Iabet (Iabtet, Iab, Abet, Abtet, Ab) was the goddess of the Eastern Desert, of fertility and rebirth. She was a personification of the land of the east – (iabt) – and was known as Khentet-Iabet (Khentet-abet), ‘Before the East’. She was believed to wash the god Re, and was linked to the rising of the sun in the east.
The chthonic goddess of the East, Iabet, who is far less important than her counterpart of the West, Amentet, does appear together with her in New Kingdom private tombs, on coffins and sarcophagi, and on funerary papyri in scenes relating to the course of the sun (variants are Isis = Amentet and Nephthys = Iabet). She is virtually absent in royal tombs of the New Kingdom (possibly present in the Amduat, 1st hour). One princess, from the reign of Khufu, may have included this goddess as part of her name – Nefert-Iabet (Nefret-Iabet, Neferet-Iabet) ‘Beauty of Iabet’. Then again, her name may have meant ‘Beautiful One of the East’, with no link to the goddess Iabet. (The Hieroglyph is used in words relating to ‘east’ or to ‘left’.)
It was believed that Iabet had been charged to wash Re, and thus linked to Kebechet (Kabechet, Kebechet, Kebehut, Kebhut), daughter of Anubis, who was a deity of freshness and purification of the dead through water. At temples throughout Egypt, some of the priests had a special job as part of the daily ritual – that of purifying the temple deity. Using incense to purify the air, the deity was lifted out of his or her shrine, was washed, anointed with oils, dressed in white, green, red and blue cloths and fed. Iabet’s washing of Re may have been related to a belief in Re’s morning ritual, similar to the priestly ritual of serving the gods. The Egyptians personified the cardinal points of the horizon in goddesses that differentiated themselves by the headdress which they wore on the head … She was a celestial goddess, mother and wife of Min who was known as “The Bull of His Mother”, the original title of Re.
Iabet was thought to be the mother-wife of the god Min, god of the Eastern Desert and fertility. She was also linked to Re, as the east was the birthplace of the rising sun, who comes back from his nightly travel in the underworld, returning the the land of the living. She was to the goddesses Isis, Nephthys and to Hathor, who took the name Khentet-Iabet. She was sometimes depicted with Amentet, the goddess of the west. Like Amentet, she was a goddess of the desert and of rebirth, and thus fertility. Iabet’s relationship to Min, being thought of as both his mother and his wife, may have come from Min’s title, “The Bull of His Mother”: What that epithet means is not clear until we examine what happens within a herd of cattle. The dominant bull impregnates all heifers, including his mother!
There may have been a male version of Iabet. In The Book of the Earth, there are two male deities who are shown to welcome the sun(iabtht) and (amntht). Iabeth may have been the male personification of the east, and maybe a husband or companion of Iabet. In the Amduat, Iabet is depicted as a woman with her arms by her sides, under the name of Iab (iab). Along with eleven other goddesses, including Nit, Isis, Amentet and Tefnut, the group was known as “Those who give praises to Re as he passes over Wernes”.
Iabet was worshiped in Khent-Min (Panopolis, Akhmim), along with Min. Another goddess, Repyt (Repit), was also considered to be Min’s companion there. Little remains of Khent-Min, but there is a nearby rock chapel of Nakhtmin, First Prophet of Min, dedicated to his god and the local deities.