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)
Brief notes from Archaeological Perspectives on the Transmission and Transformation of Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In "Minoan Asherah", Stephanie Budin seeks to explain the form of the Judean Pillar Figure*, goddess figurines holding their breasts and with "a pillar-shaped, free-standing base". She argues that these combine features from Levantine figurines, which hold their breasts, and Cypriot figurines, which wear a "hoop-skirt". The result is an alternative to "the traditional Levantine female divine iconography... The pillar-shaped based covers, hides, or otherwise deletes the most consistently significant attribute of Levantine female iconography: the prominent display of the genitalia." Judean prudishness - or perhaps the figurines represent Asherah, "with a base that would not only emphasise her tree- or pillar-like associations, but would clearly render her distinct from the more erotic Ištars and Aštarôth of the surrounding regions." (Paul Butler has very kindly made his drawings for this chapter available online.)

In "The worship of Anat and Astarte in Cypriot Iron Age sanctuaries", Anja Ulbrich writes: "The evidence for the worship of Astarte... shows her as a multi-faceted deity, who includes the functions of war- and city-goddess as well as a goddess of female sexuality, love and fertility. Anat is also "multi-faceted", but her primary role in Ugaritic myth is as goddess of war, "whose sexual activity is doubtful and elusive... This connects her strongly with the virgin Greek Athena, with whom, in the inscriptions from Iron Age Cyprus, Anat is invariably equated." A bilingual inscription is dedicated to "Anat, fortress of the living" in Phoenician, and "Athena Soteria Nike" in Greek.

Ulbrich notes that coins from the Cypriot city of Lapithos show Athena with her Corinthian helmet on one side, and on the other, "a female head en face with a helmet with cow-ears and bovine horns with wings attached to them... this iconography points to prototypes from the Near East, where horned helmets, wings and arms" appear in depictions of war-goddesses (usually identified as Ishtar - the Mesopotamian equivalent of Astarte). This means that Canaanite goddesses with horns, or horned helmets, could be either Anat or Astarte, as could the goddess on these Cypriot coins. (Only Anat is described as having wings in the texts, which can help with her identification.) Both Anat and Astarte had sanctuaries on Cyprus, but it's not known if they were separate sanctuaries or those of a pre-existing goddess. "Astarte-figurines, depicting naked females with prominently rendered breasts and pubis, who partly touch their genitalia" were introduced from Phoenicia and were used as votives.

Hathor was worshipped in Phoenicia, but, outside Egypt, only on Cyprus were large Hathor-capitals found, made from local limestone - like this one at the Met.


* Not to be confused with the Pillar Figure of Judea, obvs.
__
Clarke, Joanne (ed). Archaeological Perspectives on the Transmission and Transformation of Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean. Council for British Research in the Levant and Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2005.

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!)
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Presumptive "ocular prosthesis" found in the Burnt City - Tumblr discussion, including artist's impression. :)

Evolution of Angels: From Disembodied Minds to Winged Guardians

Africans in Roman York?

Oldest Perfumes Found on "Aphrodite's Island"

Peking Man Was a Fashion Plate

Papyri Point to Practice of Voluntary Temple Slavery in Ancient Egypt

Study shows 'gene flow' from India to Australia 4000 years ago

Stirling Castle's Amazon warrior revealed

Sekhmet's bits: Forgotten statue uncovered

Temple find shows sway of ancient Egyptian religion

War was central to Europe's first civilisation - contrary to popular belief

Ancient "Egyptian blue" pigment points to new telecommunications, security ink technology

DNA sleuth hunts wine roots in Anatolia

Robot Finds Mysterious Spheres in Ancient Temple (Best headline ever. The temple's in Teotihuacan.)

Uncovered: Ritual public drunkenness and sex in ancient Egypt

Linguists identify words that have changed little in 15,000 years

Classic gags discovered in ancient Roman joke book

Cosmic find unearthed using Aboriginal Dreaming story

Digging for the truth at controversial megalithic site (Indonesia's Gunung Padang)

Folk magic found in old Brisbane basement

The earliest iron artifact ever found was made from a meteorite

Evidence of 3,000-Year-Old Cinnamon Trade Found in Israel

Cheese first made at least 7,500 years ago

How Egyptian god Bes gave the Christian Devil his looks

Ancient Magician's Curse Tablet Discovered in Jerusalem

Egyptian goddess statue unveiled in İzmir’s Red Basilica (It's a nine-metre tall Sekhmet. Wow!)

Finds in Israel add weight to theory God “had wife”

ETA:

Evidence of fire-raining comet discovered on Earth: "The sea of silica was a well-known area of study as its glass was found in highly valuable jewelry, including a brooch of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun."

Untangling the Mystery of the Inca (khipu)

ETA (thanks, [livejournal.com profile] alryssa!):

"Lost City" of Tanis Found, but Often Forgotten

Photos from the submerged ancient city of Heracleion
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."

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

__
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.
__

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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