I is for Isis and Aset

I suppose this is the bit where I talk about Aset and Isis and how I don’t necessarily view Them as Completely Separate Deities, nor the same Name for the same Goddess. They’re kind of both, for me. Syncretic. IDK. This isn’t a historical thing either, because you can just look up Henadology or Wikipedia or something if you want to know more about Her.

As a caveat, I’m not trying to offend anyone with this. It’s my own opinion on how I see things, and it works for me. This isn’t the Only Way To See Isis and Aset Forever and Ever And Everyone Else Is Wrong either. It’s just how I see Them. If you see Them differently, we’ll just have to agree to disagree and keep on with what works for us, even if it’s different.

Also, I will tend to refer to Aset and Isis as separate Names, and as ‘Them’, but it’s more to emphasise the fact that I don’t see Aset and Isis as One and the Same Inseparable Being. They are … different aspects, perhaps. Like, perhaps, Sekhmet-Hethert, as two sides of the same coin, but still with separate personalities as much as They are tied together. That’s kind of how I see Aset/Isis. Sort of. In a manner of speaking. /not entirely sure.

Isis was the first deity I ever had any interaction with when I first became Pagan. I called Her Isis back then until I learnt Her Kemetic name, Aset. I was 17, in my final year of high school, and I acquired a winged statue of Her which I still have today. I did my Italian Oral Exam on being one of Her Egyptian Priestesses and described what I did during the day to serve Her. I can’t vouch for its accuracy, though. I was a baby pagan recon back then.

One of the first books I picked up about Her was The Mysteries of Isis by deTraci Regula. I was lucky to find it as our local library has a really shitty pagan/neopagan/wiccan/new age section. But it was my first foray into something of a regular practice, and I owe a lot to that book for what it’s given me.

I spent a long time calling Her Aset, and indeed I was divined as a Beloved of Aset-Serqet back when I was Kemetic Orthodox. But I never got Serqet. Aset told me She wasn’t there, that I was only ever talking to Aset. So I discounted my view of Her as Aset-Serqet, and decided to see what else She might be. Because this is what I do, I discard things that don’t work for me.

But while I still dig Aset, as I drifted from Kemetic Orthodoxy, She was introducing me to all kinds of different Deities that She often referred to as Her different faces. One of those different faces was Isis, as well as Mary, Bast, and Kwan Yin, and probably Hekate too. There were others, but those were the main ones, for me. This is how She’s always been with me. Not necessarily a Universal Goddess Figure either, because there are definitely Goddesses whom She does not consider are Her faces. Only some are Faces of Aset. Perhaps it’s this perspective that makes me think the way I do about Aset and Isis. I don’t know. But it does influence it. She’s never indicated Isis is completely separate, just a different face for a different people.  They are Her words, ‘a different face for a different people’.

There are times when I get annoyed at people who … perhaps tend to dismiss Isis as a ‘fluffy Mother Goddess’, which is a symptom of Her syncretic form where She was softened and Her mothering aspects were emphasised. Yes, when She went out of Egypt and turned up in Rome and Greece and such, She did merge with Hethert and other Deities that did make Her softer than the way the Egyptians saw Her. But, IDK, to me, it seems the same sort of dismissive thing that’s often said about Aphrodite, that She’s just a fluffy love Goddess, when She’s so much more than that if you actually bother to look at the myths. IDK. Perhaps what I really get irritated by are people who don’t do enough research about the Gods they’re talking about/dealing with. But Isis and Aphrodite are the two who seem to get more of the fluffy brush than others, I think. Though maybe Hethert/Hathor too, due to Her perceived similarities with Aphrodite. IDK.

(…As an aside, are Hathor and Hethert different deities? Heru, Harpocrates, and Horus? Osiris, Serapis, and Wesir? Anubis, Anpu, and Yinepu? What about Djehuty, Thoth, and Hermes? Or is it just Isis and Aset who suffer this weird fate of Being Different amongst Kemetic recon circles? /serious question. Not talking about history, I’m talking about how They’re seen in contemporary Kemetic recon groups today, which is where I’ve encountered most of the ‘Aset is not Isis!’ thing. I just. I’m trying to understand this thing. And possibly not getting anywhere. Why can’t They be aspects of the same … IDK … Ba? Or whatever? /genuinely curious.)

Then again, I’m also equally irritated by Isis as Universal Goddess of Everything syndrome, too. But that’s more of a reflection of the fact that I don’t conceive of Deity in a neo-Wiccan context, that all Gods are One God, and all Goddesses are One Goddess. It never worked for me, so seeing Isis as that single Goddess who I can call with ANY NAME I LIKE doesn’t work for me either. But to each their own. If it works, awesome. Just don’t tell me that’s what my Isis or Aset is, and we’ll be fine.

The way I see it, Aset told me that Isis is Her Roman face, a different face for a different people. That, perhaps, for the Romans, the way they saw Her was what they related to better than how the Egyptians saw Her. And sure, perhaps Isis did come to take on a life of Her own, just like with many of the syncretic deities from that time period. I still don’t necessarily see that as making Her a completely separate Goddess. The two are tied together, at least in my experience. Isis is still Egyptian, even as She is Roman and Greek and British and whatnot.

I’m sure there are plenty of pagans who do experience Them separately, just as there are countless others who experience Them being the same Goddess. I don’t see this as one group is right and one is wrong. I … just don’t see the point in that. The way I see it, Aset is a shapeshifter. If She didn’t have myriad forms of appearing to people, I’d question whether it was really Her. So maybe some people relate better to Her Isian side, and some to her Aset side. Sure, why not? Why can’t She be Aset and Isis and have different faces for different people, depending on what they need? Why does it have to be one or the other?

I’ve always worked under the idea that the Gods choose the face we’re most likely to recognise and/or relate to when approaching us. I don’t think this is trickery or deception on Their part, but what’s the point in trying to get our attention if we don’t know it’s Them? That’s how I see it. And if that means taking on different faces/appearances/names for us, then so be it. I think Gods are adaptable that way, particularly for us modern people. We aren’t ancient people, we don’t live in the same world. They’ve adapted in order to come back into the world again. If this means adapting to the local wildlife, so be it. If I can see Sobek in a saltwater crocodile, while another sees Him in an alligator, awesome. I’m pretty sure Sobek has no problems with it at all. But He’s so laid back, He probably wouldn’t mind if I said I’d once seen Him in the eyes of a gecko. He’d probably think that was awesome.

This feels like a bit of a digression from what I was talking about. To many, Aset is just called Isis, because the Greek names are the most well-known names for the Egyptian Gods. I’m pretty sure there are a LOT of pagans who first came to know the Egyptian Gods by those Greek names, and unless they are so inclined to become recon and do some research, perhaps they are the only names they’ll ever know Them by. Is this really a bad thing? I’m not so sure it is. For many, many people, those Greek names aren’t seen as a different form of the Deity the way many reconstructionist Pagans see them as separate. Unless you bother to tease out the research, Aset and Isis are often talked about in some sort of blended form. Where there are aspects of Isis and Aset mixed together. They are, essentially, the same Goddess. Almost every article I’ve ever seen online about Them has talked about Them as being One and the Same.

But if there is a distinction that’s apparent to a lot of people in their personal experiences with either Aset or Isis or both, I don’t think it’s as absolute as some people may say it is, nor do I think it’s that big a problem. I think it’s more like a spectrum, where Aset and Isis stretch out and bleed into each other (and into any other deities that have ended up syncretised to Them). Perhaps there is a section that is more properly Aset than Isis, more Egyptian than Roman, but They still share something in common. The way I see it, you can’t have Isis without Aset, but you can have Aset without Isis. Does that work? I don’t know. But I think it’s part of the way I see those syncretic deities, that they are an odd blend of Egyptian, Roman, and Greek energies that is Romagreegyptian. It’s an evolution. These Gods have been around for thousands of years. If They haven’t undergone evolutions in how They are worshipped and perceived by all the different people who’ve come into contact with Them…

Gah. I feel like I’m explaining it badly. I don’t even think I have the right sort of answer either. I’m hardly claiming to be anything like an authoritative expert on this. This is just how I see things. Aset and Isis are perhaps not wholly the same, but not wholly dissimilar either. Not in my experience. Yes, Isis is a syncretic Goddess, and yes, She’s not wholly Egyptian in Her aspects and personality. But She still has Aset’s heart. They share the same Ba, I think, even if Their Ka are different. I think that is perhaps the best way I can explain it.

But maybe it’s just because I’m used to Egyptian Gods being a bit bendy with Their boundaries. I’m definitely not a strict hard polytheist, and that, perhaps, is shaping the way I see Aset and Isis. Someone who’s a hard polytheist and a recon may see Them as separate Gods. But I don’t. I don’t think either one is the Correct Way To Understand Aset either. I think they’re both perfectly valid ways of relating to a very complicated Goddess, particularly because Isis came to encompass just about everything once She left Egypt. I don’t think that’s a fault either. I just think that was a result of a whole swathe of different people who needed perhaps different ways of seeing Her. So She developed a lot of faces to make sure She was recognised.

As a last but not particularly related point, I was walking back from the shops a month or so ago, and I was given the chant ‘Aset-Nut/Isis-Hekate’. (That’s how I saw it split in my head.) I’ve been trying to parse that ever since. It’s giving me headaches. /ow.

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8 comments on “I is for Isis and Aset

  1. helmsinepu says:

    I also talk to people who connect to an “Isis” who is a lot more Aset-like.

    The names we use probably aren’t all that accurate any way you look at it. According to Bezenwepwy (and Terrence DuQuesne, I assume) “Anubis/Inepu/Yinepu” probably sounded more like “Yanoupe.”

    I’m writing about a different goddess who is listed as the mother of Horus. I suspect none of it is supposed to make sense in a cut-and-dried sorted-into-little-boxes way.

    • Sashataakheru says:

      Yeah, this is why I tend to find the insistence on a separation to be quite strange. I’m not sure it’s so easy to separate Them as some might think. But I don’t think that even invalidates their experiences either. I think Aset/Isis is more than big enough to encompass them all.

      I do know about the difficulties in rendering hieroglyphs in English, let alone in other modern languages, and it’s not always accurate. I’m sure that’s part of the issue. English has many different dialects and that effects the way we pronounce these words. For me, when I say ‘seshetaa’, for instance, I sound like I’m trying to imitate a New Zealand accent, so I use ‘sashataa’ instead, which sounds better in my Australian accent. Accurate? Probably not. But I’m not sure quibbling over language is worth it sometimes. I mean, if people are connecting with these Gods, I’m not sure it really matters what names they use.

      I think if Kemetic mythology was meant to be a single narrative, it’d be a lot less interesting. Far fewer headaches, sure, but it wouldn’t be quite so much fun. 😀 Apart from Set, I’ve found Sobek’s father listed as Senuy, which apparently means ‘two brothers’ (I thought, for a moment, that this might be an oblique reference to the Bawy? But IDK, I need to check sources and such I don’t have access to right now. Also Set/Heru-wer/Nit fathering Sobek makes my head hurt). I’ve also seen Sobek listed as Sobek’s father, which also makes my head hurt. Then again, maybe it’s Nit as mother and father and Nit’s just so awesome Sobek didn’t need a proper dad. What the hell, maybe they’re all true. Who the fuck knows? There’s no real such thing as ‘truth’ when it comes to these sort of things anyway, as far as I’m concerned.

      • helmsinepu says:

        I especially like the bit where Djehuty is the son of Set and Heru. And of course, Djehuty plays a game with Khonsu so that Set and Wesir can be born. Soooo, Djehuty helped both his father and grandfather to be born. So Sobek as his own dad, and Nit being his mother and father makes perfect sense.

        If ya can’t stand the heat, stay out of the polyvalent kitchen! 😀

        • Sashataakheru says:

          Pretty much, this. Polyvalent logic makes my life so much easier. And in some cases, harder. But mostly easier. Mostly. XD (Djehuty telling me ‘Sobek is Amun is Ra is Ptah is Wesir’ still gives me headaches if I think about it too much. o.o)

  2. merytaset says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who views Her that way. : )

  3. I very much enjoyed reading this.
    ‘There are times when I get annoyed at people who … perhaps tend to dismiss Isis as a ‘fluffy Mother Goddess….’ Happy to see I’m not the only one who get annoyed (sometimes even to the point of my blood boiling) at such dismissal – not just from ignorance but sometimes on purpose (yes I’ve seen it happen). When dealing with the Divine in any shape, form and name there is also much more than meets the eye. And human language is already limited for describing the human-Divine relationship, as well as the Divine realm and all that it encompasses; simplistic narrow-minded statements such as ‘Isis is a wiccan (???????) Triple Goddess’ [I actually found this phrase on a site much to my dismay] just have no call for.
    I’ve actually had grief from various people who decided I should use the whole Kemetic set of names for the Gods. First of all, no one can decide what another should call the Deities whom they work with. Secondly, just because I used the Greek form names when I write about them, that doesn’t mean that’s how I name them during worship, prayer or ritual. And thirdly, I chose the Greek form names on purpose, as I’m trying to touch a broader audience and I think the purpose would be defeated by using the Kemetic form names as not everyone knows them.
    And we also have to consider the unverified personal gnosis when it comes to dealing with the Divine – just like you pinpointed when saying ‘This isn’t the Only Way To See Isis and Aset Forever and Ever And Everyone Else Is Wrong either.’ Something which is revealed/required to one follower is not necessarily revealed/required of another. Some end up having similar experiences and revelations, others completely different ones. And they do not cancel each other, it doesn’t make them any less true.

    • Sashataakheru says:

      Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. ❤

      ‘There are times when I get annoyed at people who … perhaps tend to dismiss Isis as a ‘fluffy Mother Goddess….’ Happy to see I’m not the only one who get annoyed (sometimes even to the point of my blood boiling) at such dismissal – not just from ignorance but sometimes on purpose (yes I’ve seen it happen).

      Yeah, I can relate to that. That Isis isn’t anything like ‘the real Aset’, assuming it’s even possible for any human to know what The Real Aset actually is. She’s a shapeshifter, ffs. You really think you’ll ever figure that out? /irritated.

      And human language is already limited for describing the human-Divine relationship, as well as the Divine realm and all that it encompasses; simplistic narrow-minded statements such as ‘Isis is a wiccan (???????) Triple Goddess’ [I actually found this phrase on a site much to my dismay] just have no call for.

      …I think I am about to cry. ;_; I mean, calling Her the (Wiccan) Goddess is one thing, but She’s never had a triple aspect in Her life. FFS. >.< *sighs* It is often hard to talk about the Gods and what we experience in any coherent form. Human language, and sometimes English itself, can limit how we express ourselves when talking about something we can barely comprehend. That's no excuse for ignorance and Not Doing The Research, though. -_-

      …I have mixed feelings about solely using the Kemetic names for Kemetic Gods. On the one hand, They're Kemetic Gods, and that's what we should call Them, just like you'd use Japanese names for Japanese Gods, or Norse names for Norse Gods and whatnot. But rendering hieroglyphs into English can be hard, and the Greek names are much more well known. Sometimes, yeah, the Greek names are easier. Like, I can use all the Kemetic names I like, but eventually, I'm going to have to clarify for those who don't know them. But the Gods themselves haven't made a preference clear, so I figure this is definitely a human issue, not a God issue.

      Some end up having similar experiences and revelations, others completely different ones. And they do not cancel each other, it doesn’t make them any less true.

      This, pretty much. My experience of Djehuty as an inquisitive curious bird isn’t universal, just like my experience of Sobek as cuddly and adorable isn’t universal. They show us the face we’ll most likely relate to/recognise. That’s not always the same face that everyone sees.

  4. TahekerutAset says:

    The way I see it, you can’t have Isis without Aset, but you can have Aset without Isis.

    I would agree with this. Aset told me,”I am your Mother. Not Isis.”

    Aset wants me to call Her Aset. So for me, it matters, but maybe for someone else it doesn’t matter so much?

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