Common epithets of ’El
The chief Canaanite god is ’El, which means simply "God", familiar as one of the names of the single god of the Bible. The linguistic root may mean "That" or "the One." He is called "Creator of all Created Things," as well as "Father of Humanity." ’El is therefore the prime creator god of the pantheon, although we do not currently have a Canaanite creation story. ’El is also the king and head of the divine assembly, the council of the gods, although He is not necessarily 'biological' father of all the deities.
Despite His position as creator, ’El thereafter was comparatively inactive. He is described as an old bearded man and, in most stories we have, He is seated in His hall up on His mountain - between the two rivers which are the source of the world oceans. Although He is rather remote, and not usually directly approached, ’El is strong, powerful and wise. He is Thoru ’Ilu, the Bull God, identified with this animal for its strength and steadfastness. Whatever happens, He conserves His dignity.
’El is a major figure in most of the Ugaritic myths, in the stories of Ba`al, of Aqhat, of Keret, and of Shahar and Shalim. He is also at or near the top of the offering lists at Ugarit, figuring in all of them. Kings on Earth are referred to as Sons of ’El. ’El is also the host of the ritual feast association, the Marzeah, which among other events, sponsored an annual Feast for the Dead.
If we need His aid, we must first gain the assistance of another deity who can go to His distant palace. Frequently this is ’Asherah, although `Anat is often not shy to approach Him directly. But ’El is latipanu ’ilu dupa’idu, "the Compassionate God of Mercy." He is not easily moved to anger. The Kindly One, He blesses us and He forgives us when we do things we shouldn't. If we say we are sorry, this is usually sufficient, and He accepts this as atonement. He mourns for our pain and rejoices in our happiness.
`Anat says to ’El:your decree, ’El, is wise;’Asherah says to ’El:
Common epithets of ’Athirat
In the original texts from Ugarit, Her name is ’Athirat. Her full title is Rabat ’Athirat Yam, Great Lady She who Treads on the Sea. After certain linguistic changes, the pronunciation becomes ’Asherah among the Phoenicians and the Hebrews. She is the Canaanite Mother of All, Progenitrix of the Deities, and consort of ’El. She is goddess of the sea, particularly along the shore, of the fertility of humanity, flocks, and crops, and of great wisdom. ’Elat/ ’Alat another of Her titles, means "Goddess," as ’El means "God," so ’Asherah is possibly related to the Arabian goddess ’Al-Lat. As ’El is the Bull, ’Asherah is the Lion.
The earliest known evidence of the worship of a Goddess with a name like ’Asherah goes back to Sumer, where an inscription dating from 1750 BCE was found on a monument set up by an Amorite official in honor of Hammurapi, on which She is mentioned as Ashratum, bride of Anu, an Akkadian god who corresponds to ’El as god of heaven at the source of the rivers where the two world oceans meet. From Amarna in Egypt, there is mention of ’Athirat in the Akkadian letters dating from 14th Century BCE. The Goddess is also mentioned in Amorite form as Ashirta. And She was known in Southern Arabia. Miners working for the Egyptians in the Sinai called Her the Turquoise Lady, which was also an epithet of Hathor, with whom She was later identified by the Egyptians.
Small household deity figurines of clay used in personal devotion, possibly teraphim, have been found by the thousands in Palestine/ Israel, from the Israelite period, unmatched by any male figurines. She is most commonly formed as a nude torso, cupping Her hands under Her breasts, with short curly hair. The lower part of the figure is hollow, the exterior smooth with a slight flange at the bottom so the figurine can stand up. Because of the commoness of the finds, it can be assumed that She must have been extremely popular in all segments of Hebrew society. It was not unusual to seek Her aid in childbirth As companion in Canaan of Kindly ’El the Compassionate and in Israel of Yawhu/Yahweh the Compassionate and Merciful, it is likely the memory of Her which is now disguised as the Shekhinah.
’Asherah has long been associated with the sea, as seen in Her epithet from the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit, Rabat ’Athiratu Yami - Great Lady She who Treads on the Sea. From Phoenicia, She is known as protectress of sea travellers, a guide of ships. In the form of Tanith, both in Phoenicia and from North Africa in West Phoenician cities such as Carthage, She is often depicted accompanied by dolphins or fish.
’Asherah is also called Labi’atu, the Lion Lady. She was represented as a lion with a human female head in the Sinai, from an early find. Other leonine aspects include Her representation as Qadasha, a human female standing on a lion, from sites in the Levant, Egypt and North Africa, and a lion-headed human female from a Punic temple at Siagu. Her sons are referred to in the Ugaritic texts as Her lions.
Again from finds from the Sinai, She is called Dat ba'thani, Lady of the Serpent. Another name of ’Asherah in the first milleneum BCE is Chawat, which is Hawah in Hebrew and Eve in English. Her full title is Rabat Chawat ’Elat, Great Lady Eve the Goddess, and is associated with the serpent. Thus, Chawa/ Eve is probably a form of ’Asherah as a Serpent Goddess. As a snake goddess, She was also represented by bronze serpent forms, examples of which have been found in archaeological excavations in the Levant. In fact the Nehush-tan, literally the Bronze Serpent which in traditional Jewish myth is associated with Moses, is much more likely an emblem of ’Asherah. It too was removed from the Jerusalem temple the same time as the ’asherah objects.
Tanith, one of Her names in both Phoenicia and North Africa, means Serpent Lady, from "tan" = serpent, with a feminine ending "-it". Scholar Saul Olyan gives an especially cogent argument concerning this later Punic/ Carthaginian goddess as a form of ’Asherah. One of the symbols of Tanith is often referred to as a caduceus, what looks like two ribbons on a pole. It is actually two serpents on or twined around a tree or asherah-pole. A Punic stele has a complex grouping of symbols. At the top is an up-turned crescent, representing the heavens, and a wreath, possibly of snakes. Below is Tanith in a triangular garment from shoulders to feet, Her arms bent upward and outward, holding in each hand a cornucopia, out of which come a pomegranate on Her left and a bunch of grapes on Her right. On each side of Her, below Her waist and arms, is a dove.
’Asherah is the Tree of Life, a life-giving goddess of well-being. The palm tree, particularly the female date palm which bears clusters of dates, is the tree of life in the arid Near Eastern desert - having shallow roots, it must grow near a source of water; it provides shelter from the sun; its leaves make thatch for roofs; its trunk can be used for building; its sap can make sugar (like maple syrup) and even be fermented into an alcoholic beverage; and the fruit of the date, both fresh and dried, is a commonly eaten food. ’Asherah was honored as a sacred tree and worshipped in sacred groves, sometimes depicted in a tree of life stance between two animals. Since She is "upright" and "straight," upright posts or living trees represent Her. On the lid of an ivory pixus from Minet el-Beida (see illustration), Ugarit's sea port, She is depicted in Mycenaeo-Cretan style. She is seated on a decorated stool wearing only a full, Cretan-style layered skirt. Her hair is up on top of Her head. She holds a bunch of plants in each hand, with a rampant ibex on each side facing Her.
She is also called the Lady of of the Stars of Heaven and the Queen of Heaven, Dea Coelestis in Latin. Associated symbols include the solar disk and the crescent, which can appear either with both points up or down. In this form it may represent the canopy of the Heavens, rather than the moon.
A prayer to Her found in Egypt from a Levantine burial:
Praise Qadashu, Lady of of the Stars of Heaven, Mistress of All the Gods,
She is also sometimes shown curly haired, riding a lion, holding lilies and serpents in upraised hands, as Qadashu, as She was known in Egypt. In Egypt representations show Her with Hathor-style hair standing on a lion holding a serpent and/or a flower, either a lotus or a lily, in each hand. An Ugaritic representation on a gold foil pendant shows Her as a full frontal nude with Hathor style hair - shoulder length and flipped up at the bottom - standing on a lion, holding a lily or lotus in each hand, and girded with serpents. She was served by oracular magician-priests and may orignally have been worshipped with joyful orgiastic rites. She was later merged in Phoenicia with ’Ashtartu/ Astarté.
’Asherah and Her cult symbols were legitimate, not only in popular Yahwism, but in the official cult as well, both of the north and south, in Jerusalem, Samaria, and Bethel, and in conservative circles as well. She was worshipped as consort of Yahweh, represented by Her sacred tree or pole in the temple at Jerusalem for about 240 of the 360 years of its existence until the temple's final destruction in 70 CE. While Hosea criticized the bull icons of Bethel, which were associated with ’El/Yahw, the bamot (High Places), the matstsebot (the sacred standing stones), it is only in Deuteronomy, which was written in the exilic and post-exilic periods, that the symbol of ’Asherah attacked.
Some scholars have misunderstood ’Asherah's relationship with Ba`al, especially in the early days of analysis of the Canaanite myths. She is not Ba`al's mother, although when He petitions Her aid He addresses Her as "Mother". This is because, in many cultures, calling one's elders "mother" and "father" is a sign of respect. Other scholars believed that ’Asherah left ’El to become the consort of Ba`al, partly based on false information propagated by the Bible. Again, a careful reading of the myths does not support this; rather, it is an assumption on the part of those who believe that Ba`al was attempting to overthrow ’El. Also there is a fragmentary story in which it is possible that She has sexual relations with Ba`al. This is in keeping with Her ecstatic and loving character, but does not mean She transfered Her allegiance. While She enjoys a certain amount of freedom in Her actions, She remains ’El's consort and His primary intermediary with those who wish to petition His aid.
Common epithets of Ba`al
Most High Prince/Master - ’al’iyn. b`l, vocalized as ’al’iyanu ba`lu
Gapen & Ugar, Vineyard and Field, Baal's pages or messengers - gepanu wa ugaru
Ba`al is the god most actively worshipped in Canaan and Phoenicia, the Storm God, source of the winter rain storms, spring mist, and summer dew which nourish the crops. Therefore He is considered responsible for fecundity, particularly of the Earth, for the growth of vegetation, and for the maintenance of life. None the less, He is NOT a god of vegetation. While the word "ba`al" means simply "master" or "owner," He is considered a prince. Among His other epithets are Rider of the Clouds, Prince, Master of the Earth ( c.f. the Qabalistic phrase Melek ha’Aretz, King of the Earth). Ba`al is an executive force, dynamic, and able to accomplish what He sets out to do. Ba`al is often depicted striding forward, wearing a horned helmet and short wrap kilt, carrying a mace and spear or lightning-bolt staff. Another of His names is Re`ammin, meaning Thunderer. He is also called ’Aleyin, meaning "Most High," "Mightiest," "Most Powerful," or "Supreme," which some scholars have misinterpreted as the name of a son of Ba`al. As a weather god, His home is in the Heights of Tsaphon, Mount of the North. Remnants of His worship survive in the Jewish prayerbook in late spring prayers for dew and late fall prayers for rain.
In fact Ba`al is the son of Dagan/Dagnu, Himself a god of agriculture and storms, and not actually a son of ’El. Ba`al's assistants are Gapen and Ugar, whose names mean, respectively, "Vineyard" and "Grain Field," again stressing Ba`al's relationship with the fertile, life-giving earth. Through a series of conflicts and competitions with other gods, Ba`al achieves a position subordinate only to ’El among gods. However, He defers to ’Asherah and often enlists Her favors when He must approach ’El. He also relies upon His sister `Anat, who is may be His mate, although not His wife. At times it appears that He transforms into a bull and She into a heifer, to stress their fertility, and together they "bring forth seventy, even eighty calves," i.e., many progeny. He is never called "The Bull," however, which title is limited to ’El.
While embodying royal power and authority, Ba`al is not aloof nor beyond the menace of evil. He is continually threatened yet triumphant, as in the story of His continual conflict to sustain Order against Chaos with the god Yahm and to sustain Life against Death with Mot (Mawet/ Mavet in Hebrew), the god of drought, blight, sterility, and decay.
Ba`al is also identified as Hadad, an Akkadian and Babylonian god of the sky, clouds, and rain, both creative, gentle showers and destructive, devastating storms and floods. Like the Canaanite Ba`al, Hadad holds and hurls thunder-bolts. Haddad rides a bull.
His home, the Mountain Divine Tsapan/Tsaphon, is known in Hittite as Mount Hazzi dkhurs‚n khazi, in Akkadian as ba`litsapšna, in Greek as Kasios and in Latin as mons Casius, in modern Arabic as Jebel ’el-Aqra` and in Modern Turkish as Keldag. It stands 5660 feet (1780 meters) in height, the peak lying about 25 miles to the north of Ugarit and 2.5 miles from the coast. Tsapan is well-suited as home of the great storm-god, as this mountain receives the heaviest annual rainfall on the Levantine coast at over 57 inches. Being close to the holy mountain was so important that there were other Mount Tsaphons near distant Phoenician settlements in Egypt and in Spain.
Because, as with ’El, the name Ba`al is a title more than a name, there are numerous "Ba`al's." Among them are:
Ba`al Lebanon, Master of the Cedars
During the long period of trade and exchange between the Canaanites/ Phoenicians with the Egyptians, Ba`al was associated with several Egyptian gods. One is Amon, the ram headed god of fertility, agriculture, air or breath of life, whose name means "hidden," just as Ba`al is sometimes hidden among the clouds. There may also be a relationship between Amon and Ba`al Hammon. As Ba`al Hammon/Khamon, He is the chief Carthaginian god of sky and vegetation, depicted as a bearded older man with curling ram's horns, perhaps a merging of ’El and Ba`al. As Ba`al Qarnaim/ Karnayin, Master of the Horns or the Two-Horned Ba`al, He is a ram-horned god of twilight and the setting sun.
Some scholars related Ba`al to the Egyptian Osiris, considering both as dying-resurrecting gods. While Osiris has an effect on this world with the annual fertilizing floods of the Nile, He is never actually resurrected, rather going to the Netherworld where He reigns. More importantly, while Osiris was known to the Canaanites - the head of Osiris after His dismemberment was said to have floated to the Phoenician city of Byblos - there is no evidence that the Egyptians or Canaanite-Phoenicians ever equated the two.
Another Egyptian god scholars sometimes associate with Ba`al is Ra/ Re, solar god, creator, and sovereign lord of the sky; as Ra-Horakte. He is chief god of the Ennead, the nine most high deities. Reborn each dawn in the East, He dies at dusk after sailing westward across the sky in His boat. However, Ba`al was NEVER a solar god, even though faulty attributions of the Victorian and Edwardian eras have assigned Him this association, perpetuated by some Neopagans. Some of the confusion is attributable to a late Hellenistic syncretic deity worshipped as Heliogabalus, a blending of Ba`al with the Greek sun god Helios and some Persian deities.
In fact, the deity with whom the Egyptians themselves particularly identified Ba`al was Seth/ Set, whose position varied during Egypt1s long history. Most of the time He was not evil personified, but a turbulent desert storm god, and there were pharaohs who bore His name. The Greeks on the other hand, called Ba`al Zeus Demarous kai Adodos, while ’El was equated instead with Kronos.
The name Ba`al is cognate with Bel, a Babylon and Assyrian deity. The Sumerian god Enlil became incorporated with Bel, which eventually became a title of Marduk, defeater of Tiamat whose name is possibly cognate with Yam, the Sea Serpent who Ba`al defeats.
Early in Canaanite studies, some scholars believed that ’El and Ba`al were in conflict for control of the pantheon. A careful reading of the myth shows that this is not true, which is current scholarly thought. There is conflict, as Ba`al must vanquish those in competition with Him for the important executive position. But ’El remains throughout the ultimate authority, whom Ba`al must petition for permission to build His palace. ’El has dominion over all Creation, while Ba`al controls the fertility of the Earthly realm.
Yea, also Ba`al will make fertile with His rain,
Common epithets of `Anat
Virgin/ Maiden - btlt `nt, batulatu `Anatu
Other names of `Anat found in Egypt:
`Anat-her (Anat agrees) - 1700 BCE on a Hyksos scarab Herit-`Anta (Terror of Anat) - 1700 BCE on a Hyksos scarab in Aramaic the daughter of Ptah - 1555-1200 BCE, 18th & 19th dynasties, in Memphis Anati - 14th century BCE, Amarna Tablets Anatbethel (means: Anat-house-of-god) - 6th & 5th century BC, Elephantine Island in the Nile
Linguistic fusions of `Anat & `Athtartu
Antit - at Beth-Shan
`Anat is a compex Ugaritic goddess: Maidenly, Sexual, War-like, whose abode is the Mountain of ’inbib. Her most common epithet in Ugarit is the Maiden (batalat), meaning, not virgo intacta, but spouse of no one, perhaps a perpetually impetuous adolescent. At the same time She is sister and possibly lover of Ba`al, seemingly appearing as a heifer to Ba`al's bull and perhaps mother of some of Ba`al's offspring as calves, although never His wife; for, at times, He transforms into a bull and She into a heifer, to stress their fertility, and together they bring forth seventy, even eighty, i.e., many progeny. However, these interpretations are provisional, as the sections of the tablets with this part of the story are quite damaged and not fully readable.
Mark Smith synopsizes Her etomology as follows: In the Ugaritica V deity-list, Her name is written as da-na-tu4, vocalized as `anatu. Gray compares Arabic `anwat, "violence"; McCarter connects it with Akkadian ittu, "sign," hence the goddess is the sign of the presence of the god; Deem relates it to a putative BH root *`nh, "to love, to make love" and with an agricultural term m`nh/m`nt, "a turn of the plow, a furrow." Finally, there is a secondary connection between it and `n, "spring, a source of water". Only Mark Smith's is certain, however, and the rest are speculative.
As Ba`al's companion and help-mate, `Anat is goddess of dew and the fertility that it brings. One of Her epithets is `az chayim - Strength of Life. Her grace and beauty were considered among the acme of perfection. She is also a warrior, armed with spear and shield, a goddess of the hunt and of war, aiding Ba`al in His battle with Yahm and avenging Ba`al's death by slaying Mot. Another common epithet for Her is Yabamat Li'imim, which meaning is not entirely clear, but may be "progenitress (of heroes)" or "protector of Her people." She is sometimes identified as the Qadashu, the "Holy One," goddess of love and healing.
Embodying a motif common of goddesses throughout the Middle East, `Anat personifies a high level of energy which may find its outlet in sexuality or combat, the passionate ecstasy of sex and war. While clearly unrelated, She has some affinities with the Indian goddess Kali Ma, the Black Mother, who is bringer of life and death, love and fear.
`Anat is reminiscent in some ways of Sekhmet, the Egyptian lioness-headed, solar disc crowned warrior goddess. Sekhmet fights as defender or to right a wrong and can be benign or uncompromisingly just. She lives on the Mountain of the Setting Sun. `Anat's myths include a story much like one of Sekhmet's, how in a heightened state brought about by the slaying of an entire army, after wading hip deep in blood, `Anat enters Her palace and in joyful ecstasy annihilates the furniture imagining it to be another army, until the gods and their assistants succeed in calming Her, as the gods subdue Sekhmet with a blend of pomegranate juice and beer which She quaffs thinking it is blood.
`Anat may be thought of as having some of the characteristics of Bast/Bastet, the Egyptian goddess commonly represented as a seated cat. As deity of fertility, Bast may be depicted surrounded by Her kittens. As protectress or wife of the sun She is sometimes depicted killing a snake, Apep/Apophis, the serpent who devoured the Sun. [There is some difference of opinion concerning this reference. If anyone can clarify this, ] Here are strong parallels, as `Anat helps slay the sea-serpent Yahm in His battle with Ba`al and kills Mot who devoured Ba`al. Bast also appears as a standing cat-headed woman in a red patterned dress carrying a sistrum, as giver of the comforts of life: joy, music, dance, and sexual pleasure, as does the Qadashu. Bast is the Lady of the East, as Sekhmet is of the West, and She is identified with spring and gentle early summer, when the vegetative world is dependent on dew, another characteristic shared with `Anat. This again relates to `Anat, for typically many Middle Eastern goddesses are both warrior and lover, morning star and evening star, such as Ishtar.
`Anat is sometimes described carrying distaff and spindle. And in some descriptions, She adorns Herself with something translated by some as murex, the snail from which the purple dye comes. As the Canaanites/ Phoenicians were famed for their weaving, `Anat may well have been a patroness of that skill, perhaps also of the famed dye, later known as Tyrian purple, which could also be a blood red color. For these reasons, too, some Egyptians identified `Anat with Neith/Net an ancient goddess from the Nile delta. Neith is a skilled weaver and guardian of domestic life, as well as a goddess of war, whose symbols include crossed arrows on an animal skin or shield and a weaver's shuttle.
In Egypt during the New Kingdom, `Anat was regarded as one of the great goddesses, particularly as a powerful goddess and goddess of war, in the 18th Dynasty (1550-1292 BCE), that of Akhnaten and Tutankamen, and the 19th Dynasty (1292-1190 BCE), best known for its military conquests in what are now Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, and the Pharaoh Ramses II. An Egyptian stela from the northern temple of Beth-shan shows the figure of the Canaanite warrior goddess identified as Antit. She wears on Her head a plumed crown and holds in Her left hand the Egyptian was sceptre of "happiness" and in Her right hand the ankh sign of "life." During the time of Ramesses II, She is represented as seated on a throne and holding weapons. Two lines of text describe the goddess thus: Anti, the Queen of Heaven and Mistress of all the gods. A man stands opposite the goddess, and above him other text lines tell how he is bringing an offering:
Both temples in the level continued in use until at least the time of the Philistines and are evidently mentioned in the Old Testament. References to Her continue in later periods. During the Hellenistic period, Egyptians identified `Anat with Hathor and Isis, while the Greeks identified Her with Athena, their virgin warrior goddess, while the Phoenicians often merged Her with `Athtartu/Astarté.
Based on Her offerings for Ba'al, it is possible that another of `Anat's responsibilities is to oversee the ritual sacrifices to make sure they are properly carried out so as to ensure immortality of the deities, but this is not certain. She frequently anoints Herself with what is sometimes translated as "ambergris". More likely She anoints Herself with some form of balsam, from any number of conifers or fragrant resin-producing shrubs from the Middle East. The fragrant creamy paste which is currently called "amber," a resin with a somewhat vanilla-like scent, is a good substitute today in Her rites.
`Anat's name sounds as if it is related to that of the Persian goddess Anahita, Anaïtis in Greek, the Immaculate One who embodies the fertilizing properties of water and thus, by extension, of semen. Anahita is a tall powerful maiden, both mother and warrior, healer and protector, riding a chariot drawn by four white horses who are Wind, Clouds, Rain, and Hail. She is honored with offerings of fragrant green branches and white heifers, and worshipped with sacred sexuality, much like `Anat. Scholars say it is mere coincidence that their names and characteristics are so similar, however.
An actual praise to `Anat:
`Anat, the Victorious Goddess,
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Updated 29 July 2008