Sunday, September 12, 2004
Ba'al is Dead
Back down at the bottom of the mountain, in his tent, Aaron is dreaming. It is a dream of Ba’al. Which is sort of treasonous, because he’s supposed to be the first priest of Yahweh, but face it, Ba’al is bigger than Yahweh. Ba’al is El’s first son and second in command. And since El mostly holes up in his hall up on top of the mountain (not Mt. Sinai where Moses is now, another one), between the two rivers that are the source of the world’s oceans, in practice Ba’al is boss. Yahweh is just some shmuck lower down on the chain of command. And nobody likes Yahweh anyway. He’s an insufferable prig.
Anyway, in this dream there is a god named Mot, god of death and the underworld, who is so hungry that he wants to eat Ba’al. Aaron sees Ba’al quivering with dread and instructing his assistants Gapan and Ugar to placate Mot with promises. “‘Be gracious, divine Mot,’ you should say, ‘for I am your slave, your servant, your hired gun forever.’” This is a huge concession for the mighty Ba’al, and Mot is very happy. In his dream Aaron sees Mot dancing and throwing up his hands with joy. He invites the humbled Ba’al to come to the underworld to party with him and his friends. “‘Tell your master,’ he tells Gapan and Ugar, ‘to bring his clouds and winds, thunderbolts and rains.’” Ba’al, after all, is the god of weather, and of nature. “‘Tell him to bring his seven serving boys and eight serving girls, and his three daughter-brides.’” Ba’al calls to the cattle god Shegar, asks him to gather up a bunch of cattle and sheep and take them along with some other gods down to Mot.
When he goes to Mot’s kingdom he will be as one who has died. Aaron can feel his dread at this prospect. It is a very sharp visceral pain. He clutches at his stomach in his sleep. Before he goes down to the underworld, Ba’al decides to have one last fling. In the fields by the shore of the kingdom of death, he finds a heifer and fucks her eighty-eight times. It is a mighty fucking. To sustain him in his labor Ba’al requires his companions to strip naked and fuck along with him, men and women, men and men, women and women. There is a lot of sensuous writhing and moaning and crying out in sweet agony there in the field by the shore of the kingdom of death. Whenever his companions waver in their ardor, when they fall back spent, Ba’al bellows at them to get up and fuck some more, or he will fall back spent himself, and then he will be dead.
When at last he is done, the heifer conceives and bears him a boy, a calf who is Ba’al’s twin, with golden skin. Ba’al picks up his robe off the ground where he threw it and wraps it around the boy and sends him along with the other gifts to Mot.
The dream moves to El’s hall on the mountaintop. Ba’al’s messengers are telling El that they found Ba’al dead in a field by the shore of the kingdom of death. El staggers down off his throne, weeping; sits on the ground; dumps ashes in his hair, rolls in the dirt, puts on sackcloth. He cuts his flesh — something Yahweh’s followers are strictly forbidden to do. Yahweh doesn’t even allow tattoos, because you have to cut the flesh to make one. Anat, El’s daughter, Ba’al’s sister and wife, comes in and finds her father moaning on the floor. When she hears that Ba’al her brother and husband is dead, she goes in search of him and finds his body on the shore of the lake of death.
She too mourns for Ba’al, cutting her flesh and wailing. She calls on Shapash the sun goddess to help her carry Ba’al’s dead body back to Mt. Tsaphon, where Ba’al lived in life. There they bury the body and throw a great funeral feast. Many animals are slaughtered and sacrificed. Because Ba’al the god of rains is dead, the water in the well is perilously low.
Anat is a great lover. But she is an even greater warrior. She straps on her armor and goes to the underworld to confront Mot. She seizes him by the throat and tortures him until he confesses that he ate Ba’al. With a mighty shriek she brings her sword down on his belly and splits him wide open. She builds a bonfire and burns his body to ashes, then sows the ashes in the fields. Birds eat him one tiny black morsel at a time.
In his dream Aaron dreams that El dreams that Ba’al is alive. He rejoices, dances and sings. He tells Anat and Shapash that Ba’al lives. But no one knows where he is. The fields are parched without Ba’al’s rain. The whole world mourns the death of Ba’al. Shapash the torch of the gods looks for him in vain.
Aaron wakes from his dream in a sweat. He knows that he must do whatever it is in his power to do to bring Ba’al back from the dead.