Saturday, January 13, 2007

Coexistence of Saami and Norse culture – Reflected in and interpreted by Old Norse myths


In Old Norse sources, both Norwegian and Icelandic, we meet a consciousness of the fact that on the Scandinavian peninsula there lived two peoples, the Nordic people and the Saamis, who in the Old Norse sources are called finnar.
Both were peoples with their own culture that in many respects differed considerably from the culture of the other people. They spoke different languages. The Nordic people were farmers while most Saamis lived a nomadic life. They had also before Christianization – different religions, but the religion of the Saamis may have been influenced by the religion of the Nordic people – and vice versa. After the Norwegians and the Swedes had converted to Christianity, the Saamis remained heathen for quite some time. The gender roles within the two cultures differed from each other, and many customs which were practised in one of the two societies, were probably seen as very strange in the other society.

In spite of different cultures with different languages, different ways of
living and different religions the contact between the Nordic people on the Scandinavian peninsula and their Saami neighbours must have been rather close. We use to think of the Saamis as people who lived in the North, and according to Old Norse sources, the Saamis primarily lived in the North, in the territory named after them, Finnmƒrk, which according to the sources was a much larger area than the territory we call Finnmark today and extended – in the inland – as far south as to the border between Halogaland and Trondelag.
But the Saamis also lived in Southern Norway, in Trondelag and in the inland of Eastern Norway. Quite a lot of Old Norse texts, both Norwegian and Icelandic, place Saamis in this area. Even the two laws from Eastern Norway, the Eidsivathings law and the Borgarthings law indicate that Saami people lived within the territory of these laws. The laws forbid Christians to have contact with finnar, to go to them to ask for prophecies or for medical help.
When we take into consideration that the Saamis did not live only in Northern Norway, but also in the inland of Southern Norway, we see that the Norwegians and the Saamis met along a very long borderline, and probably the borderline between the two people was not sharp.

The large number of sources which mention contact with the Saamis and the fact that they lived on a very large territory which was partly shared with their Scandinavian neighbours make it reasonable to think that the Nordic people knew their Saami neighbours and their culture rather well. This impression is also confirmed by some of the pictures of the Saamis in literary sources which may be characterized as close-up. Even though the Saamis most often appear in rather stereotyped litterary motifs, some texts – and understandably enough – especially Norwegian texts – give a picture of Saamis and Saami life which reveals an intimate, first-hand knowledge. One example of this we have in a scaldic stanza made by the Norwegian scald Eyvindr Finnsson who himself lived in the southern part of Halogaland in the 10th century. When describing the cold summer weather during the bad years in the reign of King Haraldr grafeldr, he turned to a picture from the Saamis’ life. “We have to keep our goats in stalls during the summer, just as theSaamis,” Eyvindr says.

Another example is found in the Norwegian Latin chronicle Historia Norwegi?. Here the author gives a very intimate description of a shamanistic seance which took place in the hut of a Saami family.
In the Old Norse oaths called gri›amal and tryg›amal a picture from Saami life is used in an interesting context. These oaths are found in different versions in Gragas (Konungsbok ch. 115 and Sta›arholsbok, chs. 387 and 388) and in two Icelandic sagas, Grettis saga, ch. 72, and Hei›arviga saga, ch. 33. But a little fragment is also found in the Norwegian Gulathingslaw (ch. 320) and the contents of the oath point to Norwegian origin. Here, among other things it is said that an enemy shall have peace as long as the falcon flies, the pine grows, rivers flow to the sea, children cry for their mother and the Saamis go skiing.
The Saamis being there skiing is mentioned among all the normal things. It may be that also a stanza in Havamal gives a picture from Saami life. This stanza is stanza 90 where a false woman’s love is compared to many difficult tasks:

sem aki jo obryddum
a isi halum
teitom, tvevetrum
oc se tamr illa,
e›a i byr o›um
beiti stiornlausu,
e›a skyli haltr henda
hrein i flafjalli.

The limping man who catches reindeers in the mountain is not necessarily a Saami, but it is likely, espesially since the word henda, ‘catch by the hands’, is used.

The skiing Saami in the oath shows that the Saamis are part of their neighbours’ world view. They are as necessary as pines, rivers flowing to the
sea and children crying for their mother to make the picture of the known world
complete. The comparison made in Havamal – provided that this is a scene
from Saami life – shows again that the Nordic people had a tendency to include
their Saami neighbours and their culture in their own conceptions of life.
The consiousness among the Nordic people of this “other people” who were
so different from themselves, gives reason to ask whether the relation between
the two people may have been interpreted and understood in the light of mythic
patterns, and perhaps is reflected in the myths themselves.

When Saami people and their world and the relation between the Saami and
the Nordic people is described in Old Norse texts, the parallels to patterns in the
mythic world are sometimes striking. A detail in the text – or in the literary
motif – which shows that the parallel is not accidental is the choice of certain
words when Saamis are described. In some texts – or in some motifs – the
Saamis are called jƒtnar, ‘giants’, or a few times dvergar, ‘dwarfs’. In the text
the Saami man – or woman – may be called Saami and jƒtunn alternatively, or
in some texts Saamis and jƒtnar are presented as members of the same family.
At first sight it seems strange to call the Saamis, who were shorter than their
Nordic neighbours jƒtnar, but tall or short is not the point. When the Saamis are
called jƒtnar, ‘giants’, I think it is obvious that the intentions behind this choice
of words are to activate the imagination of certain mythic patterns.

In the following I will draw attention to ideas connected to the Saamis and their
world in which parallels to mythic patterns – at least sometimes – are
strengthened by the use of the word jƒtunn. Such emphasizing of the parallel to
mythic patterns call for an interpretation in the light of the myths. Thereafter I
will examine one Old Norse myth which I think may reflect an intimate
knowledge of Saami culture. This myth is the one about how Ska›i came to the
gods to avenge her father’s death, and as compensation was offered to choose
herself a husband from among the gods. What I am going to suggest here is that
the giantess Ska›i is to some extent is modeled on a Saami woman.

The otherness of the Saamis and their culture and the fact that they mostly
lived outside the areas where the Nordic people lived, especially in the North,
but farther south also in the border areas between Norway and Sweden and in
the inland of Eastern Norway, conformed to the pattern of Midgar›r–Utgar›r.
According to the mythological map the Saamis became the Utgar›r people. The
Mi›gar›r–Utgar›r pattern was close at hand even if the Saamis were not called
jƒtnar, and may be seen as a basic pattern to describe the relation between the
two people. In addition to the associations with Utgar›r, the descriptions of
Saamis in many texts seem to focus on certain parallels with giants, and it is
especially when these characteristics or qualifications which are typical of
giants are connected to Saamis, that the Saamis are called jƒtnar.
According to Old Norse myths the gods’ most precious possessions had
their origin in the world of giants or dwarfs. When a precious thing with magic
power belonging to a hero in an Old Norse text is said to be a gift from a Saami,
such a motif must of course be understood in connection with the Saamis’
reputations as great sorcerers. But in some cases where a precious thing has its
origin in the Saami world, the Saamis are mixed up with giants in the Old Norse
text. This is for instance the case with Ketill hoengr’s magic arrows which he
got from the Saami king Gusir, the brother of the giant Bruni.

The most interesting motifs where the Saamis replace giants in the mythic
pattern are, however, the motifs where a Saami replaces a giant – or rather a
giantess – in the end of a genealogical line. According to Old Norse myths the
marriage between a god and a giantess resulted in a son who became the
forefather of the royal family, the Ynglingar, or the family of the earls who were
called Haleygjajarlar and Hla›ajarlar. According to Ynglinga saga, which
builds on Ynglingatal, the Ynglingar are descendents of the god Freyr and the
giantess Ger›r. According to Haleygjatal the Haleygjajarlar are descendents of
the god O›inn and the giantess Ska›i. For the earls there must in the tradition
also have existed an alternative line leading back to the giants. fiorger›r
Hƒlgabru›r is in many Old Norse texts presented as a foremother of the earls,
and her father Hƒlgi is mentioned as early as in Haraldskv?›i as a forefather of the Haleygjajarlar. From many of the sources it is obvious that these figures
are looked upon as giants. Some saga characters are presented as descendents
of a man with the nickname halftroll or something of the sort. It is not always
clear who these trolls from whom the children got the nickname halftroll were,
but according to the defination of the word halftroll in the dictionaries the
mother or the father of a man with such a nickname was a troll, a giant. At least
in one example where a Old Norse hero has a giantess for mother, the mother’s
troll family is mixed with Saamis. This hero is Grimr lo›inkinn, whose mother
was Hrafnhildr, the daughter of the giant Bruni, but Bruni’s brother was Gusir
Finna konungr, king of the Saamis, and Bruni later took over his kingdom. This
could perhaps indicate that the nickname halftroll could be given to children of
mixed Norwegian and Saami blood. Some people in Old Norse society seem to
have traced their family back to a Saami king, and that was something they took
pride in. According to Landnamabok some Icelanders could trace their family
back to Grimr lo›inkinn (S 135, H 107 og 202, M 48), and as we have seen, his
mother is both presented as a giantess and as a Saami princess. Other Icelanders
and Norwegians could trace their family back to a certain Mƒttul Finnakonungr,
a Saami king whose granddaughter according to Landnamabok (S 43, H 31)
was married into a very prominent Norwegian family, she was married to a
great-grandson of Bragi skald inn gamli.

A god and a giantess produced according to Old Norse myths the protoking.
A human hero and a giant’s daughter were of course not so prominent
ancestors as a god and a giantess, but I think that these genealogies on a smaller
scale signal the same as the genealogies of kings and earls. To bear the
nickname halftroll is in fact very promising. The idea seems to be that the
giantess, who in the world of men may be replaced by a Saami woman, infuses
new blood which makes their offspring born leaders in society.
We have the clearest example of this in the story about the Norwegian king
Haraldr harfagri who married Sn?fri›r, the daughter of the Saami king Svasi.
The function of this story in the kings’ sagas is probably to strengthen and
underline the original mythic pattern, in which the god Freyr and the giantess
Ger›r produced the proto-king.

King Haraldr harfagri, the king who united Norway into one kingdom, was
married to many women. In his old age he married Sn?fri›r, the daughter of the
Saami king Svasi. The story about King Haraldr and Sn?fri›r is first told in the
Norwegian king’s saga Agrip. Snorri later used the Agrip text. The story is also
mentioned in Flateyjarbok, in fiattr Haralds harfagra and in fiattr Halfdanar
svarta. The story says that once upon a time when the king stayed at Dovre, the
Saami king visited him and invited King Haraldr to his turf hut. The king did not
want to go, but Svasi was very persuasive, and at last the king gave in and
followed the Saami. When he arrived in the turf hut, Svasi’s daughter Sn?fri›r
stood up and offered the king a welcoming drink. All of a sudden the king was
struck by blind love, and he wanted to make love to her the same evening. But
Svasi insisted on a proper marriage. And the king married her and loved her so
dearly that he never departed from her as long as she lived, and after she was
dead he sat by her dead body for three years.

Sn?fri›r gets a lot of attention in the kings’ sagas, more than the other
wives of the king. The reason for this is obvious. Eirikr blo›ox, who became
king after Haraldr harfagri was the son of Queen Ragnhildr, the Danish
princess. Eirikr’s sons were pretenders to the Throne, and his son Haraldr
grafeldr reigned together with his mother, Queen Gunnhildr, for some years, but
he had no son to succeed him. Hakon inn go›i, one of the youngest sons of
King Haraldr, who also became king, was the son of fiora mostrstƒng. He had
no son who succeeded him. Olafr Tryggvason became king for a few years. He
was a descendent of Olafr, son of Haraldr harfagri and his wife Svanhildr, but
Olafr Tryggvason had no son who succeeded him. Some years later Olafr inn
helgi became king. He was a descendent of Bjƒrn, another of Haraldr’s sons by
Svanhildr. Olafr inn helgi was succeeded by his son Magnus inn go›i, but he
had no son who succeeded him. But thereafter Haraldr har›ra›i became king.
He was the half-brother of King Olafr inn helgi on the mother side, but his
father was Sigur›r s‡r, son of Halfdan, son of Sigur›r hrisi, and Sigur›r hrisi,
was one of Haraldr harfagri’s sons by the Saami woman Sn?fri›r. From this
time on the kings of Norway could trace their family back to King Haraldr
harfagri and the Saami woman Sn?fri›r.

During the reign of Haraldr har›ra›i, the interest in Sn?fri›r probably
started to grow, and the foremother who made the ancestors of Haraldr
hardra›i’s branch of the royal family conform to the mythic pattern based on
the story about the god Freyr and the giantess Ger›r, was made the most of.
In Agrip Svasi is presented as a Saami, he is called finnr and Finnkonungr.
Snorri calls him both finnr and jƒtunn, and strengthens thereby the associations
with the mythic pattern. In all the texts which tell the story about King Haraldr
harfagri and Sn?fri›r, this story is linked up with a story told earlier in the text
about how Haraldr as a young boy helped a Saami who was taken prisoner by
his father to escape, and Haraldr himself ran away with the Saami. In the
Flateyjarbok text this Saami operates together with Dofri, who takes care of the
young Haraldr and becomes his fosterfather. Dofri is called jƒtunn and troll. In
this version of the story the Saamis are placed in a mythological setting from
the very beginning. The fact that the Saamis are called jƒtnar or operate
together with jƒtnar makes the Mi›gar›r–Utgar›r pattern explicit.

But there are also other parallels with the story about Freyr and Ger›r. The
god and the king are struck by blind love much in the same way. Freyr found it
very hard, but had to wait nine nights for Ger›r. The king wanted to make love to Sn?fri›r at once, but had to wait so that formalities could be taken care of.
Both women are pretty at first sight, but in the descriptions of the two women
there is one little detail which I think indicates that the model Sn?fri›r is drawn
from was Ger›r – and perhaps other young giantesses whom the gods desired.
In the myth Freyr fell inn love when Ger›r lifted her arms, and light was shed
from her arms over both sky and sea, and all worlds were made bright by her. In
an anonymous scaldic stanza from around 1200 the scald says about Haraldr
and Sn?fri›r: h_num flotti solbjƒrt su, ‘he thought she was bright like the sun’.
The same adjective, solbjƒrt, is also used about the giantess Menglƒ› in
Fjƒlsvinnsmal (42). The giantess Billings m?r in Havamal (97) is described as
solhvit, and a giantess with whom O›inn had an affair is in Harbar›sljo› (30)
described as gullbjƒrt. I think these examples show that the description of
young desirable giantesses has served as a model for the description of
Sn?fri›r’s beauty.

If the Saami people were part of their neighbours’ world view to the extent
that the Nordic people interpreted and understood their relation to the Saamis in
the light of their own myths, we should perhaps also expect to find reflections
of contact with Saamis and knowledge of Saami culture in the Old Norse myths

One broad field of interest here is of course the shamanistic elements in Old
Norse mythology and the vƒlur. In Vatnsdoela saga, ch. 10 a vƒlva described in
a Norwegian setting is in fact presented as a Saami woman. Here I will,
however, limit myself to the discussion of one particular myth and one
mythological figure, the giantess Ska›i and the myth in which she arrives in
Asgar›r to avenge her father’s death, and as compensation was offered to
choose herself a husband from among the gods.

When Ska›i arrives armed and dressed like a warrior, she is acting like an
Old Norse skjƒldm?r, and when she wants to avenge her father herself, we get
the impression that she was the only child. If she was her father’s only child,
her behavior would to a certain degree be expected according to Old Norse
gender rules since such a woman, a baugr‡gr, would take a son’s position in the
family. But it was hardly expected – in the real world – that she would take
revenge herself by her own hands. Before Snorri in his Edda tells the story
about Ska›i’s arrival in Asgar›r, he has, however, already introduced Ska›i,
and she is introduced in a way which foreshadows an uncommon female
behavior from an Old Norse point of view. This woman went skiing and hunted
animals! This behaviour does not conform to Old Norse female gender roles. In
Old Norse society her behavior is much more in accordance with male gender
roles. But people who lived in the Old Norse society knew – or at least knew
about – a society where women could behave like Ska›i. As early as in the so
called Ottar’s Report from late in the 9th century, Ottar who claimed to live
farthest north of all the Norwegians, told King Alfred in England about the
Saamis who lived from hunting, fishing, bird-catching and reindeer herding,
and both men, women and children went skiing faster than the birds. Also
within the Saami culture the male and the female gender roles of course differed
from each other, but the border between the two systems of gender roles were
drawn up along other lines than in Old Norse society. The fact that women in
the Saami nomadic culture seem to have shared outdoor activities with the men
to a much higher degree than in Old Norse culture, may have given rise to the
opinion among the Nordic people that Saami women often behaved as if they
were men.

I find it very likely that Saami female gender roles served as a model for the
skiing and hunting Ska›i, and since these activities in Old Norse society were
seen as typically male, it is very logical – also when we leave Ska›i’s wish to
avenge her father’s death out of account – that she should arrive in Asgar›r with
the most masculine manner Old Norse female gender role would allow, as a
skjƒldm?r and as a baugr‡gr. Even her name lays emphasis on Ska›i’s
masculinity. The female name Ska›i is declined as a weak masculine. Only very
few female names in Old Norse are declined in this way, names ending in an /i/
are masculine names. But also among the very few female names with this
declension, the name Ska›i is special; this name is in fact also used as a
masculine name (Vƒlsunga saga, ch. 1).
In addition to Ska›i’s masculine appearance as a skiing and hunting woman
there is also another element in this myth which I think could reflect knowledge
of Saami culture. This element is the scene where Ska›i is offered to choose
herself a husband.
When the gods offer Ska›i, who is seeking revenge, marriage as
compensation for her dead father, this is an act in full accordance with the
norms of Old Norse society. Marriage and fosterage were often used to settle a
conflict between two families. However, there is something in this strange story
which could point at the Saami culture.

In a few Old Norse texts we find a motif where a man is offered, or enters
into, a short-time sexual relationship on his arrival in a place outside his own
environment. The sexual relationship, or marriage limited in time, is meant to
last for as long as the man stays. The most typical example of this motif we
have in the Eddaic poem Rigsflula where Rigr stays for three nights in three
places, and every place he takes the husband’s place in bed. This motif has been
seen as a result of Irish influence, and the name Rigr has been seen as a loan
from Irish. A custom which implied that a distinguished guest was offered
sexual relations with the wife of the host, is known from Irish sources from the
Middle Ages. In ?rvar-Odds saga the hero during a stay in Ireland entered
into marriage with an Irish princess. The marriage was stipulated to last for
three years. The fact that these two motifs can be associated with Ireland, makes
it plausible that the Irish custom, whatever the exact substance of this custom
was, was known in the viking world.

However, there is reason to believe that the Nordic people in Scandinavia
knew a custom, more or less similar to the Irish, from a culture that was closer
to them than Ireland. This culture was the Saami culture.
In the Old Norse sources from the Middle Ages we have no good evidence
for the existance of this custom among the Saamis. In many fornaldarsƒgur we
find a motif in which the human hero on his arrival in the world of the giants is
invited at once to the bed of the beautiful giant’s daughter. This motif could
very well be the result of the male author’s fantasy and imagination. It is
noteworthy, however, that this motif also is found in texts where giants and
Saamis are presented as members of the same family. When the hero Ketill in
Ketils saga hoengs arrived at the farm of the giant Bruni who had a Saami king
for brother and later became a Saami king himself, Bruni offered Ketill his
daughter the first evening.

In sources from after the Reformation we have more reliable information
about this custom among the Saamis. However, the sources are not rich and
detailed. The custom is perhaps known mostly because the sources deny its
existence. This has to do with the nature of the sources. The oldest sources with
information about Saami culture were written down by Swedish clergymen in
the period after the Thirty Years War. During the war the Swedes had been
accused of making use of Saami witchcraft. The well organized collection and
writing down of Saami culture had the intention to clear the Swedes of
suspicion by describing the Saamis as good Christians.
In spite of this there are enough hints in the texts to tell us that a custom
more or less similar to the custom reported in Irish sources from the Middle
Ages existed among the Saamis, and if this custom existed in the time after the
reformation, we can be quite sure that it also existed in the Middle Ages.

Now we can return to Ska›i’s arrival in Asgar›r. This scene has been
analysed thoroughly earlier, for instance by Margaret Clunies Ross. My
analysis will hardly be inconsistent with earlier analysis. But if we consider it
likely that Saami women served as a model for the skiing and hunting Ska›i,
and keep in mind that a distinguised guest in the Saami society perhaps would
expect to be offered a sexual partner on his arrival, that will throw new light on
the myth which makes it possible to see other aspects of it.

When the gods line up on Ska›i’s arrival and offer her marriage they
probably try to ward off her anger by showing her honour and offering her the
same hospitality which they suppose she knows from her own environment. In
fact we do not know from the sources that women were treated in the same way
as men with regard to the custom in question. But in Ska›i’s case that does not
matter much since Ska›i arrives as if she were a man in a man’s gender role.
The fact that she arrives as a man, forces the gods into the female gender role.
As we know, Ska›i had to choose one of the gods without seeing any more of
him than his feet and legs. I agree with Margaret Clunies Ross when she
suggests the explanation that when feet or legs are marked in Indo-European
myth, they usually stress the sexual nature of the hero. But I also find it a
interesting question why their faces are covered and with what. Since Ska›i acts
in a male gender role and is engaged in choosing herself a spouse, the gods are
in fact lining up as potential brides. Could their faces be covered by bridal veils,
and are the gods hiding behind bridal veils from shame? Probably their position
in this scene is not much better than fiorr’s position in firymskvi›a.

The next scene in the myth, the tug of war between Loki and the goat, is
perhaps even more peculiar than the first scene. To make Ska›i laugh, Loki ties
a cord round his testicles and the other end to a nanny-goat’s beard, and they
drew each other back and forth and both squealed loudly. Margaret Clunies
Ross has pointed out a suitor test from folk literature, to make a sorrowful
princess laugh, as the model for this scene, which I find quite convincing. But
the function of this strange tableau within the myth is, in my opinion, to
illustrate the power struggle between the gods and Ska›i. Loki is not normally a
good representative for the gods, but at this occation the childbearing Loki is
well-chosen. His pain illustrates the gods’ wounded masculinity. The nannygoat
with a beard, which normally is an indication of masculinity, is wellchosen
to represent the giantess who acts in the male gender role. Her position
is not extremely good either. She has lost her father and is on her own among
enemies. But the gods’ position is worse, their position is dishonouring.

As I have tried to show, the Nordic people interpreted their relation with the
Saami people in the light of their own myths, and their familarity with Saami
culture may be reflected in the myths themselves. This indicates that the
relation between the two people was seen as important within Old Norse
society. The fact that Saamis replace giants in mythic patterns certainly
demonstrates an ambiguity felt towards the Saamis. However, it is noteworthy
that Saamis most typically replace giants in what can be called a marriage
pattern. The Saami woman Sn?fri›r replaced Ger›r, and Ska›i may be modeled
on a Saami woman. Neither the mythic nor the mixed Nordic-Saami marriages
were normal marriages, and they were not necessarily happy marriages. But the
main symbol in Old Norse myths and in Old Norse literature of the relation
between the Nordic people and the Saami people is after all a marriage – with
its ups and downs.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Daughters of "Allah"

Allah was worshipped as a moon God in pre-Islamic times(moon worshipped was popular in pre-Islamic Arabia). Lat, Uzza and Manat were worshipped in pre-Islamic Arabia as Goddesses and the "daughters of Allah".

The Daughters Of Allah

Near it is the Garden of Abode. Behold, the Lote-tree was shrouded (in mystery unspeakable!) (His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong! For truly did he see, of the Signs of his Lord, the Greatest! Have ye seen Lat. and 'Uzza, And another, the third (goddess), Manat?

These are the exalted cranes (intermediaries) Whose intercession is to be hoped for.

What! for you the male sex, and for Him, the female? Behold, such would be indeed a division most unfair! (an-Najm 53:19-22)

Allat, according to recent study of the complicated inspirational evidence, is believed to have been introduced into Arabia from Syria, and to have been the moon goddess of North Arabia. If this is the correct interpretation of her character, she corresponded to the moon deity of South Arabia, Almaqah, `Vadd, `Amm or Sin as he was called, the difference being only the oppositeness of gender. Mount Sinai (the name being an Arabic feminine form of Sin) would then have been one of the centers of the worship of this northern moon goddess. Similarly, al-`Uzza is supposed to have come from Sinai, and to have been the goddess of the planet Venus. As the moon and the evening star are associated in the heavens, so too were Allat and al-`Uzza together in religious belief, and so too are the crescent and star conjoined on the flags of Arab countries today. (The Archeology Of World Religions, Jack Finegan, 1952, p482-485, 492)

"As well as worshipping idols and spirits, found in animals, plants, rocks and water, the ancient Arabs believed in several major gods and goddesses whom they considered to hold supreme power over all things. The most famous of these were Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, Manat and Hubal. The first three were thought to be the daughters of Allah (God) and their intercessions on behalf of their worshippers were therefore of great significance. Hubal was associated with the Semitic god Ba’l and with Adonis or Tammuz, the gods of spring, fertility, agriculture and plenty." (Fabled Cities, Princes & Jin from Arab Myths and Legends, Khairt al-Saeh, 1985, p. 28-30.)

The other gods mentioned in the Quran are all female deities: Al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat, which represented the Sun, the planet Venus, and Fortune, respectively; at Mecca they were regarded as the daughters of Allah... As Allah meant ‘the god’, so Al-Lat means ‘the goddess’." (Islam, Alfred Guilaume, 1956 p 6-7)

This was especially true of Allah, 'the God, the Divinity', the personification of the divine world in its highest form, creator of the universe and keeper of sworn oaths. In the Hejaz three goddesses had pride of place as the 'daughters of Allah'. The first of these was Allat, mentioned by Herodotus under the name of Alilat. Her name means simply 'the goddess', and she may have stood for one aspect of Venus, the morning star, although hellenized Arabs identified her with Athene. Next came Uzza, 'the all-powerful', whom other sources identify with Venus. The third was Manat, the goddess of fate, who held the shears which cut the thread of life and who was worshipped in a shrine on the sea-shore. The great god of Mecca was Hubal, an idol made of red cornelian. (Mohammed, Maxime Rodinson, 1961, translated by Anne Carter, 1971, p 16-17)

"Allah, the Supreme Being of the Mussulmans: Before Islam. That the Arabs, before the time of Muhammed, accepted and worshipped, after a fashion, a supreme god called Allah,--"the Ilah, or the god, if the form is of genuine Arabic source; if of Aramaic, from Alaha, "the god"—seems absolutely certain. Whether he was an abstraction or a development from some individual god, such as Hubal, need not here be considered...But they also recognized and tended to worship more fervently and directly other strictly subordinate gods...It is certain that they regarded particular deities (mentioned in 1iii. 19-20 are al-‘Uzza, Manat or Manah, al-Lat’; some have interpreted vii, 179 as a reference to a perversion of Allah to Allat as daughters of Allah (vi. 100; xvi, 59; xxxvii, 149; 1iii, 21); they also asserted that he had sons (vi. 100)..."There was no god save Allah". This meant, for Muhammed and the Meccans, that of all the gods whom they worshipped, Allah was the only real deity. It took no account of the nature of God in the abstract, only of the personal position of Allah. ...ilah, the common noun from which Allah is probably derived..." (First Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, 1987, Islam, p. 302)

"As well as worshipping idols and spirits, found in animals, plants, rocks and water, the ancient Arabs believed in several major gods and goddesses whom they considered to hold supreme power over all things. The most famous of these were Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, Manat and Hubal. The first three were thought to be the daughters of Allah (God) and their intercessions on behalf of their worshippers were therefore of great significance. Hubal was associated with the Semitic god Ba’l and with Adonis or Tammuz, the gods of spring, fertility, agriculture and plenty...Hubal’s idol used to stand by the holy well inside the Sacred House. It was made of red sapphire but had a broken arm until the tribe of Quraysh, who considered him one of their major gods, made him a replacement in solid gold. In addition to the sun, moon and the star Al-Zuhara, the Arabs worshipped the planets Saturn, Mercury, and Jupiter, the stars Sirius and Canopus and the constellations of Orion, Ursa Major and Minor, and the seven Pleiades. Some stars and planets were given human characters,. According to legend, Al-Dabaran, one of the stars in the Hyades group, fell deeply in love with Al-Thurayya, the fairest of the Pleiades stars. With the approval of the Moon, he asked for her hand in marriage." (Fabled Cities, Princes & Jin from Arab Myths and Legends, Khairt al-Saeh, Schocken, 1985, p. 28-30.)

"Before Muhammad appeared, the Kaaba was surrounded by 360 idols, and every Arab house had its god. Arabs also believed in jinn (subtle beings), and some vague divinity with many offspring. Among the major deities of the pre-Islamic era were al-Lat ("the Goddess"), worshiped in the shape of a square stone; al-Uzzah ("the Mighty"), a goddess identified with the morning star and worshiped as a thigh-bone-shaped slab of granite between al Talf and Mecca; Manat, the goddess of destiny, worshiped as a black stone on the road between Mecca and Medina; and the moon god, Hubal, whose worship was connected with the Black Stone of the Kaaba." (The Joy of Sects, Peter Occhigrosso, 1996)

There may be some foundation of truth in the story that Qusayy had travelled in Syria, and had brought back from there the cult of the goddesses al- 'Uzza and Manat, and had combined it with that of Hubal, the idol of the Khuzaca. It has been suggested that he may actually have been a Nabataean. (Mohammed, Maxime Rodinson, 1961, translated by Anne Carter, 1971, p 38-49)

At Mekka, Allah was the chief of the gods and the special deity of the Quraish, the prophet’s tribe. Allah had three daughters: Al Uzzah (Venus) most revered of all and pleased with human sacrifice; Manah, the goddess of destiny, and Al Lat, the goddess of vegetable life. Hubal and more than 300 others made up the pantheon. The central shrine at Mekka was the Kaaba, a cube like stone structure which still stands though many times rebuilt. Imbedded in one corner is the black stone, probably a meteorite, the kissing of which is now an essential part of the pilgrimage." (Meet the Arab, John Van Ess, 1943, p. 29.)

Al-'Uzza, al-Lat and Manah, the three daughters of Allah, had their sanctuaries in the land which later became the cradle of Islam. In a weak moment the monotheistic Muhammad was tempted to recognize these powerful deities of Makkah and al-Madinah and make a compromise in their favour, but afterwards he retracted and the revelation is said to have received the form now found in surah 53:19-20. Later theologians explained the case according to the principle of nasikh and mansukh, abrogating and abrogated verses, by means of which God revokes and alters the announcements of His will; this results in the cancellation of a verse and the substitution of another for it (Koran 2 :100). (History Of The Arabs, Philip K. Hitti, 1937, p 96-101)

And what precisely are we to understand by "exalted cranes"? The Muslim authorities were uncertain about the meaning of gharaniq, as are we. 65 But what they did know was that this was the refrain that the Quraysh used to chant as they circumambulated the Ka'ba: "Al-Lat, and al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other; indeed these are exalted (or lofty, ‘ula) gharaniq; let us hope for their intercession." (The Hajj, F. E. Peters, p 3-41, 1994)

The story is that, while Muhammad was hoping for some accommodation with the great merchants, he received a revelation mentioning the goddesses al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat (53.19), 20 as now found), but continuing with other two (or three) verses sanctioning intercession to these deities. At some later date Muhammad received a further revelation abrogating the latter verses, but retaining the names of the goddesses, and saying it was unfair that God should have only daughters while human beings had sons." (The Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. I, ed. P.M. Holt, 1970, p 37)

AI-Lat, AI-‘Uzza, and Manat. Among the Qur’an's references to its 7 th-century pagan milieu are three goddesses, called daughters of Allah: AI-Lat, AI-‘Uzza, and Manat; these are also known from earlier inscriptions in northern Arabia. Al-Lat ("the Goddess") may have had a role subordinate to that of El (Ilah), as "daughter" rather than consort (Britannica, Arabian Religions, p1057, 1979)

The other gods mentioned in the Quran are all female deities: Al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat, which represented the Sun, the planet Venus, and Fortune, respectively; at Mecca they were regarded as the daughters of Allah... As Allah meant ‘the god’, so Al-Lat means ‘the goddess’." (Islam, Alfred Guilaume, 1956 p 6-7)

"In pre-Islamic days, called the Days of Ignorance, the religious background of the Arabs was pagan, and basically animistic. Through wells, trees, stones, caves, springs, and other natural objects man could make contact with the deity... At Mekka, Allah was the chief of the gods and the special deity of the Quraish, the prophet’s tribe. Allah had three daughters: Al Uzzah (Venus) most revered of all and pleased with human sacrifice; Manah, the goddess of destiny, and Al Lat, the goddess of vegetable life." (Meet the Arab, John Van Ess, 1943, p. 29)

"Ali-ilah; the god; the supreme; the all-powerful; all-knowing; and totally unknowable; the predeterminer of everyone’s life destiny; chief of the gods; the special deity of the Quraish; having three daughters: Al Uzzah (Venus), Manah (Destiny), and Alat; having the idol temple at Mecca under his name (House of Allah).; the mate of Alat, the goddess of fate. (Is Allah The Same God As The God Of The Bible?, M. J. Afshari, p 6, 8-9)

"This was especially true of Allah, 'the God, the Divinity', the personification of the divine world in its highest form, creator of the universe and keeper of sworn oaths. In the Hejaz three goddesses had pride of place as the 'daughters of Allah'. The first of these was Allat, mentioned by Herodotus under the name of Alilat. Her name means simply 'the goddess', and she may have stood for one aspect of Venus, the morning star, although hellenized Arabs identified her with Athene. Next came Uzza, 'the all-powerful', whom other sources identify with Venus. The third was Manat, the goddess of fate, who held the shears which cut the thread of life and who was worshipped in a shrine on the sea-shore. (Muhammad, Maxime Rodinson, p 16-17.)

The Pagan deities best known in the Ka`ba and round about Mecca were Lât, `Uzzâ, and Manât. (Manât was also known round Yathrib, which afterwards became Medina.) See liii. 19-20. They were all female goddesses. Lât almost certainly represents another wave of sun-worship: the sun being feminine in Arabic and in Semitic languages generally. "Lât" may be the original of the Greek "Leto", the mother of Apollo the sun-god (Encyclopædia of Islam, I., p. 380). If so, the name was brought in prehistoric times from South Arabia by the great Incense Route (n. 3816 to xxxiv. 18) to the Mediterranean. `Uzzâ probably represents the planet Venus. The origin of Manât is not quite clear, but it would not be surprising if it also turned out to be astral. The 360 idols established by the Pagans in the Ka`ba probably represented the 360 days of an inaccurate solar year. This was the actual "modern" Pagan worship as known to the Quraish contemporary with our Prophet. In sharp contrast to this is mentioned the ancient antediluvian worship under five heads, of which fragments persisted in outlying places, as they still persist in different forms and under different names in all parts of the world where the pure worship of God in unity and truth is not firmly established in the minds and hearts of men. (Ancient Forms of {Pre-Islamic} Pagan Worship pp. 1612-1623 of The Holy Qur'an, Text, Translation and Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, [1946])

Before Islam Allah was reported to be know as: the supreme of a pantheon of gods; the name of a god whom the Arabs worshipped; the chief god of the pantheon; Ali-ilah; the god; the supreme; the all-powerful; all-knowing; and totally unknowable; the predeterminer of everyone’s life destiny; chief of the gods; the special deity of the Quraish; having three daughters: Al Uzzah (Venus), Manah (Destiny), and Alat; having the idol temple at Mecca under his name (House of Allah).; the mate of Alat, the goddess of fate. . ... Because of other Arabian history which points to heathen worship of the sun, moon, and the stars, as well as other gods, of which I believe Allah was in some way connected to. This then would prove to us that Allah is not the same as the true God of the Bible whom we worship, because God never changes." (Is Allah The Same God As The God Of The Bible?, M. J. Afshari, p 6, 8-9)


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Celtic Shamanism


The word 'Shaman,' is actually a Tungus (Siberian) word for a spiritual practice that is as old as mankind, and is still practiced by indigenous people, as well as modern practitioners worldwide. Shamanism is not rooted in any organized religious tradition, but is instead a system of controlled visionary journeys into alternate realities (and back,) in order to contact spirit guides and gain their assistance in divination and healing.

When one thinks of traditional shamans and shamanism, its easy to envision a Native (American or perhaps Aboriginal) medicine man performing rituals that are deeply rooted in cultural tribal traditions. It is important to note that the ancient Celts were also believed to have practiced shamanism, and have left many clues to their rituals and spiritual journeys in the stories of Taliesin, Fionn mac Cumhail, and Amergin.

The Celtic Shaman's Universe

The Celtic Shaman's cosmos, like that of other Shamanic universal views, consists of three 'worlds;' the Lower world, the Upper world, and the Middle world (where we live in ordinary reality.)

What differentiates the Celtic Shaman's universal view from that of other Shamanic traditions, is that these worlds are all connected by the great tree of life. Rooted in the Lower realm, its trunk extends upwards, through the middle world and into the Upper world, where its branches hold the stars, the sun and the moon.

The Celtic Shaman traverses the realms by climbing the tree (also seen as a great ladder or pole) into the Upper world. This is the realm of stars, celetial beings, and is the dwelling place of many gods and spirits of the air, and of the great Mother Goddess herself.
The lower world can be reached by descending the roots of the massive tree into the realm of the spirits of the earth and fire, where sits the stag-headed Lord of the Underworld, the horned one, protector of the animals. Here the Celtic Shaman can meet with helper power animals and spirit guides.

Thus all three worlds are linked by the great tree, and yet the tree itself and all of the universe are believed contained within the shell of a single hazelnut, lying next to the Well of Segais (the source of all wisdom.)


Shapeshifting is an integral part of the Celtic Shamanic experience. The great Amergin had to commune and fuse his consciousness with the totality of Ireland in order to help the Milesians to conquer it.

I am the wind that blows across the sea;
I am a wave of the deep;
I am the roar of the ocean;
I am the stag of seven battles;
I am a hawk on the cliff;
I am a ray of sunlight;
I am the greenest of plants;
I am a wild boar;
I am a salmon in the river;
I am a lake on the plain;
I am the word of knowledge;
I am the point of a spear;
I am the lure beyond the ends of the earth;
I can shift my shape like a god.

- from the Song of Amergin

The ability to be simultaneously a part of many realities and existences is at the heart of the shamanic experience. The Celtic shaman deliberately seeks to take on the shape of another animal or being in order to call upon the power within the entity for healing or instruction. The ability of the shaman to send his or her own consciousness into the consciousness of another being and then return to one's own self is integral to the shaman's journey.

The Welsh bard Taliesin, often said to be the father of Celtic shamanism, also alluded to shapeshifting when he claimed:

I have been in many shapes:
I have been a narrow blade of a sword;
I have been a drop in the air;
I have been a shining star;
I have been a word in a book;
I have been an eagle;
I have been a boat on the sea;
I have been a string on a harp;
I have been enchanted for a year in the foam of water.
There is nothing in which I have not been.
- Taliesin

Taliesin was also known to have transformed himself into many other forms and guises in his attempt to escape the Goddess Ceridwen after imbibing of the brew of inspiration and wisdom.

The Totem Beasts

In shamanic traditions, all people are guarded and watched over by a totem beast, which joins them at the time of their birth. In addition to this totem animal, which can remain with a person throughout their life, the shamanic practitioner acquires additional power animals at different times. These animal spirits serve as guides and spirit helpers. They may come of their own bidding, or may be called specifically because of their innate skills. In some cases the shaman draws upon the strength, the speed or the intuition of a particular animal, or the sharpness of the animals senses. In other situations the animal may tell the shaman things which the shaman cannot see for his or herself.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Canaanite Pantheon

    • ADON: (Adonis) The god of youth, beauty and regeneration. His death happens around the love affair between him and the goddess Ashtarte which another god envied. He, in the form of a wild boar, attacks and kills Adonis and where his blood fell there grows red poppies every year. However, as Ashtarte weaps for his loss, she promises to bring him back to life every spring.

    • AKLM: Creatures who attacked Baal in the desert. Some say these creatures are grasshopper-like.

    • ANATH: This was a Love and War Goddess, the Venus star. She is also known for slaying the enimies of her brother Baal much in the same way Hathor slaughtered much of mankind (Anath is heavily related to Hathor). After the Defeat of Mavet and Yam, a feast was thrown for Baal. Anath locked everyone inside, and proceeded to slay everyone (as they had all been fickle toward Baal with both Mavet and Yam, as well as Ashtar). Baal stopped her and conveinced her that a reign of peace is what was needed. She also has confronted Mavet and was responsible for Baal's liberation from the underworld. She is the twin sister of Marah. Daughter of Asherah. She is also known as Rahmay- "The Merciful", and as Astarte. Astarte is the Canaanite Name of Ishtar; just as Ishtar is the Babylonian Name of Inanna. In all cases the Name means, simply, "Goddess" or "She of the Womb".

    • ARSAY: She of the Earth. Daughter of Baal. An underworld Goddess.

    • ASHERAH: The Mother of the Gods, Qodesh (just like El), Lady of the Sea, Wife of El. (see El). When the gods decided to entreat Yam to ease his reign of tyranny, it was Asherah who went to him and even offered herself. The gods agreed to let her do this, except for Baal who was enraged at the idea. (See Baal). Asherah is said to have given birth to seventy gods.

    • ASHTAR: Possibly a male version of Ishtar (Astarte in Canaan), the Venus Star. When Baal was killed by Mavet, Asherah had Ashtar, her son, placed on the throne. However, Ashtar was not big enough to fill the position, and resigned (quite possibly a relation of the Venus star being the last star to shine before the Sun takes over). I believe one of his titles is Malik (the King) and other names for him are Abimilki and Milkilu.

    • ASTARTE: A Name of Anath which means "Goddess", or literally "She of the Womb". Astarte is simply the Canaanite version of the Name Ishtar.

    • ATIK: The Calf of El. Enemy of Baal slain by Anath.

    • BAAL: He is the Canaanite Ruler God (like Marduk). Baal and Yam-Nahar origonally competed for kingship of the gods. The matter was brought before El, who decided in favour of Yam. Yam then proceeded with a reign of tyranny over the gods, and none of them felt they had the power to defeat Yam. So, they sent Asherah to entreat him to lossen his grip. Asherah even offered herself to Yam. Upon hearing this, Baal was enraged, and decided to defeat Yam. Yam got wind of Baal's plan and sent messengers to El with the demand that Baal be delivered to him. El, afraid, agreed. Baal then taunted the gods for their cowardice and went to face Yam. He had two weapons made, Yagrush (chaser) and Aymur (driver). He struck Yam on the chest with Yagrush to no avail. Then he struck him on the forehead with Aymur and fell Yam to the earth. After Yam's defeat, Baal had a palace built for himself; closely resembeling the story of Marduk. It also resembles Marduk's story in that the Primeval Waters threatened the gods, and the High God and others were afraid to face them, with the exception of the soon-to-be Ruler God. The Baal epic then continues to describe his fight against Mavet. Baal is also a Storm God like Marduk, and a fertility god like Tammuz. Dagon is his father. Baal is the Canaanite God-force (the goddess force seems to be split between Anath and Asherah). Baal's proper name is Hadad, relating to his storm-god aspect. Baal is really a title, meaning "Lord". Baal's residence is upon Mt. Zaphon. He is known as Rapiu (Shade) during his summer stay in the underworld.

    • BAALAT: Patron Goddess of Gubla. Fertility Goddess associated with Hathor and Isis.

    • DAGON: A vegitation God (especially corn). Father of Baal.

    • EL: The Father of the Gods, the Creator of Created Things, The Kindly, Kodesh. Asherah is his wife. When he was young, El went out upon the sea, and there met Asherah and Her companion Rohmaya. He then roasted a bird and asked them if They would be His wives or daughters. They chose to be His wives. El mates with these Goddesses and Shachar and Shalim (Dawn and Dusk) are born. This family then builds a sanctuary and lives in the desert for eight years. This episode may be the closest we have to a Creation story involving El. El wears bull horns upon his helmet, and He is a grey haired and bearded patriarch. He resides at "the Source of Two Rivers" upon Mt. Lel.

    • ELSH: Steward of El and Baal's house. His wife is the steward of the Goddesses.

    • ESHMUN: God of healing. A great God of Sidon.

    • GAPEN: A messenger of Baal. His name either means Vine or Field. Probably the former.

    • HADAD: See Baal. Originally the Sumer-Babylonian "Adad"

    • HELEL: Or Lucifer. The Light Bringer, the Morning Star. Son of Shachar. Helel once attempted to take his Father's Throne, but failed (another myth concerning Venus' place as the last star in the sky each morning, as if trying to defy the Sun). This is the very Myth which spawned the Christian Myth of the War in Heaven (see Issaiah 14:12- which, in Hebrew, says "Helel", and not "Lucifer").

    • HIRIBI: God of Summer.

    • HIRGAB: Father of Eagles. Husband(?) of S,umul.

    • HAURON: A God that is related to Ninurta of Mesopotamia and Horus of Egypt.

    • ITHM: God of sheep.

    • ISHAT: "Fire". The Bitch of the Gods. Enemy of Baal slain by Anath.

    • KOSHAROTH, THE: The Wise Goddesses. These may be somewhat along the lines of the Greek Graces, or the Seven Hathors of Egypt. As we see them, they are called to set up a Wedding. They are also sometimes symbolized as sparrows or swallows, which indicated fertility. They were Goddesses of childbirth. They are also known as the Daughters of the Cresent Moon, and thus are the daughers of Yarikh.

    • KOSHAR U KHASIS: "Skillfull and Clever". Craftsman of the Gods. Also known as Chousor and Heyan (Ea) and identified with Ptah. Built the palaces of both Yam-Nahir and Baal. He also fashioned the two clubs that Baal used to defeat Yam.

    • KOSHARTU: Wife of Koshar.

    • LEVIATHAN: Another Name for Lotan or Tannin. See Lotan.

    • LOTAN: This may be another story like Apophis, Zu, Asag, and Leviathan where it is not an actual creation story, but still involves the same energies, with Baal and Lotan fighting for supremecy. It is representative of rough winter sea-storms which calmed in the spring and which were preceded and accompanied by autumn rains (represented by Baal) which ended summer droughts and enabled crops to grow. Lotan is a seven headed serpent defeated by Baal with the help of Mavet. Anath also claims a role in the defeat of the Serpent. Also known as Tannin or Leviathan.

    • MARAH: Merciful Goddess of the Waters. Twin sister of Anath. Daughter of Asherah.

    • MAVET: God of Death and Sterility. His name means Death. In one hand he holds the scepter of bereavement, and in the other the scepter of widowhooed. His jaws and throat are described in cosmic proportions and serve as a euphamism for death. A son of El. After Baal defeated Yam, he then sent a message to Mavet demanding that he keep his domain in the underworld city of Miry where he belonged. Mavet was enraged by this and sent a threatening message to Baal, who was afraid and attempted to flatter his way out of it. This, however, was to no avail and Baal was forced to face Mavet. Mavet defeated him and held him in the underworld until Anath tracked him (Mavet) down and defeated him herself. Mavet did not actually die, as he and Baal had to face off once more seven years later. Neither defeated the other, but Mavet did give in (at the command of Shapash) and proclaimed Baal the King of the Gods.

    • MELQART: King of the City, the Hunter, Fire of Heaven. Patron god of Tyre, he was the god of the Metropolis and the monarchy at Tyre and Carthage. May have been a dying and rising vegetation god, and associated with the sacred marriage like the Sumerian Dumuzi. He was ritually immolated in an annual festival. He was also a god of the sea and was pictured mounted on a hippocampus.

    • NIKKAL: Consort of Yarikh. (S = Ningal). Goddess of the fruits of the Earth. Daughter of Hiribi.

    • PIDRAY: Girl of Light. A daughter or consort of Baal.

    • QADISH-U-AMRAR: The two messengers of Asherah fused into one God. He dredges up provisions to entertain her guests from the sea with a net.

    • RAHMAYA: A goddess impregnated, along with Asherah, by El. The Goddesses then gave birth to the twin gods Shahar and Shalem, though I don't know who gave birth to whom.

    • RADMANU: Or Pradmanu. A minor servitor of Baal.

    • REPHAIM, THE: "Shades". Underworld Deities. They move in chariots, on horseback, and upon wild asses.

    • RESHEPH: Probably a War God. Lord of the Arrow. Has gazel horns on his helmet. He destroys men in mass by war and plague. He is the porter of the sun Goddess Shepesh (this seems to resemble Khamael of the Hebrews). He is also called Mekal (Annialator), and could be related to the Hebrew Michael (Mikal) who is also a War God (ArchAngel). Related to Nergal of Mesopotamia.

    • SHACHAR: "Dawn". God of dawn. Either a son of Asherah, or of Rohmaya. According to Isaiah 14:12, He is the father of Helel (or Lucifer) the Light-Bringer and Morning Star.

    • SHALEM: "Dusk". God of sunset. The Contemplation of Day. Either a son of Asherah, or of Rohmaya.

    • SHAMU: Sky God who was the chief of the pantheon at the Syrian city of Alalakh.

    • SHAPASH: Sun Goddess. The Torch of the Gods.

    • SHATAQAT: "Drives away". Demoness sent by El to drive away Keret's (a Canaanite Mythic hero) disease.

    • SHEGER: "Offspring of Cattle". God of Cattle.

    • SIN: Moon God. Also a Babylonian God.

    • S,UMUL: Mother of the Eagles. She ate the body of Aqhat (a hero in a Canaanite Myth).

    • TALLAY: Girl of Rain. A daughter or consort of Baal.

    • TANNIN: Another Name for Leviathan or Lotan. See Lotan.

    • TANIT: Lady of Carthage. Face of Baal (Hammon, not Hadad).

    • UGAR: A messenger of Baal. His name either means Vine or Field, probably the latter. He may be the Patron God of Ugarit.

    • YAHWEH: Yahweh is added here because there was a short time in which He was simply part of the Canaanite pantheon. He was a Son of El; and he was part of the court of El as cupbearer along with Baal. Later, as the National God of Israel, Yahweh was equated with El, and Asherah became His wife. H.

    • YAM-NAHAR: Yam-Nahar is the Primordial Waters that were defeated by Baal (see Baal and Asherah). His name means Sea-River. He was originally given kingship by El, and ruled as a tyrant over the Gods. Baal finally rose up against him. He may also be Lotan.

    • YARIKH: Moon God. Illuminator of myriads of stars. Lamp of Heaven. Lord of the Sickle (the cresent moon?), and therefore father of the Kosharoth. Patron God of Qart-Abilim.

    • YBRDMY: Daugher of Baal.

    • YELLOW ONES OF MAVET: Mavet's henchmen who are slain by Baal upon his ressurection from defeat at Mavet's hands.

    • ZABIB: "Flies". Enemy of Baal, slain by Anath. There's an obvious relation between this Demon and and Baal Zabib (Beelzebub- Lord of the Flies).


    1. Ferm, Vergilius, Ancient Religions (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1950), pp. 113-143
    2. Mendenhall, George E., "The Hebrew Conquest of Palestine", in The Biblical Archaeologist Reader; ed. Edward F. Campbell Jr. and David Noel Freedman (vol. III; Garden City New York: Anchor Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970), pp. 100-120
    3. The Catholic Dictionary; (An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Biblical and General Catholic Information; Cleveland and New York: The Catholic Press, The World Publishing Company, 1970)
    4. Article on Baalzebul I. The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, ed. G.A. Buttrick (Supplementary Volume; Nashville: Abingdon, 1976) I1
    5. The Jerome Biblical Commentary;ed. Raymond E. Brown (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersy:Prentice-Hall,1968)
    6. The Jerusalem Bible;ed. Alexander Jones (Garden City, New York:Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966), pg 387 JB Baal changed to Bosheth Footnote on II Sm 4:4
    7. A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scriptures;ed. Reginald C. Fuller (Nashville and New York: Thomas Nelson, Inc.,1975)
    8. New American Bible (Sponsered by the Bishops' Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Translated by the Catholic Biblical Association of America; Cleveland and New York; The Catholic Press, The World Publishing Company, 1970)
    9. The Ancient Near East;ed. James B. Pritchard (Vol I; An Anthology of Texts and Pictures;Princeton New Jersy: Princeton University Press, 1973)
    10. Williams, Jay G., Understanding the Old Testament (New York:Barron's Educational Series, Inc.,1972)

    By S. George Khalaf


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

«Μύθος και θρησκεία στην αρχαία Ελλάδα», του Ζαν-Πιέρ Βερνάντ

Πέρα από το δέος και το θάμβος που προκαλεί το θείον, η Ελληνική θρησκεία εμφανίζεται ως μία ευρύτατη συμβολική κατασκευή, σύνθετη αλλά με συνοχή, που επιτρέπει στη σκέψη, όπως και στο συναίσθημα, να εκδηλώνεται σε όλα τα επίπεδά της, περιλαμβανομένης της λατρείας.
Ο μύθος παίζει κι αυτός τον ρόλο του σ' αυτό το σύνολο, όπως και οι τελετουργικές πρακτικές και οι μορφές με τις οποίες εικονίζεται το θείον. Μύθος, τελετουργία, εικαστική αναπαράσταση, αυτοί είναι οι τρεις τρόποι - λόγος, δράση, εικόνα - μέσω των οποίων δηλώνεται η θρησκευτική εμπειρία των Ελλήνων.

Κάθε Πάνθεον, όπως το Ελληνικό Πάνθεον, προϋποθέτει ένα πλήθος θεοτήτων, κάθε θεότητα έχει το δικό της ρόλο, το δικό της πεδίο, τους ιδιαίτερους τρόπους δράσης της, τη δική της μορφή εξουσίας. Οι θεότητες αυτές, οι οποίες στις μεταξύ τους σχέσεις συγκροτούν μια ιεραρχημένη κοινωνία Θεών, όπου οι ιδιότητες και τα προνόμια αποτελούν αντικείμενο μιας αρκετά αυστηρής κατανομής, αναγκαστικά περιορίζουν η μία την άλλη, ενώ ταυτόχρονα αλληλοσυμπληρώνονται.

Το θείον στον Πολυθεϊσμό δεν συνεπάγεται τη μοναδικότητα, αλλά ούτε την και την παντοδυναμία, την παντογνωσία, την αιωνιότητα ή το απόλυτο. Το πλήθος αυτό των Θεών βρίσκεται εντός του κόσμου, αποτελεί μέρος του. Οι Θεοί δεν δημιούργησαν τον κόσμο με μια πράξη η οποία, στην περίπτωση του ενός και μοναδικού θεού, δηλώνει την απόλυτη υπερβατικότητά του ως προς ένα έργο του οποίου η ύπαρξη εκπορεύεται ολοκληρωτικά από αυτόν. Οι Θεοί γεννιούνται από τον κόσμο. Το γένος εκείνων στους οποίους οι Έλληνες αφιερώνουν μια λατρεία, τη λατρεία των Ολύμπιων Θεών, εμφανίζεται ταυτόχρονα με το σύμπαν. Καθώς διαφοροποιείται και ταξινομείται, παίρνει την τελειωμένη μορφή του οργανωμένου κόσμου.

Υπάρχει, επομένως, μέρος του θείου στον κόσμο, όπως υπάρχει μέρος του κοσμικού στις θεότητες. Με τον τρόπο αυτό η λατρεία δεν θα μπορούσε να αναφέρεται σε ένα ον ριζικά υπερκόσμιο, του οποίου ο τρόπος ύπαρξης δεν θα είχε τίποτα κοινό με οτιδήποτε ανήκει στη φυσική τάξη, στο φυσικό σύμπαν, στην ανθρώπινη ζωή, στην κοινωνική ύπαρξη. Αντίθετα, η (πολυθεϊστική) λατρεία μπορεί να απευθύνεται σε κάποια άστρα, όπως η Σελήνη, ή στην Αυγή, στο φως του Ήλιου, στη Νύχτα, σε μια πηγή, σε ένα ποτάμι, σε ένα δένδρο, στην κορφή ενός βουνού, όπως και σε ένα συναίσθημα, ένα πάθος (Αιδώς, Έρως), σε μια ηθική ή νομική έννοια (Δίκη, Ευνομία). Όχι ότι πρόκειται κάθε φορά για θεότητες στην κυριολεξία, αλλά όλες, στον χώρο που τους ανήκει, δηλώνουν το θείον με τον ίδιο τρόπο που παριστάνει την θεότητα το λατρευτικό είδωλο.

Με την παρουσία του σε έναν κόσμο πλήρη Θεών, ο Έλληνας άνθρωπος δεν διακρίνει ως δύο αντίθετους χώρους το φυσικό και το υπερφυσικό. Και τα δύο παραμένουν άρρηκτα συνδεδεμένα. Μπροστά σε κάποια φαινόμενα του κόσμου βιώνει το ίδιο αίσθημα ιερότητας που δοκιμάζει στη συναλλαγή του με τους Θεούς, κατά τις τελετές που τον φέρνουν σε επαφή μαζί τους.

Δεν πρόκειται για μια θρησκεία της φύσης, οι Θεοί των Ελλήνων δεν αποτελούσαν προσωποποιήσεις φυσικών δυνάμεων ή φαινομένων. Είναι κάτι τελείως διαφορετικό. Ο κεραυνός, η καταιγίδα, οι υψηλές κορυφές δεν είναι ο Δίας, αλλά του Διός. Του Διός που είναι πέραν αυτών, εφόσον τα περικλείει όλα στους κόλπους μιας Δύναμης που αγγίζει πραγματικότητες, όχι πλέον φυσικές, αλλά ψυχολογικές, ηθικές ή θεσμικές. Αυτό που κάνει μια Δύναμη θεότητα είναι το γεγονός ότι συγκεντρώνει υπό την εξουσία της μια πληθώρα «εκδηλώσεων», εντελώς διακριτών για μας, τις οποίες όμως ο Έλληνας οικειοποιείται διότι βλέπει σε αυτές την έκφραση μιας και μόνης εξουσίας που ασκείται στα πιο διαφορετικά πεδία. Αν ο κεραυνός ή υψηλές κορυφές είναι του Διός, αυτό συμβαίνει διότι ο Θεός εκδηλώνεται στο σύνολο του σύμπαντος κόσμου με όλα εκείνα τα στοιχεία που φέρουν την σφραγίδα μιας εμφανούς ανωτερότητας, μιας υπεροχής. Ο Δίας δεν είναι φυσική δύναμη. Είναι άρχων κυρίαρχος, κάτοχος εξουσίας με όλες τις μορφές που αυτή μπορεί να λάβει.

Ο πολυθεϊσμός των Ελλήνων δεν στηρίζεται σε κάποια «θεϊκή αποκάλυψη».
Η προσκόλληση στη θρησκευτική παράδοση στηρίζεται στη χρήση (στα προγονικά ανθρώπινα έθιμα, τους νόμους). Όπως η γλώσσα, ο τρόπος ζωής, τα έθιμα του φαγητού και της ένδυσης, η στάση και η συμπεριφορά των ανθρώπων στις ιδιωτικές και δημόσιες συναναστροφές τους, έτσι κι η λατρεία δεν έχει ανάγκη άλλη αιτιολόγηση από την ύπαρξή της. Από την στιγμή που οι άνθρωποι την ασκούν, είναι ήδη αιτιολογημένη. Εκφράζει τον τρόπο με τον οποίο οι Έλληνες κατάφεραν εξαρχής να οργανώσουν τη σχέση τους με το θείον. Το να αποκλίνουν από αυτό θα σήμαινε αυτομάτως ότι παύουν ξαφνικά να είναι ο εαυτός τους.

Ανάμεσα στο θρησκευτικό από τη μία και το κοινωνικο-ιδιωτικό και πολιτικό από την άλλη, δεν υπάρχει, επομένως, αντίθεση ή ξεκάθαρη τομή, όπως επίσης δεν υπάρχει ανάμεσα σε υπερφυσικό και φυσικό, θεϊκό και κοσμικό. Η Ελληνική θρησκεία δεν συνιστά ένα τμήμα ξεχωριστό, κλεισμένο στα όριά του, το οποίο θα ερχόταν να επιβληθεί πάνω στην οικογενειακή, επαγγελματική, πολιτική ζωή ή πάνω στον ελεύθερο χρόνο των ανθρώπων, δίχως να συγχέεται με αυτά. Αν έχουμε το δικαίωμα να μιλάμε, όσον αφορά την αρχαϊκή και κλασσική Ελλάδα, για «θρησκεία της πόλεως», είναι διότι σε αυτήν το θρησκευτικό περιλαμβάνεται μέσα στο κοινωνικό και, αντίστοιχα, το κοινωνικό, σε όλα τα επίπεδα και στην ποικιλία των εκφάνσεών του, διαποτίζεται από το θρησκευτικό.

Από τα παραπάνω προκύπτουν δύο συνέπειες. Σε αυτόν τον τύπο θρησκείας το άτομο ως άτομο δεν κατέχει κεντρική θέση. Δεν μετέχει στη λατρεία ως πρόσωπο, ως ένα ιδιαίτερο ον υπεύθυνο για τη σωτηρία της ψυχής του. Αναλαμβάνει τον ρόλο που του αναθέτει η κοινωνική του υπόσταση, άρχων, πολίτης, μέλος της φατρίας, γυναίκα ηλικιωμένη, νεαρό άτομο (αγόρι ή κορίτσι) στα διάφορα στάδια της ένταξής του στην ωριμότητα. Θρησκεία που καθιερώνει μια συλλογική τάξη και η οποία ενσωματώνει σε αυτήν, στη θέση που τους αρμόζει, τα διάφορα συστατικά της στοιχεία. Θρησκεία όμως που αφήνει εκτός πεδίου της την μέριμνα για τον καθένα ξεχωριστά ως πρόσωπο, την πιθανή αθανασία του, την μοίρα του πέραν του θανάτου.
Ακόμα και στα μυστήρια, όπως για παράδειγμα στα Ελευσίνια μυστήρια, όπου οι μυημένοι λαμβάνουν από κοινού την υπόσχεση για μια καλύτερη τύχη στον Άδη, δεν ασχολούνται με την ψυχή, δεν υπάρχει τίποτα που να φανερώνει έναν προβληματισμό γύρω από τη φύση της ψυχής ή μια σειρά πνευματικών ασκήσεων για τον εξαγνισμό της.

O πιστός δεν συνάπτει, επομένως, μια προσωπική σχέση με την θεότητα. Ένας Θεός υπερβατικός, ακριβώς επειδή βρίσκεται εκτός του κόσμου τούτου, μακριά από την επίγεια ζωή, μπορεί να βρει στα βάθη της ψυχής κάθε πιστού, αν η ψυχή του έχει κατάλληλα προετοιμαστεί από την θρησκεία, έναν χώρο πρόσφορο για επαφή και επικοινωνία. Οι Θεοί των Ελλήνων δεν είναι πρόσωπα αλλά Δυνάμεις.
Η λατρεία τούς αποδίδει τιμές επειδή ακριβώς κατέχουν μια θέση υπεροχής.
Αν και ανήκουν στον ίδιο κόσμο με τους θνητούς, αν κι έχουν κατά κάποιον τρόπο κοινή την καταγωγή τους, αποτελούν ένα γένος που, απαλλαγμένο από όλα τα αρνητικά χαρακτηριστικά που συνοδεύουν τα θνητά όντα -αδυναμία, μόχθους, πάθη, αρρώστιες, θάνατο-, δεν ενσαρκώνει το απόλυτο ούτε το αιώνιο, αλλά το σύνολο των αξιών που αποτελούν τα αγαθά της ύπαρξής μας πάνω σ' αυτήν την γη, την ομορφιά, τη δύναμη, την αιώνια νεότητα, μια ζωή γεμάτη δόξα και λαμπρότητα.

Το να λέει κανείς ότι η σφαίρα του πολιτικού είναι διαποτισμένη από το θρησκευτικό στοιχείο, ισοδυναμεί με το να αναγνωρίζει ταυτόχρονα ότι και η σφαίρα του θρησκευτικού είναι συνδεδεμένη με το πολιτικό στοιχείο. Κάθε αξίωμα έχει έναν χαρακτήρα ιερό, αλλά και κάθε ιερατικό αξίωμα προέρχεται από την κοσμική εξουσία. Αν οι Θεοί είναι Θεοί της πόλεως, εντούτοις είναι η συνέλευση του λαού που έχει τον πρώτο λόγο στη διοίκηση των Ιερών, των υποθέσεων δηλαδή που αφορούν τους Θεούς, όπως και τη διοίκηση των ανθρώπων. Αυτή είναι που καθορίζει το θρησκευτικό ημερολόγιο, που εκδίδει νόμους οι οποίοι ρυθμίζουν τα Ιερά, που αποφασίζει για την διοργάνωση των εορτών, για τη διοίκηση των Ναών, για την προσφορά των Θυσιών, για την ένταξη νέων Θεών, καθώς και για τις τιμές που πρέπει να τους αποδοθούν.

Ακόμα και κατά τον 6ο και 5ο αιώνα π.χ., όταν η επίσημη λατρεία κυριαρχεί στο σύνολο της θρησκευτικής ζωής των πόλεων, δεν απουσιάζουν από κοντά της, στις παρυφές της, τάσεις λίγο ως πολύ περιθωριακές με προσανατολισμό διαφορετικό. Η ίδια η θρησκεία της πόλεως, αν και υπαγορεύει τις θρησκευτικές συμπεριφορές, δεν μπορεί να διασφαλίσει πλήρως την κυριαρχία της παρά παραχωρώντας, μέσα στους κόλπους της, έναν χώρο στις μυστηριακές λατρείες και ενσωματώνοντας, για να συμπεριλάβει και αυτήν, μια θρησκευτική εμπειρία όπως είναι η διονυσιακή λατρεία, της οποίας το πνεύμα είναι τελείως αντίθετο από το δικό της.

Αποσπάσματα μέσα από το βιλβίο του Ζαν-Πιέρ Βερνάντ «Μύθος και θρησκεία στην αρχαία Ελλάδα», εκδόσεις ΣΜΙΛΗ, 2000

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