Thanks to Alexandra-Shakira for her question via Facebook, today’s post will be about that sister of the ankh, the Tiet, Tyet, Tet, also known as the Knot of Isis, the Girdle of Isis, the Buckle of Isis, or the Blood of Isis. There’s a famous passage from the Book of Coming Forth by Day, commonly called the Book of the Dead, that tells us the words to use to magically charge this important amulet:
Spell for a knot amulet of red jasper. “You have your blood, O Isis; you have your power, O Isis; you have your magic, O Isis.” As for him for whom this is done, the power of Isis will be the protection of his body, and Horus son of Isis will rejoice over him when he sees him; no path will be hidden from him, and one side of him will be towards the sky and the other towards the earth. A true matter; you shall not let anyone see it in your hand, for there is nothing equal to it. (Formula 156,Book of Coming Forth by Day)
If you happen to have a Knot of Isis of your own, speaking the formula over it from time to time will keep it magically alive and active.
The image above is the standard form of the amulet; an open loop of material, tied with a sash that hangs down below the loop on two sides. The tiet looks similar to the ankh, the hieroglyph for “life” except that its crossbar is folded down. In fact, the tiet may be related to the ankh, for the tiet sign is often translated as “life” or “welfare.”
The origins of the amulet are unknown. As a knot, however, its symbolism revolves around the idea of binding and releasing, the joining of opposites, and, since a knot secures things, protection. Knot magic was well known in Egypt from an early period; an inscription in one of the pyramids states, “Isis and Nephthys work magic on Thee [Osiris] with knotted cords.” In addition to the formula above, the Book of Coming Forth by Day gives several other examples of the magical power of the knot. In this one, knots are tied around the deceased to help her come into the presence of the Deities: “The four knots are tied about me by the guardian of the sky [. . .] the knot was tied about me by Nut, when I first saw Maat, when the gods and the sacred images had not yet been born. I am heaven born, I am in the presence of the Great Gods.” In addition to these four knots, there were seven knots, or tesut, that were tied about the deceased to protect him or her.
The tiet first appears in Egyptian iconography in the third dynasty. It was frequently used in association with the djed pillar of Osiris and so became almost exclusively associated with Isis. Used together, the two symbols could refer to the power of the Goddess and God to engender Life. Because of this, the symbols may also be seen as sexual symbols; the pillar referring to the phallus of the God and the knot to the vulva and womb of the Goddess.
It may have been the combination of the tiet’s connection with life and its association with Isis’ sexuality that led to it being called the Blood of Isis and so being made of red jasper, carnelian, or even red glass. It might represent the red lifeblood a mother sheds while giving birth. On the other hand, it might represent menstrual blood. Some say the amulet is shaped like the cloth worn by women during menstruation. Others have interpreted it as a representation of a ritual tampon that could be inserted in the vagina to prevent miscarriage. In this case, it would have been the amulet Isis used to protect Horus while He was still within Her womb. In addition to blood, the amulet’s red color could represent fire and the Sun—and the living, regenerative properties of Isis the Flame, the Radiant Solar Goddess and Lady of Rebirth.
Goddesses other than Isis could be accompanied by the tiet as well. In later periods, the tiet was associated with Isis’ sister, Nephthys, and Her mother, Nuet, especially in situations having to do with resurrection and rebirth. Earlier, it served as a badge of office in the cults of the Cow Goddesses Bat and Hathor. Yet the knot remains primarily associated with Isis. There are many representations of Isis with knots (surely, magical knots) tied into the straps of Her clothing. This tradition followed the Goddess into the Graeco-Roman world where the Knot of Isis was also tied into the robes of Her priestesses. This potent symbol of the Goddess is still worn by Her priestesses and priests today.