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Monday, December 14, 2009

Stories From Ancient Canaan" by Michael David Coogan

A score of tablet were found in an archeological excavation located in Ancient Ugarit a Canaanite City in Syria. Today the place is called Ras Shamra. The Canaanites had a language that was a predecessor to Israelite Hebrew . The Canaanite never had a large empire because their units of organization were city states. Usually each city state had it's own king and usually was dedicated to one particular God in the Canaanite pantheon. The City of Ugarit was eventually conquered by Myceneans. Before that in addition to being a home for Canaanites there were other nationalities living there as well. In 1929 an excavation unearthed these tablets written by Ilimilkhu and were housed in the library of Canaanite priest.
The tablets tell several stories. The first one is called "Aqhat" The King of a certain city state named Danel is a wise king who counsels his citizens and decides disputes much like King Solomon. He is unfortunately childless, so he goes into a temple and fast for seven days and he prays for seven days. After seven days the fertility god Baal ascends to the Mountain of El who is the king of all gods and intercedes on his behalf. Danel is given a son called Aqhat. Aqhat is given a bow and arrow built by a god called Kothaar w Hassis, sort of craftsman god. It is such a good bow and arrow that the Goddess of love and war, Anat, wants it. Aqhat refused to give it to her, and he refused her in disrespectful way. In revenge Anat has another god named Yatpan used his vultures in order to have Aqhat killed. Once the Kings son is dead there is seven years of death and famine. Te king kills many birds in order to find thee remains of his sons and give it a proper burial. The Kings daughter meanwhile conceals a dagger and kills Yatpan in revenge.
The second story the "Healers" tells a story of 8 mystical being being that arrive at Danel's dwelling and they stay there for 7 days consoling Danel over the loss of his son. They say that his son will be returned to him or it seems they imply it. after the seventh day Baal once again intercedes on his behalf.
The third story is called "Kirta" Kirta is a king who has lost everything his wife his children you name it. In a deep depression he falls asleep and the gods speak to him in a dream. They tell him to gather an army and campaign against King Pabil and his city state so as in order to win the hand of his daughter Princess Huriya. His troops surround the walls of the city state. As a condition for peace King Kirta wins the hand of the princess. Of course on his way over to Udm Pabil's city state Kirta made a vow to Ashera mother of the Gods and Goddesses. Kirta failed to keep that vow. During festivities he is struck with illness. His sons begin to doubt even after he gets well again. The story ends with him cursing his sons.
The last story is about the god Baal. Baal was the son of Dagon the grain god. At the stories beginning the Sea God wants Baal delivered over to him. El the supreme god agrees. Baal basically fights the sea god with thee help of his consort and sister Anat, to the death. Kothar w Hassis build two special club for Baal They prevail. Next Baal wants his own palace on Mount Zaphon. After some coercion on his behalf from Anat. El and Ashera agree. Kothar w Hassis builds the palace. Baal once getting his palace conquers many cities. In the end the god of death fight it out. Anat comes to his rescue and revives Baal. Of course not after 7 years of famine and drought.
Great book.

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