In honor of our ”Disappearance” issue, today’s forgotten goddess of a lost civilization is Tanit, the Phoenician goddess of war. She is often pictured with the head of a lion.
From Flaubert’s Salammbo, which is set in Carthage 3rd Century BC:
Suddenly the entire city rose; blue, yellow, and white veils moved on the walls in the redness of the evening. These were the priestesses of Tanit, who had hastened hither to receive the men. They stood ranged along the rampart, striking tabourines, playing lyres, and shaking crotala, while the rays of the sun, setting behind them in the mountains of Numidia, shot between the strings of their lyres over which their naked arms were stretched. At intervals their instruments would become suddenly still, and a cry would break forth strident, precipitate, frenzied, continuous, a sort of barking which they made by striking both corners of the mouth with the tongue. Others, more motionless than the Sphynx, rested on their elbows with their chins on their hands, and darted their great black eyes upon the army as it ascended.
Tanit was perhaps the goddess that the widespread child sacrifices of Carthage were in honor of. No one is really sure, but that is what happens when your greatest man Hannibal pisses off Rome so bad it doesn’t just conquer your city, it destroys your history, poisons your wells, salts your land. Then the only written record is written by your greatest enemy, so who knows. But a lot of people, probably children, met fiery deaths in Carthage, there was probably a child sacrifice thing going on. When a Carthage cemetery was discovered, it contained the urns of the cremated remains of 80,000 children and animals, and a majority of the children were infants.
(Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and then spare him? To prove he wasn’t as big a dick as the Carthage gods. Didn’t quite bear out over time but what are you going to do?)
Anyway! Tanit was the counterpart to Baal, the god of the sky, and both were considered to be the protectors of Carthage. Because the Phoenicians were sailors, she has shown up in other regions, such as Cornwall and Ibiza.
Matisse’s Seated Woman is just one of the many paintings stashed away in a Munich apartment for decades, only recently discovered.
We have some suggested reading for you here, about art lost, destroyed, and censored.
For our Disappearance issue, here is today’s forgotten goddess from a lost civilization.
Colel Cab is the Mayan goddess of bees.
Colel Cab is related to the Moon, specifically with its waning aspect. This and her underground dwelling have led many to believe she was a crone goddess. She is also considered to be just one aspect of a larger feminine goddess, much like the triple goddesses of Celtic and Greek mythology.
Some beekeepers do still pray to Colel Cab for protection and health of their hives, as she’s been degraded from powerful feminine force to a kind of patron saint.
She has a male counterpart, the bee god Ah-Muzen-Cab, and he has the most depressing Wikipedia page ever.
He is possibly the same figure as “the Descending God” or “the Diving God” and is consistently depicted upside-down. The Temple of the Descending God is located in Tulum. He also makes an appearance in the popular MOBA, Smite (video game).
But in many cultures, the bee is a sign of wisdom and most likely associated with the feminine as there are bee goddess in almost every culture.
In honor of our Disappearance issue, this is the first in a series of posts about the forgotten goddesses of lost civilizations.
Ereshkigal was the goddess of the Underworld. She ruled over judgment of the living, rebirth of the dead, and ancestral memories.
She fell in love once, with Nergal, but the rules of the Underworld prohibited him from dwelling there, as he was not dead. Ereshkigal threatened all of the other gods and goddess that if they did not bend the rules, she would make all of the dead walk the earth. She got her way, and the two ruled the Underworld together.
She also killed her sister one time, but she brought her back to life, so that’s fine.
Ereshkigal is associated with owls, lions, and the stone lapis lazuli. Her name means “great lady under earth.”
Nergal went down the long stairway of heaven.
When he arrived at the gate of Ereshkigal he said,
"Gatekeeper, open [ ]!"
He struck down Nedu, the doorman of the first gate, and did not let him grapple with him.
He struck down the second doorman, and did not let him grapple with him.
He struck down the third doorman, and did not let him grapple with him.
He struck down the fourth doorman, and did not let him grapple with him.
He struck down the fifth doorman, and did not let him grapple with him.
He struck down the sixth doorman, and did not let him grapple with him.
He struck down the seventh doorman, and did not let him grapple with him.
He entered her wide courtyard,
And went up to her and laughed.
He seized her by her hairdo,
And pulled her from the throne.
He seized her by her tresses
The two embraced each other
And went passionately to bed.
They lay there, queen Ereshkigal and Erra, for a first day and a second day.
They lay there, queen Ereshkigal and Erra, for a third day.
They lay there, queen Ereshkigal and Erra, for a fourth day.
They lay there, queen Ereshkigal and Erra, for a fifth day.
They lay there, queen Ereshkigal and Erra, for a sixth day.
(“He seized her by her hairdo.”)
Women are not naturally more empathetic, compassionate, nurturing than men are, although it is fun to think so when you are not in a position to disprove this.
Lewis P. Tabor, American (1900-1974). Solar Eclipse, 1925. Gelatin silver print.