SYNOPSIS OF THE UGARITIC MYTH OF BAAL

SIX INCOMPLETE TABLETS & SOME FRAGMENTS

html refined 22 December 2007

Specialists estimate that this myth concerning the god Ba`al, from older sources, existed pretty much in this form by at least 1400 BCE, although the tablets we have are from about 1250 BCE or a little earlier. I have compared about six translations with the transliteration in Driver/ Gibson to arrive at my own translation, and from it the synopses below.

Unfortunately, no synopsis can do justice to the original poetic language. While the original doesn't exactly rhyme, nor do all feet appear of set rhythm, it may have been meant to be chanted to the accompaniment of lyre. We don't really know. It is obviously of a literary genre. If there ever were rituals connected with these myths (a topic hotly debated among scholars), this isn't a source, as there are no ritual directions included.

Nonetheless, I am of the belief that there were some sort of ritualized activities connected with this myth which plays out in both a year cycle and a possible seven year cycle. The only records of ritual found in Ugarit, however, are either basic offering lists of the sacrifices made to the deities, or records of the purifications of offerings and made by the king in relation to the moon cycle.

Access the complete translation of The Ba`al Myth - Parts 1-4 via the Links to the Left.

There is also The Myth of the Gods Gracious and Divine, about the twin sons of ’El, Shahar and Shalem, the morning and evening stars, borne, however, by two different women or goddesses. This does include some ritual directions and a group of us has performed it.

The headings for each section are common tablet identifications by several methods

1: KTU 1.1 = CTA 1 = UT `nt: plates IX, I = VI AB

Though this may not even be the first tablet in the story and the text is badly damaged, it is apparent that there is some conflict between Yahm and Ba`al, and Yahm wants ’El's assistance. The Assembly of the Gods, the Council of the Parliament Divine, is summoned to ’El's marzeah, his banqueting hall. ’El announces that his son will no longer be called Yawu [NOTE: Yw probably same as Ieuo in Philo of Byblos' Phoenician History, possibly identified with Yahweh]; instead he proclaims his name Yahm, Beloved of ’El. Yahm complains that ’Aliyan Ba`al reviles him. ’El encourages Yahm to drive Ba`al from the throne of his kingdom, from the seat of his dominion. "If you do not drive him from his throne, he will beat you." Then ’El or Yahm "slaughters oxen, also sheep; he fells bulls and divine fatlings, rams, yearling calves, sheep, and kids," either as sacrifice, for a feast, or both. ’El summons Kothar-wa-Khasis, Wise-and-Clever, the god of Handicrafts, to his palace, and also sends messengers to `Anat, perhaps to warn her of the conflict about to come.

2: KTU 1.2 = CTA 2 = UT 129 = III AB

Kothar arrives at ’El's mountain where ’El commands him to build a palace for Yahm. Meanwhile, the god `Athtar complains to the Sun goddess Shapash that he has no palace or court like the other gods, but Shapash warns him to stop complaining or ’El will withdraw from `Athtar any favor that he has shown him and destroy his dominion.

The following column is damaged, but it opens with threats of destruction, probably by Yahm against Ba`al. Then Yahm sends two messengers to the Council of the Parliament Divine in the midst of the Mount (Lila/Lalu). The gods are feasting in ’El's banqueting hall. Ba`al is attending upon ’El. When the assembled gods see the messengers of Yahm coming, they drop their heads down upon their knees. Ba`al rebukes them for their cowardice. The messengers arrive at last and demand that Ba`al be delivered up to Yahm. ’El promises that Ba`al shall be handed over to the messengers of Yahm-Nahar. "Thy servant Ba`al is, O Yahm, thy slave Ba`al is forever. O Nahar, the Son of Dagan is thy prisoner!" Ba`al is angry and would strike the messengers, but is restrained by `Anat and `Athtartu. Ba`al tells the messengers that he will not bow to Yahm and that Yahm must beware of him.

After a break in the tablets, Ba`al and Yahm taunt each other. Then Kothar tells Ba`al it is time to strike. Kothar arms Ba`al with two magic weapons, Yagarish, Chaser, and Ayamari, Driver. Ba`al attacks Yahm-Nahar with Yagarish, striking Yahm between the shoulders, but he is not subdued. Then he strikes Yahm between the eyes with Ayamari. Yahm sinks to the earth. Ba`al would make an end of Yahm, but is restrained by `Athtartu who reminds him that Yahm is now their captive and Ba`al will surely reign. Ba`al is ashamed and spares his vanquished enemy, while Yahm keeps repeating: "I am as good as dead! Surely Ba`al is king! Indeed, Ba`al rules!"

3: V AB -KTU 1.3 - Gordon, `nt, I-III

Ba`al serves a huge feast in celebration of his triumph on his sacred Mount Tsaphon, the Heights of the North.

`Anat, bathed in the scent of henna, in the fragrance of coriander and ambergris, and rouged with murex, closes the gates of her palace and proceeds to slay the enemies of Ba`al, the men of the Western Shore and the men of the Eastern Sunrise. Their heads roll beneath her, hands fly above her like locusts. She hangs heads on her back; she binds hands to her belt and wades up to her knees in blood. `Anat returns to her house, but she is not yet sated with fighting, so she sets up chairs, tables, and footstools as troops. She hacks and slashes the furniture, then surveys the damage and her heart is filled with joy and triumph. The house is cleansed of blood and oil of peace-offering is poured.

Ba`al sends Gapan and Ugar with a message for `Anat. When she sees them she asks, "What enemies rises against Ba`al?" She then lists the many foes she has battled and destroyed on Ba`al's behalf. The messengers assure her there is no problem and urge her to visit Ba`al because he has something to say to her, asking her to be now at peace and fill the land with love. `Anat answers that she will do these things when Ba`al sets in the heavens his thunder-bolt, and causes to shine forth his lightning-flash! Then off she flies to Tsaphon.

Upon her arrival, Ba`al complains that he has no house like the other gods. `Anat says that ’El will attend to her or she will drag him to the ground like a lamb and make his grey hairs run with blood, if he doesn't give Ba`al a court like the sons of ’Athirat.

`Anat flies off to the the pavilion of ’El. Apparently the world is dry and parched: Shapash, the luminary, torch of the gods, does glow hot, the heavens are wearied by the hand of divine Mot. `Anat voices her threat to ’El, whereupon he replies from within seven chambers, through the eight entrances of the closed room: I know, daughter, that you are like men. What do you desire, `Anat? `Anat answers politely that there is none higher than Ba`al. The others in ’El's court cry out that Ba`al has no palace like the other gods.

Meanwhile, Ba`al sends messengers to Kothar.

4: II AB - Gordon: 51

Kothar fashions elaborate gifts of silver and gold for ’Athirat, which Ba`al and `Anat take to her the court. They give the gifts to ’Athirat so she will intercede with ’El and obtain permission for the building of Ba`al's house. ’Athirat has her donkey saddled, while Ba`al returns to Mt. Tsaphon. ’El offers ’Athirat food and drink, asking, Does affection for ’El the King excite thee? Love of the Bull arouse thee? But ’Athirat states her purpose and obtains his permission for Ba`al to have a house built. Although Ba`al already has a house of cedar and brick, it is not worthy of his position among the gods. ’El says a house can be built for Ba`al. ’Athirat adds, Now at last Ba`al will observe the season for his rain, his voice, the thunder, and the release of his flashing lightning.

`Anat informs Ba`al of ’El's permission, declaring that he must have a house of gold and silver and lapis-lazuli. Kothar comes to build the palace. Kothar insists that the house should have a window, but Ba`al refuses to allow it, fearing that someone will spy on or kidnap Ba`al's three daughters or brides. Ba`al furnishes his house and celebrates the completion of the building with a great feast to which Ba`al invites all his kinsfolk. Then Ba`al goes out from his palace, and in a damaged section, does something to Yahm, perhaps binds him to a rock. On returning home, he announces that Kothar should furnish the house with a window through which Ba`al then sends his lightning, thunder, and rain. All Ba`al's foes tremble at the sound. Then Ba`al withdraws within his house and declares his supremacy, announcing that he will not send tribute to ’El's new favorite, Mot, the god of death and the underworld, although Mot may be plotting against him. Ba`al sends his messengers, Gapan and Ugar, to Mot in the pit under the earth, in his boggy land of filth, refusing to give him tribute, warning them not to get too close to Mot, lest he crush them.

5: g. I* AB

Gapan and Ugar return with a message. Mot declares his enormous appetite is insatiable and threatens to devour Ba`al. Ba`al is filled with dread and sends back a humble reply, "Be gracious, O divine Mot; I am thy slave, thy bondman for ever." Mot rejoices and states that the humbled Ba`al will come to make merry along with Mot's companions. Though a part of the text is damaged, apparently Ba`al calls to the cattle god Shegar, sending him and some other deities to the underworld with cattle and sheep for Mot. Mot commands Ba`al to bring his clouds, winds, thunder-bolts, and rains; his seven servitors and eight serving maids; his three nymph-like daughters (or brides); and descend into the depths of the netherworld where Ba`al will be like one who has died. Ba`al obeys, but first he makes love to a heifer in the fields by the shore of the realm of Death. "He lies with her seventy-seven times, she allows him to mount her eighty-eight times. She conceives and gives birth" to a boy, seemingly Ba`al's twin. Ba`al clothes him with his robe and sends him as a gift to Mot.

Ba`al's messengers go to ’El. They say that in a field on the shore by the realm of Death they found Ba`al dead. In mourning, ’El descends from his throne and sits on the ground; he pours ashes on his head, rolls in the dust, and puts on sackcloth. He cuts his flesh and utters lamentations over Ba`al. Then `Anat goes wandering in search of Ba'al, finding his body on the shores of the lake of Death.

6: h. I AB

She too mourns just as ’El had, cutting her flesh and weeping. Shapash the Sun goddess comes down to her and helps her carry the body of Ba`al up to Tsaphon, where they bury it, and slaughter many animals for a great funeral feast. Then she heads to ’El's pavillion, crying: Let ’Athirat and her sons rejoice for Mighty Ba`al has perished. ’El asks ’Athirat to give one of her sons to be king. `Athtar is brought forward but he is too small to fill the throne of Ba`al: his feet do not reach the footstool, his head the top of the throne. Then, because there are no rains, water must be drawn for the crops.

After the passage of an unspecified amount of time, `Anat seizes Mot, who confesses that he devoured Ba`al. After another unspecified passage of time, `Anat seizes Mot, splits him with her sword, winnows him with her fan, burns him with fire, grinds him in her hand-mill and sows him in the ground where his body is devoured by birds.

After a break in the text, ’El dreams that Ba`al is alive. He laughs for joy, and lifts up his voice and proclaims that Ba`al lives. ’El shouts the news to `Anat and Shapash. But no one knows where Ba`al is. The soil and the fields are parched because of Ba`al's absence. Shapash, the Torch of the gods, goes in search of the missing god.

There is another break in the text. Ba`al returns and defeats numerous sons of ’Athirat in battle, re-assuming his throne on Tsaphon. After seven years Mot appears again, demanding that Ba`al give him one of his brothers to eat. If not one of Ba`al's brothers, Mot shall consume all humankind. After another break in the text, Mot cries out: "My own brothers you have given me to eat, Ba`al, the sons of my mother to consume!" During the terrific fight which ensues, the two gods butt each other like antelopes, gore each other like wild bulls, bite each other like serpents, and struggle with each other like beasts. Then both fall to the ground. Shapash admonishes Mot, just as she had `Athtar, that ’El will pull up the foundations of his palace, overturn the throne of his kingship, break the sceptre of his authority. Mot conceeds to Ba`al. Ba`al resumes his throne and there is a great feast.

The Myth of Hadad - tablet very broken and obscure

This synopsis is adapted from Hooke as i have been unable to find any complete version in English.

The handmaidens of the goddess ’Athirat, the Lady of the Sea, and of Yarikh, the moon-god, are sent to entreat the help of ’El against the attacks of monstrous creatures sent by Ba`al which are devouring them like worms. ’El tells them to go into the wilderness and hide themselves, and there give birth to wild beasts with horns and humps like buffaloes. Ba`al-Hadad will see them and chase after them. They do so and Ba`al is seized with desire to hunt the creatures to which they have given birth. But the chase proves disastrous to the god; he is in a bog and helpless. During his absence things fall into chaos on earth. His brethren go in search of him and find him with joy.

`Anat and the Buffalo - tablet very broken and obscure

`Anat inquires where Ba`al is to be found and is told by his servants that he is away hunting. She follows after him, and, when she finds him, he is overcome with love for her. He then apparently has intercourse with her (the wording is obscure) in the form of a cow. The fragment ends with the announcement to Ba`al by `Anat that, "A wild ox is born to Ba`al, a buffalo to the Rider of the Clouds." Almighty Ba`al rejoices.

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