(Special Post Isis 1) Why the Color of Isis Matters by Mago Circle Members

[Editor’s note: The discussion took place in Mago Circle during the month of July, 2013. Our heartfelt thanks go to the members who participated in this discussion with openness and courage.]

Part 1 Is Isis White (European) or Black (African)? 

Harita Meenee

What could Isis have to do with the political situation in Egypt? Read on to find out!

1Isis, Egypt and the Revolution

For the past few years Egypt has felt like a second home to me. Some cherished friends and co-workers live there, to whom my thoughts often travel. Also, Isis, the Egyptian great goddess once worshiped all over the Mediterranean, has been an ever-present source of inspiration…

By: Harita Meenee, Author


Rick Williams Isis and that picture for me is kind of offensive in 2013. KMT [Kemet, Egypt] and AUSET [Isis] “worship” is an oxymoron.

Kahena Dorothea Can you explain, Rick Williams, how it is an oxymoron? I am curious.

Rick Williams First, Auset as a deity was not a singularly honored symbolic personage. KMT taught principles of BALANCE and UNIVERSAL COSMOLOGICAL TRUTH. There are NO images from the dawn of that age depicting her as EUROPEAN.

[Threads curtailed]

Helen Hwang I would strongly suggest that Rick and others who see Rick’s point educate us in Mago Circle. I know this is very difficult but we are here to learn and express differences from each other. We are all centers and please share your perspective and knowledge so that others can learn. I am doing that with patience and tolerance as well. Thank you all!

Rick Williams I try to be as honest and respectful when I can, Helen. I only personalize things when ONE person says something. Yet there are those who know that the people of that land now weren’t the same people who honored the deities of mythology and that image isn’t of Auset. When will folks stop promoting fictitious images and uneducated observations? I could have beat around the bush and politely asked about the statue, why that one isn’t truly the same of Auset’s time?

Helen Hwang Okay, conflicts and contradictions are everywhere. Nonetheless, we can’t be beat by those. We are exploring ways to be empowered by addressing our differences in Mago Circle. We trust that we have good intentions and yet we are not perfect. I do Mago Circle and Return to Mago because I believe there is a way for us to meet and talk with our differences, I can’t let that hope go! Thank us for talking to each other.

Naa Ayele Kumari I can see both points. Egypt has a long and ancient history… One filled with invaders.. wars.. people who stole the magic and manipulated it for their own purposes… Those invaders changed images to make them in their own reflections all the while slowly destroying the indigenous images of power and strength as well as the sacred tradition they were built on.. As a woman of African descent, it is sometimes difficult to see the Hellenistic images of our mother.. because her original images were

a woman of color. Racism… whether we chose to admit it or not has played an immense part in our oppression as a people and that includes the struggle for Egypt today. It is especially a sensitive issue because those images play a role in how people see and view black women… even today. The dark goddess is stereotyped as being a part of our shadow while the white goddess is caste as being all that is good in the world. What black women struggle to tell the world is that those projections are simply racist projections… and so we reject them.

Still, I recognize that people like to experience the divine in their own image and that our Mother has been taken around the world… and by extension absorbed many names and faces because after all, she is mother not to just Africans… but to the World.

Right now, we have dominant tradition of Islam… that at its roots has a feminine basis… (Islam came from the word Isis) all the while oppressing women by its dogma. The indigenous people of Egypt, the Badarians and Nubians… are oppressed by Arab invaders who have taken control, projected their own religions all the while wanting to destroy the remainder of the images of the ancients.

Injustice recognizes injustice… and all the ways that it shows up. At the root of Egypt…is Isis… called also Esi and Auset by the indigenous people. She has been oppressed by many layers of invaders… Her daughter’s voices have been muted… Timeless icon that she is, as the tides are turning, so are the heavy oppressions being lifted. Women are finding and re-remembering their power… and as they do… Mama Esi.. is taking back her throne.

2Naa Ayele Kumari This is the Isis on the walls and temples of Egypt.

Harita Meenee Seeing the people of Egypt as all white or all Black means stereotyping them. In fact the inhabitants of Egypt are of different colors: some are white, others are Black and many others are something in-between. The same was true in antiquity and it’s reflected in Egyptian art.

Rick Williams Harita, really? What does that have to do with your choice of misrepresentation of that image? Please enlighten me, thank you.


Harita Meenee Τhere is no misrepresentation, dear Rick Williams. If you read my note carefully, you’ll see that it talks about Isis as a goddess who was worshiped all over the Mediterranean–I’m not referring to just her Egyptian manifestation. The statue depicted is in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece. I took this picture and processed it slightly so that it looks more like a painting than a sculpture. No change was made to the actual form or color of the statue.

I’m attaching a photo of the museum label of this work of art. It may not be clearly visible, but it reads: Marble statue of the goddess Isis-Tyche-Pelagia. 1st-2nd century AD. The composite name means that, as was often the case in those days, Isis in this form was identified with the goddess Tyche (Lady Luck, the Roman Fortuna) and Aphrodite Pelagia (Aphrodite as a Sea Goddess and protectress of sailors).


Rick Williams The misrepresentation is, if you are referring to, read my second post, EUROPEAN image, and referring to an AFRICAN construct, in reference to an AFRICAN NATION. Read Ayele Kumara’s post, and this being 2013 that AD reference means nothing. You also reaffirmed my original ascertain of the arrogance.

Max Dashu The inhabitants of Egypt were never “white.” All those biblical illustrations and National Geographic illustrations showing them as euro-looking “brunettes” are a colossal misrepresentation, as a look at the Kemetic art easily demonstrates. The syncretism that Harita is talking about did take place in the period of Roman domination, and it did change the iconography of Auset – or Ese as scholars say her name was pronounced in the late period. From this, the Greeks spread the name Isis, adding their own feminine ending, there and to other names like Memphis. They shrank her horned solar crown and added sheafs of wheat to it, for example. The Romans europeanized her in their sculptures as well, knowing very well that she was Auset the Nubian. (The picture that Naa Ayele posted is queen Ahmose Nefertari in the regalia of the goddess, which Kemetic queens wore in ceremony.)

There is another angle, however; the spread of veneration of the Kemetic Goddess was a major, and arguably the first (documented) international religious movement; not only of “Isis” veneration in Greco-Roman world but more broadly across North Africa and southwest Asia (where Hathor iconography was extremely influential in the Canaanite and early Hebrew world).

Her image and symbols spread all the way over to Spain, long before the Roman empire, via the Phoenicians, and later deep into Iraq, even Iran. From this angle we can perceive the influence – and the prestige – of ancient Nile Valley traditions. The Roman state tried to suppress these increasingly popular movements (shrines to Isis appeared in Roman goddess temples, such as those of Fortuna at Pozzuoli and Diana at Ariccia. But they had to give up, just as the Catholic church later had to concede to the descendant tradition of reverence for the Black Madonna.

Rick Williams Max I agree with all your points, no problem, except that of AUSET picture, again not a problem, I am just dealing with the arrogance from this point on.

Max Dashu I do not think this point can be emphasized enough: “It is especially a sensitive issue because those images play a role in how people see and view black women… even today. The dark goddess is stereotyped as being a part of our shadow while the white goddess is caste as being all that is good in the world. What black women

struggle to tell the world is that those projections are simply racist projections… and so we reject them.” Dark goddess as terrifying, challenging, white goddess as benign; “black magic” as harmful; I see way, way too much of this going on out there. It doesn’t help when women respond with, The terrifying goddess is beneficial to us, when these racialized codes are so pervasive, and so harmful. They cause immense pain.

Jennifer Boychuk-Pinratana Love this discussion! Does this article carry any merit towards understanding the bigger picture?


The Original Black Cultures of Eastern Europe and Asia


Quote: This clay sculpture portrays the face of the earliest known modern Europe…See More

Annsih Serud It is really simple to understand Rick Williams and others expression. It would be like taking a picture of Michelle Obama and 2000 years from now painting her as a Caucasian. She would simply be mis-represented. I have learned if you argue for your limitations you surely get to keep them. The point is this group seems to be about scholarship. Therefore, it would be correct from today and from now own to show images of Auset/Isis as African. Forget others revised images. They are simply bogus and are subtle attempts at racism. We should simple show authentic African images when we speak or show Africans in Egypt (Kemet). That way, we are demonstrating truth and integrity. May I add when images of Africans are shown as ‘other’, it continues a practice of a ‘stolen legacy’.

(To be continued in Part 2)

4 thoughts on “(Special Post Isis 1) Why the Color of Isis Matters by Mago Circle Members”

  1. Great points! I have been watching the colorization of Egypt as a whole become more and more European in look. Even the National Geographic did an article on Kemet that depicted all of the images as white. There is an independent scholar in Dallas, TX named Ashra Kwesi who takes groups on tours to Egypt every year for the last 20 years or so and shows in his DVD footage how the iconography in the different small temples and churches (the oldest baptist church is supposed to be located in Africa) that depicts the trinity as mother, father and son are right now being replaced with white images and ones that are void of the Goddess mother. Things like maps with Egypt being shown separate from Africa and such are what I have witnessed in this movement to totally disassociate the Egyptian history from black peoples. You do not see the goddesses Diana, Athene, Hera and the like being changed into black goddesses. I agree with Naa Ayele in that Auset (Isis is someone else to me energetically, names carry energy) has traveled across cultures and worshiped by many but she was who she was. A BLACK Goddess. Max Dashu is one of the only scholars of matriarchal herstory that I known who tells the truth uncut. Also, with the rising of divine feminine consciousness there should be a correction of these lies taking place by women as opposed to a perpetuation of them. White women should be able to worship the black goddess as she is, in all her authenticity and greatness without needing to transform her into a white image in order to do so. What is this twisted longing to BE her but deny Auset her true name and image? I would not dare think to create a black version of Hera and then try and act as if this has always been. I remember that a white gentleman walked through our studio and viewed my husbands Egyptian art of the gods and goddesses. The man commented “they have such africoid features”, lol. My husband said “ah, ancient Egyptians are Africans”. As women we need to work together to restore Auset to her proper throne and lineage as a black goddess. I would do no less for my sisters of different nationalities and cultures around the globe. This is about us all, the living, breathing modern day goddesses and right now it looks like many white women are still wanting to maintain racism even in this.

    1. Thank you for responding to the post, Seshait! We need voices like yours yesterday! The post like this one also yesterday! There are still many difficulties for us to come to the table and sort out things before we start talking to each other. We each need to deal with different historical legacy that we belong to, one from the colonialist and the other the colonized etc. However, what is clear is that we have a vision that we are originally one! This is the space to acknowledge that before we start! Please join us in keeping that vision in Mago Circle, the facebook group, if you wish to continue:


  2. This is referencing an old book, but what are anyone’s views on Not Out of Africa by M Leftkowitz? I enjoyed the book immensely and it made me more aware of the debate about cultural diffusion of Greek culture and how surrounding nations contributed to Greece. However, I am under the impression that the predominance of religious Egyptian art depicts women of different ethnicities for symbolic religious purposes and is not representative of the actual ethnic make up of he empire at any given period and that this artistic pattern has a long history in the religion and culture of Ancient Egypt. That said, there sounds like there is more than a little tendency on the part of some of the commentators toward historical revisionism and that is a thorny issue for feminist scholars.

  3. Fascinating essay and so important for women to read because our power as women and goddess has been manipulated – dismissed in so many mindless ways.

    I am presently visiting Northern New Mexico where Guadalupe, an ancient Mexican earth goddess, also seen as the Catholic Virgin of Guadalupe is often depicted as being white instead of Indian/Mexican. This “whitening” of the goddess is clearly stripping her of her power as an ancient earth goddess and I am surprised and dismayed to see it happening here.

    Guadalupe rises out of these reptilian hills as light strikes the mountains burnishing them red and gold at first dawn… this figure is the Mother of All on this continent and we must not forget how ancient her roots are or that her beautiful Indian face is that of a woman of color.

    Curiously, in my dreams it is the death goddess that is showing her face when white is her color…

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