in which reference is made to ‘the cradle of Osiris’, which Renouf identifies as ‘where Osiris renews his birth’(17), which, of course would be Harpocrates (Horus the child). A ‘birth stool of Osiris’ is also mentioned at Coffin Text Sp286(18).

Next we turn to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, in which the deceased identifies himself as Horus in chapter 66 and states ‘I know that I have been conceived by Sechit and that I am born of Neith’(19). Sekhet is another form of the dawn Goddess(20) who throughout mythology is dubbed inviolable, and thus a perpetual virgin; giving birth to the Sun every morning. Neith being presented as the mother of Horus gives a further indication of a virgin birth, or birth through parthenogenesis, as Neith’s tale is an example of ‘female parthenogenetic cosmogenesis’(21). Even the most mainstream of sources asserts Neith’s virginity, an astonishing admission; declaring her to be the ‘Great Virgin’(22). In Egyptian Neith is also transliterated as Nut or Mut, mother of Osiris and Horus the Elder(23). As per James Allen, Nut was the Sky Goddess, who gave birth to the Sun at dawn ‘between her thighs’, after the night-time in which the sun gestates in her womb(24). As we have previously noted, the dawn Goddess motif constitutes a virgin birth, Nut’s association with inviolability is furthered by Dr. Schmidt, who also relates Nut to the constellation of Virgo which shall be brushed upon later(25).

Another important Goddess to keep in mind is Mut, who is seemingly associated with Neith, especially in regard to their attributes. Mut was regarded as the ‘Mother Goddess of all Egypt’, which would make sense, as her name literally translates as ‘Mother’ (which is in no way limited to Mut alone). Mut was represented by a vulture, which is also a symbol of parthenogenesis(26). Church father Origen also discusses such symbolism(27), which may have constituted part of the mysteries. Budge also relates that Mut possessed the power of parthenogenesis, like Neith(28), or to wit: virgin birth.

Dr. Cornelius P. Tiele, a professor of the History of Religions at the University of Leiden also remarks upon the chastity of Neith, ‘…Neith is distinguished… by being a virgin Goddess. This is expressed in the words inscribed on her temple, ‘My garment no one has lifted up’, which is immediately followed by ‘the fruit that I have borne is the Sun’, she is thus the virgin mother of the Sun’(29). Neith is a former version of Isis. As Isis worship grew, the two became interchangeable until Isis worship usurped that of Neith. The two Goddesses were even combined as Isis-Neith, or Neith-Isis(30), in ‘Egypt’s Place in Universal History’ Drs. Bunsen and Birch make the connection as well, with a chapter entitled ‘Isis as Neith’(31). Bonwick also attests to this in relating ‘She (Isis) is seen to assume the role of Neith’(32).

The Goddess Neith was adorned in Sais, where she had a temple in her dedication. In regards to this, Plutarch wrote ‘In Sais the statue of Athena, whom they believe to be Isis, bore the mysterious inscription: ‘I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my robe no mortal has yet uncovered’(33) the inscription then ends with ‘the fruit I have produced is the Sun’. This is important, as here we gather that Neith is Isis, is Athena, as also asserted by 5th century Greek Neoplatonist Proclus(34). Dr. Robert Turcan, a professor of Roman history at the Sorbonne also relates ‘Isis-Neith of Sais was an armed Goddess likened to Pallas (Athena)’(35). However, does no one lifting Neith’s robe really constitute virginity? Emmette Coleman elucidates, ‘The point is this: Does this expression, ‘lifting the garment’… of Neith refer to her perpetual virginity or to her inscrutability? There is no shadow of a doubt that it refers to the former, and I am confident that every Egyptologist in the world will so decide.’(36) Thus we find that there is a general scholarly consensus regarding Neith’s virginal status, and as Neith is synonymous with Isis, Isis must too be a virgin, as noted. Dr. John D. Ray, a professor of Egyptology at Cambridge comments, ‘In Sais in the Delta… there was a virgin Goddess who gave birth to the Sun at the beginning of time by some form of parthenogenesis’(37).

Neith being associated with Athena is also indicative. Athena’s virginity was so highly esteemed that the name of her temple in Athens was ‘parthenos’. The similarities strengthen upon reading ‘The nature of Gods III’ by Cicero which was written in the first century BCE. In this pre-Christian source, Athena is stated to be mother of Apollo, or, mother of the Sun God(38). The parallels don’t stop there, as Athena was considered to be a sea Deity(39), which would in turn, reward her the epithet of ‘Mare’ in Latin.

Regarding the dawn Goddess, it is perhaps important to also point out that numerous scholars have equated Isis and Neith with the sky, and thus the Dawn. Budge declares that Isis and Neith are ‘names of the sky, especially at sunrise and sunset’(40) He also remarks ‘As a nature Goddess she (Isis) is seen standing in the boat of the Sun, and she was probably the deity of the dawn’(41). Lockyer, concurs ‘Isis represents the dawn’(42).

Now I’m sure you’ve all heard the myth of Isis impregnating herself with the severed phallus of Osiris as related by Plutarch and Diodorus Sicilus. However, such depictions are absent from Egyptian texts(43); such a myth is obviously a later development. Regardless of this myths purported prevalence, it is important to remember that we’re not dealing with real people, they’re myths, and thus are able to maintain a perpetual virginity, as related previously. Even so, in an alternative version of this myth, Isis is unable to find Osiris’ phallus, and is thus required to give birth through parthenogenesis(44).

The word for ‘virgin’ in Egyptian (in particular) is hwn’t(45), and as related by the Theological Dictionary; in a text in the Abydos Temple of Seti, Isis declares ‘I am the Great Virgin’(46).

In closing, allow me to demonstrate Isis’ association with the constellation of Virgo since the first century C.E. Unfortunately, we have lost all works written by astronomer, and librarian of Alexandria, Eratosthenes. However, in the first century a work entitled ‘Placing among the Stars’ was attributed to him, which is generally considered to be written by a ‘Pseudo-Eratosthenes’. In Chapter 9, under the heading ‘Parthenos’, we find a discussion regarding the constellation of virgo, who, funnily enough, is related to Isis(47).

Much more information can be discovered in regards to this subject, and I would advise all interested to purchase ‘Christ in Egypt’ by D.M.Murdock, for a thorough, comprehensive and easy understand reference work regarding such topics. Hopefully in the future, those who condemn such historical actualities will study the topic in more detail. As should come overwhelmingly blatant, those who dispute such similarities are unsure of the Egyptian mythos itself, let alone the subtleties of the Deities. I urge all to investigate, and I urge all to leave preconceived notions aside, to truly appreciate where our beliefs of today come from.

(1) Hornung, SLE, p75

(2) See ‘debunking Zeitgeist’, or ‘A Scholarly Response to Zeigeist’, arguably, self proclaiming something to be ‘scholarly’ brings such ‘works’ into question. Such contentions will be demonstrated to be bogus in this video series.

(3) Doxey, ENEMK, p131

(4) See Allen J, AEPT, p97, 170; Faulkner, CDME, p111; Budge, EHRB, p429; Budge, EHD I, 310

(5) Doxey, ENEMK, p131, 132, 136

(6) Doxey, ENEMK, p132

(7) Doxey ENEMK, p132

(8) Budge, Mummy (1994), 102ff; Brugsch, EUP, xxv.

(9) Renouf, EBD, p113

(10) Proceedings for the Society of Biblical Archaeology XI, p272

(11) Budge, BD, p430; Faulkner, EBD, p120

(12) Griffiths, IB, p350

(13) Witt, IAW, p130ff, 133

(14) Murdock, CIE, p135

(15) CE XV, p464a

(16) Thompson, MOD, p481

(17) Renouf, EBD, p131-132; Faulkner, EBD, p108; Budge, BD, p235

(18) Faulkner, AECT I, p214

(19) Renouf, EBD, p128; Bunsen/Birch, EBD, p210; Budge, BD, p228

(20) Lockyer, DA, p31

(21) van Binsbergen, ST, p35

(22) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neith

(23) Morris, NW, p88-92

(24) Allen J, AEPT, p9

(25) Schmidt, BJUTBC, p52-53

(26) West, TAKE, p70

(27) Origen/Chadwick, CC, p36

(28) Budge, EHD I, p295

(29) Tiele, CHEMR, p204

(30) Temporini, ANR, p950; Zitman, E:IH, p192

(31) Bunsen/Birch, EPUH, p418-419

(32) Bonwick, EBMT, p113

(33) Plutarch/Babbit, p25

(34) Diehl, I, p97

(35) Turcan, CRE, p90

(36) Miscellaneous Notes and Queries, X, p66

(37) Ray, RO:LAE, p63

(38) Cicero/Brooks, p183-184

(39) Raphals, NW, p217

(40) Budge, AGFSER, p2

(41) Budge, EBD, cxiv

(42) Lockyer, DA, p29, p31

(43) Assman, DSAE, p25

(44) Curl, ER, p15

(45) Botterweck, TD, p338

(46) Botterweck, TD, p338-339

(47) Condos, SMGR, p205