Isis and Aset

Many people ask the question… Is Isis the same as Aset? Aren’t they the same Goddess but one has the Roman name and one is Egyptian? Is it more than the difference between two Gods such as Zeus and Jupiter?  Or should they be considered two completely separate Gods.

Let’ start with the history…

It all started with the Ptolemys. Aset grew in popularity with the influx of new peoples into Egypt and more shrines were erected in the port of Alexandria. This is where she started to become Isis as Ancient Egyptians were never truly fond of sea travel, this is a new Roman influence. She was associated with sea faring and oceans, mothering and synchronized with Mut. We see Aset becoming less Aset…

“I am the Queen of rivers and winds and sea. No one is held in honor without my knowing it. I am Queen of War. I am Queen of the Thunderbolt. I stir up the sea and I calm it once again. I am in the rays of the sun. Whatever I please, this too shall come to an end. With me everything is reasonable. I set free those in bonds. I am the Queen of seamanship. I make the navigable unnavigable when it pleases me. I create walls for cities. I am called the Lawgiver. I brought up islands out of the depths into the light. I am Lord of Rainstorms. I overcome Fate. Fate hearkens to me. Hail, O Egypt, that nourished me!”

By the time Rome got into town Aset was hardly looking like herself. There was still Aset Aset… but there was this Isis too. Just like we have Sekhmet and we have Hetheret. Rome carries Isis around it’s Empire, Temples are erected. Pompeii even had an amazing Isis temple or Iseum . 

Up we go all the way to Ancient Britain and we find shrines.

Back down to Rome though… There are priestesses of Isis that have held onto some of the original aspects of Aset such as these priestesses are thought to be great magicians.

They also wear the Tyet.

BUT… Here is a snippet from “Aretalogy of Isis” (eg Roman)

“I am Isis, the mistress of every land, and I was taught by Hermes, and with Hermes I devised letter, both the sacred and the demotic, that all might not be written with the same letters I gave and ordained laws for all men and women, which no one is able to change. I am the eldest daughter of Kronos. I am the wife and sister of King Osiris. I am She who findeth fruit for men and women I am the Mother of King Horus. I am She that riseth in the Dog Star. I am she that is called goddess by women. For me was the city of Bubastis built. I divided the earth from the heavens. I showed the paths of the stars. I ordered the course of the sun and moon. I devised business in the sea. I made strong the right. I brought together man and woman. I appointed women to bring their infants to birth in the tenth lunar month…”

We see a lot of issues with this mythology that is PURELY Roman.

Aset was NOT taught by Hermes in any Kemetic history or myth.

Aset is not the Eldest daughter of Kronos.. Kronos is NOT Kemetic

Aset only syncs with Siruis as Sopdet; does not rise in it.

Aset hadn’t had Bubastis built for Her.

Aset does not course the sun not moon.

Aset does not devise the sea.

And so on and on and on and on…..

Isis was then synchronized with Demeter leaving any trace of Aset behind.

So this is why Aset is NOT Isis. It is much like saying that Serapis and Wesir are the same.

Serapis                                                                   Wesir

Isis                                                                Aset

Works Cited:

B for Books: My Book List

This is my recommended book list for anybody thinking of following a Kemetic Path or interested in Ancient Egypt and the Near East. There may be some overlap with some of my amazing fellow Kemetics out there but it is worth repeating in any fashion because, well, reading is important.

In no particular order:

1. Red Land Black Land- Daily life in Ancient Egypt

2. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt– Lives of Pharaohs and commoners and how they worshipped the Gods.

3. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt– Historical Outline of Ancient Egypt.

4. Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt– Historical Overview of Religious concepts.

5. Egyptian Mythology: Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt.

6. Going Forth by Day– The Complete Papyrus of Ani.

7. The Wisdom of Ptah-Hotep– Wisdom Literature

8. Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture– Expensive but TOTALY worth it.

These are all books any Kemetic, beginner or not, should have in their library. Being knowledgable in ones history is a part of the religion itself. In Kemeticism gaining knowledge and bettering ourselves is a way we honor Netjer.

So go out there, read, practice, master your craft. In doing so you are honoring the Gods.

Ankh: The Libation Dish

This year I will be doing The Pagan Blog Project. To kick it off I will start with an essay I wrote in college for one of my ‘Art of the Ancient Near East and Egypt’ Classes.

Background info: This dish sits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I decided it would be good for A as one of the components is an Ankh.



At the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an Object called “The Libation Dish”. This beautiful work of art was used in Ancient Egypt during the first dynasty, in the year 2960 BCE. The dish is comprised in a set of two objects, one is the fan-like shape of a palm leaf, and the other is an ankh shaped bowl in which water is filled for the libation of the user. The arms folding down to form the box on the right say “Ka”, or “spirit” and the loop and knot in the center says “Ankh” or “life” both of which are hieroglyphs, and translated together they could be read as “Life to my Ka” or “Giving life to my spirit”.

“The Libation Dish” is carved out of a solid block of siltstone by chipping away until the artist finds it satisfactory to then continue to chisel the fine details. Since this object is carved from a solid block of stone it is heavy but easily manageable since it had to be picked up, carried, and used with accessibility and ease to the person using it.  The craftsmanship of the object lends itself to how carefully the artisan was able to sculpt this to be thin, flat, and elegant, yet it had to be able to hold up to many uses and years. The dish is graceful and relatively light yet sturdy.

Both of these objects are a set, and together they are used to make libations to the users “Ka” or spirit, soul, or life force. The shape of the object on the left is carved into the shape of a palm leaf, elegantly formed to show the graceful turn of a natural leaf as if it had just fallen to the ground, fresh and new. The upward turn in the back dipping down to the front shows this. If one looks at the front of the piece one would see the fold where the edge of the leaf at the ends would dip down then rise back up only to dip down again into the center section of a palm leaf. Even though the picture does not show it well, the opposite side of the leaf is also another curve for when the center of the leaf ends and the third section starts. This also shows an awareness to symmetry, which is stylistically common for Ancient Egyptian works of art. On the surface we see very accurately carved into this piece, the veins of the palm, rendered out precisely. The lines on the surface, though used as a technical tool for allowing the viewer read the object as a leaf; The veins are also used as a decorative motif for the fan. The pattern these lines form creates a melody and movement like wind flowing over the and across the leaf. The second object on the right is the actual dish. The lines of this object are very creative in their crafty way of mixing the functional with the decorative. The two arms folding down the upper left and upper right form the hieroglyph “Ka” while also creating a barrier to stop the overflow of water from being released. The Loop and Knot also create the same effect and are also hieroglyphs reading “Life”. The loop in the center creates the bowl where the user pours their water in, and the knot and ties make up the bottom barrier of the dish. This is a very creative way of solving two problems, the stylistic and functional, together.

The texture of the piece is very smooth, and polished as if water flows constantly over stone. This reestablishes the use of the dish itself, as being used for water libations to their soul. The user would not want their water libation to run jagged into their soul, but smooth free flowing water, giving life to their spirit. The object is smooth, inviting, calm, soft, and cooling to the sight and soul of the user. The siltstone was a perfect material in it’s ability to withstand the ages, the color and form is still in good shape and has changed little since this was being used in ancient times.

The object on the right was meant to be laid flat down on a desk or on a mat on the floor since it held water. But the object on the left if you look on the left side of the object it has a handle in which to hold. This was used to “fan life into the soul” of the user, so this object was meant to be held in the hand and fanned towards the bowl of water.

In Ancient Egypt the idea of the “Ka” ,or life force, had a very different meaning for them than to us in modern times. They believed that the Ka must be fed or sustained, and had a life of it’s own. Unlike the Ba, which is a person’s individual personality and is the closet to the western notion of a soul. The Ka must be fed food and water, and through Ma’at and spiritual practice the Ka could continue animating your existence. Once a person’s Ka left or “ran out” it was the moment of death and the Ba could leave the body. So because of this belief the practice of Ka Libations became a regular practice by Ancient Egyptians. One would use “the Libation dish” with the purpose of feeding one’s Ka. The ritual would be set out by first pouring clean water into the dish, then sitting in the “Henu” position. Arms must be out to the side bent upward at the elbow and hands raised with palms facing out and fingers together, as illustrated in the shape of the arms on the rim of the dish. The user would then, with the right hand, pick up the fan and while reciting a prayer, would fan the water into their Ka.

This function of “The Libation Dish” can tell us that the Ancient Egyptians were a very spiritual people who were concerned about the health of not just their body’s but of their minds and souls. The Ka is a person’s life force and vitality; if one feeds their Ka properly they also are constantly feeding their mind, learning something new every day, or perfecting what they already know. One also feeds their Ka by “Doing what is Ma’at or what is right, harmonious, and stable; Herodotus once wrote “The people of Egypt are the most pious I have ever known of a society.” This same philosophy can be seen in the style of the work of art itself. The Libation Dish is symmetrical, clean and is beautiful yet has a very important function. These same adjectives could also be used to describe Ancient Egypt as well because all of the art is similar for the first dynasty, which tells us that stability, health, and beauty with a function is what they, as a society at the time, found important.  The work of art is the physical manifestation of the act itself. The physicality of the palm is like the wind that flows through it like the wind the object creates to fan into the soul. The Dish forms the hieroglyphs meaning “Ka” and holds the water to feed it. So symbolically the dish itself is the act in which the “Ka” will be fed. Again, this is also telling of the Ancient Egyptians incorporating the stability of function and beauty, along with personifying spirituality.

The Ancient Egyptians were a complex people with complex ideologies. All of the art produced, especially in the first dynasty, were beautiful in their functionality and meaning. Everything that goes into an object has a specific purpose behind it; the smoothness of the fan like flowing air with the patterns of lines that create the movement of the object. The dish is literally the act of feeding the Ka, the hieroglyphs are the dish and the dish is the hieroglyphs which hold the water is which to feed the Ka. Every aspect of these objects is particular, purposeful and beautiful in the function of it. And considering this object was used for this purpose in every echelon of the society it tell us that this is not just a royal practice but what every Ancient Egyptian found meaning in and practiced. “The Libation Dish” is one of the best examples of Ancient Egyptian art that the Metropolitan Museum has to offer.

I am Aset, I have come from the spinning-house (or secret place), wherein my brother Set had put me. Djehuty, the great god, the lord of the truth in heaven and on earth, had said to me: “Do come, Aset divine, – it is well to listen, conceal yourself with your young son, that he may return for us, when his body is strong and his strength has completely developed and you make him sit down on his father’s throne and the office of lord of the two lands is granted to him.”
I went out in the evening-hour and seven scorpions went out behind me. They led me: Tefen and Befen close behind me; Mestet and Mestetef under my stretcher; Petet, Tetet and Matet prepared my way. I ordered them emphatically and my words penetrated into their ears: “Do not know “the black one” and do not greet “the red one”; do not distinguish the high one from the humble one; be your face turned downwards to the road; be careful not to lead him who looks for me, until we have reached “The House of the Crocodile”, the beginning of the Delta Marshes, the marshes of Db.” Finally I reached the houses of matrons. As soon as a noble lady had seen me from afar, she closed her door to me.  

         This annoyed my companions. They deliberated on it and put their poison together on the sting of Tefen. A fisher-girl opened her door for me and we entered the shabby dwelling. But Tefen had penetrated under the leaves of the door and she stung the lady’s son. Because she had not opened to me, her heart was sad and she did not know whether he was alive.  She wandered about her town lamenting, but nobody came to her voice. 

My heart, for that reason, was uneasy about the child that I wished to cure the innocent one. I called to her, saying, “Come to me, come to me, behold my mouth bears life. I am a daughter known in her town, who expels the poisonous snake with her spell. My father has taught me knowledge; I am his own beloved daughter.”Aset laid her hands on the child to cure him who was short of breath: “Poison of Tefenet, come, go out to the earth, do not go about and do not penetrate: Poison of Befenet, come, go out to the earth, I am Aset divine, mistress of magic, exercising magic, magical in speaking, effective of words. Every biting snake obeys me. Fall down, poison of Mestet, do not run. Poison of Mestetef, do not rise, poison of Petet and Tetet.  Fall down, mouth of the biting one, at the words of Aset divine, great of magic among the gods, to whom Geb has given his magic power in order to avert the poison in its power. Yield, recede, flee, backwards, poison, do not jump up, at the words of the beloved of Ra, the egg of the smn-bird and who has come forth from the sycamore.”

         The lady came and brought her possessions, and filled the house of the fisher-girl on behalf of the fisher-girl, who had opened her stable to me; but the lady had been worried during one night and had tasted the effects of her utterance, for her son had been bitten and she had brought her possessions because she had not opened to me. 

May the child live and the poison die, then Horus will be healthy for his mother Aset and the patient will be healthy for his mother likewise. 

Aset then continued her journey and came to Khemmis in the Delta, where she gave birth to Heru-sa-aset.

-Metropolitan Museum book of Egyptian and Near Eastern Art