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The Real Isis

It’s ironic that ISIS, the anacronym for the Islamic terrorist group whose horrific murder of reporter James Foley last week created an international outpouring of outrage and sorrow, shares its name with the ancient Egyptian goddess, Isis.

The two couldn’t be further apart. The goddess Isis, revered from earliest Egypt to the Greco-Roman period, was described in the Book of the Dead as "she who gives birth to heaven and earth, knows the orphan, knows the widow, seeks justice for the poor, and shelter for the weak."

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Throughout antiquity, her reputation and popularity grew to include the role of magician when she brought her husband, Osiris, back to life. She was also credited with renewing the floodwaters of the Nile each year, so that when the water receded, the soil along the banks would be ready for planting.


In late antiquity, when paganism began to be suppressed by Christianity, images of Isis nursing her son Horus translated into images of Mary caressing baby Jesus.

It’s hard to imagine what that Isis would have to say to its newest namesake.

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