Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Quest of Isis

My Beloved, how I have searched for you.
Yesterday, as my Lord Ra kneeled
to touch the horizon,
I stood among the great river’s reeds.
The waters were high,
swelled with the tears I have shed for you.
Now Ra has again returned 
from his voyage through the nether world
and his radiance once more floods the heavens,
filling the gracious body of Nut with light.
And still I continue my search.
Where are you, my Beloved?
Nowhere can I find you,
and all the land feels as empty as my heart.

Were that it never had happened.
Cruel Set, our dark brother, flattered you,
and like all those who flatter, wished to be you.
And so you lowered yourself
into that treacherous box:
the perfectly-fitting box made even more perfect
by your beautiful body that still lies within,
sealed by dark arts and honeyed words.

Where must I search for you,
my beloved husband?
Where do you lie, sweet Osiris?
If you were abandoned to these waters
then it is these swollen waters that I must follow
and my guide will be my own footsteps
for they surely will grow lighter 
When they sense that I grow nearer to you.
I will follow these waters swollen with my tears
and note my lighter tread
northward to the lands of the great delta,
northward to the lands half-glimpsed in visions
northward along the coast to Byblos
and the miraculous tamarisk of my dreams.

The episode in the story of Isis which my prose poem relates concerns the events leading to the entrapment of Osiris by Set, the jealous brother of Isis and Osiris, and the subsequent search of Isis for her missing husband. Set desired to take over Osiris’ position as the principal god, and invited him to a feast. At the feast, Set revealed a box which he knew would fit Osiris perfectly, and invited Osiris to lie in it. As soon as Osiris had done so, Set sealed the box shut and threw it into the Nile. The box eventually drifted from the Nile delta into the Mediterranean Sea, finally coming to shore at Byblos on the northeast coast, where it became embedded in a tamarisk tree that formed one of the columns of a palace. Isis, desolate at the loss of Osiris, shed so many tears that it caused the Nile to flood. Her search eventually brought her to Byblos, and the remarkable tree which concealed the box in which her husband had become trapped.

This is the first part of the myth of Isis and her search for Osiris. On one level it of course makes a wonderful story, but the myth speaks powerfully on a deeper level. In the entrapment of Osiris is mirrored the story of the soul, and its entrapment in an incarnated material body. The Spirit (Isis in the myth) longs to be reunited with this body, for as with Isis and her beloved Osiris, Spirit and Soul are never complete without each other.

Painting Nile Reeds by Susan Elizabeth Wolding


  1. Ancient myths and stories about our world are often filled with deeper esoteric significance as Emma has explored wonderfully with the story of Isis and Osiris. From a materialistic point of view espoused in our current modern culture we are all seen as discrete objects separate from each other in a rather random universe. Myths like this one and many others from various ancient cultures inspire a more imaginative perspective. The creation of our universe may be closer in truth to imagination itself, the imagination of the divine.

    1. Joseph, what a wonderful phrase you use: "The imagination of the divine"! We are what the divine imagines, and everything comes into being because the divine has the capacity to make thoughts actual. Myths and stories such as that of Isis are a way of pointing to these greater truths, to helping us to understand these realities beyond our everyday material existence.