I, the natural mother of all life, the mistress of the elements, the first child of time, the supreme divinity, the queen of those in hell, the first among those in heaven, the uniform manifestation of all the gods and goddesses-
I, who govern by my nod the crests of light in the sky, the purifying wafts of the ocean, and the lamentable silences of hell-
I, whose single godhead is venerated all over the earth under manifold forms, varying rites, and changing names.
Isis and Isia
Since the worship of Isis was another mystery religion, very little is known of the events of the Isia. The procession to her shrine, however, was a mesmerizing event. The parade began with men and women dressed "as their votive fancy desired" leading the way. A chorus of women followed wearing only white and strewing the path with fresh flower blossoms and perfumed oils. Others came in order carrying torches and waxen candles to honor She Who Made the Stars of Heaven.
Next followed musicians and a choir of young people in snow-white garments singing songs to the pipers' tune. Then came the priests and priestess shouting. "Make way for the goddess." A band of men and women of all classes and ages who had been initiated into the mysteries of the goddess and who wore linen clothes of the purest white followed. The women had their hair done up with veils (not confused with wedding veils) of the finest silk covering their heads; the men had all shaven their heads. They each carried a silver or bronze sistrum, rattling the sacred instrument as they walked.
Isis was accessible to slave and emperor alike and could be approached through personal prayer. She listened to all supplications and required only faith and devotion from her followers, not money or expensive offerings. Two thousand years ago, Apuleius invoked her presence with devout faith as follows:
Queen of Heaven, who wanders through many sacred groves, and who is worshiped and esteemed in different ways, 0, Goddess of the Moon who shines upon the walls of cities with beams of female light, who nurtures the wildflower garden seeds in the earth with your moist heat, and glows with divine radiance when the sun has set. ° by whatever name, and by whatever rites, and in whatever form that you may be invoked, come now and help me in my hour of need. And, moved by the prayer and declaration of faith, she appeared:
The first thing that I noticed was her abundant dark hair falling gently in soft curls onto her neck. Upon her head, she wore a garland woven with a great variety of flowers. She was crowned with a divine tiara worthy of description, for in the center, just above her forehead, was a plain circular object that was in fact a miniature full moon that glowed with a soft clear white light. On either side of the moonlike globe, two serpents were placed together with sheaves of grain.
Her multicolored gown was of the finest linen, a part was pure white, another was dyed the color of yellow crocuses, with a third the color of rich red roses. Yet, the pitch-black cloak around her shoulders caught my eye, for it shone with a dark glow. This amazing garment fell in soft folds of fabric, swaying gracefully to the ground in a hem of knotted fringe. The elaborate border seemed to cling to the garment of its own accord, of brilliant hues, comprising every kind of fruit and flower. This magical cloak was sprinkled with glowing stars and in the center was a full moon emitting soft moon beams in every direction. The goddess held in her right hand a bronze rattle, a sistrum, her sacred instrument. She carried a miniature golden boat in her left. An asp with raised head and puffed out throat encircled her right arm. Such was the goddess Isis.