Unbowed, unbroken, Isis transforms pain into healing. For thousands of years, she has been known as the Healer of Hearts. Now, as we are collectively reeling from the traumas of the last few years, we need her gifts. Even if you have never worked with Isis as a goddess before, you can connect with her and seek her healing.
Isis herself has known sorrow. One of her stories tells us that she was a blissful young bride, married to a young and handsome king, Osiris, who loved her dearly. They ruled happily over a land at peace. She was expecting a child when suddenly her husband was gruesomely murdered by his brother who coveted his throne, and she fled the peaceful West that was all she had ever known in fear for her life and that of the child she carried. She descended from the timeless happiness of the gods to our flawed and dangerous world. Here she found refuge, not among the eternal and blessed, but among ordinary people. Here she bore her son and here she raised him, living as a mortal woman, until he was old enough to challenge his uncle and regain his father's immortal kingdom, reestablishing justice and balance. The world was healed, but it could not be put back the way it had been.
Isis was no longer a young bride. She was the mother of a grown man. She could not have her husband back as a living man. She could not once again be innocent and free of the memory of pain. She was changed. Just as she was changed by the tragedy that had occurred, she was also changed by experiencing life. She had cooked and worked and worried about her son and lived among people who knew disease and poverty and sorrow. She had not lived as an immortal goddess, but as a mortal woman. She had suffered herself—her husband's brutal murder, fleeing for her life, having a baby among strangers.
Isis could have become embittered. She could have been depressed, lost in eternal mourning for what she had lost. She could have become vengeful or even cruel, obsessed with hurting those who hurt her. She didn't. She transformed her tragedy and her pain into compassion. She cared about the people she met. She loved her son with a full heart. She reached out to the mortal humans who shared her life, meeting them with open hands and sharing in their joys as much as she shared in their sorrows. Thus, Isis offers a path to everyone for passing through trauma and grief to the other side.
Whether we have suffered significant personal losses in the last few years or not, we have all experienced collective losses as a society. We reel from the changes. We mourn for the things we used to do—places we used to live, people we knew, even restaurants we visited which are now closed forever. Maybe we've had to move and there are people and places we will never see again. Maybe we've lost friends or a career that we loved. Maybe we have had health setbacks of our own and we mourn for the things we used to be able to do. We have all suffered losses, large or small.
Like Isis, we can't turn back time. We can't put the world back the way it was in 2019. Like her, we can only move forward into the next season of our lives. She, the Healer of Hearts, can show us how to do this.
Isis imagined and embraced her new role. She was not going to be the bride, the young queen. In her son's kingdom, she was the king's mother, not his wife. Ancient carvings show us standing behind his throne, not seated next to him, while he relied on her for advice and wisdom. She whispers in his ear while he judges cases brought before him, urging mercy and providing the insights she has gained from a lifetime. The widow of a murdered man, she has been the victim of a terrible crime, and yet it is to her that criminals address petitions for clemency. She is even-handed. She seeks restitution, not retribution. Dead men can't be brought back to life, but families and communities need a way to move forward. Revenge doesn't help the victims. Isis seeks a way to restore, not to avenge. In doing so, she builds her own way forward rather than simply mourning her losses. Her new role is different but no less important or fulfilling.
People in the ancient world asked for her help as Healer of Hearts to help them live through losses and changes, and we can, too. One thing they did was write letters to Isis and leave them at her shrines. To write a letter to Isis you will need paper and a writing implement—if you want to use something special, either write on red paper or use red ink because red, the color of heart's blood, is one of Isis's colors. You may put on peaceful or evocative music while you write if you would like to. You may also light incense—lotus, rose, or kyphi are particularly appropriate. If you would like to light a candle, red ones are particularly appropriate for Isis. Find a time and place where you will not be interrupted for a few minutes. Then begin your letter.
Ancient letters often began with elaborate addresses, hailing Isis as the Mother of the World, as the Mistress of Magic, Healer of Hearts, or by any of her other long list of attributes. You may use them if you wish, or just start your letter, "Dear Isis." Write down what's in your heart. Tell her what you're grieving, what you miss and what you yearn to get back. You may make a list or just write it as it comes. They may be big and heartbreaking things, or small ones that seem petty compared to other people's problems but still hurt. She will not judge or compare you to other people. She will not think that your sorrows are unimportant. Remember, you are not asking for a specific outcome. You are not asking her to make something in particular happen, like get your old job back or bring back someone who has moved away. You are simply laying your sorrows on her so that her compassion may touch you. Take all the time you need to write your letter. Then sign it with your name, fold it and put it down. Say, "Isis, lighten my heart." You are not asking for your sorrows to go away, but for them to weigh less heavily upon you.
You can choose what to do next. You may put the letter on an altar for a while or keep it in a journal or treasure box. If you like, you can burn it. (Just do so safely outside or in a fireproof container.) Either way, Isis will know what it says. She will understand what you have put upon her.
Over the next days and weeks, try to step away from your sorrows, if only for a few minutes. Visualize putting down a burden, giving it into Isis's hands, and letting her hold it for a little while. It won't go away. But you can let the goddess carry it for you for a few minutes. These are the first steps to healing your heart.
If you would like to find out more about Isis, you can read more in my book, Seven Goddesses of the Hellenistic World: Ancient Worship for Modern Times. There are meditations, journaling exercises, and rituals in celebration of Isis, Tyche, Athena, Atargatis, Aphrodite, Epona, and Cybele, all of whom welcomed worshippers regardless of their backgrounds.
Jo Graham has practiced in Pagan and Hermetic traditions for more than thirty years, including leading an eclectic circle for nearly a decade. Dedicated in 1989, she took her mastery in 2004. She has studied the Classical ...