28. God the Highest and God the King


In the old Near Eastern folk religion the Highgod is often dethroned by the god of death and destruction, and this minor god is seen as the real master of the world. Adonis and Attis are dead and remote figures. In Ugarit, El is housing in the mountain of the night in the direction of the sunset, where sea and blue heaven meet, whereas Baal has his throne on nearby Mt. Kassios.

Acc to Philo of Byblos, Elioun (= “Highest”) was killed in an encounter with wild animals (the man into animal-symbolism connected with the wild hunter). Dionysos is followed by his panthers, Mithras by his lions and ravens, Baal by his servants called ‘pigs”. Linos is a shepherd torn apart by his own dogs, his name is connected with the Semitic word for “highest”. In Nordic religion we find a man-into-wolf-symbolism: Odin is followed by his wolves and ravens. He is the wild hunter riding through the air followed by the dead spirits. The rage of the wild hunt can also be personified in the charging boar. Odin's army is put in order after the model of a boar’s head with tusks. Balder the good God is also a dead god.

The boar is also the killer of both Attis and Adonis, and even Osiris (acc. to one tradition), and in Catal Hüyük the hunt for the big bull is followed by a scene with a man attacked by a great boar. These two scenes are parallels. The hunters charging with their curved clubs and the leopard's skins dangling from their waists are men changed into leopards, and their charging wrath is personified in the boar. The man attacked by the boar carries no leopard’s skin. He is the suffering god of vegetation also personified by the bull.

His power is seen as taken over by the god of fight and fire, killing and destruction. Therefore, in the Near East this god is called the “King”: Molok, Milkom, Melqart. But his weapon is still the curved club. In the great Baal-epos in Ugarit, the son of the highgod El bearing the name of Jw is killed by Baal's two throwing-clubs. The main theme in the epos is the struggle for kingdom (mlk – the West Semitic word for king/kingdom). Baal is the prince of this world, El of the other.

The highest god in old pre-Islamic Arabia was the moon god. He is called “bull”, or “father”, or amm = “uncle”, or kahil = “the old one”, hukm = “the wise one” or wadd = “the loving one”. Many amulets carry the inscription: abm wdm “Father is love".

A tribe calls itself “the sons of Wadd”. He is also simply “the god” (= Allah). There is a whole cycle of lunar traces left in the yearly feast, Hagg of Arafa, acc. to Ditlef Nielsen[1].

But also Yhvh of the Old Testament has a cycle of feasts connected with the moon. At full-moon 13 young bulls are sacrificed at the beginning of the autumn-feast, the second day 12, the third day 11, etc. On the 7th day 7 (Num 29). As the moon becomes smaller, so does the number of bulls sacrificed[2].

The god of vegetation and life is often faded to a deus otiosus totally overshadowed by the powerful goddess of love. This goes for Attis & Cybele, for Adonis & Aphrodite, for Eros & Aphrodite, for Tammuz (called harmu = “love”) & Ishtar. Love is the life-giving force in nature, and therefore the highgod is the personification of love.


In Egypt and Sumer we often find a very old and complicated system of gods and rituals. Here, where the art of writing has a long tradition behind it, theology in the true sense of the word was developed. In the small Phoenician towns there were no large priestly orders, and we do not know of any groups nursing an oral tradition. The purpose of life for the wandering Syrian priests was ecstasy.

When disregarding the very specia1 developments around the temple in Jerusalem and the Jhvh-cult, the Syrio-Palaestinian religion has to be dealt with as a folk-religion centered around the midwinter feast, when light is at its turning-point in the bosom of darkness and the year and time as reborn spring anew from eternity, and around the coming of spring and the dying of vegetation, when the summer heat is at its hottest.

The highgod in the folk religion is the bull, a symbol of the power of vegetation. Therefore it is possible to see his life-fluids in direct connection with the intoxicating drink. Here the re-search of L. Lommel on soma, the drink of immortality, is brought in to deepen the understanding of the motif so often pictured on the seals of the highgod sitting with a cup in his hand, with the sign of the moon just above the cup. He is also the dark night sky with the moon as his shining horns. Therefore the moon can be seen in direct connection with the drink of immortality. Another symbol of the highgod as a vegetative power is the high tree of life at the top of which the drink of immortality is gathered in the great cup of the moon.

He is also the primordial mountain, primordial totality, often pictured as a pyramid, and considered identical with the night sky. Therefore he may also manifest himself in the form of the stone-stele or be honored in the shape of the black meteor-stone fallen from the sky. He is driven off to the black mountain of night and transcendence by a younger god with strong, demonic features in his personality. He is killed and becomes one with the distant unchangeable eternity of the starry heaven, therefore the stars may be pictured as the clusters of grape from where the drink of immortality has its origin.



Cook[3] has seen these coins as closely connected with the cult of Sandan's pyramid, his "funeral fire". They are probably from Mallos in Cilicia, and the two handles on both sides of the top show that they are the world-pillar seen as a pyramid, but in the process of dividing into the two Heracles-pillars with the characteristic handle known from the pillar held by Gilgamesh. Instead of clusters of grape, the stars can also gather round the cosmic mountain in the shape of the mystical bird. Acc. to some traditions, the stars are pictured on the tail of the peacock, and the soul of Argos (the fact that he had 1000 eyes = the stars means that he is the highgod = heaven) flew from him when he was killed and took up its abode in the peacock. Now acc to the tradition found in Pherecydes, Chronos created the world out of his own semen and put the primordial elements into “5 corners”. These five corners are the five corners of the pyramid. He has no wife like Zas, who succeeded him as universal king. He is the god of primordial totality and the primordial mountain, the highgod. Zas is Sandan, the hunter. It is typical of tantric thinking that the visible world is created when the mystical vision and power of macr'anthropos is lost in ejaculatio.

The Highgod's killing is identified with the withering of vegetation under the scorching sun in the dog-days when the summer heat is at its highest. He is the creator and god of life, and his enemy is the destroyer, often pictured as the great hunter (originally the constellation of Orion with the dog-star.)

Adonis, who is the vegetative power and the beauty of the spring-flowers, and whose death is celebrated at the beginning of the hot summer, is also an El-type, but with some of the chthonic features of the great hunter. The fact that he is a personification of vegetative power makes the strong smell of the myrrh extracted from the trees his epiphany. He may also be pictured as a bull or billygoat being hunted down by the demonic god, Resheph, followed by a group of demonic animals.

This we will try to prove is also the background of Mithras killing the divine bull with the help of demonic animals such as snake, scorpion, dog, raven, and lion.

As mentioned above, Adonis has also some features of the great hunter. He ascends as a spirit from the realm of death and presides over the orgiastic annual feast at Byblos where the women must give themselves to strangers.

Jupiter Dolichenus is the characteristic fusing into one of the highgod standing on his bull and the great hunter and destroyer with the vegetation-destroying axe in his hand. As the primordial mountain he is followed by his two Castores, who are the division of the primordial mountain into the two Heracles-columns, cf the 3 columns in the first church: Peter the Zion-mountain (Matt 16,17-19) and the two Dioscuric “sons of thunder” as Heracles-columns.

The highgod may be pictured as the shepherd and guardian of animals over against the great hunter, the killer of animals. The latter sometimes presides over the new year’s carnival and its chaotic interregnum. He is the devil of the Bible and leader of  the pompé of the demons. His element is the fire, as water is the element of the highgod.

The purpose of the water rituals and the bonfire in Mabbug (described by Lucian: de Syria dea) is to secure cosmic balance between life-fluids and summer heat, between water and fire, a balance that is very important also for the understanding of Anaximander’s philosophy. But as early as in the Ugarit-text CTA 1-6, Baal is fighting flood and summer heat to secure cosmic balance symbolized in the building of his palace. As for Baal of Ugarit it is important to stress his connection with Mount Saphon, which makes him identical with the Cilician god, Sandan, who is also connected with this mountain. Sandan is the world-pillar creating open space in the massive world-mountain (primordial totality). He is a hunter, and is burning on a bonfire. In the Ugarit text, the “Hunting of Baal” CTA 12, the hunting ends in Baal burning. Sandan fighting Typhon/Tsaphon is also Apollo’s fighting Python, like Typhon a symbol of the spirit of the primordial mountain. Apollo burning Python's bower, his “royal palace”, is the god of fire fighting/killing the god of vegetation. In Philo of Byblos, Hypsuranios and his bowers of reeds and rushes and papyrus are fought by Usoos, the hunter. After the fighting, and after rainstorms, and woodlands being burned down, Usoos secures cosmic order by setting up the two world-pillars. Usoos is Melqaart, and Apollo sailing to the Mt. Paradise/Parnassos in the shape of a dolphin is Melqart sailing to the rocks of ambrosia on the back of a dolphin.

We find the highest god as Elioun killed in an encounter with beasts, as the shepherd Linos torn up by dogs, as Hypsuranios fought by his brother, the great hunter, Usoos. The Krt poem speaks about the rain of the Most High, ´lj, as a delight, n’m, to the earth and wheat and a good fragrance to the furrows[4] n’m and fragrance are closely connected with Adonis, and in fact Philo tells us that Adonis, the hunter, (Greek: Agrotes) in Byblos was called the greatest of gods I.lo,12f.

The highgod is the giver of rain, wine and grain (bread). If seen as a medium of the life-giving powers of this god, these things are the “water of life” and the “bread of life”, a sacrament from the Most High, Gen 14.18.

P.Beskow[5] has made it probable that the mysteries of Mithras have their origin in thiasoi (brotherhoods) for Theos Hypsistos (“The Highest”). In the killing of the bull-scene in the mysteries of Mithras, the killers clearly go for the life-fluids of the bull. They drink his semen and blood, which gives special importance to the vessels found in connection with the cult, vessels from which a snake or a lion is seen drinking.



Note the scorpion pumping the male organ of the bull by squeezing it. The scorpion is an old symbol of ejaculation. The interest in these rather banal secretions is typically tantric, cf what was said by Pherecydes about Chronos (Greek "Time"), who has his Indian counterpart in the god Kala = “time”, the father of Prajapati.

[1] Handbuch der Altarabischen Altertumskunde, 1. Bd: Die Altarabische Kultur, 1927, pp.213-24

[2] Nielsen, ibd. p.244

[3] Zeus III, p.602

[4] CTA 16. III, 6-11, Hvidberg-Hansen's transl.

[5] Acta Iranica 17, 1978