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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Goddess Anath by Umberto Cassuto

Ugarit is a lost Canaanite City located in Syria just north of Lebanon. The city is called Raas Shamra today. Ugarit was located in a tell, or small mountain. Among the many finds were tablets that told of the Baal cycle. The book title can bee misleading as the book itself is more about Canaanite literature than it is about the Goddess Anath. Many of the fragments that have been found are damaged and incomplete.. Many lines are missing and it can be a challenge to fill in the blanks.

The book describes the many similarities between biblical text and Canaanite text. There is the same usage of literary motifs, metaphors and similarities. Hebrew writers whje when they wrote the bible had a developed form of poetry. Ugaritic literature and Canaanite Literature predated the time of the Patriarchs so scholars have agreed that Israelites were using references and poetic styles borrowed from Canaanite literature. In fact it is now believed that the Israelites branched off from the Canaanites.

The book analyzes two stories that have been salvaged from Ugarite. The first one pertains to the war between Baal, Anaths brother and Yam the God of the Sea. El and Ashera were the first two deities to rule the world. As they got older they were pushed aside by the three brother Gods , Yam, Baal who is the god of vegetation and rain, and Mot, the God of death. Since these three gods have control over the Earth there is some question or fight as to who will rule what. So there is fighting. Anath allies with her brother Baal.

The first text indicates that Baal is dining with guests when he is challenged by emissaries of the Sea God. The Sea God wants him handed over. Meanwhile Anath's castle is attacked by human supporters of Yam. She defeats them and wears their heads like a belt and their hands like bandoleers. War then continues with Anath defeating the allies of Yam most of note is the 7 headed dragon whom she muzzles and the judge of the Rivers.

Anath is called the Eternal virgin and Baal is called the rider of the clouds. God in the bible also is called the rider of the clouds and he also defeats the sea and forces it to keep it's boundaries. God also defeats the Leviathan and lockes it in the deeps. Lots of familiar parallels.

The Second text is about Baal's battle with death. Baal loses the battle and dies and then Anath comes comes in and slays death. Eventually Baal is returned to the surface world and the rains return so the crops can grow. Also discussed is how Anath negotiates with El to have a castle built for Baal. Anath does not ask nicely but demands, throws and temper tantrum and scares the day lights out of El. She also get's permission from Ashera. Katir wHassis is summoned from Egypt to do the job.

Interesting of note is that in Baals castle the windows are shut as death may seep through and kill his family. In the Bible similar sentiment are expressed about death coming through the window.

Over all good book a bit scholarly and too much attention is devoted to diagramming words that it could bore one half to death. The book is also dated and I am sure new information has been released. I was expecting to learn more about Anath.

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