Seasonal Rites of Baal and Astarte by Carroll "Poke" Runyon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an amazing book. For Pagans or neo-pagans their is a sad lack of books, material or groups working with Middle Eastern Deities from such Canaan or Mesopotamia. I was glad I found this one. The deities of Canaan Phoenicia have not been revered in quite a bit so the reconstruction is based in research and Ceremonial Magic.
Poke Runyon is a classic man of action. He has served in the military, mastered Ninjutsu and was a successful writer of fiction. His health problems involving his Gall Bladder lead him into an exploration into Hypnosis. Having tapped the power of the mind, Poke Runyon want on to explore Ceremonial Magic. His outfit "Ordo Templis Astarte" was stated back in 1974 and is the oldest running Ceremonial Magic lodge. It is now located in Silverado,California.
Poke Runyon's Paradigm combines years of research ,as he has a masters in anthropology from California State Northridge University, and Ceremonial and Hermetic theory. This book covers the the four main seasonal rites. The rites themselves take place in the solstices not the equinox. The rites celebrate Baal who is the original Greenman, the God of fertility and life giving rain and his relationship to Astarte who is both his sister and consort. The author gives a full script of the rites and preceding that he has one of the members write about their experience of the rite. The first rite takes place in the Spring and is called "Nuptiae" It celebrates the marriage of Baal to Astarte. The second rite is called "Adonia" which commemorates Baal's death at the hand of Mot, who is the Canaanite God of Death. The next rite is the Autumnal Solstice called the 7 Gates where in Astarte descend to the Netherworld to rescue Baal. She ends up defeating Mot in the underworld to retrieve Baal. The Last rite takes place in Winter and it celebrates Baal's Defeat of Lotan the big water dragon. To defeat him Baal has to answer a riddle and he almost forgets save for the fact that Taanit the Moon Goddess reminds him of the answer.
I have read quite a bit on Canaanite lore and at first I was rather disturbed by the differences I encountered when reading this work. First off Baal's original consort was named Anath. Big difference in name. There is some confusion as to who Astarte is. Is she Ashera the consort of El the father god or is she another name for Anath. Or is she a Goddess unto herself? At one point in time Baal took El's place and became Asherah's consort. Each city state had their own take on things. Another issue was with how Anath resurrected Baal. In the ritual, which borrows heavily from Sumerian mythology, Astarte goes into the under world and as she passes each level she leaves off some clothing. At the end she throws a black cloth over Mot's head and defeats him. For ritual purposes the borrowing from Mesopotamian lore does not concern me too much. However the original story is different. Anath finds Baal's body and resurrects him with the help of Shapsu the sun goddess. She does defeat Mot and scatter his remains to the ground by cutting him up into pieces. The battle with Lotan was way different in original Canaanite Lore. First off Lotan was called Yam and he was the God of the Sea. Anath and Baal got together and defeated the Sea God's minions and the battle was bloody. In the end Yam was killed. In the ritual, Lotan is about to defeat Baal unless he can answer a riddle. Taanite the Moon Goddess of Cathage helps Baal solve the riddle. First off it was Baal and Anath who defeated Yam the moon deities were not even involved. The original mood deites were Yarikh, the moon god and his wife Nikkal. I knew from the outset they were doing some change over with Taanite an I have no issue with that. Astrological bodies and even angels do not have to be specific with regards to gender. Throwing in Astarte's descent into the underworld, a borrowing from Mesopotamia was cool because both stories are similar and the Canaanites may have gotten their tale from the Mesopotamian in the first place. But the battle with Lotan left me concerned.
At the end Poke Runyon answered my concerns. He retell the story of the "Bow of Aquat" The original story was uncovered with lots of gaps. He filled those in. Poke Runyon knows his stuff.When he alters things there is a reason. For anyone wishing to follow the Canaanite path this is a great place to start. You will have to have a strong background in Ceremonial Magic to do these rituals properly. For a more complete understanding of the Canaanites the author has put a good bibliography together.
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