16 November 2008


Anat, the Victorious Goddess, the woman who acts like a warrior, who wears a kilt like men and a sash like women. - Ancient prayer to Anat

Compared to most ancient goddesses we know very little about Anat and the rest of the Ugaritic pantheon. There isn't much archaeological evidence and what little is available is usually incomplete. Additionally, the language of Ugarit is not fully understood by scholars and translations are highly disputed and often quickly superseded. Most of what we know comes to us from what is called the Baal Cycle texts found in Syria in 1958. What follows are highlights regarding the goddess from the relatively small bit of Ugaritic myth and history available to us.

Anat is a Semetic goddess who was a major deity of the Canaanites since prehistoric times and became closely associated with the ancient city of Ugarit in what is now Israel. She is the daughter of the supreme Semetic god El and sister of Baal, god of storms and rain. She is a particularly ferocious goddess of war and the hunt who has sexual and youthful qualities as well. In her homeland of Ugarit she was known as the Maiden. She also has qualities of a beautiful goddess of love. As is typical for Middle Eastern goddesses she is linked with the planet Venus which represented love as well as war to the ancients. It is to be noted that although she is the sometime lover of Baal she is not his wife. She is whole unto herself and technically unattached. She is, however, deeply connected to him.

When on the battlefield she is described in much the same way as Kali: knee deep in body parts and blood, fighting the enemies of her male counterpart, cutting off hands and heads and wearing them on her person. According to one myth, when Baal is killed by Mot (Death) Anat buries him, makes sacrifices to ensure his return, and then goes after Mot. And she doesn't just kill him. She cuts him up, grinds him like grain and feeds him to the birds. At the same time she, as the companion of Baal, is important for fertility as she is the Goddess of Dew. One story goes that in the form of a heifer and bull Anat and Baal produced 70 or perhaps even 80 children.

During the New Kingdom in Egypt she was considered a Great Goddess and was generally identified with the native goddess Neith who is a goddess of war, weaving and domesticity. While she was particularly revered for her warlike qualities she was also known as the Queen of Heaven. Most of the few images we have of her come from this time period and, while like all goddesses her icons vary, she is usually shown carrying weapons. She rose to such prominence in Egypt that the pharaoh Ramesses II considered her his special protector and even named his daughter Bint-Anat, daughter of Anat.

Anat is never mentioned in sacred Hebrew writings as a goddess but she is found in multiple place names such as Beth-Anath and Anathoth as well as personal names. It is also interesting to note that, according to Jewish mercenaries circa 425 BCE, Anat was worshiped by Jews alongside Yahweh in a joint temple on the Elephantine island in the Nile. At the end of the 5th century BCE she may have been considered to be the consort of Yahweh in a colony of northern Egypt.

What I find most interesting about Anat, and similar goddesses, is her ability to transcend gender roles. The term 'virgin' held a different meaning for the ancients. While to us moderns 'virgin' indicates one who have never had sex, in ancient times to call a woman a virgin simply meant that, while she was old enough to engage in sexual activity and bear children, she was single. In the terms of a deity a virgin goddess is not restricted to the typical feminine roles of childbirth, motherhood or healing. And, as is obvious from the above ancient prayer, her followers were keenly aware of this fact and not adverse to it. In fact, they worshiped her for it.

The above is just about all we know of Anat which, compared to other major goddesses, is precious little. That said, we have a pretty fair picture of Anat considering that most of the available information comes to us from stories centered on Baal. Needless to say, I find Anat fascinating and can only hope that future archaeological discoveries will reveal more about this Great Goddess.


Aquila ka Hecate said...

It's great that we're recovering the word virgin in its original meaning - that of a woman who nelongs only to herself, just as you've said.

Fascinating about Anat, a Goddess I wasn't too aware of previously.
Terri in Joburg

Livia Indica said...

I don't know if the word virgin can be fully recovered but at least the idea of a sexually independent woman has gained alot of acceptance is some quarters.

Yep, there's not too much known about her, but she is very interesting.

Souris Optique said...

These are great! I'm really looking forward to Inanna!

Livia Indica said...

Awesome, glad you like it!! Yep, I think Inanna is one the horizon.

genexs said...


Great post, I really learned!

Also, thanx for bringing up Neith. She was also associated with Athena by the Greeks, as the two had so many things in common.

Neith was also saddled with the 'virgin' label, and all the framing that goes along with that term. Neith said something like "No man has ever pierced my veil". Of course, early scholars took that to mean she was a virgin. However, more recently it has been taken (translated) to mean something like "no being can transcend my mystery".

Livia Indica said...

I'm glad you liked it Gene. Ya know, the more I hear about Neith I'm considering including her in this series too. She just keeps popping up lately.