Mother’s Day, an ancient Egyptian tradition
Goddess Isis and her son Horus, photo courtesy of Torbakhopper via Flickr

CAIRO: Saturday is Mother’s Day in Egypt and most Arab countries, but the tradition of this holiday has roots in Pharaonic times.

“Cultures around the world celebrated the mother goddess as the representative of nurturing and the giver of life; the goddess Isis was considered the patron saint of women and children throughout the ancient Egyptian history,” archaeologist Sherif el-Sabban told The Cairo Post Friday.

The earliest known celebration of mothers and Goddess Isis in ancient Egypt dates back to the third Dynasty (2650B.C.-2575B.C.) “The Egyptians celebrated their goddess Isis, who was regarded as the Mother of the Pharaohs, each year with a special holiday,” according to Sabban.

Most of the dancers, musicians and singers during the festival were female. The festival was celebrated in different times and venues every tear, said Sabban, adding that the festival is related to an ancient Egyptian myth from which Isis earned her stature as the Mother of the Pharaohs.

“The legend of Isis and Osiris has survived the centuries and even crossed into other cultures,” former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Abdel Halim Nour el-Din told The Cairo Post Saturday.

According to ancient Egyptian mythology, “Osiris, God of the afterlife, was murdered by his brother Seth, who was the God of disorder and chaos. Seth shut Osiris in a sarcophagus and threw it in the Nile River before the body was discovered by Seth’s sister and Osiris’s wife, Isis, the Egyptian goddess of magic and motherhood,” Nour el-Din said.

As the story goes, “when Seth knew that Isis saved her husband God Osiris, he decided to kill him, cut his body into 14 pieces and scattered them in different areas in Egypt,” said Nour el-Din adding that Isis re-assembled Osiris’ body and used it to impregnate herself.

“She then gave birth to Horus, whom she hid among the marshes of the delta in order not to be slaughtered by Seth. Horus grew up and defeated Seth, and then became the first ruler of a unified Egypt.”

Scenes at the temples built during the New Kingdom period show the falcon-headed deity Horus, a representation of the Pharaoh, seated over her lab and being breastfed by the Mother Goddess, said Nour el-Din.

“It is interesting to mention that the scenes of Isis and Horus, in which she cradles and suckles her son, are strikingly similar to that of the Virgin Mary and Jesus,” he added.


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