Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Canaanite Prayer

May the gods watch over you; may they bless you all with health and wellbeing. 
May they strengthen you all for a thousand days 
And for ten thousand years 
Unto eternity. 


Ilūma taģģurrūkumū wa tushallimūkumū
taʻzuzūka alpi yāmīma
wa-rabati shanāti
biʻadi ʻelami

This prayer is from cuneiform tablets written in the city of Ugarit in what is now modern-day Syria, around 3200 years ago.


Today is: 
12 Magmaru, Shanatu 86
It is the twelfth day since the new moon which began the month of Magmaru. Magmaru is the second month of the year in the calendar from the Syrian city of Ugarit. It has been 86 years since the rediscovery of the Middle to Late Bronze Age city of Ugarit, a city which has given us much of our primary documents.

Image Notes:
Photograph by 3268 Zauber, used through GNU-Creative Commons

Friday, October 11, 2013

Breathing the Aethers: Experiencing Different Pantheons


Every deity belongs to a specific group of deities, which belongs in turn to a different culture. Each culture has certain customs, languages, ethnicities, and symbols in common, and as such each deific group has its own specific characteristics. It is as if each pantheon has its own signature, its own scent, its own sensation. Galina Krasskova in the past monthasked how Greek deities as a group feel in comparison to Norse deities as agroup. I have also been put up to this exploration by a two-part dream I have had this past week where I experienced the Thracian deities in one dream, and the Greek pantheon in another. How do certain pantheons “feel” when you experience them?  The question is a good one, and I thought I would tackle it across a wider arc. 

It’s an excellent question. I will try to share what I have encountered in my limited experiences. This is from a generalized point of view: not all deities of a “pantheon” feel the same, and this is but the briefest of looks and the broadest of generalizations.

The Norse Deities
I have felt that the Norse deities are present, direct, terse, and loud. They are up-front, immediate, immense, and vast.  They speak in few words, but what words they use are clear. They can be intimidating, and I think of them as the strong, quiet type. Sometimes in their case, it is what they aren’t saying that is part of the message. They smell of cold metal on the air. I’ve experienced Loki as cussing a blue streak in a hilarious and socially inappropriate monologue, and yet still have time to find my sunglasses which had been missing for two years. Odin is the most terse and direct, and has manifested an object for me to use as a gift.

The Greek Deities
In a dream once, I met up with the pantheon. I joined them at a resort on the beach for the wealthy. It felt much like being at a tennis club, complete with wearing light colors and a diamond tennis bracelet. They keep more to themselves and do not interact on a personal level as often or as blatantly direct as the Norse deities. They have a heightened love of beauty, of sunsets and shorelines. They are cultured, elite, and civilized The few times I’ve experienced Apollo, I found his presence calculating, lofty, and clean. Dionysos is a contradiction of mystery and approachability. What little I have felt of Aphrodite has been of champagne bubbles and warm scented oils. Ares looms, present, colossal, wall-like, and mostly silent.

The Mesopotamian Deities
This covers a very broad category of three cultures. The Sumerian culture came first. The Assyrians and the Babylonians came next and are much more related to each other than they are to the Sumerian culture. I have not had as much experience with these deities as a whole, but I have hadexperience with the Babylonian moon god Sin. It was a stark experience. My experience of them, through him, is that they are concerned about the efforts of technology, structure, and civilization: a proper place and order to everyone and everything. They do not have a lot of “wiggle” room. Experiencing them is vaguely akin to opening up a computer and examining the circuits: ordered in a way that is difficult for an average layperson to understand. 

The Thracian Deities
These deities are of depth, darkness, and primordial mystery. Instead of communicating in words, they often prefer images, symbols, sensations. They are more physical and give more cues in the body than other deities tend to, and thus they remind me of my own Iluma (the Canaanite deities). Being surrounded by them is much like swimming in a warm cosmic soup that is heavy and presses in on you from all sides without smothering. Sabazios has shown up in a dream as a frightening visage which I first thought was symbolic of a vaporous, white angel of death riding in to harvest souls. Later, I have experienced him as affable, and as giving me a message only to prove that he gave it to me by having a relative who knows nothing of him call me and give me the same message. The Thracian deities have a quite different presence than the Greek deities. 

The Canaanite Deities
I like to use the word Iluma, since it means “deities” in Ugaritic, just as pantheon is Greek. The Canaanite deities are quieter than the other deities and can be a challenge to hear sometimes. They communicate freely through symbols and emotions, and will often put a sensation on your body like a transparency on an overhead projector (if you remember such beasties from the far-flung past), or they will communicate with sensations directly in your body. Their words are sometimes unusual: they can use several words smashed together to represent one word, one concept. They like to communicate in images. Sometimes you will feel their presences for a few days before they communicate, or before they can make you hear them.

The Norse communicate the least in dreams, in my experience. The Greek deities communicate some in dreams, depending on the deity. The Thracian deities and the Canaanite deities have communicated more to me in dreams. However, I believe that all sets are certainly capable of doing so. 

"But, Tess," you say, "you didn't cover my gods and goddesses!" Leave me a note. I'll give it the old college try, or I'll pick my brains to see what experiences I've had in the past with other deities and groups. 



Today Is
7 Magmaru, Shanatu 86
It is the seventh day of the lunar month of Magmaru, the second month of the year. It has been eighty six years since the rediscovery of the Canaanite city of Ugarit in modern-day Syria. We get much of our primary documents of the religion of the Late Bronze Age Canaanites from Ugarit. 

Image Notes

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Notes About the God Rashap

Rashap is a powerful cthonic deity over forces of illness, warfare, protection, healing, and sometimes metalworking. Here are a few swift notes about him.

Names:
Rashap-Bibitta: Anatolian manifestation of Rashap from city of Bibitta
Rashap-Guni: Rashap of Syrian city Gunu
Rashap-Chagab: Manifestation of Rashap, "Chagab" uncertain
Rashap-Idrippi: Manifestation of Rashap, "Idrippi" uncertain
Rashap-Mahbani: Manifestation of Rashap, "Mahbani" uncertain
Rashap-Malki: Somehow royal manifestation of Rashap
Rashap-Tzaba'i: Rashap of the Army/Multitudes
Rashap-Shulman: second part uncertain, Egyptian phrase possibly noting him as a foreigner
Rashap, Rashpu, Reshef, Resheph are all variations of his name.
Often called a "prince" in Ugaritic literature: Zabulu Rashap
Variations of his name include Rashap, Rashpu, Rushpan, Reshep, Reshef, and Resheph
The most primitive form of name of Reshep may be Rashpu and associated with the Semitic word root R-Sh-P = "to burn"

Favored Weapons:
Bow and arrows are his favorite weapons. Often the arrows are laden with illness.
Mace, shield, apple mace, spear, mace axe, fenestrated axe, knives

Epithets and Stock Descriptions:
Giver of Life, Health, and Strength
Lord of Sky (but not a "sky god")
Giver of Good Life
Protection of Life is Around Him

Symbols:
Colors of black and red
Egyptian ankh

Ancient Temple:
An "obelisk" temple dated to the Middle Bronze Age in Byblos: the courtyard is filled with votive obelisks.

Animal Associations:
Gazelles -- More from martial and liminal characteristics than fertility, but fertility nominally included
Lions -- An Ugaritic votive lion's head drinking vessel circa 1200 BCE is inscribed with: "Lion's head (literally 'face') that Nuranu offered to Rashap-Guni."
Slain Serpents, Slain Dragons
And he sometimes appears himself as having wings
Horse and horsemanship, horses in connection to chariots.

Deity Associations and Hybridizations:
Sometimes connected with Nergal
Often connected with Mars
Often connected with Apollo as the giver of illness
Sometimes connected with Montu

Offerings in Ugarit:
His favored offerings include shalamu (peace offerings) of a ram around a full moon.
A shurpu (burnt offering) of a ram and a plated bowl into a sacrificial pit around the time of Jan-Feb.
A bull and a ram in honor of Rashap-Malki
A shurpu (burnt offering) of a ram and a neck near full moon around Feb-March
Some sort of offering in the lunar month that houses the vernal equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere)
A shurpu (burnt offering) of a neck and a ram for Rashap-Mahbani in lunar month of vernal equinox
He can receive offerings during the day or the night.
He is on the record as preferring more burnt offerings than other deities.

Ancient Prayers:
"Reshep, the great god, lord of eternity, soverign everlasting, mighty master, amidst the divine ennead."
"Praise to Rashap: I kiss the ground of his soul. I give praise before his glorious face so that I may gain his boon. You heal my limbs and you open my eyes in the sight of your face."
"Giving praise to Reshep, kissing the ground to his ka. It is to his beautiful face that I give praise, so that I may propitate his goodness. You heal my arms and open my eyes with the sight of your face. For the ka of the scribe Peqrer."
"Thou shalt not take thy stand in his hindquarters, Hathor is against thee, lady of the hindquarters. Thou shalt not take thy stand in his phallus, Horus is against thee, lord of the phallus. Thou shalt not take up thy stand in his 'st, Reshep is against thee, lord of the 'st" ('st unknown term perhaps referring to male genitalia.)Chester Beatty Papyrus VIII Vs. 4:9, Time of Rameses II
"Giving homage to Reshep, the great god, that he may give life, prosperity, and health to the ka of his servant in the Theban necropolis, P'-shd."


Miscellaneous Notes:

Walls in The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth notes that text KTU 1.82 1-3 "while broken, reads that Baal battles and defeats the Dragon with the aid of Resheph the archer."

In biblical Old Testament passages, Rashap represented as flame, spark, like "love" (i.e. passion), as a cosmic force, cosmic winds, and lightning. "On the whole, all of the Old Testament passages seem to suggest that Reshep represents some more-or-less uncontrolled cosmic force, typically as a bringer of plague and sudden death, or at least a seizure beyond control."  Fulco, The Canaanite God Reshep, p. 61.

Ugaritic text RS 12.061, Astrological report: Rashap (Mars) is seen as being Shapshu's (sun's) gatekeeper for six days o a new moon festival.

As Rashap-Chagrab, he is part of some contemplation ritual (a pahayu), perhaps involving scrying or an oracular rite.



Today is:
3 Magmaru, Shanatu 86
It is the third day of the lunar month of Magmaru. Magmaru is the second month of the year. It has been 86 years since the rediscovery of the Middle to Late Bronze Age Canaanite city-state of Ugarit from where we gain much of our primary texts.

Image Notes:
Dance of Fire by Sar the Photographer. Used under CC-GNU.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

God Choron: Enchanter, Exorcist, Enforcer

Dark and silent, Choron the apotropaic mage shrouds himself in secrecy. This chthonic god heals and harms, shields and strikes. His name is transliterated into English a number of ways: Choron, Ḥoranu, Horon, and sometimes Hauron. The ch or ḥ sound is pronounced like the ch in Chanukah or Bach. This god was worshiped in both Bronze Age Canaan as well as New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty Egypt where he was connected with the sphinx as Horemakhet-Hauron; however the best information we have on Choron comes from Canaanite incantations. Three thousand year old cuneiform tablets originating in city of Ugarit—now the Syrian city of Ras Shamra—tell of Choron as an underworld god, an exorcist, and a protector.

As a dark lord in the underworld,1 he bears both beneficial and baneful attributes. Snakes are his favored creatures. His face becomes shadowed—perhaps in anger—when snakes are disrespected.

In one situation, his “face turns dark” because “his creatures are deprived of their young.”2 He protects against toxin, especially that of snake venom. In an Ugaritic incantation for snake bite, Choron marries a persona named Mare. Mare might be a mythological mother of all horses, a horse goddess, or a divinized horse; Mare’s mother or authority figure is the sun goddess Shapshu. In the text, venomous snakes have troubled Mare’s children so when Mare seeks a marriage between herself and Choron, she demands that Choron present a gift of venomous snakes to her family. Presumably this indicates that with Mare’s family in keeping of the snakes, the snakes will be less likely to harm her children.

In the snake bite spell, Choron makes a magical act through the use of tamarisk, reed, and the fruit-bearing stalks of a date palm, perhaps symbolically to gather the venom. He then expels and exorcises the venom by dispersing it in running water.3 In Mesopotamian purification rites, priests use tamarisk as an asperger to cleanse an area of profane or unwanted influences then follow up with incense, using the smoke to further clear the area. After the incense, they sweep the area then make an offering. Priests use sound in the ritual: they drum or ring a copper bell. They make more offerings—this time to a river—perhaps with a similar idea that the flowing water will dilute and sweep away the illness or venom.4

Besides snake bite, Ugaritic texts note Choron as called upon for dispersing illness, blockage, erectile dysfunction, and harm caused by malicious sorcery.5 In another Ugaritic text, Ditanu, the deceased (rapi’u) legendary father of the royal house, instructs a caregiver to fill a container made of animal skin with myrrh and put the container in Choron’s temple, place another container of myrrh in Ba‘al’s temple, and put another item in the child’s house. These actions would bring the illness to its culmination and take away the “bitterness” of the illness.6 In an incantation against erectile dysfunction, a priest calls upon Choron to drive away any malicious sorcerers that may cause or exacerbate the patient’s condition.

Besides driving away malicious sorcery, Choron serves a protective roll as called upon in curses. A common Canaanite curse is “Choron crack your skull!” This curse is as common as our English expression “Go to hell!”7 and expresses a similar sentiment. King Kirtu of Ugaritic legend uses this curse when his son usurps the throne,8 and the storm god Ba‘al Hadad levels the same curse against the sea god Yamm when Yamm vies for supremacy over the earth.9 In an Egyptian curse, Choron and ‘Anat act against a wolf or a harmful entity in wolf form: “Horon make thy fangs impotent, thy foreleg is cut off by Arsaphes, after ‘Anat has cut thee down.”10



In my experience with Choron, I have called upon him in a healing capacity to release, gently and expediently, the pressure of a sinus headache—I felt the pressure release starting with the middle of my forehead and trail down to my left temple, leaving equilibrium in its place. I feel that he is a protective god of the strong, silent variety. It can take a while to get to know him—because it seems that one must embrace his silence. I feel that the song Voodoo by Godsmack is somehow associated with him because often when I work with him, that song seems to come up. I feel that he can protect from malicious spiritual or physical entities, and he can be asked to cleanse the self or an area prior to ritual or as needed. Many times I call upon him when praying to make holy water. I often see a serpent or more specifically a horned viper as his symbol.


Endnotes

1. Simon Parker, Ed. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, Society of Biblical Literature, U.S.A., 1997, pgs. 4, 48 #172.
2. Parker 222
3. Dennis Pardee. Ritual and Cult at Ugarit, Society of Biblical Literature, U.S.A., 2002, p. 178.
4. Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia. University of Texas Press, TX, USA, 1992, p. 127
5. Parker 219, Pardee 160
6. Pardee 171-2
7. Mark S. Smith. The Ugaritic Baal Cycle, Volume I: Introduction with Text, Translation and Commentary of KTU 1.1-1.2. E.J. Brill, Leiden, the Netherlands, 1994, p. 278.
8. Parker 42
9. Parker 98
10. Smith 271

Today is

26 Niqalu, Shanatu 86

It has been twenty-six days since the previous new moon. It has been 86 years since the rediscovery of the Bronze Age Canaanite city of Ugarit.

Image Notes

Photograph of a horned viper, taken by Patrick Jean. Photograph in Public Domain.


Article Notes

Article is an excerpt I wrote for Anointed: A Devotional Anthology for the Deities of the Near and Middle East.