Ba’al

Ba’al (1)

He Who Mounts the Clouds; The Prince

Origin: Semitic

Ba’al is not actually a name but a title that literally means “Master” and generally refers to a spirit whose name is Hadd, Haddad, Addad, or some variation of that name. Ba’al’s primarymodern fame is from the Bible, where he is the spirit railed against by the Hebrew prophets.

Ba’al is the epitome of male sexual prowess and fertility. He is responsible for life-giving rain and is petitioned for fertility, abundance, and protection. Ba’al belongs to a family of spirits:

• El and Lady Asherah of the Sea are his parents.

• Anat is his sister, lover, partner, and bodyguard.

In Ugaritic (Canaanite) mythology, Ba’al and El have a contentious relationship. If one understands El as corresponding to the God of Israel, then this contentiousness serves to explain much of the biblical antipathy to Ba’al. Ba’al is frequently venerated beside his mother, Lady Asherah of the Sea.

Ba’al travels with an entourage. His closest compatriot is Anat, but he also has a harem including spirits called Dew, Rain, and Plump Damsel. When Anat approaches he dismisses his other women, but it’s unclear whether this is because he really loves her most or because he, too, fears her rage. Ba’al travels with eight boar-hunters, which may refer to myths of Adonis. He has two servant spirits who act as his envoys:

• Gahpen or Gahfen (Vine)

• Ugar (Field)

Ecstatic dance was integral to his rites. It is theorized that vestiges of choreography may survive among dervish traditions.

Manifestations: A large, handsome, virile, youthful man or sometimes as such a man with a bull’s head

Attributes: Other than his horned helmet and his lightning bolt, Ba’al’s attributes are weapons. His arsenal includes a spear, mace, battle axe, double axe (labrys), and two bludgeons named Ayamur (Driver) and Yagrush (Chaser). Ba’al is always armed and ready for action; he has a dagger at his belt.

Realm: Ba’al lives in a palace of gold, silver, and lapis lazuli with but one window through which he sends rain, thunder, and lightning to Earth.

Animal: Bull

Tree: Cypress

Sacred places: Mount Saphon (Syria); Mount Carmel (Israel)

Offerings: Fruit

Various Ba’alim (plural) are associated with different locations. It is unclear whether these Ba’alim are paths or local manifestations of the same spirit or whether they are closely related but distinct spirits. (See the Glossary entry for Path for further information.) The Ba’alim include:

• Ba’al Addir: A Phoenician/Punic path of Ba’al venerated in Byblos and North Africa; possibly the spirit the Romans called Jupiter Valens, who was worshipped by Rome’s African legions.

• Ba’al Berith: A Canaanite path of Ba’al. Judges 8:33 describes Hebrew veneration of Ba’al Berith following Gideon’s death. Ba’al Berith literally means “Master of the Covenant,” but it could be interpreted to mean “Master of Circumcision.” Because of this, some scholars believe he was venerated in the form of a phallus. (See also: Baalberith.)

• Ba’al Haddad: Ba’al in his Ugaritic path as Spirit of Thunder. This is the best known and documented Ba’al.

• Ba’al Hammon: “Lord of the Smoking Altars” was the primary spirit of Carthage, where he was worshipped as a fertility-bestowing spirit since at least the ninth century BCE. It is unclear whether he was imported to North Africa by the Phoeni cians or whether the Phoenicians used the name Ba’al to identify a local Berber spirit. The Romans identified him with Saturn. “Smoking altars” is believed to refer to the Phoenician incense trade. (See also: Hammu Qaiyu.)

• Ba’al Karnaim: This name literally means “Two Horned Ba’al” or the “Two Horned Master”; scholars theorize that he or Ba’al Haddad is the Ba’al of the Bible. He may have shared a shrine with Astarte in Karnaim, now modern Jordan. They may also have been venerated together on the sacred mountain, Jebel Bu Karnin, near Carthage, south of modern Tunis. (The mountain features two peaks, separated by a gorge, and resembles a pair of horns.)

• Ba’al Lebanon: This is generally considered the same spirit as Ba’al Haddad.

• Ba’al Marqod: This form, literally “Master of the Dance,” was venerated near modern Beirut. He is a spirit of healing; the Romans identified him with Jupiter.

• Ba’al Merodach: This form was venerated as the head of the celestial pantheon in Babylon and Assyria. He has four attack dogs: Akkulu (Eater), Ikssuda (Grasper), Iltebu (Holder), and Ukkumu (Seizer).

• Ba’al Peor: This, the Ba’al of Moab, is the Master of Mount Phegor. Also known as Ba’al Phegor, he was the subject of a Mystery tradition and may have been venerated in the form of a phallus. (See also: Belphegor.)

• Ba’al Shamin: This name literally means “Master of the Heavens” or “Master of the Sky.” He is the path of Ba’al venerated in Palmyra, Syria.

• Ba’al Zebub: This name literally means “Master of Flies.” Flies are associated with mysteries of birth and death. In the ancient Middle East, flies were understood as souls of the dead searching for new incarnations. Ba’al Zebub is Lord of the Flies, Shepherd of Souls. His name inspired William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies. His center of veneration was the Philistine city of Ekron, just west of Jerusalem. Second Kings 1:2–3 records that Ahaziah, King of Israel fell ill and sent emissaries to Ba’al Zebub’s shrine at Ekron to divine whether or not he would recover. (See also: Beelzebub.)

• Ba’al Zephon: This form, literally “Master of the North,” was venerated near the Red Sea. Legend suggests that he tricked the Egyptians into pursuing the Israelites into the Red Sea. (See also: Adonis; Anat; Asherah of the Sea; Astarte; Ba’al (2); Elagabal; Jezebel; Jupiter; Melkart; Tanit.)

Judika Illes
From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.