Isis, in Egyptian mythology, is the goddess of fertility, water, and wind, a symbol of femininity and marital fidelity, goddess of navigation, daughter of Geb and Nut, sister and wife of Osiris. Isis helped Osiris civilize Egypt and taught women to reap, spin and weave, cure disease, and establish a marriage.
When Osiris wandered about the world, Isis replaced him and wisely ruled the country. When Isis heard of Osiris’ death at the hand of Seth, the god of evil, Isis was distraught. She cut off her hair, put on mourning clothes, and began searching for his body.
The children told Isis that they had seen a box containing the body of Osiris floating on the Nile. The water carried it under a tree growing on the bank near Byblos, which began to grow rapidly, and soon the coffin was completely hidden in its trunk.
On learning of this, the king of Byblos ordered the tree to be cut down and brought to his palace, where it was used as a support for the roof in the form of a column. Isis, guessing everything, rushed to Byblos.
She dressed poorly and sat down by the well in the center of the city. When the queen’s maids came to the well, Isis braided their hair and enveloped them with such fragrance that the queen soon sent for her and took her as tutor to her son.
Every night Isis placed the king’s child in the fire of immortality, while Isis herself, wrapped in a swallow, flew around the column with her husband’s body. Seeing her son in flames, the queen gave such a piercing cry that the child lost his immortality, and Isis revealed herself and asked to give her the column.
After receiving her husband’s body, Isis hid it in the swamp. However, Seth found the body and cut it into fourteen pieces, which he scattered all over the country.
According to one version, Isis collected the body and brought Osiris back to life, using her healing power, and conceived Horus, god of heaven and sun, from him.
Isis was so popular in Egypt that she acquired the traits of other goddesses over time. She was worshipped as the patroness of women in childbirth, determining the fate of newborn kings. The cult of the goddess was also widespread in ancient Greece and Rome and even influenced Christian art.