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Priestesses of Isis? ((I need all the info I can get!))
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kateko
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 7:14 am    Post subject: Priestesses of Isis? ((I need all the info I can get!)) Reply with quote

I am the High Priestess of Isis on an Ancient Egypt RP site, and I like to keep everything as authentic as possible at all times, using Egyptian when I can, keeping the food authentic, the clothes, the traditions, etc. I was wondering if anyone would have any extra information on the life of a Priestess of Isis in Ancient Egypt? Here are some specific things I'd like to know:

-Social Standing ((high priestess))
-Ceremonies
-Prayers
-Clothes ((what they wore during prayer, what they wore normally, etc.))
-Jobs/Other responsibilities

But quite frankly I'd like to hear anything you have to say about High Priestesses of Isis. Or Priestesses of Isis in general. Not only for roleplaying, 'cause I'm interested in these things out of RP as well. ^__^ Thank you!
~Kateko
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anneke
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm no expert on this, but from what I've read the temples were quite complex.
The priests and priestesses were responsible for keeping the grounds clean, "feeding" the gods and godesses, etc. There were rituals in the morning and evening involving song. That's why you hear of women being a songstress or chantress of a god(ess).
There were workshops associated with the temple. I'm not sure if they might produce certain products there? Maybe linnens etc?

I get the impression that the high priest and probably the high priestess had a partially administrative role. There were often estates associated with the temple that had to be managed. Besides that they were the only ones alowed in the inner sanctum I think.

One of the main centers of worship of Isis was located on the Island of Philae.
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Segereh
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But something I wondered about earlier on: this temple on Philae was quite the popular one during the Late Period and Ptolemaean times. Isis was one of the most important goddesses during the New Kingdom though - at least so it appears? You'd expect more temples.
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anneke
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's true.
Wasn't Osiris worshipped at Abydos? There might be a temple dedicated to Isis near by.
You do read about the high Priest of Osiris (sometimes called Wennefer). Some of the gods were worshipped as triads Ptah-Sekhmet-Nefertem, Amon-Mut- (can't remember the third).
Was Isis ever part of such a triad? Maybe Osiris-Isis-Horus?
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Merysatnetibas
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, lets see.
Yes Isis was part of a triad, you are correct, Isis, Horus, and Osiris, In fact you can get statues with the three of them.
Isis worship (Aset) survived from early egyptian history until well after the Romans controlled Egypt. Speaking purely Middle Kingdom Egypt, the Priestesses wore white linen or imported silk, spent most of their time in prayer or upkeep of the temple icluding administrative duties, and were involved in local politics as much as the men were. Women at that time had more power than at some points in human history. The high priestess may have even had control over the local governor completely.
When Isis entered Roman life, she was a godess of rich housewives with nothing to do, and these women also tried to be as involved in politics as possible, usually using their husbands.
Tring to pinpoint exactly how a priestess of Isis or Aset behaved or looked is impossible, each period and each city had a different way. Generalizations are all you have.
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Segereh
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Merysatnetibas wrote:
(...) and were involved in local politics as much as the men were. Women at that time had more power than at some points in human history. The high priestess may have even had control over the local governor completely. (...)

Tring to pinpoint exactly how a priestess of Isis or Aset behaved or looked is impossible, each period and each city had a different way. Generalizations are all you have.


I think it's quite a common fantasy image Ancient Egyptian women having the same positions as men. If you can give me as much names of female governors or influential high officials as I can give you male representatives, I'll gladly state you right though. Smile

Now here I go again... What cities were there where Isis was worshiped, had a temple, had priests? There's so little known about that little detail, but still "highpriestess of Isis" (and why not highpriest?) is such a commonly used phrase. How many actual "highpriestesses of Isis" do we know of? Feel free to give me names again, I'm forever curious. Smile
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anneke
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have never heard of a female high priest or first prophet (same thing) either. But that doesn't mean that some women did not play a large role.

The God's Wife of Amen is a very good example, so are the various superiors of the harem of Amen / Min / etc.
These women are clearly present, and I wonder if they played roles similar to the roles of the upper eschelon of the priesthood.
The "mother superiors" (for lack of better word Cool ) had an administrative role for as far as I can see.

And in the grand scheme of things I think the God's Wife of Amen, and even the superior of the harem of Amen probably held positions more important than some of the high priests of other deities.

From what I've seen the High Priest of Amen (and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th prohpet of Amen for that matter) were by far the most important. I'm not sure the HPs of say Osiris and Min played much of a role at all.

I agree that they did not get "equal time" with the men, but I do believe it is accurate to say that women in AE had way more rights than women in other (ancient) societies. They seem to have had more rights that even western women until the early part of the 20th century, and you could even argue that women's roles here didn't surpass those in AE until sometime in the 2nd half of the 20th century.
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Merysatnetibas
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The proof comes from Roman times, since Isis worship continued in Rome in the same manner that it existed in Egypt and we know that the _women_ who worshiped her then were involved in politics through their men if not directly, we can assume that priestesses did the same in egypt. I don't doubt that they managed things the same way, through a husband or such, like some women do now. We do know that women were allowed these roles, even if they were not prominate. If nothing else Nefertiti would be an example though a sketch one I know, she co-ruled. Women had the same power they do now, less than men but some nonetheless.

I'm sure that there were more famous men rulers and priests, but the female's existed and they had some political power. How else do you explain things like Hatshepsut. But no, I don't consider Cleopatra an example, she ruled because Ceasar wanted her to, and she wasn't Egyptian.

Barbra Lesco, Brown University, supports the idea of women playing a major role in politics and relgion in her "Women and Religion in Ancient Egypt" which you can read here : http://www.stoa.org/diotima/essays/
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anneke
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found this fresco from Pompeii

Quote:
The worship of Isis is depicted in this wall-painting from Herculaneum. The high priest stands at the entrance to the temple and looks down on the ceremony beneath him, which is supervised by priests with shaven heads.

One priest tends the sacred fire and another behind him leads the faithful (gathered in two ranks) in worship. In the foreground of the painting can be seen two ibises, sacred to Isis, and to the right is a flautist.

Much evidence of the worship of Isis has been found at both Pompeii and Herculaneum, demonstrating the popularity of this eastern cult during the first century AD. Indeed, the Temple of Isis at Pompeii was the only temple to have been completely restored (at private expense) after the earthquake that devastated the town in AD 62.


See http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/daily_life_gallery_04.shtml

for details.

There is no mention of any priestesses here. I did read about women serving as priestess of Isis though.
The only mention of a high-priestess of Isis is on modern day sites though.

Segereh is right about that.

The only mention of a High priestess I have found was an old Kingdom Queen who served as high priestess of Thoth. And some high priestess of Pakhet. (Also old Kingdom)
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Segereh
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 8:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

anneke wrote:
I have never heard of a female high priest or first prophet (same thing) either. But that doesn't mean that some women did not play a large role.


Now I knew I should've pointed that one out.
Blame being rushed to go to work. Cool

Didn't want to make this a women-not-important thesis.
Just wanted to point out that talking of high-priestesses without being able to actually give proof to the existence of at least some 5 of them, seems to me to be a little 'off'.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Segereh wrote:
....
Didn't want to make this a women-not-important thesis.
Just wanted to point out that talking of high-priestesses without being able to actually give proof to the existence of at least some 5 of them, seems to me to be a little 'off'.


Don't worry dear Very Happy I know you are not a member of that group.

It's interesting though. There are a handful of high-priestesses but they seem to be the exceptions. In Rome there seem to have been High Priestesses of other cults. If they were present, you would expect their mummies to surface at some point.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Merysatnetibas wrote:
The proof comes from Roman times, since Isis worship continued in Rome in the same manner that it existed in Egypt and we know that the _women_ who worshiped her then were involved in politics through their men if not directly, we can assume that priestesses did the same in egypt.


I easily trip over words, don't take it personally. Wink You're right on assuming this, but assumptions are never actual proof. There's a clear difference between Roman and Egyptian culture. I think the Isis-worship was partly as interesting as it seems to have been to Roman higher classes, because of the "exotic" connotation of Egyptian religion. This doesn't really imply an identical "take-over" of Egyptian cult by the Roman following of Isis.

Merysatnetibas wrote:
I'm sure that there were more famous men rulers and priests, but the female's existed and they had some political power. How else do you explain things like Hatshepsut. But no, I don't consider Cleopatra an example, she ruled because Ceasar wanted her to, and she wasn't Egyptian.


They were exceptions. Hatshepsut had a strong following, if it was not these people behind her being the ones completely assuring her power? This is as probable as Hatshepsut being an 'emancipated' princess. Simple question arising here is: if it was normal for a woman to achieve a high position like this, why did Hatsh pull off a travesty so often? Showing yourself as a guy almost constantly doesn't really supports the 'being female and is-my-nose-bleeding? having power' that much.

Now how come I almost never post here anymore but when I do, I'm so easily changing the subjects? Confused
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Kevin
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Segereh wrote:
Now how come I almost never post here anymore
Why not? Crying or Very sad
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anneke
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 1:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Segereh wrote:

Now how come I almost never post here anymore but when I do, I'm so easily changing the subjects? Confused


Rolling Eyes It's a gift.......
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anneke
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Segereh wrote:


Merysatnetibas wrote:
I'm sure that there were more famous men rulers and priests, but the female's existed and they had some political power. How else do you explain things like Hatshepsut. But no, I don't consider Cleopatra an example, she ruled because Ceasar wanted her to, and she wasn't Egyptian.


They were exceptions. Hatshepsut had a strong following, if it was not these people behind her being the ones completely assuring her power? This is as probable as Hatshepsut being an 'emancipated' princess. Simple question arising here is: if it was normal for a woman to achieve a high position like this, why did Hatsh pull off a travesty so often? Showing yourself as a guy almost constantly doesn't really supports the 'being female and is-my-nose-bleeding? having power' that much.


I wonder how much Hatshepsut had in common with Queen Elizabeth Tudor? Elizabeth R was Queen, but you can't argue that she came from a background of emancipation. She referred to her father often, and she was surrounded by powerful figures who maintained her power.

I have to say that the "cleopatra is not egyptian" line always amazes me. She was 10th generation egyptian. How long does a family need to be somewhere to be considered native I wonder? Very Happy
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