Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Name that God: Anath

History is littered with civilizations. Some of which we know a great deal about, while others are shrouded in great mystery.  We know a lot about the Greek and Roman civilizations but often very little about the peoples they conquered. As I started a new story set during the Roman era, I was looking for an obscure god that had meaning to women, but who’s worship may have also seemed brutal and senseless both then and now.
Enter Anath, also known as Anat, a major Semitic goddess. She has a Biblical tie-in to the infamous Ba’al as either a sister, a lover, (or both—ewww). Some accounts mention her as a virgin, the meaning here more along the lines of an independent and strong-willed woman (not sexually inactive). She is credited with putting a violent end to the seven-headed serpent Yamm and has a ferocious reputation, cutting off heads and wading through rivers of blood. She avenges Ba’al’s death with the fearsome anger of a woman scorned. She is a Middle Eastern goddess, and quite possibly the forerunner of Athena, a warlike goddess in her own right.
Not much is known in detail regarding the rituals or worship of Anath and those of the same pantheon.  Cultic practices included animal sacrifices at high places. Sacred groves with trees or carved wooden images are noted. Divination, snake worship and ritual prostitution were practiced. Male prostitutes were called qadesh, female quedsha. Sexual rites were supposed to ensure fertility of people, animals and lands, as typical for the time.  She is often represented as a naked woman astride a lion, a lily in one hand and a serpent in the other. 
That leaves a great deal of leeway for the imagination. The ancient world isn’t known for its “warm fuzziness” and the difficult life of those pressed into service to such deities can only be described as brutal. A life of ritual prostitution and blood sacrifice leaves the modern mind bewildered. It will be challenging to go that far back in time and slip into the ancient mentality that endorsed—or rebelled against—such practices. “What if” questions continuously pop into my mind, leading me toward characters, motivations, and plot points that I'm attempting to string into an intriguing narrative for readers.
So I must ask, which ancient god or goddess captured your imagination? As children, we all learned the Greek and Roman stories, and some will know more Biblical details than some.  Share--who fasinated you and why?


catslady said...

I don't think I actually had a favorite. Learning about the gods and goddesses was one of the more interesting subjects studied in history/english. Gee, I wonder why we never learned about Anath lol.

Cynthia Gail said...

As a romance writer myself, I think I liked Adonis the best. God of beauty and desire...

MK Chester said...

LOL--no doubt about why nothing was ever said about Anath. Adonis was so much prettier ;)