The History and Significance of the goddess Anat

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The goddess Anat was an important deity of the Canaanites and the Phoenicians. The goddesses of these regions were usually shown as fertility goddesses, but scholars have shown another aspect of Anat’s role in her pantheon.

Her role as mistress of animals can be seen as predatory, she is a hunter. One of her most famous myths shows her reputation for violence. A local ruler, Daniel, had no son and prayed to the gods for a child, which the great god Baal granted. The boy, Ahat (also known as Aqhat) was given a great bow that Anat wished to acquire.

She visited the young Ahat and offered him immortality if he would give it to her. He refused, saying that it was man’s destiny to die. Engraged, Anat arranged for the young man to be lured away where her servant, Yatpan, fights for the weapon. In the struggle, Ahat dies and the bow is lost.Although the rest of the text is missing, it is believe by some scholars that the goddess does in fact, bring Ahat back to life and gives him immortality.

There have been debates among scholars to the symbolism of the Ahat and Anat myth. One scholar believes that “the bow is a symbol of masculinity and that on the symbolic level Anat’s taking the bow from Aqhat means that she castrates/emasculates him” (Day, p.182).However, this scholar uses the basis that Anat is a goddess of love and there has been no evidence to believe this. Another scholar states on this theory that “Anat is indeed described as beautiful in the Ugaritic material, but the text that he cites as evidence that she is sexually active does not, as we shall see below, support portraying her as such. The only other “evidence” he rallies is that there is a “sufficient similarity” between Anat and Istar to justify seeing the former as a goddess of love because the latter is a goddess of love” (Day, p.182).

Anat was later adopted into the ancient Egyptian pantheon where she was regarded as a goddess of war and the daughter of the sun god Ra. However, it is in Mesopotamia where we get a real sense of the role she played in mythology. We can see that Anat was a sexually active goddess of ‘fertility’ and looking at the evidence this part of her character comes clearly into focus.

Bibliography:

Cotterell, Arthur & Storm, Rachel (1999) The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, Hermes House, Anness Publishing House.

Day, Peggy L. (1992) Anat: Ugarit’s “Mistress of Animals”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, The University of Chicago Press.

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