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see ThamesThames
, Rom. Tamesis, principal river of England, c.210 mi (340 km) long. It rises in four headstreams (the Thames or Isis, Churn, Coln, and Leach) in the Cotswold Hills, E Gloucestershire, and flows generally eastward across S England and through London to the North Sea
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, river, England.


Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: see Islamic StateIslamic State
(IS), Sunni Islamic militant group committed to the establishment of an Islamic caliphate that would unite Muslims in a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
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(ī`sĭs), nature goddess whose worship, originating in ancient Egypt, gradually extended throughout the lands of the Mediterranean world during the Hellenistic period and became one of the chief religions of the Roman Empire. The worship of Isis, combined with that of her brother and husband OsirisOsiris
, in Egyptian religion, legendary ruler of predynastic Egypt and god of the underworld. He was the son of the sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb. The great benefactor of mankind, Osiris brought to the people knowledge of agriculture and civilization.
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 and their son HorusHorus
, in Egyptian religion, sky god, god of light and goodness. One of the most important of the Egyptian deities, Horus was the son of Osiris and Isis. In a famous myth he avenged the murder of his father by defeating Set, the god of evil and darkness.
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, was enormously resistant to the influence of early Christian teachings, and her mysteries, celebrating the death and resurrection of Osiris, were performed as late as the 6th cent. A.D. The functions of many goddesses were attributed to her, so that eventually she became the prototype of the beneficent mother goddess, the bringer of fertility and consolation to all. She was the daughter of the sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb. Her symbol was a throne and later the cow, and she was frequently represented with a cow's head or cow's horns. During the Hellenistic period, her image outside Egypt became increasingly Hellenic, with ideal features and locks framing her face. Isis was also a goddess of magic, and legends tell of her ability to counteract evil by casting spells.


See R. E. Witt, Isis in the Greco-Roman World (1981).

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Egyptian goddesses Isis and Nepthys, attendant on Osiris, King of the Dead. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The great goddess of ancient Egypt whose worship came to spread across many lands and continues even today. Her name was originally Au Set (Auzit, Eset), meaning "Exceeding Queen," but the Greeks altered the pronunciation to Isis. The Greeks called her myrionymos—"the one with ten thousand names"—and identified her with their own goddesses. As goddess of love, she was Aphrodite; as goddess of magical arts, she was Hecate; as the wife of the king of the gods, she was Hera; as the provider of corn, she was Demeter, and so on. A Roman inscription read, "Thou, the one who is all, goddess Isis."

Isis was the daughter of Geb (the Earth) and Nut (the Sky) and sister to Osiris, Set, and Nephthys. She obtained immortality by tricking Ra, the Sun God. When Ra was an old man, Isis fashioned a snake from earth that Ra had spat upon. She placed it in his path so that it bit him, then offered to save him with her magical arts, but only if he told her his true name (see Names of Power). When he finally did so, she became immortal by virtue of knowing that name.

Although she was Osiris's brother, Isis became his wife. Their evil brother Set, jealous of Osiris, killed him. (There are various, conflicting accounts of how this was done. One text from c. 2400 BCE says that Set "laid him low in Nedjet," while another text of the same period says that Osiris was drowned in the Nile by Set. There are also stories of him being encased in an elaborate chest made by Set and then tossed into the river.) Osiris's body ended up encased in a tree, which was subsequently cut down to build a column to hold up the front of the palace of the king of Byblos. After much searching, Isis learned of the whereabouts of Osiris's body and, by revealing herself, obtained it and took it back to Egypt. However, Set soon discovered that the body was back in Egypt and he attacked it, cutting Osiris's body into fourteen pieces and scattering them throughout the land.

Once again Isis searched for Osiris, and eventually she found all parts of his body except his penis, which had been eaten by fish. She fashioned a gold penis to replace it, consecrated it, and gave life back to Osiris. He proceeded to impregnate her and she gave birth to Horus. Osiris then went to rule the underworld, emerging only to train Horus to fight Set and punish him. Horus defeated Set and delivered him, in chains, to Isis. But she released him.

Isis has been worshiped all over the world for 6,000 years, in her many forms. Her sacred animal is the cow, for she gives life and prosperity. The consecration rituals of the Mysteries of Isis are described in detail in Lucius Apuleius's Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass (c. 100 CE). The initiation into these mysteries was similar, in many ways, to the initiation into Witchcraft as it is performed today. The Isis Mysteries first occurred in the Roman Empire, during the Imperial period. R. Merkelbach says that great pilgrimages were undertaken in the service of Isis and that a whole cycle of festivals was established in her name. During the period of the Roman Empire, the Mysteries of Isis were strongly influenced by the Greeks.

Isis is one of the names used today by a number of Wiccan covens and Pagan groups. In Ireland, in 1976, Olivia Durdin-Robertson, together with her brother Lawrence and his wife Pamela, founded the Fellowship of Isis, headquartered at their home in Clonegal Castle. Today the fellowship has a worldwide membership of more than 12,000 people.

Merkelbach, R.: Man, Myth and Magic. BPC Publishing, 1970. Monaghan, Patricia: The Book of Goddesses and Heroines. E.P. Dutton, 1981. Regula, deTraci: The Mysteries of Isis. Llewellyn, 1995.

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A detail of Isis on a giant statue of Ramses II in the temple at Luxor, Egypt. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Isis, asteroid 42 (the 42nd asteroid to be discovered, on May 23, 1856), is approximately 94 kilometers in diameter and has an orbital period of 3.8 years. It was named after a major Egyptian goddess. Initially a divinity of fertility, in later mystery religions Isis became a goddess of wisdom. Her chief myth concerns the dismemberment of her husband Osiris, whom she reconstructed. According to Martha Lang-Wescott, Isis may represent sibling relationships, efforts to get or put things or people “together,” fragmentation or scattered locations. This asteroid’s key word is “collate.” According to J. Lee Lehman, Isis, as well as the asteroid Osiris, indicates “something about the masculine-feminine or left-brain-right-brain balance of a person.” For people in whose charts either of these asteroids is prominent, androgyny will be an issue. Jacob Schwartz gives Isis’s influence as “fragmentation vs. wholeness; sibling issues.”


Lang-Wescott, Martha. Asteroids-Mechanics: Ephemerides II. Conway, MA: Treehouse Mountain, 1990.
Lang-Wescott. Mechanics of the Future: Asteroids. Rev. ed. Conway, MA: Treehouse Mountain, 1991.
Lehman, J. Lee. The Ultimate Asteroid Book. West Chester, PA: Whitford Press, 1988.
Schwartz, Jacob. Asteroid Name Encyclopedia. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1995.



in ancient Egyptian mythology, one of the most revered goddesses. Her cult became widespread outside Egypt as well (in Asia Minor, Syria, Greece, Italy, Gaul, and elsewhere). The wife and sister of Osiris and the mother of Horus, Isis was considered the personification of conjugal fidelity and motherhood. She was also revered as the goddess of fertility, water and wind, and magic and was considered to be the protectress of the dead and, later, the goddess of navigation. She was depicted as a woman with the head or horns of a cow. The preserved representations of Isis, with the infant Horus in her arms, influenced the iconography of the Virgin Mary.


the local name for the River Thames at Oxford


an ancient Egyptian fertility goddess, depicted as a woman with a cow's horns, between which was the disc of the sun; wife and sister of Osiris


A toolkit for implementing fault-tolerant distributed systems, developed at Cornell and now available commercially


A dialect of JOSS.

[Sammet 1969, p. 217].