AnathYHW Papyrus


The Elephantine Papyri are a number of papyri that were found at the ancient Egyptian island of Elephantine dating to the 5th century BCE. The island of Elephantine was known by different names, depending on the time period and the language. The Ancient Egyptian name is Yebu / Yeb, which means elephant. It was also called Abu, which means ivory. Elephantine is Ancient Greek for elephant. There is scholarly speculation as to why this island bore the name, either from trade in elephants or their ivory, but nothing is documented for certain. Today Elephantine is part of the modern city of Aswan, which used to lie just to the north, but grew and absorbed Elephantine. You will locate it on the map below, following the Nile, at the bottom of the pale yellow section, just above the dashed line dividing Egypt from Ethiopia, which is the white section of the southern portion of the map.




One of the papyri, Cowley No. 44 (TAD B7.3, Sachau Plate 32), is an oath taken in a court of law by Menachem bar Shallum.


Oath of Menachem bar Shallum bar Hoduyah which he swore to Meshullam bar Nathan by YHW Eloha, by the place of worship, and by AnathYHW, and he said to him saying, the she-ass which is in the possession of Pamisiy  (an Egyptian name) son of Pamet, about which you sue me, look, the half of it which is legally mine. But Pamisiy your father claimed to own it saying that he gave to me a he-ass in exchange for half of it. But he did not give to me either money or value in exchange for the half of it.



Cowley writes in his intro, “”This name (YHW), as I have argued elsewhere, is not an abbreviation of YHWH, but an earlier form, and only another way of writing the earliest form IW.” Concerning the fact that the Jews at Elephantine swore by other gods, “It was not a case of falling away from a monotheistic ideal, but a continuation of the pre-exilic popular beliefs.” -pgs. xviii, xix.


In the footnote 7, of Portens copy, he states, “they would have viewed AnathYHW as that aspect of YHWH which assured man’s well being;” “Not Anath was attached to YHW, but YHW was attached to Anath in a parallel construction to Anathbethel.” - pg. 266.




According to Ugaritic texts, Anath is the later generation manifestation of the mother goddess, the daughter of El and Asherah, as well as sister to Baal. Clearly, as with so many cultures, any woman that did not submit to the invading patriarchal system, who refused to take a husband, became a threat, and was demonized, like the Greek Amazons and Athene of the Greeks. The patriarchs took the warring aspect of mother and separated it to a separated goddess, the warrior maiden. Some scholars like to present Anath as a consort to Baal, that she is a goddess of sexuality as well, but there is too much controversy and not enough textual evidence to support that belief. She is represented as a virgin and one of her titles is that of Maiden Anath. She is also the goddess of war and is a huntress, depicted with a helmet, shield, spear and battle ax. In the role of a violent warrior, one of Anath’s titles is Anath the Destroyer. Anath and Athene are paired on some inscriptions and carry the same symbolism.




Anath with battle axe, shield and spear, from Tanis, Egypt

The inscription states “Anat, Queen of Heaven, Mistress of the Gods.”


Anath is a wee bit different from the other deities, in that she does not abide by social norms, and by norms, I mean the patriarchal societies that dominate most cultures. Anath does not live in the house of her father El, nor does she marry and live in the house of her husband. She speaks disrespectfully to El and threatens his life, saying that she will cause his grey hair to run with blood and his grey beard with gore if he does not grant her requests. In both cases, El simply replies, I know you my daughter, that you are like a man.”  Anath does not respect any authority and seems to do as she pleases, when she pleases. The fact that Anath chooses occupations that are generally considered a man’s occupation, seems to be a great problem, especially for the patriarchal, deuteronomistic writers of portions of the Tanak. There are portions of text about her, but her name has either been removed or was intentionally deleted in an effort to remove anything female from the rising monotheism that they were advocates of. The portrayal of women, that did not conform to the subservient confines of the patriarchal religions, were depicted as aberrant women, out of control without a man to dominate them, unruly.


One inscription concerning Anat, states that she is the strongest of the astartes. In this case, astarte is not the female deity, but it is the generalized term for goddess, much as the word goddess is used in English. An actual praise to Anath from the Chester Beatty Papyrus VII: “Anath, the Victorious Goddess, the woman who acts like a warrior, who wears a kilt like men and a sash like women.” - The Godess Anat in Ugaritic Myth, pg. 85. It is said that she gets into a blood lust and slays her enemies, wading thigh deep in the blood and gore. One of the passages about her, that is now attributed to YHWH is in the book of YirmeYahu [Jer.] 46:10-12,  " for this is the day of adonay YHWH tsebaoth, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge himself of his foes. and the sword will devour, and be sated, and made drunk with their blood, for there is a sacrifice to adonay YHWH tsebaoth in the north country by the river ferath.11 go up into gilead and take balm, virgin daughter of mitsrayim [egypt]. in vain you will use many remedies; healing is not for you.  12 the goyim have heard of your shame, and your cry has filled the land. for the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty; they have fallen together, both of them." 


In the older Egyptian religion, the virgin daughter of Mitsrayim [Egypt] was Bastet, the daughter of Ra, portrayed as a lion headed female. She was considered one of his eyes. She was a virgin warrior goddess, much in the same way that Astarte / Anath and Athene were. She was said to have attacked men for their turning away from Ra, to the point that she had a blood lust and had to be stopped to not totally wipe out mankind. She was wading thigh high in blood, which ties into the preceding verse in YirmeYahu about the day of YHWH being a day of vengeance on His foes and His sword will devour till it is satisfied, till it has quenched its thirst with blood. But Ramses II, who ruled Egypt from 1279 BCE to 1213 BCE, adopted Anath as his patron deity. There are a number of stele and inscriptions depicting her and stating that she is the maiden daughter of Ra, just as Bastet was in the older religion. At the time that this passage of the Tanak was written, the virgin daughter of Mitsrayim [Egypt] would have been the Canaanite Anath adopted by the Egyptians, the daughter of Ra. This passage is an attack on pagan deities and what they are known for, but due to translators editing, you miss who this is really about.


There was a verse in Shemoth [Exodus] 23:19, 34:26 and HaDebariym [Deuteronomy] 14:21, that mentioned not cooking a kid in its mother’s milk. No one knew exactly what that was all about, for hundred and hundreds of years, until the Ugaritic library was uncovered. At that time, they found the inscription on Ugaritic Tablet SS, line 14, about a Canaanite custom of cooking a kid in its mother’s milk, a ritual ceremony to draw the blessing of fertility to the earth. Now, it is understood that the warning was about a pagan fertility practice. In like manner, there are two verses which I believe pertain to Anath. The first, HaDebariym 22:5, usually translated in most English texts as something like this, a woman will not wear the garments of a man, nor a man women’s clothing. This passage always concerned me, due to studying archaeology and seeing paintings on walls and such, the clothing between men and women, regardless of culture, looked pretty much the same. This lone passage caused more questions than it answered and no one seemed to have answers for me. Then recently while doing some other work, I looked the verse up in the Hebrew and saw that it was no where near the typical English translations. “there will not be the thing of a geber [warrior/hero] on a woman, nor will a geber [warrior/hero] put on a woman's mantle/cloak. for whoever does these things is an abomination to YHWH your elohey.” This word geber - warrior/hero, has the Hebrew root word of gabar, which means to be strong, overpower. This is not your typical, general word for man, such as iysh, adam, or enosh. Obviously, we need to understand the context, to better understand what this verse is about. A woman is not to have a thing, which does not specify a garment, but any thing of a warrior on her, which can include armor and weaponry. And likewise, a warrior is not to have a mantle, cloak of a woman. That part is not as specific, but can possibly be figured out, based on cultic context. If we understand the first part of women not dressing and acting as a warrior, such as Anath, then looking to the opposite role for men, it might be applied that warriors were not to dress as women, as the male shrine prostitutes were said to have done. Women who battled were a great source of trouble to patriarchal societies, such as the factual Amazon women warriors to the Greeks. I am not stating that YHWH does not want women to fight, wear armor or brandish weapons. I am simply relaying what patriarchal, deuteronomistic authors have written on the subject and then ascribed to YHWH for authority.


Another Ugaritic example connected with Anath is that of Pughat. Danel was a man of the Rephaiym in the Epic of Aqhat. He had no son and prayed for one and was eventually granted one, named Aqhat. Aqhat was given a bow by the gods. Anath coveted the bow and demanded it, threatening him if he refused. Aqhat refused and she sent one of her servants, Yaptan, to kill him. Pughat, the sister of Aqhat, decides to avenge his death. To kill Yaptan, “she washed and rouged herself with rouge from seashells whose habitat is a thousand fields in the sea. Beneath, she put on a warriors garment. She placed a knife in its sheath; she placed a sword in its scabbard. On top she put on a woman’s garment.” - The Godess Anat in Ugaritic Myth, pgs. 206, 207. In this manner she sought to gain audience as a prostitute, then kill him with the weapons of the warrior.


Anath and Astarte were one and the same mother goddess at one time. Then they were separate goddesses, which came to be merged at times, even considering Anath an astarte. There is a late Roman cultic practice of the initiates of Astarte involving the men wearing of women’s clothing. During the rituals, when the initiates were in a frenzy, they would castrate themselves with stone or pottery, no metal was allowed. They would then assume the clothing of women and serve Astarte. With this in mind, the command for men not to wear women’s clothing might stem from the same goddess’s worship. In later Ugarit culture, Anath is associated with Athene, both the warrior goddess daughter of the chief male deity in the pantheon. There are bilingual inscriptions from Cyprus (KAI 42) that have Athene in one language and Anat in the other.



The other two verses that were oddly placed in a chapter of other miscellaneous warnings of pagan practices deals with the side whiskers and beards. Wayiqqra [Leviticus] 19:27 states, “you will not strike off the side of your head, nor destroy the side of your beard.” And 21:5, “they will not make their heads bald, and they will not shave the side of their beard; and they will not make a cutting in their flesh;” The possibility of these passages being applied to cult of the dead practices exists. The second verse was addressed to leaders and mentions other things that would disqualify them from their positions, but does not specifically mention the cult of the dead. The first verse is in a chapter of mishmashed verses of a wide variety of subjects, but does precede a verse about not making any cuttings in your flesh or tattoos, a verse most English translations associate with the dead, but the word for Moth, nor the dead ones, mothiym, does not occur in this verse. These cuttings and tattoos could simply be the tribal or deity marks of association or ownership.


Another warrior/male aspect associated with Anath is that of her shaving her side whiskers and her beard with flint, to mourn Baal when she found his dead body and then went to kill Moth to avenge the death of Baal. This is important, not because she may have been a wee bit hairy, like some photos I have seen of women in Eastern Europe, but because of exactly what she is cutting and why.


If Anath was known to cut the side whiskers on the side of her head and shave her beard, as her father El had done when he heard the news of Baal’s death, this may be an indication of the way a man mourned in the cult of the dead.  Another thought might be the warrior aspect that this is the general appearance of soldiers in some cultures. After doing a brief search through images from archaeology on Canaanites, most of which encompass deities and warriors, you see a pattern of the side burns and sides of the beards being shaven. This occurs in some other cultures as well, so it is not strictly Canaanite. My theory is battle. Alexander the Great, when viewing a battle between his Macedonian soldiers and some Persians, noticed the propensity of the soldiers to grab their enemies  hair and beards, pulling the men in closer to stab them. He decided that if there was nothing to grab, his men would have an advantage, so he ordered that his soldiers shave their faces and cut their hair short as a military tactic. So whether Anath did the shavings as a sign of morning, in a fashion that men would do, or whether it was a warrior trait, possibly as a warfare advantage, Anath, a woman, is following a male practice of shaving the sideburns and sides of the beard, or a patriarchal society is making her more male since they could not wipe her out as a female.


Another archaeological find is that of some arrowheads dated to the 11th century BCE. These arrowheads belonged to the warrior class Ben-Anat – son of Anath. One is inscribed with the personal name meaning servant of the lioness, the lioness associated with Anath. Another is inscribed `bdlb’t ben anath, a personal name meaning servant of lioness  + son of Anath. Four arrowheads have the inscription of another personal name beginning with a Chet, Shiyn before servant of the lioness.- Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan, pgs, 134, 135, Did God Have A WIfe, pgs. 128, 129.


A personal name in the Hebrew Tanak/Bible is that of Shamgar ben Anath [ben = son of] – a warrior, Shoftiym [Judges] 3:31. A city also bears her name,  Beyth [house of] Anaths (plural) - Anathoth.


Kathryn QannaYahu





Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B. C., A. Cowley, Oxford At the Clarendon Press, 1923


Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Van der Toorn, Becking and Van der Horst, Brill, Leiden, 1999


Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel, William G. Dever, Erdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005


The Elephantine Papyri In English. Three Millennia of Cross-Cultural Continuity and Change, Bezalel Porten, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1996


The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth, Neal H. Walls, Society of Biblical Literature, Scholars Press, Atlanta, GA, 1992


The Violent Goddess Anat in the Ras Shamra Texts, Arvid Kapelrud, Universitetsforlaget, 1969


Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan, John Day, Sheffield Academic Press, New York, 2002