Part 8. My Analysis of the Baal Epic
One thing seems apparent in the story, if you want anything done find a woman to do it for you. Women are involved in each conflict: Astarte with Yamm versus Baal; Asherah with Baal versus El, Anath with Mot versus Baal and Shapsh with Mot versus Baal. Not only does a woman intervene in each conflict on behalf of the weaker male contestant (like a mother?), but she is always successful.
In the Epic, Asherah does not live with El at all but with her children. In fact she lives so far from El that she must ride to his house. She seems more powerful than El in the sense that she can refuse his advances and yet still get favors from him and favors for a son at that. El seems quite impotent in the Epic, he allows two sons to build houses which in a sense compete with his, and he takes no active role in the story even though he laments Baals death and says he'll take action. Still, Baal is so afraid of El that he first gets Anath's help just to ask Asherah to ask El for a house. He doesn't even go to Asherah but stays with Anath.
The sibling rivalry in the story is intense, first Baal and Yamm then Baal and Mot and then when he's gone Asherah's sons fight over his throne. After Baal subdues Yamm, he has reached a sort of adolescence, ready to establish his own "house", which is probably why Asherah is frightened when she first sees him, he has achieved manhood and is there for her. This advancement leads to his death, since he feels man enough to take on Mot. He ends up having to have his sister resusitate him.
More About Baal and El
As we have seen there was a continuous erosion of El's power in the religion. In Ugarit literature Asherah is already growing cold toward El, by the Old Testament times she is Baals consort. There is another story about El throwing a party for the younger gods in which he becomes drunk and falls in his own feces. He can degrade himself, but culturally he can not be attacked directly even though he has lost his wife and his power.
Another fragment from Ugarit refers to Anath eating Baal, it says "She ate his flesh without a knife; she drank his blood without a cup" leading scholars to believe this shows the influence of a very early form of Dionysian omophagia predating the Greeks (I4).
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(c) 1999 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.