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This ritual is derived from one tablet found at Ugarit, sometimes identified as Tablet 23. This single tablet is in pretty good condition, with only the final characters of a few lines obscure or missing. You can note, however, where the tablet ends. It would seem that there should be more, although a continuation has not been found. Therefore, in order to perform this in ritual, i have invented an ending. This is purely my own invention and not authentic. How it may really have concluded we don't know. You can substitute your own ending. In the first part, the opening ceremony, there actually are "stage directions," which are absent in the Myth part. For our purposes, i have added stage-directions to the Myth. In Canaanite practice the whole text may merely have been read or, more likely, chanted by a cantor in the temple after the offerings were made.
Theodor Gaster, in Thespis (see Bibliography), describes this as a more-or-less Summer Solstice ritual. At first I accepted this as a likely possibility, but have recently come to think that perhaps this ritual is a forerunner of the Jewish Shavuot, which is a wheat harvest festival 7X7 days after Pesach (Passover), the barley harvest festival. It is traditional at Shavuot to serve dairy foods and make thanks for abundance, fish featuring in some Mediterranean areas for their fertility associations (think of all those offensive jokes about female odors - perhaps there is more to them than mere nastiness). It is a happy occasion, shortly before the dry season begins. To me, this association makes more sense than one with Summer Solstice, which would already be in the perilous dry season, a time when Baal and his life sustaining moisture are pretty much absent and the parching hand of Mot in evidence. At Mid-Summer i think it is more likely that there were Ancestor Rituals, as it is a time of the apparent death of vegetation in Mediterranean regions, while Winter, although dark, is when the plant world comes back to life, for it is the rainy season and things are green again.
Qadash Kinahnu/ Sanctuary Phoenicia has performed this pretty much as it is here at a Pagan festival in the month of June. As i recall we had a cast of five, all females except for El. We did not serve minted yogurt and honey-coriander milk as directed, nor lay out cushions for the deities, although we did have an altar set up for the deities. The Celebrants, those not "acting" in the ritual, faced us in a semi-circle.
Most of the text, except what is after "We must invent the text" is from the original. But there are a few differences, either where i had to fill in something in a broken line, or expanded on an indea to make it either more clear or more poetic. I will re-edit this to indicate where i took liberties.
Another thing Gaster believes is that this is a burlesque, and we did play it as such, to some extent, and got some good laughs. I think, however, that this was not a comedy for the Canaanites, even though it is full of sexually suggestive punning. Still, i like to imagine that the deities were pleased to be remembered once more.
The Ritual Drama
NOTES: Pronunciation: Shacharu = Sha-HAH-ru (the ch is gutteral) and Shalemu = Sha-LEH-mu
Deity Names: Athirat is the Ugaritic Goddess whom the Hebrews called Asherah
A. The Ritual
Cast should see that Participants line up at Eastern entrance to circle. Pass out Mot Chant and Twin Praises to participants. Explain any necessary business when all are assembled.
Procession into Sacred Space around circle with music making
Narrator should be at the head of the line. After Participants form circle, the cast must continue to circle a total of 3 times. Seven would be ideal but will take too long with a large group.
Narrator quietly blesses offerings, then two libators pour libations of wine and water, and offer bread at the altar
II. Song of the Vintage and Harvest
III. Presentation of Sacrifices
Libators serve minted yogurt and coriander-honey milk to participants as Narrator makes incense offering, using standard incense prayer.
IV. Arrival of the Goddesses
All Members of the Cast except the Narrator, dance and make music in front of the Two who carry the statues of Athirat and Anat, wrapped in white linen, on trays. Encourage participants to clap, make music, and dance All circle at least once, then bring statues to the altar.
V. Installation of the Divine Guests
As Narrator recites, 2 cast members set out eight colored cushions, then 1 other sprinkles them with flower petals and 1 other with scented waters. El - white, Athirat - deep blue; Baal - blue-green, Anat - blood red; Shapash - golden yellow, Kothar-wa-Khasis - rusty red; Shaharu & Shalemu - wine and ochre
VI. Hymn of Praise to the Gods Gracious and to the Sun
VII. Repetition of the Song of Vintage and Harvest
B. The Mythological Drama
actors mime as narrator describes
El embraces the two women.
Gracious God One: O watchman, watchman!
The Rest Is Lost
C. Sacred Meal
Encourage participants to repeat three times. If suitable, thank all Deities using usual method.
D. Exeunt Omnes
Procession of Cast out of circle playing music.
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