Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Aretalogy of Isis

An aretalogy is a sort of listing of a deity's virtues, usually as spoken by that deity. Here is an example of an aretalogy of Isis, from the Ptolemaic era; it can be commonly found, albeit with slightly different wording, in various places on the internet and in print. The version I am giving here is attributed to Frederick C. Grant's translation:

I am Isis, the mistress of every land, and I was taught by Hermes (Thoth) and with Hermes I devised letters, both the sacred (hieroglyphs) and the demotic, that all things might not be written with the same (letters).

I gave and ordained laws for men, which no one is able to change.
I am eldest daughter of Kronos.
I am wife and sister of King Osiris.
I am she who findeth fruit for men.
I am mother of King Horus.
I am she that riseth in the Dog Star.
I am she that is called goddess by women.
For me was the city of Bubastis built.
I divided the earth from the heaven.
I showed the paths of the stars.
I ordered the course of the sun and the moon.
I devised business in the sea.
I made strong the right.
I brought together woman and man.
I appointed to women to bring their infants to birth in the tenth month.
I ordained that parents should be loved by children.
I laid punishment on those disposed without natural affection toward their parents.
I made with my brother Osiris an end to the eating of men.
I revealed mysteries unto men.
I taught (men) to honor images of the gods.
I consecrated the precincts of the gods.
I broke down the governments of tyrants.
I made an end to murders.
I compelled women to be loved by men.
I made the right to be stronger than gold and silver.
I ordained that the true should be thought good.
I devised marriage contracts.
I assigned to Greeks and barbarians their languages.
I made the beautiful and the shameful to be distinguished by nature.
I ordained that nothing should be more feared than an oath.
I have delivered the plotter of evil against other men into the hands of the one he plotted against.
I established penalties for those who practice injustice.
I decreed mercy to suppliants.
I protect (or: honor) righteous guards.
With me the right prevails.
I am the Queen of rivers and winds and sea.
No one is held in honor without my knowing it.
I am the Queen of war.
I am the Queen of the thunderbolt.
I stir up the sea and I calm it.
I am in the rays of the sun.
I inspect the courses of the sun.
Whatever I please, this too shall come to an end.
With me everything is reasonable.
I set free those in bonds.
I am the Queen of seamanship.
I make the navigable unnavigable when it pleases me.
I created walls of cities.
I am called the Lawgiver (Thesmophoros).
I brought up islands out of the depths into the light.
I am Lord of rainstorms.
I overcome Fate.
Fate hearkens to me.
Hail, O Egypt, that nourished me!

Here is the same aretalogy, in a slightly different translation (translator unknown). This version uses slightly more modernized language:

I am Isis, ruler of every land
I was taught by Hermes (Thoth) and with Hermes devised letters, both hieroglyphic and demotic, that all might not be written with the same.
I gave laws to mankind and ordained what no one can change
I am the eldest daughter of Kronos
I am the wife and sister of King Osiris
I am the one who discovered wheat for mankind
I am the mother of King Horus
I am the one who rises in the Dog-star
I am the one called Goddess by women
For me was built the city of Bubastis
I separated the earth from the Heaven
I showed the paths of the stars
I regulated the course of the sun and the moon
I devised the activities of seamanship
I made what is right strong
I brought together woman and man
I assigned to women to bring into light of day their infants in the tenth month
I ordained that parents should be loved by children
I imposed punishment upon those unkindly disposed towards their parents
I with my brother Osiris put an end to cannibalism
I taught men the initiation into mysteries
I instructed them to revere images of the gods
I established the sacred cult places of the gods
I abolished the rules of the tyrants
I put an end to murders
I compelled women to be loved by men
I made the right stronger than gold and silver
I ordained that the true should be considered good
I devised marriage contracts
I assigned to Greeks and barbarians their languages
I made the good and the bad to be distinguished by nature
I made that nothing should be more fearful than an oath
I have delivered him who unjustly plots against others into the hands of the one against whom he plotted
I impose retribution upon those who do injustice
I decreed that mercy be shown to suppliants
O honor those who justly defend themselves
With me the right has power
I am the mistress of rivers and winds and sea
No one is honored without my consent
I am the Mistress of War
I am the Mistress of the thunderbolt
I calm the sea and make it surge
I am in the rays of the sun
I attend the sun in its journey
What I decree, that is also accomplished
All yield to me
I set free those who are in bonds
I am the Mistress of seamanship
I make the navigable un-navigable, whenever I so decide
I founded enclosure walls of the cities
I am called the Lawgiver
I brought up islands out of the depths into the light
I am the Mistress of rain
I conquer Destiny
Destiny obeys me
Hail, O Egypt, that nourished me!

Still another version of an Isian aretalogy comes from the Metamorphoses of Lucius of Apuleius, also called The Golden Ass. In this one, Isis, moved by the pleadings of Lucius, speaks to the supplicant:

I am She that is the natural mother of all life, mistress of all the Elements, the first child of time, supreme deity, chief among powers divine, Queen of heaven! The principal of the celestial Gods, light of the Goddesses, the uniform manifestation of all gods and goddesses: I, who govern by my nod the crests of light in the sky, at my will the planets of the air, the wholesome wafts upon the Seas, and the lamentable silences below dispose; my name, my divinity is venerated throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable rites and in many names. Thus the Phrygians call me Pessinuntia, Mother of the Gods. The Athenians call me Cecropian Minerva. The Cyprians, in their isle home call me Paphian Venus. The archer Cretans call me Diana Dictynna. The three-tongue Sicilians call me Stygian Proserpina. The Eleusians call me the ancient goddess Ceres. Some call me Juno, by others, Bellona, still others Hecate, some call me Rhamnusia. But those who are enlightened by the earliest rays of that divine sun, principally the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Egyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient lore, and by their proper ceremonies accustomed to worship me, do call me Queen Isis.

We may see a parallel of sorts to these aretalogies in our modern Charge of the Goddess. I have utilized the Ptolemaic one above in ritual before, though I found it to be a bit lengthy; despite my theatrical verve in delivering it, the time elapsed did lead to some anxious shuffling of feet! I may do a little reworking of it to streamline it for better delivery in a modern context; I think it would be a nice addition to Iseum proceedings.