Ihy, the Mucisian

The name of Ihy was interpreted by the Egyptians themselves as ‘sistrum player’, or ‘musician’. He was a personification of the jubilation associated with the use of this sacred instrument. However, another translation of his name could be ‘calf’, referring to his relation to the cow goddess Hathor, who was usually thought to be his mother. This was especially true at Dendera and Edfu, where he appears as Harsomptus. He was also regarded as the son of a few other deities though, and could be associated in this way with Isis, Nephthys and Sekhmet. Horus was most frequently considered to be his father, but he was also said to be the child of Re.

Ihy was certainly most often thought of as a deity connected with music. However, he was also associated with the afterlife in some contexts. For example, in the Coffin Texts and also in the Book of the Dead, Ihy is called ‘the lord of bread’ and is said to be ‘in charge of the beer’ in reference to offerings, but also possibly with regards to ritual celebrations which involved intoxication in the worship of Hathor. Ihy was typically depicted as a naked boy with his thumb in his mouth, who wears the sidelock of youth. Even though a child, he is not always depicted in a diminutive size, and may be shown at the same scale as his mother and other deities or the king when he appears in the same scene. Sometimes he wears the uraeus on his brow and may be depicted holding the sistrum and the menal necklace which were his symbols. They were also the symbols of his mother, Hathor. There is also some limited evidence that he might have at times also been depicted in the form of a calf.

Ihy, as the son of Horus and Hathor, was one of the triad of deities who were worshipped at Dendera, which was Ihy’s main cult site. In fact, a very early shrine specifically dedicated to Hathor and Ihy was rebuilt in this location by the 4th Dynasty King, Khufu. The child god played a very significant role in the mammisi of Nectanebo I at Dendera where his divine conception and birth, as well as that of the king, were celebrated. In fact, ‘mystery plays’ in thirteen acts concerning the divine birth appear to have been performed at this location. A second birth house at this site built by Caesar Augustus celebrates the divine birth of Ihy as the son of Hathor.

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