Baal and Mot Cycle
Copyright © 2016 by Yehuda Rotblum
In Canaanite belief, a constant struggle between good and evil is expressed in the myth of Baal and Mot. Ball and Mot were the sons of El, the supreme god of the Canaanites. Baal was associated with fertility and rain. Mot was associated with death and the Underworld. The Canaanite myth called Baal Cycle describes the struggle, between the two brothers. Their battle is an attempt to describe nature behavior. When they fight the earth trembles causing nature to change its course. In this cyclical war they are killed but since gods are immortal they come back to life, cyclically just as nature behaves, and the struggle continues. According to the myth, the death and rebirth of Baal are the cause of seasons change in the region, it is the cause for alternating cycle of summer or drought and the winter rains.
The myth describes their final battle:
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 they are both exhausted. Finally, Shapash ( God?) arrives and warns Mot that fighting Baal is useless since El now support Baal and will overturn Mot’s throne. Mot is afraid and declares that Baal is now the king.
Fig.1 is a Rockart from Negev Desert describes this last battle. It is a depiction of a strife between two figures: the gods Baal and Mot (each has a bird’s beak, indicating they are gods living in the sky like birds do). As brothers, they are equal in size and power. The scene describes the fierce struggle, which includes strikes and kicks. One figure is standing with his hand on top, this is Baal. Mot is falling, hit by Baal’s weapon; the lightning bolt, which is also his symbol and can be seen, in this image, as an arrow above Baal’s head. Shapash the figure in the center is separating between the warring brothers.
Fig. 1 Baal and Mot struggle, Negev Desert
This simple picture is full of life. The artist illustrated the frenzied struggle with very few details. As a spectator, you feel the dynamic of this fight. Their final 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. The engraver’s message is that the good forces will prevail!
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.