Much of the world’s religion today originated in the regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including what is today Israel, together with its neighboring countries. In ancient times, these old states often imported and exported their gods as people migrated about, as these nations fought each other in wars, a fact that certainly had no small impact on our modern beliefs. Often, the attributes of the gods of one region were incorporated into the gods of another region. An example of this is the goddess, Anat, who was one of a number of deities imported into Egypt from the Syrian region.
The name Anat occurs in several forms in Ugaritic, Hebrew, Akkadian, and Egyptian, and as in such cases, the forms may vary widely. For example, in the Ugarit V Deity List it is spelled da-na-tu to be pronounced ‘Anatu’. Otherwise in Phoenician it is `nt and is pronounced ‘Anat’, ‘Anatu’, ‘Anath’ or ‘Anata’. The name is usually translated from Hebrew as ‘Anath’, but it could also be ‘Anat’. The Akkadian form is usually written as ‘Anta’ or ‘Antu’. The Egyptian forms are ‘Anant’, ‘Anit’, ‘Anti’, and ‘Antit’. We may also find variations of her name in reference books such as Anthat. A major goddess of fertility, sexual love, hunting and war, the Goddess Anat was known among the Canaanites in prehistoric times, and was doubtless of considerable importance in that region. From the fertile agricultural area along the eastern Mediterranean coast, her cult spread throughout the Levant by the middle of the third millennium BC. Around the beginning of the Phoenician period, circa 1200 BC, Anat enjoyed a significant cult following. She was very prominent at Ugarit, a major religious center, and appears frequently in Ugaritic literary works incorporating mythical elements, in deity and offering lists, and in votive inscriptions.
Her cult became established in Egypt by the end of the Middle Kingdom, even before the Hyksos invasion of Egypt, so her presence certainly attests to the slow immigration (or perhaps more often, enslavement as the spoils of war) of the Hyksos prior to their ultimate rule of Egypt. However, she attained prominence, particularly in the north, in the Delta, during the Second Intermediate Period rule of the Hyksos, who appear to have promoted her cult in Egypt. She was represented at Memphis like all but the most local of deities, and sanctuaries were dedicated to her at the Hyksos capital of Tanis (Egypt) and Beth-Shan (Palistine).
Yet, while the rulers of Egypt’s New Kingdom took every step to denounce the Hyksos dynasty, her prestige reached its height in Egypt under Ramesses II who adopted Anat as his personal guardian in battle. Even Ramesses II’s dog, shown rushing onto a vanquished Libyan in a carving in Beit el Wali temple, has the name “Anat in vigor”. He also named his daughter Bint-Anat, which means Daughter of Anat. He rebuilt Tanis and enlarged the sanctuary of Anat there. The Elephantine papyri dating from the late sixth century BC indicate that Anat was one of the two goddesses worshiped at the Temple of Yahu (Yahweh) by the Jews on the island of Elephantine in the Nile. In Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine the worship of Anat persisted into Christian times, around 200 AD, and perhaps much longer in popular religion. In Egypt traditional religion was practiced until the end of the Egyptian period, around 400 AD. Anat may have been worshiped in one or more of the few Egyptian temples that remained open into the early 6th century AD. In contemporary times the worship of Anat has been revived in neo-pagan religion.
In Ugaritic texts she is the daughter of El, sister and consort of Baal. As Ba`al’s companion and help-mate, She is goddess of dew and the fertility that it brings. Apparently, through the union of Anat and Baal, an offspring was born in the form of a wild bull. She may be Rachmay, one of the two nursemaids of the Gracious Gods mentioned in the eponymous ritual text. She is also the twin sister of Myrrh. At Tanis in Egypt she was regarded as the daughter of Re. In the Egyptian myth of the Contest between Horus and Seth, Anat and Astarte appear as daughters of Re and consorts of Seth, whom the Egyptians themselves identified with Baal.
From cuneiform text, Anat appears much the ruthless goddess. In her martial aspect she confines herself to slaying the enemies of Baal. She participates in the confrontation between Baal and Yam-Nahar. In a missing portion of the text she slays Yam and other enemies of Baal. During a victory celebration she departs to slaughter the warriors of two local towns. She joyfully wades in their blood, pours a peace offering and cleans up. She intercedes with El on Baal’s behalf to obtain the necessary permission for a palace to be built for Baal. Later, when Baal is killed by Mot in an archetypal battle, she buries him, hunts down Mot, and takes revenge by cutting, winnowing, grinding, and burning Mot like grain. In another myth she coveted the splendid bow belonging to a youth called Aqhat. When he refuses to part with this bow, Ana sends an eagle to slay him.
Although terrible as a war deity she was regarded as a just and benevolent goddess of beauty, sexuality, and of the fertility of crops, animals, and men. Her grace and beauty were considered among the acme of perfection. Anat is a complex and somewhat paradoxical goddess as can be seen from the epithets applied to her. Although she is regarded as the mother of gods, the most common epithet at Ugarit is batulat, Virgin or Maiden. She is sometimes called Wanton, in reference to her putative lust for sexual intercourse and the bloodshed of war. Other common epithets include: Adolescent Anat, Fairest daughter-sister of Baal, Lady, Strength of Life, Anat the Destroyer, and Lady of the Mountain.
Anat was considered by the Egyptians to be similar to Neith/Net, an ancient goddess from the Nile delta, with whom they identified Her. Neith is a skilled weaver and guardian of domestic life, as well as a goddess of war, whose symbols include crossed arrows on an animal skin or shield and a weaver’s shuttle. `Anat is interpreted as being depicted with a spindle as well as Her spear, and as the Canaanites/ Phoenicians were famed for their weaving, She may well have been a patroness of that skill, perhaps also of the famed dye, later known as Tyrian purple, which could also be a blood red color. In some descriptions, `Anat adorns Herself with something translated by some as murex, the snail from which the purple dye comes. Several epithets are known from Egyptian inscriptions. From Aramaic inscriptions of the Hyksos period, around 1700 BC: “Anat-her”, Anat agrees or Agreeable Anat, and “Herit-Anta”, Terror of Anat. From inscriptions at Memphis dating to the 15th to the 12th centuries BC, we find her referred to as “Bin-Ptah”, Daughter of Ptah. And from Elephantine “Beth-El”, House of El or House of God.
In Phoenician iconography Anat is usually depicted nude with exaggerated sexual organs and a coiffure similar to Hathor. She is sometimes depicted with bow and arrow, and with the lion, her sacred animal. Otherwise she may be armed with a spear and shield, or a spear and a spindle. An Egyptian inscription from Beth-Shan shows Antit with a plumed crown, very similar to the White Crown of Egypt. In her left hand is the Scepter of Happiness, and in her right the Ankh of Life. Iconography at Tanis from the time of Ramesses II shows Anat on a throne with lance, battle ax, and shield above an inscription reading, “To Antit that she may give life, prosperity, and health to the Ka of Hesi-Nekht”.