The Art of Origins

A cosmology is a philosophical construct dealing with the origin, processes, and structure of the universe. The cosmologies in this exhibit attempt to show diversity, progressions, and the common need in all human cultures to understand our place in time and space.

There is more to the world than what meets the eye and what meets the eye is not always what it appears to be. The study of cosmologies has been the work of shaman, priests, philosophers and scientists. Although having a deeper understanding of the universe seldom brings happiness; what it offers in return is insight, enlightenment, and perhaps even the satisfaction of saying "So that's what's been going on!"


Before monotheism became the dominant religious practice in the Middle East, there was an extensive pantheon composed of hundreds of gods, demons, and monsters from the Egyptian, Greek, Mesopotamian, and many tribal cultures of the region. Whether from nomadic tribes or conquering empires these gods were mixed, matched and borrowed to create their now nearly-forgotten mythology.


The God of Storms and Fertility. Known as the "Rider of Clouds", Ba'al holds a thunder club and a spear of lightning, which he used to slay the sea -monster, Yamm. When the time came for Baal to replace his father El as ruler of the gods, he was challenged and defeated by Mot, the God of Death. Death could not maintain its hold on him; Ba'al rose again with the coming of spring and so earned his title as King of the Gods.


The Moon Goddess and patron diety of ancient Carthage. She was worshipped as a virginal mother goddess and consort of Ba'al Hammon


The Greater God. El was born of the god Samem (Heavan) and the goddess Ars (Earth). He took over as ruler of the gods after emasculating his father. He is creator and father of the gods in the Canaanite pantheon. Also refered to as the Bull God.


The planet Venus is associated with Asarte. She is the Queen of Heavan, Goddess of the sky and Consort of El. Asarte is a goddess of sexuality and the violence that comes with passion. Her sphere of influence is similar to Ishtar in Mesopotamia and Aphrodite in Greece.


The planet Mars is most likely associated with this warrior goddess. Anat is the sister and wife of Ba'al. She is known for her ferocious temper and slaying so many of her enemies in battle that she would be wading knee-deep in their blood. When Ba'al was defeated by Mot she searched for her husband in the netherworld where she encountered Mot. When Mot refused her demand to release her husband from the land of the dead, she chopped him into pieces with a sharp knife, winnowed the pieces of his body, burned him in a fire, ground him up and spread his remains in a field as fodder for the birds.


God of Death, Ruler of the Underworld. Mot challeged Ba'al's rise to becoming ruler of the gods. He created a famine by openning his mouth so wide that his lower lip touched the earth and his upper lip touched the sky. He licked the stars with his tongue and drank away all Ba'al's rain and moisture in the land. Ba'al died with the end of the growing season. When Ba'al rose again from the dead with the coming of Spring, Mott had little choice but to accept him as king of the gods.


The most ancient etymologies for Dagon may have meant that he was originally a god of grain and fertility. However, within the Canaanite maritime tradition he was worshipped God of the Sea. His outstanding feature being that he was a fish from the navel down.


Seven-headed monster slain by Ba'al and whose blood became the oceans.


The central figure is Tiamat, a fertility goddess who gave birth to the eleven guardian monsters that surround her. When she was slain by Marduk, (lower left corner) Tiamat's body was split in two and became the earth and sky. Her tears and blood became the seas. Tiamat's consort, Qingu (lower right corner) was defeated in a great battle with Marduk. Qingu was later sacrificed and his blood was mixed with clay to make the first people.

Here is one of western civilization's oldest models of the universe. It holds the roots of many later traditions. It shows a multi-layered universe much like a stepped pyramid or ziggurat. The disk located to the lower center represents a subterranean freshwater ocean called the Abzu. The Abzu was a primordial being and lover to Tiamat that was slain by the god Enki. Just as the blood of Tiamat became the source of all salt water, the blood of Abzu became the source of all fresh water. Enki set up his palace in the body of Abzu and is shown here with his two-faced minister Usmu.

The god Shamesh representing the sun, walks his daily path up the stairs to heaven and down into the depths of the underworld. The wheel in the background shows the Sumerian zodiac, which originally had 18 constellations. In the upper left corner is the god Enki holding the tablets of destiny. In the lower right corner is Nergal, lord of the underworld.

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