Rare person. A term originally referring to a visitor. Orikuchi Shinobu defined marebito as spiritual entities that periodically visit village communities from the other world — the “everlasting world” (tokoyo) across the sea — to bring their residents happiness and good fortune. Orikuchi traced the prototype of the marebito to ancestral spirits (sorei). Despite the dread and disdain of community residents for the marebito, their belief that the marebito bring blessings led to the development of customs for and notions of welcoming the marebito. Orikuchi theorized that the belief in the marebito forms the basis of folk religion in Japan. Examples of marebito as masked and costumed deities that bring blessings to people include the Namahage of Akita Prefecture as well as the Akamata/Kuromata and Mayuganashi in Yaeyama, Okinawa Prefecture.  –– — Iwai Hiroshi, Encyclopedia of Shinto

Here, we propose that the Japanese Marebito concept originated with an ancient foreign festive custom of welcoming and sending off the visiting agricultural deity, Earth deity and bringer of grain, a concept that originated from South West Asia, or the Central Eurasian steppes around the northeastern parts of the Iranian plateau, and that spread eastwards along with the diffusion and trade of grains (wheat, rye) Source:  Frachetti , M.D. , Spengler , R.S. , Fritz , G.J. and Mar ’ yashev , A.N. ( 2010 ), “Earliest evidence of broomcorn millet and wheat in the central Eurasian steppe region ” , Antiquity 84 : 1 – 18  as well as writings on the discoveries of  ritual use of wheat in cremation at Begash, Kazakhstan suggesting exchange networks in the mountain corridors into western China and others suggest archaeological evidence of wheat diffusion in the Southern reaches of Central Asia and the Indus along the foothills of the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor (IAMC) and probably eastwards into the Tien Shan mountains along the Hexi corridor(source: p. 703  A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (ed. by D. T. Potts).

The Marebito custom resembles the customs of the Mara-related, Indra-related Mahavrata-type festivities among the ancient Kalash mountain peoples (see  Hindu Kush: Prototype Vedic/Tibetan deities and Kunlun’s mountain fairy and apsara legends of the ancient Kalash people?. The Kalash people have elaborate Chaumos celebratory rites for:

” the visiting divinity who descends on earth for Chaumos. … Balimain, the visiting god of Bumburet/Rumbur arrives on a winged horse with hooves of burning embers in the most sacred days of the festival, during the period of seclusion. Behind his name emerges the figure of Indra, the ancient tutelary deity of the Indo-Aryans, to whom many hymns of the Rig Veda are addressed. The most likely etymology of the god’s name is in my opinion bal’ima-in, where bal’ima would be an epithet borrowed from Kati, the geographically closest Nuristani language, meaning ‘most-powerful’ and used in hymns as an attribute of divinities (Morgenstierne 1951: 180, 184; cfr. Jettmar 1975: 358), while in stands for Indra. (27) Just as Indra is depicted as the founder of the New Year festival in Indian epic literature (Dumezil 1929: 111, 122-24), so is Balimain considered the re-founder of Chaumos in this version of Kalasha mythology (Jettmar 1975: 354-55). It is believed that it was he who established the prohibitions mentioned above and instructed the Kalasha in the rituals to be performed for his arrival. In fact we may say that the identification of Balimain with Indra is quite explicit: he is called often In or Indr in songs and prayers (e.g. Jettmar 1975: 384); the holy place dedicated to him, in Bumburet, is called indr’eyn; the place where the sacred fire is lit for the ritual performed to receive him is called ‘indras kot (cfr. Jettmar 1975: 356), the fortress of Indra; and the name of his horse, we were told, is ‘indras, which is a genitive. We have already seen, on the other hand, that in Birir as well Indra is the god of Chaumos.”

Thus we see that in the Hindu Kush (including Nuristan and Kalash) winter-solstice ‘Chausmos’ religions, Māra (~ Yama Rājan) is welcomed in Spring, and Munjem (~ Indra) in the Fall.

Mare-bito thus possibly holds the ancient relic meaning of Mare/Mara=Mother Earth – bito= being/person(hito in Japanese), i.e. Mother Earth-persona. Mara is a widely known deity of the Vedic, Indo-European, Slav pantheon of deities. (The Turks had their Umay (Moon-sky goddess) while the Altai-Mongols had their Umai-sun goddess as well). Thus mare-bito may originally have been a rite of welcoming such a mare/mara deity brought to Japan by migrants from Central Asia.

Mare or Māra is the highest-ranking goddess in Latvian mythology, Mother Earth (Mat Zemlya), and honored at the festival Māras was held every August 15. She is the feminine counterpart to Dievs (God)… Yin to  the Yang of Diev.  Māra may have been also the same goddess as Lopu māte, Piena Māte (Mother of the Milk), Veļu Māte (mother of the souls/spirits), Zemes Māte (Mother of the Earth), and many other “mothers”, like of Wood, Water, Sea, Wind. Māra is also depicted in Latvian mythology as the goddess of good fortune and the patroness of all feminine duties (children, cattle), patroness of all the economic activities (“God made the table, Māra made the bread”). Being the alternate side of Dievs, she takes a person’s body after their death while Dievs is taking the soul. She is the goddess of land, which is called Māras zeme (Māra’s land). There are many eastern cognates especially in the Turkic-Kirghiz Umay, Altai-Mongolic Umai, Khanty-Mans’ golden mothers, the Chinese “Western Mother” Xiwangmu affectionately called “Ama” (Grandmother or mother) who is also found in Japan, as well as the Japanese Ama-terasu (the Heavenly Shining mother sun goddess).

But the identity of Mara suddenly, as it would seem, takes on fiersome towering male personas in the Tibetan Yimra version of the Lord of Death, and in all its cognates Yim-Yam-Yama-Yima and in the storm gods of Mesopotamia and Anatolia.

Cognate deities are found in the Indian-Tibetan Yima/Yimra/Imra=Mara deity or Lord of Death. This is curious because we see a split in the deity gender, despite the shared death-sky-supreme creator attributes and similar sounding names.

In the Mesopotamian, Anatolian spheres, cognates are found in Yam-Nahar  [Canaanite] also known as Yam/Yamm/Jamm — god of sea and rivers, who dwells in a palace under the sea, and who is also associated with Lotan, the seven-headed serpent. Yam-nahar has much in common with the sea monster Leviathan. He has also been described as being a seven headed sea dragon that was destroyed by the young god Baal, a fertility god, who had equipped himself with magical weapons and slaying Yam-nahar (parallels with the Japanese Susanoo’s slaying of the eight-headed serpent with the Grasscutting Sword).  The stories are also best known as analogous to the war between the serpent Vritra and the god Indra, son of the ‘Sky Father’ Dyaus Pita.

Yam, Judge Nahar also has similarities with Mesopotamian Tiamat and Abzu, and at the same time, the battle between Yam and Baal (the Storm God) resembles the  the battle between Tiamat and Enlil and Babylonian Marduk, and the Hurrian and Hittite mythical battle between the sky God Teshub (or Tarhunt) with the dragon/serpent Illuyanka. Below is a part of the recorded story of Yam and Baal out of Ugarit in Northern Syria (which was the seat of Amorite and Hittite kings until it passed to Egypt):

“Mighty Baal, son of Dagon, desired the kingship of the Gods. He contended with Prince Yam-Nahar, the Son of El. But Kindly El, Father Shunem, decided the case in favour of His son; He gave the kingship to Prince Yam. He gave the power to Judge Nahar.
Fearsome Yam came to rule the Gods with an iron fist. He caused Them to labor and toil under His reign. They cried unto Their mother, Asherah, Lady of the Sea. They convinced Her to confront Yam, to interceed in Their behalf.
Asherah went into the presence of Prince Yam. She came before Judge Nahar. She begged that He release His grip upon the Gods Her sons. But Mighty Yam declined Her request. She offered favours to the Tyrant. But Powerful Nahar softened not His heart.
Finally, Kindly Asherah, who loves Her children, offered Herself to the God of the Sea. She offered Her own body to the Lord of Rivers.
Yam-Nahar agreed to this, and Asherah returned to the Source of the Two Rivers. She went home to the court of El. She came before the Divine Council, and spoke of Her plan to the Gods Her children.
Baal was infuriated by Her speech. He was angered at the Gods who would allow such a plot. He would not consent to surrendering Great Asherah to the Tyrant Yam-Nahar. He swore to the Gods that He would destroy Prince Yam.

After a great war in heaven involving many of the gods, Yam is roundly defeated:
And the weapon springs from the hand of Baal,
Like a raptor from between his fingers.
It strikes the skull of Prince Yam,
between the eyes of Judge Nahar.
Yam collapses, he falls to the earth;
His joints quiver, and his spine shakes.
Thereupon Baal drags out Yam and would rend him to pieces;
he would make an end of Judge Nahar.
However, Athtart pleads for Yam, who acknowledges the Lord as king of heaven:
Then up speaks Yam: “Lo, I am as good as dead! Surely, Baal now reigns as king!”
Hadad holds a great feast, but not long afterwards he battles Mot (death) and through his mouth he descends to his realm below the earth. Yet like Yam, Death too is defeated and … the Lord arises from the dead:
For alive is Mighty Baal,
Revived is the Prince, Master of Earth.”

– Source: The Epic of Ba’al from the Ugarit cuneiform KTU textsYam (Wikipedia)

p. 148 by Nick J Allen in Some gods of Pre-Islamic Nuristan  says that out of Nuristan, Afghanistan may be found the pre-Islamic Indo-Iranian version called Yima, son of Vivasvat, and a cognate of Yama-raja. But  Allen notes that “Yama is a god who rules the dead, Yima is an early king, and Yimra is the supreme creator god” and theorizes that the proto-Yama had a combined role as sovereign of a heavenly paradise as well as a minor role as ruler of the subterranean dead. Allen alerts us that from the Mahabarata, we have Varuna in the West, Indra in the North, Kubera in the east…all war deities,  and he theorizes that the south is held by the guardian deity Yama/Imra/Yima, god of the Other World. Allen mentions ethnographic evidence that Imra was an important Creator deity part of a foursome structure (p. 51) Gish, Bagisht, Mon  and later Yush. (yus is word for devil, ogre, giant), a tale (The City in Heaven) of  god-demon conflict.  The tale also incorporates elements of a cosmic pillar and the dwelling in the sky suspended by an invisible rope. The god Mon lived in the seventh and topmost level of heaven and he let down the invisible rope from the sky to the chiefs of mankind.

Thus we have the curious split between the Slavic Eastern European Maras-Mates and Eastern Amas, predominantly female deities, the Yins to the Sky God’s Yang, and the Middle and Near East, — and the predominantly male Imra-Mara / Yam-Nahar chthonic figures (who does battle with the Storm god Baal).

In Pakistani Kalash, we see the Indra-Balimain Mara visiting divinities that maintain the Yam-Baal relationship — which suggests that the identity of Yam/Yamm/Jamm undergoes an identity change, becoming conflated with Earth Mother figures of Eurasia and of the East, somewhere in Central Asia perhaps owing to their shared chthonic Underworld attributes. the Egyptian goddess Mut (in modern conventions of Egyptian transliteration, mw.t) – “the mother of mothers, who has given birth to every god.”

Another piece and possible key to this puzzle of the dichotomies of Mara-Imra deity gender — may very well lie in the Egyptian goddess Mut (in modern conventions of Egyptian transliteration, mw.t) who is not only representative of Death – but who is at the same time, “the mother of mothers, who has given birth to every god.”

Christopher B. Hays in Death in the Iron Age II & in First Isaiah interpreted that “covenant with Death” and the attendant contextual events in the biblical passages Isaiah 28: 1-22 were a historical reference to the Judaean’s treaty with Egypt, and the influence of the cultic rites of Egyptian goddess Mut that were to hitherto transform the ideas of life and death in the Ancient Near East through the career of prophet Isaiah, and through his rhetoric of terrorizing death being overtaken by the victory of life over death, and the evinced promises of YHWH’s identity as a God offering life and triumphing over death.  

While the poster of the Semitica blog believed that the idea of Death being regarded as Creator seemed illogical, we take the opposite point of view, that it is likely that this is pivotal ideological point from which all the world’s “marebitos” and various versions of Mara/Mare/Ama-Xiwangmu, etc. whether male or female ultimately emerged. Most important, Christopher Hays’s identification of the Egyptian Mut with the Northwest Semitic deity Mot, from Ugaritic (see Hays’ paper “The Covenant with Mut: A New Interpretation of Isaiah 28: 1-22″ Vetus Testamentum, Volume 60, Number 2, 2010 , pp. 212-240(29)):

Many difficulties and perplexities in Isa 28:1-22 can be resolved by reading the text as a condemnation of the Judeans’ seeking protection from Assyria by means of a covenant with one of Egypt’s major deities, the mother goddess Mut. Her close association with the Egyptian throne would have given her the “right” to make a covenant; her protective aspect explains why those in distress would seek her; her motherhood explains why the Judeans who seek her are characterized as children; the prominence of drunkenness and flowers in her cult explains the appearance of those elements in Isaiah 28. She also was associated with the underworld as a protectress of the dead, and it is likely that her name sounded very much like the Hebrew word , “death”, making Isaiah’s double entendre a natural play on words. Other features of the text such as the overwhelming flood refer to the Neo-Assyrians; Isaiah warns that Egypt and Mut cannot protect Judah from their assault.

We are indebted to Semitica’s post, which are excerpted below for their pertinence in our search for the origin and confluence point of Mare-bito prototypes:

In Mark Smith’s On the Primaeval Ocean (2002) – his monograph on a Demotic cosmological text – he mentions a papyrus from the 21st Dynasty. This papyrus “depicts a winged serpent with four legs, a human head on its neck, and a jackal’s head at the end of its tail. Its wings enfold a sun disk containing a scarab. The accompanying inscription identifies this creature as mwt pꜢ nṯr ꜥꜢ ir nṯr.w rmṯ.w.” Smith translates this (or quotes from a translation) as “Death the great divinity who made gods and men” (p. 212).

Christiane Zivie-Coche, following this translation/interpretation, calls this a “unique instance of Egyptian religious iconography and literature…a tradition otherwise unknown to us…imaged death as a whole iconology [sic]” (2004: 158). And while the presence of the jackal’s head may indeed suggest Anubis – that is, death – it is hard to completely follow this view, in light of characteristic of the Egyptian goddess Mut (in modern conventions of Egyptian transliteration, mw.t) – “the mother of mothers, who has given birth to every god.”

In Ugarit and the Bible, we are also given to understand that all the diverse prototypes of Mare-bitos and Yam/Mara are to be found in the Canaanite Pantheon of gods at Ugarit.  Texts found at Ugarit were written in one of four languages; Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurritic and Ugaritic. 

The prophets of the Old Testament rail against Baal, Asherah and various other gods on nearly every page. The reason for this is simple to understand; the people of Israel worshipped these gods along with, and sometimes instead of, Yahweh, the God of Israel. This Biblical denunciation of these Canaanite gods received a fresh face when the Ugaritic texts were discovered, for at Ugarit these were the very gods that were worshipped.

To examine if the gods at Ugarit might show the cognate deities holding the diverse prototype attributes of the diverse aforementioned Mare-bitos [words in red mine], we look to Quartz Hill School of Theology(see Ugarit and the Bible)’s listing of the Ugarit Pantheon of gods:

El was the chief god at Ugarit. [Male Sky/Heavenly-Creator deity] Yet El is also the name of God used in many of the Psalms for Yahweh; or at least that has been the presupposition among pious Christians. Yet when one reads these Psalms and the Ugaritic texts one sees that the very attributes for which Yahweh is acclaimed are the same for which El is acclaimed. In fact, these Psalms were most likely originally Ugaritic or Canaanite hymns to El which were simply adopted by Israel, much like the American National Anthem was set to a beer hall tune by Francis Scott Key. El is called the Father of men, Creator, and Creator of the creation. These attributes are also granted Yahweh by the Old Testament.

For instances, read KTU 1. 2 I 13-32 and compare it to many of the Psalms. Also, read Ps 82:1, 89:6-8mn!).

In 1 Kings 22:19-22 we read of Yahweh meeting with his heavenly council. This is the very description of heaven which one finds in the Ugaritic texts. For in those texts the sons of god are the sons of El.

Other deities worshipped at Ugarit were El Shaddai [divine mountain god; destroyer: God Almighty], El Elyon[God on High], and El Berith[Baal of the Covenant or God of the Covenant]. All of these names are applied to Yahweh by the writers of the Old Testament. What this means is that the Hebrew theologians adopted the titles of the Canaanite gods and attributed them to Yahweh in an effort to eliminate them. If Yahweh is all of these there is no need for the Canaanite gods to exist! This process is known as assimilation.

Besides the chief god at Ugarit there were also lesser gods, demons, and goddesses. The most important of these lesser gods were Baal (familiar to all readers of the Bible), Asherah (also familiar to readers of the Bible), Yam (the god of the sea) and Mot (the god of death).

[Mot – deity identified with death; Mut=Egyptian; Mort=French/Anglo-Norman/Latin/Gaelic/Romansch Proto-Indo-European *m.twós, *m.tós; death: मृत्यु mRtyu; मृत्य mRtya ; मरण maraNa]

[Yam=sea deity] What is of great interest here is that Yam is the Hebrew word for sea and Mot is the Hebrew word for death! Is this because the Hebrews also adopted these Canaanite ideas as well? Most likely they did.

One of the most interesting of these lesser deities, Asherah[‘Lady Athirat of the Sea’ or ‘She who treads on the sea’, ‘the creatrix of the gods (Elohim)’], plays a very important role in the Old Testament. There she is called the wife of Baal; but she is also known as the consort of Yahweh! That is, among some Yahwists, Ahserah is Yahweh’s female counterpart! Inscriptions found at Kuntillet Ajrud (dated between 850 and 750 BCE) say:

I bless you through Yahweh of Samaria,

and through his Asherah!

[Note: The many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel, supporting the view that Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as the Queen of Heaven. Josiah is reported as cutting down the statues of Asherah in the temple Solomon built for Yahweh

The ultimate cradle of marebito deities

Ugarit was a city was built on the site in the Neolithic period around 6000 BCE. The oldest written evidence of the city is found in some texts from the nearby city of Ebla written around 1800 BCE. At that time both Ebla and Ugarit were under Egyptian hegemony, which shows that the long arm of Egypt extended all along the west coast of the Mediterranean Sea (for Ugarit is located in modern day Syria roughly dead east of the NE coast of Cyprus on the coast of Syria). The population of Ugarit at that time was roughly 7635 people. The city of Ugarit continued to be dominated by the Egyptians through 1400 BCE.

Thus the various deities seen at Ugarit (and out of Egypt) were likely disseminated to the rest of the world, evolving some local characteristics along the way with the migrations and trading relations of the Phoenicians, semitic and Arab migrants, and with the conquests of the Egyptian, Hittite and Akkadian empires and later with the Proto-Indo-European and Scythian settlers. According to the account of Sanchuniathon (Greek: Σαγχουνιάθων; gen.: Σαγχουνιάθωνος), the attributed Phoenician author of three lost works originally in the Phoenician language, surviving in a Greek translation by Philo of Byblos,

“a certain Elioun, called also “the Most High”, and a female named Beruth dwelt in the neighbourhood of Byblos, on the coast of present-day Lebanon. They had two children—a male called Epigeius/Autochthon/Sky and a daughter called Earth. Because of the latter pair’s beauty, the sky and the earth, respectively, were named after them. According to Sanchuniathon it is from Sky and Earth that El and various other deities are born, though ancient texts refer to El as creator of heaven and earth.”

This echoes the Hittite tradition of a primal god named Alalu who fathered Sky (and possibly Earth) and who was overthrown by his son Sky, who was in turn overthrown by his (Sky’s) son Kumarbi.

Here, we see the origin of the Sky-Earth dichotomy and conflict and clashes of the deities found in many of the Creation myths around the world, the prototypes of Sky-mountain-Sea-Death-Earth are all originally there to be found in the Near East. The archaic Chausmos celebrations of Balimain-Indra has strong echoes of Ugaritic  (Canaanite) mythology, the account of which is outlined in Meindert Dijkstra’s “Ba’lu and His Antagonists: Some Remarks on CTA 6:V.1-6” excerpted below:

The interpetation of CTA 6: V. 1-6, which relates a battle between Ba’lu and some antagonists, indicated vaguely as bn ‘atrt, has led to divergent translations,1 though only a decisive solution of the enigmatic words dkym and shrmt (according to Ch. Virolleaud’s copy) presents difficulties. …

In the main the Ba’lu-story can be understood as the account of Ba’lu’s struggle for his kingship and consequently the mythological motivation for the building of his sanctuary.4 The motif of this struggle is present at any moment. Note the fear expressed by the mother-goddess, ‘Atiratu, in CTA 4:11.21-26:

[‘i]k (22) mgy. ‘al’iyn [. b]’1 — Why has Ba’lu the Almighty come,
(23)’ik . mgyt . b[t]lt (24) ‘nt — Why has the “Virgin” ‘Anatu come?5
mhsy hm[. m]hs~ (25)bny — To slay me or to slay my sons.
hm [. mkly.s]brt (26)’aryy6– or to annihilate the group of my kin?

In fact Yammu ‘Sea’ and Motu ‘Death’ are the great antagonists in the mythological epic of Ba’lu, both known as son and beloved of ‘Ilu, the father of the gods,7 and also sons of the qnyt ‘ilm, the procreatress of the gods, ‘Atiratu (CTA 4:1.23; III.26, 30, 35; IV-V.32).8 Thus, her words contain an insinuation of Ba’lu’s intentions, if not a reference to the earlier (?) defeat of Yammu (CTA 2:IV).9

In CTA 6:V.1-6 there is talk of a new battle with some great sons of ‘Atiratu in relation to Ba’lu’s kingship; to think of Yammu and Motu seems to be a matter of course. Moreover, this connection between struggle and kingship again forces us to a comparison with biblical passages which connect the proclamation of Yahweh’s eternal kingship with his superiority over chaotic powers, even where a trace of a primeval clash hardly remains, as in Ps. 93. In this note, I subscribe again to the view of those scholars who have associated Ps. 93: 3-4 with the passage under discussion, and I am of the opinion that the clear parallelism between the words qolam//dokyam and miqqolot mayim rabbim//misbere-yam10 can help us toward a further interpretation of CTA 6: V.1-6.

In accordance with the parallelism, the meaning of ‘dok’i closely resembles that of misbere-yam. Fortunately, there is much more evidence of the latter expression than of the former. In Jonah 2:4b (similar to Ps. 42:8b) it is more or less synonymous with gallim ‘the waves’. In Ps. 88:8 the expression is parallel to hamah ‘wrath’, although the connection with the depths and the netherworld is not absent (Ps. 88 :7). The association of misbere-yam with death is also supported by the remarkable variant misbere-mawet ‘the waves of death’ (NEB) in 2 Sam. 22:5.11 In these few texts sea and depths are closely related to death and the netherworld,12 a phenomenon tallying with ancient near eastern cosmology, which situates the netherworld below the earth either in or below the depths, seen as the waters of death.13

Without doubt the rare word *dok’i, usually derived from the root dakah,14 and the expression misbere-yam, of which the usual translation is ‘the waves, the breakers of the sea’, have an association with destruction. Where the Hebrew dakah (compare also the cognate roots daka/duk/dakak) occurs, it testifies to such an association in its diverse semantic contexts, namely the crushing of bones (Ps. 51: 10), though meant figuratively, and the monster Rahab (Ps. 89: 11 Qere). Note finally Ps. 44:20:

ki dikkitanu bimqom tannim
wattekas ‘alenu be salmawet
Yet thou crushed us in the place of Tannin15
and covered us with the darkness of death.

The more or less synonymous use of the roots sabar and dakah (note especially Ps. 51: 19)16 enables us to take *dok’i as an abstract noun, semantically parallel to misbere-yam, of which the translation could be ‘their pounding waves’ (NEB) or the like.17 Additional evidence may be found in 1QS 3:4-9 where the choice of words seems to be influenced by Ps. 93; compare 1QS 3:8-9: ythr (9)bsrw lhzwt bmy ndh wlhtqds bmy dwky18 “His flesh shall be purified through sprinkling by water of purification and through hallowing by water of destruction.” The translation ‘water of destruction (scil. of guilt)’ is not only supported by the negative sentences 1QS3:4-5: wlw’ ytqds bymym (5)wnhrwt wlw’ ythr bkwl my rhs “… nor be hallowed by oceans (5) and rivers, nor be purified by any cleansing water,” but also by the literal meaning of my ndh (MT me niddah) ‘water of excretion’.19

After these preliminary remarks we will turn to CTA 6:V.1-6:

1. y’ihd. b’l . bn. ‘atrt
2. rbm. ymhs . bktp
3. dkym. ymhs . bsmd
4. shrmt (?) yms’i. l’ars
5. [ytb.] b[‘]1. lks’i. mlkh
6. l[nht] . lkht. drkth 20

Still Ba’lu seems to be confined to the netherworld. From CTA 6:1V we come to know how Sapsu, the sun-goddess, is sent to search for Ba’lu. The following episode in the myth is separated from the preceding events21 by an intermediate period of seven years, so CTA 6:V.1-6 may function as the closing lines of the preceding episode. In this following episode Motu reproaches Ba’lu with the fate he has suffered (compare CTA 6:11) and demands a substitute from him for his release;22 compare CTA 6:V.19-2l:

tn. ‘ahd (20)b’ahk ‘isp’a
wyth (21 ),ap . d’anst
Give one of your brothers, that I can eat,23
and the anger which I harbor will turn away.24

Unfortunately, the sequel to the story is not entirely clear. It seems that Motu is tricked by a gift of seven lads, who appear to be his own brothers. Consequently, he overtakes Ba’lu in his escape, so that the two antagonists are engaged in a final battle (CTA 6:VI.12-22). In the light of this termination of events, it might be assumed that in some way or other the passage CTA 6:V.1-6 anticipates, if not predicts it. 25

If so, we have a structure in the story which corresponds to that of CTA 2: IV, where Ba’lu’s victory follows upon the sounding words of the technician-god Kotaru-waHasisu, predicting the immediate defeat of Yammu. Taken as a prediction, CTA 6:V.1-6 show the same structure as CTA 2:IV.8-10: (1) the prediction that Ba’lu will defeat his enemies, and (2) the promise of his enthronement and kingship. The tentative translation of the passage could be:

Ba’lu will seize the sons of ‘Atiratu, 26
the great (gods) he will smite with the hatchet. 27
dkym he will smite with the “yoke,”28
shrmt(?) he will bring down to the earth.29
Ba’lu [will sit enthroned] on the chair of his kingship,
on [the seat] of the throne of his dominion.

For the interpretation of dkym many proposals have been made, but we confine ourselves to discuss a few which seem to be acceptable.

1. Starting from the likely plural interpretation of bn ‘atrt//rbm, the translation of dkym with a plural noun, adjective or participle of the root dky ‘to crush, pound’, as a by-form of d(w)k/dk(k), such as ‘Crushers, Oppressors’, seems to be preferable.30 Less likely is the rendering of an adjective dky ‘small, puny’, which should be connected semantically to Ugar. dq ‘small’ (CTA 6:1.22),31 Heb. daq ‘thin, fine (of dust, incense)’,32 Akk. daqqu ‘very small’,33 all from the common Semitic root dqq ‘to pulverize, pound’.34 It is hardly conceivable, however, that this passage is about small antagonists of Ba’lu unless the god ‘Attaru could be so denoted. In spite of Driver’s suggestion,35 there is little evidence that this ridiculed god comes into the picture in this part of the story.

Moreover, if the former derivation of the root dky should be preferred, an alternative interpretation of dkym as an abstract noun dky (*dukyu =Heb. doki) with enclitic m cannot be excluded. 36

2. That the word dkym could be a compound of a form belonging to the root d(w)k/dk(k) and the name of the sea-god, Yammu, has previously been suggested by J. Aistleitner.37 Unfortunately, his further interpretation of dk as a tempus afformativum disturbs the clear parallelism, making his solution unconvincing.38 Nevertheless, I think Aistleitner was on the right track. As a variation of dkym ‘Crushers, Oppressors’ derived from the root dky, one could consider d(w)k/dk(k), which is attested in CTA 161: 35 with a meaning ‘to pulverize, pound’ (compare also Num. 11 :8).39 Thus we interpret dkym as dk ym = dakiyamma ‘the crushers or breakers of Yammu’ and suggest a connection between this expression and the biblical misbere-yam. Compare for imagery Ps. 89:10; 65:8; Job 26:12.

sh(rt/mt): Any interpretation of these consonants must be conjectural. Only the first three signs are probable. Usually, shr is related to the root shr, which is sometimes found in a qtll-form.40 We may note two things concerning this root: (l) It functions in semantic contexts of meteorological phenomena (CTA 3:E.25-26 and parallels; CTA 4:VII.54-58 + CTA 8: 7-12 )41 but is also parallel to the root hr(r) ‘to be hot, glow’ in CTA 23:41, 44f., 47f.42 (2) Cognate verbs of the roots shr/shh/shy and their derivations show semantic ranges of ‘to be white, clear, bright, yellowish-red, cloudless, thirsty, scorched, bare, desolation, desert’.43 With regard to the semantic contexts of the Ugaritic texts, a restriction to the connotations ‘to become dust-colored, brownish’yellow’44 is not advisable. In general the roots shr/shh/shy seem to cover an idea which we can express by means of the compounds ‘white-hot/red-hot’. Therefore a translation of CTA 3: E.25 nrt ‘ilm sps shrrt “The light of the gods, Sapsu, burns”45 and of CTA 4:VII.56f. ‘ibr mnt shrrm “The wings of the breeze(?) feel glowing”46 remains possible. Perhaps, taking the other contexts into consideration, a feminine adjective shrrt should be considered in CTA 6: V.4, which takes on the substantive meaning of ‘the white (red) heat’;47 If Virolleaud’s reading is maintained, one might translate ‘the heat of Motu, death, the murdering heat’ or the like.48

Summarizing, we have two reasonable possibilities:

1. dky-m//shr(rt), which renders the translation:
Oppressors he will smite with the “yoke,”
The white heat he will bring down to the earth.

2. dk-ym//shr(-mt), which gives us:
The breakers of Sea he will smite with the “yoke,”
The heat of Death he will bring down to the earth.

For evidence of the latter, I submit the following considerations:

(1) The mention of Yammu, and especially of his destructive waves, would appear conceivable if the words ymhs bsmd were understood as a reference to Yammu’s defeat, related in CTA 2:IV.11f., 18f., by the same magic smd-weapon.

(2) A renewed confrontation between Ba’lu and his old enemy in this part of the story tallies with ideas of the ancient near eastern cosmology as far as the netherworld is situated in the realm of the sea-god; moreover, in the Ugaritic mythology, a personified Naharu, very likely the same as Judge Naharu, dwells in the area of Motu as his cupbearer, 49 and Ba’lu is confined to the realm of Death at this point of the story.

(3) Some of the above mentioned biblical data connect the idea of descending to and arising from the dead with that of perishing into or escaping from the sea or the depths, understood as the waters of death (compare especially 2 Sam. 22: 5). For these biblical data the imagery of Isa. 26: 19-27:1 may also be clarifying, since in Israelite thought the resurrection of the dead is linked to a twofold act of Yahweh, namely the constraining of the netherworld 50 to uncover her slain and the slaying of the sea-monsters, Leviathan and Tannin.

(4) The closing lines of CTA 6:

50. bym. ‘ars. wtnn — In the sea are ‘Arsu and Tunnanu.51
51. ktr. whss . yd — May Kotaru-waHasisu drive away.
52. ytr. ktr. whss — May Kotaru-waHasisu do it again(?).52

Why are the sea-monsters ‘Arsu and Tunnanu mentioned here? Again, the course of events in the last column of CTA 6 is obscure because of the damaged lines VI.32-42. It appears that after the final battle with Motu, Ba’lu is permitted to leave the netherworld and to return to Mount Sapanu. 53 Witness to their encounter is the goddess Sapsu, probably during her nightly visit to the underworld.54 Now and then it is said that the lines after the gap in CTA 6: VI form part of a hymn to Sapsu,55 but in my opinion these lines, probably including the fragmentary 37-42,56 contain instructions to Sapsu from Ba’lu to lead the shades and ghosts to a banquet in Ba’lu’s temple.57 The mention of ‘Arsu and Tunnanu in the sea (compare also Isa. 27: 1) may denote the critical moment when Sapsu and her host leave the netherworld.

As a result of these observations, I now venture to say that the lines CTA 6:V.1-6 contain a summary of the whole Ba’lu-story, his struggle with both of his great antagonists Yammu and Motu on the way to his kingship. To this effect, CTA 6:V.3 also functions as a flashback to the story of CTA 2, underlining in advance the prediction of Ba’lu’s victory over the summer-heat, that is, over the power of Death.”

In summary form, the Ba’al story is related  Wilkinson, Philip Myths & Legends: An Illustrated Guide to Their Origins and Meanings as follows:

“In the Baal cycle, Ba’al Hadad is challenged by and defeats Yam, using two magical weapons (called “Driver” and “Chaser”) made for Him by Kothar-wa-Khasis. Afterward, with the help of Athirat and Anat, Ba’al persuades El to allow him a palace. El approves, and the palace is built by Kothar-wa-Khasis. After the palace is constructed, Ba’al gives forth a thunderous roar out of the palace window and challenges Mot. Mot enters through the window and swallows Ba’al, sending him to the Underworld. With no one to give rain, there is a terrible drought in Ba’al’s absence. The other deities, especially El and Anat, are distraught that Ba’al has been taken to the Underworld. Anat goes to the Underworld, attacks Mot with a knife, grinds him up into pieces, and scatters him far and wide. With Mot defeated, Ba’al is able to return and refresh the Earth with rain

From the above story, we can easily see how the Mara figure developed into the drought demon of Vedic mythology (sometimes known as Namuci) and later in Buddhist ideology and iconography where Mara is pitched against and defeated by Buddha who among his many titles, is called “Mara Conqueror”. At the Kizil / Qyzyl rockcut cave monasteries we see painting murals depicting Mâras and its demon army attacking on Gautama Buddha (from the arch of the rear wall of the stair cave). The Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves (earlier than the better known Mogao caves of Gansu), it is reported in “Revealing the Beauty of Kizil Caves“, were like “a melting pot in the 3rd to 9th centuries AD, in which legends and myths and arts from ancient India, Greece, Rome, Persia and Central China combined to find expression in Buddhist art”.

According to Zen teacher Rev. Jnana (viz. his talk “Reflections on Mara“),

“While Namuci initially appears in the Pali Canon as himself, he came to be transformed in early Buddhist texts to be the same as Mara, the god of death. In Buddhist demonology the figure of Namuci, with its associations of death-dealing hostility, as a result of drought, was taken up and used in order to build up the symbol of Mara; this is what the Evil One is like–he is Namuci, threatening the welfare of mankind. Mara threatens not by withholding the seasonal rains but by withholding or obscuring the knowledge of truth.”

In Sky Gods and Earth Gods, John Lash explicates (as others Marija Gimbutas, Robert Graves, Mircea Eliade have) that “other cultures have developed hybrid mythologies telling of domination, retaliation and reconciliation,” mythologies to be “found throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, the Near East, Iran and India, wherever a patriarchal ideology with cults of male sky and warrior gods was superimposed on matricentric egalitarian societies that worshipped the Great Goddess, with countless manifestations in all the forms of plant and animal life, including especially the human female“.

Notwithstanding the presence of sophisticated hybrid mythologies such as “the Cosmic Sky-Earth separation and battles; Cosmic Pillar Churning Milk creation myths that have a minor role for Mara, and beyond the Vedic-Brahmanic-Buddhist transmissions of myths of a more monstrous Mara-Namuci juxtaposed with a Mara conqueror, we can still see a surviving substratum of more archaic and simpler versions of the prototype marebito deities that are to be found in many places such as Kalash, mountain tribes of China, and in Japan. Especially in the latter, we see many examples of simple folk celebrations involving abundant life-giving fertility and Grain-and-Earth Mother Goddesses or the rampaging destroyer horned ogre-like namuci-demonic festivals featuring the annual namahage’s visits (often to be pelted by beans by children and shrine devotees).  These seem to fit more primal and archaic totemic or tutelary ‘marebitoes’ arriving from abroad in remoter prehistoric times.

In reading C.D. Sebastian’s “Mara: The Depiction of the Monstrous in Buddhist Literature“, we are given to understand that earlier types of “Mara” undergo a change of character in Buddhism becoming more abstract and allegorical:

“The word MÅra is derived from the Sanskrit root mŸ which means “to die”. It may be taken to mean “misery, misfortune or evil”. MÅra is also called Namuci in Buddhist literature. 

Namuci means “the non-releaser” in PÅli, because as the personification of ‘death’ Namuci (MÅra) allows none to escape from his clutches. Namuci is mentioned as an Asura (demon) in the Rÿgveda.1

MÅra has been identified with the ancient symbols of Death, Yama, MŸtyu, etc., as the name evidently means “the slayer”. There can be little doubt that the figure of MÅra comes from the BrÅhmaœic legend of Death the wicked (MŸtyuæ-pÅpmÅ), and there is the legend of fights of gods with monsters, like Indra with Namuci or MÅra.2…

The well known “army of MÅra” stands allegorically for different vices, evils and errors humans have in their psyche or life like lust, aversion, craving, pride, anger, hatred, fear, doubt, hypocrisy, vain glory, self-praise, craving for fame and name, envy and malice.19 They are the personified fetters of that every disciple of Buddha must break in his/her fight with MÅra, the lord of the senses. That is why the Dhammapada says: “Fight MÅra with the weapon of wisdom.”20 These are forms of enduring evil. These are the monsters and the monstrous in human beings which perpetuate evil in the society. The metaphorical interpretations make it clear that the real battle is not with outward mythological monsters but with the emotions and passions one finds within oneself; for, Buddhism is a religion of here and now.

Sources and Readings:

Hadley, Judith M (2000), The cult of Asherah in ancient Israel and Judah : the evidence for a Hebrew goddess, University of Cambridge Oriental publications, 57, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521662352

Dever, William G. (2005), Did God Have A Wife?: Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 9780802828521

Dever, William Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research (Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies)

DIJKSTRA, Meindert, Ba’lu and His Antagonists:  Some Remarks on CTA 6:V.1-6, by Meindert Dijkstra, Theological Seminary, Kampen, The Netherlands

Mark Smith on the deity _Mwt_ in BM 10018 (Egyptian 21st Dynasty) (The Semitica blog)

Lash, John Sky gods and earth deities

Hays, Christopher, Death in the Iron Age II & in First Isaiah; The Egyptian Goddess Mut in  Iron-Age Palestine: Further Data from Amulets and Onomastics   Journal of Near Eastern Studies Vol. 71, No. 2, October 2012

Ugarit and the Bible notes that the Ugaritic people were seafaring people and that the “Ugaritic god of the sea, Baal Zaphon, was the patron of sailors. Before a journey Ugaritic sailors made offerings and prayed to Baal Zaphon in hopes of a safe and profitable journey (cf. KTU 2.38, and KTU 2.40). Psalm 107 was borrowed from Northern Canaan and reflects this attitude towards sailing and trade. When Solomon needed sailors and ships he turned to his northern neighbors for them. Cf. I Kings 9:26-28 and 10:22″.

Study notes: Comparative survey of moon symbolism around the world on Umay and Umai goddesses of the Turks and Altai-Mongols

Revealing the Beauty of the Kizil Caves

C.D. Sebastian, “Mara: The Depiction of the Monstrous in Buddhist Literature

Reflections on Mara” by Rev. Jnana – a Dharma talk at IBMC

Mâras and its demon army attacking on Gautama Buddha, outline sketch of mural painting from the arch of the rear wall of the stair cave, Qyzyl, Kultst. p. 117-119 and S. von Oldenburg, Ruskaja Turkestanskaja Ekspedicie, S. Peterburg 1914 Tablica LIII — Archived at National Institute of Informatics – Digital Silk Road Project – Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Book

One thought on “Marebito

  1. More: on the reference to scaring children with demons theme, this recalls the Christmas theme of “he knows who’s naughty or nice” reverberates from ancient Europe with the Krampus horned ogres see Krampus horned demons of Europe at

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