The goddess Isis: mother, magician, healer, wife

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The goddess Isis, along with Osiris, is probably one of the best known deities from ancient Egypt. The couple are synonymous with the seemingly mysterious, often-confusing religion. First attested in funerary texts from the pyramid of Unas (c. 2360 BC), Isis was the longest lived of the Egyptian pantheon. Her cult became dominant in the Greco-Roman period, with the goddess soaking up aspects of other goddesses including Hathor and Astarte until she became the ultimate, all-powerful deity. The last, and arguably most famous pharaoh, Cleopatra VII, often depicted herself as Isis.

Because her cult was adopted in Rome, it spread far outside of Egypt, sanctuaries being founded even as far north as London. Her temple at Philae was the last temple to close in Egypt in the 6th century AD after Christianity spread across the Roman Empire.

Sekhmet at the World Museum

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When you first come into the World Museum in Liverpool, you find yourself in a large, airy foyer with some of the museum’s biggest items on display. This includes an unnervingly large spider-crab shell and a pterodactyl suspended from the ceiling. Here, flanking the entry to the main staircase is a pair of gorgeous Sekhmet statues. Although I was already a little familiar with the ancient Egyptian lioness, I wanted to know more. Who was this enigmatic goddess, seemingly so serene and regal-looking? And what role did she play for the ancient Egyptians? Well, here’s the low-down …

Belzoni’s watercolours of Seti I’s tomb at the Bristol Museum

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Born in Padua, Italy, in 1778, Giovanni Battista Belzoni led a colourful life. He studied hydraulic engineering in Rome when he was young, but then moved to the Netherlands and worked as a barber. He subsequently joined a circus in England, performing as a strongman, where he’d carry up to 12 people at a time across the circus floor (he stood in at 6′ 7″; impressive, even by today’s standards). An obvious career path, wouldn’t you agree!

Who was Tetisheri?

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Many years ago, I picked up a copy of a game called ‘Pharaoh’. It was a PC game based on strategic city building that enjoyed a great surge of popularity in the late nineties and early noughties (and still has a few dedicated disciples to this day).

You were given a choice of ancient Egyptian names to use for your character; I immediately fell in love with the name Tetisheri and spent many happy hours playing the game using this name.

I then started using Tetisheri as a username for online forums, games and, more recently, social networking, making her my firmly established online identity. When I put together my website, there was no way I could leave her behind. I’d done a little research into the real Tetisheri in the past, but I’ve decided it’s time to really bring her back to life. So, here she is.

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