One famous myth about Isis tells how she discovered the secret name of the sun god Ra and increased her power. According to the story, Isis found Ra asleep one day, snoring loudly and saliva dripping from his mouth. She collected the saliva and mixed it with earth to form a
Statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis, holding her child Horus. Isis protected Horus during his childhood so he could grow up to avenge his father’s death. THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM OF ART, 37.938E, THE CHARLES EDWIN WILBOUR FUND. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.
Poisonous serpent. Then she placed the serpent on a path that Ra took every day.
When Ra awoke and started on his way, the serpent bit him, causing terrible pain. He called to the other gods for help, but all were helpless
Except Isis, who promised to cure him if he revealed his secret name. At first Ra refused, but eventually the pain became unbearable. He told Isis the name, and she gained new powers. This story was associated with a major aspect of Isis’s character: her skill in magical arts.
One of the most important myths associated with Isis was the story of Osiris’s death and resurrection (rebirth). According to this tale, the god Set became jealous of his brother Osiris, who ruled as king of Egypt. One day Set tricked Osiris and sealed him inside a box. Set then placed the box adrift on the Nile River, which carried it to the distant land of Byblos (pronounced BIB-luhs).
Isis searched for and found the box and then brought it back to Egypt, where she concealed it. However, Set discovered the hiding place and cut Osiris’s body into many pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. After recovering the pieces, Isis used her magical powers to restore life to Osiris, who then went to live in the underworld or land of the dead.
Sometime before this happened, Osiris and Isis had had a son named Horus. Isis kept the child hidden from Set so that he could grow up and avenge his father’s death. She protected Horus against all dangers, even restoring him to life once after he was bitten by a scorpion. When Horus became a young man, he fought his uncle Set. But Isis took pity on Set and allowed him to escape. Angry at his mother, Horus cut off her head. Thoth (pronounced TOHT), the god of magic and wisdom, changed the severed head into a cow’s head and reattached it to Isis’s body. Some ancient statues and paintings of the goddess show her with a cow’s head, and she is often linked to the goddess Hathor (pronounced HATH-or). Eventually, Isis went to live with Osiris in the underworld.