ŽAsherah

  • Bull El / God – thôru Žilu
  • El at the sources of the two rivers – Žilu mabbukê naharêmi
  • El in the midst of the springs of the two oceans – Žilu qirba Žapigê tihamatêmi
  • Father of Humanity – Žabi Žadamu
  • The Creator of Creatures – baniyu banawati
  • The Ageless One who Created Us – dordoru dykeninu
  • Kindly/Beneficent ŽEl the Compassionate/Sympathetic – lutipanu Žilu du paŽidu
  • The King, the Father of Years/Time – malik Žabi shanima/shunemi

Biblical titles include

    • :

 

  • Žabi Žad = ”eternal father”
  • Žel `olam, = ”God/ ŽEl the Eternal One”
  • `attiq yomin/yomayyaŽ = ”Ancient of Days,”
    all of which clearly reflect the epithets of the Ugaritic ŽEl.

El, on a stone stela from Ugarit, seated on his throne, his feet on his footstoolThe chief Canaanite god is ŽEl, 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.” ŽEl is therefore the prime creator god of the pantheon, although we do not currently have a Canaanite creation story. ŽEl 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, ŽEl 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, ŽEl is strong, powerful and wise. He is Thoru ŽIlu, the Bull God, identified with this animal for its strength and steadfastness. Whatever happens, He conserves His dignity.

ŽEl 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 ŽEl. ŽEl 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 ŽAsherah, although `Anat is often not shy to approach Him directly. But ŽEl is latipanu Žilu dupaŽidu, ”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 ŽEl:

    • your decree, ŽEl, is wise;

 

    • your wisdom is forever;

 

    A life of good fortune is your decree.

ŽAsherah says to ŽEl:

    • You are great, ŽEl,

 

    • indeed you are wise,

 

    the grey hair of your beard indeed instructs you.

ŽAthirat (Ugarit), ŽAsherah (Hebrew)

Common epithets of ŽAthirat

  • Goddess – Želat
  • Great Lady She-Who-Treads-On-The-Sea – rabatu Žathiratu yammi
  • Holiness, Holy One – qdsh, qadashu
  • Creatress/ Progenitress of the Deities – qnyt. ilm, qaniyatu Žilima

 

In the original texts from Ugarit, Her name is ŽAthirat. Her full title is Rabat ŽAthirat Yam, Great Lady She who Treads on the Sea. After certain linguistic changes, the pronunciation becomes ŽAsherah among the Ph|nicians and the Hebrews. She is the Canaanite Mother of All, Progenitrix of the Deities, and consort of ŽEl. She is goddess of the sea, particularly along the shore, of the fertility of humanity, flocks, and crops, and of great wisdom. ŽElat/ ŽAlat another of Her titles, means ”Goddess,” as ŽEl means ”God,” so ŽAsherah is possibly related to the Arabian goddess ŽAl-Lat. As ŽEl is the Bull, ŽAsherah is the Lion.

The earliest known evidence of the worship of the Goddess ŽAsherah 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 ŽEl as god of heaven at the source of the rivers where the two world oceans meet. From Amarna in Egypt, there is mention of ŽAthirat 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.

Asherah as one of the teraphim, made of clay, with short curly hair, cupping her breasts with her handsSmall 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 ŽEl the Compassionate and in Israel of Yawhu/Yahweh the Compassionate and Merciful, it is Her memory which is now disguised as the Shekhinah.

ŽAsherah has long been associated with the sea, as seen in Her epithet from the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit, Rabat ŽAthiratu 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.

ŽAsherah is also called LabiŽatu, 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 ŽAsherah in the first milleneum BCE is Chawat, which is Hawah in Hebrew and Eve in English. Her full title is Rabat Chawat ŽElatGreat Lady Eve the Goddess, and is associated with the serpent. Thus, Chawa/ Eve is probably a form of ŽAsherah 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 ŽAsherah. It too was removed from the Jerusalem temple the same time as the Žasherah 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 ŽAsherah. 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.

Beautiful Goddess, carved in ivory, in Creatan-style skirt with ibexes on either sideŽAsherah 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. ŽAsherah 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 HeavenDea 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,

 

    • May She grant life, welfare, prosperity, and health.

 

    Mayest thou grant that I behold thy beauty daily.

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 pendantshows 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 Ph|nicia with ŽAshtartu/ Astarté.

ŽAsherah 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 ŽEl/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 ŽAsherah attacked.

Some scholars have misunderstood ŽAsherah’s relationship with Ba`al, especially in the early days of analysis of the Canaanite myths. She is not His mother, although when He petitions Her aid He addresses Her as such. In many cultures, calling one’s elders ”mother” and ”father” is a sign of respect. Other scholars believed that ŽAsherah left ŽEl 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 ŽEl. 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 ŽEl’s consort and His primary intermediary with those who wish to petition His aid.

Ba`al

Common epithets of Ba`al

  • Most High Prince/Master – ŽalŽiyn. b`l, ŽalŽiyanu ba`lu
  • Conqueror of Warriors – ŽalŽiy. qrdm, ŽalŽiyu qarradima
  • Mightiest, Most High, Supreme, Powerful, Puissant – ŽalŽiyn, ŽalŽiyanu, aleyin, eleyin, aliyin, eliyan, elioun
  • Warrior – dmrn, damaron, Demarous (Greek)
  • Hadd, Haddad, Hadad, Hadu, Adad, Addu – hdd
  • Prince, Master of the Earth – zebul ba`al Žaretz or zubulu ba`lu Žaretsi
  • Pidar, uncertain meaning, possibly Bright, Flash – pdr, Pidar
  • Rider on the Clouds – rkb `rpt, rakab arpat or rakibu `arpati
  • Thunderer – r`mn, rimmon or re`amin

 

Gapen & Ugar, Vineyard and Field, Baal’s pages or messengers – gepanu wa ugaru

Baal, on a stone stela from Ugarit, striding forward, carrying his lightning staffBa`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 CloudsPrince, Master of the Earth ( c.f. the Qabalistic phrase Melek haŽAretz, 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 ŽAleyin, 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 ŽEl. Through a series of conflicts and competitions with other gods, Ba`al achieves a position subordinate only to ŽEl among gods. However, He defers to ŽAsherah and often enlists Her favors when He must approach ŽEl. He also relies upon His sister `Anat, who is may be His mate, although not His wife. At times 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 ŽEl. 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.

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, is known in Hittite as Mount Hazzi dkhursân khazi, in Akkadian as ba`litsapûna, in Greek as Kasios and in Latin as mons Casius, in modern Arabic as Jebel Žel-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 ŽEl, 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

Ba`al Tsaphon

    • , Master of the North or northern districts

Ba`al Adir

    • , Master-of-Help

Ba`al Kaneph

    • , Winged Ba`al

Ba`al Moganim

    • , Master of the Shields

Ba`al MarpahŽa

    • , Master of Healing

Ba`al Shamim

    , Master of the Heavens.

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 ŽEl 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 quite 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 wasSeth/ 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 ŽEl 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 ŽEl 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 ŽEl remains throughout the ultimate authority, whom Ba`al must petition for permission to build His palace. ŽEl 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,

 

    • with water He will indeed make fertile harrowed land;

 

    • and He will put His voice in the clouds,

 

    He will flash His lightning to the earth.

`Anat, `Anath, `Anatu, `Anata (Ugarit);
Anta, Antu (Akkadian);
Anit, Anti, Antit, Anant (Egypt.)

Common epithets of `Anat

  • Virgin/ Maiden – btlt `nt, batulatu `Anatu
  • Adolescent Girl – rhm `nt, Rachmaya
  • The Lady – sht (sitt Arabic)
  • lovely/ charming/ fairest daughter, the sister of Ba`al – n`mt. bn. Žaht. b`l
  • Strength of Life – `az chayim
  • Anat The Destroyer – `nt chbly
  • ybmt l`mm, yabamat liŽimim – the meaning of this is uncertain, some possibilities are:
    the Kindred of the Peoples (of Ugarit)
    Mistress of (the) Peoples
    Mother/ Progenitress of Nations
    (Widowed) ’Sister in Law’ of Heroes
    Sister-in-law of the Thousand (Deities)

    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 NileLinguistic fusions of `Anat & `Athtartu
  • Antit – at Beth-Shan
  • `Antart – in Egypt
  • Anatanta – at Tanis in Egypt, period of Ramses II
  • `Anat-`Ashtart – in later Syria
  • `Attar`atta = Atargatis (Gr.) – in Aramaic languageThe Goddess Anat, enthroned with shield and mace, on a stone stela from Ugarit`Anat is a compex Ugaritic goddess: Maidenly, Sexual, War-like, whose abode is the Mountain of Žinbib. 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 possibly 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.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.”As Ba`al’s companion and help-mate, She is goddess of dew and the fertility that it brings. One of Her epithets is Strength of Life – `az chayim. Her grace and beauty were considered among the acme of perfection. She is sometimes described carrying distaff and spindle. 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 Li1imim, which meaning, although not entirely clear, may be ”progenitress (of heroes)” or ”protector of Her people.” And She is sometimes called a ”wanton.” In fact, She is a female who freely enjoys the pleasures of sex as sacred. She is sometimes identified as the Qadashu, the ”Holy One,” goddess of love and desire.

    Embodying a motif common of goddesses throughout the Middle East, `Anat thus personifies a high level of energy which can find its outlet in sexuality or combat, the passionate ecstacy of sex and war. While probably unrelated, She has affinities with the Indian goddess Kali Ma, the Black Mother, who is bringer of life and death, love and fear.