Goddess Isis with Harpocrates

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A typical representation in solid bronze of the goddess Isis breastfeeding her son Horus (Harpocrates). An incrustation of electrum, an alloy or gold and silver, can be seen in one of the goddess’s eyes. These bronze figures frequently were incrusted with precious metals or stones, which gave them a certain vivacity.

The goddess Isis, according to myth, is the daughter of Geb and Nut, and sister of Osiris, to whom she was also considered to be wed. As a deity she was referred to as: “Great mother goddess”, “Great Sorceress”, “Queen of the Gods”, “Fecundating Force of Nature” and “Goddess of Maternity and Birth”.

Osiris reigned in Ancient Egypt in peace, harmony and with wisdom. The Nile fertilized the earth and the crops were abundant. One day, Osiris set off to discover other civilizations and left his kingdom under the control of his wife, Isis. Set, his jealous brother, felt humiliated as he thought that he should rule rather than Isis. When Osiris returned he was murdered by his brother. The goddess Isis, with the aid of other divinities like Nephthys and Anubis, sought out and found the cut-up pieces of her husband and put them together through special rites. After physical union with the god she conceived a child. The posthumous son of Osiris was to be the Horus-child, Harpocrates, who later, would wreak revenge on Set for his father´s murder.

As one of the main deities, Isis was worshipped in all periods in the history of Egypt, and it was in the final epoch that the largest temple was built to her on the island of Philae. The Greco-Roman world adopted her characteristics and associated them with Aphrodite and Venus. Another of her principal characteristics, her being considered “Mother of God”, would also be relevant in the cults influencing Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity.

Harpocrates, the Horus-child, is a native of Heliopolis as the son of Isis and Osiris. He was worshipped in many sanctuaries, like those of Edfu, Thebes, Coptos, Mendes, etc., in which he was venerated in other forms adopted from Horus. Harpocrates is the living symbol of the rising sun at the beginning of spring. He was born after the death of his father, Osiris. He is represented then as a defenceless child whom his mother, the goddess Isis, had to hide in the swamps of the Nile Delta, to protect him from the evil Set, his father’s brother. But in the same way that the weak newly-risen sun becomes a powerful sun as it rises higher, the god-child became the powerful Horus, the avenger of his father’s death, fighting against Set. His mother, Isis, in this way changed him into the great Horus who reigned over men and gods.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:



- Fastueuse Égypte. Musée Calvet, Avignon (25/06/2011 au 14/11/2011), ouvrage publié sous la direction d’Odile Cavalier. AVIGNON. 2011.
- Momias egipcias. El secreto de la vida eterna. Fundació La Caixa. 2013.
- WILKINSON H. R. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. London, 2003.

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