A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Cannanite Myth of Seasons

Biblical Cannan refers to the present day Syria and Palestine and the neighbouring areas. The mythology of this region in due course came to be known as Cannanite Mythology. The trade routes led to a cross-cultural integration with two of the major cultures of its time, Egypt and Mesopotamia, which have left their impact on the Cannanite Mythology.

The myth involves two main deities, the twins, Baal and Mot. It is important to understand the nature of the two deities. Baal is a deity of fertility, vegetation and a life giver. He is the protagonist of the myth. His twin, Mot is the antagonist and the opposite of all that Baal stands for. Mot is death personified and a sign of infertility and drought. This is also a classic myth of a set of twins who are both opposites of each other, but we will discuss this aspect a little later.

The myth starts with a long-standing conflict between the two. At one point of time, Baal accepts Mot’s supremacy, but declines to honour him in any form, even when all the other deities do so. This angers Mot to no end and sends a giant lion to devour him. When Baal realizes that it is no use to resist and he has to give up, he sends message through the minor deities that he is willing to submit. But before he goes to meet Mot, he copulates with a cow, leaving his seed in the cow’s womb.

Mot personified as drought
When Baal reaches Mot, he is killed by Mot and there is no life on earth. Anath, was Baal’s sister and lover. When she came to know about the death of Baal and his burial in the underworld, she goes in search for him and brings back his body and gives it a proper burial. After mourning his death, she goes to the underworld and defeats Mot in a bloody battle. Mot pleads for his life and claims that Baal’s death was a natural need! She cuts Mot into pieces and the pieces are thrown all over the land.

It is at this stage that the principal deity El gets a dream that Baal could still be alive. He recalls Anath and together the resurrect Baal and appoint him the King. But Mot, who has not been completely done with, now wants to eliminate Baal completely and vows revenge. El, who is the father of both, resolves the feud by arbitrating on behalf of both. Having resurrected Baal and the whole atmosphere having changed, it was decided that one half of the year would see Baal ruling and the other half would see Mot’s rule.

Let us put the above myth is perspective. The above is the Canaanite myth of seasons. Baal represents vegetation and all life giving activities and Mot represents drought and lack of vegetation. When Baal decides to submit into Mot’s rule, we are approaching Winter. The death of Baal is the setting of winter, when no vegetation is seen and the ground is barren. The cutting to pieces of Mot is the cutting of dry wheat into chaff and spread all over the dry ground. The resurrection of Baal brings in the rains and the dry chaff is buried deep into the ground and soon bears life. By the time Baal is appointed King, it is the advent of Spring and Mot has to retire to the underworld. El’s resolution of both getting to rule is nothing but an acceptance of the cylical nature of seasons. Thus during the rule of Baal we see a different season with life all around us and during the reign of Mot we see barren and dry land and cold all over. The act of Baal’s copulation with a cow could be seen as an act of leaving some aspect of his fertility alive elsewhere. To explain further, there is some vegetation even during winter. (However we do not have more on this later due to missing aspects of the myth). Anat’s catalytic role is to be seen as different forces of nature which contribute to the advent of spring and the rains which come as an elixir on the dry parched land.

Here is a classic case of twins in rivalry, one being a protagonist and the other being an antagonist. If we see closely, both are needed in the cycle of life. Without sunset, there is no significance of the sunrise just as without winter, there is no advent of Spring leading to summer.

Our early thinkers have given us a beautiful myth to explain the cyclical nature of seasons and the relevance of both. It is this relevance and the necessity of two integral aspects in life that has been portrayed in the form of twins; similar, but at the same time different in their nature. There is no hero here and no villain, because both are needed for a balance in nature. With a focus on the seasonal explanation, a good literary conflict has also been built into the myth with the theory of rivalry thrown in.

Please note that the myth is a voluminous one with lots of conversation and dialogue at the same time a lot of it has been missing from the original. The above is an extremely concise form of the myth with a lot of aspects of the myth eliminated to allow a fictional flow.


  1. I've had a real hard time finding sources that match the elements of the myth to the actual seasons. Where did you get your cycle of Baal's death = winter, resurrection = Spring & rule = summer?
    This site suggests a different seasonal sequence: http://members.megapipe.net/jstafford/baal.htm but I don't know how reliable it is.

  2. Some part of what has been written is based on an article by G S Kirk, which I had access from a library. I don't have the hard copy of the same, else I would have scanned and sent the same. I will go thru the link sent by you, and comment only thereafter. I hope you found the articel interesting and relevant.