Defying Death – Mythology of Ancient Mesopotamia

After initially opposing the idea, the Ugaritic storm-god Baal agreed to include a window In the design of his new palace. His decision was to lead to a confrontation with Mot (Death).

The divine craftsman Kothar wa-Hasis suggested a window in the royal palace and Baal all opposed him. Baal was concerned that his daughters, Dew and Mist, would escape from the palace and fly away. Later Baal must have changed his mind and opted to have a window installed, which provoked words of reproach from Kothar wa-Hasis. “Did I not tell you that you would come back to my words?”

The final building did contain a window, but its inclusion was to prove a terrible mistake. Although the opening allowed Baal to manifest his power over fertility by pouring rain onto the Earth, it also exposed him to Death, who, it was commonly believed, could only enter a house through a window.

When Baal returned from a triumphal tour of his kingdom, he decided to open the window by making a gap in the clouds. Shouting through the opening, he managed to make the earth below shake as he flung out a defiant challenge to Death. “Enemies of Baal, why do you tremble? Will any king or non-king establish himself on this Earth where I am Sovereign? I alone reign among the gods, I alone feed the multitudes on Earth and make them fat!”

Baal followed up his challenge by sending two messengers, Gapan (vine) and Ugar (plowed field), down to Mot’s realm in the Underworld. He gave his messengers careful instructions for their dangerous mission. “Go down into the dismal, desolate land where Mot reigns. But be careful as you approach him. Don’t give him a chance to seize you like lambs in his jaws. Go and tell him I have built my palace of gold and silver.” The remainder of his message, like the account of the messengers’ journey itself, is lost. But the boastful mention of Baal’s splendid new palace with its window suggest that the tone was provocative and led to further confrontations between Baal and Death.

 

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