The Myth of Baal

Ugaritic Mythology [Hooke Chap 3].

Intermediate region – between Babylon and Egypt is Canaan. The inhabitants are entirely Semitic speaking. Mythological fragments and writings of Philo of Byblos. Also Ras Shamra Tablets found 1928 at ancient north Syrian city of Ugarit.

Ugarit is mentioned in Bab and Hittite records. Had a cuneiform type script and were alphabetic.. with 28 letters. Ugaritic is closely related to Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew.

Tablets from the 14th century BC. Canaanite myths are earlier in origin and Canaanite myths in the Ras Shamrah tablets are divided into 3 groups. Group 1 is the largest and are concerned with Baal and his relations with the Canaanite pantheon and Hebrew mythology. Group 2 comprise the second cycle including the Epic of Kenet – King of Hubur – which may have a historical basis. Group 3 is the third cycle which contains the Legend of Aqhat the son of Daniel. Daniel was the Canaanite legendary king.

Asherat promises Baal his dominion may continue. Guests are feasted and Baal case is presented to El who agrees to Baal’s palace. Khoshar-wa-Khasis plans palace. Baal refuses to have windows in it. He feels Yam will steal away his brides. Baal finally disposes of Yam and consents to windows. When Baal opens windows the Windows of Heaven open too. Hence rain will fall on earth and fertilise soil.

In his pride Baal challenges Mot the god of death, the underworld and aridity, therefore the death of vegetation. Baal sends messengers Gupan (vine) and Ugar (field) to Mot’s abode beyond the northern mountains. The messengers demand that Mot remains in the underworld and the deserts of earth. Mot invites Baal to an underworld banquet. Terrified at the prospect Baal cannot refuse. As a precaution Baal smears himself with ochre to warn off demons, and gains strength – a son – by copulating 88 times with a heifer. This is Canaanite ritual bestiality.

The Poem of Baal is a Canaanite epic poem. It is of undetermined antiquity. The poem relates the myth of certain Canaanite religious rituals. This includes the combat between fertile and infertile seasons or the death and revival of a young god – fertile versus infertile, death versus revival. Hence common elements are found in most of the eastern Mediterranean.

The Epic begins  as a fragmentary section. It describes the rivalry for dominion over the earth, between Yam (dragon god of the sea and the inland waters), and Ashtar the young god of artificial irrigation. Ignoring the warning of the sun goddess (Shapash) Ashtar demand

s of the Bull god El (the supreme deity) that Yam can be deposed in Ashtar’s favour. El confirms Yam’s supremacy on the grounds that Ashtar is inadequate to the exalted position. Soon El’s son (Baal) the rain god and spirit of fertility challenges the power of Yam. Emmisaries from Yam to the divine assembly frightens the gods. Baal boasts he will destroy Yam. El pacifies emmisaries.

Baal causes the divine smith (Kosher-wa-Khasis)  to make him two thunderbolts – for weapons – and in the battle Baal subdues Yam. Baal complains  because he rules the earth but has no palace. Baal drives Yam back to the sea. Baal’s ally is the war goddess Anat who accompanies him to the abode of the mother of the gods.

The mother is Asherat the consort of El. Baal presents his plea. Asherat is alarmed at first but is placated by gifts. [Myths of Baal.  Hooke 80-81]. The myth contained 7 tablets and much is obscure and imperfectly understood.

In the Myth of Baal and the Waters – “…Yam-Nathar sends envoys to the council of the gods to demand that Baal be delivered up to him. The gods bow their heads in fear, and El promises that Baal shall be handed over to the messengers of Yam-Nahar. Thereupon Baal taunts the gods for their cowardice and attacks the messengers, but is restrained by Anath and Astoreth. Then Kothar-u-Kasis arms Baal with two magic weapons, called ‘Yagrush’ (Chaser) and Aymer’ (Driver). Baal attacks Yam-Nahar with Yangush and Aymer and fells him to earth. He then proposes to make an end of Yam, but is restrained by Astoreth who reminds him that Yam is now their captive. Baal is ashamed and spares his vanquished enemy.

In this episode – El who is often Bull-El and father of the gods who dwells in the fields of El. The fields of El are at the source of the rivers. Baal is the son of El and god of fertility. Often called the Rider of the Clouds. God of lightening and thunder and thus sometimes called Hadad. Kother-u-Khasis was the craftsman god. Shapash was the sun goddess whose was the Ugaritic form of the Akkadian Shamash or torch of the gods.

Ashtoreth was the wife of El and mother of the gods. Asherah was the lady of the sea who covets the throne of Baal for her son Ashtar. Anath was the sister of Baal.


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2 responses to “The Myth of Baal

  1. You would like this book I am using as a reference by National Geographic called Essential Visual History of World Mythology. It is completely awesome, loads of photos and very easy to read in short stints.

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