Ihy

The son of Hathor and Horus, Ihy is depicted as a naked boy wearing the child’s braided side-lock, with his finger to his mouth, or as a calf, in accord with Hathor’s depiction as a cow. Ihy is characteristically depicted playing the sistrum, and his name is sometimes interpreted as ‘sistrum-player’, although it seems more likely that it is a diminutive of the word ih, ‘bull’. Musicians are seen in reliefs impersonating Ihy in celebrations of Hathor, identifiable by the menit necklaces they wear and the sistra or clappers which they hold. These are perhaps among the class of priests of Hathor who bear the name of Ihy. Horus son of Osiris is said in CT spell 51 to impersonate Ihy “in jubilation.”

Tomb reliefs of the Old Kingdom depict allegorical scenes of herdsmen fording a stream with their cattle. A herdsman carries a calf, identified with Ihy, across the stream on his shoulders, enticing the other cattle to follow. Here Ihy seems to represent the call to resurrection, to cross over to a new life. Ihy seems not, however, to feature explicitly in the afterlife book of the Old Kingdom, the Pyramid Texts. From the time of the Coffin Texts, however, he seems to grow in prominence. In CT spell 36, Ihy is said to bear “the living waters” in his hands. In spell 146, Ihy is said to be the protector of the deceased. In spell 271, a spell for becoming an unidentified type of bird, the operator says “I am he who saw the Unclothed One, the son of Hathor,” meaning Ihy, while in spell 326, for becoming Horus, the operator is said to have seized Ihy and thus to have gained control over Sia, ‘perception’. Spell 334 is for becoming Ihy; the spell identifies Ihy as the son of Hathor but also of Nephthys (a reference earlier in the spell to “the womb of my mother Isis” and another similar one later perhaps refers rather to the operator of the spell, who subsequently affirms that “I desire my name to be on their lips [the living] as Ihy, son of Hathor”). Ihy is said here to be “brotherly to men and Gods” and to hear, i.e. to be responsive to prayers. Ihy’s power of hearing is mentioned more literally in the so-called Negative Confession of BD spell 125, where one affirms to “Ihy who came forth from the Nun,”—that is, from the precosmic oceanic abyss—that one has not been loud voiced (i.e., violent). Ihy is referred to as “a child in the speech of those who govern,” that is, to be important even though a child, is characterized again as a protector, to “protect the patricians from the Gods and vice versa.” Such statements indicate that Ihy is seen as an intermediary between humans and the other Gods. To this might be related CT spell 457, “for entering to the Gods to whom a man desires to enter,” in which it is said that “the fly is ushered into Ôn (Heliopolis) for Ihy,” indicating that Ihy has the power, like a fly, to penetrate the tightly sealed sanctuaries of the other Gods, gaining admittance for the operator.

Ihy describes his birth in graphic terms in spell 334: “I am indeed the Great Seed, I have passed between her [Hathor’s] thighs in this my name of Jackal of the Sunshine. I have broken out of the egg, I have floated on its white, I have glided on its yolk, I am the Lord of blood.” The special emphasis laid upon Ihy’s birth underscores his ability to help one invoking him to break out from the womblike darkness; thus in spell 563, the operator says “I will see a path with the vision of my eye like Ihy, the son of Hathor, her beloved.” In spell 334 Ihy identifies his place of birth as Punt (Somalia), perhaps in connection with this land as a source of perfumes, for he goes on to identify himself with the incense with which Hathor is censed, as well as the oils with which she rubs on her skin, the menit necklace with which she is adorned, the sistrum with which she is serenaded, her clothes and so forth. Ihy thus expresses the totality of Hathor’s pleasure and everything which pleases her. Spell 484 is for giving a dress to Hathor and then for donning it, in the process of which the operator affirms that “Ihy is in my body,” and at the end of the spell the operator is envisioned as Ihy sitting in Hathor’s lap, the ultimate worshiper of Hathor, as it were. In BD spell 47, “for not letting N’s seat and throne be taken away from him in the God’s domain,” the operator addresses the seat, saying that “it is my Father who made you for me while I was in the retinue of Hathor, for I was the priest there, Ihy … as musician of Wennofer [Osiris].” CT spell 588, a very brief spell “for being in the presence of Hathor,” consists almost entirely of the appeal, “O Ihy, Ihy, I will be in the suite of Hathor.” From all this it is clear that one of the principal, if not the principal role of Ihy is to provide access to Hathor.

In CT spell 368, the deceased is identified with Ihy in order to avoid eating excrement. Such spells use eating excrement to symbolize partaking of impurity and decay in general. Ihy is appropriate to this context because he is the paradigm of youth, and hence of rejuvenation. Similarly, in spell 495, the deceased is said to have fled with Ihy from certain “slayers” and “carvers strong of arms” who would presumably have as their goal the recycling, so to speak, of the soul’s constituents. In spell 698, Ihy is said to turn back “him who comes to close a man’s mouth,” that is, to prevent the resurrection. In spell 1011, another spell against eating excrement, it is affirmed that “the statue of the shrine of Ihy is firm in front of Ihy, the arms are firm in front of Ihy, and Ihy goes round about,” referring perhaps to Ihy’s unimpaired ability to receive offerings through the medium of his statue. In BD spell 149, Ihy, “lord of hearts”, is invoked from the first of the “mounds of the house of Osiris in the Field of Rushes” and called upon to “reconstruct my bones and make fast the double crown of Atum,” the double crown being the symbol of universal sovereignty.

Allen, T. G. 1974. The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [BD]
Faulkner, R. O. 1973-8. The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts. 3 vols. Warminster: Aris & Phillips Ltd. [CT]

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3 Responses to “Ihy”

  1. […] Cow has a role similar to the goddess Nut, and gives birth to the sun god Ra every morning. Ihy is the son of Hethert and Heru (Horus) and is depicted as a typical child god, or as a calf. He […]

  2. […] up my resources and went to town. There wasn’t that much that I could really learn since Butler’s entry had citations that were heavily from the CT as opposed to either the PT or BD, both of which I have […]

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