ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
This chapter by Donald B. Redford discusses the "ever-present struggle between land and sea, fair weather and storm", which "dominat[ed] the mythology of the maritime cities of the eastern Mediterranean", in the form of stories of hero vs monster - tales describing creation and providing "an archetypal rationalization of kingship". The version of the story from northern Syria, with Baal defeating Prince Sea on the coast near Mount Saphon (modern Jebel al-ʾAqraʿ / Kel Dağı), was the most influential: Greek myth placed the battle between Zeus and Typhon in the same area, Athena and Poseidon's rivalry is based on Anat and Yam's, and Marduk's defeat of Tiamat in the Enûma Elish is also drawn from the story.

Variations of the story occur further south, in cities where the worship of the goddess, called Astarte, "seems to outshine" her male consort. ("This may hark back to the Bronze Age when the cult of Asherah, the mother of the gods, as more prominent in the Levant. In the hinterland of the south, indeed, she continued to dominate as the consort of Baʿal and Yahweh.") In Byblos, "the goddess reigned supreme". She was known as "the Mistress of Byblos" - probably Astarte. Byblos also had the tale of the battle with the sea, but he "is worsted, killed and has to be revived by a loyal partner". (The story of Adonis and the Egyptian tale of the Doomed Prince, among others, show traces of this myth.) There were further variations at Sidon and Tyre.

A second storyline involves the "sexually-avaricious Sea who turns his attention to the beautiful goddess, the Baʿal's consort". Derivations include Typhon's pursuit of Aphrodite, the abduction of the Phoenician princess Europa, and Perseus' rescue of the Ethiopian princess Andromeda. Redford drily remarks: "There can be no doubt that the prospect of the innocent, voluptuous beauty ravished by the monster had an irresistable appeal to the collective subconscious of many a community in the Aegean". There are related stories of the goddess Atagatis / Derceto turning into a fish (along with her son) after being thrown or leaping into the water.

At Gaza, Anat, Astarte, Dagon, Reshef, Arsay, and Marnas were worshipped (later as their Greek incarnations, Athena, Aphrodite, Zeus, Apollo, possibly Persephone). "A Ramesside ostracon speaks of a festival of Anat of Gaza for which a 'cover' (? for a shrine?) seems to be one of the requirements". Redford links Plutarch's story of Isis and Osiris with Gaza. As Isis returns from Byblos, bad weather on the River Phaedrus provokes her to dry it up. Next, as Isis inspects Osiris' body at a "deserted spot", a prince of Byblos, Palaestinus, sneakily observes her and is struck dead by Isis' angry look. Plutarch writes: "Some say that... he fell into the sea and is honoured because of the goddess... and that the city founded by the goddess was named after him." Gaza is described with the same Greek word for "deserted spot" in Acts 8:26, and "Palaestinus" is derived from "p3-knʿn", "the town of Canaan".

(Bit more to come from this article; but now it is time for pizza!)

(OK pizza and "Game of Thrones" now complete)

Redford compares the stories from the southern Levant, which feature the water monster, the goddess, and her child, with Egyptian versions, including Astarte and the Sea (the Astarte Papyrus), the Story of the Two Brothers, and Set's hunt for Isis and Horus. "In Egypt, however, the motif has been largely separated from a maritime venue, and is now informed by the denizens and landscape of the Nile valley. The monster now takes shape as a crocodile, or serpent; the hero as ichneumon, falcon or scorpion. Horus defeats the serpent, the creator god subdues the water-monster (crocodile)." So for example, "the great battle... when Re had transformed himself into an ichneumon 46 cubits (long) to fell Apophis in his rage." (That's over 21 m fyi.)

Redford concludes by reminding us that it's impossible to draw a simple "family tree" of these stories, due to "the very general nature of the basic plot, and the mutual awareness and ease of contact enjoyed by eastern Mediterranean communities."
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Redford, Donald B.. "The Sea and the Goddess". in Sarah Israelit-Groll (ed). Studies in Egyptology: presented to Miriam Lichtheim. Magness Press, Hebrew University, 1990.
 
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.

__
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)
I couldn't remember for the life of me why I'd borrowed this, so I just went through the index looking for interesting stuff. What an appalling thing to do with a book. Anyway:

The Hermopolitan Ogdoad (p 49): "Nun and Naunet, the primordial water; Heh and Hauhet, infinity in its spatial form; Kek and Kauket, darkness; and Amun and Amaunet, the hidden; this last pair being later replaced by Niau and Niaut, who symbolize the void." I wonder if that substitution represents a promotion for Amun to obscure snake in the lake to Creator. "Amaunet received a cult at Thebes from Dynasty 18 on" (p 26)

Re, in an unpublished papyrus at the Turin Museum (p 47): "When I manifested myself, manifestations manifested themselves. I had manifested myself as a manifestation of the existing: I manifested myself and manifestations manifested themselves, for I acted prior to the anterior gods I had created. If I acted priorly among the anterior ones, it was that my name existed prior to theirs, if I created anterior time and the anterior gods, it was to create all that is desirable on this earth." That's a lot of khepers.

"The two gods who were lords of the [Kom Ombo] temple each had his own divine 'family', made up of a mother goddess and a child god: to the triad Sobek-Hathor-Khons corresponded the triad Haroeris-Tasenetnefret ('the Good Sister')-Panebtawy ('the Lord of the Two Lands')... The theological system of Kom Ombo is extremely complex... [its myths] present original doctrines that constitute the specific 'theology' of the temple, in which two themes, one universalist and the other local, are juxtaposed to and combined with one another.' (p 228-9) And naturally the bloody reference is in French: A. Gutbub, Textes fondamentauz de la theéologie de Kom Ombo (Cairo, 1973).

The Nubian deity Aresnuphis had a temple at Philae. (p 229)

"The foreign deities - Reshep, Baal, Anat, Astarte, and Qadesh - all had a human figure that the Egyptians assigned to them. Without doubt, they would have found it difficult to slip into animal or composite form, for these stem from the deep structure of the Egyptian concept of the divine." (p 18-19) But the Canaanite god Haurun was falcon-headed, and then "he was identified totally with the sun god he had become in the New Kingdom: Hamarkhis, the Great Sphinx of Giza." As Haurun-Hamarkhis, he was represented as the sphinx. (p 19) Sopdu was also a foreigner who "kept watch over the east of the land both inside and outside the frontier of Egypt". (p 18) Plus in Ptolemaic times there was "the divine Thracian horseman Heron", worshipped in Faiyum villages "whose populations included a large contingent of... former soldiers settled on land granted to them by the crown." (p 246) Other foreign gods worshipped in Egypt included Bendis (Thracian), Mithra (Persian), and Kybele and Attis. (p 276)

"... the bestiary present in the divine iconography was extremely coherent. It did not include animals that could live in Egypt at a remote point in time (giraffe, rhinoceros, elephant) but left because of climate change well before the period of historical, political, and religious formation, nor did it include those introduced at a much later time, such as the horse. More precisely put, while the horse played a role, it was in direct relation to foreign deities such as Anat and Astarte, who entered the native pantheon in the New Kingdom." (p 17)

Astarte and Reshep were introduced during the NK. "Astarte in particular, with the epithet 'daughter of Ptah', had her own temple at Memphis, the temple of the 'foreign Aphrodite' mentioned by Herodotus.' (p 276)

At Esna, Khnum is called "father of fathers, mother of mothers", and "associated with several goddesses, in particular Neith, the very ancient goddess of Sais, who at Esna was also a creative power and bisexual. Heqa, their divine child, received a cult in the mammisi... At Esna, the theme of creation is quite important and includes the 'raising of the sky', the modelling of humanity by the potter god, and the formation of the world by means of the 'seven creative words' of Neith." (p 227) Once again the reference (Sauneron) is en Fraçais. Zut!

__
Françoise Dunand and Christiane Zivie-Coche. Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2004.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
What a helpful and enlightening little book! Not just for comparisons with other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, but because everyone bangs on about the Bible these days, with varying levels of informedness.

A few observations from its pages:

"Artistically... ancient Israel was a cultural backwater... Yet one artifact from ancient Israel has survived: its literature, commonly if somewhat controversially called the Old Testament. Prohibited according to an ancient law from making graven images, the Israelites channeled their creative energy into literary activity." (p 1)

References to other books, now lost, show that there was literature beyond what's now collected as the OT, including poetry (eg The Book of the Wars of the Lord) and royal records (eg The Book of the Acts of Solomon).

"... in antiquity a book was not necessarily a single product of a single author but was often more like a hypertext, which several, even many writers might expand, edit, and otherwise modify [over generations]... For its final editors... preserving different sources was more important than superficial consistency. Even before the Torah became sacred scripture, then, its constituent parts had already achieved something like canonical status." (p 20) Hence different versions of the Ten Commandments were all included (p 61-2) (I'd like to compare some other ancient examples. Maybe the Gilgamesh epic?)

Similarly, "Almost every biblical text is composite in the sense that unlike modern works it was not written once and then considered complete; rather, a text was subject to constant modification, variation, commentary, elaboration, expansion, and other types of addition and editing as writers from later generations continued to add their insights." (p 52) So for example "laws, rituals, institutions" are linked to the story of Exodus because of its importance. (I suppose in a way the responses of neo-Pagans to ancient texts are a version of this - the texts are not dead and set, but alive and changing - although we hardly form a single, coherent community or culture.)

The Mesha stela, which has correspondences with the book of Kings, mentions the gods Chemosh and Ashtar-Chemosh, whom I must remember to look up. (p 27) Other gods mentioned in the OT: Amun, Marduk (aka Bel, Nebo), Nergal, Dagon, Baal, Resheph, Mot, Asherah, Astarte, Milcom of Ammon, Hadad of Aram, Tammuz, the sun, the queen of heaven, Azazel, and Lilith. Yahweh presided over a royal court of deities, the "sons of God" aka the "holy ones", who included his army or "host"; in later, more strictly monothestic times, this was not understood literally. (p 40-42) Similarly, Yahweh is described as battling the sea and proves his superiority to the Egyptian deities. (p 50) He himself has lots of the attributes of the local storm gods (eg p 53). (On a side note, recently I was puzzling how one might debunk the urban legend that the English word "amen" ultimately derives from "Amun", when I came across someone who pointed out that they don't actually start with the same letter. :)

"in biblical law an orphan is technically a child without a male parent." (p 58)

"Testament" means "Covenant". (p 59)

"the sacred, personal name of Yahweh is not to be used in magic, sorcery, or other unlawful ways, for Yahweh is not a deity who can be localized or controlled." (p 62) (Contrast with Egyptian magic spells in which the sorcerer threatens cosmic destruction if the gods don't do his or her bidding!)

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