Iah (Egyptian: jꜥḥ, Coptic ⲟⲟϩ) was a lunar deity in ancient Egyptian religion. The word jꜥḥ means “Moon”. It is also transcribed as Yah, Jah or Aah.
Worship of god Iah
By the New Kingdom (16th century to 11th century BC), he was less prominent than other gods with lunar connections, Thoth and Khonsu. As a result of the functional relationship between them, he could be identified with either of those deities.
Iah was sometimes considered an adult form of Khonsu and was increasingly absorbed by him. He continued to appear in amulets and occasional other representations, similar to Khonsu in appearance, with the same lunar symbols on his head and occasionally the same tight garments. He differed in usually wearing a full wig instead of a child’s sidelock, and sometimes the Atef was topped by another symbol. As time passed, Iah also became Iah-Djehuty, meaning “god of the new moon”. In this role, he assumed the lunar aspect of Thoth (also known as Djehuty), who was the god of knowledge, writing and calculation. The segments of the moon were also used as fractional symbols in writing.
Iah was also assimilated with Osiris, god of the dead, perhaps because, in its monthly cycle, the moon appears to renew itself.
Controversy of Iah
The complexity and controversy of Yah stem from the term’s similarity to the previously-used form of the name for the god of the Jews (Yahweh) and recently-used Christians and Muslims, as well as the fact that Jews’ ancestors were so intermingled with those of the Egyptians. This distinctive attribute of this god makes research on his ancient Egyptian mythology all the more difficult.
Little is known of this god’s cult, and there are no references to actual temples or locations where he may have been worshipped.
However, among ancient references, we do seem to find in the Papyrus of Ani several references to the god, though here, his name has been translated as Iah:
In Chapter 2:
“A spell to come forth by day and live after dying. Words spoken by the Osiris Ani:
O One, bright as the moon-god Iah; O One, shining as Iah;
This Osiris Ani comes forth among your multitudes outside, bringing himself back as a shining one. He has opened the netherworld.
Lo, the Osiris Osiris [sic] Ani comes forth by day and does as he desires on earth among the living.”
And again, in Chapter 18:
“[A spell to] cross over into the land of Amentet by day. Words spoken by the Osiris Ani:
Hermopolis is open; my head is sealed [by] Thoth.
The eye of Horus is perfect; I have delivered the Eye of Horus, and my ornament is glorious on the forehead of Ra, the father of the gods.
Osiris is the one who is in Amentet. Indeed, Osiris knows who is not there; I am not there.
I am the moon-god Iah among the gods; I do not fail.
Indeed, Horus stands; he reckons you among the gods.”
The high point in Yah’s popularity can be found following the Middle Kingdom when many people immigrated from the Levant, and the Hyksos ruled Egypt. Hence, it is likely that contact with the regions of Palestine, Syria and Babylon was important in developing this god in Egypt. In his “A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses,” George Hart believes that these foreigners in Egypt may have associated Yah with the Akkadian moon-god, Sin, who had an important temple at Harron in north Syria. Like Thoth, Sin was a god of Wisdom, but his other epithets included “Brother of the Earth”, Father of the Sun, Father of Gods, and others.
Later during the New Kingdom within the Theban royal family, and not so strangely, even though they had expunged these foreign rulers from Egypt, the name of the god Yah was incorporated into their names. The daughter of the 17th Dynasty king, Tao I, was Yah-hotep, meaning “Yah is content”. The name of the following and last ruler of the 17th Dynasty, Kamose, may have also been derived from Yah. His name means “the bull is born”, and this might be the Egyptian equivalent of the epithet applied to Sin, describing him as a “young bull…with strong horns (i.e. the tips of the crescent moon). Also another interpretation of the name of the founder of the 18th Dynasty, Ahmose, is Yahmose, which would mean “Yah is born”. However, this was not the only name associated with Hyksos gods to be adopted by these Egyptians.
In the tomb of Tuthmosis III of the 18th Dynasty, who is often called the Napoleon of Egypt, and who was perhaps responsible for Egypt’s most remarkable expansion into the Levant, there is a scene where the king is accompanied by his mother and three queens, including Sit-Yah, the “daughter of the moon-god”. However, the traces of Yah’s moon cult in Egypt appear sporadic after this period.