Tuesday, October 1, 2013

God Choron: Enchanter, Exorcist, Enforcer

Dark and silent, Choron the apotropaic mage shrouds himself in secrecy. This chthonic god heals and harms, shields and strikes. His name is transliterated into English a number of ways: Choron, Ḥoranu, Horon, and sometimes Hauron. The ch or ḥ sound is pronounced like the ch in Chanukah or Bach. This god was worshiped in both Bronze Age Canaan as well as New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty Egypt where he was connected with the sphinx as Horemakhet-Hauron; however the best information we have on Choron comes from Canaanite incantations. Three thousand year old cuneiform tablets originating in city of Ugarit—now the Syrian city of Ras Shamra—tell of Choron as an underworld god, an exorcist, and a protector.

As a dark lord in the underworld,1 he bears both beneficial and baneful attributes. Snakes are his favored creatures. His face becomes shadowed—perhaps in anger—when snakes are disrespected.

In one situation, his “face turns dark” because “his creatures are deprived of their young.”2 He protects against toxin, especially that of snake venom. In an Ugaritic incantation for snake bite, Choron marries a persona named Mare. Mare might be a mythological mother of all horses, a horse goddess, or a divinized horse; Mare’s mother or authority figure is the sun goddess Shapshu. In the text, venomous snakes have troubled Mare’s children so when Mare seeks a marriage between herself and Choron, she demands that Choron present a gift of venomous snakes to her family. Presumably this indicates that with Mare’s family in keeping of the snakes, the snakes will be less likely to harm her children.

In the snake bite spell, Choron makes a magical act through the use of tamarisk, reed, and the fruit-bearing stalks of a date palm, perhaps symbolically to gather the venom. He then expels and exorcises the venom by dispersing it in running water.3 In Mesopotamian purification rites, priests use tamarisk as an asperger to cleanse an area of profane or unwanted influences then follow up with incense, using the smoke to further clear the area. After the incense, they sweep the area then make an offering. Priests use sound in the ritual: they drum or ring a copper bell. They make more offerings—this time to a river—perhaps with a similar idea that the flowing water will dilute and sweep away the illness or venom.4

Besides snake bite, Ugaritic texts note Choron as called upon for dispersing illness, blockage, erectile dysfunction, and harm caused by malicious sorcery.5 In another Ugaritic text, Ditanu, the deceased (rapi’u) legendary father of the royal house, instructs a caregiver to fill a container made of animal skin with myrrh and put the container in Choron’s temple, place another container of myrrh in Ba‘al’s temple, and put another item in the child’s house. These actions would bring the illness to its culmination and take away the “bitterness” of the illness.6 In an incantation against erectile dysfunction, a priest calls upon Choron to drive away any malicious sorcerers that may cause or exacerbate the patient’s condition.

Besides driving away malicious sorcery, Choron serves a protective roll as called upon in curses. A common Canaanite curse is “Choron crack your skull!” This curse is as common as our English expression “Go to hell!”7 and expresses a similar sentiment. King Kirtu of Ugaritic legend uses this curse when his son usurps the throne,8 and the storm god Ba‘al Hadad levels the same curse against the sea god Yamm when Yamm vies for supremacy over the earth.9 In an Egyptian curse, Choron and ‘Anat act against a wolf or a harmful entity in wolf form: “Horon make thy fangs impotent, thy foreleg is cut off by Arsaphes, after ‘Anat has cut thee down.”10



In my experience with Choron, I have called upon him in a healing capacity to release, gently and expediently, the pressure of a sinus headache—I felt the pressure release starting with the middle of my forehead and trail down to my left temple, leaving equilibrium in its place. I feel that he is a protective god of the strong, silent variety. It can take a while to get to know him—because it seems that one must embrace his silence. I feel that the song Voodoo by Godsmack is somehow associated with him because often when I work with him, that song seems to come up. I feel that he can protect from malicious spiritual or physical entities, and he can be asked to cleanse the self or an area prior to ritual or as needed. Many times I call upon him when praying to make holy water. I often see a serpent or more specifically a horned viper as his symbol.


Endnotes

1. Simon Parker, Ed. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, Society of Biblical Literature, U.S.A., 1997, pgs. 4, 48 #172.
2. Parker 222
3. Dennis Pardee. Ritual and Cult at Ugarit, Society of Biblical Literature, U.S.A., 2002, p. 178.
4. Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia. University of Texas Press, TX, USA, 1992, p. 127
5. Parker 219, Pardee 160
6. Pardee 171-2
7. Mark S. Smith. The Ugaritic Baal Cycle, Volume I: Introduction with Text, Translation and Commentary of KTU 1.1-1.2. E.J. Brill, Leiden, the Netherlands, 1994, p. 278.
8. Parker 42
9. Parker 98
10. Smith 271

Today is

26 Niqalu, Shanatu 86

It has been twenty-six days since the previous new moon. It has been 86 years since the rediscovery of the Bronze Age Canaanite city of Ugarit.

Image Notes

Photograph of a horned viper, taken by Patrick Jean. Photograph in Public Domain.


Article Notes

Article is an excerpt I wrote for Anointed: A Devotional Anthology for the Deities of the Near and Middle East.


2 comments:

  1. Wacky idea, but I wonder: might there be some influence of Choron, even in just the name, on the Greek deity Charon? They're not exactly similar, but at the same time, the ways that a variety of Near Eastern deities made their ways to Greece and the forms in which they ended up aren't always very parallel to their parent culture's portrayals.

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    1. I have seen that idea bandied around before. My sense of it is that if there is a connection, it is tenuous. Choron is not much of a psychopomp, although he could if he had to. He is more of a remover of poison, venom, and miasmic-like contagion. I have also seen his name compared to the Egyptian god Horus. I'd still find the connection tenuous--maybe not quite erroneous, but *tenuous*. That will require further research + meditation on my part.

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