Pietà, A Historical Myth in the Beliefs of Humanity


Although the word Pietà (from Italy means compassion) essentially comes from Jesus & Mary Statue, we can find many of these kinds in our ancient history. Is it a coincidence (which I would never believe in that!) or a repeating idea?

Anyhow, we all have such nursing by our own mother and, with more luck, by Mother Nature, which is a precious goal.
Here is another worth reading article by Marie Grillot about this Goddess mother and her influential and legendary will to bring (tinker) her brother/husband scattered body into life again. And also a reportage on the find of this golden Pietà. 🙏💖

Isis Nursing Her Son Horus

via égyptophile

Statuette of Isis breastfeeding Horus – bronze and gold leaf – Late Period (664-332 BC)
Provenance: Saqqarah or Abusir – Egyptian Museum of Cairo – JE 91327 – photo of the museum

If its more distant origins remain obscure, the first mention relating to the goddess Isis – Aset – is found, in the 5th Dynasty, in the “Texts of the Pyramids”. Daughter of Geb and Nut, sister of Nephthys, and wife of her brother Osiris, the “role” in which she is perhaps the most represented are that of mother of Horus…

We will not recount the violent quarrels and intrigues that lead to her husband’s terrible assassination by her brother Seth… Dismembered and butchered, the grieving widow will never stop, with the precious help of her sister, recovering the 14 (16 or 42?) body parts…

Drying up her tears, courage, and will, will help her in this quest, which is long and arduous but ultimately fruitful. She will thus be able to reconstitute, by the practice of funeral rites and by the creation of mummification, the body of Osiris… To compensate for the absence of the sex of the deceased that a fish would have swallowed, she knew how to show an imagination “fertile”… “The goddess’ talents as a great magician and the many artifices of which she has the secret put to use again: she models a penis in the ground and replaces the missing phallus. She thus restores her virility to Osiris, hoping to conceive a child by him and give an heir to the throne of Egypt coveted by Seth” (Florence Quentin).

This posthumous union will be – one might say – “blessed by the gods”… Fertilized but still threatened, Isis will hide in the thickets of papyrus to experience her pregnancy there… In the “swamps of Chemnis”, it is there that she will be born this little Horus, eternal child of the Osirian myth…

Statuette of Isis breastfeeding Horus – bronze and gold leaf – Late Period (664-332 BC)
Provenance: Saqqarah or Abusir – Egyptian Museum in Cairo – JE 91327

Nourished from her breast – “by breastfeeding him Isis transmitted power to him” – he was loved and protected by this mother. The latter, aware of the threats hanging over him, applied herself not only to thwart the plots but also to make them stronger and to “legitimize” them…

“After that, she helped her son with her intelligence and magical power during his struggle to recover his inheritance and the lawsuit he had to bring against his uncle to succeed his father” (Isabelle Franco)…

Revered and adored as a nurturing, loving and protective mother, she enjoyed great popular piety. “It was during the Third Intermediate Period that Isis assumed this role of archetypal mother in this iconographic type and, during the 1st millennium, it was declined in countless statuettes”, specifies Laurent Coulomb. He further adds that this type of statuette “could be consecrated in a religious context but is also similar to the amulets with prophylactic virtues which accompanied the different stages of the life of the Egyptians, from birth to death and travel in the world. ‘beyond”…

This is how the Egyptian departments of museums hold – often in several copies – these figures of breastfeeding Isis – snuggling or nursing Isis – or Isis Lactans…

Statuette of Isis breastfeeding Horus – bronze and gold leaf – Late Period (664-332 BC) Provenance: Saqqara or Abusir – Egyptian Museum in Cairo – JE 91327

This representation is particularly touching and luminous in the Cairo Museum (JE 91327). It is 22 cm high, and the bronze in which it is fashioned is, for the image of the goddess (apart from her headdress) enhanced with gold leaf.

Isis is seated on a throne whose hieroglyphic sign is used to write her name… She wears a lovely three-part “raven black” wig with tubular locks covering her shoulders with the remains of a vulture; it is surmounted by a mortar ringed with uraei. In its centre are stuck cow horns in the shape of a lyre enclosing a golden solar disk. Compared to the precise work of the hairstyle, her face seems more summarily treated. The large, inlaid eyes are expressive; the nose is fine, the mouth discreet… Dressed in a long dress, which goes down to the ankles, her silhouette is graceful.

Her pose is classic. With her right hand, she holds her round breast, which she holds out to the child seated on her lap, whose head she supports with her left hand.

Statuette of Isis breastfeeding Horus – bronze and gold leaf – Late Period (664-332 BC)
Provenance: Saqqarah or Abusir – Egyptian Museum in Cairo – JE 91327

Little Horus, naked and sated, appear slender. His anatomy – which is no longer really that of an infant – is well rendered, particularly the well-marked chest and navel and a few folds on the abdomen… Confident, his eyes half-closed, he does not wear the wisp of childhood that usually makes him so easily identifiable. He is wearing a curious helmet adorned with a frontal uraeus that seems too big for him…

This “mother to child”, reproducing this gesture which comes from the depths of time and nourishes us all, is imbued with tenderness and love…

Dating from the late period, its provenance is summarily indicated: Saqqara or Abusir… The opportunity to recall that, far from the known sanctuaries dedicated to her such as Philae or far from the Greco-Roman Mammisi, Isis was also venerated in the sector of the pyramids… Thus Francesco Tiradritti recalls that: “In the district of the Pyramids, a tradition dating back to the first millennium before our era, identified the southernmost pyramid of the queens of Cheops as the burial place of the goddess Isis. Along its side eastern shrine, which remained active from the 21st Dynasty to the Ptolemaic Period, was built and dedicated to “Isis of the Pyramids. Minimal remains today of the small temple, except the chapel that the priests of the cult of Isis had built in honour of their goddess”.

Marie Grillot


statuette of seated Isis suckling Horus – Cairo Museum – JE 91327  https://www.egyptianmuseumcairo.com/egyptian-museum-cairo/artefacts/statuette-of-seated-isis-suckling-hours/

Samy Salah, The Illustrated Guide To The Egyptian Museum, National Geographic Guide https://archive.org/details/TheIllustratedGuideToTheEgyptianMuseumBySamySalah/page/n267/mode/2up

Florence Quentin, Isis the Eternal: Biography of a female myth, Albin Michel, 2010 https://www.google.fr/books/edition/Isis_l_Eternelle/zhRqal3W6yIC?hl=fr&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover

Isabelle Franco, Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology, Isabelle Franco, Tallandier, 2013

Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, Ancient Egypt and its gods, Fayard, 2007

Nadine Guilhou, Janice Peyré, Egyptian Mythology, Marabout, 2005

The twilight of the pharaohs – masterpieces of the last Egyptian dynasties, catalogue of the exhibition at the Jacquemart-André-Paris Museum, from March 23 to July 23, 2012

Isis, the Egyptian Goddess who Conquered Rome: Egyptian Museum of Cairo, November 29-December 31, 1998

Francesco Tiradritti https://www.academia.edu/719626/Isis_the_Egyptian_Goddess_who_Conquered_Rome_Egyptian_Museum_of_Cairo_November_29_December_31_1998

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