The Moon, Bulls, Serpents & Semitic Gods
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
The association between the Semitic gods, Wadd, Yah, bulls, serpents and the moon has always been a puzzle. To understand the conclusions regarding the moon-serpent association, it would be fruitful to understand El’s association with the moon.
El was a moon god associated with the bull. The Hebrew god who ‘begat’ the Judeans (Deut 32:18) was worshiped under the conflated name Yhwh-Elohim. El was also known as Sin, or the crescent moon and Yh, also known as Wadd, was the god of the full moon. El was known to the Canaanites as Toru Ilu or Bull El. According to the Canaanite myth, El dwelt on Mount Layl or Night Mountain. El acquired his sacred animal, the bull, because of the resemblance of the bull’s horns to the crescent or sickle shaped moon. This lunar phase begins after the dark phase when the crescent first becomes visible. During this waxing phase, the lunar orb is sometimes lit by a phenomena known as earth shine. During this event, the crescent is brightly illuminated by the sun while the remaining moon face is dimly lit by the earth’s reflective light making it appear that the moon’s face is veiled. During this lunar phase, the citizens of Ugarit referred to El as ‘ltpn’ or ‘lutpani’ in Hebrew which means veiled face. A version of the name Ltpn appears in the Bible as Lwtn (Gen 36:20) which means veiled. To the Semites, it would appear that El was displaying his weapons of power and protection, i.e. his horns, while veiling his face. An ancient, massive, crescent shaped monument dating to 3000BCE has been unearthed in Israel. Israeli archaeologists have assigned this monument of the crescent shaped moon to the Assyrian moon god, Sin. However, the monument may also represent the Israelite god of the crescent moon, Toru ilu (Bull El) whose Biblical name is Elohim.
The fully waxed moon, or the full moon, was associated with fertility and with genitalia. For this reason, Wadd’s sacred symbol was the snake aka Yah according to the Negev inscriptions. One of Yhwh’s alternate names was Yah according to Psalm 68:4. The serpent is a universal phallic symbol for fertility. This phase of the moon was worshiped as Wadd who was known to the Hebrews as Yhwh. The Judeans always began their Passover feast when the moon was full.
In the Negev inscriptions, Wadd is referred to as ‘ilyt’ meaning backside or buttock and in Exodus 33:23, Yhwh displays his ‘achowr’ or backside to Moses. Moses is only allowed to see Yhwh’s backside because the moon’s face is either too dark to be perceived or only dimly lit. The above interpretation explains the necessity for the communication between Moses and Yhwh-Elohiym to take place on Har Sinai (aka Mount Horeb) or Moon Mountain; a mountain sacred to the moon god. It also explains why Moses was only allowed to see Yhwh-Elohiym’s backside (Ex 33:23) and was forbidden to see his face (Ex 33:20). So, Toru Ilu or Bull El/El’s face can only be faintly seen when the earth’s reflective light dimly illuminates the surface. Therefore, his sacred face can never be fully viewed. During this phase, El was referred to as ‘Lutpani’ or Veiled Face. However, the moon’s backside is brightly illuminated during the full moon phase. During this phase of the moon, Yhwh-Elohim’s procreative powers would illuminate the earth. These procreative powers were greatly enhanced when Yhwh-Elohim as the full moon (wrapped with light) was seen as riding upon storm clouds which are described as his chariots in Psalm 104:1-3: “Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty./ The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters./ He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.”
It appears from the above research, that the Hebrews viewed the different phases of the moon as the result of the moon rotating from front to back or head to rear and then back again. In other words, Bull El would be confronting the Hebrews but hiding his face during the dark and the waxing stages. As Yhwh, his rear parts would become fully visible during the full moon phase and then gradually disappear as he turned back around during the waning and dark phases of the moon. Thus, the 2 gods, the Canaanite god El and the Hebrew/Midianite god, Yhwh, were fused to become the Biblical god Yhwh-Elohim which represented the moon in its waxing and waning stages. Also, Yhwh Elohim’s role as a fertility god seems to become enhanced when he rides the storm clouds, scatters his semen (rain) and blesses the barren land and its inhabitants with fecundity, which was symbolized by both the bull and the snake.
Yhwh’s astral aspect as a serpent can be found in the constellation AtTineen aka Draco who is alluded to in Genesis as the tree serpent who guarded the tree of life aka Ursa Minor. The image of Yhwh as a tree serpent has been discussed in the article found on this site: ‘Israel’s Serpent Moon God, Yhwh, the Jewish Snake God’. However, it seemed that there was a puzzling dual association. Yhwh was associated with the constellations Draco and Ursa Minor and the story derived from these constellations as well as the moon. What was the connection between the moon and serpents? The answer can be found in the full moon as there is a lunar image suggested by the moon’s topography that is a clue to unravelling this association. The moon has a winged dragon depicted on its face. Go to this site to view the image:
The image is very clear. This is an harvest moon when the moon appears to turn red. To the right is the dragon’s head. The wing is located above the body and behind the head. The slender, snake like body ends in a tail which curls around the wing and ends just above the head. This is Wadd’s snake, Yah who became Yhwh. The Judeans associated this image with Draco/AtTineen who coils around the tree of life, Ursa Minor. In that case, the ‘wing’ in the middle of the image would be interpreted as the tree of life. In addition, the pole star Polaris was located in Ursa minor so it appeared that the stars were revolving around the serpent god, AtTineen/Yah. In other words, Yah/Draco sat amongst the host of heaven, aka astral gods, at the center point and controlled the revolutionary movement of his starry offspring. He was king of the starry night. So, here is the Judean Wadd/Yah association. In addition, when El was conflated with Yah, the moon also became a bull whose horns were visible during the waxing stages of the moon and whose backside or full moon displayed the serpent which signified fertility. In addition, the name of the Assyrian god Ashur is derived from the word anshar and means sky pivot. Ashur is often depicted as riding upon the snake, Usumgallu aka AtTineen to the Semites. So, to the Assyrians, the pole star was the god Ashur and the snake upon which he rode was AtTineen.