• James George Frazer


The original meaning of the goddess Isis is still more difficult to determine than that of her brother and husband Osiris. Her attributes and epithets were so numerous that in the hieroglyphics she is called ‘the many-named,’ ‘the thousand-named, ’ and in Greek inscriptions ‘the myriad-named.’ Yet in her complex nature it is perhaps possible to detect the original nucleus round which by a slow process of accretion the other elements gathered. For if her brother and husband Osiris was in one of his aspects the corn-god, as we have seen reason to believe, she must surely have been the corn-goddess. There are at least some grounds for thinking so. For if we may trust Diodorus Siculus, whose authority appears to have been the Egyptian historian Manetho, the discovery of wheat and barley was attributed to Isis, and at her festivals stalks of these grains were carried in procession to commemorate the boon she had conferred on men. A further detail is added by Augustine. He says that Isis made the discovery of barley at the moment when she was sacrificing to the common ancestors of her husband and herself, all of whom had been kings, and that she showed the newly discovered ears of barley to Osiris and his councillor Thoth or Mercury, as Roman writers called him.


Greek Inscription Original Meaning Traditional Faith Holy Water Roman Emperor 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • James George Frazer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Trinity CollegeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Universities of Paris and StrasbourgFrance

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