Fertility scenes in the Negev Desert Rockart
Rituals in Negev Desert, Egypt, and Canaan
Copyright © 2018 by Yehuda Rotblum
Nature fertility rituals existed long before the agricultural revolution. The rituals were inspired by nature sprouting where earth and water and reproduction played a major role. The lack of water in the desert facilitated its dwellers to develop rituals to promote land fertility. They turn their prayers to the stars, their gods, for a blessing by and played out acts imitating nature reproduction. In our region, the Negev Desert they borrowed from Egyptian myths, especially the role of Orion that represented Osiris. He was the god of the underworld, Nile flood, and fertility. The fertility rites re-enacted, symbolically, sexual acts as reproductive processes of man, animals, and land. Spreading semen over land or water was a visual act practiced in the ancient world to promote fertility as we can see in the following examples of Rockart from the Negev Desert.
The rites of holy matrimony between the sky and the earth goddess were part of the New Year ceremonies celebrated in Mesopotamia in the spring. The king represented the god Dumuzi that mated with the high priestess representing the earth goddess. In Babylon, this ritual was represented by mating between the gods Tammuz and Ishtar.
In Canaan, the ritual of Baal and Asherah was celebrated. The rain envisioned as Baal’s semen, which “impregnated” the earth and Asherah, his wife, the goddess of fertility. It was natural for people to relate fertility as a heavenly pairing between the rain god and the fertility goddess.
Fig.1 Blessed rain falling and impregnating the earth, Negev Desert Rockart.
Rain in the arid desert during the winter time, considered as the fertile season, is blessed as shown in Fig.1. It artistically exemplifies the gratitude the male and female gods display, their bird-like features show that they are gods.
Osiris role in Egypt
Egypt is surrounded by a desert, with the Nile River crossing the whole kingdom. It’s the main artery of life in Egypt that caused agriculture to flourish and made Egypt into a powerful kingdom in the ancient world.
The main God in Egypt associated with the Nile inundation was Osiris. According to the myth he was killed on by his brother Set who wanted the throne. Set chopped Osiris into fourteen pieces and threw the pieces into the Nile River. Isis, Osiris wife, and sister wandered the world to collect Osiris body pieces. When she found them all she put him together and inserted his semen into her body. Isis became pregnant and gave birth to Horus, their son, to sustain the dynasty. Thus Osiris became the god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead, but more appropriately the god of resurrection and regeneration. His death represented the yearly Egyptian drought, while his miraculous rebirth represented the flooding of the Nile Valley nourishing the land. The flooding Nile spread over the river banks created rich mounds of fertile land that yielded the agriculture magic in Egypt. To assure fertility Pharaohs would perform a ceremony, which involved masturbating at the riverbank and making sure that his semen followed the Nile River’s waters.
Osiris and Isis Celestial gods
The ancients Egyptians mapped the stars in different days and seasons. The stars became the upper gods that all worshipped. Osiris, a mythological character, was the great king and hero in the Egyptian mythology accompanied by his beloved wife Isis. We recognize this royal pair this from paintings on coffin lids and tomb walls. Osiris and Isis have been clearly identified in the sky scene representing the Orion constellation and Canis Major as shown in Fig2.
Fig.2 Osiris and Isis the are constructed from the constellation of Orion and Canis Major
The main star in Canis Major constellation is Sirius. It’s heliacal rising in July heralded the Nile flood and marked the beginning of the New Year. In Egypt’s Pyramid Texts is written: “Your sister Isis comes to you [Osiris] rejoicing for love of you. You have placed her on your phallus and your seed issues into her….” This event marks the beginning of the fertile season in Egypt.
Symbol of Fertility in the Negev Desert
In the Negev Desert, the fertility god, Orion, appears as an ibex (see Ibex and Rockart ). In Fig3 two ibexes are shown, one is upright marking the vigorous alive ibex and the other is turned upside down symbolically marking death. Their orientation corresponds to the desert seasons, the upright ibex marks the fertile season during winter time, and the dead ibex marks the summertime when everything dies from the scorching sun. The horns of the winter ibex are decorated showing the potency he carries and the summer ibex is without any decoration or is lifeless.
Fig.3 Ibex orientation indicates the winter and summer seasons
The sniffing dog scene in Negev Rockart
On a winter night, the epic drama starring Orion plays out on the celestial stage. You can see Orion taking the stage followed by his great dog the Canis Major constellation. Their glorious appearance marks the beginning of Negev Desert fertile season. In Negev Desert rockart they appear as an ibex followed by a dog. As we know dogs navigate the world via their sensitive nose glands, and the action of sniffing the crotch of human or other animals is their way of gathering information. Their nose is sensitive and can detect ovulation, a state of fertility, in animals and people.
Fig.4 The sniffing dog scene, Orion, and Isis in the winter time. Negev Desert Rockart.
Fig4 is a faithful illustration of the sniffing dog scene, which is taken from sky image in the winter time with Orion and his dog. Three different scenes illustrate the same idea where the dog’s nose is touching or sniffing, the ibex behind. The dog sniffs the “ovulating” ibex with the decorated horns, that represents a fertility god. Symbolically the dog entices the ibex to ejaculate sperm, notice the ibex erect phallus and the spray of semen underneath. He is fertilizing the land a copy of the Egyptian Pharaoh actions during the Nile inundation. This scene is a mixture of winter sky image with an adaptation of earthly dog behavior. An imaginative recorded Rockart for desert generations to induce land fertility.
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.