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The divinity most extensively worshipped, with her brother and husband Osiris, by the Egyptians, among whom she represented the feminine, receptive, and producing principle in nature. As the goddess of procreation and birth her symbol was the cow. On monuments she is mostly represented as of youthful appearance with a cow's horns on her head, between the horns the orb of the moon, and with a sceptre of flowers and the emblem of life in her hands (fig. 1). Her greatest temple stood at Busiris (i.e. Pe-Osiri, or Abode of Osiris) in the midst of the Delta of the Nile, where, amidst the fruitful fields, the inhabitants worshipped the mightiest god and goddess with ceremonies which typified the search and discovery of Osiris by his mourning wife after his murder by Typhon. Like Osiris she was a divinity who ruled over the world below. In the course of the fusion of religions which took place under the Ptolemies, Isis and Osiris were confounded with all manner of Asiatic and Greek gods. In process of time she became in her power the most universal of all goddesses, ruling in heaven, on earth, and on the sea, and in the world below, decreeing life and death, deciding the fate of men, and dispensing rewards and punishments. Her worship spread over Greece, and after the second Punic War obtained a firm footing in Rome in spite of repeated interference by the State. In the days of the Empire it obtained recognition by the State and established itself in all parts of the Roman dominions. The attractiveness of the service of Isis lay in the religious satisfaction which it was calculated to insure. Through abstinence from food and from sensual pleasures, and through expiations and purifications, it promised to lead its votaries to sanctification of life and to a true perception of the life divine. The ritual consisted in part of a morning and evening service to the god, partly in annual festivals celebrated in spring at the return of the season for navigation, and also in the late autumn before the advent of winter. At the former festival, held on the 5th of March, and called the ship of Isis (Isidis navigium), in recognition of her being the patroness of navigation, and inventress of the sail, the people in general, with the devotees and priests of Isis, went in solemn procession down to the seashore, where a sailing vessel painted in the Egyptian manner and laden with spices, was committed to the sea. [Apuleius, Met. xi 8-17P esp. 11; Firmicus Maternus, De Err. Prof. Relig. 2.] The other feast was emblematic of the grief of Isis at her loss and her joy at finding again her husband Osiris and her son Horus. Besides these popular feasts there were also certain special mysteries of Isis, which in all their essentials were borrowed from the Eleusinian mysteries of Demeter. In these, all who were called thereto by the goddess in a dream were admitted to the select circle of the worshippers of Isis. These devotees, like the priests, were recognised by their linen robes and their shaven heads, and had to devote themselves to an ascetic life. Oracular responses received in dreams were as much associated with the temples of Isis as with those of Serapis (q.v.). In Greek art the goddess is represented as similar to Hera. Her attributes are a serpent, a cornucopia, ears of corn, lotus, moon and horns, as well as the sistrum, a metal rattle, specially employed in her service (fig. 2).

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