Amanda Aremisia Forrester
Until a few months ago, I considered myself to be strictly Hellenic. Oh, sure, the Egyptian Gods were interesting, and powerful in Their own right. I enjoyed a good research session as much as the next Reconstructionist, but I never thought my interest would develop into anything other than idle curiosity. Egyptian deities seemed so alien, so unapproachable – all those animal heads and the stiff, unnatural poses! How off-putting to my Greek senses! I had been a Pagan for nearly nine years, and Hellenic for eight of those years. The Gods of Greece, particularly Athena and Dionysos, were dear to my heart and had sustained my soul through many trials.
But in the last year or so, something has begun to change, and eventually it became clear that Someone was reaching out to me. Everywhere I went, Egypt seemed to be the topic of conversation. Pictures of mummies and Kleopatra graced the covers of magazines wherever I went. A stranger once stopped me on the street to comment on the weather, and her Isis pendant seemed to leap out at me. I began to dream about Isis, vague dreams of stumbling in darkness. All I could recall of them upon awaking was Her form illuminated in the darkness by the light of Her sun-disc headdress.
At first I ignored Her gentle nudgings. I dismissed the coincidences that seemed to follow me wherever I went, and sought to explain them away. I assumed that Egypt was in my consciousness because of the influence of an Isian friend. I had absorbed the propaganda of some Reconstructionists, the belief that worshiping deities of more than one pantheon or culture would automatically make me a fluffy bunny, a person with spiritual ADD, jumping from one shiny thing to the next with no real spiritual depth. What would my fellow Hellenics think? Surely I would be mocked and labeled a ramshackle eclectic. I stuck close to my religious home of Athens, to the gods who had first stirred my soul as a child.
This strange sequence of events finally came to a head the day after Christmas, 2008. I was visiting a friend, with whom I had made an agreement that we would not exchange presents, as neither of us could afford it. This friend was a fellow Pagan, and she was aware of my Greek inclinations, but not my recent experiences of being god-stalked by an Egyptian deity. Out of the blue, she suddenly reached into a drawer, withdrew a statuette and handed it to me, saying: “This is meant to be yours.” It was a beautiful, bronzed representation of Isis, kneeling, Her face in profile, wings outstretched. I broke down. It was no longer deniable. There was something – or rather, Someone – to everything that had been happening to me recently.
That night, I spoke to Isis from the heart. I told Her that I finally acknowledged Her as a Goddess in Her own right. I told Her I was ready to begin a relationship with Her, but that I had made prior oaths to other gods and that She would have to wait a few months until they were fulfilled. I sensed She agreed, and indeed She withdrew while I carried out my other duties. She was still there, on the periphery, waiting for when I had the time to delve deeper into Her mysteries.
These past months since, I have been examining my preconceptions about this magnificent goddess, and doing what little research that time allows between the demands of daily life and my other projects. To my surprise, in my mental wanderings I have begun to see Her influence earlier in my life.
I remembered how, years ago, when it first became known that I was Pagan, my best friend’s mother refused to let me see her daughter anymore. She was very Christian, of the charismatic sort, and both her daughter and I were fourteen. She feared that I would corrupt her daughter, when if anything it was the other way around. Unknown to her mother, my friend had been an Isian for years before I found Paganism.
Eventually we were allowed to see each other again, but only if I went to church with her and her mother. Missing my friend, I agreed. It was a megachurch with thousands of followers, all laser lights and fog machines and no spirituality. It was pure theatrics. My friend and I sang along with the Christian hymns, but we replaced the words “God” with “Goddess” and “Jesus” with “Isis”. We sang our modified versions at the top of our lungs, sharing secret looks, with her mother standing right beside us. None of the faithful noticed. At one point I felt a powerful spirit rise up within me, and tears streamed down my face. No one knew I was experiencing a Pagan deity.
That was my first experience with Isis, although at that point I called Her simply The Goddess. I would continue to worship the Great Mother of Wicca and general Neopaganism for about a year before finding Hellenismos and the worship of the gods who had called to me while reading my big, leather-bound book of Greek myths under a blanket with a flashlight, so long ago.
It would be many years before I felt Her presence again. Since I broke down and accepted Her into my life, I have felt a change in myself, one that at times has struck terror in my heart. Since I began my studies on Isis, I have been much more drawn to children than ever before in my life. I found myself wondering what it would be like to raise a child, to teach him or her the ways of the gods, to feel the connection to them deeper then life itself. A few times I caught myself looking up information about adoption and fostering. As a career-driven woman who has for so long considered herself childless by choice, this about-face terrified me. It caused me to back off from Isis for a while.
I have a lot of issues when it comes to children and motherhood. My own mother was extremely abusive, and we have not talked in years. I have never known what real mother-love felt like, and I am somewhat doubtful if it is something I can ever give. It is not that I do not have a nurturing instinct; I do. I currently work with developmentally disabled adults after all, a very nurturing (and challenging!) position to be in. But having never had a healthy image of motherhood, I fear I would never be able to be a good mother.
Add to this the fact that in our culture women are not really given much choice in the matter. It is always assumed that a woman will have children. In many families, it is only a question of “when,” never “if.” The matter-of-fact statements of complete strangers – “You’ll change your mind about having kids one day” – always pissed me off to no end. And so here Isis comes into my neat little world. Isis is many things, and one of Her many roles is that of Mother, to the child-king Horus, to the pharaoh, and to the world. The sudden thoughts of children surprised me, knocked me off balance. So I panicked. I ran as far from Her as possible.
But Isis was gentle, and patient with my neuroses. She waited, and did not push me past my limits. Eventually, I swallowed my fears and returned to my studies. Isis was ready with a gentle embrace. I realized that worshiping Her does not mean that I will automatically have children someday. I still have choice in the matter, and Isis would not want me to be a half-hearted parent. I am uncertain how I feel about children now, but I am still young. Isis is encouraging me to work on my issues and to own my feelings, all of them. I am still in a process of transformation into whatever I am becoming, so I cannot write certainties at this moment.
Recently, I held a ritual in my home on the Panegyris, a festival of thanksgiving to Isis as She was equated with Agathe Tykhe, the Hellenistic goddess of Good Fortune. It was the most important festival of Isis in the city of Medinet-Madi. This ritual was attended by several other local Pagans, although I was the only Reconstructionist. This was my first ritual honoring Isis since She entered my life this past year. The altar was set up in my living room, and I offered barley to the goddess. Her altar was laid with a silver cloth, Her image surrounded by flowers and semi-precious crystals.
We purified ourselves in consecrated water and the smoke of sage and rosemary. When the lights were turned off, the room was illuminated only by candlelight. In the quiet of anticipation I called the goddess, and She attended. The spirit of Isis was palpable in room, thick as incense. We meditated, and She met us in the fog of our subconscious. In the temple of my mind She clasped my hands in Hers, and told me She was proud of me and that we were only beginning. She kissed my forehead, and I was bathed in the sacred waters of the Nile River.
So here I am now. I don’t know what my relationship with Isis is yet, or what it will develop into. I don’t know if I will be called to worship other Egyptian deities. So far Isis has not led me to worship Her husband Osiris or Her son Horus, but I suspect that will come with a deepening of our relationship. Perhaps I will be drawn to explore the gods of Egypt as well as Greece. Or perhaps not. Perhaps Isis will be my sole connection to the desert sands of Egypt. I know that wherever my path may lead, I will not not abandon the gods who have fed my soul and sustained me for these ten years. Greece is in my blood, too deep in my soul to ever be wrenched out, even if I wanted to. I will forever honor the Gods of my spiritual ancestors. I will forever pay tribute to my patroness, Athena: the warrior maiden, the scholar’s goddess, owl-eyed daughter of Zeus, King of the Gods.
But the ancient city of Alexandria has developed new meaning for me. In the teeming bustle of the world’s first truly cosmopolitan city, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Jews and people of many more cultures and ethnicities coexisted peacefully. The interaction of cultures and the exchange of religious ideas has always fascinated me on a scholarly level, devotee of Athena that I am. But now I see something else. Alexandria feels much more relevant to my spiritual practice now. I look to those brave Greeks who left their homeland and came to a new land, embracing the traditions of the people there, while staying true to the gods of their ancestors. I see myself reflected in them, men and women who passed from this world 2500 years ago. May I learn from them, and fearlessly embrace the wisdom and beauty of both cultures. May the gods of Greece and Egypt look on me favorably and bless my efforts to understand and to worship. In the names of all the Gods, I pray it will be so.