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Ugaritic Baal Cycle

Rock art Baal and Mot cycleNegev Rockart

Ugaritic Baal Cycle, Canaanite Myth

According to the myth Baal and Mot, the two brothers sons of El the Canaanites supreme god, engaged in a constant struggle. Baal is associated with renewal, fertility, and rain and Mot is associated with death and the Underworld. Ugaritic Baal Cycle a known Canaanite myth circulated through the region describes Baal and Mot conflict as an attempt to explains nature behavior specifically the season’s changes. In this cyclical war, they are killed but since gods are immortal they come back to life, cyclically, just as nature behaves. The death and rebirth of Baal reflect the seasons’ change in the region and that’s the reason for the alternating cycle of summer, or drought, and the fertile winter rains. From Ugarit text, dated to c. 1500 BC: “there is no rain in its time ‘Ba’al fails’, being swallowed up by Mot, the god of drought “

Baal and Mot Myth

The myth describes their final battle (clay tablets Ugarit KTU 1.6.VI:12–22):

They shake each other like beasts; Mot is strong, Baal is strong.
They gore each other like buffaloes; Mot is strong, Baal is strong.
They bite like serpents; Mot is strong, Baal is strong.
They kick like racing beasts; Mot is down, Baal is down.

Their final battle fight takes place on Mount Zephon and it lasts until exhaustion. Finally, Shapash (Sun God) arrives and warns Mot that fighting Baal is useless since El now supports Baal and will overturn Mot’s throne. The fight terminates and the frighten Mot declares  Baal as the king.

Baal and Mot struggle in rock art

Fig.1 is a Rock Art from Negev Desert that illustrates Baal and Mot last battle. As brothers, they are equal in size and power, both engaged in an ongoing fierce fight, which includes strikes and kicks. One figure is standing with his hand on top, this is Baal and Mot is falling, hit by Baal’s weapon; the Thunderbolt a unique Baal symbol, the arrow above his head. Shapash (in red) separates the quarreling figures as the myth describes.

Ugaritic Baal cycle rock art negev desert

Fig. 1 Ugaritic Baal and Mot cycle, Negev Desert rock art

This one of a kind rock art that illustrates a struggle between two figures that echos the famous regional tale of the well known Baal and Mot myth.  The artist illustrated Baal and Mot frenzied struggle with minimum details. As a spectator,  you feel the fight dynamic as if you watching a moving scene. Their posture reflects the decisive moment and the outcome of this battle. It announces the victory of Baal by showing him standing upright and Mot is falling.

More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.

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