The Black Virgin
The Black Virgin is a concept of the Virgin Mary, but in a far more widespread sense of the Virgin than normally thought of. The Black Virgin is often those goddesses and people such as Aset (Auset, Isis), the Black Madonna, and many others coming out of cultures different than traditional Christianity. Many of these iconic ladies rose up in Gnostic Christianity's attempt to bring together archetypes of the Virgin.
The Black Virgins are all tangled in a conspiracy theory regarding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Some of the links I have quoted in my sources contain information about this if you would like to read on it. Me personally? I put no real stock into conspiracy theories, especially the ones that sound fruiter than a fruitbat.
The Black Isis is the one I am going to focus on, rather than the others, because she is pertient to my own belief system.
Isis or Aset?
To start off, I would like to explain Isis a bit. Isis is not an Ancient Kemetic name, it is actually a Greek one. "Isis got her name form the Greek translation of the Coptic Esi" (Isis, the Black Virgin). Esi in Coptic means "female/queen of the throne" or "ancient" (20,000 Names) whereas her Kemetic name simply means "The Throne" (Glossary of Names: Aset).
In The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Or Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General ... - Google Books, it is made very clear that Isis is a wholly different deity than Aset, by calling her the daughter of Thoth and Rhea. Rhea is a Greek goddess, not an Egyptian one. She also has no direct connection to Nut/Nit, Aset's mother. Rhea is a fertility goddess who represents motherhood, generation, and female fertility; she would be better paired as Aset than as Aset's mother. Nut is a cow netjer of the sky, that swallows the sun each night and gives birth to it each day. She's a netjer who can easily represent a great love which would deny the rest of the world, as her relationship with her husband was such that their father (Shu) had to separate them. Thoth is the Greek interpretation of Djehuti or Djehuty. Djehuti is a netjer of the moon, of knowledge, wisdom, writing, good speech, heka (magic). Thoth is the same, but he is a Greek form, which is less true to himself than his form as Djehuti. Djehuti is far more complex a netjer than what can be known about him by the Greek alone. Thoth, even as Djehuti, has no connection to Geb, Aset's father. Geb is the netjer of the earth, and his body makes up the mountains, rivers, valleys, and various other features of the earth.
Isis is also linked to Persphone, as the two both have a husband in the underworld. The problem with this link is that Aset brought her husband back from the dead through her heka, giving him a new life as the dead god who is living. Aset rescues her husband's body, and therefore her husband, from true death, giving him a place to be reborn to, a place to truly exist within the world. By Aset's (and Nebt-het's or Nephthys') work, she not only gives Wesir a place to exist and to live, but she also grants this for all who die after him. She creates the Zep Tepi or First Time (I could not find anything that says what language this phrase comes from, but it is well used in Kemeticism from my research). She creates the first time that anyone is killed, embalmed, resurrected, and buried. Before Wesir's death and resurrection, there were deaths of the first beings of creation, and while they were embalmed by the Creator, these were not resurrected from the dead. The snakes of Uncreation who assisted in Creation were not given a life after death, but it was said that they remained with the Creator, and would one day return to life when the world plunges back into Uncreation.
There are many other examples of this lack of meeting up between the Greek Isis and the Kemetic Aset, but do to space constraints, I am not going to include them at this point. I am in no way attempting to be offensive towards the Greco-Kemetics, Greco-Egyptians, Hellenists, or any other form of Greek or Kemetic beliefs. In all honesty, the Greeks, like many people, took from what they learned of Ancient Kemet and fit it into what they already knew, and then to convey it to other Greeks. In doing so, they lost a large amount of accuracy, and confused the religion, equating deities who made no sense together, such as Hetheru (Hathor) and Aphrodite. They did the best they could, considering all of the factors of those days.
I personally use the two names differently at times because of this lack of meeting up of concepts, and within this I will use The Black Isis instead of The Black Aset (Auset) because I do not consider the concept of The Black Isis to be one of Ancient Kemet.
Aset, She of Herself, Mistress of the Heavens, Great of Magic, Lady of the Throne. Aset is a goddess who is very powerful, both mythologically speaking and in the unverified personal gnosis of myself and in the shared personal gnosis of others. I will be speaking mostly out of her mythological and historical self, than the self I personally have communicated with, mostly because I cannot really find the right words to speak about it.
Aset is a goddess of magic, of life, of death, of rebirth, of fertility, of healing, of harming, of cursing, of blessing. She at times is a loving goddess, holding her child gently on her knee and suckling him. At other times, she is throwing a copper barb into the side of her brother, Set, and in the same breath, removing it as her brother pleads with her for mercy from her cruelty. She is a complex goddess, and not easily given to darkness or to light.
Within the myths in which she protects her son, Heru, Son of Aset or Heru, the Child, she travels to this place of reeds, hiding her son within them in order to protect him from the rage of Set, who would kill him given the chance. Here, Heru grows up, protected from Set, mostly. In Heru's childish adventures, he manages to get bitten, stung, and otherwise harmed by various poisonous animals such as snakes and scorpions. When he becomes violently ill, Aset, at just the right moment, returns from her duties at a nearby Mistress' home, and saves him. In using her heka, she claims that Set is attempting to harm the life of her child, (paraphrased from memory) "Heru, Son of Aset, what has your brother, Set, done to you?"
At another point in these misadventures, one of the Seven Scorpions who travels with Aset to assist her and protect her decides to defend her against a very nasty lady. As they are traveling, Aset comes upon a town and goes to the chief lady to ask if she could have shelter. Rather than accepting the goddess into her home, the chief lady, in great fear of the scorpions, locks her doors to Aset, Heru, and the Seven Scorpions. Eventually, Aset finds housing with a poor woman. That night the Scorpions, in rage at the affront to the goddess, sends one of them to seek revenge and so slides under the door, and stings the young son of the chief lady. The lady cries out in grief for her son, and Aset, in grief of her own, idenitifies with the lady, and enters her home to heal the boy. The chief lady, ashamed, rewards the poor woman greatly for taking in the goddess she rejected.
After Heru is grown, and before he becomes Heru, His Father's Avenger, he and Set engage in an 80 netjer-year long battle for rule over Kemet. During this battle, she assists both her brother and her son, and at one point, Heru cuts off her head for her transgressions against him. And yet, when restored to herself, she does not take out rage upon her son for his thoughtless action.
And yet, at another point, Aset is so violent as to attempt to at least injure, if not kill her brother. She also shames her brother greatly, causing him to judge himself through her trickery. In this particular part of the Contendings of Heru and Set, she transforms herself into a beautiful woman, whom Set is the first to see. He rushes to her side, to find her in tears. Set comforts this beautiful woman, asking what is wrong, why she is so tearful. Aset weaves a tale of her husband, a man with cattle, dying, and a stranger coming into her home, beating her child, and telling him all that is rightfully the son's will be his (the stranger's). She then begs Set to give his protection to her son (because Set isn't just a violent god, he is a violently protective one). Set says himself, "Why should the belongings of your husband be given to a stranger, when your son is alive?" and he promises his protection to the son. Aset then transforms into a kite, and flies onto the highest tree and screeches that Set has judged himself.
Aset acts as the widower, the mourner, she suffers as no other god or goddess was made to suffer, not even Wesir. She suffers so that others can avoid suffering. She helps, she assists, she saves. Aset is a goddess who can be violent, who can be tricky and wicked, but she is not by nature tricky or wicked. In a sense, her violence is that of a protective mother, that of a lioness. She protects her young, those she loves, those she cares for. She keeps from harm those that are hers.
The Black Isis
In my research, both before and during this, I've found a few different ways The Black Isis is considered. The Black Isis is referred to the dark side of Isis or Aset, she is also referred to as Nebt-het (Nephthys), and also linked as a Gnosis Christian form for the Virgin Mary.
Aset's race as being black, I've also heard, so I'll address this now. In Ancient Kemet, people used imagery, just as much as people today do with billboards. I personally have never seen an image of Aset being black that isn't modernly made. That said, I am not going to say she was never depicted as black, as black is a symbol of life, death, rebirth, fertility, and so forth for the people of Ancient Kemet. Saying that, it is also highly unlikely that she ever appeared as black, because most of the time the gods, while not fair skinned, are either colored or a kind of tanned, that shows their Middle Eastern skin color, rather than a true black, as some gods do have (such as Set, Wesir, and Yinepu).
The Darkside of Aset
As I have already shown above, yes, Aset has a dark, tricky, violent nature. Yes, she is a mourner. Yes, she knows suffering. In Aset's lessons to people in upg, I can see her teaching us very painful lessons, ones we need to learn. Aset is not all unicorns and rainbows and sunshine, and people should do a bit of studying and get over their preconceptions of this ancient netjer.
The reason I would rather refer to The Black Isis in this form as The Black Isis rather than The Black Aset, is because this particular form is so modern in its conception. It assumes that there is a duality within her that does not exist. It denies that she can be both black and white and be herself. It calls falsehood in to reign. Aset is a whole netjer, full of her own intricies, her own life, her own sense of being.
Kemetic netjeru are balanced in this sense. They can harm you unmercifully, but then they will want to hold your hand along the road to make it better. Even mythologically speaking, as I showed above, she is a balanced netjer, she both does violent, wicked things, and she has true kindness and love within her. The idea that a deity has to be one way or another, that they cannot be both good and evil, kind and cruel, is one of those "New Age" concepts. It breaks up the traditional in order to make things more understandable for those of today, but in doing so, it loses the power, the awe, the wonder that was once inspired by the fact that the gods are no more perfect than we. Something that so many forget.
The Black Isis as Nebt-het I also consider of modern conception. Nebt-het, yes, is the sister of Aset, and in a lot of ways her twin. At times, she is described as being both alive and dead at the same time. Nebt-het is passive, she is the shadow, she is death, she is decay, she is immobility. She is the opposite of her sister.
Nebt-het means "Lady of the House", and she assists Aset in all she does for Wesir; searching, piecing him together, protecting him, embalming him, resurrecting him, and burying him. Because of this, it is easy to see why Nebt-het becomes confused with being an aspect of Aset. Within some myths, she gives birth to Yinepu (Anubis) after having a bit of fun with Wesir. Aset, oddly, doesn't seem miffed by this, possibly because she has no real time to be miffed before her husband is dead. (Interestly, I've never really seen this linked to as a reason why Set killed Wesir, but I have read that Wesir did an offense upon Set and that is why he offered his brother death.)
Once more in this Black Isis, this "need" for duality comes into being, placing Nebt-het as the other side to Aset, rather than as her sister. While she does take up residence as the other side of Aset, traditionally and mythologically speaking, she is never refered to as an aspect or other side of Auset, and should not be treated as such. Nebt-het is her own deity. It is the sense of the Gemini; they walk hand in hand, needing each other there, but being different beings from each other.
The Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary, yes, could be linked to Aset. Mary has a time where the father of her son is unavaible to protect her, and so she takes her family and runs, hiding where no one will find them to harm her young son (in my life I've seen several references that point to Kemet as the place she flees to). She has a son who struggles against the forces against him, against him gaining his birthright, and she works with him to assist him however she can. The one she loves dies, violently. She cares for his body, and places him in a tomb. The one she buries is resurrected from the dead, and lives on.
Yes, it is easy to link the two, symbolically at least. Historically speaking, when the Jew's came out of Egypt, I can see them picking up some of their culture along the way. Later on, when The Holy Roman Empire existed, Egypt was a part of the Empire. The Egyptians could have easily, like many other converts, simply changed the face of their practices, but kept to the old ways secretly, or hid their culture in the symbolism of what they did. The research I ran into while doing this suggests that the Gnostic Christians at the time had some involvemnet with the worship of Auset as Mary, the Mother of God. If you look at the artwork of Aset holding her child, it is very similar to that of Mary holding Jesus even.
So, again, I can easily see where one is coming from in claiming Aset, or Isis even, as an archetype for Mary, but as to the differences between Aset and Mary, there are enough that the two shouldn't be linked as the same being. Having similar symbolism regarding them and their lives, but the same being? I would say no, personally.
Aset's husband, not son, dies. Aset herself aids in the resurrection of Wesir through her heka, whereas Jesus' rising from the dead comes from his own divine nature. Heru, Son of Aset, does not die, but rather conquers what would kill him by defeating his enemy, and going on to rule over Kemet. Jesus conquers what would defeat him by dying and allowing all who come after to be free of sin.
At the very least, I would say that both Aset and Mary are archetypes for the divine mother, the one who cares for her loved ones as best she can, protecting them, guarding them, guiding them. They are the divine mothers who assist their loved ones as best they can, and help to lead them on to a better life.
Note: I have intentionally broken some links.
Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods by Dimitri and Christine Favard-Meeks
Seth, God of Confusion: A Study of His Role Within Egyptian Mythology and Religion by T.E. Velde
(Please note this is an older article I've made before and some changes to the language of the article have been made.)
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The Black Virgin
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