So I want to talk about Isis, and this particular image of Isis, and why it means so much to me to own this statue at last. Because I finally had the money for it, and I finally found somewhere in Australia to buy it online from, and She arrived today, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have Her at last. I have waited years for Her. And now She is finally here.
So you will forgive me if I get a bit tl;dr, and veer off into UPG territory, as well as whatever tangents are needed to explain all this fully, but I think it’s time I finally talked about this image, and why it is my Isis. Nothing has ever come close to being my Isis than this image of Her. It’s not traditional, it’s video game art, but this is what She means to me. When I think about Isis, this is who I see. Perhaps this isn’t the same for everyone else, but this is my Isis. Let me introduce you to Her.
I became a baby Pagan towards the end of 2000, when a former (high school) friend suggested that since I love Ancient Egypt so much, why don’t I worship those gods? This came at a time, towards the end of year 11, when I’d spent a couple of years searching for something. I’d stopped going to church, because it didn’t mean anything to me. And my involvement was mostly social. There were some good people. But Christianity wasn’t for me; I was never even baptised. The only times I did go to church was when I had to attend chapel services at school. The joys of an Anglican high school.
I don’t know why this friend’s suggestion made sense to me. But it did, and so I started looking. I went through Teen Witch, like practically every other teen witch who discovered paganism in the 90s. But the book that left the biggest impact on me was a book I found at the library: The Mysteries of Isis, by DeTraci Regula. I devoured that book. I copied pages out of it, I used one of the prayers in it for my morning prayer, reciting the Egyptian every morning before school as the scent of lotus incense drifted through my bedroom. It was the first time I had ever worshipped a deity of any sort and actually felt like She was answering. That this was working. And that’s a powerful experience to have when you’re 17.
I don’t know why I picked Isis of all the gods I could have picked. I don’t know if it was just because of the book, or for some other reason that has drifted into the depths of the aether. But I picked Isis, and She was my goddess.
She had the biggest influence on my year 12 Italian oral exam. Part of our exam was a piece we’d written ourselves, that we would speak to our examiners. It was meant to be about something we were passionate about, or interested in. A hobby, or a sport, or something like that. Something we could confidently talk about, and answer questions about, in the middle of an exam. And, for whatever reason, I decided to talk about being a priestess of Isis. A fictional priestess of Isis, I would like to say. I had made up a character, and she talked about what she did every day, as she served in Isis’ temple.
By this time, I had acquired a statue of Isis, which I had found in a gift shop at a local shopping centre. You can see this statue below, at the centre of the Aset Luminous shrine below. It’s the black and gold one with the wings. And behind them, at the back, is the printout of the image at the top of the post. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
So I actually took that statue with me into my exams, partly as a visual aid in case anyone didn’t know who She was, and, well. It seemed appropriate. I honestly can’t remember a word of what I said during that exam, except a vague memory that I talked about the temple rites, and being Her priestess. I know I have the script tucked away in a box somewhere, but it’s all in Italian, and I cbf finding it right now.
So She literally got me through my Italian oral exam, which I did rather well at, if I remember correctly. (Don’t quote me on that, it was 15 years ago.)
How we get to this image at the top is a bit convoluted. My brother, at some point, obtained the PC game, Age of Empires, and I duly fell in love with it way more than he ever did. It had Egyptians! I could play as the Egyptians and kill Romans and Greeks and Hittites and whoever else was included in that mix idek it was a long time ago! Minoans! IDEK!
And so I bought the Rise of Rome expansion, and thoroughly enjoyed that. Then I bought Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, and thoroughly enjoyed that, as well as the expansion for that. This was a game series I was totally obsessed with, and I still am. These games are up there as my all-time favourite games.
And so, along comes 2002, and a little game called Age of Mythology comes out, and suddenly, there She is. That image of Isis you see at the top of the post, and in the photo above. Not only could I play as Egyptians again, I could play with Isis as my goddess, and beat the shit out of Greeks and Norsement in Her name. And have Thoth rain down epic meteor storms down on thine enemies. It was a seriously amazing game, and I fell in love with it, and with this depiction of Isis. See, this image is game art. This is how they decided to portray Isis for this game. And She is fierce af. She holds no weapon. She wears an expression of confidence and strength. She is not even using Her shield for defense. She is leaning her hands on top of it, as if it is just something to lean against. She does not have thunderbolts, or swords, or spears, or a bow, or anything resembling a visible weapon. She is just standing there, exuding power and confidence, and it’s terrifying. What on earth is She going to do to you with only a shield? She is daring you to challenge Her, knowing you can’t beat Her.
It was the first time I had ever seen a goddess depicted with such power and agency. She spoke to me, She came alive to me, in a way She had never done before. I really did fall in love with this image of Her. This strong warrior queen who could very well kill you just by staring at you. That’s a powerful image for a 18-19 year old.
See, I’d never really connected with the maternal side of deity. I didn’t get that universal mother stuff. She was never really that for me, and I think I just found it too, well. Passive. I do have two statues of Isis suckling Horus, one of which got repainted into Aset-Nut, but they just never felt right to me. They just didn’t connect. Isis, to me, was alive, and had agency. She was Great of Magic, and could shapeshift into whatever She needed to be. She was the master of Her world, knowing how to make it bend to Her will. She was fiercely protective of Her own, and strong enough to stand undefeated. She was a powerful Queen in Her own right. This is the Isis I responded to, not the Universal Mother Goddess aspect. I still don’t respond to that conception of deity even now, because it just doesn’t work for me.
I loved this image of Her, this art made for a video game, and at some point, I asked an old school friend to print out a copy of it for me, because we didn’t have a colour printer at the time. I went from having a small image on the computer to an A4 printout. I stared at Her a lot. I took it all in. When I had some shiny black and metallic card, I made that printout into an icon. It’s crude, yes, and nowhere near as beautiful as what others can do in making devotional icons, but I didn’t care. I loved that image, and She was my goddess. And so She became a shrine piece.
This is probably the best photo you’re going to get of it. From a shrine in 2012. (Do you even know how finicky it was cutting out those lotuses and then trying to stick them down in the right place? Do you? D: /never again.) She was a pain to make, but She has survived for probably close to a decade and all She’s lost is the bottom of a lotus. As you can see in the photo. As well as my mediocre hieroglyphs that announce my religious names. Those religious names are so very old. Like, 2003/2004 old. D:
For a long time, that’s all I thought She would be. I moved Her around as I changed up my shrines, and my path meandered from place to place. She always had a place on my shrines, somewhere, because She still spoke to me through that image in a way She never did with any other image or statue I owned.
And I think that might actually have been the last time She was used on a shrine. 2012 was the year everything changed. And, incidentally, I think 2011 was the year I discovered my favourite image of my favourite goddess, had been turned into a statue. I found it at Goddess Gift, and I included it in my Christmas list that year. I don’t know if I found it earlier than that, but 2010 would be the earliest.
I don’t know how often this sort of thing happens. When the image that speaks the loudest to you somehow becomes a statue, instead of just a piece of art. I’ve always been very keen on statuary as a way to reflect the faces of the gods I worship back at me.I don’t hoard every single statue ever; I am incredibly picky about which statues I buy. I know, if you look around my room, it looks like I have a lot, but they have all been carefully picked. Because I have had to shop online, and buy from international sellers, I don’t waste money on statues I don’t love. Because they are expensive things to buy when you factor in shipping, and the exchange rate.
For an example of just how picky I am, I spent a long time trying to find an appropriate statue to represent Gaia as the Earth Mother for my druidic shrine. It took so long because I hated every statue of Gaia I saw. They were too motherly, or too ugly, or too pregnant. None of them resonated with me. This is where my utter disconnect with the Universal Mother Goddess thing comes into play again. Because I do not grok the neopagan Earth Mother thing at all. This is the hardest concept for me to get my head around when it comes to ADF. I am too hard a polytheist to buy into it. And I came from an Egyptian practice where the Earth God was male. And so this makes it very hard to find the right sort of statue. Nothing worked. Nothing felt right. Until, after yet another exasperated search, I said, “Gaia, I can’t do this anymore. Show me the face you wish me to see.”
And that’s when I stumbled upon a statue of the Crone Goddess, one of a set of three statues depicting Maiden, Mother, and Crone. I don’t know why it worked. I don’t know why this face, and not another. But that’s what I ended up buying.
But getting back to where I was at. Recognising this Isis statue as the one I knew from Age of Mythology. Yes. Because as soon as I recognised Her, you bet I wanted Her. Game art, as a rule, does not usually get turned into (religious) statuary. But somehow, it happened. I think AoM!Anubis also got the same treatment, but don’t quote me on that. But anyway. There was my Isis, and She was so beautifully fierce.
She has been out of my grasp for so long. She was always so expensive, and the international shipping made Her unobtainable. She would cost me so much money I didn’t have, and I just couldn’t justify spending that sort of money on Her. I loved Her, but I had no money, and no room. And so, for a long time, She was always a dream.
But then, 2012 was the year everything changed. I had gone away to New Zealand to go to my cousin’s wedding, and that’s where I first met Hekate. She infodumped into my brain for the following three weeks, including the following idea I still can’t wrap my head around completely: Aset-Nut, Isis-Hekate. Yes, I heard the hyphens.
And it was around this time that I got interested in druidry. My practice became Graeco-Roman-Kemetic, and for a lot of the time, it was a mess. But I muddled through it, and came out not hating ADF at the end of it.
I have had Isis and Hekate come to me together in meditation. They have the Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea thing going on, and it makes my head hurt. But in spite of everything, Isis has never really gone away. Over the years, She’s always been around in one form or another. And to have Her come into my life with a face associated with Hekate proved very interesting to me. I sort of had shrines set up, and I included Isis in a Hekate-Artemis-Isis shrine when I redid my room, but I never quite felt I had the right image of Her. But I never had the money, or the room, and so it never happened.
In 2013, I began a money pot. I dedicated the money I saved to buying devotional items for the gods. But of course, time, and jobs, made a lot of what I had once planned to buy get crossed off the list. And so when I broke open my pot last week, I struggled to find something to do with the $400 odd dollars I had. But then I thought of Isis, and finally, it seemed like the right time.
I did some divination, and started looking, but everything was too expensive. AU$120 was about the minimum I was looking to spend, and I was sure I could get Her cheaper than that. I was also torn between the bronze finish, and the black and gold finish. I’d never been especially keen on the black and gold finish because every photo I’d seen of Her showed Her with weird gold eyes that just looked, well, wrong. And so I was going to go with the bronze. But I couldn’t decide, because black Isis is something that’s important to me, too. In the face of mainstream media whitewashing the gods, I tend to get a little protective of Them, and find myself increasingly turning to those Egyptian and African roots the gods have. It’s not that I wasn’t before, but it’s making a conscious decision to let those gods be who They are, and exist in that Egyptian landscape as They are. To understand where They came from, and how it has shaped Them as gods.
It is, perhaps, a clumsy way to do it, with a black and gold statue. And it had not been my first choice. But I couldn’t decide, and after a chat with Her during my evening ritual last Friday, I basically said, you choose. You find me the right statue for the right price.
I hadn’t expected it to happen as fast as it did. I kept an eye on ebay, because I felt I could find Her cheapest there. Late on Sunday night, after hours of fruitless searching, I was checking this one Australian ebay store one last time, just to see if She was there. I had looked before, but somehow, I had missed Her. But there She was, sitting next to Hathor-with-a-cape. And because She was only coming from across the country, the shipping was cheap. She only cost me AU$83, with express post, and She arrived three days later.
It’s been so long since I first saw this image of Her. So long since I fell in love with Her. And now She sits on my druid shrine, between Hekate in the centre, and Artemis on the right. And the shrine is complete.
It had been niggling me, you see, for a while now, that the shrine was missing Someone. Once Hekate moved to the centre, I kept feeling this niggling feeling like maybe Athena wanted in as well. I’d been feeling that since probably June last year. I kept seeing a shield, someone bearing a shield. I certainly felt the deity niggling at my brain was Athena, or very-Athena like at any rate. But Athena never felt right, like it was the wrong number. It wasn’t until I had Isis in my hands that I understood it was Isis I’d been sensing.
I don’t know if there was ever any historical connection between Isis and Athena, but this Isis feels a lot like Her. She is a fierce warrior queen, smart and cunning, She isn’t Athena, of course, because She is Isis. And Isis is badass. She really is just leaning the shield in front of Her. She isn’t grasping it, ready to defend Herself. She’s just standing there, with that expression on Her face, that challenge, that sense of, well, what are you going to do now?
It’s Her stance. How She’s so relaxed, but exudes so much power and confidence. I just don’t get that same sense of power and agency from any other statues. And that’s what I love about Her, and why She means so much to me. It’s the long years of just having a printout, of only having an image of Her. Having my Isis be video game art, and in some ways, not being brave enough to own it as confidently as I should’ve. Because this Isis, my Isis, isn’t quite your traditional image. She is still recognisably Isis, but Age of Mythology was a real-time strategy game, and a war game, and so Isis is a warrior. Isis is a warrior. It’s an unusual UPG, because I know She has some of this historically, but She is not a war goddess. But Isis as a warrior goddess is an interesting thing to contemplate, particularly if you define warrior in a way that’s not restricted to military combat.
It’s a side of Her I find deeply interesting to contemplate, and I suspect I will be doing a lot more of that, now that I finally have my Isis. Isis as a fierce warrior queen. In some ways, it makes total sense, but the chance to explore it further excites me greatly.
And three thousand words later, and I might be close to finishing. Kudos if you got this far. I know some of this might resonate with some of you. For others, perhaps your Isis is completely different. I call this face of Isis my Isis because She is the one that speaks to me. But it’s okay if your Isis is different. She is the goddess of 10,000 names, after all. I think She can encompass the diversity. And since it is now nearly 1am, I think I might post this and head to bed. I am tired and it’s late, and I’m also hungry.