Ra and Isis
Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 800 words.
He spake further, saying: "I am a god and the son of a god; I am the Mighty One, son of the Mighty One. Nu, my father, conceived my secret name which giveth me power, and he concealed it in my heart so that no magician might ever know it, and, knowing it, be given power to work evil against me. As I went forth, even now, beholding, the world which I have created, a malignant thing did bite me. It is not fire, yet it burns in my flesh; it is not water, yet cold is my body and my limbs tremble. Hear me now! My command is that all my children be brought nigh to me so that they may pronounce words of power which shall be felt upon earth and in the heavens."
All the children of Ra were brought unto him as was his desire. Isis, the enchantress, came in their midst, and all sorrowed greatly, save her alone. She spoke forth mighty words, for she could utter incantations to subdue pain and to give life unto that from which life had departed. Unto Ra spake Isis, saying: "What aileth thee, holy father? . . . Thou hast been bitten by a serpent, one of the creatures which thou didst create. I shall weave spells; I shall thwart thine enemy with magic. Lo! I shall overwhelm the serpent utterly in the brightness of thy glory."
He answered her, saying: "A malignant thing did bite me. It is not fire, yet it burns my flesh. It is not water, yet cold is my body, and my limbs tremble. Mine eyes also have grown dim. Drops of sweat fall from my face."
Isis spake unto the divine father and said: "Thou must, even now, reveal thy secret name unto me, for, verily, thou canst be delivered from thy pain and distress by the power of thy name."
Ra heard her in sorrow. Then he said: "I have created the heavens and the earth. Lo! I have even framed the earth, and the mountains are the work of my hands; I made the sea, and I cause the Nile to flood the land of Egypt. I am the Great Father of the gods and the goddesses. I gave life unto them. I created every living thing that moves upon the dry land and in the sea depths. When I open my eyes there is light: when I close them there is thick darkness. My secret name is known not unto the gods. I am Khepera at dawn, Ra at high noon, and Tum at eventide."
So spake the divine father; but mighty and magical as were his words they brought him no relief. The poison still burned in his flesh and his body trembled. He seemed ready to die.
Isis, the enchantress, heard him, but there was no sorrow in her heart. She desired, above all other things, to share the power of Ra, and she must needs have revealed unto her his sacred name which Nu conceived and uttered at the beginning. So she spake to Ra, saying: "Divine father, thou hast not yet spoken thy name of power. If thou shalt reveal it unto me I will have strength to give thee healing."
Hotter than fire burned the venom in the heart of Ra. Like raging flames it consumed his flesh, and he suffered fierce agony. Isis waited, and at length the Great Father spake in majesty and said; "It is my will that Isis be given my secret name, and that it leave my heart and enter hers." When he had spoken thus, Ra vanished from before the eyes of the gods.
The sun boat was empty, and there was thick darkness. Isis waited, and when the secret name of the divine father was about to leave his heart and pass into her own, she spake unto Horus her son and said: "Now, compel the ruling god, by a mighty spell, to yield up also his eyes, which are the sun and the moon."'
Isis then received in her heart the secret name of Ra, and the mighty enchantress said: "Depart, O venom, from Ra; come forth from his heart and from his flesh; flow out, shining from his mouth. . . . I have worked the spell. . . . Lo! I have overcome the serpent and caused the venom to be spilled upon the ground, because that the secret name of the divine father hath been given unto me. . . . Now let Ra live, for the venom hath perished."
So was the god made whole. The venom departed from his body and there was no longer pain in his heart or any sorrow.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Source: Egyptian Myth and Legend by Donald Mackenzie (1907). Weblink.
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
This work is licensed under a Creative
You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial
purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute
the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.