The Alphabet Poem
This poem is a list of all the letter names in the alphabetic order. Here written in Ugaritic, vocalised Ugaritic and English. The corresponding latin letter symbols are seen to the right.
|the ox of the temple
|crescent of the sceptre
|fuel for the Howler
|veneration of the Pealer
|ploughing of soil
|hands of hollow
|shine of flame
|water of sprinkling
|serpent of brightness
|serving of the Source
|proclaiming of the Righteous
|burial of the first
|breast for youth
|turn of the Vigorous
|light of Moon
|( )( )
The poem is composed of 15 verses of two letter names each. All the verses except verse number seven have parallelism, and therefore the poem here is written in eight strophes.
The poem has four parts:
Part 1. the Waxing Moon, three strophes, one about El and two about Hadad
Part 2. the Full Moon, one strophe, religious festival
Part 3. the Waning Moon, three strophes, one about Asherah and two about Anat
Part 4. the New Moon, one strophe, religious festival
The first and third part are very symmetric. They are both composed of three strophes with four letter names each. The first of the three strophes introduces the highest authority in this sphere of the universe. The two supreme deities and ancestors to all other gods are El and Asherah. El is the initiator, creator of the forms and creatures in the world. He owns the wide space between the sky and the sea. Asherat is the gracious preserver and procurer of biological life. She owns the sky, the earth and the sea. The second strophe in each of the two symmetric parts introduces the local deities for the nation Hadad and Anat respectively. The strophe prescribes how to worship these deities. It is a matter of life and death for the nation and for the individual to support these deities by offering and praising. The third strophe in the two parts gives us a general idea of what Hadad and Anat do for people. Hadad gives god weather, reproduction in agriculture, strength and male fertility. Anat gives female fertility, sound offspring’s and take care of the people who must die. The description of the deities can only be very general in the poem. The Ugaritic gods have many activities and there are many other gods. Baal for example has seven boars to help him and Anat has seven Kotharots to help her with deliveries.
The letter names correspond to the days of the month, but there is no indication, that the letter names were used as names for the days. In the Ugaritic offering lists the days just have numbers. We could expect that the letter name give an information about the religious practise of that day. From the little we know about the religious practise this is only the case on the day of the New Moon, the two days of Full Moon, the first day of the Waning Moon and the last four days of the invisible Moon. An alphabet is a symbol of the world, because any word can be formed by combining some letters. We have the expression “alpha and omega” meaning “everything”. Therefore the subject of the poem is the whole world and the human life. The poem gives a precise description of the main deities, their spheres of authority, and the way to worship them. The male gods are classed with the Waxing Moon, presumable because the construction of form and creating a new being are male qualities. But this does not exclude that the male gods could be worshipped at other times of the month. In a similar way the goddesses were classed with the Waning Moon because preserving the being and give away nourishment and fruits are female qualities.
Many cultures with a Moon calendar have definite rules for which activities like agricultural work, warfare, marriage and sexual intercourse may be done at different times of the month. This was probably the same in Ugarit, but the alphabet poem does not give us direct information about it.