The grotto was alive with vegetation. Everywhere food grew in abundance. Palms laden with dates and figs waved gracefully overhead, whispering secrets to the ancient gnarled olive and proud apricot trees guarding the glade below in which she stood. Wheat and barley grew as though wild, but blessed with swelled heads. Large plump purple grapes hung from vines entwined around every bole and trunk in the grotto. Cucumbers, fat and succulent, protruded from creeping vines at her feet. Miri could not move without touching or being touched by plants. As she pushed forward into the clearing, the leaves caressed her body and as the plants embraced her, she was filled with overwhelming joy.
A pool of crystal water sparkled before her, in the centre was an island covered with lush tropical plant life, above which rose a large evergreen with seven huge branches. Each branch ended in a cluster of leaves, the type of which she had never seen before, yet seemed somehow familiar. She was positive she had never seen the tree before, but it seemed so familiar it was as if it were a part of her and in an instant she realized it resembled the menorah which stood in the hallway of her home.
The tree was decorated with offerings: strings of beads, amulets and objects of adoration, and fruits of first harvest. Turtle doves flitted amongst the branches, cooing and calling to each other. Lights twinkled within it and the tree was so alive, it seemed to be the essence of Life itself. Miri ached to touch it.
She wished she had an offering to place within its arms, but realized she had nothing to give. I could water it if I had a vessel, she thought. As if in answer, she noticed the pool was circled by five large shoulder high ancient stone pillars set in a circle. Each stele was inscribed in a script she couldn’t recognize, yet seemed vaguely familiar, and on each pillar stood a chalice. There was a goblet of gold, one of silver, one of bronze and another of carved in stone, and beside her, a beautiful crystal chalice of finest Phoenician glass.
She lifted the goblet from its place, and stepped forward into the water. The water lapped around her legs and made her skin tingle, and her skin raised goosebumps, and Miri shivered with pleasure. Waist high and halfway across the pool, she dipped the chalice in the water and brought the lip of the cup hesitantly to her lips. Before she could taste of the water, the tree seemed to stop her. She realized that the first drink must go to the tree. At that, water began to spill from the cup. She hurried lest she have no water at all for the tree. She held it out in front of her with both hands, but the water continued to run over the brim. She could not stop it for it flowed out in two separate stream from opposite sides of the cup. She stepped from the pool, panic rising within her that she could not control, vainly trying to catch the water with one hand as she balanced the cup in the other. Quickly she advanced to the tree and tipped the cup as she reached its base. The two streams splashed over the roots of the tree and drained into the soil. Wherever the water ran, wheat, barley and flax sprouted. She was delighted by the effect and she began to dance, spraying water about her. The sparkling drops were bright points of lights and they flew into the darkness above her and became stars. They whirled in spirals until they found their places in heaven. The drops which fell to earth sprouted as seeds and grew as grain.
Heady with the joy and fervor of the dance, Miri stopped and drank greedily from the chalice. The sweetness of the water overwhelmed her and the water poured from the cup and splashed down her heaving chest. She tilted the cup back above her head and showered in the crystal water. She closed her eyes, laughing in ecstasy.
On opening her eyes, she saw a niche in the tree. Breathless, she moved to place the chalice into it, but an arm grew from the bark of the tree and took the chalice from her. She gasped as a human form emerged from the trunk of the tree. Wood became flesh, and the most beautiful young man she had ever seen stood before her. Miri was awestruck by his beauty and calmness, and was caught unaware by a pleasant tingling throughout her body.
The man smiled at the child Miri. He lifted the chalice to his lips and sipped from the cup.
“Thank you,” he said softly, “We have waited for you too long.”
Miri started in fear as a large bright coloured snake appeared from behind the foliage of the tree and awoke in her own bed.
Her heart pounded. She was both disturbed and exhilarated from her dream. A silvery shaft of moonlight shone down upon her turning her skin to a ghostly alabaster. Warm yellow, the lamp flickered on its stand in the corner. Uneasy, She felt something had changed within her, as if her skin didn’t quite fit anymore.
Miri was hot with confusion. Her body no longer seemed her own. Already, she was in awe of her growing pubic hair and burgeoning breasts. Now in the early morning of the spring of her twelfth year, she shifted in the bed and felt an abnormal stickiness between her legs and the skin of her inner thighs stuck together. She reached beneath the bed covers and slipped her hand under her nightdress, and felt a wet stickiness between her legs. She brought her fingers out in the moonlight and they were stained black. Amazed, she held her hands so that the light of the lamp illuminated her fingers. For some strange reason she was expecting it, although maybe not that particular morning. She felt no pain, no discomfort, or feeling either way. Menses had stolen over her in the night with a mind and direction of its own, as if a jiin had moved into her body.
Suddenly, her curiosity became panic as she realized the stains were her own blood. Frantically she threw back the blankets. Martha and Sister Miriam, awoke and blinked groggily.
Both Miri’s nightshirt and the covers were stained with dark red blood.
“Yohanna!” Miri shouted, “Yohanna wake up!”
“Eeeeuw!” cried Martha in disgust as she looked down at the bed and Sister Miriam gaped at Miri’s fingers in disbelief.
“Yohanna!” Miri called impatiently. Yohanna sat up and David wiped the sleep from his eyes.
“Lord!” exclaimed David as he looked at Miri.
Yohanna rose quickly as David shepherded Martha and Sister Miriam from the bedroom.
“What’s wrong with Miri?” asked Martha as she was bustled out, “Why is she bleeding?”
David shushed the younger children. The look of concern in their eyes frightened Miri and she began to shake, more from embarrassment than fear. She felt exposed and vulnerable and began to cry. She buried her head in Yohanna’s breast. She was afraid of the great darkness that enveloped her. It seemed to emanate from within her own body, and she could feel pieces of her insides peeling from her body, oozing through her vagina and dripping out from between her legs. It was foul and alien, and she wanted no part of it. She knew from that point the world had changed. Suddenly, the future had become a void and the mysteries of the Universe threatened to swallow her.
In the kitchen area, David busied himself with preparing a breakfast snack for Martha and Sister Miriam.
“Is Miri going to die?” asked Martha.
“No,” answered David, “No, she is-”
He stared down at the huge innocent eyes of his daughter.
He looked at Sister Miriam and shook his head. He was relieved when Yohanna appeared, carrying the soiled sheets in a bundle.
“I am going to dispose of the sheets. Speak to no one about this, David!” she said firmly.
“I-” David started, then realizing he had nothing to say, smiled at his wife.
“It is God’s will,” he said in acquiescence.
Yohanna handed the bundle of sheets to David, who stepped back in fear, his hands raised to avoid contact with the blood.
Yohanna sighed in disgust and threw the bundle down at his feet. David stepped gingerly over the cloth, as Miri, wrapped in her robe, entered the room carrying a small bundle of her own. Embarrassed at the commotion her bleeding had caused, she gravitated to Yohanna where she clung to Yohanna’s skirt, peering timidly out at Martha and Sister Miriam. They were afraid for her, and despite her own trepidation, she whispered, “I’ll be back!” to dispel their fear.
“Where are you going?” asked Sister Miriam anxiously.
Yohanna hugged the two little children in turn. “Miri and I will be gone for a little while,” she told them gently.
“Who will feed us?” asked Martha.
“And tell us stories?” asked Sister Miriam.
Yohanna looked at David.
Martha gaped at their father in astonishment and he shrugged sheepishly.
“You can cook?” Sister Miriam asked her father incredulously.
The streets were still dark, barely lit by the crescent moon. The star of Ishtar glinted a thumbnail’s distance from her father Sin, the moon. Immersed in confusion, Miri walked down the street two paces behind Yohanna, and stared down at the bundle in front of her which held the bloodied rags of her nightshirt. Yohanna had wrapped a piece of her nightshirt and fashioned it into a girdle between Miri’s legs. The cloth rubbed uncomfortably on the inside of her thighs as she walked, and an unfamiliar wetness in her crotch greased her movements.
Ahead of her, Yohanna advanced through the night like a bull through reeds. The night parted before her, leaving in her wake a broad open path for Miri to travel. Dutifully, Miri followed, her steps skipping erratically as she tried to match her steps to Yohanna’s.
Finally after a brisk half-hour walk, Yohanna stopped before a grove of ancient olives the crest of a hill, above, yet out of sight of the village.
“Come!” said Yohanna as she entered the grove.
The twisted, gnarled boles of the olives spoke of troubled spirits and demented jiin. Miri hesitated at the edge of the wood.
Yohanna stopped and turned to Miri. “There is nothing to fear, honey,” and held out her hand. Miri stepped forward and grasped Yohanna’s outstretched hand. Pressing against her older sister, Miri squinted at the strange forms looming above her from the darkness.
They entered a clearing. Along the perimeter of the clearing, half-hidden by foliage, fourteen standing stones towered three lengths of a man above their heads. Three pairs of the large stones were topped by lintel stones, but the others were missing the capstones they had once supported, which now lay scattered about the circle, some intact, others broken. Within the circle was a central circle of five shoulder-high stelae and Yohanna led the awestruck Miri past the stones to a large square flat stone laid horizontally over two knee high standing stones set on a raised mound in the centre of the circle of the five central stones, and laid her bundle upon the rock. At each corner of the square slab stood four upright stelae. On the top of each stele blackened by fire, was a bowl-shaped depression. Miri reached to touch one, but Yohanna lifted Miri onto the slab.
“What is this place?” asked Miri as Yohanna took the bundled nightshirt from her.
“This-” Yohanna raised her arms to encompass the circle, “is the house of Ashera, the throne of Astarte, the Great Mother of All Living Things. This altar is where we place our offerings. And these stones are the fourteen signs of pairs of gods and goddesses of Asura who watch over the people of Canaan.”
“But why did we come here?”
“You remember Eli’s cicumcision?”
Miri scrunched her face.
“The men of the village cut the foreskin from his penis to consecrate Shimeon’s covenant with Yahweh. Men do this to imitate the changes the Great Mother brings a girl in menarche, when her blood begins to flow. This blood is the token of the covenant between a woman and the Goddess. This blood holds the power of Life which is given by the Goddess, and this power, this mei, must be returned to her, for it is dangerous if it is allowed to fall into the hands of those who do not understand the power within it. Today, Miriam, by the Grace of the Goddess, by the sign of her covenant, you are a woman.”
Yohanna laughed, “Yes! Today the Queen of Heaven has blessed you with her presence. The first blood from your body must be given back to her in thanks for making you a woman, just as the men give back the foreskin as offering to their God.”
“The blood you are shedding is the Blood of Life. Only women can give this blood. The blood is offered to the Great Queen Astarte. In return she will bless you with the Gift of Life, and you will have many children.”
“Children?” asked Miri gaping at Yohanna’s protruding stomach. “I’m going to have children? Am I pregnant?”
“No!” replied Yohanna, smiling, “But now you are a woman, you can bear children at any time you wish.”
Miri’s jaw dropped lower in absolute shock. “But I don’t want a baby!”
Yohanna smiled. “Of course not sweetie,” she said smiling in spite of herself, “But now, if you change your mind, you can!”
Yohanna’s arms swept the grove.
“Here, you shall offer your blood to the Goddess as you will offer your life to her. If she accepts your gift of the heart, she will love you sevenfold. She will help you in your Life in return for your devotion. Here, she will appear to you as your guardian, and will assign a daemon, a personal goddess who will be for you your guide. Here, you shall learn the name of the Goddess.”
“I will meet a Goddess? Here?”
“We shall see!” Yohanna cradled Miri’s cheek in the palm of her hand momentarily, then pulled a bright new red wool robe from her own pack. She handed the robe to the young girl.
“From this time forth Miriam, daughter of the Asura, you are a woman. Every woman shall be your Sister, every maiden shall be your Daughter, and the crone by the wayside, shall be your Mother. There are many paths open to a woman, and to you perhaps, one of great importance.’
“The ways of The Great Mother are being forgotten. The rituals are outlawed by men at every turn, and the high places desecrated. But if you, Miriam, if you choose to give yourself in service to the Great Mother, you shall never again feel abandoned, for she will come to your aid when you call, even in times of great peril!”
“You must live by her Code, the Codex of Ishtar, the Sacred Vow of Inanna. The rules are this: Do unto others as the Goddess commands. Accept from the Goddess the trials to which you are put, and never lose faith in Her. Do you accept the rules of Astarte Asura?”
“I-” began Miri hesitantly. “Yes! Yes I do!”
“Then are you prepared to give to the Goddess that which she has given you?”
“Put this on,” commanded Yohanna.
Miri slipped her new robe over her shoulders. It had a voluminous hood which seemed to swallowed her as she pulled it over her head.
“The tunic!” said Yohanna.
Miri hesitantly reached within her new robe, loosened her tunic and slipped it out from under her robe. Yohanna took it from her and placed it on a pile with the old tunic and bedclothes on the slab.
“The girdle!” demanded Yohanna, and again Miri reached inside the robe. She removed the cloth wrapped between her legs. and handed it over to the woman to add to the pile of soiled laundry. With deft strokes Yohanna began shredding the cloth and prepared four piles of waste cloth.
As Yohanna took each bundle of bloody cloth and placed it in the depression in the top of each of the four standing stones at the corner of the altar, she spoke with Miri.
“Now that you have reached menarche, your life will be ruled by the same power which rules the moon. It is through this that you will be reminded that the powers of the Goddess keep you in harmony with the spheres of the planets and the rhythms of your mother, the earth.’
“The cycle of this power takes place every twenty-eight days, and for three of those days, you shall bleed from your vagina. Remember that this is the blood which you give to the Holy Mother in return for her benificence toward you. Do not profane this blood. Do not allow even a drop to be used for Evil, for there are those who will try to steal the blood away from you.’
“It is for this reason that for three days you will go into seclusion. It is the custom for a woman to be untouchable for seven, for some women bleed longer than the three specified by the darkness of the moon. The reason for this is that the power within this blood is so strong that a man who touched it with evil intent would break into boils.’
“Each phase of this cycle is that mirrored by the laws of the moon. As the Crescent Moon waxes, the first quarter, it becomes larger and fuller. So, your body, after the issue of blood has ended, you are renewed. You emerge as the moon, fresh and innocent, washed by the blood sacrifice prepared within your own body and given back to the Goddess.’
“At the half moon, you become the young maiden, you will enjoy Life as it comes to you from beyond yourself. These times are free from guilt and responsibility and are given to you by the Goddess to enjoy all that Life has to offer. You are the budding rose.’
“Then, after fourteen days, as the full moon position, your body rises to it’s peak. Your vulva will be full and moist. Your breasts will swell. The power of the Goddess will be strong within you. When you lie with a man in this state, you will bear his children, for this is when the power of Life granted you will be at it’s fullest. You are the blossoming rose, full, and deep red, awaiting the honey bee of Astarte to tickle your petals and just as the moon is fat and round and the rose is opened wide, so your womb will become fertile, and when the seed of a man is planted within you, it will grow and become a child ’
“The power of life is so strong that it will last until the flow of Blood of Life stops, for your body will still seek the seed of Man to bear a child. But as the last quarter approaches, the darkness of the moon approaches, and your thoughts will become dark as the night, knowing that the blood sacrifice draws near. You will feel fear unless you know in your heart, the Goddess will protect you, although her influence over you grows weaker. Dogs will follow you, for they know by your smell that the darkness of the blood, the moon draws near. Do not send them away, for they will guard you from other creatures who are drawn by their craving for the Blood of Life.’
“Then after twenty-one days, you will bleed. This is the Dark Moon. For three days darkness will descend upon you, and the blood will flow. Once it stops, your womb will lie barren, like the fields in winter. Nothing will grow there, until the full moon of your cycle blossoms again. The Sacred Blood you must return to the Goddess; do not spill this blood in vain, or give it to those who may be unworthy. By returning the Sacred Blood of Life to the Goddess, you will again be renewed.’
Miri stared at the her sister, her mouth agape. Yohanna’s words had tumbled over her and slid between her own thoughts, leaving her mind in a jumbled confusion.
“Miri,” said Yohanna softly as she sat on the altar stone. Yohanna reached her hand out to her and Miri walked toward Yohanna in a daze. “This all is new for you. One day you will know from your heart all that I have said to you, but for now, you must know what to do when you begin to bleed. It is important not to let your blood spill on the ground. You must remain here for three days-’
Miri started to protest, but stopped.
“This altar stone shall be your bed. It will be safe to let your blood touch this stone, but no where else. The cape I have given you will keep you warm. You must try to remain as still as possible. Do not stray from this place, for you are safe here. I must leave you alone to tend to David, Eli and Martha, but I will return at daybreak, and bring you some breakfast.’
“Why can’t you stay with me?” asked Miri plaintively.
“Child,” said Yohanna softly “We all have gone through this rite alone. Myself, and a thousand others. This is a time to think of the world. A time to meditate. This is a time to be alone, for that is the state you must be in when you meet the goddess for the first time. You will feel fear, but the fear must be faced. Only then you will find that which you fear is also that which you will embrace once you know it.”
Tears welled in Miri’s eyes and fell across her cheeks. Yohanna hugged her and held Miri’s head in her breast, then kissed her softly on her head as tears began to form in her own eyes.. “I’ll be back!” she whispered softly.
In an instant, Yohanna was gone, a memory which dwindled with her fading footsteps
She was alone.
From somewhere in the darkness, an owl called mournfully to the night. There was no answering call and Miri shivered. She pulled her feet up, curled into a small ball, wrapping the red cape tightly about her.
Miri lay on her back on the altar stone. She tried very hard to be still and stared very hard at the night sky, but it held her attention for all of three or four heartbeats. She wiggled her toes and lifted her head to watch them, sighed, then quickly glanced about her. She had the vague sensation of being watched, and poked her head up in case someone was near to tell her to lie down. She sat up. Nothing happened. She drew her feet up and played with her toes.
She shifted her legs and swung them over the edge of the stone and dangled her feet in the air. Sure now she was alone and had nothing to fear, she slipped from the stone. Searching for something of interest, she wandered about the circle idly. She walked around the perimeter of the circle, passing her hand across the face of each standing stone. Absorbed in the selection of the path before her and the feel of the moss beneath her toes, she did not notice at first that in the path she traced across the stones with her hands, letters and markings on the stone glowed with an unearthly golden light.
The glow spread across the faces of the stones from letter to letter. Miri stopped and stared at the progress of the spreading fiery letters. She turned in a full circle, amazed at the spectacle around her, and backed into the altar. As she touched the capstone of the altar, all fourteen stones in the circle about her glowed with fiery script. She looked down at her hands touching the altar, and the fire spread to the altarstone itself, and fiery letters appeared on its surface. Her eyes narrowed as she realized she could actually read the script. It wasn’t the Hebrew she had learned as a small child, but it bore a similarity to it, and even though she knew she had never seen this writing before, she could read it!
Awestruck, she read the words on the capstone aloud:
“Stand before the One upon the Two
Miri looked quickly about her. The standing stones of the circle formed the pattern she had just read. Inspired, she grasped the lamp from the altar stone and lit each of the piles of oil soaked rags at each of the four corner stones beside the altar. Without hesitating, she strode to the pillar supporting the glass chalice and firmly grasped the goblet by the stem.
Miri felt disappointed. Her shoulders sagged and she stared at the burning rags in the four altar stones. She walked despondently back to the altar, and placed the goblet on the altar. She sat glumly on the gound, her elbows on her knees, head resting on her clenched fists. While she was absorbed in her disappointment, the chalice on the altar stone began to fill with water. It overflowed and the water slowly filled depressions in the stone. Miri didn’t notice the water until the water dripped over the edge of the altar stone. By the time she stood up, the flow of water had grown and the liquid sprang from its mouth in two fountains. Miri tried to lift the chalice from its place, but it would not move. The water became a torrent, and Miri became alarmed and tried to staunch the flow.
Soaked, she finally gave up the struggle to stop the flow of water. Around her, the clearing had begun to fill with water. With a sudden shock, Miri realized she was in the grotto of her dream. The force of the water pulled Miri from the altar, and washed her into the pool surrounding the altar mound. She cast about her, hoping someone would help her but she was alone. She struggled helplessly, her toes gripped the mud under her, but slipped and she began to slide under the water. Water filled her mouth and she choked and sputtered, frantically trying to keep her head above the water. She washed up against one of the shoulder high pillars and clung to it. She managed to pull herself momentarily to her feet. The water flowed between the stones in a whirling torrent, tugging at her legs and pulling her at her tunic. Her muscles aching with strain, Miri clung as tightly as she could to the stone, but the pull of the water was stronger than her grip. Her fingers began sliding across the stone, and, with a terrified scream Miri disappeared under the water.
The current dragged her down, and her mouth filled with water. Terrified, her lungs aching and her throat choked with water, she frantically struggled to the surface. The water rushed between two of the large standing stones at the edge of the clearing, dargging Miri with it. She screamed and reached for the nearest pillar, but her fingers came nowhere near it and she was washed through the stone Gate and into a new land beyond.
The river washed in a scattered waterfall over a small escarpment, and, screaming, she fell downward. She was dragged to the bottom, and tumbled along the rocky bottom. In a flash of bright white pain, her head smacked against a large boulder. Her hands spun frantically against the current, and she swam desperately upward. The current slowed and Miri sputtered to the surface.
She had been washed into the centre of a quiet pool, and her feet touched the stones on the bottom. As she stood in waist high tranquil water, she realized that her white tunic was now deep green, and she was now an adult woman. She waded to the shore. There, hanging from a tree was a full set of bronze armour.
She reached for the helmet, a crown set with jewels, and placed it upon her head. Earrings dangled from the branches, and these she placed on her ears. She strapped gold and bronze bracelets decorated with silver to each wrist. A beautiful bronze breastplate she strapped to her torso. This she covered with a gold jewelled necklace. She strapped on a beautiful girdle and scabbard. Knee guards covered her legs and she laced armoured boots around them. Standing bedecked in the armour she felt a power within her which was invincible. She plucked a sword from the branches and wielded it with authority, deftly swinging several times about her, then sheathed it in her scabbard. She removed a belt with a scabbarded dagger. She raised the knife from the scabbard slightly. It had a flint blade. She replaced the knife and wrapped the belt about her waist. Next she removed a beautiful bow and a quiver of arrows and slipped her arm through each so that they hung behind her from her right shoulder. A magnificent purple robe hung from the tree and as Miri removed it, there was a flury of movement and she screamed. She stepped back, still clutching the robe. From within the folds of cloth, two white doves flapped noisily into the air. She stared open-mouthed as they flew up and away. She wrapped the robe about her left shoulder, fastening it about her neck with a jewelled gold clasp. Finally, she took down a wand of lapis lazuli, and as she grasped it, the end of the wand glowed with the blue intensity of starlight.
She slipped the wand into a pocket of her coat and cast about her. From the jungle undergrowth, slinked a leopardess, her familiar, and the girl within the Goddess gasped.
“At last!” the large cat purred in a low feline female voice. “I am Ninshubar, and have waited long for your return. I am yours to command, Mistress!”
“You know my name?” asked Miri who still was unsure of her new self.
“Your soul, I know, O Queen of Heaven,” answered Ninshubar, “You are Asura, Progenetrix of The Gods. Your Ancient Name became the name of the race of gods, the seventy gods, the children of Asura you begat at the beginning of Time. The Ancient black-headed people of Sumeria called you Inanna. The Babylonians and Persians call you forth as Ishtar. The Pharoahs and The Queens of Egypt invoked you as Au Set, and the Greeks call upon you by the name of Isis. The ancestors of your present incarnation, the people of Canaan, called you Astarte.”
“But I am not a Goddess,” insisted Miri.
“You have pledged to do as the Goddess wills,” replied the cat.
“Tch, tch, O Holy One, how else can you do the bidding of the Goddess unless you are yourself the Queen of Heaven. Your own personhood is nothing. If you were anything less than the Great Mother Herself, then you would be as I, a humble servant. Only the Star of The Morning and the Lady of The Evening can know the Will of The Great Goddess. If The Holy Mother takes your soul, then are you The Holy Mother herself or her servant? To attain Godhood is to accept the Goddess as a totality. You as a separate persona no longer exist. You have become One with The Goddess in all her Aspects and all her Incarnations. This is the only Path to Enlightenment.’
“You have returned from the World Below and have drunk of the Waters of Forgetfulness, and so, you are not who you seem to be. Yet you must regain your all the senses once more for there is much to be done! Your people are coming to a crossroads, and you must be at the junction at precisely the right time, in order to save them!”
“How am I to do all that?” asked Miri incredulously.
“I cannot see into the future, Mistress,” replied the leopardess, “I only do what is asked! Your time is coming to an end in this place and we will meet elsewhere.”
Miri looked about her and realized that, although it had changed, she was still within the sanctuary where Yohanna had left her. In the centre of the pool was the altar mound.
The leopardess leaped onto the altar and the instant she landed, it became a glorious bed, carved of wood and ivory gilded with gold, all manner of plants and animals portrayed upon its surface, covered with silk covered pillows, linen sheets, wool blankets, furs and sheepskins. The cat sniffed at the bedclothes, and looked at Miri.
“But for now, you are tired. Come, mistress, you should rest,” the cat lay at the foot of the bed. “Rest with me, and I will tell you the riddle of Anat and Aliyan.”
“A riddle?” asked Miri.
“To others a tale of love, to some a song of adventure,” Ninshubar opened a secret compartment at the foot of the carved bed with a stroke of her paw, and pulled a scroll from the compartment, unrolling it upon the bed. “For a child, a bedtime story.”
Miri looked down at her body and realized she was her twelve-year-old self again, dressed in the linen tunic given her by Yohanna. In the same instant of realization, the water disappeared, replaced by a carpet of soft green moss.
Miri padded in her bare feet to the bed and hoisted herself up. She wrapped the blankets about her, fluffing up the sheepskin and blankets into a nest and Ninshubar reached for the scroll. She unwound it, and as she began to read, the two white doves which had surprised her earlier settled on the beautifully carved head board.
“Astarte Asura, The Great Queen of Heaven, Creatrix of Asura, begat the servant of El, Hadad, from the seed of Dagon. Hadad grew into a beautiful young man, his head crowned by fine curly locks. He was as strong as an ox and pulled the plough through the earth, sowing grain for the gods.
Asura was pleased with her son for he tended her gardens with love and care. He sowed the seeds and brought the rain to bring them to flower. Her doves nested peacefully in the branches of the trees he nurtured. The bees of the goddess drank of the flowers and brought honey to Rabbat Asura and her clan. The grain grew thick and heavy, so full that the storehouses of Asura overflowed. Her cattle and sheep grew fat on the excess, and Bethasura, the house of Asura prospered.
The consort of the Great Mother, El, who tended her flocks, grew jealous of Ba’al Hadad, son of Dagon. He, too wanted to please Asura as much, if not more, than did Hadad.
So, El plotted with his son Mot to rid themselves of Ba’al Hadad. Mot, Devourer of The Dead and Keeper of the Fields where life ends and nothing grows, the Realm of the Great Lion of Mametu, Lord Nergal, left his fields and had his messenger approach Ba’al Hadad, beloved son of The Mother Asura. The messenger of Mot praised the garden of Ba’al, and lamented the barrenness of his master’s fields.
“Your gardens are green and luscious, brother of Mot” declared the messenger to Lord Hadad, “and my master’s are arid and dry! Oh, that he could have fields like yours, Ba’al Hadad! It is bad enough that you are a beautiful young man, your head crowned by fine curly locks, and Mot is large and ugly, covered in warts, with a face abhored by women and feared by children, but that your fields blossom while his lie barren is more than I can bear!”
Ba’al took pity on the messenger of Mot and offered to lay the seed and rain on Mot’s land. The messenger of Mot, full of praise, invited Hadad Ba’al to bring rain into the fields of Lord Nergal, the Great Lion of Mametu. There, within a great pit, the entrance to the Underworld, Mot hid himself, his huge maw open wide. He swallowed a beautiful first-born calf, a white heifer, but he had placed his tongue at the back of his throat, and the heifer bawled helplessly at her fate from within the great gaping maw of Mot. Ba’al Hadad, the husband of the kine of Asura, took pity upon the poor heifer. Her cries moved his heart and he stepped down from the Chariot of The Clouds to rescue the calf and descended into the pit which was the foul mouth of Mot. He gathered the animal in his arms and too late, he looked up. Mot closed his mouth upon Ba’al Hadad and the heifer, and chewed and swallowed them both.
The messengers of Ba’al Hadad, Gupan-wa-Utar, witnessed the death of their Lord and raged from the Chariot of the Clouds. They threw thunderbolts at the hideous Mot, who laughed at them. “Do your worst Gupan and Utar, your weapons are no use against me!”
Enraged, Gupan and Utar descended from the Chariot of The Clouds into the pit to do battle with Mot, devourer of The Dead. He opened his mouth, but the servants of Ba’al Hadad were swift, and avoided his terrible maw. But they, the servants of a god could only withstand Mot for a few moments. He caught them in his claws and threw them into the pit, and pushed a mountain down upon them. Six more mountains he piled upon the first and filled the pit. Not even Gupan and Utar, the right and left arms of the God Hadad, were strong enough to move the earth above them and they were buried alive within the Earth. Mot sent word by his messenger to his father, El, that Ba’al Hadad was no more.
El was glad that Hadad Ba’al would no longer be a rival for the affections of Rabbat Asura, for he was the most jealous of the gods. He brought honey from the garden of Ba’al to his lover Asura, he brought sweet milk and cheeses from his own flocks, beer from the Land of the Pharaoh, wine from the valley and spices from the Land of The East. Before the Great Goddess, he slew a first born bullock. He poured beer and wine and spices over the offering. He lit a great fire which consumed the offering and the sweet smell of the roast and spices pleased Asura. El and Asura shared the offerings and drank of the libations together, and in the joy of their sharing, El and Asura made love.
Anat, the child of Asura begotten by El through his jealousy, and nurtured by the tears of Asura who lost her favourite son, sprang early from the womb, ripping apart the vagina of the Great Mother. Anat, born fully grown, clad in the armour of El’s desire, armed with the sword of his jealousy stood in the bedchamber of her Mother Asura dripping in the blood of her mother’s womb and called out the name of Ba’al Hadad so loudly that the house of Asura shook from its roof to its very foundations.
She swung her sword above her head then slew the servants of Asura. Her voice shouted in triumph as she hacked apart the gates of Bethasura and descended from the world above to search for her brother, the Lord Hadad.
The Great Father, Ba’al El, realized that Anat would not stop until she had discovered the fate of her brother Ba’al Hadad. El was afraid she would reveal his part in murdering the son of Dagon and secretly called upon his many servants to stop her, while he sent word to warn Mot to beware of the Goddess Anat.
Anat, the child of greed and desire came to Yammu, the Ocean, beloved of El.
“I come to seek my brother, Ba’al Hadad, who is hidden deep within darkness I know not where. Open before me and reveal your secrets or I shall destroy all the People of the Sea.”
The Ocean laughed at Rabbat Anat. “My secrets are my own, Rabbat Anat!” replied Yammu and rose and came after the goddess. Anat fought back with all her might and smashed down the waves with her sword. Still, the Ocean advanced, pushing Anat backward. Great black clouds rose from the waves and thunder and lightning hammered at the earth. Almost all the people of the seashore were drowned in the fury of the battle and all the people of the low part of the Earth were drowned also. But the fury of Anat was infinite and finally she prevailed and the advance of the Sea was stopped.
By her will alone, Rabbat Anat had saved the land of Canaan, whose people would surely have perished beneath the waves, as had all those who lived to the west.
The Ocean, the Great Dragon Yammu, bowed down before Rabbat Anat. “We are both daughters of El, yet you are the mightiest of his daughters. I shall reveal to you my secrets.”
And so, Rabat Anat learned the secrets of the Sea, and is revered by the People of The Sea as Tanit, for their tongues cannot pronounce her true name.
Behind her, the river Jordan, the river of El, whose waters are now quiet and slow, was then strong and swift, came after Rabbat Anat as Rabbim, the flood, and washed away many children of Canaan. Anat met him as she had met the Ocean, laughing as she waded into the waters and beat back the current with her shield. With her sword, she cleaved the earth, the body of her mother, Asura, and the blow created the great valley which runs from Mount Hermon to the Sea of the Moabites. Helpless, the River Jordan fell away from the land of Canaan, and into the valley where he lives to this day, spreading his seed by the grace of the Virgin Anat.
Hashat, the Fire-child of the Bull El, also rose up, and devoured the fields of Hadad Ba’al. Her burning fingers grasped at the robe of Rabbat Anat. The mighty goddess whirled about, causing a great wind and the flames of Hashat engulfed Anat. Her mighty battlemace swung wildly about her, striking the earth, and the earth shook violently. The battle raged seven days, and the heavens were filled with fire and brimstone, and the Earth, the body of Asura, convulsed in agony. Hashat, the Goddess of Fire, Messenger of El, razed many fields in the land of Canaan, but the Goddess Anat prevailed, and the flames were quelched beneath her feet. Unable to withstand the blows of Rabbat Anat, Hashat returned to the womb of The Great Mother Asura and hid deep within the earth. To this day, nothing grows on the battlefield of Hashat-wa-Anat, and the heat of the fire remains there to this day; so all that can live there are the scorpions who guard the entrance to the prison of Hashat.
Any mortal would have wept from fatigue from the strain of such a battle, but the Immortal Anat roared in her victory. The Fire of Hashat, the mei, was her own to command, and her triumphant cry was heard throughout the land. She turned her face towards the land of Mot which lay beyond the realm of the city of Abeluma
In the ancient days the Great Hero, Danel, had served the great Bull El with all the strength of his heart. For his deeds, the purity of his heart and his faithfulness to the Lord El, Ba’al Hadad commissioned the twin gods of creative craft, sacred to all who fashion the elements of Asura with their hands, Kathir-wa-Hasis, to construct a magical bow, which could send a shaft to pierce any armour, shatter any shield, and pierce any heart, whether it be pure or defiled, god, man or beast.
Hadad had presented the magical bow to El who bestowed the weapon to Danel, and, in time, Danel passed the bow to his son Akhat. Where Danel had built his kingship on merit, Akhat took the throne through his birthright as the favoured son. Since birth, his position had always been exalted, and he knew nothing of being humbled by the suffering that all common people know. He was not satisfied with possession of Abeluma, and he assaulted the villages and settlements around his city, bending their inhabitants to his will as easily as he bent the magical bow. With the tributes of war and taxes, he erected tall and strong turrets at every corner of his city and strengthened the ramparts of Abeluma. Within the stone walls, he built a grand palace and above the palace he constructed a mighty tower from which he could survey the plains of Abeluma and all that he had taken by the strength of arms.
And so it was that from the ramparts of his mighty city, Akhat watched the approach of the goddess Anat. With the magical bow at his back, he had no fear of god, man nor beast, knowing any arrow from his bow could pierce the heart of all who came against him. And so without fear, in his war chariot drawn by four magnificent warhorses, Akhat rode out with a mighty army to meet the Goddess of Vengeance.
On the plains below Abeluma, Akhat met the Virgin Anat. He and his troops barred her way and Akhat shouted at her, “Virgin Anat, why do you come against me? You cannot prevail. I have seen you murder the servants of El and lay waste to their realms, and now your wanton destruction must come to an end! I am Akhat, faithful servant of The Great Bull El, and I command you in his name, to return to the womb which gave you birth!”
Anat roared at the impudence of the young king. “You think that you are indestructible because you own the magical bow of Ba’al Hadad? I shall crush you as I have crushed the others who stand against my quest for the body of my brother Hadad! Resistance is futile!”
Akhat drew the bow from his back and fitted an arrow against the shaft and drew it back, the tip pointed at the breast of the Virgin.
“If you come one step closer, I shall release this arrow!” shouted Akhat. “Turn back now, and I shall spare your life!”
Anat showed no fear. She lifted her voice and shouted.
“Hero Akhat, Did I not crush the ocean, Yammu, beloved of El? Did I not tame the river, the flood of El Rabbim, Nahar? Did I not vanquish Hashat, the messenger of El? Better that you hand over the bow to me, and I shall spare your life!”
“Never!” declared Akhat, “I shall bow to no man!” He sneered in derision, “Much less a woman!”
The Virgin smiled on Akhat. Few know that particular smile of Anat which is worse than all of the faces she wears, for she, more than any other, loved the challenge of War.
So, she said sweetly, “Oh Hero Akhat, request silver and I shall give it to you. Ask for gold and I will reward you richly. But now you have pointed your shaft at me, you must give me your bow! Let the Progenetrix of Nations take your gift from God back to where it belongs!”
“Go and ask Kathir-wa-Hasis, god of the mountain to forge you another!” replied Akhat, “For I shall never relinquish this bow!”
And the Virgin Anat smiled a second time upon Prince Akhat.
“Request Life, o Hero Akhat! Request Life and I will grant it to you! I shall make you count the years with Ba’al, even with the sons of Asura shall you count the months. Give me the bow and I shall bestow the kingship of Canaan upon you!”
“Do not invent such fantasies for my sake, Virgin Anat,” he replied contemptuously, “For a man such as I, your lies are a trap into which I shall not stumble. What does a man have as his destiny? What does man have as his fate? Hear, me, Anat! Glaze will be poured out upon my head, and plaster moulded upon my skull. And the death of all men I shall die. Yes, I will surely die, just as your brother Hadad is dead!’
“Also, one more thing I shall tell you. This bow,” he shook it at her, “This bow is the bow of warriors! No woman could ever hunt with it!”
Anat laughed aloud. Her smile for the third time fell upon Akhat, while she planned to avenge his insults. “Reconsider, for my sake, O Hero Akhat! Reconsider for your sake as well as mine! Verily, if I am forced to meet you on The Road of Transgression, on the Path of Pride, you shall be crushed beneath my feet! You are strong and brave and have a certain charm, but you cannot stand against me!”
Then Anat rose to a great height and looked down upon Akhat. For a moment her heart was filled with sorrow for she admired the courage of the young hero, just as she was greatly troubled by his pride.
“You have set yourself against the gods, Akhat! You have made yourself more than a man, yet your are not! You have made yourself more than a woman, yet you are not! You have made yourself more than a god, yet you are not! I have no wish to deliver your body to Nergal of the Underworld, to be swallowed by the maw of Mot, yet your arrogance leaves me no choice! I must reach the heights of Sapon and there meet Mot, yet you oppose me with the authority of the bow you have drawn against me. You have seven days to reconsider!”
With this came a thunderclap, and in a flash, Anat became as an eagle, soaring too high even for the bow of Akhat, and she flew up toward Bethel, the house of her father.
After a journey of three days, she stood outside the portals of Bethel, returned to her original form. She cried out to her father’s servants within the house.
“Let the Bull El, my father come out to face me! Come, let him turn to me, for his champion Akhat obeys me not! Tell him, that if I do not receive an audience, I shall trample Bull El down like a lamb to the earth, plaster his grey hair wet with blood, and fill his grey beard with gore! This I swear, if Bull El does not command his servant Akhat to relinquish his bow and allow me to pass through the plains of Abeluma to the crags of Sapon!”
The servants scrambled about Bethel cackling in dismay as chickens under the hungry eye of the the fox until, finally, the voice of El boomed out from the Holy of Holies, the seventh room within the eight.
“I know daughter,” he called out, “that you are as a man. Amongst the goddesses, there is none as wrathful as you! Tell me to my face what is it that you want!”
El appeared at the portal. He seemed tired, for the death of Ba’al Hadad weighed heavily upon him.
Anat replied, “If you do not command your champion Akhat to relinquish his bow and allow me to pass through the plains of Abeluma to the crags of Sapon, I shall spill his blood and the blood of his soldiers! I shall smite those living in your cities! I shall cut down the people of the western seashore! I shall destroy the men of the sunrise in the east! ’
“And you, Father, I shall trample you down like a lamb to the earth! I shall plaster your grey hair wet with blood, and fill your grey beard with gore! ”
“I cannot order a man to do what is not in his heart,” he said sadly, “However, I shall send my messenger, Gabriel, ahead of you. I hope that he can change the will of Akhat. The bow has made him proud and I fear he will not relinquish it.” El shook his head sadly. “It is always hard for the eldest son. What is given by the gods must be returned to the gods. This is the Law.”
“Depart, daughter Anat, I have created you and I must abide by that which I have created. Even I am sometimes sorry for my deeds. There is none as scornful as you. Your heart is ruthless, and I fear that all which I have given Danel, I must take back. Take that which is in your mind; do that which is in your breast. He will indeed be struck down that hinders you.”
“It is only by accepting the will of the gods over his own that a man can be redeemed,” replied Anat.
El nodded. “It is so.”
Without another word Anat became as an eagle once more and drifted slowly toward the plains of Abeluma.
On her journey, Anat was joined by the eagles of the high mountains, for they are her eyes. She was joined by the vultures of the desert for they are her ears. They arrived on the morning of the seventh day as Akhat sat down to eat. The son of Danel was at the dinner table with the archangel Gabriel. Although Gabriel was aware of Anat, Akhat did not notice the eagles soaring over him, nor the vultures which looked down on him from his very own towers. Anat herself hovered amongst the eagles, and listened as Gabriel talked with Akhat.
“A gift from the gods must be returned when it is asked,” said Gabriel.
“What god would ask back a gift once given?” demanded Akhat.
“It is your father El who asks for the return of the bow, Akhat,” answered Gabriel, “It is a gift to reward your father for his faithfulness, but you have used it to place yourself in a fine palace where you feast on pomegranates and dates and the first and finest fruits of the field while those you have enslaved wallow in poverty and cry out for a share of the grain.’
“This has come to our attention before now,” warned Gabriel, “Hear, I beseech the, O noble Akhat. Hearken and let your ears listen, bend your ear to the words of the Elohim.
I have seen that your back has turned as your mercenaries raid the sheepfolds of your people. You entertain jackals at your table that would rip your throat open for a minah of gold.
You no longer judge the cause of the widow, nor the case of the importuned. You do not banish the extortioners of the poor, for you have been brought down from your throne by bribes. You do not feed the orphan before your gates, nor the widow beneath your window.
Because you are a brother to a bed of sickness, and a friend to a bed of pestilence, you must step down from your throne. Because you have placed your needs before your duties to the people and your obligations to the Gods you must relinquish the power given to you by the people over the people. Because you have placed yourself before the Elohim, before the Gods, and because you deny Anat the bow you must resign the seat of your dominion!”
“It is my right to treat my people as I see fit,” answered Akhat testily, “El himself has chosen me as their king! They should prostrate themselves before me and humble themselves. It is a small price for them to pay for a share in my wealth!”
“Without the bow, you would have nothing!” declared Gabriel.
“Nothing!” retorted Akhat in indignation, “It is the not the bow but the archer who draws on the target! It bends to my will alone! There is none else who can draw on such a bow! A gift that must be returned is no gift! Can I take back the service I have performed? Can I dismantle the house of El I have built beside my own palace?”
“If you do not return the bow, then you must at least allow Rabbat Anat to pass through your dominion.” suggested Gabriel.
“I have never bowed to any man!” replied Akhat contemptuously, “Must I now prostrate myself before a woman? She shall not pass through my lands unless she prostrates herself before me! Only then may she pass!”
Gabriel shook his head.
“You will be destroyed if you demand obeisance from one such as Rabbat Anat! She will not bow to you!”
“We shall see,” declared Akhat, “It is I who wield the bow!”
The virgin Anat heard all that passed between Gabriel and Akhat, and she cried in glee for she was born the wild calf of the Bull El and she more than any other relished battle, and gloried in the steel of men’s hearts and the smell of their blood.
In an instant she stood before the gates of Abeluma.
“Akhat!” she roared, “Champion of El! I, Rabbat Anat stand before your gates and ask for the return of the bow forged by Kathir-wa-Hasis and request passage to the hills of Sapon!”
Akhat, still dining, heard the demands of Anat and ignored them.
His servants were afraid and the chief of the household spoke to him, “My Lord, Ba’al Akhat, you must relinquish the bow, for surely, Rabbat Anat will cause the streets to fill with gore of our people and the rivers to fill with the blood of the brave!”
Akhat laughed. “All that mayhem from a woman? I have the magic bow and a full quiver of arrows, and not even El himself could stand before me! His wayward virgin daughter is of little concern to me! Tell her to be on her way!”
Enraged at his words, Anat could contain herself no more. In an instant, she became both eagle and woman, and screamed high into the air. From the clouds, and in her fury, she dove at the head of Akhat. In her rage, she descended into the palace of Akhat. The wrath of Anat descended upon the head of Akhat, the man who would be king. In her massive talons, she grasped the bow, with her wings she lifted it aloft, with her hands she wrenched the magic bow from the Lord Akhat.
To late, he cried out. Too late, he wished for forgiveness. The bow of Akhat was now the bow of Anat.
High above, Anat called her servant, the jiin, Yatpan, her helper and messenger, into the world.
Appearing before her he bowed. “My lady, your wish is my command!”
“Then, turn to me,” Anat growled, “listen and I shall tell you. I shall put you as an eagle in my quiver, and a raptor in my scabbard. Over Akhat I shall release you! Strike him doubly on the head! Spill his blood like a butcher! Release his soul to the wind! Suck his spirit from him, and the vapour from his nose! If his army does not oppose me, the soldiers I shall surely let live!”
Anat took the jiin Yatpan, her soldier, the Right Hand of The Lady, and he became as an eagle in her quiver and a raptor in her scabbard. She cried in triumph and the rage of War descended upon her. The lust for gore overcame her, and she craved the smell of blood.
She released Yatpan from the quiver and drew him from her scabbard. She placed Yatpan the eagle against the shaft of the bow, and drew the string back slowly. Never had the bow bent so far. The sound of the creaking wood and leather and the scream from the metal of the shaft caused the people of Abeluma to cover their ears for the sound pierced their very souls and made their hearts ache, their minds freeze in fear.
When Rabbat Anat released the bowstring, the world rocked with thunder. Lightning crackled over the heads of the people Abeluma and they were afraid for their lives.
Undaunted, Akhat refused to look up lest for the first time, his courage might fail. He ordered his armies to destroy the goddess Anat, and defend the city, shouting above the thunder and the wind.
Yatpan, soldier and right hand of Anat flew straight from the bow of Kathir-wa-Hasis. So great was the speed of the flight, none saw it coming. Yatpan shattered the skull of Akhat. His blood sprayed his servants like a fountain. Yatpan ripped through the throat of Akhat. His words caught and were written on the shaft. Through his heart Yatpan passed, taking the dreams of Akhat away from him. In the flight feathers they are held. Through the abdomen of Akhat Yatpan passed, ripping out his entrails. And in the arrowhead, the point of the arrow was his courage which had never failed, yet was the cause of his pride. All that was once Akhat belonged to the Jiin Yatpan, soldier and right hand of the Goddess Anat.
The shaft passed through Akhat who lay shattered. His blood filled the wine goblets on the table. The gore filled the plates. The table upon which he dined became the altar upon which he himself was sacrificed. The arrow that was Yatpan buried deep within the bowels of the Earth and the rocks beneath Abeluma shook. The ground beneath the people split open, the walls of Abeluma cracked and the gates were opened.
But some of the followers of Akhat, his honour guard, his loyal servants, his army of thousands were afraid and had fled from the city, streaming from the gates like ants from an anthill. They fled to other cities, and barred the gates. They fled to the seashore and set their garrisons against Anat. They ran east, and warned the people of the sunrise that a great evil was about to befall them. But wherever they ran, the young men encountered the Lady of The Mountain.
Anat fought in the valley. She smote down those opposing her in the cities. She cut down the people of the seashore who stood against her. She destroyed the men of the sunrise, who came to meet her in battle. Under her onslaught, their heads tumbled like stones in an avalanche, their severed hands flew like locusts upon the field, the hands of troops heaped like piles of barley. They reached up, their heads, to her back. Their limbs were piled to her waist. She waded knee deep in the blood of soldiers, up to her hips in the gore of the armies.
When she reached the city of Abeluma, resistance was strong for only the most brave had remained behind. She fought her way to the palace of Akhat. With her sacred mace forged by Kathir-wa-Hasis she drove out the old men. She was not satisfied with the killing in the valley, of her cutting down the people in the cities. She threw the gilded chairs at the troops who sought glory at her expense. She threw the written tablets at the palace guard, footstools at the heroes.
Anat cried out, “Anat slaughters and rejoices! My innermost laughter and my heart rejoices! My liver feeds on the blood of heroes! Come to me now, and test your metal, men of Abeluma!”
Many came for the honour of battle with Anat in the name of El, their father. The goddess mowed them down as a scythe swaths through wheat. She stood her ground, up to her knees in blood, thigh deep in gore of the troops. She cut down the servants at the tables, and massacred all in the house of Akhat.
When she stopped, all was silent, except for the bickering of the vultures gorging on the dead, and satiated finally, she sheathed the sword that was Yatpan, she returned the sacred mace to her belt, the bow to her back.
The arrow that was Yatpan which had killed Akhat had driven through the earth, reaching the waters beneath. And where it had entered the body of Asura sprang new waters, a fountain rose where Akhat had fallen.
In a basin the Virgin Anat washed her hands in the blood of the soldiers. The Progenetrix of Nations sank her fingers in the gore of the troops. She then scooped water from the fountain of Beth Akhat, and drank of its waters. Dew fell from Heaven, and washed away the blood. Rain from the stars washed away the gore of battle.
She anointed herself with perfumed oil and roared in triumph as the house of Akhat fell, BethAkhat began to crumble, washed away by the spring. So was the spring En Akhat born from the womb of Asura. The sweet waters carried away the stain of Akhat’s pride and arrogance, and it is said that those who find it who are humble and pure of heart will find boundless courage by drinking its waters and giving thanks to the Lady Asura and Rabbat Anat.
Now that the plains of Abeluma were opened to her, she turned her face to the heights of Sapon. The earth had cracked open from the shocks of battle enough for the messengers of Ba’al Hadad to squeeze out from under the rocks from beneath the mount of Sapon. From the crags of Sapon came Gupan and Utar, released from their burial place. They came before the Virgin Anat. Prostrated, with respect, they touched their faces to the ground and addressed the mighty goddess
“Forgive us Rabbat Anat, Progenetrix of Nations, slayer of the foes of Ba’al. We have no sacrifice for you,” said Gupan.
“We have no libation,” added Utar. “We have no offerings. All we can offer is our service in return for your favour.”
“You are messengers of a great Lord. That I can see, ” answered Anat. “In which case your favour shall be great. Before I can grant you a favour, you will do me great service.”
“I am your right hand, Virgin Anat,” replied Utar.
“Your wish is my command, Mistress!” replied Gupan.
“You must descend into the waters of Beth Akhat. You must travel beneath the earth. You must retrieve Yatpan, my soldier who lies below in the form of a great arrow!”
In a twinkling, Gupan and Utar disappeared, in an instant they travelled under the earth. For such is their power, the messengers of Ba’al, Gupan and Utar, for they are the jiin who watch the seeds buried by the men and women in the fields until it is brought to life by the rain of Ba’al.
Within a breath, they returned. They sprang from waters of the Spring of Akhat. Between them stood Yatpan, revivified and full of vigour, with all his strength.
Rabbat Anat rejoiced.
“You have brought my servant back to me! Your Lord must be great!”
“He is indeed! But Yatpan must return to this spring, on the first day of the year, each Spring, and descend into the waters to drink. Here he must remain for three days beneath the waters. It is here on the first day that he must renew his dreams. On the second his courage. And on the third, his faith in Asura Astarte, mother of all things. Then on the third day he may return reborn, to serve you for another year.”
“I accept your conditions,” replied Anat who was overwhelmed with happiness at the return of her servant Yatpan. “You will accept the terms of these jiin?” Anat asked Yatpan.
“To serve you even for one day is so great an honour, my Lady,” replied Yatpan, “That I would descend into the realm of Nergal himself for the whole year less that day!”
Anat was pleased by his answer for such is the response of the Asura to undying devotion.
Gupan and Utar stepped forward.
“O Rabbat Anat,” began Gupan, “Slayer of Akhat, Crusher of the Ocean Yammu, beloved of El, Tamer of the Flood Rabbim, Enslaver of the Fire Hashat, we ask that you come with us, you and your right arm, Yatpan, for our lord, Ba’al Hadad was swallowed by Ba’al Mot.”
Anat gasped at the sound of her brother’s name.
“Mot, son of El,” continued Utar, “after the will of El for his was jealous of the realm of Ba’al Hadad. Our Lord tended the garden of Asura, the fertile garden. Without Ba’al the seed does not grow, the luminary of the gods of Asura, the Sun is burning hot. Empty are the heavens in the hands of Mot.”
“You must return Ba’al Hadad to the fields. You must return Ba’al Hadad to the pastures. He must return to the forests and the palms. Without him the crops do not rise. Only you, Holy Lady, can save him!”
“We are not worthy of this task,” interjected Gupan, “Only Rabbat Anat, daughter of El, of the house of Asura is strong enough to release Ba’al Hadad from the mouth of Mot. Only the Virgin Anat can release him from the bowels of the Underworld Guardian!”
Rabbat Anat saw the wisdom of the words of Gupan and Utar. “It is so!” she declared, “If Ba’al had not been swallowed by the Maw of Mot, Then El would not have sired me through Astarte Asura. If Ba’al had not been slain by Mot, then I would not be who I am. If not for the jealousy, envy and ire of El as he conceived me, I would not be the great warrior I am. It is to this task, it is to the resurrection of Ba’al Hadad, that I was born!”
She knew that only she could release her brother. She knew that only she could make amends for the sins of her father, El. Anat knew that she must rescue Ba’al Hadad.
And so, Anat and her armsbearer, the jiin Yatpan with Gupan-wa-Utar, loyal servants of Ba’al Hadad journeyed to the House of Mot which stood in the blasted fields of Lord Nergal, the Lion of Mametu. There where life ends and nothing grows, Mot heard the approach of Rabbat Anat and her entourage and the great god trembled. He barred the doors and shuttered the windows. When he assured himself all was locked tight and no entranceway lay open, he crouched in the furthest corner of the seventh room of the eight, then lifted his voice, crying out, “Why has the Virgin Anat come to my house dressed for battle? I have done you no harm!”
Anat stamped her feet and the earth shook. The walls of Bet Mot cracked and the beams to the seven rooms collapsed. In the seventh room of the eight, Mot cringed and whimpered in fear.
“You have taken my brother Ba’al Hadad, Lord Mot!“ shouted Anat as she entered the broken ruins of the House of Mot, ”And what you do unto him, you do unto me! Show your face that you may beg for mercy before I crush you beneath my feet!”
Anat stood before the barred door of the seventh room of the eight where Mot was hiding.
“Perhaps we can arrange a compromise,” suggested Ba’al Mot timidly from behind the door.
But his supplication only angered Anat and she lifted her mighty mace and shattered the door to the seventh room of the eight, the Holy Place of Mot. With a mighty blow the walls were brought down, and Mot fell before her. She seized Mot by the border of his garment. Holding him by the tassels of his robe, she lifted her voice and shouted, “Come, Mot, give me my brother!”
And the son of El, Mot replied, “Anything else you want, O Virgin Anat! All I have I will give you! I shall give you my cattle! I surrender my sheep! All the gold I possess is yours for the asking! But I cannot give you the life of our brother, Hadad! I cannot undo what I have done!”
Anat sneered at Mot.
“You are weak! I shall take from you your kine for my heart is to Ba’al Hadad as the heart of a cow for her calf! I shall take from you your flocks for my heart is to Ba’al Hadad as the heart of a ewe for her lamb! I shall take from you your gold, for my heart is to Ba’al Hadad as pure as gold! You must be left with the emptiness you have inflicted on me by taking away my brother!”
As the maiden Anat reached for her sword, Mot, seeing a moment of weakness leapt upon her, his huge maw opening to swallow her, but Anat shrugged him off as a cow flicks a fly with her tail. Instantly on her feet, she bellowed her war cry, and as she clashed her sword upon the Shield of El, sparks flew in every direction, spraying white hot metal like a fountain around her. The maiden Anat seized the god, Mot. So swift was her sword, his head was sliced from his body before he could utter a sound. With her sword she cleaved him. With a shovel, she winnowed him. With fire she parched him. In her handmill she ground him. In the fields she sowed him, so that the ravens and vultures could not devour him, or the sparrows carry of parts of him. Remnants were sundered from the remains, and the remains were ploughed under the fields.
She roared with triumph, her hair matted with the blood of Mot, her tunic spattered with the gore of the Keeper of the Fields. Yatpan, her right hand brought her basins of oil to wash every piece of Mot from her person. Gupan and Utar brought jars to hold the blood and gore. These they poured onto the Fields of the Lion of Mametu, Lord Nergal. Not a trace of Ba’al Mot remained.
To the crags of Sapon flew Rabbat Anat and Yatpan, led by Gupan and Utar. There Gupan and Utar showed the Virgin the crack from which they had ascended from below the Fields of Nergal, Lord of The Underworld.
Anat drew out the Bow of Akhat and drew Yatpan as the eagle. from her quiver he became the arrow with the unspoken words of Akhat engraved upon its shaft, with the courage of Akhat at its tip and the dreams of Akhat in its tail feathers.
“Go deep Yatpan!” Anat whispered, “Fly straight to the heart of Ba’al Hadad! Dig deep into the earth, and find my brother! Bring him back to me!”
And so Rabbat Anat drew back the bow of Akhat. Never had the bow bent back so far. The creaking of the wood and the leather, the metal of the shaft screamed and the servants of Ba’al Hadad, Gupan and Utar covered their ears. When the Maiden Anat released the bowstring, the world rocked with thunder. Lightning crackled over the heads of the gods themselves and even they were afraid.
The Arrow Yatpan drove through the air into the earth, and the world shook as never before!
The vibrations shook even the foundations of Beth Asura, Home of The Gods. El, the consort of Astarte Asura knew his son Mot was slain, for his ravens had seen the vultures of Anat circling above the fields of Nergal, and brought him the news. They had heard the cries of Mot and had called out in sorrow. For the death of his son, El knew he must atone for his deeds. He must sacrifice to win back the favour of Astarte Asura.
The jiin Yatpan dove deep into the earth. Like a fish through water, he passed through the ground. He flew straight to the heart of Ba’al Hadad for the heart of Ba’al Hadad was so pure that it had not been absorbed into the God Mot, and lay deep beneath the earth where it had been buried with all the parts of Ba’al Mot. From the Heart of Hadad poured the blood of life. From the Sacred Heart of Ba’al Hadad spilled his seed underground. His semen flowed from under the earth, It percolated up from the depths and sprang out at Mount Hermon pouring onto the land. his life blood became the water of the two deeps, and the rivers of Canaan flowed once more. The river of the two deeps poured out onto the land, but the body of Ba’al Hadad was not to be found.
Yatpan wailed in grief and Anat heard his cries. “What is wrong, Yatpan?” she called out, “Have you found Ba’al Hadad?”
“Dead is Ba’al Hadad! Perished is the Prince, Lord of the Earth!” cried out Yatpan, “I have failed you, Mistress!”
With that, Yatpan returned to his true form, and slew himself deep within the Earth. Anat roared in sorrow, and her voice shook the mountains. She lost her right hand, the blood of Yatpan seeped into the earth, and Rabbat Anat fell to the ground in agony.
Then El Hanna, the jealous God broke down and placed the crown of El Rahum, the God of Mercy upon his head. Tor El, the Bull came down from his throne and sat on a footstool, and from the footstool he sat on the ground. He threw ashes of mourning upon his head, dust sticking to his face. He took off his fine raiments and donned sackcloth. He slashed his skin with stones of flint, and with a shaving knife he cut off his locks. He lacerated his forearms, he plowed his chest as a farmer plows his garden, like a valley he scoured his back. He lifted his voice and wailed, “Ba’al Hadad is dead! Woe to the people of Dagon’s son! Woe to the multitudes!! After Ba’al, I, myself shall go down into the Earth!”
And El descended into the Earth and brought forth each piece of the body of Ba’al Hadad. The pieces he put back together and he placed the corpse of The Charioteer of The Clouds on a stone in the Field of Nergal, the Lion of Mametu. The life of Ba’al, his semen, still flowed from the dead body of Ba’al Hadad, and from the very stones beneath him, as the life of Hadad was touched by the hot fingers of the goddess Shapash, the sun, the luminary of the gods, green pastures sprang from the barren wastes of the fields of the Great Lion of Mametu.
Anat, in her grief saw none of this for she wandered aimlessly over mountains to Middle Earth, over every hill she passed, every field, until she reached again the fields of Lord Nergal. She did not recognize the place: the pleasant land of green pastures, the lovely fields of the Lion of Mametu. Beneath the crags of Sapon, she came upon the body of Ba’al Hadad laid out upon stone.
Her grief renewed, she threw off her tattered tunic, and donned sackcloth. She slashed her skin with stones of flint, and with a shaving knife she cut off her beautiful locks. She lacerated her forearms, her chest she plowed as a farmer plows his garden, like a valley she scoured her back She lifted her voice and wailed, “Dead is Ba’al Hadad! Perished is the Prince of Peace! Lord of the Earth is no more! Now shall the seventy children of Asura less one rejoice! Now shall I raise Ba’al Hadad to his rightful place!”
With her was Shapash, luminary of the gods, the sun. Until Anat was sated with weeping, Shapash stayed with her sister Anat. As the Virgin drank tears like water, Shapash stayed. Aloud, on the third day, Anat cried to the luminary of the gods, “Load upon my shoulders the body of Hadad. The luminary of the gods heard and Shapash lifted the body of Ba’al Hadad and on the shoulders of Anat, she placed him.
Anat turned her face toward the heights of Sapon, and flew to the highest point of the tor. There on an altar she placed him. She put the body of Ba’al Hadad on the stone slab. There he rested in state. There she built a monument worthy of a god of Asura.
There she sacrificed seventy bulls as a due offering to Ba’al Hadad. There she sacrificed seventy oxen as a due offering to Ba’al Hadad. There she sacrificed seventy sheep as a due offering to Ba’al Hadad. There she sacrificed seventy deer as a due offering to Ba’al Hadad. There she sacrificed seventy wild goats as a due offering to Ba’al Hadad. There she sacrificed seventy asses as a due offering to Ba’al Hadad.
The tears of Anat fell like rain upon the body of Ba’al Hadad, and the fingers of Shapash warmed his skin. The tears of Anat and the fingers of Shapash fell upon his lips and his mouth opened. Her tears fell upon his nose and his nostrils opened. Anat kissed him on his mouth and her breath became his.
Then Ba’al Hadad lifted his eyes. He lifted his eyes and saw the Virgin Anat, strongest among the sisters of Ba’al, and the aura about her from the caress of her sister Shapash, both the fairest of the daughters of Asura. He was drawn to her and rose. He knelt at her feet and fell before her. He lifted his voice in rejoicing, “May you live, Sister, and may your days be prolonged for Eternity! Come to me, for I wish to make love to you, Virgin Anat! Come to me so you can make love to me! Come to me, and we shall make love together!”
And the Virgin Anat lifted her eyes. She lifted her eyes and saw standing before her a young bull. And he danced in passion. She danced in passion. She danced in passion and in joining with the Bull Hadad became herself a young cow, the heifer, the Progenetrix of Nations, and they joined together in dancing on their knees.
The Bull Hadad and the Heifer Anat embraced. He met her and his hand caressed her vagina. She met him and grasped his testicles. The god Hadad filled his phallus, it rose gladly and pushed into the eager vagina of the Virgin Anat. Yes, deep into the vagina of the fairest of Ba’al’s sisters. The great phallus of Ba’al pushed deep into her womb as they danced and filled her with semen.
Rabbat Anat rejoiced, and cried in pleasure, “You Hadad, are The God of gods! Your name forever shall be Ba’al Aliyan!”
Ba’al Aliyan rejoiced.
Rabbat Anat rejoiced.
The Twins of Life, male and female, together rejoiced.
At the sound of their pleasure, the plants of the fields pushed their heads above the earth, the trees of the forest spread their leaves, the flowers bloomed on the mountain and Life returned in full force on the Earth, stronger than even that of the garden of Asura! The semen of Ba’al Aliyan filled the Earth, and brought Life even to the fallen Yatpan who ascended from the bowels of the Earth. And in the midst of the paradise grew a tree more beautiful than all the others. The fruits were so perfect that to consume only one would bring immortality, a single bite all the knowledge of the world. Beneath this tree Anat and Aliyan made love.
Happy were Ba’al and Anat in the garden of Asura, they made love and ate the fruits of the garden, and after three glorious days of lovemaking beneath the Tree of Life, Rabbat Anat turned her face to Bethel. She would go to El to ask for a house, she decided, a temple for Ba’al now that he had risen from the dead. She spoke to Ba’al and as they could not bear to part, they decided they would go to Asura together. Before they left the garden, Anat commanded Yatpan to remain behind and guard the Tree of Life so that none would eat of it while they were gone. Yatpan, in the guise of a serpent, slithered up the tree and hid within the foliage, there to stand guard.
As the couple approached Beth Asura, the doves in the garden flew to the shoulder of the Creatrix of Asura, Astarte, Queen of Heaven, and told her of all which had come to pass. Astarte Asura, who now knew of El’s deception, lifted her voice and cried out, “Why has Ba’al Aliyan, my son Hadad come? Why has Rabbat Anat come? To destroy me! To murder my beloved El! Surely to murder my children! Surely to kill the flocks of my kinsmen!”
The sacred couple Aliyan-wa-Anat commanded the servants of Ba’al Aliyan, Gupan and Utar, to travel ahead to greet their Mother Astarte. Gupan and Utar became many and bore with them to the Great Queen Mother Astarte. Bearing seventy chest of gold, they advanced to the gates of Beth Asura. They carried seventy chests of silver. They became seventy camels bearing grapes from the Garden of Aliyan-wa-Anat. Seventy camels bearing pomegranates, seventy bearing apricots, seventy of cucumbers, seventy of barley, and of wheat, of all the fruits of their garden on Earth. Seventy asses with casks of olive oil, also seventy oxen bearing wine, seventy bearing beer, seventy oxen drawing carts of a myriad of spices. All this Gupan and Utar brought with them to present to the Queen Astarte.
As they arrived at the gates of Beth Asura, they prostrated themselves before the throne of Astarte Asura, their foreheads touching the ground.
“Great Queen,” said Gupan, ”We bring you greetings from your son, Ba’al Aliyan, whom you know as Hadad, and your daughter, The Lady, Rabbat Anat.”
“Please accept these humble gifts of first fruits of the Earth from your daughter Anat and son Aliyan,“ continued Utar, “as they seek your favour. They come in peace and Anat seeks only to speak with El, and asks your consent.”
The Great Queen Astarte nodded, and on the altar set before Queen Astarte, Aliyan and Anat slew before her an unblemished calf and drenched it with wine and beer. They poured the blood onto the ground, and set fire to the altar. The smoke was sweetened with spices and the smell pleased Astarte.
“I shall speak to El. In the circumstance though, he will not be pleased. But I must have your pledge to spare my children and the flocks of my kinsmen, for them I could not bear to lose!”
“You have my word, Mother,” declared Anat, “I shall not destroy your sons nor daughters, nor the flocks of your kinsmen.”
Asura opened the ears of El. She brought the Virgin Anat to him in the seventh room of the eight. El, seated upon his throne, greeted his daughter warily. “I know you daughter, your nature is that of a man, and that when you speak there can be none as scornful as you. What do you want of me?”
“If you do not give permission for a house for Ba’al Aliyan like the other gods of Asura, like the other sons of Asura, like the daughters of Asura, I shall trample you down like a lamb to the earth! I shall plaster your grey hair wet with blood, and cause your grey beard to be matted with gore! ”
“El shook his weary head, and held his hands up in supplication. “Enough! Enough! My ears are open! I can hear you! Listen!”
He leaned forward. “Daughter,” he said sadly, “Open your ears and close the gates, lock the doors, for what I must say, I will speak only with you!”
Anat closed the gates and locked the doors and opened her ears. “Speak!” she commanded, “I will hear what you have to say!”
“It is I who ordered the burial of Hadad with bitterness of envy and jealousy. I ordered my son Mot to rid me of Ba’al. I wanted the love of your mother Astarte to be for me alone, and in this I was wrong.’
“I am ashamed, I did not realize that her love is boundless. It can fill the heart and pour out in a torrent. It can gush from the breast like a fountain and fill the heart with love for a thousand years. A heart so filled with love will ever remain full.”
“You speak pretty words, Bull El,” retorted Anat, “Yet you are jealous and your jealousy makes you weak. For this fault, I was born, and it is for me, your daughter Anat, to keep your jealousy at bay! From this day forth, I shall be watching you!”
Anat drew her sword from its scabbard. El flinched but did not cringe.
“I am not afraid for myself, daughter Anat” he said firmly, “Kill me if you must, but spare my sons, spare my flocks and the flocks of my kin!”
“Give me your permission, Father El, for Kathir-wa-Hasis to build a house for Ba’al Aliyan on the heights of Sapon!” demanded Anat.
“You have my permission,” declared El.
“You must allow the people of Canaan to worship Ba’al Aliyan!”
“As long as they wish, they shall be allowed to worship Ba’al Aliyan!” declared El.
Anat swung her sword once across the head of El. The Warrior Queen brought her sword down across the head of El. The cuts, one across, one down dripped blood from the pate of El.
“The mark of this cross seals your covenant with your son,” declared Anat. Anat reached up to the forehead of her father and poured perfumed oil upon his head. With her hand, she wiped the wound and it healed.
“The scar shall bleed should you forsake your son. From the cross you shall bleed, and none may stop it, but he. When the cross appears again, your power shall wane, and you shall dwindle to nothing! You, Tor El, because your great sin is jealousy, will lose the respect of all who loved you. Your sons will ignore your commandments, and your house, your temple shall be destroyed by fire and sword! Your sons shall be scattered into the wilderness!”
El was not pleased with the curse of his daughter Anat, but he was bound by the covenant. “Daughter, I regret my part in the death of Ba’al Aliyan. You are the terrible price I must pay for my crime. I cannot stop you! I shall order the house of Ba’al to be built on the crags of Sapon, and this covenant you have enforced between he and I shall never be broken! This I vow!”
“We shall see!” replied Anat and she turned and left the Bethel to bring her husband, lover and brother the glad tidings.
Ninshubar looked up from the scroll. Miri was fast asleep. The leopardess covered Miri’s bare arms and shoulders with a blanket, then curled in the crook of the sleeping girl’s legs, laid her head across Miri’s thighs, closed her eyes contentedly and began to purr.