This series intends to briefly point towards the original mythological material, compare it to the Gillen and McKelvie comic adaptation of it (The Wicked and The Divine), and speculate about possible meanings and foreshadowing by using a bit of background knowledge.
The end of the first arc of The Wicked and The Divine couldn’t be bigger. Thus, huge spoilers ahead. Trust me, even if you usually don’t care about spoilers, save this text for later if you haven’t read issue #5 yet. You will thank me when you understand why.
The Devil has fallen. Now that it has already happened, it seems so obvious that it had to happen. Except it wasn’t.
Lucifer was a rebel who did not accept orders, and was expelled from Heaven for it. But, as Laura says, this isn’t the end. Like in the Bible tales, Lucifer’s influence will still make what she loves most: a hell of a mess.
But life, and comics, goes on. And there is a murder mystery to solve. How do you solve a mystery? With information! Let’s talk mythology, shall we?
Baal comes from the semitic word Ba’l and his name can be translated as lord, owner, master, or husband. Several Canaanite deities received that title, and that’s what led to Cassandra misunderstanding that Baal identity. At first, she thought that he was Baal Hammon, a fire god, and thus suspected him of murdering the judge.
But, as explained in WicDiv #4, he is actually Baal Hadad, a storm god “best known from the coastal city of Ugarit, where large cuneiform archives have been found”. Hadad is a god comparable to the Greek Zeus or Roman Jupiter; he rules heaven and has the power of thunder and lightning. He is also connected to land fertility because rural canaanite communities needed his rains. He is represented with a club in his right hand and a crown on his head, which is decorated with horns. He can be symbolized by a bull.
Baal is son of El, the supreme god of the pantheon. His father, though, publicly declares that his favorite son is Yamm (or Naham), god of the seas and rivers. Baal and Yamm then fight for power, and the latter eventually collapses. To celebrate, a fancy palace is built for Baal, in which he hosts a great feast for the gods.
But Baal was not very fortunate with the brothers he got. Mot (meaning death), god of the underworld and another son of El, is not pleased with the feast. He is insulted because while there is plenty of bread and wine, what Mot eats (human flesh and blood) is lacking. Baal tries to be diplomatic with Mot, offering him the finest (animal) meat available, but nothing succeeds. The party is going downhill, and Mot even threatens to cut Baal into pieces and eat him raw. The only alternative offered by Mot is that his brother come to the underworld to dine. Baal is afraid, but not even he can stand against death, so he accepts.
In Mot’s realm, Baal is served with mud. When he eats it, he becomes trapped in the underworld. With the apparent death of Baal, all humans and gods mourn, even El. Baal’s sister Anat is the saddest of them all.
Anat goes on a journey until she finally finds Mot. She wounds him with a sword, burns him with fire and throws his remains away. She killed Death. I don’t think one can get more badass than that.
With Mot away, Shapsh (the sun god) brings Baal back to his throne and the lands become fertile once more.
Seven years later Mot returns, but Shapsh tells Mot that now even El supports Baal, and Mot finally recognizes him as king.
Being king of the world probably explains that huge mural in his house.
ANAT AND INANNA
Anat, who killed Death for Baal, was both his sister and his lover. She is the goddess of love, fertility, and war, and the main goddess in the Canaanite pantheon—often called the Queen of Heaven. One of her other titles is “virgin”… but wasn’t she the lover of Baal? I don’t want to get too much into controversies, but I’ll briefly explain the three currents of thought. One, she was just Baal’s lover, and not a virgin. Two, the same, but inverted. And three, that the word “virgin” originally comes from “virgo,” which contains “vir,” the same prefix of virility. Thus, a virgin would be a woman who is independent (not owned by any men [like a father, brother, or husband]) and occupies a place in patriarchal society equivalent to males. In this specific case, Anat, like a man of that time and place might be, is sexually free and a warrior. To those who believe in the third theory, the term “virgin” acquired its modern meaning fairly recently.
I bring this up because, although the origin of the word is controversial and a matter best left for linguists to inspect, this concept of what I’ll call a “freed woman,” name it as you will, is important and sometimes comes up in Mediterranean mythology. Anat is a “freed woman,” and that is very important for her character.
That’s important information number 1. Now put that in a drawer for a moment and let’s talk geography.
Crop of “Mesopotamia c. 1200 BC” map by Ian Mladjov; cities of Ugarit and Uruk highlighted by me
Before, I mentioned that Baal’s (and also his sister’s) center of worship was in the city of Ugarit (that’s west of Mesopotamia). He became very popular in all of Canaan, though, and stories spread through time and space. In ancient Mesopotamia, one of the most important cities around 2.000 BC was Uruk. Uruk was close to the mouth of the Euphrates river, some 400 miles west and 200 miles south of Ugarit. So Uruk and Ugarit were relatively close, and there were many cities between them that kept them in cultural contact. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if some of one city’s mythology became tangled with the other, right? And there you have important information piece number two.
With time, other goddesses became mixed up with Anat leading to her eventually being called Ishtar. See, Anat and Ishtar are not the same; the relation between them can be compared to the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus. They are close, and it is hard to distinguish one from the other. That makes important information piece number three.
Ishtar was the patron deity of the city of Uruk. So there is Anat (with Baal) in Ugarit, and Ishtar in Uruk. But until now we were talking of Semitic peoples, and Ishtar is a semitic name. Uruk is a Sumer city, though, and now, finally, join all those important information pieces I dumped into your mind, and prepare for the great revelation.
Ishtar was called by Sumerians … (where are my trumpets?) … Inanna.
All this info dump basically means that, in the WicDiv pantheon, there are no gods with a closer relationship than Baal and Inanna. Not only are their cults geographically close, but Inanna’s previous version was Baal’s inseparable sister and lover.
Inanna is, as well as Anat, a goddess of love, procreation, and war. Her myths are told to us by none less than the world’s first author known by name, Enheduanna (who, by the way has a very interesting story of her own). Enheduanna was “hired” by Sargon of Akkad, or Sargon the Great, to help him unite the Akkadian Empire. Although she did not radically change the religion of the people, she realized that some deities were similar and sometimes inspired by one another, as discussed before, and so she proposed that they were facets of the same deity, as Inanna/Ishtar/Anat, thus achieving the religious homogeniety sought by the king. Her best known works are all about Inanna: “The Great-Hearted Mistress,” “The Exaltation of Inanna,” and “Goddess of Fearsome Powers.”
By those poems we get to see a goddess that is neither good nor bad, “fearsome” but also “great-hearted.” By her actions, it becomes clear that she is a “freed woman.” The society she lives in, even inside her pantheon, is very patriarchal, but she is the exception and fights for her power. In one episode, the reader learns that rape is, to her, one of the worst crimes, and that she will punish it with death. This is really interesting because, in the society that worshipped her, a man would not be executed because of rape—she may have been protecting her own body instead of feeling empathetic and fighting for all womankind, but that doesn’t change the uniqueness or importance of her stance on rape. Her sexual aspects are also very evident (“mistress”), and bring up the custom of sacred prostitutes (of both sexes) that was common in Uruk. The most important of those rituals happened in Eanna, the temple for Inanna in Uruk. Here is the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s definition of “Hieros Gamos”:
Sexual relations of fertility deities in myths and rituals, characteristic of societies based on cereal agriculture, especially in the Middle East. At least once a year, divine persons (e.g. humans representing the deities) engage in sexual intercourse, which guarantees the fertility of the land, the prosperity of the community, and the continuation of the cosmos.
In the specific time and location discussed in this text, the deity being represented was Inanna. Typically, the intercourse would occur between a priestess and a king, conferring the king the goddess’ blessing.
Inanna can be represented by a lion, a symbol of power that demonstrates her dominance over the most powerful beast. The eight-pointed star, called a rosette, is also a common symbol that was chosen by McKelvie to be her symbol on the WicDiv pantheon mandala.
I imagine that in WicDiv Inanna does a concert, just like Beyoncé, with “feminist” written behind her. She hasn’t officially appeared in the comics, though. So let’s see how much my interpretation of her as a pop star differs from Gillen and McKelvie’s, right?References: http://www.ancient.eu/ http://www.britannica.com/ http://phoenicia.org/