Ast, the Queen of Heaven, is the perfect combination of a pure heart with pure ambition.
Tarot Card: The High Priestess
Animal: cow, sparrow
Symbol: Moon reflecting in water
Thing: A veil
The followers of Isis are among the most ancient of all mages. Isis was not only the goddess of life and magick, she was also cunning and subtle in her ways, always using her magick to further the goals of herself and her loved ones. There are many stories about her cleverness: she tricked Ra himself to reveal his true name to her, she helped her son Horus to win the battle against Set and she resurrected Osiris with her magicks. The priest-mages she trained learned her skills, and when she withdrew from the world they continued to serve her and themselves.
The cult has always sought to survive and prosper using all available means, whatever changes occur in the mundane and occult world. During the Ptolemies, the Priestesses worked almost openly, manipulating events so that they could spread the cult into the Roman empire and turn it into one of the largest cults (Cleopatra was most probably a member or a high ranking acolyte, doing what she could to spread it to Rome and to use Rome to further her own goals). Unfortunately their clever ways were opposed by other groups, and a war of secrecy began between the Priestesses and the growing Celestial Chorus. The Choristers found the worship of the goddess reprehensible, and did everything they could to suppress it. Slowly the Priestesses were driven underground or killed like Hypatia. They put on a great fight, mostly to hide that they actually went underground from their enemies. Some Priestesses dispersed through the Empire, while others remained in secret in Egypt. Although these groups have long since lost contact and diverged quite a bit in belief and magick, some still exist in secret.
Throughout history the Priestesses of Isis have held a low profile, always manipulating things behind the scenes or avoiding conflict. Instead they have concentrated on preserving the ancient rites and mysteries of the Goddess to prepare for the day they will again be needed, and to become the power behind the thrones of the world just as Isis was the wife and advisor of Osiris. They do their best to become the confidantes, lovers or spouses of the powerful and initiated. Some of the Priestesses have infiltrated the Verbena, but most have kept to themselves. Often they masquerade as other traditions (most mages believe Hypatia was a member of the Order of Hermes), or hide as mortal women.
One problem of the Priestesses is that from time and again some members become too ambitious and manipulate things too obviously. Usually this makes other groups aware of their existence, and the remaining priestesses have to hide. The politically active priestesses are often quite able to run things on their own, but sooner or latter they will fall when they stand alone without open support from their sisters. Due to this tendency to err on the side of caution the priestesses have several times held the reins of power in Egypt, only to lose them: Hatshepsut, Cleopatra, Shagar al-Durr. But while their queens fall, the priestesses still remain and control things from behind the scenes. In fact, they prefer to rule from the harem or the whispers of the marketplace rather than from the throne room.
The Ahl-I-Batin has fought against the machinations of the priestesses for over a millennium, but still do not understand the whole picture. They believe they have encountered several independent conspiracies, some apparently based on splinter groups of their own tradition. Little do they suspect that they, the master manipulators, have been themselves manipulated.
Today the Priestesses watch the events closely, prepared to be on the winning side, whichever that is. The priestesses dispassionately realise that it doesn't matter if the fundamentalists or liberals win in the chorus; what matters is that there will be an Egypt left to influence. To this end they secretly support the traditions against the Technocracy (although they do their best to discreetly infiltrate the highest echelons of technocracy allies) and fight the Nephandi. Their current main battle is against the Dogs of Shaitan, who has been their eluding enemies for many years.
In the struggle to complete the Plan, the remaining Priestesses will watch from their hidingplaces, biding their time. Once they realise its true meaning they will begin overt assistance, mostly by manipulating other groups. They are more intrigued by the possibility of a symbolic marriage between Osiris (Philippe) and Isis, one of their own.
The Priestesses are usually best at Life and Mind, being rather negative to the use of Entropy, Forces and Time. Some enterprising Priestesses have adopted other ways, and use Correspondence to learn secrets from afar.
Everything was shattered a few years back when her father was assassinated by unknown attackers in a drive-by-shooting on his way to a meeting. They were actually sent by the Shayks of the White Night, who mistakenly thought his policies were his own; in reality it was Laylah's mother, a true Priestess of Isis, who guided him subtly to their own ends. The grief almost shattered Laylah's heart, but her mother comforted her and began to teach her some old stories. For the first time Laylah truly listened to her, and began to see her true nature: a very intelligent woman willing to influence society, but too shy to do it herself. So she married Laylah's father hoping to lead him to truth, and perhaps even wanted Laylah to become as independent, quick-tempered and modern as she turned out, despite her tirades about proper behaviour.
What Laylah never realised was the subtlety of her mother. All she told her daughter was completely true, but not the entire story. She didn't rule through her husband, she just guided him along the path the Priestesses had planned. She deliberately made Laylah grow up into a rebel. When her husband died, she turned to introducing her daughter into the Priestesses, teaching her old stories and giving her new ideas. Instead of forcing her visions upon Laylah she just dropped seeds she knew would bloom one day.
On the other hand, Laylah understands some things her mother do not see. She suspects that some of the friends of her mother also belong to the same 'clique' of women interested in influencing their important husbands or sons in some desirable direction. The whole thing strikes Laylah as laughable; a vain dream of power for women through seduction and hints. It might have worked in the past, but she doubts it: more likely the seductresses just deluded themselves into thinking they held the power over their men. Today a more open approach is the only thing possible: if you want influence, why not just gain it openly (or at least without all the "femme fatale" stuff)? She has discussed this a bit with some of her friends in the Egyptian high society "brat pack", and they seem to agree with her. In fact, she is becoming the informal leader of her own clique of modern, upbeat and western youngsters. Whose ideas will triumph in the end, hers or the ideas of her cautious mother, nobody knows.
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