Prayers to Isis
Many beautiful hymns for Isis can be found, written in Greek. Below I have a translation of the Aretology of Isis from Cyme as one example, as it relates to similar aretologies. Then are prayers from Latin sources.
Aretalogy of Isis from Cyme
The aretalogy of Isis, found at Cyme, was written in Greek during the second century c.e. Included in the inscription was a claim to its having been copied from a stele at Memphis. Although reference may have been given to Egypt as the homeland of Isis, the ideas expressed here are derived from the Greek cult of Serapis. In style and conception, it is quite different than is found among the literature of Pharaonic Egypt. Several such aretalogies of Isis are known from other sites, and compare with the epiphany of Isis found in Book 11 of The Golden Ass by Apuleius, written around the same time.
I am Isis, the mistress of every land, and I was taught by Hermes, and with Hermes I devised letter, both the sacred and the demotic, that all might not be written with the same letters:
I gave and ordained laws for all men and women, which no one is able to change. I am the eldest daughter of Kronos. I am the wife and sister of King Osiris. I am She who findeth fruit for men and women I am the Mother of King Horus. I am She that riseth in the Dog Star. I am she that is called goddess by women. For me was the city of Bubastis built. I divided the earth from the heavens. I showed the paths of the stars. I ordered the course of the sun and moon. I devised business in the sea. I made strong the right. I brought together man and woman. I appointed women to bring their infants to birth in the tenth lunar month. I ordained that parents should be loved by children. I laid punishment upon those disposed without natural affection towards their parents. I made with my brother Osiris an end to the eating of human flesh. I revealed mysteries unto men. I taught men and women to honor the images of the gods. I consecrated the precincts of the gods. I broke down the governments of tyrants. I made an end to murders. I compelled women to be loved by men. I made the right to be stronger than gold and silver. I ordained that the true should be thought good. I devised marriage contracts. I assigned to Greeks and to barbarians their languages. I made the beautiful and the shameful to be distinguished by nature. I ordained that nothing should be more feared than an oath. I have delivered the plotter of evil against other men into the hands of the one he plotted against. I established penalties for those who practice injustice. I decree mercy to suppliants. I protect and honor righteous guards. With me the right prevails.
I am the Queen of rivers and winds and sea. No one is held in honor without my knowing it. I am Queen of War. I am Queen of the Thunderbolt. I stir up the sea and I calm it once again. I am in the rays of the sun. Whatever I please, this too shall come to an end. With me everything is reasonable. I set free those in bonds. I am the Queen of seamanship. I make the navigable unnavigable when it pleases me. I create walls for cities. I am called the Lawgiver. I brought up islands out of the depths into the light. I am Lord of Rainstorms. I overcome Fate. Fate hearkens to me. Hail, O Egypt, that nourished me!
~translation by Fredrick C. Grant
Apuleius The Golden Ass 11.2: Lucius' Prayer for the Assistance of Isis
O blessed Queen of Heaven, whether you are the Lady Ceres who is the original and motherly source of all fruitful things in earth, who after finding Your daughter Proserpina, through the great joy which You did presently conceive, made barren and unfruitful ground to be plowed and sown, and now You inhabit in the land of Eleusis; or whether You are the celestial Venus, who in the beginning of the world did couple together all kind of things with an engendered love, by an eternal propagation of human kind, are now worshipped within the Temples of the Isle Paphos, You, Diana, who are the sister of the God Phoebus, who nourishes so many people by the generation of beasts, and are now adored at the sacred places of Ephesus, You who is Proserpina, by reason of the deadly howling to which You yield, that has power to stop and put away the invasion of the hags and Ghosts which appear unto men, and to keep them down in the closures of the earth; You who is worshipped in divers manners, and does illuminate all the borders of the earth by Your feminine shape, You which nourishes all the fruits of the world by Your vigor and force; with whatsoever name or fashion it is lawful to call upon You, I pray You end my great travail and misery, and deliver me from the wretched fortune, which has for so long a time pursued me. Grant peace and rest if it please You to reply to my entreaties, for I have endured too much labor and peril. Remove from me this shape of mine as an ass, and return me to my pristine form, and if I have offended in any way the divine Majesty, let me rather die then live, for I am fully weary of my life.
Apuleius The Golden Ass 11.5: The Aretalogy of Isis
Behold Lucius, moved by your weeping and prayers, I am come to succor you. I am She that is the natural mother of all life, mistress of all the Elements, the first child of time, supreme deity, chief among powers divine, the Queen of Heaven! I am the principal of the celestial Gods, the light of Goddesses, and the uniform manifestation of all gods and goddesses: I am who governs by my nod the crests of light in the sky. At my will are the planets of the air, the wholesome wafts upon the Seas, and the lamentable silences below disposed. My name, my divinity is venerated throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable rites and in many names. Thus the Phrygians call me Pessinuntia, Mother of the Gods. The Athenians call me Cecropian Minerva. The Cyprians, in their isle home call me Paphian Venus. The Cretan archers call me Diana Dictynna. The three-tongue Sicilians call me Stygian Proserpina. The Eleusians call me the ancient goddess Ceres. Some call me Juno, by others, Bellona, still others Hecate, while some call me Rhamnusia. But those who are enlightened by the earliest rays of that divine sun, principally the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Egyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient lore, and by proper ceremonies are they accustomed to worship me, do call me Queen Isis. I am present; I am with pity; I have come propitiously to favor you during your misery. Shed your tears; indeed, let go your sorrows and put away your mourning. And in a moment, by my foresight, I will enclose your days with wholesome health and beneficial wealth. Therefore from this day on, direct your troubled thoughts to my commands alone. This day, and whichever days shall be born from this night hence, forever, when you call upon my name with reverence, to calm the tempests of winter and smooth stormy seas of choppy waves, opening them to navigation, indeed to the passages across rough open seas, my priest shall henceforth dedicate songs and pour libations. That sacred rite you must never delay nor wait upon knowing it may profane.
Apuleius The Golden Ass 11.25: Lucius' Prayer of Thanks
Most holy and everlasting, blessed Lady, Redeemer and perpetual comfort of human kind, who by Your bounty and grace nourish all the world, cherish our lives, and bestow the consoling smiles of a Mother with great affection upon our trials and tribulations. As a loving Mother You take no rest. There is no day or night, not so much as a moment, that is not filled by Your mercy succoring all men and women. On land as well as at sea, You are She who chases away all storms and dangers from our lives by Your right hand. Likewise You restrain the fatal dispositions, appease the great tempests of fortune and keep back the course of the stars. The Gods supernal do honour You. The Gods of the earth hold You in reverence. You rotate the globe. You give light to the Sun. You govern the world in time and space. You tread down the powers of Hades. By You the seasons return, the Planets rejoice, the Elements serve. At Your command the winds do blow, the clouds do gather, the seeds prosper, and the fruits prevail. The birds of the air, the beasts of the hill, the serpents of the den, and the fish of the sea, do tremble at Your majesty. O but my spirit is not able to give You sufficient praise, nor have I the means to offer You acceptable sacrifice. My voice has no power to utter what I think of You. Not if I had a thousand mouths and so many tongues, not in an eternal flow of unwearied declaration could I affirm it. Howbeit, poor as I am, I shall do as a good religious person, and according to my means, I shall always keep a remembrance of Your countenance deep within my breast, and there in the secret depths of my souls shall I keep divinity forever guarded.
Help me now, Isis! Give succor to me beneath your breast. I've seen, drawn on the walls of your temple, the many pictures of your worshippers who have received your aid.
Tibullus 1.7.43-54; 63-4
Somber cares and lamentations, Osiris, were never part of your realm, but song and dance and joyfulness you love. Copious flowers and clusters of ivy berries crown our forehead; yellow skirts and robes of Tyrian purple swirl about the tender feet and limbs of those who dance around your vase of sacred objects to the sound of sweet music. Come celebrate in the spirit of these games, in the spirit of these dances, in the joyous spirit of this temple, where many times pure libations are poured in your honor. Allow us to present you with the sweet scents of glistening ointments to drip upon your hair, garlands of flowers to place upon your head and soft neck. Come, Osiris, that we may present you with incense, and cakes sweetened with Grecian honey. Come, gentle Osiris, to this annual celebration of your birth, O ever bright, ever shining spirit, come!
Ovid Amores 2.13.7-18
O Isis, who dwells in Paraetonium and the genial fields of Canopus, in Memphis and palm-rich Pharos, and where the broad Nile swiftly disgorges into the salty sea through seven mouths, may Osiris always love your pious rites, may the serpent ever glide slowly nearby to bless Your altar gifts, and the horned Apis ever walk beside You in procession. Come hither, by a mere expression of Your eyes summon, and in one motion save us both, for You will grant life to my lady, and she to me. Often has she seated herself to worship You on the appointed days and had the eunuch priests purify her with Nile waters dripping from boughs of laurel.