Goddess Isis as model for Virgin Mary

Nov 2016
479
Germany
#1
Good witnesses for the origin of Marian devotion from polytheistic cults are early Christian church fathers like Epiphanius and Anastasius, who opposed the Marian devotion, exactly because it had a pagan background, but without success, since the need among the people for a replacement for the forbidden mother goddesses (in Ephesus: Artemis) was too strong to be ignored by the clerical side. The Church Father Cyril of Alexandria succeeded in establishing the dogma of Mary's motherhood of God against all odds at the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE.

´Isis´ is the Grecized version of the original Egyptian name ´Aset´.

Here are some arguments for the isomorphism of Mary and Isis.

The cult of Mary first deleloped intensily in the Coptic community in Egypt, i.e. in the immediate sphere of the Egyptian Isis cult. The above mentioned influential Marian worshipper Cyril, who as Patriarch of Alexandria is said to have taken extremely brutal action against the Isis cult (with whom, however, he made use of some characteristics of Isis by transferring them to Mary, e.g. the title ´God Bearer´ = theotocos), can be attributed to the Coptic Church. The earliest prayer to the ´God Bearer´, written around 300 CE, is Coptic and reads (my translation of a German translation):

Under the protection of your multiple mercy we flee, Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions when we are in need, but deliver us from all dangers, you alone are blessed.

The first depictions of milk-giving Mary and Child (clearly based on Isis-Horus depictions) were of Coptic origin. The ´Ave Maria´ was probably created in Egypt, too.

The temple of Philae was consecrated to Mary in the 6th century. In Italy, temples of Isis, Juno, Minerva and Diana were also converted into churches of Mary. One of them is even called "Santa Maria sopra Minerva" (= above (the temple) of Minerva). The Cypriot temple of Aphrodite was converted into a Church of Mary, too, where Mary is still today (!) venerated under the name of Aphrodite, "Panhagia Aphroditessa". The celebration of the birth of Jesus takes place on the feast of Horus, son of Isis (winter solstice). Statues of Isis and Horus were reinterpreted as figures of Mary and Jesus. The Isis-Epitheta "Queen of Heaven", "Sweet Mother", "Mother of Sorrows", "Mother of God" and "God Bearer" passed to Mary, the latter two by decision of the Council of Ephesus in the year 431.

The aspect of royal motherhood is also common ground between Isis and Mary.

´Isis´ (actually ´Aset´) means ´throne´. In early depictions she wears a throne over her head. As the mother of Horus, with whom every pharaoh identified himself, she was automatically also the king's mother. Against this background, the sitting of the pharaoh on the throne was to be understood as sitting on the lap of his divine mother.

As far as Jesus is concerned, he is regarded in Christian thought as ´king of the world´. This is not only shown by its title ´Christ´=´the Anointed´, which is related to the anointing ritual of the Israelite kings via the Jewish Messiah concept, but also results from various titulations in places of the New Testament, e.g.:

(Luke 19:38)
38 "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

(1 Tim 6:15-16)
15 which God will bring about in His own time — He who is blessed and the only Sovereign One, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 He alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen Him, nor can anyone see Him. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

The transformation of the Isis cult into the cult of Mary can also be seen in the iconography of the two figures. The isomorphism of Isis and Mary results here above all from their maternal function in relation to the divine sons, to whom they give their breasts in many depictions. Decisive for isomorphism is not only the external action of the lactation, but also its religious meaning, which in the case of Mary equals Isis only in the Middle Ages.

As far as Isis is concerned, the process of suckling transfers the divine essence of the mother to the child, which corresponds to the ancient idea of the transmission of essence through the mother's milk (just as in ancient Egyptian thinking, the father transfers his essence to the son through the act of procreation). The pharaohs - who identified with Horus - were thought to be fed by goddesses in their childhood. Amenophis III (father of Akhenaten), for example, is depicted as suckled by four goddesses while his biological mother watches the scene. In the funerary temple of pharaoh Hatshepsut the goddess Hathor, religious-historically the predecessor of Isis, speaks (my translation of a German translation):

I am your mother (...) I nursed you so that you have the rights of Horus...

The same applies - albeit with a postponement of several centuries and with a shift from the Jesus child to Catholic mystics - to Mary. In the decision of the Council of Ephesus 431 it is expressly emphasized that Mary is a "mother of God", but that the divinity of her son does not go back to the birth out of her body, but to the fatherhood of God. The only purpose of the mother's milk is to nourish the human body of Jesus. In doing so, they wanted to set themselves apart from the Egyptian concept, which traces the divinity of Horus back to the divinity of mother Isis.

However, some ancient authors, including the author or authors of the First Peter Letter, express, even if independent of the figure of Mary, the idea of the mediation of the divine through mother's milk, as in the following passage, whereby the concept of the divine Isis-Milk must have been the inspiration:

(1 Pet 2:1-3)
1 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. 2 Like newborn infants, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.

In the Middle Ages, which brought the cult of Mary to its climax, the isomorphism of Isis was completed by the now heavenly function of the breast of Mary. The mystic Bernhard de Clairvaux, for example, felt himself lifted into the divine by sucking on Mary's breasts. The erotic connotation is very clear in this and other visions of the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages (see also Teresa de Avila). Mechthild of Magdeburg (1212-1294) says very casually (my translation from German):

Heyday, after this we will see in unspeakable
Lust and recognize the milk and the breasts,
which Jesus had kissed so often.
 
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Feb 2012
3,888
Portugal
#2
The Virgin title resembles that of the Virgin Athena. The way she is addressed and depicted Mary seems to have adopted many titles and attributes from other godesses of the time.
The same thing could be said about Jesus who seems to have the attributes of several deities and in particular of philosophers.
Great info and thanks for sharing, by the way.
 
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Feb 2012
3,888
Portugal
#3
In the decision of the Council of Ephesus 431 it is expressly emphasized that Mary is a "mother of God", but that the divinity of her son does not go back to the birth out of her body, but to the fatherhood of God.

This reminds me of a passage from Plutarch's Isis and Osiris (I imagine this might be a Platonic reinterpretation):
It is not, therefore, out of keeping that they have a legend that the soul of Osiris is everlasting and imperishable, but that his body Typhon oftentimes dismembers and causes to disappear, and that Isis wanders hither and yon in her search for it, and fits it together again1; for that which really is and is perceptible and good is superior to destruction and change. The images from it with which the sensible and corporeal is impressed, and the relations, forms, and likenesses which this takes upon itself, like impressions of seals in wax, are not permanently lasting, but disorder and disturbance overtakes them, being driven hither from the upper reaches, and fighting against Horus,2 whom Isis brings forth, beholden of all, as the image of the perceptible world. Therefore it is said that he is brought to trial by Typhon on the charge of illegitimacy, as not being pure nor uncontaminated like his father, reason unalloyed and unaffected of itself, but contaminated in his substance because of the corporeal element. He
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:2008.01.0239:section=54
 
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Jul 2017
842
Crete
#4
The epithet, 'Mary' means War-like, in fact the Latin word Maria is an effeminate
form of Marius or Mars and the Punic Hebrew word means 'Rebellious, or bitter/sour'.

The nurses of Dionysus, Maenad are described as warlike virgins (parthenoi).

In ceramic art, the frolicking of Maenads and Dionysus is often a theme depicted on kraters, used to mix water and wine.
The word 'kraters' is the suffix of the word "Pantocrator" and the name Mary can mean 'Sour/bitter' (πικρός)
describing wine. ( Deu 32:32, Isa 24:9)

The mother of Osiris , NUT in the Book of the Dead described as a Sycamore Tree , the sacred tree of Dionysus, so the Egyptian equivalent of Mary is Nut, so perhaps there is a connection between Maenad and Nut ( Nunut, Nenet, Naunet, Nuit).
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
12,781
#5
Is not "miraculous" birth a recurring theme in multiple mythologies (including greek, roman, egyptian and others) ?

Was not Mary initially a secondary character in the gospels ? and only later she became more important (probably to try and attract women to christianity and give them a "role model") ?
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#6
Is not "miraculous" birth a recurring theme in multiple mythologies (including greek, roman, egyptian and others) ?

Was not Mary initially a secondary character in the gospels ? and only later she became more important (probably to try and attract women to christianity and give them a "role model") ?
It depends what you mean by miraculous birth. They are not all the same. The birth of Horus, for example, there was nothing miraculous about it, he was conceived by the normal process, sex (even though his dad may have been dead), and born through the normal process.

Buddha was conceived by normal process, sex, although his birth itself was rather miraculous, which is tne opposite of Jesus . Jesus conception was a miracle, but the birth itself was natural, no similarity there. In fact, all the miraculous births that have been compared to Jesus really aren't the same, since they were all conceived by some form of sex, quite different from Jesus, who was not conceived by sex. technically, Jesus birth was not a miracle, his conception was. Jesus birth itself was normal. (Except for the singing angels, but they were not at the birth itself, nor were the wise men, the came after the birth, not during it.)

But you are right, Mary originally just the mother lf Jesus, a godly woman, but otnerwise not special. Her role did increase and became popular in medieval times probably because she was a feminine element to balance the masculine Jesus, and God "the Father". Medieval Christianity, with its numerous saints, was theoretically a monotheist religion, but the difference between praying to a saint and venerating them and praying to a god and worshiping them seems rather slight, at least to the minds of later Protestants.
 
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Nov 2016
479
Germany
#7
Is not "miraculous" birth a recurring theme in multiple mythologies (including greek, roman, egyptian and others) ?
Such births are an echo (a survival in the sense of Tylor/Frazer) of the (most probable) pre-Neolithic belief in human procreation without male participation.

The mother cult is the oldest religious cult (incl. vulva cult) at all, provable since at least 30,000 years, while fertility cults around male gods (first bulls and - more rarely - rams) incl. phallus cult are provable only since approx. 10,000 years.

The worldwide occurrence of goddesses bearing parthenogenetically or monogenetically (i.e. without paternity) in mythologies can only be explained by an exclusively female gender of the first deities occurring in the history of religion. In the polytheistic systems dominated by male deities, such goddesses are relics from a phase when the biological procreation of descendants was not yet recognized as cooperation of both sexes. This phase lasted most probably until the introduction of cattle breeding in the early Neolithic period. Until then, only the female sex was regarded as a source of new life - and thus as an object of religious worship - due to the obvious fact of its ability to bear children.

As to parthenogenetic motherhood in historical times, Hesiod´s ´Theogony´, for example, provides evidence for such births by referring to the parthenogenetic capacities of oracle goddesses. Gaia is described as a primordial goddess who gives birth to her children without male producers. Parthenogenesis is an attribute that points to the pre-patriarchal origin of a goddess, since the idea that a goddess could give birth without male fertilizers could not possibly have arisen in times of patriarchy (with its emphasis on male fertility). It is no different with Nyx, the sister of Gaia: Nyx gives birth to her children which she procreates without male participation: Moros, Eris, Thanatos, Oizys, Moirai, Keres, Philotas, Geris, Apate, Nemesis and the Hesperides. Hera, in the Theogony a sister of Gaia, gives birth parthenogenetically to Ares, Hephaistos and Typhon. Eris, one of the parthenogenetically born children of Nyx, also gives birth to the belligerent Neikea (12 in number) without male contribution.

Nut and Hathor, the oldest Egyptian goddesses, are also described as parthenogenetically bearing. The bizarre myth about Kamutef (= bull of his mother), an epithet of the self-procreating sun god Re, forms a transition to bilinear procreation: Re is born by his mother Nut because he had previously impregnated her. This is similar to Schrödinger's cat: Nut gives birth half parthenogenetically and half fertilized by a male (her son).

However, as an alternative to ´virgin = sexually untouched´ this term can in ancient thinking also mean ´sexually unattached´, i.e. unmarried. This can be seen in Latin in the differentiation between ´virgo = young woman = unmarried woman´ and ´virgo intacta = untouched woman´. Translating ´virgo´ as ´untouched woman´ is merely a later modification.

´Virginity´ in the sense of sexual freedom is a characteristic of those goddesses who are attributed with virginity without explicit emphasis on untouchedness. Unlike Aphrodite, the Persian goddess Anahita, for example, does not belong to this group, since her ´untouchedness´ is fixed by a multitude of attributes. Anahita´s ´pure´ mothership of Mithra thus is explainable as ´survival´ (in the Tylor/Frazer sense) of the parthenogenetic birthing mode of early historical mother goddesses.

Was not Mary initially a secondary character in the gospels ? and only later she became more important (probably to try and attract women to christianity and give them a "role model") ?
I referred to that in my thread opener:

(...) the need among the people for a replacement for the forbidden mother goddesses (in Ephesus: Artemis) was too strong to be ignored by the clerical side. The Church Father Cyril of Alexandria succeeded in establishing the dogma of Mary's motherhood of God against all odds at the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE.
 
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Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#8
Such births are an echo (a survival in the sense of Tylor/Frazer) of the (most probable) pre-Neolithic belief in human procreation without male participation. 
Actually, not true. As I pointed out, all the so called miracle births still involve males and sex. The only one that does not invovle sex was Jesus birth. You claim is contradicted by the facts.

Jesus miraculous conceptipn was inspired not by any non existent hold over of idea of a nonexistent pre-Neolithic belief, but for theological reaosns. Mark, John, and Paul show no awareness of any miraculous conception of Jesus, far from it. But as ideas about Jesus evovled, the idea of Jesus being sired by an earthly fathered seem inadequate. Pernaps a misreading of the Greek text, where it more definition seems to imply that a virgin, not just a young woman, would conceive in Isaiah, caused them to them to proclaim Jesus virgin conception as a way to show how Jesus fullfilled ancient prophecy.


The mother cult is the oldest religious cult (incl. vulva cult) at all, provable since at least 30,000 years, while fertility cults around male gods (first bulls and - more rarely - rams) incl. phallus cult are provable only since approx. 10,000 years.

The worldwide occurrence of goddesses bearing parthenogenetically or monogenetically (i.e. without paternity) in mythologies can only be explained by an exclusively female gender of the first deities occurring in the history of religion. In the polytheistic systems dominated by male deities, such goddesses are relics from a phase when the biological procreation of descendants was not yet recognized as cooperation of both sexes. This phase lasted most probably until the introduction of cattle breeding in the early Neolithic period. Until then, only the female sex was regarded as a source of new life - and thus as an object of religious worship - due to the obvious fact of its ability to bear children. 
All of that is theory and someone's opinion, not fact. It is someoe's opinion, not a proven fact, that the stone age images we find are proof of a mother cult. the claim thqt female goddesses are a holdover from an earlier time is just someone's opinion.

Historians used to claim that medieval Europeans thought the world was flat, which was so totally untrue that only utter laziness of historians in not examining primary sources could account for tnem accepting the idea. The Mother cult idea, while very possibly correct, is still only a guess. We can't ask these people what they thought, nor did the leave any writing behind to explain their beliefs.


As to parthenogenetic motherhood in historical times, Hesiod´s ´Theogony´, for example, provides evidence for such births by referring to the parthenogenetic capacities of oracle goddesses. Gaia is described as a primordial goddess who gives birth to her children without male producers. Parthenogenesis is an attribute that points to the pre-patriarchal origin of a goddess, since the idea that a goddess could give birth without male fertilizers could not possibly have arisen in times of patriarchy (with its emphasis on male fertility). It is no different with Nyx, the sister of Gaia: Nyx gives birth to her children which she procreates without male participation: Moros, Eris, Thanatos, Oizys, Moirai, Keres, Philotas, Geris, Apate, Nemesis and the Hesperides. Hera, in the Theogony a sister of Gaia, gives birth parthenogenetically to Ares, Hephaistos and Typhon. Eris, one of the parthenogenetically born children of Nyx, also gives birth to the belligerent Neikea (12 in number) without male contribution. 

Not true. Gaia gave birth to her children with the help of the sky god, Chronos and later Uranus . Eris is said to be the child of Zeus and Hera

In the case of Nyx, some of her children it does say she gave birtn to without laying witn anyone, But with names like Night and Death, Nyx is tne peronification of concepts rather actual beings.

Nut and Hathor, the oldest Egyptian goddesses, are also described as parthenogenetically bearing. The bizarre myth about Kamutef (= bull of his mother), an epithet of the self-procreating sun god Re, forms a transition to bilinear procreation: Re is born by his mother Nut because he had previously impregnated her. This is similar to Schrödinger's cat: Nut gives birth half parthenogenetically and half fertilized by a male (her son). 
Ra may be a time travler, but the fact is Nut gave birth to Ra because she was impregnated by Ra, so it wasn't a virgin birth. No different than if you went back in time to impregnate your own mother, that isn't a virgin birth. Heinlein, tne science fiction writer, wrote a short story about a man being his own mother and father (time travel was involved). That is nothing like the virgin conception of Jesus.

´Virginity´ in the sense of sexual freedom is a characteristic of those goddesses who are attributed with virginity without explicit emphasis on untouchedness. Unlike Aphrodite, the Persian goddess Anahita, for example, does not belong to this group, since her ´untouchedness´ is fixed by a multitude of attributes. Anahita´s ´pure´ mothership of Mithra thus is explainable as ´survival´ (in the Tylor/Frazer sense) of the parthenogenetic birthing mode of early historical mother goddesses. 
Virginity means not having sex, not sexual freedom. You don't get to redefine terms because the facts don't fit your theories. Resorting to sucn methods shows you are wrong.
 
Jun 2012
7,067
Malaysia
#9
All of that is theory and someone's opinion, not fact. It is someoe's opinion, not a proven fact, that the stone age images we find are proof of a mother cult. the claim thqt female goddesses are a holdover from an earlier time is just someone's opinion.
Why not. Every kid wud know in due course that he came from his mother. So, wud not be that difficult to persuade someone that his entire tribe originated from a certain common mother, and in turn the whole world as perceivable to him from an even greater celestial or divine 'mother'.

Historians used to claim that medieval Europeans thought the world was flat, which was so totally untrue that only utter laziness of historians in not examining primary sources could account for tnem accepting the idea.
My grandfathers & grandmothers believed that the earth is flat. Quite likely also my own mother. Big deal.
 
Jul 2017
842
Crete
#10
The original Gospel, Mark didn't even include a birth-story, so the forgers of Luke and Matthew created one and they corrupted Isaiah 7:14 and 9:16, that are written in Past-tense based on the Orphic myths of Dionysus.

Baby Dionysus in his manger


The word Manger (φάτνην ) appear in Isaiah 1:3.
- ὄνος (Donkey) τὴν φάτνην (Manger)


The Hebrew word for Donkey, חמור (HMUR) from חמר (HMR) means Red Wine (Isa 27:2) and the cognate is ἡμερίς (HMERIS) "the cultivated vine".
Greek Word Study Tool



οἶνος - Wine
ὄνος - Donkey

Justin the Martyr, in his First Apology, states that the cult of Dionysus was mimicking the cult of Christ, through its use of wine, donkeys, death and resurrection

* Justin Martyr never existed and all his works are 3rd-4th century forgeries.
 
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