Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Iluma, The Canaanite Pantheon

Canaanite God in Smiting Pose.The word Iluma, or ʻilūma, comes from the Canaanite language of Ugaritic and means "gods" and refers to the Canaanite pantheon. Sometimes the word is lengthened to ʻilahūma, and it is from this variation that one of the Hebrew names for "god" comes from: Elohīm. The iluma, or puḫru ilīma (Assembly of Gods) meets atop the legemdary Mount Lalu, sometimes called Lel. Mount Tzapunu (Ṣapunu), Ba'lu Haddi's holy mountain, known as Mount Casius or Jebel al-Aqra'a in Lebanon is as important to the Canaanites in the city of Ugarit as Mount Olympus is to the Greeks. In no particular order below are the Iluma, the Canaanite gods and goddesses: this is by no means an exhaustive list--I just cover the more well-known deities here.

’Ilu, Ilu, El: King of the Pantheon, Father of Years, known as the kind, compassionate, and benevolent one. He is never angry and does not punish his immortal and mortal children. Thought of as being far away, he is often reachable through his wife Athiratu. Lives on Mount Kasu.

’Aṯiratu, Athirat, Asherah: Queen Mother of the Pantheon, Co-creatress of the Universe. Known as wise and nurturing, but not to be slighted. Biblical peoples may have continued to venerate her throughout the first half of the Hebrew Bible. Some believe the Shekhina of today’s Judaism hearkens back to her.

Šapšu, Shapshu, Shapash: Goddess of the Sun, Torch of the Deities. Warm and loving, associated with horses, goes to visit the underworld at night. She often delivers messages for Ilu.

Yariḫu, Yarikhu, Yarikh: God of the Moon, Lamp of the Deities, whose night dew fertilizes Nikkalu. He is sometimes portrayed as “horned,” symbolic of the “horn” of the crescent moon.

Nikkal, Nikkalu-wa-Ibbu, Nikkal-wa-Ib: Goddess of the Orchards, or perhaps related to the Sumerian goddess Ningal. Nikkalu's name means “Fruitful and Beautiful.” She is Yarikhu's wife. The oldest recorded piece of music in the world is a hymn to this goddess. For links to recordings of this song, see Canaanite Music Link Bazaar.

Rašpu, Rašap, Rashap, Reshep, Reshef: God of healing, burning plague, and warfare. He is sometimes associated with gazelles. In Egyptian stelae, a composite "Semitic" goddess Qudshu, stands between the god Rashap of war and plaque, and the god Min of fertility.

Kaṯiru-wa-Ḫasisu, Koṯaru-wa-Ḫasīsu, Kothar-wa-Hasis, Kathir-wa-Khasis: Skillful and Clever. Known as the craftsman and mage god, possibly related or cognate to Egypt’s Ptah or Thoth.

‘Anatu, Anat: The Adolescent Warrior Goddess, loyal and loving with a short temper. Supporter of Ba‘lu. Said to wade in the gore of her enemies.

‘Aṯtaru, 'Athtaru, Athtar: god of protection, warriors, youth, and personal property. He also sees to irrigation of fields and tries to substitute for Ba‘lu when Ba‘lu dies in the Ba'lu Epic tale from the city of Ugarit.

‘Aṯartu, 'Athtartu, Athtart: originally a goddess of justice, balance, treaties, and perhaps even hunting. Possibly also a goddess of stars. She later morphs into the goddess known as Astarte in Greek and the Babylonian Ishtar. In the bible she is known as “ashtoreth” to link her name with the word “boseth” which means “shame.” she seems to have a peaceful nature in Canaanite mythology.

Ba‘lu, Ba'al, Ba'lu Haddi, Ba‘al Hadad: the Thunderer, the Storm God, fights the forces of Motu (Death) and Yammu (Sea), the Ba‘al Epic is the most extensive piece of literature left to us from the Canaanites. Often he is just called "Ba'lu" or "Ba'al" but his full name is "Ba'lu Haddi." "Ba'lu" or "Ba'al" are simply titles which mean "lord" and are applied to more gods than just this storm god.

Dagan, Dagnu: God of Grain and Ba‘lu’s father.

Yammu, Yam: God of Sea and River and sometimes chaotic weather patterns. Ba‘lu, using Kathir’s magic weapons, fights Yammu for his position in the pantheon. One of Yammu’s “henchmen” is Litan, a sea-serpent and later known as the biblical Leviathan.

Mot, Motu: God of Death, Heat-Death, and Sterility. His mouth is the devouring mouth of the grave. The Canaanites never make offerings to Motu.

Lilith is not a part of the Canaanite pantheon. Lilitu originates as Lamashtu, the Sumerian evil spirit. The Canaanites, specifically the Ugaritans, knew of Lamashtu, and warded against her. Lamashtu and Lilitu were known as evil entities who harmed infants and pregnant women.

Note: Deities have multiple combinations of names because names can change over time and because the Ugaritans often did not write down vowel sounds. However, scholars and linguists reconstruct vocalizations on the basis of texts from Ugarit written in Akkadian--a syllabic language--and by comparative studies with other Semitic languages such as Aramaic, Hebrew, and Arabic.

This list of deities is by no means exhaustive and covers primarily deities known in the Late Bronze Age (1200 BCE, 3200 years ago) in the Canaanite city of Ugarit. The deities themselves were known in the area as far back as the Middle Bronze age at least, and their worship lasted into the Classical age. Their worship is now being revived, especially in the religion of Natib Qadish, and in the offerings and worship of many other Canaanite, Phoenician, and Carthaginian polytheists.

Yishlam le-ilīma ugariti, yishlam le-ilīma kina'ani.

"Peace and wellbeing to the gods of Ugarit, peace and wellbeing to the gods of Canaan," in Ugaritic.

Today is: Day 4 Ithtabuma (month), Shanatu 84 (year)

Photo Credits: Image of a Canaanite god, likely Ba'al Hadad the storm god, in smiting pose. Photographer: Jastrow. Photo released into Public Domain, and accessed here:


  1. thank you for your interesting informations, keep up the great work you are doing and good luck

  2. Hi Tess :) I'm not sure if you've had a chance to see the interview with Thom Stark but he shares some great insight into the Polytheist origins of Judaism. I stumbled across it when reading a similar recent article elsewhere:
    "Deuteronomy 32 indicates that Yahweh was believed to have been one of the children of the Canaanite deity El Elyon (God Most High). The song describes how the nations were originally formed, and what it says is that the peoples of the earth were divided up according to the number of El Elyon's children (the junior members of the divine pantheon). Yahweh, Israel's patron deity, was one of Elyon's children.

    The best evidence suggests that Yahweh did not begin as the "only true God" of later Jewish monotheism; he did not begin as the creator of the world. Yahweh began as a young, up-and-coming tribal deity whose prowess among other gods mirrored Israel's aspirations vis-a-vis surrounding tribes and nations." --- hope this isn't terribly off topic, but I see lots of discussion regarding similarities and differences etc and thought it was a good link. (from a Christian scholar nontheless!) *Peace*