Baal, the bad boy of Ugaritic mythology. Watch out. He's ready to smite something. But what a faaabulous hat!

The Baal Epic

Once upon a time, El, the father of the gods, invited his children to a banquet.  “El sacrifices … He proclaims … He slaughters large st[ock as well as small:]  [He fells] bulls and [fatling rams,] [year-old calves,] sheep by the fl[ock, and kids.]” (Direct quotes are from Mark Smith, “The Baal Cycle,” in Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, Parker, Simon B., ed.  SBL Writings from the Ancient World Series, Vol. 9.  Scholars Press). The text is very fragmentary at this point, but it seems that at the banquet it was decided to build a palace for Yamm, and Kothar wa Hasis (“Skilled and Wise”), the craftsman of the gods, should come to do it.

Again, it is difficult to follow the story here, but we can gather that Baal-Hadad was not happy about Yamm’s preferential treatment, and sent a threat to him.  Yamm sent a few thugs in response, with orders to arrest Baal, and they came to El’s palace, wouldn’t you know it, just as everybody was sitting down to enjoy a nice banquet.  They were rather insolent fellows, and didn’t even bow before El.  (They were following Yamm’s orders in this respect).  They commanded the gods to hand over Baal.  El, a bit of a weakling, answered, to Baal’s horror, “Ok, here you go.”  

Baal wasn’t about to go without a fight.  He picked up a “striker” and let the two punks have it.  He had to be held back by his sisters, Anat and Athtart.

The story becomes coherent again as Baal and Yamm are preparing for war against one another.  Kothar wa Hasis came to Baal, and presented a fantastic weapon to him.  He called it Yagarrish, “may he drive away,” and commanded it to strike Yamm in the chest.  Baal cast it at his foe, and hit him square in the chest.  Yamm was too strong.  He didn’t even quiver.

Fortunately for Baal, Kothar was ready with another weapon, Ayyamarri, “may he expel all.”  As soon as it was in Baal’s hand, it leapt from his fingers “like a bird of prey.”  Poor Yamm caught it right between the eyes.  He could not sustain the blow and slumped to the ground.  Baal took his brother’s body, and dismembered him.

With Yamm out of the way, Baal was proclaimed king.  In celebration, he prepared a banquet.

He serves Mightiest Baal, waits on the Prince, Lord of the Earth.  He rises, arranges, and offers him food, slices a breast before him, with a salted knife, a cut of fatling.  He stands, serves and offers him drink, puts a cup in his hand, a goblet in his two hands:  A large vessel great to behold, a container for mighty men; a holy cup women may not see, a goblet Athirat may not eye.  A thousand pitchers he draws from the wine, mixes a myriad in his mixture.  He rises, chants, and sings, with cymbals in the singer’s hands.  With a sweet voice the hero sings, over Baal on the summit of Sapan.

Meanwhile, or afterwards, (we just can’t be sure), Baal-Hadad’s sweet little sister Anat was having fun in the valley.  “She fights the people of the se[a]-shore, strikes the populace of the su[n]rise.  Under her, like balls, are hea[ds,] above her, like locusts, hands, like locusts, heaps of warrior-hands.  She fixes heads to her back, fastens hands to her belt.  Knee-deep she glea[n]s in warrior-blood, neck-deep in the gor[e] of soldiers.”

The next few lines are difficult to understand, not because of missing text, but because the description is too vague.  Anat goes back home, but she hasn’t had her fill of war:

She arranges chairs for the soldiery, arranges tables for hosts, footstools for heroes.  Hard she fights and looks about, battling Anat surveys.  Her innards swell with laughter, her heart fills with joy, Anat’s innards with victory.  Knee-deep she gleans in warrior-blood, neck-deep in the gore of soldiers, until sated with fighting in the house, with battling between the tables.  Warrior-blood is wiped [from] the house, oil of peace is poured in a bowl.

As Anat was cleaning herself up, Baal’s messengers arrived with a request for her to come visit him.  When she came to his home, he prepared yet another banquet, slaughtering an ox especially for her.

Baal had summoned his sister on an important matter.  He wanted her to use her “charming” ways to coerce their father into having a palace built.  He lamented to her the fact that he alone of his brothers and sisters had no palace.  Anat answered, “[ … I will] drag him like a lamb to the ground; [I will ma]ke his gray hair [run] with blood, the gray of his beard [with gore,] unless he gives  Baal a house like the gods’, [and a cou]rt like that of Athirat’s sons.”

She delivered her threat, but, once again, it is difficult to really follow the story here.  Messengers are sent back and forth.  Athirat, El’s wife is approached with the request.  It seems that providing a palace for Baal is not a light matter.  Perhaps it was politically incorrect because of his fratricide.

Finally, after Athirat approaches El with Baal’s plea for a palace of his own, El concedes.  Athirat rejoices, because the construction of Baal’s palace will bring fertility to the earth.  “So now may Baal enrich with his rain, may he enrich with rich water in a downpour.  And may he give his voice in the clouds, may he flash to the earth lightning.”

Kothar wa Hasis came to construct Baal-Hadad’s abode, and when he arrived, Baal prepared for him and the other gods yet another banquet.  As they were eating, he compelled Kothar to begin work as soon as possible.  Kothar wanted to share some of his blueprint with Baal.  “Shall I not install a window in the hou[se,] an aperture amid the palace?”  Baal did not want a window, however.  Kothar thought that was ridiculous.  A palace without a single window?  Surely he should reconsider.  But Baal was adamant upon this point.  “No windows!”

Kothar worked on the palace for six days and six nights.  On the seventh it was completed.  Baal was delighted, and invited the gods to a massive banquet to inaugurate his palace:

He slaughters large stock [as well as] small:  He fells bulls [and] fatling rams, year-old calves, sheep by the flock, and k[i]ds.  He invites his brothers into his house, his kinsmen amid his palace; he invites the seventy sons of Athirat.  He provides the gods with rams, provides the goddesses with ewes.  He provides the gods with bulls, provides the goddesses with cows.  He provides the gods with thrones, provides the goddesses with chairs.  He provides the gods with jars of wine, provides the goddesses with cruets [of wine.]  As the gods eat, drink, a suckling of breast is provided, with a salted knife, a cut of [fat]ling.  They drink [wi]ne from gob[lets,] [from] gold [cu]ps, the blo[od of trees.]

One day Baal came to Kothar wa Hasis, and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking, and maybe my palace could use a window after all.”

Kothar was ecstatic.  “I told you that you would regret not having a window!  I’ll get right to it.”

Now things lead up to Baal’s next conflict, with Mot.  It seems that Mot had challenged Baal’s kingship.  Baal sent messengers to him, telling him to knock it off.  He was king.  His palace had been established.  If he knew what was good for him, Mot would accept things as they were and submit to Baal with the rest of his brothers.

Mot sent this message back to Baal:  “ … invite me, O Baal, with my brothers, summon me, O Hadd, with my kinsmen.  So let us drink, O Baal, that I may pierce you ….”  So Mot wanted to share Baal’s banquet.  But the problem with Mot is that he had a bad habit of swallowing up everyone around him.  In fact, he flatly told Baal that these were his intentions for him.  “When you killed Litan, the Fleeing Serpent, annihilated the Twisty Serpent, the Potentate with Seven Heads, the heavens grew hot, they withered.  But let me tear you to pieces, let me eat flanks, innards, forearms.  Surely you will descend into Divine Mot’s throat, into the gullet of El’s Beloved, the Hero.”  “[One lip to He]ll, one lip to Heaven, [a to]ngue to the Stars.  [Ba]al will enter his innards, into his mouth he will descend like a dried olive, produce of the earth, and fruit of the trees.”

Baal was kind of shaken up by this, and told his brother that he would be his slave, just so long as he didn’t eat him up.  

What happens next is, again, a bit of a mystery.  It is difficult to follow the story up to the point that Baal is commanded to go down into the abode of Mot.  Perhaps he was slain?  Was he defeated in battle?  What about the whole thing with the window?  Did Mot sneak in through it?  We can’t be sure.

Baal was commanded by someone to go to the realm of Mot.  Word was brought back to El, and now that Baal was gone, he suddenly became very fond of him.  He mourned him profusely, throwing dust on his hair and cutting himself.

Anat went looking for Baal’s body.  When she found it, she too wept bitterly, throwing dust on herself and cutting slits in her skin.  She asked Shapash, the sun, to help put him on her back, and she brought him back to Mount Sapan, where she mourned him and gave him a proper burial.  As part of the ceremony she prepared a massive sacrificial banquet:  seventy buffalo, seventy oxen, seventy sheep, seventy deer, seventy mountain goats and seventy donkeys.

Back at El’s palace the gods were faced with a grave decision.  Someone must take Baal’s place as king of the cosmos.  But who could possibly fill this role?  No one else was as great and strong as Baal.

Athtar “the Strong” decided to give it a try.  He went up Mount Sapan and sat on Baal’s throne.  The picture was rather comical.  “His feet do not reach its footstool, his head does not reach its top.  … ’I cannot be king on the summit of Sapan.’”  Baal and his life-giving reign/rain were sorely missed.

A few days later Anat, distraught for her brother, went looking for Mot.  She found him, and held him up by his collar.  “You’d better give me back my brother!” she bellowed at him.

Mot was clearly intimidated by the lass, and went about making excuses.  “What was I supposed to do?  I hadn’t eaten for days.  I haven’t come across a nice juicy human being for ages.  I was on my way home one day, and there was your brother, and I was so hungry, and one thing led to another, and well, I gobbled him up like a lamb.”

For some reason, Anat didn’t do anything to Mot just then, but a few days later she came upon him again, and this time, she let him have it.  “With a sword she splits him, with a sieve she winnows him.  With a fire she burns him, with millstones she grinds him, in a field she sows him.  The birds eat his flesh, fowl devour his parts, flesh to flesh cries out.”

Shortly thereafter, a remarkable thing happened.  El had a dream, in which the skies rained down oil and the river-beds ran with honey.  He awoke in joy and announced that Baal was alive.

Baal was alive, but no one knew where he was.  A search was commissioned to locate him.  Anat beckoned Shapash, the sun, to keep on the lookout for him.  Evidently Baal was found, because the next we hear of him, he is returning to his throne, after beating up a few of his brothers.  Once again the earth would be watered and become fruitful.

In a Western story, this would probably be a good place to write “and they lived happily ever after.”  Not in this tale.

Seven years passed.  Then who should show up, but Mot!  (Don’t try to figure it out.  Just shut up and enjoy the story!).  Mot had a bone to pick with Baal.  “You’ve caused me a lot of grief, bro.  Because of you, I was split with a sword.  Because of you, I got winnowed, burned, ground up, sown in the ground, and fed to the birds.  Now it’s pay-back time.”  Mot didn’t make any outrageous demands.  He just wanted to chow down on one of Baal’s brothers.

Once again, we just can’t be sure what happens next, but it seems that Baal tricked Mot into eating his own brothers.  (I know, I know.  Mot and Baal are brothers, and so Mot’s brothers should be Baal’s brothers, too.  Shut up and enjoy the story!).  Mot came storming back into Baal’s palace, overcome with rage.  Thus began the greatest battle between divine entities ever witnessed by the cosmos.  “They eye each other like fighters, Mot is fierce, Baal is fierce.  They gore each other like buffalo, Mot is fierce, Baal is fierce.  They bite each other like serpents, Mot is fierce, Baal is fierce.  They drag each other like runners, Mot falls, Baal falls.”

Suddenly, Shapash, the sun, cried to Mot from above.  “Hold on!  Give this a second thought!  What’s your father going to think about all of this business?  You’re endangering your right to rule the realm of the dead!  Be careful, or El will break your scepter!”

With this, Mot finally backed off and conceded defeat.  And so it was that Baal-Hadad was established as king and Mot, the lord of death, was sent hungry back to Hell.
Anat says, 'Have a nice day, and come back for dinner some time Darlings.'