Sunday 19 February 2012

The Creation Story

I now want to attempt to do an analysis and an explanation of the creation myth to anyone is unfamiliar with the Canaanite cosmology, or is just curious.

"Before highest heaven had its name, before the earth below was called into being, and the primeval Arapel, the cloudy darkness; and chaos, Baad, the wind which blew; they were mingling together with no limit. And Baad produced Ruach, from him Ruach emerged, and was moving over the deep."

 This is the beginning of all things according to the Canaanite creation story.  The entire world was once only Arapel and Baad.  Arapel is a word meaning 'cloudy darkness', while Baad means 'wind'.  These things were for many ages with no limit and mingling together.  Darkness in Near Eastern cosmologies is not the absense of light.  Darkness is a type of thick black cloud which covers all things.  There is a 'place' or celestial treasure-room for darkness just like there is for snow and hail.  The gods can release this darkness from the storerooms and it will cover the earth.  But now Baad has produced Ruach, which is another type of wind.  But this wind is different.  It does not mix with the darkness, but instead blows it all away, revealing light.

"Their mingling was Teshuqah, who was the offspring of them both, and Baad knew not of what he had done."

Teshuqah means 'Desire', and the desire to rule over and to govern.  Now creation 'wants' to occur, but curiously is without thought and doesn't understand what it is doing.

"And the earth was made from the dirt of the desert; with the mud of the waters the earth was formed; and out of this came every germ of creation. "

The entire earth is pictured as a barren wasteland, like a desert.  It is made of a kind of mud or wet sand, made wet by the waters of the deep which cover the earth.  There is no dry land yet.  The whole of the earth is covered in a fathomless ocean (the abyss).  Heaven and earth do not yet exist.

"Then were created those which had no sensation, the earliest ones were called into being.  Ages increased, then the Zaphashamim were created, the observers of heaven, and they were formed like the shape of an egg."

The Zapahashamim are the 'watchers of heaven', though it is unknown exactly what they are.  In any case, some sort of intelligent life has now appeared.  Some think the Zaphashamim are like celestial birds which fly through the highest heavens, but it is unknown.

"Then Arapel, the cloudy darkness, burst into light, heavenly light, and both sea and land became heated.  And arose the winds, arose the clouds, and there were floods of the waters of heaven.  Came forth East-Wind and South-Wind, and they were in the midst of heaven.  Then came North-Wind and West-Wind, the winds were called forth, and they met there above."

Now the dark cloud has been blown away, and gathered into some secret places, from where it can still be unleashed.  Light has now appeared.  The clouds and winds appear.  Winds in the Near East are like cherubim which fly through the sky and caused winds by the beating of their wings.  The winds are blowing across the watery deep.

 "Then Kol-piakha, the great wind of heaven, went forward to Bahu, his wife, and knew her then. "

Kol-piakha is a great wind, and his consort Bahu is the desolate wasteland.  When the wind meets with the chaotic wasteland, the dark waste, it produces newer things.

"Ages increased, then Ulom and Kadmon were called into being. "

Ulom means 'time', which I will discuss in another post or video.  But time plays an important role in all of the Canaanite creation myths.  It is the driving force of creation, now things can finally occur.  It also means that this period was a time of great antiquity, but now that time exists, events can occur (they couldn't before).  Kadmon is linked to the east, the direction of the rising of the sun, where all things have their beginning and all things their end.  Creation is a cyclical process, rather than linear.  Interestingly, both Ulom and Kadmon are males (Kadmon is bisexual), so by the meeting of time and beginning, more things are created.  

"Long were the days, then Qen and Qenat were created."

Qen and Qenat are linked to genes, beginnings, origins.  Now all things will descend from them.

"The days became longer, then there came forth Ur, the son of Qen, and Ec their son, and holy Lehobah."

Ur is fire, Ec is flame, and Lehobah is light.  We can now identify some of the elements featured in creation.  In the Near East, the elements are (from lowest to highest):  Sea (equivalent to Water), Earth, Wind (equivalent of Air), and Sky (equivalent to Ether).  Though fire also plays an important role, it was not one of the primal elements present at creation like the others were.  Fire first appears with Ur, Ec and Lehobah.

"In their time was born El'abu, Aliyan the noble, and his wife Berith, the creators of gods."

El'abu (here called the Most High) in many ways can be called the first 'real' god.  He is the 'god of the fathers' and linked to ancestor veneration.  Berith is linked to the covenant between gods and mortals.  Before El'abu there were no 'real' gods.  But El'abu still doesn't belong to the current generation of gods like El, Baal, and Yam.  He is a god who came before the current generation.  The current generation is one large family and assembly of gods, headed by the patriarch El and his consort Asherah.  It is these gods that we worship most often.

"And from them was born Shamuma, the excellent one, most beautiful, filled with pride, he was the greatest of them all. And also his sister, holy Artzu, the most glorious, and they were together in their embrace.  And primeval Guruma, the other one, and chaos, Tahamatu, another besides; they were together as one. "

Shamuma is 'Heaven', Artzu is 'Earth'.  They are joined as one, like an egg.  Heaven and earth are not yet seperate.  'Heaven' means the sky above, while 'earth' means the dry land below us.  Guruma means 'mountains', while Tahamatu means 'deep'.  These are the mountains and waters of the primeval deep.

"And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen; when the gods were not born, not called into being, and when none bore a name, and all was in its former state; then were created the gods in the depths and the heights.  Ages increased, then there came forth El, the great god El, and Bethel, and Anak besides.  Then Shamuma, who hated his children, sent his daughters to El and told them to slay him.  Then they went, Asherah and Rachmay; then they went, the daughters of heaven, sisters of El.  But El, kindly El, did take them for his wives, and by them his children, the children of El, were born.  Numerous were they, sons and daughters, the divine assembly, the seventy sons and daughters of El.  The gods were established; in the birth chamber they were formed.  To El and Asherah, the Womb of the Deep, to El and Elat were born the gods.  And to the gods were born children, to them sons and daughters, until they were numerous as a multitude of nations."

What happens here is the birth of the current generation of gods.  They are the offspring of either Heaven and Earth (Shamuma and Artzu), or Heaven and the Deep (Shamuma and Tahamatu).  The gods are born in the waters of the deep, and emerge from the chaotic depths to see one another.  These gods are responsible for making the world habitable.  Before them, the world was in a chaotic state, and uninhabitable.  Shamuma intends for it to stay that way, as he hates his children (especially El) and tries to kill them.  He sends El's sisters, Asherah and Rachmay, to him.  But El makes them his wives as he is captivated by their beauty.  Then El and Asherah enter the birth chamber and begin to have many children, and their children have many more children, until the gods are formed.  It is also worth noting that creation starts off with very simple elements being born, but as time progresses they become increasingly more complex. 

"Ages increased, then there came forth Dagon, growing in the black earth; and Kothar, cunning in the working of devices and incantations; and Mot, the evil one; and Shaddai, the mountain; and Ashtart, the noble Morning Star; and Yam, the lord of the abyss; and Resheph, the fiery lord; and Anat, the divine warrior; and Allani, purest daughter; they were the greatest of all, the mightiest of deities.  From them came Mishar, the judge, and Zeduq, who discovered salt; and from Mishar, Nebo, the scribe."

Now we see the gods beginning to emerge.  They are born as the children of the primal deities.  

"Then El carried off heaven, and Asherah carried off earth, and Virgin Allani was carried off into the underworld as a prize.  By the advice of Anat, by the word of Nebo; by the word of the gods El made a sickle and a spear of iron, and drove back Shamuma his father, and drove him from his kingdom.  His concubine El gave to Dagon, and she was with child, giving birth to a son in the house of Dagon.  And they called him Hadad, a hero from birth, he was noble and mighty, and his heart filled with joy."

El now carries off heaven, and Asherah carries off earth.  The two are seperated from each other by their children, and heaven is placed above, while earth is placed below.  El's daughter Allani, while still a virgin, is carried off into the underworld by Mot as a prize.  She never returns.  Anat and Nebo tell El to fight against Shamuma, which he does.  Then his consort, who is pregnant, is given to Dagon.  She then gives birth to a son in Dagon's house.  This son is Baal Hadad, the greatest warrior.  This seems to be an attempt by Sakkun-yaton to harmonize two accounts of Baal's birth.  In one he is the son of Heaven, and in another (the most common account) he is the son of Dagon.

"Then Shamuma, the begetter of the great gods, made war against El, plotting evil against his son.  And El seized his father, he took him in his hands, and attacked him there, so that the blood from his wounds flowed into the fountains of the deep.  In the heights of him the divine council made their home, in his heavens the gods dwelled, and met there in council."

El now attacks and defeats Shamuma, making the heavens into the areas where the gods will dwell.  The assembly of the deities now meet there.

"When Tahamatu heard of this, she raged and cried aloud, thinking evil in her heart.  She advanced, she roared, she rested not by day or night, so that all the gods were cowering in fear.  Yam went forth against her, but he turned back and fled.  El went forth against her, but he turned back and fled.  Then mighty Hadad went against her, great Baal advanced in his chariot of thunder.  He found her, struck her, and her face was darkened by his hand."

Tahamatu is angered, and goes against the gods.  Baal is the mightiest and defeats her.  Now the chaotic primal deities are defeated, the gods can begin the task of creation.

"And the gods made a firmament in the midst of the waters, they divided the waters above from the waters below, declaring heaven and earth as their own.  And at El’s command, the waters fled, they fled from above the mountains, and dry land appeared."

The deities now divide the waters above from the waters below with a firmament (a dome that goes across the sky and holds back the rainwaters above).  Now the waters are gathered into the watery abyss and areas of the deep which Yam makes his home.  The waters retreat from the earth (often seen as flat in the ancient Near East), and and mountains and dry land begin to appearThe retreating waters become flowing rivers.

"To Ashtart there were born seven daughters, to her were born the Kathirat, and Qudshu and Chesed besides.  And from Resheph came the Qabirim, who made the ships and knew healing charms.  He took one among the Kathirat, one of the goddesses for his own, she gave birth to Eshmun the eighth of the sons of Resheph.  And they too begat sons of surpassing size and stature, men of renown, the giants, whose names are Zapan, and Lubnaan, and Hermon, and Martu."

Some more deities are born.  Then there are some giants who either inhabit the mountains which are named after them, or are turned into the mountains themselves.

"Then El decreed the fate of Anak in the assembly of the gods.  With the advice of Nebo he threw him into a deep pit, and buried him there below the earth.  At about this time the sons of the Qabirim put together rafts and ships, and made voyages; and were cast ashore near Mount Zapan, consecrating a temple there."

El becomes suspiscious of Anak and so buries him below the earth.  He now holds up the earth on its foundations.  A temple is built near Mount Zapan, which is the mountain where Baal makes his home.

"El made stations for the great gods; the stars, their images, as the stars of the zodiac, he fixed.  Shapash he caused to shine as a lamp by day, Yarikh he caused to shine as a lamp by night.  Then the stars, the great Kakabuma, were stationed in the firmament, being made for signs and the telling of signs.  The year he ordained, and the seasons, and all the months of the calendar would shine as accorded to the horns of Yarikh.  And he made the days, and declared the seventh day holy, the seventh day as a day of rest."

El now creates the stars and sets the sun and moon in place by day and night.  The seasons and the months are created.  And the seventh day is declared holy and a day of rest.  Now the deities need to make the earth pleasing and create life.  So God goes on to make animals.

"Then the gods made the seas and the land produce animals after their kind, the cattle and the wild beast and the creeping thing; and they set them in the sacred garden, the garden in the east.  The earth produced plants, the shrub and herb and tree, and they were given as food for the living souls."

Plants and animals are created, and live in a garden in the east.  This is a sacred garden of the gods on Mount Lel.  It is a lush paradise where there is no death or pain, only harmony and peace.

"And El took clay, the dust of the earth, and made humans, in the image of the gods he made them.  Into their lungs he breathed, they became living souls, and founded temples in the east."

Now mortals are made from clay in the image of the gods.  And mortals build temples to the gods their creators, and give offerings to them.  They live in the garden of paradise.                  



  1. What is this creation account called?

  2. What is the source of this? I can't find this version of the mth mentioned anywhere.

  3. I'm interested in knowing where the myth is written from too. The Ugaritic texts don't mention Dagon.

  4. Correct me if I am wrong but, everything here seems to be a fairly accurate representation of what Sakkun-yatan said, up until "And the gods made a firmament in the midst of the waters, they divided the waters above from the waters below, declaring heaven and earth as their own. And at El’s command, the waters fled, they fled from above the mountains, and dry land appeared."

    After digging through the internet, I have found absolutely nothing about this apart from on here without any sources provided. All that follows is also oddly specific to the biblical creation story as well as not seeming to be attributed to Sakkun-yatan. Please correct me if I am wrong and provide sources.