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Anat

by Ben White
Name Forms and Etymology
The name Anat occurs in several forms in Ugaritic, Hebrew, Akkadian, and Egyptian. In the Ugarit V Deity List it is spelled da-na-tu to be pronounced 'Anatu' 1. Otherwise in Phoenician it is `nt and is pronounced 'Anat', 'Anatu', 'Anath' or 'Anata'. The name is usually transliterated from Hebrew as 'Anath', but it could also be 'Anat'. The Akkadian form is usually written as 'Anta' or 'Antu'. The Egyptian forms are 'Anant', 'Anit', 'Anti', and 'Antit'. The etymology is uncertain and many proposals have been set forth, mostly by way of speculation. If the name is related to the root `n (ayin nun) signifying a spring of water it may represent a conection with the goddess Baalat Be`er know from a place name recorded in Vetus Testementum 2. (cf. Baalat Be`er)

History and Geography of Cult
A major goddess of fertility, sexual love, hunting and war. She was known among the Canaanites in prehistoric times. From the fertile agricultural area along the eastern Mediterranean coast, her cult had spread throughout the Levant by the middle of the third millennium BCE 3 . Around the beginning of the Phoenician period (circa 1200 BCE) Anat enjoyed a significant cult following. She was quite prominent at Ugarit, a major religious center, and appears frequently in Ugaritic literary works incorporating mythical elements, in deity and offering lists, and in votive inscriptions.

The cult had become established in Egypt by the end of the Middle Kingdom and attained prominence, particularly in Lower Egypt during the Hyksos Dynasty 4. She was represented at Memphis like all but the most local of deities, and sanctuaries were dedicated to her at the Hyksos capital of Zoan (Greek Tanis) and Beth-Shan. Her prestige reached its height in Egypt under Ramses II who adopted Anat as his personal guardian in battle. He named his daughter Bin-Anat, Daughter of Anat. He rebuilt Zoan and enlarged the sanctuary of Anat there, renaming the place, "City of Ramses". The Elephantine papyri dating from the late sixth century BCE indicate that Anat was one of the two goddesses worshiped at the Temple of Yahu (Yahweh) by the Jews on the island of Elephantine in the Nile 5.

In Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine the worship of Anat persisted into Christian times (c. 200 CE) 6, perhaps much longer in popular religion. In Egypt traditional religion was practiced until the end of the Egyptian period (c. 400 CE). Anat may have been worshiped in one or more of the few Egyptian temples that remained open into the early 6th century CE. In contemporary times the worship of Anat has been revived in neo-pagan religion.

Epithets
Although terrible as a war deity she was regarded as a just and benevolent goddess of beauty, sexuality, and of the fertility of crops, animals, and men. In her martial aspect she confines herself to slaying the enemies of Baal. Anat is a complex and somewhat paradoxical goddess as can be seen from the epithets applied to her. Although she is regarded as Mother, the most common epithet at Ugarit is batulat, Virgin or Maiden 7. She is sometimes called Wanton, in reference to her putative lust for sexual intercourse and the bloodshed of war 8. Other common epithets include: Adolescent Anat, Fairest daughter-sister of Baal, Lady, Strength of Life, Anat the Destroyer 9, and Lady of the Mountain 10.

Several epithets are known from Egyptian inscriptions. From Aramaic inscriptions of the Hyksos period (c.1700 BCE): "Anat-her", Anat agrees or Agreeable Anat, and "Herit-Anta", Terror of Anat 11. From inscriptions at Memphis dating to the 15th to the 12th centuries BCE: "Bin-Ptah", Daughter of Ptah 12. And from Elephantine "Beth-El", House of El or House of God 13.

Mythology
In Ugaritic texts she is the daughter of El, sister and consort of Baal. She may be Rachmay, one of the two nursemaids of the Gracious Gods mentioned in the eponymous ritual text. She is also the twin sister of Myrrh. She participates in the confrontation between Baal and Yam-Nahar. In a missing portion of the text she slays Yam and other enemies of Baal. During a victory celebration she departs to slaughter the warriors of two local towns. She joyfully wades in their blood, pours a peace offering and cleans up. She intercedes with El on Baal's behalf to obtain the necessary permission for a palace to be built for Baal. Later, when Baal is killed by Mot (Death) in an archetypal battle, she buries him, hunts down Mot, and takes revenge by cutting, winnowing, grinding, and burning Mot like grain. She also features in several other myths 14.

At Zoan she was regarded as the daughter of Ra. In the Egyptian myth of the Contest between Horus and Seth, Anat and Ashtart appear as daughters of Ra and consorts of Seth (whom the Egyptians themselves identified with Baal).

Iconography In Phoenician iconography Anat is usually depicted nude with exaggerated sexual organs and a coiffure similar to Hathor 15. She is sometimes depicted with bow and arrow, and with the lion, her sacred animal 16. Otherwise she may be armed with a spear and shield, or a spear and a spindle.

An Egyptian inscription from Beth-Shan shows "Antit" with a plumed crown. In her left hand is the "Scepter of Happiness", and in her right the "Ankh of Life" 17. Iconography at Zoan from the time of Ramses II shows Anat on a throne with lance, battle ax, and shield above an inscription reading, "To Antit that she may give life, prosperity, and health to the Ka of Hesi-Nekht" 18,19.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Anath
    Anata
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