Iah is an Ancient Egyptian lunar god, whose role was linked to that of Thoth in the Old and Middle Kingdoms, and who came to be eclipsed to some degree by Khonsu from the New Kingdom onward. Some scholars regard the god as the personification of the lunar disc itself within Ancient Egyptian culture.
Iah (sometimes translated as Yah) appears in quite a prominent role in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom. Imagery of him is not very common, however, though his name is synonymous with the actual lunar disk itself. It is therefore probable that he was worshipped in pre-dynastic periods in this literal form.
Appearances and Associations
Iah is portrayed variously as a male wearing a three part wig, and wearing the full lunar disc and crescent symbols. He is also sometimes seen wrapped (mummy wrappings?) in the same manner as Khonsu in some depictions, along with a staff. Sometimes the only differentiation between them can be the side-lock of youth that Khonsu sports.
Iah can also sometimes be seen bearing the damaged (lunar) eye of Horus.
Due to his association with Thoth, he may also appear with the distinctive Ibis head of this god, wearing a simple crescent crown.
Associations and Prominence
Iah is a lunar god, and this dominates his associations. In this role he is very closely associated with Khonsu (the primary lunar god from the New Kingdom onward) and Thoth (as Thoth-Iah), who also has strong lunar associations. This affected his prominence in later periods. Iah also eventually become associated with Osiris (as Osiris-Iah), possibly through the lunar cycle of regeneration, and also the association of the lunar disc with the damaged eye of Horus.
It appears that Iah was particularly popular with the 17th Dynasty royal line, as several prominent royals adopted his name into their own, including Ah-Hotep, and her son, Ahmose I (Amosis), founder of the 18th Dynasty, along with his wife, Ahmose-Nefertari. Some have also speculated that the name Kamose may also have had some root in Iah’s name. Interestingly, another association can be seen between Iah and the 26th dynasty, in the form of Ahmose II (Amasis), despite his eclipse, so to speak, by Khonsu. Also, statuettes and amulets of Iah continue to be found through the New Kingdom and Late Periods, including a fine statuette now in the collection of the British Museum.
There is no mention, however, of Iah ever having any significant temples or state endowments of his own, though he appears in the Book of the Dead, suggesting he maintained an independent role of some kind in the latter New Kingdom.
- Dweller Among The Gods
Iah is mentioned from the 5th dynasty, and clearly had a following through well into the Late Period. However, it is unknown exactly when his following died out.
- Faulkner, R O (1969), The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Oxford University Press, Oxford
- Shaw, I et al. (2000), Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, Oxford
- Wilkinson, R (2000), The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson, London
- Wilkinson, R (2003), The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson, London