What does the word ISIS mean to you?
a) One of the most revered Goddesses in ancient history, Egyptian in origin, worshipped throughout the Greco-Roman world, even into the first centuries of the Christian era. Healer to Osiris, she represented the renewal of fertility in the ongoing cycles of life.
b) The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a dangerous organization of thugs who are trying to take over Iraq and Syria through horrifying violence, a jihad serving religious beliefs that are rigid, misogynistic, and violent.
These two definitions couldn’t be more opposite. At first glance they seem entirely unrelated. But are they?
In ancient times, humans universally worshipped goddesses as well as gods. What we now call the Middle East—the Tigris-Euphrates and the Nile Valley—were strongholds of Goddess culture—places where the divine feminine was worshipped in temples as well as in the wild. This was established religion, stable and colorful, deeply woven into the rituals of everyday life, all inclusive of men, women, and children.
Here, the first cities arose, with irrigation techniques that created enough abundance for evolution to leap forward: writing, architecture, mathematics, and art. Here, at least in Egypt, stood the most stable, long-lasting culture ever known. Here, in what we call the Cradle of Civilization, the Goddess rocked her children from our collective toddlerhood into our middle childhood—the backdrop of our current adolescence.
The goddess cultures were summarily wiped out by violence nearly everywhere in the ancient world. Overthrowing a belief system that spans millennia is not easy to accomplish. People were dominated and traumatized, the status of women demoted to that of a slave, rituals forbidden, punishment often by death. Annihilating all that stood for nature’s balance, the world tumbled into chaos, with droughts and floods, wars and pestilence—issues we are increasingly dealing with today.
The trauma of that land has never been healed, nor perhaps even addressed. Over the many centuries that have passed, sieges and warfare have been nearly constant. The land has been taken over by one empire after another as this amazing infographic shows: http://www.mapsofwar.com/ind/imperial-history.html) Patriarchy, in its worst form, is more extreme in this part of the world than perhaps anywhere on earth.
The band of thugs who disgrace the name of ISIS are the long term result of multi-century, multi-ethnic trauma. These are traumatized psychopaths who have lost homes and families, resulting in deeply wounded individuals who hunger for power and glory in violence. They are regressing to an earlier stage of savagery with a childlike understanding of spirituality—not dissimilar to the witch burnings of the Middle Ages or the “ethnic cleansing” of the Nazis.
Our war in Iraq and the destabilization of Syria were sparks that ignited their fire. Now that fire is ravaging an area already weakened by loss and warfare. Their zeal is infectious to the disenfranchised, spreading like the Ebola virus in Africa. They are the shadow children of tyranny and empire, the antithesis of everything that the Goddess ISIS stood for: peace and longevity, feminine and masculine balance, cyclic rounds of nature.
Yes, they need to be stopped, but unless we address the root causes of trauma and warfare, ever more desperate groups (using weapons likely manufactured by the U.S.) will continually threaten the evolution of a sane culture.
Do we not notice the absence of powerful women in the peace talks, the negotiations, the rulership of these lands? Perhaps we need to call on the Goddess ISIS once again to stop this degradation in her name. Perhaps we need to balance this in our own world by calling the Goddess back to her rightful place, embodying her in our lives, and protecting the natural world that she stood for, before its annihilation brings a tragic end to the human experiment.
Life, death, and rebirth are all part of a natural cycle. But without a Goddess to bring forth birth, there is no way to return from death. Isis the healer and renewer, the creative force that can bring forth rebirth.