To ancient Egyptians, the deities associated with the sun were usually goddesses, typically playing the role of the protective and vengeful Eye of Ra, and the deities Who were associated with the moon were usually male. Iah, Whose name means “moon,” was not only a lunar god—He was the moon itself, in much the same way that Aten was the sun in the physical-ball-of-boiling-gasses sense. While most of Iah’s attributes were usurped over time by more popular gods like Djehuty (Thoth) and Khonsu, He was originally associated with the symbol of the crescent moon, the ibis, and the falcon. Iah can be shown as the “adult” version of Khonsu, Who is a child god, when Iah wears a full wig instead of Khonsu’s youthful side-lock. In addition to the wig, Iah is depicted with a beard, a tall staff, and a headdress of either the full moon and crescent moon (shown right) or the Atef crown, most commonly worn by Wesir (Osiris), atop the moon symbols; rarely, Iah can also be seen with an ibis head.
While Iah never gained great cult importance or popularity, the moon as the left eye of Heru (Horus) had plenty of mythic significance. In the Contendings of Horus and Set, wherein which the two gods battled for the throne that Wesir (Osiris) had vacated upon His death, Set wounded and/or tore out Heru’s eye. The waxing and waning of the moon reflected its destruction and restoration; that Djehuty often aided Heru in finding or healing His eye only linked Djehuty more strongly with the moon. Lunar eclipses could also reflect tumult among the Netjeru and damage done to Heru’s eye; some myths suggest that Set took the form of a black pig and swallowed the moon whole, only regurgitating it at Djehuty’s intervention. The lunar cycle has also been linked to Wesir’s own destruction and rebirth as the king of the dead, which may tie into why Iah is occasionally depicted with Wesir’s Atef crown.
As a small modern offering:
Hail, gleaming Eye of the moon!
Iah Who shines as the sun in the night,
Whose form is silver and ever-shifting,
I meet Your gaze and admire Your beauty.
Hail Iah, the moon at every shape!
Your face is always turned towards us below
even as You slice into darkness
and then back into purest light.
Hail Iah, Who gives us sight in shadow!
Hail Iah, the falcon’s watchful Eye!
- Egyptian Mythology (Geraldine Pinch)
- The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt (Richard Wilkinson)
- The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses (George Hart)
Last year’s first I post was on immanence.