Saturday, December 24, 2011


Ēl (אל) is a northwest Semitic word and name translated into English as either 'god' or 'God' or left untranslated as El, depending on the context.
In the Levant as a whole, El or Il was the supreme god, the father of mankind and all creatures and the husband of the Goddess Asherah as attested in the tablets of Ugarit.

The word El was found at the top of a list of gods as the Ancient of Gods or the Father of all Gods, in the ruins of the Royal Library of the Ebla civilization, in the archaeological site of Tell Mardikh in Syria dated to 2300 BC. He may have been a desert god at some point, as the myths say that he had two wives and built a sanctuary with them and his new children in the desert. El had fathered many gods, but most important were Hadad, Yaw and Mot, each of whom has similar attributes to the Greco-Roman gods Zeus, Ophion and Thanatos respectively. Ancient Greek mythographers identified El with Cronus (not Chronos).

Linguistic forms and meanings
Cognate forms are found throughout the Semitic languages with the exception of the ancient Ge'ez language of Ethiopia. Forms include Ugaritic ’il, pl. ’lm; Phoenician ’l pl. ’lm, Hebrew ’ēl, pl. ’⁏lîm; Aramaic ’l, Arabic Al; Akkadian ilu, pl. ilāti. The original meaning may have been 'strength, power'. In northwest Semitic usage ’l was both a generic word of any 'god' and the special name or title of a particular god who was distinguished from other gods as being the god, or even in our modern sense God. Ēl is listed at the head of many pantheons. El was the father god among the canaanites. But because the word sometimes refers to a god other than the great god Ēl it is often difficult to be certain whether Ēl followed by another name means the great god Ēl with a particular epithet applied or refers to another god entirely. For example, in the Ugaritic texts ’il mlk is understood to mean 'Ēl the King' but ’il hd means 'the god Hadad'. We know this only from context.

In Ugaritic an alternate plural form meaning 'gods' is ’ilhm, equivalent to Hebrew ’elōhîm 'gods'. But in Hebrew this word is also used for singular 'God' or 'god', is indeed by the most normal word for 'god' or 'God' in the singular (as well as for 'gods').

The stem ’l is found prominently in the earliest strata of east Semitic, northwest Semitic and south Semitic groups. Personal names including the stem ’l are found with similar patterns both in Amorite and South Arabic which indicates that probably already in Proto-Semitic ’l was both a generic term for 'god' and the common name or title of a single particular 'god' or 'God'.

FROM: El (god) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Common epithets of ´El

Bull El / God - thôru ´ilu
El at the sources of the two rivers - ´ilu mabbukê naharêmi
El in the midst of the springs of the two oceans - ´ilu qirba ´apigê tihamatêmi
Father of Humanity - ´abi ´adamu
The Creator of Creatures - baniyu banawati
The Ageless One who Created Us - dordoru dykeninu
Kindly/Beneficent ´El the Compassionate/Sympathetic - lutipanu ´ilu du pa´idu
The King, the Father of Years/Time - malik ´abi shanima/shunemi
Biblical titles include:
´abi ´ad = "eternal father"
´el `olam, = "God/ ´El the Eternal One"
`attiq yomin/yomayya´ = "Ancient of Days,"
all of which clearly reflect the epithets of the Ugaritic ´El.

The chief Canaanite god is ´El, which means simply "God," familiar as one of the names of the single god of the Bible. The linguistic root may mean "That" or "the One." He is called "Creator of all Created Things," as well as "Father of Humanity." ´El is therefore the prime creator god of the pantheon, although we do not currently have a Canaanite creation story. ´El is also the king and head of the divine assembly, the council of the gods, although He is not necessarily 'biological' father of all the deities.

Despite His position as creator, ´El thereafter was comparatively inactive. He is described as an old bearded man and, in most stories we have, He is seated in His hall up on His mountain - between the two rivers which are the source of the world oceans. Although He is rather remote, and not usually directly approached, ´El is strong, powerful and wise. He is Thoru ´Ilu, the Bull God, identified with this animal for its strength and steadfastness. Whatever happens, He conserves His dignity.

´El is a major figure in most of the Ugaritic myths, in the stories of Ba`al, of Aqhat, of Keret, and of Shahar and Shalim. He is also at or near the top of the offering lists at Ugarit, figuring in all of them. Kings on Earth are referred to as Sons of ´El. ´El is also the host of the ritual feast association, the Marzeah, which among other events, sponsored an annual Feast for the Dead.
If we need His aid, we must first gain the assistance of another deity who can go to His distant palace. Frequently this is ´Asherah, although `Anat is often not shy to approach Him directly. But ´El is latipanu ´ilu dupa´idu, "the Compassionate God of Mercy." He is not easily moved to anger. The Kindly One, He blesses us and He forgives us when we do things we shouldn't. If we say we are sorry, this is usually sufficient, and He accepts this as atonement. He mourns for our pain and rejoices in our happiness.

`Anat says to ´El:
your decree, ´El, is wise;
your wisdom is forever;
A life of good fortune is your decree.

´Asherah says to ´El:
You are great, ´El,
indeed you are wise,
the grey hair of your beard indeed instructs you.

FROM: Qadash Kinahnu--a Canaanite-Phoenician Temple (has a lot of info about this pantheon and culture as well)



by Mark Raines

Jews, Christians, and Muslims usually lead adherents to believe that El simply translates to God, and is just one of the titles of the God they worship. They are right - to a point. El is simply a title, and it is one of the titles of the father god. But it is not only Jews, Christians, and Muslims who have worshiped Him. In fact, before Judaism ever existed (let alone Christianity or Islam), El was worshiped as the chief of the Canaanite pantheon. El has many intriguing titles such as Father of Humanity, the Creator of Creatures, and the King, the Father of Time. He is, without doubt, the god of the desert religions, since Abraham specifically called his god by this title: El Elyon. From the Bible, El also receives these titles: Eternal Father, El the Eternal One, and Ancient of Days.

But who is He? He is an ancient sky God, depicted as an old bearded man sitting upon His throne on the mountain between the two rivers which are the source of the world's oceans. As children, many of us pictured God as a bearded old man. You may never have heard the Ugaritic myths of El, but through genetic memory the truth of his elderliness rang out to you. However, this certainly does not mean that El is a powerless God. He is the undisputed leader of the pantheon, more powerful even than the great Ba'al (his son who died and was resurrected by El's daughter Anat). El is seen as unapproachable on His mountain, and the ancient Canaanite religion believed that a mediatrix, a go-between, was needed to send prayers to El.

This is true of the God of the desert religions as well. In Catholicism there is a tradition that Mary is the Mediatrix, who takes prayers before Yeshua and El. This continues an ancient tradition, in which Asherah (Lady of the Sea, who shares many similarities with Mary) takes petitions to El. Within all of Christianity, Yeshua himself is seen as the Mediatrix. Within Judaism, prayers are taken to El via the angels. But, according to the most ancient myths, He cannot hear them directly. This goes back to the ancient Canaanite myths, whether we knew it or not.

And let us not forget that our God, the God of the desert religions, is like this El in yet another significant way - He is constantly being spoken to on mountains and high places. Where did Moses commune with God? Mount Sinai. Where was the Temple built? Mount Moriah. Where did Yeshua give the beatitudes and pray frequently to His Father? Mount Olivet. What was seen as one of the most sacred places in Jerusalem? Mount Tsion. El, our God and their God, is a God of High Places! Perhaps that is why Melchizedek and Abraham gave him the title El Elyon, or God Most High.

But El has evolved over the years, or at least our vision of Him has evolved. He was originally seen as a distant God, always in need of a go-between to send prayers to Him. This tradition carried over into Judaism and Christianity to a lesser degree, but now it is almost gone. He was also not the only God, but the King of many Gods. This, too, carried over into Judaism until the time of the patriarchal prophets. Some of the prophets were allegedly able to defeat the prophets of Ba'al, but this is something any Canaanite priest could have predicted, and does not mean that Ba'al and the other Gods did not exist. El was the King of the Gods, more powerful even than Ba'al, so naturally His prophets would defeat Ba'al's. Indeed, Moses did not say that El commanded the Jews not to have any other Gods at all - the original translation says that there should be no other Gods before Him, implying that there were other Gods and that they could be worshiped as long as they were not worshiped more or as greater than El Himself. Remember that the apostates at Mount Sinai abandoned El completely for the golden calf - they were not worshiping El alongside the idol, but were worshiping the idol alone.

But, the reader may be wondering, what about Yahweh? Isn't he God the Father? No, "He" isn't, though that is a common misconception. Yahweh is the common mispronunciation of the Ineffable Name given to Moses, YHVH. YHVH is not the Father God, but represents the whole Godhead. El is but one aspect of that Godhead, the chief aspect, the Y. Sometimes he is called Yah, from the YH (first two letters of the tetragrammaton), but that's a rare name for him, hard to find although many mystical Jews today worship him as Yah.

El's Bride, or Consort, Asherah can be seen as the early form of the Goddess, the first H. His Foster-Son, Ba'al, can be seen as the early form of the Son God, the V, who later incarnated as Yeshua. [Again, remember that Ba'al was not necessarily a "fake" or "bad" because the prophets of El beat Ba'al's prophets - they had to beat Ba'al's prophets, because El was the King of the pantheon]. Finally, Ba'al's Sister-Consort, Anat, can be seen as the early form of the Daughter Goddess, the second H. Many similarities exist between the old Canaanite pantheon and the Judeo-Christian pantheon, and fragments of the old worship still exist today. Shekinah is the evolved form of Asherah, just as Matronit contains remnants of Anat. Yeshua does share similarities with Ba'al, including His subordinance to the Father, El, and the fact that he was killed and resurrected in Springtime.

To conclude, El has always been in Judeo-Christianity, but He existed long before that. He was known as El to all three of the patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - and to the twelve sons of Jacob. He was known to the Jews in captivity in Egypt, and to Moses who came to meet the full Godhead - YHVH - on the mountain. And now, El in His original form is known to us today, as the distant but still caring Chief of our Godhead. And we still speak to Him through our Mediatrix - who was known as Asherah to all six of the Israelite matriarchs - Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah - and to Dinah their daughter. Asherah was certainly known to the Jews in captivity in Egypt, and later evolved into Shekinah. Asherah in Her original form is known to us today in yet another incarnation, the form of Mary, our Mediatrix, who takes our prayers before El, King of the Gods.

FROM: Qadash Kinahnu--a Canaanite-Phoenician Temple

Might, strength.
In Hebrew and related languages it designates “the divine being.” Many biblical names employ El with other words, such as Bethel (“the house of God”), Eleazar (“God has helped”), Michael (“who is like God”), Daniel (“a judge is God”), Ezekiel (“God will strengthen”), and Israel (“to prevail with God” or perhaps “let God prevail”). Possibly the best known use of El is in Elohim, plural form signifying the “almighty” or “omnipotent,” a name applied to the Father.
FROM: Bible Dictionary

The Father God named El
El is the name by which the supreme Canaanite deity is known. This is also a name by which God is called in the Old Testament -- El, the God (Elohim) of Israel (el elohe yisrael: Gen. 33:20). In most prose it occurs more often with an adjunct: El Elyon (the most high God, Gen. 14:1, El Shaddai (traditionally, God Almighty, Gen. 17:1), El Hai (The living God, Josh. 3:10), and very commonly in the plural of majesty, Elohim. In Hebrew poetry El is much more frequent, where it stands quite often without any adjunct (Ps. 18:31, 33, 48; 68:21; Job 8:3).

The word El is a generic name for "god" in Northwest Semitic (Hebrew and Ugaritic) and as such it is also used in the Old Testament for heathen deities or idols (Ex. 34:14; Ps. 81:10; Is. 44:10). The original generic term was 'ilum; dropping the mimation and the nominative case ending (u) becomes 'el in Hebrew. It was almost certainly an adjectival formation (intransitive participle) from the root "to be strong, powerful" ('wl), meaning "The Strong (or Powerful) One."

In Canaanite paganism the el, par excelence, was the head of the pantheon. As the god, El was, in accordance with the general irrationality and moral grossness of Canaanite religion, a dim and shadowy figure, who, Philo says, had three wives, who were also his sisters, and who could readily step down from his eminence and become the hero of sordid escapades and crimes. The Ugaritic poems add the crime of uncontrolled lust to his character and the description of his seduction of two unnamed women is the most sensuous in ANE literature (much of Ugaritic literature is R rated at best).

Despite all this, El was considered the exalted "father of years" (abu shanima), the "father of man" (abu adami), and "father bull", that is, the progenitor of the gods, tacitly likened to a bull in the midst of a herd of cows. Like Homer's Zeus, he was "the father of men and gods."
FROM: Religion of the Canaanites

In Semitic religions, sometimes indicating a specific god, at other times indicating "god" in general.
In ancient times, the word "El" was used for "God" all over the Middle East. Its meaning could be interpreted as 'power' (from Hebrew) or 'first' (from Aramaic), two designations that can be seen as complementary.
When El is used as the name of a god, he is the main god, the god of power. Epithets for El can be "Father of mankind, "Creator of the creatures", "Benevolent and merciful" and "The source of the river."
When El is not used as a god's name, it still indicates the highest god. Other references to the highest god may be Adon, "Lord", Baal, "Master", or Malek, "king."
In Canaanite and Phoenician religions, El had his own cult centres, unlike the way in which the highest god was treated in many other polytheistic religions.
From the ancient Syrian town of Ugarit, inscriptions to El as Qds (holy) have been found. Here he is also the husband of Asherah and the father of all the other gods, except Baal.
In general, El is not active in myths. He shares such a status with other higher gods in their pantheons.
He is most commonly represented as a bull. He may also be depicted as an old man with a long beard and even two wings.
The Old Testament uses El as a synonym for Yahweh.
FROM: Encyclopedia of the Orient

Leader of the gods. The first Canaanite god, El dwelt on Mount Saphon, and it was under his aegis that Baal married Anat, defeated the sea god Yam and the death lord Mot, and was installed as the divine bestower of life-giving rain. Represented as an aged man, El wore bull's horns, the symbol of strength, and was usually depicted as seated. It is thought that he corresponded to the Hebrew god, Yahweh. He is also known as El 'Elyon, "God Most High."
Athirat is the Canaanite Earth and Mother Goddess, called "Creator of the Gods", who is also known as Asherah. The God El, (the name just means "God") is Her brother and husband; She is famed for Her great wisdom and as such acts as El's counsellor. She is known for Her protective attitude and kindliness towards Her many children, and frequently persuades El to act on their behalf. She was said to be the mother of the seventy gracious Gods, as well as the Gods Ba'al and Athtar the Terrible, the King of the Earth who is perhaps a desert God, Marah, a benevolent Water-Goddess, and Anat, the Maiden Warrior Goddess. She is often confused with Ashtart (better known by Her Greek name, Astarte), as well as Anat, and the three may all represent differing aspects of the same Great Goddess.

Athirat is associated with the Tree of Life, and a famous ivory box-lid of Mycenean workmanship found at Ugarit, dating from 1300 BCE, shows Her as symbolically representing the Tree. She wears an elaborate skirt and jewelry, and though topless Her hair is delicately dressed; She is smiling, and in Her hands She holds wheat sheaves, which She offers to a pair of goats.
When El was young, he came across two beautiful Goddesses washing their clothes in the Sea. They were Athirat and the Goddess Rahmaya, and, after buttering Them up by cooking a meal for Them, He asked them to choose between being His daughters or wives. They choose the latter and became the mothers of the Gods Shachar "Dawn" and Shalim "Dusk". Rohmaya is evidently a double of Athirat, and perhaps these two aspects of the Mother Goddess bear some connection to Ashtart as Goddess of Morning and Evening Stars, i.e., the planet Venus. (Shalim is considered in some lineages to be the father of Helel, the "Light Bringer", in Latin, Lucifer, the Morning Star.)

Athirat is a key player in the 14th century BCE Epic of Ba'al. In this tale, the River-God Yam has been made King of the Gods by His father El; but His rule was harsh, and the Gods begged their mother Athirat to intercede for them. She offers Herself to Yam, but Ba'al Her son will not hear of it; instead He sets out to destroy Yam Himself. After He succeeds, He laments that He has no palace, as befits a son of the Goddess Athirat. He entreats Her to get El's permission to build this house, which She successfully does. In this Epic of Ba'al it is important to note that Athirat, Ashtart and Anat are seperate and distinct Goddesses with their own roles and personalities.

Athirat is a powerful Goddess, and many times the other Gods ask for Her to help Them, or to try to influence Her husband El for Their good. As the keeper of Wisdom She is the one who chooses the successor to Aleyin (an aspect of Ba'al as the dying vegetation God), and after His death She instructs Anat in the proper ritual needed to ensure the fertility of the vines.
She is connected with the Sea, as She is said to live by its shores; and Her sons are called "the Cleavers of the Sea": She was invoked to protect sailors and sea-farers.

She shared El's temple in Ugarit (the modern Ras Shamrah) and many representations of Her are known from that site. She was considered the consort of Ba'al-Hadad in Syria and had a temple there. The Ashtoreth of the Hebrew Scriptures, worshipped along with Ba'al as a divine pair, may refer to Athirat the Mother Goddess, or to Ashtart (Astarte). There is much confusion on the subject, among both ancient and modern sources, and it's likely I'm just as confused, though I have done my best. As "Ba'al" is properly a title meaning "Lord" and was used of differing Gods depending on the location, it is quite possible that what is meant in the Bible by "Asheroth" simply refers to the local chief Goddess as the consort of Ba'al or El, which in some places would be Ashtart, in others Athirat. See Ashtart for the Biblical references.

Like Ashtart, Athirat is associated with the lion. She is generally shown as a nude Goddess with curly hair cupping Her breasts with Her hands. She is also associated with the snake, and an alternate name for Her is Chawat, which in Hebrew transliterates to "Hawah", or in English "Eve"; so She may well be the root of the Biblical Eve. Like the later Carthaginian Goddess Tanit, whose name means "Serpent Lady", Athirat was represented as a palm tree or pillar with a snake coiled around it, and the name Athirat derives from a root meaning "straight".

Atargatis of Syria is likely a late combination of or confusion with both Athirat and Ashtart/Astarte.

Alternate spellings: 'Athirat, Airat, Asherat, Asherah, Sherah. In the Ugaritic texts She is called Ashertu, and called the unfaithful wife of Elkunirsa, a forerunner of El. The Hittites knew Her as Ashertus or Asertu; to the Amorites She was Ashirta; and to the Akkadians She was Ashratum.

Titles: "Athirat-of-the-Sea", "Lady of the Sea", "Mother of the Gods", "In Wisdom the Mistress of the Gods", "Mistress in Wisdom", "Lady Who Treads Upon the Sea"; Elat or Elath, "Goddess" (this likely makes Her related to the Arabian Goddess Al-Lat); Labi'atu, "the Lion Lady"; Dat ba'thani, "Lady of the Serpent"; Rabat Chawat 'Elat, "Great Lady Eve the Goddess"; Qudshu or Qadesh, "Holy" is a title used of Her as well as Anat. In the Sinai She was given the epithet "Lady of Turquoise", and the Egyptians equated Her with their Hathor.
FROM: Thalia Took's Obscure Goddesses Directory "Elat"


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