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Ancient Name Invoked to Avoid Dangerous Confusion

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, better known in the news as ISIS, has nothing to do with the beloved mother goddess of ancient Egypt, also known as Isis. But the Shrine of Isis located in University City, Philadelphia, isn’t taking any chances.

“There are people who know our Isis and there are people who don’t,” said Michaela Fox, 52, priestess and director of the Shrine of Isis. “We have quietly gone about worshipping Isis for years without any problems. But this is really the first real trouble we’ve had, and unfortunately, it’s too big to be ignored.”

While the militant ISIS stands for violence and philosophy that are very much in conflict with Western civilization, the goddess Isis was the loving and nurturing mother of life in the Nile valley. Many Pagan and Neo-Pagan groups have adopted Isis as a patroness, and the Shrine of Isis has been an example of this celebration and worship.

Isis, however, is the Greek version of Aset, the ancient Egyptian name for the same goddess. History reminds us of the age of the Ptolemies and the Hellenization of Egypt in the wake of Alexander the Great. For reference, Cleopatra was the last Ptolemy to reign over Egypt. In this time “Aset” evolved into “Isis”, the name that is most familiar to modern readers.

Fox and her group of over thirty dedicants elected to take back the original name of their patroness and rename their center the Shrine of Aset. “Isis, Aset, it is all one to us,” she said. “But if we can avoid potential problems by calling the nameless above us by one term instead of another, we shall do the wise thing.”

Some in the Pagan community have criticized Fox for what they see as bowing under the pressure of the media, and Fox has firmly rejected their arguments. “Let them find themselves in our predicament and see what they choose to do. What matters is the ongoing spiritual well-being of the Shrine’s members, not the name by which we invoke divinity.”

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