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.

alp  bt    àlfu  beti   the ox of the temple     A B
gml  h.t     gamlu   hatti   crescent of the sceptre C( )
[d]clt  hdd daaltu  haddi fuel for the Howler DE
[w]qy  z*g[n] waqeyu  zagani veneration of the Pealer F( )
.hrt  [t]it harathu  taiti ploughing of soil H( )
ydm   kp yadamu  kafi hands  of  hollow JK
*sn  la[b] shennu  laavi shine of  flame ( )L
my drq màyu  daraqi water of sprinkling M( )
n.h*s  .zhr nahshu   zahari serpent of brightness N( )
sad   cnt saadu    anati  serving of the Source ( )O
 pcr   .sdq pacaru  sadaqi proclaiming of the Righteous P( )
qbr   ri*s qavaru     reeshi burial of the first QR
td  *glm thadu    galumu breast for youth S( )
twr   ib tawru   ebbi turn of the Vigorous T( )
ur  [´shr] uru      ´sahri  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.