15. Baal in Ugarit as a hunter

 

An Ugarit text is named Els marzeah, RS 24.258: El invites to a feast in his temple. The guests are behaving like dogs, like dogs they tear the meat. The "guardian of the gate", El´s son, is very annoyed at this and reproaches  his father because he does not want to sit beside his wife,  but takes his seat next to another woman[1]. El gets so drunk that he has to be carried home by “Ridge and Range (of hills)”probably the same as the guardian of the gate (and his brother?). We have seen how the first splitting up of the primeval mountain results in the two world-pillars often personified as the two sons of the highgod, the two bull-men who support the sky (carry the heavenly bull) and are the guardians of “the gate of the sun”, identical with the temple gate. This gate is the symbol of fixed order: space for the sun to shine and the rain to fall. The guardian of this gate is very much against the chaos developing inside the temple and tries to warn his father, but the “hidden one, Baal with horn and tale” (changed to animal or demon) hunts him down. Out of pure fear El lets go of his fæces and drops down as dead “becoming like one of those who go down to the realm of death”. After that “´Anat and ´Athtarte go hunting (sd)”.

What are we looking at here? Certainly not an innocent prayer to the Highest. The tablet with this text was found in a house that seems to belong to a priest, and it is the secret myth about a murder of God the Kindly, the Highest, in Ugarit always called El, the “Bull”, a murder described in a very humiliating way and celebrated during an orgiastic feast, where men are changed into dogs and beasts of pray and give themselves to free sexuality (prostitutes?). They celebrate the death of god, the death of divine order and hail the great hunt. Perhaps the words msd sd in the first two lines of the text have to be translated by "hunts game (in his temple)". The god who prepares and serves the meal is Yarich, the moon, in Near Eastern myth the spender of ambrosia and nectar, but not to all: some are "scolded" and receive minor punishments on their legs with a stick. This strange scenario is the picture of a freemason-like lodge meeting and eating in the presence of gods and disciplined by some "grand wizard".

“The hunting of Baal” is the name given by John Gray to a very demolished text found in Ugarit (Virolleaud calls it “Les Chasses de Baal”). It talks about Baal hunting some creatures called “the devourers”/”voracious ones” (Gray´s transl.), “rippers” (de Moor).

They have horns and humps like bulls. Baal catches them in a net, gives them wine to drink and shoots them down with his bow[2]. But in the next moment, Baal, the great hunter, will become the victim. He falls into a swamp and is devoured by a fire that also has a withering effect on vegetation, turning it “brown”. Although Baal is clearly the hunter, he is also the victim and pictured as the suffering and “fallen bull” “prostrate lay the god Hadad as a steer in the midst of the mire”(Gray´s trans). Here Baal is both hunter and bull. He dies in the swamp as a representative of the wet element and as a victim of the fire raging in his limbs. The result is water (end of the text).

But the rendering asunder (the sparagmos in Greek) which Jamm (“Sea”), the beloved son of El, suffers at the hands of Baal (“scatter (him), o mightiest Baal”, 2, IV, 28) shows that Baal is the “Great Hunter”, and so do the two throwing-clubs with which he brings poor Jamm down. This is the archaic weapon of the great hunter.

Baal is accompanied by his “seven pages, eight boars” (5, V, 9). Tammuz is killed by 7 demons from the underworld. Resheph, “the burning one”, kills Adonis in the shape of a boar. The hunter is often followed by 7 helpers seen as boars. A text from Ugarit refers to the demons as “flies”[3], so the title “Lord of the Flies”(Baal Zebub) is “Lord of the swarm of flying demons”.

But in Ugarit it is first and foremost ´Anat who is pictured as the divine hunter with cruel features. She is the “destroying” ´Anat. Without the faintest feeling of mercy she goes berserk and makes a massacre of the totally innocent people coming to dine in her temple, “a grim and bloodthirsty goddess”[4]. The fact that Baal is the male hunter and she the female hunter and his sister makes them a couple very similar to Apollo and Artemis. Originally the great hunter was “androgynous”: Sandan-Heracles serves Omphale dressed in women´s clothes. But this androgynity can be split into male and female hunter. In the scene of ´Anat´s massacre she is put back into balance by her love for Baal: the union of female and male god stands for harmony and is also seen as a union of heaven with earth and underworld (´Anat's dwelling is somewhere under the surface of the earth) SHE IS IN ALL ASPECTS IDENTICAL WITH THE INDIAN GODDESS KALI riding the tiger with the scimitar in her hand, a weapon also given to ´Anat.

 

Of special importance are the graves found in Ugarit. They are underground tholoi with a removable top-stone making it possible to pour libations into the graves. Now Elioun and the two brothers in Tyre, Usoos and Hypsuranios, were receivers of such libations acc. to Philo. Even the highest gods were considered dead and called El-rp´u, Baal-rp´u ("rephait"). Now this special crypt for the dead is also known from Tepe Gawra and from the Jezidi memorial to Sheik Adi. A.Tobler says about the tholoi dug out in Tepe Gawra: “the sacred character of the tholoi and their dedication to chthonic gods is firmly established by the heavy concentrations of graves around and within”[5].

Also Tall Arpachiyah, another Halafian culture in North Iraq, has the tholos as a dominating element[6]. The deceased are mostly not buried inside the tholos but all around it. The tholos is the centre in a system of graves.

The tholoi are most certainly the forerunners of the pyramids and symbols of kur/kurkura[7] so admirably described by Fr.Delitzsh[8]. This mountain where the gods were born, was also called Arallu, and more or less reflected in the temple called E-kur (“Mountain house”). It was shining like pure gold, and Delitzsh quote Job 37,22: “From the north comes gold”. Tiglathpileser I proclaims that he is called to “a seat in the House of the kurkura-mountain forever” and Delitzsh compares with Is 14,13.

In Cyprus there is an interesting piece of ceramics showing the interior of a tholos[9]:

 

 

A tripple goddess (C) is prayed to by a man falling on his knees (D). The goddess has snakes in her hands and is the female counterpart of a man sitting on some kind of triple throne just opposite her (A,B). But in the nether half of the picture a woman with a child is hiding by the cows. (F,T). In Armenia some churches were built as tholoi because Armenia was believed to be the centre of the world (Ringbom: Paradisus).

 

 

15.a. Baal coming to Rome: Dionysiac anti-religion

 

The nature of the hunter comes out very clearly in a late secret Dionysiac cult discovered in Rome where the courtesan Hispalla revealed the following details to consul Postumius[10]:

“it was known that for two years now no one had been initiated who had passed the age of twenty years. As each was introduced, he became a sort of victim for the priests. They, she continued, would lead him to a place which would ring with howls and the song of a choir and the beating of cymbals and drums, that the voice of the sufferer when his virtue was violently attacked, might not be heard ... the mingling of males with females, youth with age had destroyed every sentiment of modesty, all varieties of corruption first began to be practiced, since each one had at hand the pleasure answering to that to which his nature was more inclined. There was not one form of vice alone, the promiscuous matings of free men and women, but perjured witnesses, forged seals and wills and evidence, all issued from this same workshop: likewise poisonings and murders of kindred, so that at times not even the bodies were found for burial. Much was ventured by craft, more by violence. This violence was concealed because amid the howlings and the crash of drums and cymbals no cry of the sufferers could be heard as the debauchery and murders proceeded”[11].

A famous fresco from Pompeii shows a naked woman dancing and a woman with big black wings and a long whip, the symbol of Dike (“justice”). Nilsson has dealt with this motif (“The Winged Woman Fleeing”):

The winged demoniac woman is one of the apparitions and terrifying figures that were introduced in the Bacchic mysteries, reminiscent of the evil fate awaiting the unjust in the afterlife. But salvation is at hand. To the left of the winged woman the girl reveals the liknon with its contents, promising life and luck. The Campana relief: a young man is seen to the left, then the kneeling girl revealing the liknon, to the right a winged woman running away hurriedly. The girl takes hold of a corner of her long robe to hold her back, but she makes an averting gesture. The cameos are similar. Instead of the youth there is a Silenus holding up a basket of fruit, and the object revealed is a bearded bald head, probably that of a Silenus.

Bad conscience and the fear of retaliation by Dike are driven away by the holy symbol of Dionysos (often the lingam of the god) hidden in the liknon (basket). Another fresco shows the burdened soul standing between two options: the woman clad in black with the staff as the instrument of punishment, and the dancing naked maenad.

The cult described by Livius is, acc to R.Reitzenstein[12], the cult of an Oriental god identified with Dionysos.

 

 

The next picture (from the same villa in Pompeii) shows a woman (the soul) flying towards an idyllic scenery: a Satyr playing the Pan-flute, and a female Satyr offering her breast to a kid. In the Hellenistic novels the heroine is often taken away to a bucolic sphere, a symbol of her being taken away to unity with the highgod. The picture shows the cloak of the woman blown out by the wind to become a picture of the heavenly vault: she is taken away to the stars. (Europa in the care of Asterios, Jo in the care of the thousand eyed Argos.) Europa riding on the back of the bull is often pictured with her cloak blown out to become a vault over her head.

The last picture shows a young man tricked into seeing himself as a demon. Perhaps a symbol of the initiate discovering/accepting a demonic side of himself.



[1] RS 24.252 talks about El taking his seat next to `Athtarte, the goddess of extra-marital love

[2] de Moor's transl., p.132f.

[3] de Moor, p.179n31

[4] F.Hvidberg-Hansen, Kana´anæiske myter og legender, 1990, I, 46

[5] Excavations at Tepe Gawra, II, p.124

[6] Mallowan & Rose, Iraq II, 1933, pp.25-34

[7] “Berg der Länder”

[8] Wo lag das Paradies, 1881, pp.117-22

[9] SYRIA XXVII, 1950, pp.66-71

[10] 180 BC. The following translation and interpretation is taken from M.Persson Nilsson, The Dionysiac Mysteries of the Hellenistic and Roman Age, Acta Inst. Atheniensis Sueciae, 8, V, 1957

[11] Livius XXXIX, 10, 5

[12] ARW 19, 1916-19, p.193