Friday, June 1, 2007

The Eternal Sacrifice of the Great Goddess

When reflecting upon the concept of the 'Eternal Sacrifice', one usually thinks in terms of gods or heroes such as Dionysus, Adonis or Jesus. Today I realised that the ultimate sacrifice is that of the Great Goddess who is torn to pieces in order to allow the creation of Heaven and Earth.

Very often her sacrifice is not a voluntary one, as in the case of Tiamat. In the traditions that extol the great virtues of a male protagonist, the female god is perceived as a powerful being who must be tamed or even redesigned in order to further the cause of good, which is law and order according to a male prototype.

This is where my admiration for the old Babylonian creation myth cools. I do not see why Marduk should be the greatest of all gods, and why the terrible betrayal of the Great Mother by her whelps should be regarded as a positive act. There are many such betrayals in ancient myth, both of male and female gods.

Death, of course, is the archway of rebirth. Without the sacrifice of the Goddess or God, transformation could not occur. In a sense, one could argue that the agent who facilitates this sacrifice is not a villain but merely a necessary participant in the ancient mystery. By this reckoning, Judas Iscariot is not the villain portrayed by mainstream Christians but the 'best friend' of Christ who takes that most difficult of tasks upon himself: delivering the god to the altar of Sacrifice.

Without the murder of Tiamat, there would be neither Heaven nor Earth. The Great Goddess lives on, transformed into the very foundation of our world. Her bones and sinews are the rocks and mountains. Her blood forms the waters that bring life to all creatures.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Goose Girl

Having written a post about the Chinese New Year and its association with the Goose, I am prompted to write about the old Northern European tale of the 'Goose Girl'. The Goose is an ancient symbol of the Goddess, usually associated with the Goddess of Life and Death, or the Goddess of the Crossroads between the Worlds. The fairytale of the Goose Girl is not limited to Northern European distribution but can be found as far away as Palestine in the form of the tale of Jbene. There are a number of characteristics that are shared by all versions of the tale:

1. The daughter who either is betrothed to a prince far away or who is kidnapped or otherwise forced into exile;
2. Her horse, which has the ability to speak and 'bear witness' on the girl's behalf;
3. A false maid or group of girls who conspire to usurp the rightful position of the girl;
4. The song of the girl in exile, that elicits responses from all the creatures of earth, from beasts to birds;
5. The prince or king who secretly witnesses the girl's ritual and thus discovers the truth;
6. The restoration of the girl to her home or rightful position.

Many versions of the tale incorporate the idea of the 'drops of blood' from the mother's hand that act as witnesses to the girl's plight. In the Palestinian version, the girl is associated with a local spring and rather than the handkerchief with the mother's blood upon it, she has an amulet in the form of a blue bead. When the girl ultimately returns home, the Spring that dried up in her absence flows anew.

I intend to retell the entire tale here, and include a discussion of universal mythological elements, but not today...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Akkadian Tale of Ishtar and Dumuzi

The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld

This is an Akkadian version of the ancient tale, containing ritual instructions for the 'taklimtu', a ritual that was performed annually. As a funeral tradition, it included the ritual bathing and anointing of a statue representing Dumuzi followed by its 'lying in state' in Ninevah. Like many religions, statues representing god or goddess often travelled through the countryside at certain times in the year. Even in Europe thousands of years later, there are accounts of the great Goddess Nerthus and her journey in a waggon to a sacred lake where she underwent ritual bathing each year.

In this poem, the 'land of no return' is named Kurnugi. In the Descent of Inanna, the place name is simply Kur. 'Kur' was the word for Mountain originally and came to represent the land or river of the dead.

It is possible that the statue of the goddess made a ritual journey from Uruk to Kutha, the entrance to the Underworld, on a seasonal basis.

I intend to post the Sumerian version of the Descent of Ishtar separately. There are some differences between the two. In the Akkadian version, Dumuzi is created by Ea in order to serve Erishkigal but the ostensible reason for Ishtar's journey, the death of Ereshkigal's husband, the 'Bull of Heaven' is not stated or at any rate, that portion of the tale did not survive.

The order by Ereshkigal to send the 60 diseases that torment every portion of a human's being is included only in the Akkadian version. This may be an example of an ancient Semitic practice wherein a sacrificial animal or person was laden with every unwanted 'sin' or disease by each member of the community, then driven out of the community. By performing a ritual of this nature, the people believed themselves to be purified and protected from evil or disease for another year.

If this interpretation is correct, Ishtar went into the Underworld as the designated representative of the World Above. Stripped of regalia and power, she then was 'assaulted' by every disease, and finally 'hung on a hook like a piece of meat' (in the Sumerian colourful description). Ultimately, however, it is Dumuzi rather than Ishtar who is the Sacrifice. There appear to be two courts, that of the Earth Above and the Earth Below, that mirror one another. Inanna is Queen of the 'Above World' and her twin sister Ereshkigal is Queen of the World Below. Upon the death of the consort of the Queen of the World Below, the Queen of the World Above must journey to that dark world and ultimately offer the gift of her own consort, Dumuzi. Dumuzi afterwards in turn is 'ransomed' by his twin-sister, Belili, and the sequence ends with a description of a time when the table will be set in the Above World for a ritual funeral banquet attended by the dead.

In many ancient civilisations, the 'Afterlife' was believed to mirror the life of this world in most respects, subject perhaps to its own laws, but sharing many of the same traditions and rituals. The funeral feast ritual, described in the poem of Mot and Ba'al here is enacted between two sisters rather than two vying male gods.

The 'newcomer' Dumuzi ostensibly is fashioned by Ea, the All-Father in order to 'gladden the heart' of the bereaved widow but in truth must be given to Ereshkigal in order that the circle of life, death and rebirth remain unbroken. While Ishtar remains in the World Below, there is a total cessation of the rituals of life in the World Above. No crops will grow, no children will be conceived until the Great Queen of the World Above is allowed to return to resume her rulership.

The price that must be paid is 'an eye for an eye' in a sense. The Great Queen of the World Below has been deprived of her consort. If Ishtar is to be allowed to return to the World Above, her life must be ransomed with that of a living consort, Dumuzi.

The 'Bull of Heaven' is another manifestation of the 'Apis Bull'. In ancient Egypt, Osiris was the 'Apis Bull', the 'Bull of Heaven'. When he was murdered by Set, his body was cut into pieces and the pieces scattered. The Great Queen Isis attempted to restore him but could not find the most important piece, his manhood. She therefore created an artificial member and through her magical power, was impregnated by the seed of her dead consort. Horus was the result and Osiris thus became Ruler of the Underworld.

The 'Apis Bull' was believed to be the Ka or spirit of the god Osiris. In fact, 'ka' is the word for 'bull' as well as the word that denotes the soul. The Apis Bull was known as the 'living deceased one'. and would be sacrificed in the month of April, in his 28th year, at the very time that Osiris himself had been put to death initially by Set. The number 28 obviously is connected with a lunar cycle. It is possible that the disappearance of the moon each month for three days was the inspiration for the earliest rituals of sacrifice. Even in the case of the Christ, his death and resurrection followed the old lunar pattern. The Apostle's Creed states: 'After three days he rose from the dead... he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.'

The Apis Bull and cult of Osiris deserve separate posts but the reason for mentioning it here is the designation of Ereshkigal's deceased husband as the 'Bull of Heaven.'

Here is the old Akkadian tale:

The Descent of Ishtar

To Kurnugi, the land of no return,
Ishtar, daughter of Sin determined she would go.
The daughter of Sin determined she would go
To the Dark House, dwelling of the god of Erkalla,
To the house which, once entered,
No one can leave,
At the end of the road where travel
Is all in one direction, a one-way road.
The daughter of Sin determined she would go
To the house where those who enter
Are deprived of light,
Where dust is their food and clay their bread.
They see no light in the dwelling of darkness
And they are clothed, like birds, in feathers.
Over the door and the bolt, dust has settled.
The air does not stir, even the air is still,
In the land of no return.

Ishtar arrived at the gate of Kurnugi,
Addressed her words to the keeper of the gate:
'Here, Gatekeeper, open your gate for me!
Open your gate for me to enter!
If you do not open the gate for me,
I shall smash the door and shatter the bolt!
I shall smash the doorpost and overturn the gates!
I shall raise up the dead and they shall eat the living:
The dead shall outnumber the living!

The gatekeeper made his voice heard and spoke.
To great Inanna he said:
'Stop, Lady, do not break down the gates!'
To great Inanna the gatekeeper spoke:
Let me go to my queen Ereshkigal,
Let me report your words to her!'

To Queen Ereshkigal the gatekeeper went,
To her he spoke:
'Here she is, your sister Inanna
Who holds the great keppu'toy,
Stirs up the Abzu in Ea's presence!'

When Ereshkigal heard this,
Her face grew as livid as cut tamarisk,
As dark as the rim of a kuninu-vessel
Were the lips of the great Queen.

'What brings her to me?' she cried.
'What has incited Inanna against me?
Surely she is not angered
Because I drink water with the Anunnaki,
Because I eat clay for bread,
And drink muddy water for beer?

It is my fate
To weep for young men forced to abandon their sweethearts,
It is my fate
To weep for girls wrenched from the laps of their lovers,
It is my fate
To weep for the infant child expelled from the womb
Before its time to be born.

Go, Gatekeeper, go!
Open the gates to her,
Treat her according to the ancient rites.'

The gatekeeper did her bidding,
He opened the gates to Inanna.

'Enter, my Lady, may Kutha give you joy!
Enter, my Lady,
May the palace of Kurnugi be glad to see you.'

He let her through the first gate,
But stripped the great Crown from her head.

Inanna cried:
'Why, Gatekeeper, did you take the Crown from my head?'

'Enter, my Lady!' he replied.
'Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth.'

He let her through the second gate,
But stripped the rings from her ears.

Inanna cried:
'Why, Gatekeeper, did you take the earrings from my ears?'

'Enter, my Lady!' he replied.
'Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth.'

He let her through the third gate,
But stripped the beads from her neck.

Inanna cried:
'Why, Gatekeeper, did you take the beads from my neck?'

'Enter, my Lady!' he replied.
'Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth.'

He let her through the fourth gate,
But stripped the toggle pins from her breast.

Inanna cried:
'Why, Gatekeeper, did you take the pins from my breast?'

'Enter, my Lady!' he replied.
'Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth.'

He let her through the fifth gate,
But stripped the girdle of birthstones from her waist.

Inanna cried:
'Why, Gatekeeper, did you take the sacred girdle from my waist?'

'Enter, my Lady!' he replied.
'Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth.'

He let her through the sixth gate,
But stripped the rings from her wrists and ankles.

Inanna cried:
'Why, Gatekeeper, did you take the rings from my wrists and ankles?'

'Enter, my Lady!' he replied.
'Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth.'

He let her through the seventh and final gate,
But stripped her proud garment from her body,
Leaving her naked.

Inanna cried:
'Why, Gatekeeper, did you take the proud garment from my body?'

'Enter, my Lady!' he replied.
'Such are the rites of the Mistress of Earth.'

Inanna went down to Kurnugi,
Naked she went down to the depths.

Ereshkigal looked at her and trembled.
Inanna did not hesitate,
But bent down towards Ereshkigal.

Ereshkigal made her voice heard and spoke,
Addressed her words to Namtar her Vizier.

'Go, Namtar!
Send out sixty diseases against her,
Send sixty diseases against Inanna my sister:
Disease of the eyes to her eyes
Disease of the arms to her arms,
Disease of the feet to her feet,
Disease of the heart to her heart,
Disease of the head to her head,
To every part of her its disease!'

On the Earth Above,
When Inanna had abandoned it,
No bull mounted a cow,
No young man lay with a girl.
The young men slept in their private rooms,
The girls slept in the company of her firneds.

Then Papsukkal, vizier of the great gods
Hung his head, his face filled with gloom.
He donned the garment of mourning,
His hair unkempt,
Dejected he wept before his father Sin.

His tears flowed freely before King Ea.
His tears before the All-Father flowed.
'Inanna has gone down to the Earth Below,
And she has not come up again.
Since Inanna went down to Kurnugi,
No bull has mounted a cow,
No young man has lain with a girl.
The young men sleep in their private rooms,
And the girls sleep in the company of their friends.'

Ea, in the wisdom of his heart,
A person created.
He created the playboy 'Handsome One'.

'Come, Handsome One,
Set your face towards the gates of Kurnugi!
The seven gates of Kurnugi shall be opened before you.
Ereshkigal shall gaze upon you and be gladdened.
When she is relaxed, her mood will lighten.
Make her swear the oath by the Great Gods.
Raise your head, pay attention to the waterskin!
Say: 'My Lady, let them give me the waterskin,
That I may drink water from it!'

Thus was it done.
But, when Ereshkigal heard his desire,
She struck her thigh and bit her finger.
'You have asked for that which you should not have asked!
Come, Handsome One, I shall curse you!
With a great curse shall I bind you!
For you I decree a fate
That will be forgotten never!

Bread gleaned from the ploughs of the city
Shall be your food,
The drains and sewers of the city
Your only drinking place,
The steps at a threshold
Your only seat,
Both the thirsty and the drunkard
Shall slap your cheek!

Ereshkigal made her voice heard and spoke,
Addressed her words to Namtar her vizier:
'Go Namtar! Rouse the guardians of Egalina!
Decorate the steps of the threshhold with coral.
Bring out the Annunaki
And seat them on their thrones of gold.
With the water of life sprinkle Inanna,
And conduct her into my presence!'

Namtar went to Egalina,
Decorated the steps of the threshhold with coral,
Brought out the Annunaki,
Seated them on their thrones of gold.
With the waters of life he sprinkled Inanna,
And brought her to her sister.

Through the first door he brought Inanna,
Restoring the proud garment of her body.
Through the second gate he brought her,
Restoring the rings of gold on her wrists and ankles.
Through the third door he brought her,
Restoring the girdles of birthstones to her waist.
Through the fourth gate he brought her,
Restoring the toggle pins to her breast.
Through the fifth gate he brought her,
Restoring the beads to her neck.
Through the sixth gate he brought her,
Restoring the rings to her ears.
Through the seventh gate finally he brought her,
Restoring the Great Crown to her head.

'Swear she has paid for her ransom,
By Dumuzi, the lover of her youth
Has she paid!

'Let her return in exchange!

'Prepare Dumuzi,
Wash him with pure water,
Anoint him with sweet oil,
Clothe him in a robe of crimson,
Let the pipe of lapis play,
Let the girls raise their loud lament!'

Belili, sister of Dumuzi,
Then stripped herself of her jewels,
Stripped herself of her robes,
Her lap was filled with eyestones.
Hearing the lament for her brother,
She struck the jewels from her body,
The eyestones with which the front of the wild cow had been filled,
Her lap was filled with jewels.

'Of my only brother,
You shall not rob me forever!
On the day when Dumuzi comes back up,
The day when the pipe of lapis and the ring of carnelian
Come back up with him,
On the day when both male and female mourners
Come back up from Below with Dumuzi,
The dead shall come up and smell the smoke offering!'

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Great Sacrifice of Canaan

I intend to explore the ancient myths of the Great Sacrifice of God or King in every culture. There are few cultures that do not have at least one myth of 'Divine Twins' or brothers who either fight for power or are involved in a sacrificial ritual of some kind.

The story of Cain and Abel, often described as the 'first murder' is but one of these. The Nordic tale of the death of Baldr, the 'Most Beautiful' at the hands of his blind brother Hodur is another. Canaan has a tale of two gods who struggle for supremacy. Victory always is transient and limited in its scope.

Essentially, the Canaanite tale is one of those myths that deal with 'Descent' to the Underworld as well. It is a tale of Death and Resurrection. The prototype for this is the Sumerian tale of the Descent of Inanna. The Canaanite tale thus embodies two themes: the struggle of two 'equal' gods and descent to the underworld.

It basically deals with the eternal cycle of life and death and the change in seasons. The god or king must be sacrificed in order for life to continue. The sacrifice of the god or king is a ritual of fertility.

The ancient Canaanite drama is based on the prototype of two seasonal gods eternally at war. One triumphs, slaying his rival and taking over rulership of the Land. The rival returns after a set period, challenges him, triumphs and assumes his rulership once again.

Mot evidently was the original ruler. His abode was deep in the heart of the earth, accessed through an opening to a cave in a mountain. 'Mot' in Arabic means Death and he obviously was an Earth Deity.

He was given the title 'Beloved of 'El' by 'El, 'Father of all Ages'. By 'El's command, palaces and dominion were given to him. 'El was the 'All-Father.' This myth is from a period when, as an old Babylonian epic declares, 'gods were in the ways of men.' Mot, by assuming his rulership of the Underworld at the hands of 'El, obviously was one of the lower gods like Ba'al Hadad.

Ba'al whose name means 'Lord' was a Sky God and is referred to as Hadad elsewhere. Apparently a newcomer, he resented the favour shown to Mot or Yahm. The tablets on which these tales are written are fragmented and portions are missing or illegible.

Nonetheless, it appears that Ba'al Hadad (a lord of thunder), was appointed in the role of sacrificial victim to Mot.

Obviously there was a cult to the Dead as in one of the tablets, 'El himself is found within the marzeah or shrine of the dead surrounded by his 'cult-guests'. The rites of the dead included banquets or ritual feasts as well as the sacrifice of different varieties and numbers of animals.

In the poem, Ba'al Hadad promised to attend the banquet for Mot but failed to do so. In other words, like Dumuzi in ancient Sumer, he attempted to escape his destiny.

Twin messengers served him and when challenged by Mot, he sent these messengers into the 'Pit' on his behalf.

Here follows the latter portion of the tale:

Ba'al spoke to his messengers:

'Be on your guard, divine messengers of Ba’al
Do not get too close to Mot, who is Death,
Lest he make you like a lamb in his mouth, like a kid in his gullet!
Lest he crush you both to pieces.'

The torch of the gods, Shapash Goddess of the Sun,
Burns scorchingly hot, and the heavens shimmer under the hand of the Beloved of El, Mot.

From a distance of ten thousand fields, the twin gods, Gapen of the Vine and Ugar of the Field, journey unto the Pit of Mot, to deliver the message of Ba’al.

At the feet of Mot they prostrate themselves, adore and pay homage to the Lord of Death.

To the darling of El, Mot, Lord Death, they give the message of Ba'al, the Powerful:
‘This is the Word of the Mighty Warrior: My house I have built of silver, My palace, indeed, of gold, Of the precious cedars of Lebanon, Of purest lapis lazuli.’

Mot, Lord Death replied: ‘When Ba’al was nothing, I was Lotan, the cunning Serpent, guardian of El, guardian of all the Elohim. Do you now think to contest with great Shalyat of the Seven Heads? In me is the power of Yam, Great Dragon who rules the seas. Oppose my Will and you will only wear yourself out in the attempt. The heavens will burn and droop helpless, like the folds of your robe, for I myself will crush you in pieces, and devour you. Here I am the one who has been swallowed up by hunger. Like a stopper placed on a jug of clay, my power is denied. Drained of strength as I am, I am the one who is dying, my hunger inflamed beyond measure. The earth will not prosper, for I am weak with hunger. So far you have escaped your appointed descent into the throat of the son of El, Divine Mot, Lord Death. It is you who have failed in your duty! You have escaped your fate of descent into the watery depths, the gorge of the Beloved of El, the Youth, Ghazir the Hero!’

The twin gods depart from the Pit of Mot, and do not tarry. They set their faces towards Ba’al on the Heights of Tsaphon, mount of the North, carrying the message of the son of El, Divine Mot.

To Ba’al they deliver the answer of Mot: ‘Here is the Word of the Beloved of El, the youth, Ghazir, the Hero: ‘Mine is the appetite of lions in the wastelands whose nature craves sheep, the desire of the dolphin for the sea. As a pool attracts wild oxen, as a spring attracts the thirst of the deer, so does Ba’al attract my hunger. If in truth it is my desire to consume clay, I must devour it. When I have the appetite for an ass, here with both of my hands I will eat it. If my sevenfold portions are served unto me, or even if the cup is mixed by Nahar the River itself, I will consume all! O Ba’al, have you forgotten that I can and must surely consume you?’

One lip down to the earth, one lip to the heavens; Mot’s tongue stretches to the stars. Ba'al must enter his maw, must descend into his throat, like an
olive-stuffed bread, like the harvests of earth, the fruit of the trees.

Afraid is Ba'al the Powerful; terrified is the Rider on the Clouds. To the twin gods, Gapen of the Vine and Ugar of the Field, he gives a message to take back to Mot. ‘Tell Mot that I am his slave, his bondsman forever, and invite him to be my guest at a banquet in his honour.’

He commands the twin gods to depart at once and to deliver his message to the beloved of El, the youth, Ghazir the Hero, Mot, Lord Death. The gods leave and do not tarry, setting their faces towards Divine Mot in the midst of his city of filth in the Swamp y/Hamriya. They enter into the Pit of Mot, where Lord Death sits upon his low throne, Muck.

To Mot they lift their voices, crying: ‘Here is the Word of Ba’al the Powerful, Mightiest of Warriors:

‘Hail to you, Divine Mot, El's son Death! I am your slave, I am your bondsman forever.'

Then do they deliver the invitation of Ba’al, the Mighty One: ‘So does Ba’al speak: be still, O Mot! I invite you, the beloved one, to my palace. How of a truth could I ever hope to overturn you? I am your humble slave.'

Hearing these words, the Divine Mot, beloved of El, rejoiced. He lifted up his voice and cried:
‘How could Ba'al go on insulting me? Why, the Hadad Thunderer is terrified out of his wits! Those who challenge me always are laid low in the end, my power like a butcher’s knife. I smite those who would smite me! I accept his invitation, but afterwards, he must be my guest, joining me at a banquet with his companions.’

At the palace of Ba’al, a great banquet for Mot was prepared. A suckling pig for the gods was set out. Sheger, god of cattle, offspring of cattle, gave of his bounty to the table of Ba’al. With a salted knife the gods carved a fatling. Flagons of wine did they drink. From cups of gold, they drank the blood of trees. From cups of silver, they drank new wine.

Mot, Lord Death, offered a toast:

‘Ba’al, great will be your kingdom. Your throne shall belong to your son, and the son of your son. Your descendants will be like the stars. I have supped at your table. Now you must descend into my Pit, to eat at mine.’

Mot returned to his Pit. The beloved of El, the young hero, son of El, returned to his deep throne Muck in the Swamp. He waited for Ba’al. He waited for Hadad, the Thunderer. The table was prepared for the banquet, but the guest did not come.

Then did Mot lift his voice and call out: ‘Where then is Ba'al? Where is Hadad, the Thunderer? Did he not vow himself my slave? Did I not invite him to descend into my Pit, to eat with me?’

Ba'al arose with his seven pages, with his eight serving maids and set out upon the journey to the Pit, the kingdom of Mot, the beloved of El, Lord Death.
The mightiest of gods, Ba’al, obeyed the command of Mot, Lord Death. This was the word of Mot:

‘Paint your right hand with red ochre, and take a torch. Offer the life of a calf, throwing him into the pit of the gods of earth. Offer the calf to the souls of the dead! As for you, Ba’al, take your clouds, your winds, your thunder-bolts and your rains! Take with you your seven pages and your eight noble serving maids. Take with you Pidraya, daughter of light and Talaya, daughter of rain. Then set your face towards Mount Kankaniya, and go to the rocks at the entrance of my cave. Lift the mountain with your hands, raise the holt upon your palms, And go down to the house of ‘freedom’ in the depth of the earth,to be counted among those who have gone down into the earth. You will know nothingness, Ba’al. Descend into my kingdom and be like all mortals, for in my kingdom you will become as one who has died!’

To feign to obey the Word of Mot did Mightiest Ba'al conceive a plan.

Ba'al had a brother who was his twin...

Dagon had a true love, a heifer in Dabr, in the desert pastures. His beloved was a cow in Shechelmamat field, by the shore of the realm of death. With her he lay seven and seventy times. She allowed him to mount her eight and eighty times. From the seed of the god, she conceived and gave birth to a boy, Math, the twin-brother of Ba’al. Mightiest Ba’al did clothe his twin with his robe, to present him to Mot, to Lord Death, as a gift in his stead. The Beloved One, Ba'al the Lord Hadad did clasp to his breast his twin brother Math, then gave him as sacrifice to the Lord of Death.

Mot, the Beloved of El, the young hero Ghazir, was not deceived. ‘Where is Ba’al?’ he cries. ‘Where is Hadad, the Thunderer? Did he not promise to descend into my kingdom, to dine at my table?’

So Ba’al at length accepted his fate and set his face towards the Beloved of El. He went down into the Pit to meet Mot, sitting on his low throne Muck in the midst of his city Hamriya, the Bog, to the filth of the earth, which is Mot's estate.

One lip to the earth, one lip to the heavens, Mot stretches his tongue to the stars. Ba'al entered his maw and descended into his mouth, like olive-stuffed bread, like the harvest of earth, the fruit of the trees.

Mot took him like a lamb in his mouth, like a kid in his gullet did he crush and swallow Ba’al, the Mightiest King.

Then Ba'al returned not to his palace.
The Mighty Rider of Clouds returned not from the Pit of Death.

Now the earth is in mourning. All of the creatures of Earth mourn the death of Ba’al. The twin gods, Gapen of the Vine and Ugar of the Field, go to El with the news of the death of Ba’al, the Mighty One. Straightway they set their faces to El. At the very source of the two rivers, the two double-deep oceans is the mountain of El, where he has his pavilion. They enter the tent of the King of Gods, Father of Years.

Gapen of the Vine and Ugar of the Field, gracious twins, lift their voices and they cry: ‘We two went to the very edges of the earth, to the very edge of the region of waters. We arrived a the desert pasture, the pleasant place, ‘OPleasure’. At the end of the earth, in the land of pastures, to Dabr-land, the lovely fields of the shore of Death we went. To 'Delight,' the fields on the shore by the realm of Death we went. At the very edge of the earth, in Shahalmamat-field, most beautiful of all places, we came upon Ba'al. Ba’al we saw sunk into the ground, fallen upon the earth! Dead is Ba'al the Powerful! Perished is our Lord, Master of the Earth!’

Straightaway Kindly El the Compassionate One, Most Merciful El came down from his throne to sit upon his footstool. Then did the Merciful El come down from his footstool to sit upon the ground. He poured the dust of mourning upon his head. The ashes of mortification he rubbed into his forehead. He covered his loins with sackcloth. With a stone knife he cut his flesh. With a flint he cut the signs of mourning into his skin. Into his cheeks he cut the signs of sorrow. He raked his upper arms with a reed, plowed his breastbone like a garden, furrowed his torso like a valley. From the nose of his heart the blood ran.

Then Kindly El, Father of the Gods, lifted his voice and cried: ‘Ba'al is dead! What will become of the people? The son of Dagon is gone! What will become now of the multitudes, the people of Dagon?’

Then El the Most Merciful cried: ‘In Ba'al's place I will go down into the earth.’

Anath, the beautiful one, vowed instead that she would go, to witness for herself the truth of Ba'al's fate. She wandered through the lands. For Ba’al her beloved she searched throughout the Earth. To every mountain, to the heart of the earth her wandering took her, over every hill to the heart of every field. She came at last to the ends of the earth, to the pleasant place, the desert pasture named 'Pleasure' in Dabr-land. To the lovely fields of the shore of Death, to the field 'Delight’, she came at last. By the realm of Death, in the beauty of Shachalmamat-field, she came upon Ba’al, fallen upon the Earth.

Anath covered her loins with sackcloth. In mourning she put on sackcloth and loincloth. With a sharp knife of stone, she cut her flesh. With razor sharp flint, she cut herself, gashing her cheeks and her chin with the marks of mourning. She plowed her chest like a garden, raked her torso like a valley. From the nose of her heart the blood ran. From the marks of sorrow the blood ran.

Then Anath cried: ‘Ba'al is dead! What will become of the people? The son of Dagon is gone! What will become now of the multitudes, the people of Dagon?’

Then she cried: ‘In Ba'al's place we will go down into the earth.’

Down into the Earth with Anath came the Light of the gods, the Torch of the Divine Ones, Lady Shapash the Sun. She wept her fill of weeping. She drank deep of her tears like wine. Loudly she mourned, blood from the cuts of sorrow flowing freely, tears flowing freely.

Then loudly she called to the Torch of the Divine Ones, the Light of the Gods, Lady Shapash the Sun: ‘Lift Mighty Ba’al up! Bring Mighty Ba’al up to me!’

The Divine Torch, the Light of the Gods, Lady Shapash the Sun, obeyed. Shapash lifted Aliyin, Ba'al the Mightiest, up. On the shoulders of Anat she set Ba’al, the Mighty One.

Then Anat bore the dead god to the Heights of Tsaphon of the North. She wept for him and then she buried him. She laid Ba’al, the Mighty One, Hadad the Thunderer, in the hollows, where rested all of the numinous shades of the earth.

Anath slaughtered seventy rumim, wild oxen slaughtered as kgmn, a funeral offering to Mighty Ba'al. She slaughtered seventy alepim, plow oxen she slaughtered as kgmn, her tribute to Mighty Ba'al. Anath then slaughtered seventy tsin, sheep called ‘small cattle’ she slaughtered as kgmn, an offering to the dead god, Mighty Ba'al; She slaughtered seventy aylim, oryx slaughtered as kgmn, a tribute to Mighty Ba'al; Anath slaughtered then seventy yÔalim, seventy mountain goats as kgmn, her funeral offering to Mighty Ba'al; She slaughtered seventy chamrim, asses offered as kgmn, her tribute to Mighty Ba'al. She buried him as befitted a brother-in-law of the gods.

Then straightway Anath turned her face towards ´El at the convergence of the Two Great Rivers, to his pavilion in the middle of the springs of the Two
double-deep Oceans. She penetrated the mountain and entered the tent of ´El. Anath entered the shrine of the King of all the Gods, Father of Years. At the feet of ´El she did homage, prostrated and adored him.

To El, Anath lifted her voice and cried: ‘Now let ´Athirat and her sons rejoice. Let ´Elat and the company of her kinsfolk, her pride of lions rejoice, for dead is Ba'al the Powerful! Perished is our Lord, the Master of the Earth!’

´El cried out then to Lady ´Athirat of the Sea: ‘Harken, O Lady ´Athirat of the Sea, And give me one of your sons that I may make him king.’

Lady ´Athirat of the Sea replied: ‘Yes, let us make one who has knowledge and intelligence king. Of my sons, I give you YadiÔ-Yalhan.’

Kindly ´El the Compassionate answered: ‘One who is feeble in strength cannot run like Ba'al, nor release the spear like Dagan's son Glory-Crown when the time is right.’

Then said Lady ´Athirat of the Sea: 'No! Let us make ´Athtar the Awesome the King. Of my sons, I give you ´Athtar the Awesome!’

Straightway then ´Athtar the Awesome went up into the Heights of Tsaphon in the North. He sat upon the throne of Mightiest Ba'al, but his feet did not reach the footstool. His head did not reach the headrest.

Then ´Athtar the Awesome said: ‘I cannot be king in the Heights of Tsaphon!’

Down came ´Athtar the Awesome then from the seat of Mightiest Ba'al. ‘Athtar became king then over all of the broad earth, king of ´El's earth, the whole of it.

One day passed, then two. Lady Shapash the Sun, the torch, the light of the gods burned hot. The heavens shimmered beneath the hand of the Beloved of El, Mot. The fields burned dry under the glowing coal of the Sun and nothing grew. Another day passed, then from days to months. Maiden Anat felt drawn towards Ba’al. Like the heart of a cow for her calf, like the heart of a ewe for her lamb was the heart of Anat for Ba'al. She made the journey to find Mot.

Anat then grabbed Mot by the hem of his garments. By the hem of his robe, she restrained him. She lifted up her voice and she cried: ‘Come, Mot! Give up my brother!’

Divine Mot, beloved of El, Lord Death replied: ‘What do you desire here, O Maiden Anat ?’

Then Mot told her: ‘I wandered the earth. Throughout the Earth I wandered, to every mountain to the heart of the earth. From every hill to the heart of the fields I went. The breath of life has quit the multitudes of the earth. For I felt a great desire for human beings. I felt a great appetite for the multitudes of the earth, the sons of men. I reached the pleasant place at last, the desert pasture, ‘Pleasure,' the pastures of Dabr-land. In the lovely fields on Death's shore, in the fields of the shore named 'Delight', by the realm of Death in the beauty of Shahalmamat-field, it was I who approached the Mighty Ba’al. There I confronted him. It was I who put him like a lamb in my mouth and like a kid he was carried away in my gullet.’

Maiden Anat heard the words of Mot. Like the heart of a cow for her calf, Like the heart of a ewe for her lamb was the heart of Anat for Ba'al. She seized divine Mot, the beloved son of El:

With her blade, she did split him.
With her fan, she did winnow him.
With fire she burned him,
with her hand mill, she ground him.
In the field she scattered him,
Sowing his pieces.
His remains were devoured by birds,
His limbs were consumed by fowl:
Birds screaming from remnant to remnant,
Flitting from piece to piece
Of the remains of Mot.

Then the flesh of Mot cried out,
Flesh to flesh cried out:
‘Let the birds not eat his remains,
Let the fowl not eat his parts.
Let flesh cry out to flesh
And be made whole!’

Then Kindly El, the Compassionate Creator of All Creatures had a vision. In his dream, he saw that if he were to let the heavens rain oil, if he were to let the wadis run with honey, he would know that Mighty Ba'al would live once more, that the Lord, Master of the Earth, would have been revived, brought back from Death.

From his vision did Kindly El, the Compassionate awaken. El the Father of Years rejoiced. His feet on his footstool he set once again, he parted his mouth and laughed. He lifted up his voice and cried:

‘Now I will sit once more upon my throne and be at ease,
No more shall I mourn.
My soul now will lie calm in my breast,
For alive is Mighty Ba'al,
The Lord, Master of Earth has returned to life!’

El calls to the Virgin Anat: ‘Hearken to me, O Maiden Anat! Speak to the Divine Torch, the Light of the Gods, Shapash, the Sun, saying:

‘Cracked are the furrows of the fields, O Shapash;
Parched are the fields of El, the furrows dry.
Ba'al has neglected his plowlands;
The furrows of the fields are dry and cracked.
Where is Mighty Ba'al?
Where is the Lord and Master of the Earth?’

The Virgin Anat departed then, obeying the command of El. She set her face towards the Divine Torch, the Light of the gods, Lady Shapash, the Sun. To Lady Shapash she delivered the message of the Bull, the Kindly One, El.

The Maiden Anat lifted her voice and cried:

‘Lady Shapash, hear the word of the Kindly One, El your father.
Cracked are the furrows of the fields, O Shapash;
Parched are the fields of El, the furrows dry.
Ba'al has neglected his plowlands;
The furrows of the fields are dry and cracked.
Where is Mighty Ba'al?
Where is the Lord and Master of the Earth?’

Lady Shapash, the Divine Torch, Light of the gods replied: ‘Pour sparkling wine from its container, And bring a garland for your kin. I will seek Mighty Ba'al.’

The Virgin Anat spoke a blessing then:

‘Hence and thither you go, O Shapash,
Wherever and whither, may El protect you."

Then did Anat, Ba'alat, Shamim, Rammim, Lady Shapash, the Sun, together seach the Earth for Ba’al. Ba’al they found and returned him to his Palace.

Now Ba'al will make the land once more fertile with his rain. With water he will indeed make fertile the harrowed land. He will put his voice in the clouds,
and he will once again flash lightning to the earth.

Then did Ba’al move against those who had sought to rule in his place. Ba’al seized the sons of Athirat. Rabbim, the ‘Great Ones’ he smote upon the back with his broadsword. Dokyamim, the Waves, Pounders of the Sea, he smote with his great club. Tsorim, ‘the Small Ones’ he dragged to the ground.

Ba’al then mounted the throne of his kingship again. On the pillow of the seat of his dominion he sat once more.

One day passed, then two. From days to months, from months to years. Then, in the seventh year, the Divine son of El, Mot came to mightiest Ba’al.
Mot lifted his voice To Ba’al and said:

‘Because of you, Ba'al, I was brought low,
Because of you, I was split with the sword,
Because of you, I was burned by fire.
Because of you I was ground by the mill-stones,
Because of you, I was winnowed in the sieve,
Because of you, I was sowed in the fields,
Because of you, I was scattered in the sea.
So I ask you now to give me one of your brothers,
That I might sit down and be fed.
Then will the anger that I feel be turned back
And I will be at peace.
If you will not give me one of your brothers,
Then behold, I will make an end of humankind,
I will consume all of the multitudes of the earth!’

Ba’al said to the other gods: ‘I will give him his own seven brothers. Let Mot consume his own seven servants!’

Mot was furious, consumed with anger like a fire. He was filled with fury by the betrayal of Ba'al. He lifted his voice to the gods and cried: ‘But look! Ba'al has given me my own brothers to eat. He has given me the sons of my mother to consume!’

Mot returned to Ba'al in the Heights of Tsaphon. He lifted up his voice and cried: 'Ba’al, you have given me my own brothers to eat. You have given me the sons of my mother to consume!’

Ba’al and Mot strove then against one another. They butted one another like camels, like kgmrm. They butted one another like antelopes, like kzmrm. Mot was strong; Ba’al was strong. Neither prevailed. They gored one another like wild oxen. Mot remained strong; Ba’al remained strong. They bit one another like serpents. Mot remained strong; Ba’al remained strong. They kicked one another like chargers, like horses of war they strove mightily. Mot fell at length and Ba’al felt on top of him.

Lady Shapash, from above cried out to Mot: ‘Hearken to me, I beseech you, O divine son of El, Mot! How can you do battle with Mighty Ba’al? Beware lest your father, the Bull, Compassionate El, hear you fighting. Indeed, he will overturn the throne of your kingship, and smash the staff of your dominion, if he hears of this!’

Afraid then was Divine Mot. Terrified was the Beloved of El, the Youth, Ghazir, the Hero.

Hearkening to the words of Lady Shapash, Mot arose from the ground, lifted up his voice and cried:

‘Let them seat Ba'al on the throne of his kingdom, on the cushion on the seat of his dominion!
Let him accept the fresh meat and eat the sacrificial bread, the meal of sacrifice.
Le him drink the wine of offering, the wine of sacrifice.
Behold! The Dead come to you. Death now is yours.
Kothar is your friend and companion now. Khasis shall be your familiar, a friend to you.
In the sea are Arsh, Desire, and Tannin, the Dragon.
Let Kothar-wa-Khasis banish them!
Let Kothar-wa-Khasis drive them away! '

Here ends the tale.

Note that neither Ba'al nor Mot are all-powerful gods in the sense of the Christian God. Both are given the honourific title, 'Son of El' or 'Beloved of El'. History and myth often are intertwined. Ba'al means very simply 'Lord' and actually is not the name of a specific god. He may have been a king who assumed the role of God/King for his people in order to perform specific rituals. In ancient Sumer, a High Priestess would assume the role of the goddess Inanna in order to perform the Sacred Marriage with the King or ruler of a city.

Polytheism often shares a belief with Monotheistic religions in a Deity who is above and beyond all the petty gods found in stories and myths. These petty gods can be actual human rulers who later are given divine stature (as with the ancient Greeks and Romans) or they can be intermediate powers rather like intercessors who are given charge of specific aspects of life.

In the tale of Ba'al and Mot, the Sun goddess Shapash goes into the land of Death to retrieve the body of the dead god Ba'al. As the sun disappears beneath the horizon on a nightly basis, ancient myths often recounted this as the nightly journey of the Sun into the realms of the Otherworld. In ancient Egypt, the boat of the Sun god Ra moved through the rivers of the Underworld each night and re-emerged each morning into the light of day.

The period of three days often is considered to be the period of death of the god. Like Jesus, who died on Good Friday and was reborn on Easter morning, the Moon 'dies' each month and is consumed by the darkness for three nights.

Most myths have some connection either with the seasons or the movement of heavenly bodies. Inanna herself had the title of 'Morning and Evening Star'. In other words, she was Venus.

One of the features that distinguishes the tale of Ba'al from other tales of two 'equal' gods striving for supremacy is the idea of the 'hunger' of the earth deity Mot. Like the Hindu goddess Kail who, in some manifestations actually thirsts for blood, Mot is robbed of his power by hunger and must be 'fed' in order for fertility to return to the land.

Nature is a demanding force in fact, and requires 'compost' in order to bring forth a renewal of life. Myths often describe this fact in dramatic fashion, but the underlying reality is not one that any advances in technology can change.