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El

(866 words)

Author(s): Xella, Paolo
[German Version] is the common term in the Semitic languages (except Ethiopic) to designate both “god” generically and a West Semitic deity. The etymology of the word is uncertain (presumably deriving from the root *'WL: “to be strong/powerful”). El is often attested as a theophoric element (“ilu”) in the Mesopotamian and Syrian personal names of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium bce. In some instances the theonym could refer to the “personal god” watching over …

Astarte

(183 words)

Author(s): Xella, Paolo
[German Version] Syrian goddess, already widely known in the Bronze Age (Ebla, Mari, Emar, Ugarit; unclear relationship to Mesopotamian Inanna/Ishtar). The …

Anath

(261 words)

Author(s): Xella, Paolo
[German Version] A Syrian goddess, known mainly through the texts of Ras Shamra/Ugarit, but who, already played a part among the Amurrite tribes (Mari, 18th cent. bce) and perhaps also in Meskene-Emar at the end of the Bronze Age. The name's etymology is not at all certain. In Ugarit Anath is a warrior and hunter, sister and lover of Baal, the city deity, at whose side she battles against the enemies of cosmic order. While Baal disappears in the Underworld, Anath finds his corpse, buries it ritually and then destroys Môt, the god of death. In this way she assists Baal in returning to life and personally battles against his mortal enemy. She is responsible for the death of Aqhat, the young hunter who may have violated a hunting or cultic taboo. Her prominent epithets include the following: “virgin,” “sister-in-law of the clan,” “mistress of the kingdom,” “mistress of high heaven.” At the time of the Asian invasion of the Egyptian delta her cult experienced some success. It is also attested in the Phoenician realm and in Cyprus, where she was assimilated with Athena. Although she may well have been known in the Hebrew area, atte…

Asherah

(223 words)

Author(s): Xella, Paolo
[German Version] is a Syro-Palestinian goddess attested already in the 18th century bce in Mesopotamian sources but well known because of the Ras-Shamra/Ugarit texts and the OT polemic against her. Traces of her cult can also be found in Egypt, Anatolia and southern Arabia. The etymology of the name of the goddess is uncertain. The Semitic origin of the goddess is confirmed by the Mesopotamian …

Atargatis

(211 words)

Author(s): Xella, Paolo
[German Version] Goddess of heaven and fertility, whose cult is attested from the end of the 4th century bce and was spread through Syria and northern Mesopotamia. Thence, under the name “Dea Syria,” the goddess spread westward, assimilated to Hera, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, and other goddesses, and successfully advanced into the Roman Empire. The divine name derives from the fusion of …

Cult/Worship

(8,783 words)

Author(s): Baudy, Dorothea | Xella, Paolo | Ego, Beate | Niebuhr, Karl-Wilhelm | Lehmkühler, Karsten | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. History of Scholarship – III. Ancient Near East – IV. Old Testament and Early Judaism – V. New Testament – VI. Philosophy of Religion – VII. Christianity – VIII. Liturgical Practice – IX. Ethics I. Religious Studies 1. Concept The word “cult” comes from Lat. cultus. Cicero ( De senectute 56) uses the phrase cultus deorum in the sense of “worship of the gods.” It invariably refers to acts of “care and tending”; in secular contexts the word denotes agrarian work (cf. agriculture). There are analog…