The ancient Egyptian goddess Isis was worshipped throughout Egypt and even in the Greco-Roman regions. The discovery of temples and obelisks erected in her honor in Rome and countless inscriptions and other artifacts found across Europe are a testament to her popularity. Isis was a mystical deity, the patron of magic and nature. She came to symbolize the ideal wife and perfect mother. Like most gods in cultures that practice polytheism, Isis was responsible for many aspects of Egyptian life. Friend to sinners and slaves. Advocate of the penniless and supporter of the artisan. She was the goddess of fertility and motherhood.
Isis was the first born daughter of Nut, goddess of the overarching sky and Geg, god of the Earth. In Egyptian mythology, Isis was married to Osiris, also a powerful god. The two had a son named Horus. One of Egypt's most prominent folklore tales tells the story of how Osiris was betrayed by his enemy Seth. The evil Seth fooled Osiris and drowned him in the Nile river. Isis was able to resurrect her husband using her magical powers, but Seth was relentless and killed her husband again. To stop Isis from resurrecting Osiris again, he cut the body into pieces and hid it around the desert.
Consumed with grief, Isis set out in search of the remains of her husband in hopes she might restore him. After years of searching, she was successful and once again used her magic to bring her husband back from the dead.
There are many variations of the story, some suggesting that Osiris was truly resurrected and others suggesting Isis was only able to create "the essence" of her dead husband, but in most versions Isis is impregnated and bears a son Horus, the falcon god. Horus later became a powerful god who avenged his father's death, killing Seth.
Isis was different than most other Egyptian gods and goddesses in that she dwelled amongst her worshippers. Isis instructed women in the art of bread-making, weaving, sewing and other skills within the household. Isis was worshipped as the goddess of wisdom and medicine. Along with the spirit of her husband who controlled the underworld, Isis was protector of the dead. Egyptian folklore suggests that the annual flooding of the Nile is actually caused by the tears of Isis at her husband's death.
Isis assumed many of the responsibilities also attributed to the sky goddess Hathor and began to be depicted wearing Hathor's crown (a solar disk centered between two cow horns). In Egyptian art, she is frequently seen carrying a simple staff and the Ankh symbol. Frequently, she is portrayed with outstretched wings as a symbol of protection. Isis also meant "seat" or "throne." She was regarded as the symbolic mother of the king. Several artifacts in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo depict Isis nursing Horus, a symbol of her nurturing aspect and role as protector of children.