Tuesday 10 January 2012

Deity Post: Kothar

Kothar-wa-Khasis (meaning 'Skillfull-and-Clever') is the god of craftsmanship, smithing, architecture, masonry, and magic.  Kothar is the patron of artisans, craftsmen, builders, architects, smiths, masons, and soothsayers. 

He is a wise and benevolent god, helpful and skilled.  He belongs to an order of gods concerned with labouring, who possess knowledge of creation (in the sense of creating or making something) greater than that of their master (Baal) but who are still willing to do as he commands anyway (the main example being the building of the window in Baal's palace).  He is crafty, cunning and humourous; but skilled and able to create anything himself.  He is also a spiritual god, displaying divine knowledge when 'naming' things he creates in order to give them magical power.  However, Kothar is a very distant god.  He doesn't live in Canaan, but instead lives in foreign lands, namely Egypt and Kaphtor (Crete).  These places were important areas of trade for the Canaanites, which is why Kothar is said to live there.  For this reason, Kothar is somewhat distant from the other deities.  They have to send messengers to him for him to arrive in Canaan.  He is very much a god who prefers to go his own way.  His city is said to be Hikaptah in Egypt, which is the city of Menef (Memphis); Ptah's cult city.  This suggests identification between Kothar and Ptah being very old.

Kothar makes furniture and weapons for the deities.  He also builds the heavenly palaces and temples for them.  Being very much a 'distant' deity, Kothar tends to exude a feeling of great divine power in his own right.  He is perhaps a netherworld god, seeming to have some domain over the underworld.  He is a close companion of Shapash, guiding her on her solar barge through the underworld at night.  It is for this reason that Kothar often appears alongside Shapash.  He is possibly to be associated with the baboon and monkey as his sacred animal.

Kothar has the power to speak and to create, with his power over the magic of the spoken word.  He is the master shaper of world and forms, the master of creation and the power to create anything and give it form.  He can call forth an abstract idea from the ethereal and give it physical form.  He is the master over the created and the uncreated, the visible and invisible.  It is not suprising, perhaps, that Kothar's cult began to play a very important role in philosophy.  The Sidonian lawgiver and philosopher Mosheh wrote a creation myth which serves as an atomist cosmogony.  In it, Kothar is the creator of the physical universe, and the demiurge.  He is called the 'Opener', and is the source of all creation and the teacher of the true nature of mortals.  He is also responsible for forming our physical bodies in the womb and naming them with magic words.  With this myth taken into account, it is possible that Kothar is the opener of the nostrils to release the soul (napshu), and the soul's regenerator and renewer.  He also has knowledge of where all things came and how they came to be.

Kothar is worshiped when crafting, creating or constructing in any way.  He can also be seen as the source of wisdom and of knowledge, especially with sciences and technology.  As such, he is a very important god today.  He can also be worshiped as the one who brings knowledge of where all things came and how they came to be, and as the creator of the physical from the ethereal, and as the opener of the nostrils.

Kothar was known at Ebla and Ugarit, and was worshiped all across Canaan.  He was also worshiped by the Hebrews.  The Egyptians identified him with Ptah very early on, and as trade between Canaan and Egypt was common during the Bronze Age, Kothar was easily identified with the Egyptian god.  The Canaanites also sailed west, and Kothar was worshiped at Kittim (Cyprus), and Kaphtor (Crete), which was another important area of trade.  Even in the early period, we can see that the people of Mari often traded with Kaphtor.  When Qart-Hadasht was founded in Phut (Libya, the name given to the area west of Egypt) by the Tyrian princess Elishat, Kothar-Ptah was a syncretized deity who had a cult in the city.  In the later Iron Age periods, the Greeks identified him with Hephaestus, and the Romans with Vulcan.  Under the Seleucids, he became a very popular deity.  As can be seen, Kothar was a very popular god in Canaan throughout the ages.

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