The Veiling of Isis and Horus
The Forgotten Constellation
By Christopher Morford
In the Louvre museum in Paris, you will find the oldest complete map of the ancient skies. It was expertly carved into a square section of roof that was cut and removed from a chapel dedicated to Osiris at the Hathor temple at Dendera, Egypt. Current dating places the bas-relief at around 50 B.C. The piece is obviously based on even older star maps and carvings, as Egyptian astrological records go back at least 5000 years, but this one is in remarkably good condition. Many of the constellations and the characters that symbolize them are still in use today.
If you look closely at the left hand side of the picture above, just below the center line and half way from the center point, you can make out the image of a woman seated on a throne, holding an infant in her hand. She is seen beside the image of Virgo with the ears of corn in her hand, and would appear in the first decan, or within the first 10 degrees of the constellation of the Virgin. The seated woman is Isis and she is holding the God-Child Horus. Horus is the Falcon-Headed offspring of Isis and her brother/consort Osiris.
The birth of Horus was miraculous, his father Osiris having been murdered by Set, the Brother of Osiris and Isis, prior to his conception. Set dismembered the body of his Brother and scattered the 13 pieces so he could not be re-membered. Isis, with the help of her sister Nephthys, found all of the pieces, save for her brother’s phallus. Being the ever-resourceful goddess, she reconstructed Osiris and fashioned a phallus of gold and brought him to life just long enough to copulate with him and conceive Horus.
The image of Horus seated with Isis upon her throne was a common one in ancient Egypt. Comparisons have rightly been made to images of the Madonna and Child in Christian artwork.
In the Egyptian language, this constellation was called “Shes-Nu” meaning the “Desired One, or the Desired Son”. In Hebrew it was called Comah, “The Desired”. In Sumerian it was “He-Gal-A-A”, the “Great, good son”. Somehow the name “Comah” is still associated with the constellation that has been superimposed over the Goddess and Child. “Coma” can mean hair in Greek, but often it refers to the hair of the husks of some seeds. Another meaning as the “Desired Seed” of the Gods may have confused things as well. By the time we get to Ptolemy (150 AD) and his detailed list of 48 constellations, Shes-Nu is nowhere to be found. It has disappeared altogether, erased from the star maps. Ptolemy decided it was not a constellation and added it to the tuft of the tail of Leo.
However, it does show up, re-named and with a new history, in our modern list of 88 constellations. (88 = One for each key on a piano). In the end, what we have today is a rather convoluted story of the constellation Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s Hair. Queen Berenice II was the wife of Ptolemy III (The Ruler of Egypt, not the Astronomer). Ptolemy was off fighting the Third Syrian war and Berenice purportedly cut off all of her hair and offered it up to either “All of the Gods” or to Aphrodite alone if they would look after her husband and return him safely home. The temple offering was made, but by the following morning it was discovered that someone had stolen the Queen’s shorn tresses. The court astronomer, hoping to smooth things over, told the Queen that the Gods had accepted her offering, taken her hair, and placed it among the stars above.
It’s a bit of a weak story in my opinion. However, by circa 1536, Coma Berenices begins to show up on Star Maps as a constellation in its own right. The hair of a Ptolemaic Queen replaced the old deities, Isis and Horus. The Goddess bringing forth the Son of a God, which pre-dated and perhaps bore a rather embarrassing likeness to Mary and the Christ child, had been nearly wiped from history, and perhaps would have remained veiled if the zodiac of Dendera had not been preserved. Even Shakespeare (Or those writing in his name) knew the secret of the constellation. In Titus Andronicus, Act IV Scene III, a reference is made to an arrow shot into heaven, up to the “Good Boy in Virgo’s lap.”
Perhaps the next time you are out on a starry night, look for Isis and Horus, just off the shoulder of Virgo and let the old Gods know they are not forgotten.