The pagan community in Alexandria contains many different sections and subsections, far too many to discuss in any good detail, so we shall focus on the major pagan religion, and conflicts with the Christians, The Cult of Isis. This religion, dating back to the 4th century BCE, was one of the most popular branches of worship in the pre-empire era of Ancient Rome during the rule of Lucius Cornelius Sulla. It achieved its pinnacle in 83 BCE with the institution of a holy trinity and has since been on the decline, but is still popular in Alexandria.. Now lets take a look at specifics.
Isis: The Divine Mother
Isis was, in Egyptian mythology, goddess of fertility and motherhood. She was the daughter of the god Keb (Earth) and his wife/sister the goddess Nut (Sky). She was the sister-wife of Osiris, judge of the dead, and mother of Horus, god of day. She is described in ancient writings as having great magical skill, and she was represented as human in form though she was frequently described as wearing the horns of a cow, or as a winged woman (see the image above). Her symbols are the Ankh (like a modified cross) which represented life and the Star Sept which showed the coming of a new year as well as the flooding of the Nile for fertility.(5)
Beliefs and Rituals
Isis was believed to be powerful in the ways of magic, having the ability to create and destroy life with mere words. She not only knew the words which needed to be spoken to cause certain things to occur, but was also able to use exact pronunciation and emphasis in order for the desired effect to occur. It is believed that if the best effect was to be produced by words of power they must be uttered in a certain tone of voice, and at a certain rate, and at a certain time of the day or night, with appropriate gestures or ceremonies. Only when these conditions have been met can true magic occur. The magic of Isis has appeared in many forms throughout Egyptian mythology. From her ability to bring her dead and disembodied husband Osiris back to life and create with him a son, to the learning of the sacred name of Ra, Isis has shown magical talent beyond the other gods. Perhaps the best way to explain Isis can be found in The Invocation of Isis, which is the primary prayer said to Isis during worship.
Two great Festivals are dedicated to Isis. The first was celebrated on the Vernal Equinox, to celebrate the return of life to the world (around March 20). This paled to the second celebration which usually started on October 31 and lasted through November 3. During this four day period a passion play was acted out over the death of Osiris and the magic of Isis returning him to life. During the first day, actors would impersonate Isis and her son Horus as well as various other gods as they searched across the world for the 14 body parts of Osiris. The Second and Third days showed the reassembly and rebirth of Osiris and the fourth day was a wild rejoicing over the success of Isis and the coming of the newly immortal Osiris. The belief is that through worship of Isis and strong devotion, she will return you to life as well should you die and you shall experience eternal happiness under her nurturing care, just as Osiris was rebuild and shall rule forever.