Monday 25 March 2013

Syncretism and the Canaanite deities- part 1

Today, I'm going to take a look at the Canaanite deities and how they identify with gods from other cultures, namely those of the Hurrians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Hittites, Luwians, Karuwans, Arabians, Ludim, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Indians.

El- El is identified with the Hurrian god Kumarbi, with whom he shares some similarities.  Kumarbi is like a father god to the Hurrians, as is El to the Canaanites.  El also compares well with Ellil/Enlil in Mesopotamia as a creator and father god, but unlike Ellil/Enlil is not a young and active god.  As an older father god who dwells in the high heavens and isn't too involved in the lives of mortals, El compares well with Anu/An in the Mesopotamian religions.  In Egyptian religion, the closest comparison we can find to El is the god Amun.  Amun too is a hidden god and a father god who dwells in highest heaven, and he's also associated with kingship and creation.  And like El, who uses Shapash as an 'eye' and messenger, Amun's 'revealed' aspect is the sun god Ra, who can be seen clearly in the skies.  In Arabia, the closest god to El is Allah (whose name is linguistically related), and both are the creator and father gods.  The Greeks associated El with Kronos, and the Romans with Saturn.  This is because El belongs to the 'earlier generation' of gods, like Kronos and Saturn.  I've also seen El identified with Zeus at least once, as both are powerful and both govern the cosmos itself.  In some respects, El is comparable to the Persian Ahura Mazda (both are supreme god, referred to as simply 'God', both are also considered benevolent creators).  In India I feel that both Brahma and Vishnu are similar to El.  Brahma is the creator and is considered to be a wise god, so there is a link there; while Vishnu is also a benevolent god who dwells in the highest heaven and sends various avatars to earth (as El sends the prophets, angels, heroes, and messengers in times of distress).

Asherah- She is connected to various mother goddesses.  Specifically to the Hittite Ashertu (which is in fact the Hittite name for the same goddess), and to the Arabian mother goddess Allat.  She is also similar to the Hindu mother goddess Aditi, to whom children address prayers.  In Egypt, Asherah was always identified with Het-hert, who is also a powerful goddess with a lot of authority.  To the Greeks, Asherah could be connected to either Rhea (as wife of El/Kronos), Hera (as a powerful and authoritative goddess), or even Artemis (for her role as the Queen of Heaven, or a celestial goddess).  And likewise with the Romans, it could be Juno or even Diana.  Juno, as a mother goddess, seems to be the most common.

Baal- Baal Hadad is associated with many storm gods throughout the Near Eastern and Mediterranean world.  He is comparable to the Hittite Tarhuntas, the Hurrian Teshub, the Ludite Lebs, the Karuwan Milasa, the Indian Indra, and the Greek Zeus.  All of these are storm gods, and many of them are known for their battle with an evil serpent or dragon, which represents chaos.  Baal is also a lot like the Mesopotamian Ellil/Enlil (the powerful storm and war god), and Marduk (who is a storm god known for defeating Tiamat and commonly referred to as Bel).  He is likewise a lot like the Arabian storm and war god Hubal.  In Egypt, he is comparable to Set, who is also a storm god.  Unlike Set though, he is not associated with the desert or with chaos.  Since he was associated with the Greek storm god Zeus, the Romans quickly associated him with their own Jupiter.

Ashtart- Ashtart is connected in a deity-list from Ugarit with the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, and she shares many aspects with Ishtar and Inanna as a goddess of love and fertility associated with the Evening Star (the names Ashtart and Ishtar are also related).  Ashtart is also associated with the Hurrian goddess Shaushka, who is sometimes called Ishtar, and with the Hurrian and Ludite goddess Hebat, who is a goddess associated with lions and the consort of Teshub (as is Ashtart with Baal).  As a goddess of fertility, she is also linked the the Egyptian Aset and the Arabian Al-Uzzah.  As a goddess of love who has a cult city on Cyprus, she is connected to Greek Aphrodite and Roman Venus, though she is sometimes also linked to Juno.

Anat- Anat is in many ways like Ashtart.  Like Ashtart she too can be identified with Ishtar and Inanna as a young warrior goddess.  Like Ishtar who threatens Anu in the myths, Anat threatens El.  Anat is a warrior goddess like Al-Uzzah of Arabia, and she also compares well with the Hurrian Shaushka.  In Egypt though, Anat is very much like the goddess Nit, who is a warrior goddess.  Likewise, she shares many similarities with the Persian Anahita, a warrior goddess who drives the chariot of Ahura Mazda and guards his wisdom and the holy Avesta against the malice of the daevas.  Anat is identified by Philon Byblios with the Greek Athena (both are warrior goddesses and virgin goddesses), and Roman Minerva.  In addition to this, Anat is also said to dwell in Greece (in addition to dwelling in Inbab's marshes, she is sometimes said to live in Javan, or Greece), which provides a connection to Athena.  She is also a lot like Artemis as a young virgin goddess who likes the hunt.  In India, Anat corresponds very well with Durga/Kali as a ferocious mother goddess associated with the fearsome predator (lion for Anat, and lion or tiger for Durga/Kali).  Both are destroyers, but both are also seen as benevolent by their devotees.

That is all for part one.  Next time, I'm going to look at Resheph, Yam, Mot, Arsh, Baal Shamem, Shapash, Yarikh, Nebo, Shadrapa, Melqart, Eshmun, and others.

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