ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
You read something over breakfast thinking, this is short, it'll only take a minute, and before you know it you're embroiled.

This short article from the year 1900 suggests that Ishtar was originally an androgynous deity before being "split" into male and female aspects. Similarly, Barton argues, Enlil and Ninlil were originally one and the same god. This intriguing idea is based on three pieces of evidence: one, in South Arabia, the goddess Athtar became the god Athtar, the deity's female aspect becoming a separate goddess, Shamsu; an inscription which Barton argues should read in part "the king of countries, the god Ishtar, the lady, the goddess Ishtar"; and an incantation in which both Enlil and Ninlil are called "mother-father". Barton also mentions Phoenician inscriptions referring to "Ashtart of the name of Baal" and "Tanit of the face of Baal".

This is appealing, but I don't quite know what to do with it. I can't find any citations of this article (which makes me wonder how I found it in the first place); apparently no-one else has built on this idea (although Barton discussed it further in his 1902 book A Sketch of Semitic Origins: Social and Religious). Connections suggest themselves: the primordial Aztec creator deity Ometeotl, both male and female, who can also appear as a male god, Ometecuhtli, and a goddess, Omecihuatl. OTOH, the Egyptian god Atum seems to have started off male and acquired female characteristics as a necessary part of being a creator.

There's also a mention of a Phoenician idol of a bearded goddess (Tanit, but with Baal's face?). I tried randomly searching for "bearded goddess" and came up with various examples, including a bearded Isis (which I will ETA), and the bearded Aphrodite / Aphroditus / Hermaphroditus, and his/her festival in which men and women swapped clothes - shades of the transvestism apparently involved in Inanna's rituals. Scholars have argued over whether Anat wore a beard. (Which I will also ETA because I can't lay hands on the photocopies right now.)

ETA: After much faffing about I found a section on Anat's beard in Neal H. Walls' book The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth. There's a description of the god El mourning the slain Baal in a series of ritual actions, which includes shaving his beard and whiskers. Then Anat goes through the same series of steps. IIUC what El does, literally, is to "cut his cheeks and chin", where the word for "chin" is also used to mean "beard". So in Anat's case, she "gashed her cheeks and chin". Walls remarks: "the comparative evidence for bearded goddesses is dubious". I shall pursue this question. (Does Sekhmet's ruff count?)

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Barton, George A. An Androgynous Babylonian Divinity. Journal of the American Oriental Society 21, 1900, pp. 185-187
Walls, Neal H. The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth. Scholars Press, Atlanta GA, 1992.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
A long, copiously footnoted, often technical, and frequently filthy dirty article, "A Cloud Roams and Beautifies by Spitting Out Her Brother" discusses a Ugaritic composition called KTU 1.96. The author, Matthew S. Tarazi, discusses prevous interpretations of the hymn, and gives his own: it describes the goddess Anat, acting as the "servant-messenger" of the storm-god Baal, collecting the rainwaters and distributing them to the freshwater springs which are essential for civilisation. Here's his translation of the first 9 1/2 lines:

"A Cloud roams and beautifies by spitting out her brother —
And her brother is beautiful, how very beautiful!
May she devour his flesh without a knife,
May she drink his blood without a cup:
May she face the spring of shame.
From the spring of shame may she face the spring of the market, the spring of the assembly, the spring of the gate."

Tarazi interprets this as Anat performing fellatio on Baal to obtain his semen, which she then distributes to the underground springs and brings to the surface, fertilising ("beautifying") the land. Baal's "flesh and blood" is his "entire essence and nature", the rainwater; the "spring of shame" is Baal's penis. The market, assembly, and gate are all "components of civilized life in Ugarit", so Anat's visit "vivif[ies] these sectors of life and civilization." The title of the hymn can be less poetically interpreted as "A cloud roams and irrigates by emitting out rainwaters", fertilising the earth "so that it brings forth magnificent life, vegetation, and civilization".

The Ugaritic word 'nn means both "cloud" and "servant, messenger"; it makes perfect sense for the storm-god's servants and messengers, including in this case Anat, to be clouds.

"Shame" seems like such an odd word in such a positive context. I wonder if it's really the right translation. Tarazi points out that Anat herself might not feel ashamed, even if "she is shameful by certain social standards".

Tarazi argues that it's Baal who does the fertilising here; although she acquires his waters in an *ahem* active manner, Anat is his agent, not a fertility goddess in her own right. He believes this is a deliberate change from an older view of Anat as having the "innate capacity to fertilize the earth". ("It also accords well with iconographic images depicting her with small breasts, thus internally deficient of life-sustaining fluids." OTOH, Ishtar is depicted proferring full breasts, and yet is arguably a goddess of sexual desire rather than fertility per se*.) I guess that would fit with the image of Anat taking Baal's semen in her mouth, rather than her vagina. (This is not the same thing, but I thought of Atum, who is what Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty would call a "male androgyne", producing Shu and Tefnut by taking his semen in his hand and placing it in his mouth.)

The author discusses at some length "a literary convention wherein [poet-scribes] would pluralize a term that denotes a particular person, typically a deity, to refer to the essential manifestation of that person". (He argues in particular that the word "brother" is actually "brothers".) "... deities are construed as ultimate sources of certain constituents and phenomena of the natural world [which in turn are] construed as coming out from the body of the person of the deity himself, and embodying that deity's essential nature." The point of this convention was to show that the god and their essence were different, but intimately related. It also addresses the idea that a god can manifest simultaneously in multiple places; similarly, in the Hebrew Bible, "plural forms of deity names... can be used to refer to idols of that deity [because] an idol is construed as sharing in the very essence and nature of the god whom it represents."


* I can't remember for the life of me who made this argument.

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Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy. Women, androgynes, and other mythical beasts. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1980.
Tarazi, Matthew S. A Cloud Roams and Beautifies by Spitting Out Her Brother: KTU 1.96 and its Relation to the Baal Cycle. Ugarit-Forschungen 36 2004, pp 445-509.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Re the Keret Epic, Tablet C: "For instance, it can be shown conclusively that the so-called goddess Sha'taqat is a figment of the imagination; the supposed name is a finite verb and the figure referred to is the minor goddess of healing, Thatmanitu." (p 131)

Starting a cult for Sha'taqat in three, two...

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Albright, William Foxwell. Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan: a Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths. London, Athlone Press, 1968.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
When I saw the spectacular conjunction between Venus and Jupiter currently in our skies, my first thought was, "She's probably threatening to beat him up." I was thinking of Anat's threat to El ("I will make your beard run with blood") in the stories of the hero Aqhat and of Baal's palace, and the parallels between that bloodthirsty Ugaritic goddess, the Mesopotamian Ishtar, and the Greek Aphrodite. But perhaps Athena is a closer analogue for Anat, as Bruce Louden argues in The Iliad: Structure, Myth, and Meaning.

Although Athena is often "calm and thoughtful", she also has angry and martial episodes. "Many of Athena's more striking features in Homeric epic - her use of deception against mortals, resentment of Zeus, bloodthirstiness... - all have close equivalents in earlier depictions of Anat." (p 285) As well as the similarity in their names, both wield spears, both "have certain masculine tendencies, are closely involved with their fathers, and have no relation to their mothers." (p 247) Both confront their fathers to get their own way, Anat with a direct threat, Athena while gripped by "savage anger"; and both are summoned to their fathers by divine messengers. (p 249-250) Louden also draws parallels with Anat and Baal and Athena and Ares (p 252-7).

Anat and Athena both punish arrogant heroes who foolishly offend them (something they have in common with Ishtar). In Anat's case, it's Aqhat, whose bow she covets; he rejects her offer of riches or immortality, telling her that bows are not for girls and even describing to the goddess of war what materials are needed to make one. In Athena's case, Hektor, Paris, and Pandaros all fall victim to the cheeked goddess' wrath. In both instances, the goddess enlists the help of another warrior (Yatipan, Achilles, and Diomedes) to get her revenge.

Louden compares the linking of feasting and slaughter in the Odyssey (the gory massacre of the suitors, in which Athena is instrumental), and Anat's "bloodbath":

"She arranges chairs for the soldiery,
Arranges tables for the hosts,
Footstools for the heroes...
Knee-deep she gleans in warrior-blood,
Neck-deep in the gore of soldiers,
Until she is sated with fighting in the house,
With battling between the tables."

(This is the most straightforward explanation of that passage I've ever read: Anat isn't fighting actual furniture, nor turning tables and chairs into soldiers, but hosting a feast and then killing the participants!)

Though there's no mention of Anat's worship in the OT, she is mentioned in personal and place names; but Louden also argues that the depiction of Yahweh himself was influenced by her imagery and mythology. He remarks that "divine bloodthirstiness is a typical aspect of deity for the period", as are deception and cruelty; he gives some striking and disturbing Biblical examples, including images of sacrifice and cannibalism (which tie back in to the combination of feasting and killing). He also compares the herem of Yahweh - the mass killing of a city's whole population, with the implication of human sacrifice - with a word of the same root used in one text to describe Anat's warfare.

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Louden, Bruce. The Iliad: structure, myth, and meaning. Baltimore, Md, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Mountains of stuff lying around which I've never blogged. Here's one:

The technical name of the tablet this paper discusses is, IIUC, "UT 'nt - CTA 3 [= KTU 1.3] II". It contains the text of the story I've mentioned a few times here in the past: the goddess Anat fighting warriors "in the open plain", with heads rolling like balls and hands flying over her like locusts; and then coming back to her palace for a second bloodbath, after which she washes her hands and puts on her makeup.

The second part of the story has been interpreted more than one way. Anat "arranges seats for the warriors" before commencing her attack, but does she kill actual warriors (perhaps captives or ringleaders on whom she passes judgement?, Or, still overexcited from the battle, does she attack the furniture itself - possibly changed into more warriors to fight, since she ends up thigh-deep in their blood?

If the text was part of a ritual, it might have been part of a ritual combat, "which was a feature of the New Year ceremonies in Mespotamian, Egyptian, and Hittite ritual".

Anat's name has also been interpreted in various ways - "sign, indication of purpose, active will", "presence", "semblance", "manifestation" - fitting her role in the myths as the "active agent", "representative", or "hypostasis" of Baal. That suggests the Eye of Re / Eye of Atum - as does Anat's bloodthirstiness; Gray compares the story to the Destruction of Mankind.

The pharaohs of the 19th Dynasty were big fans of Anat, with Ramesses II calling himself "beloved of Anat" and "nursling of Anat", setting up a stela on which Anat says "I have borne you like Seth [=Baal]", naming a chariot team "Anat is content", a sword "Anat is victorious", and a dog "Anat protects"!

(Here's the Anat tag over at my Tumblr, such as it is.)

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Gray, John. The Blood Bath of the Goddess Anat in the Ras Shamra Texts. Ugarit-Forschungen 11 1979, pp 315-24.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Been meaning to get to this approximately forever.

"An independent and unrestrained female in the divine realm, the Maiden Anat plays an active role in the Ugaritic myths. Although she is described as a nubile female, Anat aggressively engages in the masculine pursuits of hunting and warfare... Delighting in the carnage of battle, Anat wades in blood up to her thighs... Yet, Anat's violence also serves a positive function... Indeed, her vigorous extirpation of Death allows fertility to return to the earth. Thus, Anat is an ambivalent force in Ugaritic myth." (p 1)

More... )
ikhet_sekhmet: (Endymion)
A few notes from this chapter of Religion in the Ancient World:

  • "It is also striking that Ba'al and Osiris, the dying fertility gods, each have two goddesses caring for them: Isis and Nephthys for Osiris, 'Ashtart and 'Anat for Baal." (Hmm, adds Kate: in the "Contendings of Horus and Seth", Seth gets 'Ashtart and 'Anat as wives. Ishtar and Anat do seem like a natural pairing - or even a redoubling of the same goddess? While I'm thinking out loud, is there any connection between the Sumerian ninan "lady of heaven" and the Egyptian nbt pt "mistress of heaven"?)

  • And in one myth, "El apparently mates with both Athirat and 'Anat". The dirty old man. Colless suggests that the lyre-playing figure at the right of this drawing of "Yahweh and his Asherah" may be 'Anat, as she plays a lyre in the Ba'al myth. ("A tenuous little link", to quote Kenny Everett.)

  • There's a male Ugaritic god, 'Ashtar, whose name is cognate with Ishtar, but is not the same deity as 'Ashtart. Ishtar appears as Ba'al's consort in a myth "only preserved in a tattered state, in a Hittite version."

  • "Deities are like words: some of them maintain their original meaning throughout the ages, but some of them shift their ground and acquire new functions over time."

  • Colless debates whether 'Anat or 'Ashtart was the Biblical "Queen of Heaven", mentioning that 'Anat-Bet'el and 'Anat-Yahu were worshipped at Elephantine alongside Yahweh.

  • Meanwhile in the Sinai peninsula, where the Egyptians got their turquoise, proto-alphabetic inscriptions use the title Ba'alat ("goddess") and name three goddesses: Elat, Tanit, and 'Anat. "Tanit has been variously identified as 'Ashtart, 'Anat, or Ashirat, but she may be a completely separate personage."
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Colless, Brian. "Ba'al's Relations with Canaanite Goddesses." in Matthew Dillon (ed). Religion in the Ancient World. Amsterdam : A.M. Hakkert, 1996.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Via my dad: Sydney's Powerhouse Museum has a nice little collection of Egyptian antiquities, including a small bronze statue of Nefertem.

Current exhibition at NYU: The Lost World of Old Europe: the Danube Valley 5000-3500 BCE

A Sharper Focus on Antiquity: 1997 University of Georgia news item about the crucial first word of a Ugaritic tablet, KTU 1.96 (a spell against the evil eye), properly read for the first time thanks to expert photography. It was thought for decades to be about Anat being a cannibal, but in fact the text doesn't mention her at all!

The Brooklyn Museum's brief description of last year's exhibition The Fertile Goddess includes some beautiful images of prehistoric figurines.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
A large number of recorded public lectures given at the California Museum of Ancient Art are available on CD. I hugely enjoyed a 1987 talk by Dr William Fulco titled "The Love Goddess in Western Semitic Tradition" - here are a few notes from that.

As an example of cultural exchange between Hurrian and Vedic culture, Fulco compares the depiction of Kali with a description of a victorious Anat, who wears a necklace of heads and a girdle of hands. (ETA: A comparison also made by Marvin H. Pope.)

Fascinatingly, Fulco suggests that goddesses such as Anat and Athirat may be the active versions of the things their corresponding gods represent; for example, where Baal is the war, Anat is the actual fighting. (I think there's got to be a comparison here with the Hindu idea of Shakti.) He connects the ambiguous sexuality which crops up throughout ANE religion. Later in the talk, discussing the significance of names, he remarks that Anat and other goddesses are sometimes called the "Name of Baal" - that is, "an external manifestation of [Baal's] personality"; "that reality visible and manifested to the outside - that you can interrelate with". Fulco also relates this to the feminine spirit of God in the Bible.

Regarding the question of whether Asherah was the consort of Yahweh, Fulco suggests that she was seen that way in popular rather than "normative" worship (and hence all the condemnations of the practice in the Bible, which "give you a picture of what's actually going on"!)

Regarding the relationship ANE religions and Christianity, Fulco rather wonderfully says: "If I may put it in a faith context, if the Incarnation means anything, it means coming in the language people understand... Near Eastern mythology, mythological language, forms of worship and so on were things people understood, and I think that's what the Incarnation means, it means to use those, change those... I feel quite comfortable with it. It gives me a sense of historical context."

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Pope, Marvin H. "The Goddesses Anat and Kali," summary, Vol. II, 51, in
Proceedings of the 26th International Congress of Orientalists. New Delhi, 1968.

Anat vs El

Aug. 10th, 2007 07:45 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Here's a great characterisation of Anat in Baal:

"... during a wine-imbibing banquet Baal asks for her intercession with El for permission to build a house of his own. Anath consents and hies off to El, who, on seeing the approach of his war-like daughter, hides 'in the eighth chamber within a chamber' and only with the promise of a sound drubbing comes out and grants her request."

Starr also calls El a counterpart of the Sumerian Enlil. (Unless I'm very much mistaken, the similarity between their names is coincidental.)
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Starr, Omega Means. A search for the identity of Yamm 'Prince Sea', of the Canaanite Baal and Anath Cycle. Folklore 84(3) autumn 1973, pp 224-237.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
The last of my notes from The Violent Goddess by Arvid S. Kapelrud.

Read more... )

Kapelrud concludes: "She covered so many sides of human life that her worshippers were confronted with her on each cross-road of their lives... She was the right goddess [to worship] in nearly every situation. It is thus no wonder that she was worshipped over practically the whole Middle Eastern area. The violent goddess was close to women's and men's hearts."
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Kapelrud, Arvid S. The Violent Goddess: Anat in the Ras Shamra Texts. Universitets-forlaget, Oslo, 1969.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Anat's killing of Aqhat is followed by a drought; in Stories from Ancient Canaan, Michael Coogan speculates that the lost conclusion to the myth sees Aqhat's resurrection and the restoration of fertility to the land. If so, I think there's another parallel with Inanna/Ishtar, who decreed Dumuzi's captivity in the Netherworld.

In the Epic of Baal, there's a different variation on the pattern: Anat retrieves Baal's body, and slays his murderer, Death himself, returning Baal to life.

Another parallel: in Enuma Elish, Marduk fights and defeats Tiamat, the sea; in the Epic of Baal, Baal fights and defeats Prince Sea. (Both Baal and Marduk are young up-and-coming gods, who receive a temple as the reward for their victories.)

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Coogan, Michael David. Stories from Ancient Canaan. Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1978.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
My jaw dropped as I was reading the Ugaritic myth Baal on the bus, and came to the part where Anat, not satisfied with the real battle she's just gleefully engaged in, turns her own furniture into soldiers so she can keep fighting. After which she literally washes her hands in blood, before washing them in water. This is the event represented by artist Thalia Took's image of Anat. It's an even more bloodthirsty portrayal of a war goddess than anything I've read of Inanna/Ishtar.

Kapelrud says of Anat: "She is the demanding goddess of battle, never satisfied, always with a never-resting wish to go on, which is the typical mark of passion, until it ends up burning up itself."
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Coogan, Michael David. Stories from Ancient Canaan. Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1978.

Kapelrud, Arvid S. The Violent Goddess: Anat in the Ras Shamra Texts. Universitets-forlaget, Oslo, 1969.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Anat appears in names in the Bible: the personal name Shamgar ben Anat (in Jude) and the city name Anathoth (multiple times), probably short for "Beth-Anathoth", "House of the Great Anat".

By the time the Hebrews arrived in Canaan, Anat's worship had largely been displaced by that of Asherah and Astarte. The Hebrews, who "did not even want to pronounce the names of these despised goddesses", tended to confuse them. OTOH, the goddess were sometimes conflated by worshippers; in Egypt Anat and Astarte were fused into 'Antart, in Syria they were worshipped as 'Anat-'Ashtart ('Attar'atta, Atargatis).

Anat was called "the maiden Anat" (bltl 'nt), "Anat the destroyer", and "the lady", amongst other titles. She is called Baal's sister and El's daughter, but these may be honorary titles rather than actual family relationships.

Anat was worshipped in Egypt (probably introduced there by the Hyksos), with a temple at Tanis dedicated to Anat-Anta, and a sculpture showing Anat protecting Ramses II, who styled himself "nourished by Anta" and "beloved of Anta", and named his daughter Bent-Anat ("daughter of Anat"). In Memphis Anat was called "daughter of Ptah".

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Kapelrud, Arvid S. The Violent Goddess: Anat in the Ras Shamra Texts. Universitets-forlaget, Oslo, 1969.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
These goddesses are connected to each other, and to Inanna/Ishtar, in ways I'm not clear about. Are they essentially the same goddess, appearing in different cultures? Have they borrowed characteristics from one another? I intend to investigate!

In Stories from Ancient Canaan, Michael Coogan notes that while Anat, Astarte, and Asherah appear regularly in the Ugarit myths, none of them have major roles. Asherah is consort of the supreme god, El. The warlike Anat is Baal's sister and his wife; she has a ferocious temper. Like the Hindu goddess Kali, she wears human heads as a necklace and human hands on a belt.

In the myth of Aqhat, Anat demands the king give her his bow and arrow, made by the god of crafts; when he refuses and insults her, her vengeance costs Aqhat his life. The parallel with Ishtar's spurned proposal to Gilgamesh is striking.

Before wreaking her revenge, Anat turns to the supreme god, El, perhaps for help or permission (part of the story is missing); presumably he refuses her, because she threatens him, and he lets her go. Again there's a parallel, with Ishtar threatening to wreak havoc if the supreme god Anu doesn't let her take revenge on Gilgamesh; and with Inanna and Ebih, in which Inanna seeks Anu's permission to take revenge on the uppity mountain.
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Coogan, Michael David. Stories from Ancient Canaan. Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1978.

Sandars, N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin, London, 1972.

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