Tuesday 28 February 2012

The Gadim

Today I want to talk about the gadim or 'gads'.  'Gad' is a word meaning 'Fortune', and there is a god called Gad (who I will discuss in another post).  I want to talk about the class of 'Fortunes', a whole group of deities. 

Tutelary deities had existed in the land of Canaan for many years, going back (if we are to believe Sakkun-yaton) to the founding of the first cities and kingdoms.  But during the Greek and Roman periods (in the times when Canaan- called 'Phoenicia' and 'Syria' by the Greeks and Romans- was under the domain of the Seleukid Empire and the Roman Empire), tutelary deities became even more important, influenced heavily by the religious cults practiced by Greek and Roman kings and governors.  The city in which we can see this happening the most is the city of Tadmor (Palmyra to the Romans).  Tadmor was an Aramaean city, also settled by Amorites.  It was a very old city, mentioned in texts from Mari.  During later time periods communities of Arabs also lived there. 

From inscriptions in Tadmor, we can learn that the cults of the Fortunes, the tutelary deities, played an important role in the daily life of the citizens.  Everything had its own Gad, which watched over it and protected it, granting it good fortune.  These deities or spirits could also be venerated alongside the city's local ginnaya (djinn in Arabia). 

There was a Gad for every individual, a Gad of the village (qiryah), a Gad of Tadmor, a Gad of the gardens, a Gad of Taimi, a Gad of the oil merchants (meshach), a Gad of Yedibel, a Gad of the olive tree, and so on.  A Gad may be either male or female, and indeed from what we know it does appear that Tadmor's own Gad was/is female. 

Gad-Qiryah (the Gad of the village) is a local god or spirit who watches over the surrounding villages and their people.  Two altar inscriptions mention her.  One of them reads: "Abdibel erected (it) in thanksgiving to the compassionate one, the good, and to the Gad of the village and the Gad of the gardens.  Year 550" (This would be about 238/239 A.D).  Near Tadmor is an altar inscription from Anak, which reads: "The altar which Maliku son of Marban erected to Yarkhibol, to the one who irrigates Araq, to the Gad of the locality, the bountiful god.  Year 520... In the month Nisan"  (This would be around spring-time in 209 A.D).  This inscription may be interpreted as suggesting that a major god can also be a Gad (in this case Yarkhibol as the god of Araq).

The Gad in some ways is similar to an angel, and is often shown as a winged being.  But the Gad is very distinct from the angel in that it is more a personification of Fortune and of the good fortune that the deities will provide for whatever is under their domain (the garden, village, city etc.).  An angel, on the other hand, is more like a spirit messenger for a deity.  A relief found in the temple of Nebo shows a seated goddess (probably Ashtart, Malidthu or Allat- who was worshiped by Arabs in the city), standing on a swimming youth (the spirit of the spring of Afak).  Behind her is an eagle carrying a twig of oak, and to her right is a dog.  To her side stands a small female figure, wearing a crown and holding a branch of olive.  She is probably the Gad of the city.

Giving thanks to a Gad can increase good fortune, and it is important to show reverance towards a Gad.  In times when your success or the success of the community, the harvest, battles, anything, seems to be largely down to good fortune and the gods being on your side, then give offerings to the Gad of that particular aspect.  A Gad can function as being a personification of a deity's blessings and favour.  They are also deities of victory.

The Gad of Tadmor, standing on the spring which watered Tadmor's oasis.  She can be identified as a Gad because she is wearing a mural crown common in Assyrian and Elamite art

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