Mot: Canaanite God of Death and Nature’s Adversity

Mot, death, the Canaanite and Phoenician god of adversity, was the representive of adversity in the natural world. He dwelled in a pit within the earth, and is responsible for its annual death from drought and heat: «he has scorched the olive, the produce of the earth, and the fruit of the trees.» He engaged in the classic confrontation with the Canaanite hero and national god, Baal. Though this duel results in the death of Baal, Baal’s demise is avenged by his twin sister Anat who then kills Mot and cleaves, winnows, burns and grinds his remains with a millstones in a ritual resembling the sowing of seed and harvesting (a tradition similar to Osiris). Baal was later resurrected. This conflicted probably formed the basis for an annual ritual drama at the Canaanite New Year, which occurred in the autumn. In text Mot is the son of Il and his mother was Aserah (Athirat). A.G.H.

 

Mot God of Death

Mot, the god of death and adversity in Canaanite and Phoenician mythology, represents a crucial element in the ancient Near Eastern religious and mythological landscape. His narrative is deeply intertwined with the cycle of nature and agricultural practices.

 

Nature and Domain

  • God of Death and Adversity: Mot symbolizes death, adversity, and the destructive aspects of nature. His domain includes drought and the desolation it brings to the earth.
  • Dwelling in the Earth: Mot is described as residing in a pit or underworld realm, a common motif for deities associated with death in various mythologies.

 

Mythological Conflict with Baal

  • Confrontation with Baal: Mot’s most famous myth involves a confrontation with Baal, the Canaanite storm god and deity of fertility. This conflict reflects the natural cycle of seasons, particularly the dry Mediterranean summers.
  • Death and Resurrection of Baal: In the myth, Baal is defeated and killed by Mot, symbolizing the cessation of rains and the onset of the dry season. Baal’s eventual resurrection, aided by Anat, Baal’s sister, signifies the return of rain and fertility.

 

Symbolism in the Myth

  • Agricultural Cycle: The struggle between Baal and Mot represents the seasonal cycle of agriculture, with Baal’s death and resurrection mirroring the dying and rebirth of vegetation.
  • Ritual and Celebration: The story likely formed the basis for annual ritual dramas during the Canaanite New Year in autumn, celebrating the cycle of death and rebirth in nature.

 

Family and Relations

  • Son of Il: Mot is identified as the son of Il (El), the chief deity in the Canaanite pantheon.
  • Mother Aserah (Athirat): His mother is Aserah, also known as Athirat, a major goddess in Canaanite religion.

 

Cultural and Religious Context

  • Canaanite and Phoenician Religion: Mot is a prominent figure in the religious practices of the ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians, civilizations that flourished in the Levant region.
  • Similarities to Other Myths: The narrative of death and resurrection has parallels in other ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean mythologies, such as the Egyptian myth of Osiris.

 

Modern Interpretation

  • Symbol of Natural Forces: Mot embodies the destructive yet natural forces of death and drought, integral to the ancient understanding of the world’s cyclical nature.
  • Archaeological and Historical Interest: The myth of Mot and Baal offers valuable insights into Canaanite and Phoenician culture, religion, and their understanding of the natural world.