Natib Qadish: Modern Canaanite Polytheism

 

Feast Hall

The Shanatu Qadishti, the Sacred Calendar

 

Color pencil drawing of red and gold flowers repeated in a row against blue and green backgrounds.

This page discusses the modern reconstructed calendar of Canaanite polytheist holidays (Natib Qadish), the sacred year, and festivals.

Feast Hall Table of Contents

For dates of upcoming festivals, please see our Calendar.

For Ugaritic musical accompaniment, see "The Oldest Song in the World."

Introduction to Shanatu Qadishti

The Shanatu Qadishti, or “sacred year,” is what some modern Canaanite polytheists call our festival calendar. It is a constantly evolving form as we uncover new information or reexamine or relearn old information. In order to form this calendar, I combined a number of sources, mostly the information concerning Ugaritic festivals as translated by Pardee in his work Ritual and Cult in Ugarit, and the Gezer calendar from 925 BCE in Palestine as translated in Pritchard’s “The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures.” (Please see Resources for details.) The table below provides more information.

The names of the holidays are not their original names, those having been lost to time, but are names I have assembled from the Ugaritic language. The Canaanites had a lunar calendar and began each month with the new moon. If need be, the lunar calendar and the solar calendar would be reset with an intercalary month between the months of Ra’shu Yeni and Niqalu, between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year.

In celebration of a holiday, there would have been any number of different activities: singing, dancing, dramatization of the texts or reading aloud the texts, offerings, ritual, and feasting. Of all of these perhaps the offerings and the feasting, which could have been combined, would have been the most important.

This is by no means the only way to celebrate the sacred year for modern Canaanite polytheists. If you would like to read the ancient texts left to us regarding monthly celebrations, please see Pardee, Dennis. Ritual and Cult at Ugarit. Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Georgia. 2002, among many other fine Resources.

Note: the name of the Moon God is Yarikh, while the word for "month" is Yarkhu.

What follows below are the holidays of Natib Qadish.

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Image depicts stylized crescent moons and solar disks repeated in yellow on a sky-blue background.

The Gezer Calendar

His two months are olive harvest,
His two months are planting grain,
His two months are late planting;
His month is hoeing up of flax,
His month is harvest of barley,
His month is harvest and feasting;
His two months are vine tending,
His month is summer fruit.

(925 BCE, Gezer, Palestine. As translated by W.F. Albright in Pritchard’s The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, see Resources)

Learn more about the Gezer Calendar.

 

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A photograph showing a flower garland with white twinkle lights for the holiday Ashuru Liyatu.

 

Table of 'Ashuruma

Month name and meaning

Gregorian Calendar

'Ashuruma (Festivals)

Time of Celebration

Seasonal Occurences as noted in “Gezer Calendar”

(nql) Niqalu

Month of Autumnal Equinox

September-October

 

Mathbatu (“Dwellings”) Traditional from Ugarit

Chudthu (New Moon)

Olive Harvest

(mgmr) Magmaru

October-November

 

 

Olive Harvest

(pgrm) Pagruma or

(db[ch]) Dabchu, “corpses,” or “offering”

November-December

Marzichu (Gathering of Marzichu Social Club to celebrate ancestors), Traditional from Ugarit, although seasonal timing may differ

Chudthu (New Moon) or Yamu Mlatu (Full Moon)

Planting Grain

(ỉb‘lt) ‘Iba ‘latu

Month of Winter Solstice

December-January

 

‘Aru (“Light”), Traditional from Ugarit

Winter Solstice

Planting Grain

([kh]yr) Khiyaru

January-February

Shamnu (“Oil”), Traditional from Ugarit

7 th day after Chudthu (New Moon)

Late Planting

([ch]lt) Challatu

February-March

 

 

Late Planting

(gn) Gannu, “garden”

Month of Vernal Equinox

March-April

 

Gannu (“Garden”), Traditional from Ugarit

Spring Equinox

Hoeing flax, hoeing weeds

(ỉŧb) Ithabu

April-May

 

 

Barley Harvest

(?) I call it Ugaru, “field”

May-June

Liyatu (“Garlands”), Non-traditional, no record exists of celebration save note of “feasting” in Gezer calendar

Mlatu (Full Moon), tentatively

Harvest and Feasting

(?) I call it Gapnu, “vine”

June-July

Summer Solstice

Zabru (“Pruning”); no mention of Solstice celebration, but is a ritual devoted to vine pruning in “Tale of Gracious Gods”

Summer Solstice

Vine Tending

 

(ỉŧtbnm) Ithbanmu

July-August

 

 

Vine Tending

(rš yn) Ra'shu Yeni. “new wine”

August-September

Ra'shu Yeni (“New Wine”), Traditional from Ugarit

Sacrifice of grapes to ‘Ilu on Chudthu (New Moon);

7 day Holiday begins at Mlatu (Full Moon)

Summer Fruit Harvest

(š...?) I call it Shalamu

“peace,” “completion”

Intercalary Month to match/reset lunar and solar calendars

Some minor sacrifices

Traditional from Ugarit

Mlatu (Full Moon)

Matches solar and lunar year.

 

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Shanatu Qadishti: The Sacred Year

'Ashuru Mathbati: Festival of Dwellings

This holiday is the first holiday of the new ritual year. It takes place at Chudthu (new moon) in the month of Niqalu during around mid-September to mid-October. During this holiday, temporary dwellings, mathbatu, are built on the roofs of temples. These temporary dwellings, made of cut branches, house the representations of deities for the duration of the festival. The temporary dwellings were probably decorated and full of offerings. At the end of the festival, the king was to ascend to the rooftop and “speak what is in his heart.” A quick note regarding the CaPhoto of a table-top sized mathbatu dwelling with bas relief of deities inside around a lit candle. naanite concept of “heart:” the Canaanites viewed the liver as the seat of emotion; to have something in one’s heart was to keep something to oneself, or as a part of oneself.(1)

Modern-day Canaanites may decide to go all out and construct a temporary dwelling of cut branches in their backyards or on their roofs, or decorate the inside or outside of the home with cut branches, or construct small mathbatu to fit upon an altar.

Dates for 'Ashuru Mathbati

0 Niqalu, Shanatu 84: Sunday, August 28, 2011
0 Niqalu, Shanatu 85: Saturday, September 15, 2012
0 Niqalu, Shanatu 86: Thursday, September 25, 2013
0 Niqalu, Shanatu 87: Monday, August 25, 2014
0 Niqalu, Shanatu 88: Sunday, September 13, 2015
0 Niqalu, Shanatu 89: Thursday, September 1, 2016
0 Niqalu, Shanatu 90: Wednesday, September 20, 2017
0 Niqalu, Shanatu 91: Sunday, September 9, 2018
0 Niqalu, Shanatu 92: Friday, August 30, 2019

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Marzichu: Social Club Gathering to Honor Ancestors

Please see section below entitled Marzichu for more information. Possible date for annual Marzichu would be Mlatu (full moon) of month Pagruma/Dabchu.

Dates for Annual Marzichu meetings

15 Pagruma-Dabchu, Shanatu 84: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
14 Pagruma-Dabchu, Shanatu 85: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
14 Pagruma-Dabchu, Shanatu 86: Sunday, November 17, 2013
14 Pagruma-Dabchu, Shanatu 87: Wednesday, October 8, 2014
14 Pagruma-Dabchu, Shanatu 88: Wednesday, November 25, 2015
15 Pagruma-Dabchu, Shanatu 89: Monday, November 14, 2016
17 Pagruma-Dabchu, Shanatu 90: Sunday, December 3, 2017
16 Pagruma-Dabchu, Shanatu 91: Friday, November 23, 2018
16 Pagruma-Dabchu, Shanatu 92: Tuesday, November 12, 2019

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'Ashuru 'Ari: Festival of Light

An arched candleholder with seven candles'Ashuru 'Ari takes place at the winter solstice during the Ugaritic month of 'Iba'altu, which occurs around mid-December through mid-January. This festival encourages the sun, Shapshu, to spend more time among the living. We don’t have much information regarding this holiday.

As modern practice, I light a candle per day for seven days to encourage the sun’s return from the Underworld. I start the festival on winter solstice in the longest night of the year. By the end of the week, Shapshu has all seven candles burning in her honor. If one prefers to keep the festival short, one can light a pillar candle on the night of solstice to encourage the sun’s light to grow and return. It is also possible on the day before the solstice to burn a letter for the Rapa’uma and ask Shapshu to carry the letter to them, as she will be spending much time in the Underworld on solstice night.

 

Dates for 'Ashuru 'Ari

27 Iba'latu, Shanatu 84: Thursday, December 22, 2011
8 Iba'latu, Shanatu 85: Friday, December 21, 2012
19 Iba'latu, Shanatu 86: Saturday, December 21, 2013
0 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 87: Sunday, December 21, 2014
10 Iba'latu, Shanatu 88: Monday, December 21, 2015
22 Iba'latu, Shanatu 89: Wednesday, December 21, 2016
3 Iba'latu, Shanatu 90: Thursday, December 21, 2017
14 Iba'latu, Shanatu 91: Friday, December 21, 2018
25 Iba'latu, Shanatu 92: Saturday, December 21, 2019

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'Ashuru Shamni: Festival of Oil

'Ashuru Shamni begins seven days after the new moon of the next lunar month, Khiyyaru, or mid-January through mid-February. At this time, an “oil of blessing”Cobalt-blue glass in shape of amphora is filled with shamnu moru, myrrh oil. A shell filled with myrrh tears rests in front of the bottle. (shamnu shalami), possibly a myrrh oil (shamnu mori) is given in offering to Ba’al for protection of the city. This holiday is closely connected to 'Ashuru 'Ari, and should be since it is olive oil that the Canaanites used for fuel for their lamps.

As a modern practice, this may be an ideal time to create a shamnu morru or an oil blend for ritual and blessing purposes, and to make an offering of a portion of it to Ba’al in request for his protection over the home, automobile, school, or workplace.

Dates for 'Ashuru Shamni

7 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 84: Saturday, December 31, 2011
7 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 85: Friday, January 18, 2013
7 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 86: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
7 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 87: Sunday, December 28, 2014
7 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 88: Saturday, January 16, 2016
7 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 89: Thursday, January 5, 2017
7 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 90: Tuesday, January 31, 2018
7 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 91: Saturday, January 12, 2019
7 Khiyyaru, Shanatu 92: Thursday, January 2, 2020

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'Ashuru Ganni: Festival of the Garden

This holiday takes place during spring equinox during the month of Gannu, around mid-March to mid-April. The only An oudoor altar sits in front of many newly-budding trees. Altar has images of deities, candles, food offerings, and flowers on it.information we have regarding this festival includes many offerings made for the deities, and a text tentatively translated as “eating fish soup in the garden.” The word Gannu, which lends its name to the generated name for the holiday and the original given name of the month, means “garden.”

As a modern Qadish, one may choose to make a feast including fish soup and consuming the soup outside in or near a garden area. I like to dig a small hole in the ground and pour a small portion of fish soup into it and cover it back up with earth; this serves as a blessing and an offering to the garden. This holiday also offers the modern option of working out of doors to plant herbs, vegetables, or flowers.

Dates for 'Ashuru Ganni

28 Gannu, Shanatu 84: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
9 Gannu, Shanatu 85: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
19 Gannu, Shanatu 86: Thursday, March 20, 2014
0 Ithabu, Shanatu 87: Friday, March 20, 2015
12 Gannu, Shanatu 88: Sunday, March 20, 2016
22 Gannu, Shanatu 89: Monday, March 20, 2017
3 Gannu, Shanatu 90: Tuesday, March 20, 2018
14 Gannu, Shanatu 91: Wednesday, March 20, 2019
25 Gannu, Shanatu 91: Thursday, March 19, 2020

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Rediscovery Day

Rediscovery Day is a thoroughly modern celebration commemorating the beginning of excavations of the Canaanite city of Ugarit in Ras Shamra, Syria, on April 2, 1929: 22 [Ugaru], Shanatu 1. This day is honored through reading the ancient texts or on archaeology, sponsoring an academic charity and supporting scholars, giving thanks to the deities for the rediscovery of the city, and feasting.  Because Ras Shamra translates as “head of fennel,” I like to mark the day by incorporating fennel into my feast. Because of the differences in the calendar for solar and lunar adjustments, sometimes the Ugaritic timing for this celebration may occur some years before 'Ashuru Ganni, and in some rare years on the same day as 'Ashuru Ganni.

Celebrants can honor the day in accordance to the secular calendar—April 2—or in accordance to the Ugaritic calendar.

Dates for Rediscovery Day

22 Gannu, Shanatu 84: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
22 Gannu, Shanatu 85: Tuesday, April 2, 2013
22 Gannu, Shanatu 86: Sunday, March 23, 2014
22 Gannu, Shanatu 87: Thursday, March 12, 2015
22 Gannu, Shanatu 88: Wednesday, March 30, 2016
22 Gannu, Shanatu 89: Monday, March 20, 2017
22 Gannu, Shanatu 90: Sunday, April 8, 2018
22 Gannu, Shanatu 91: Thursday, March 28, 2019
22 Gannu, Shanatu 92: Monday, March 16, 2020

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'Ashuru Liyati: Festival of Garlands

The festival of 'Ashuru Liyati comes during a month for which we have lost the name, around mid-May to mid-June. I refer to this month as Ugaru, meaning field. This is the holiday for which we have the least amount of information. This holiday could take place at Mlatu, the full moon. The only indication of a festival at this time is in the Gezer calendar, where it mentions “harvest and feasting” for this month. I’ve named this holiday Ashuru Liyati, which means Festival of Garlands. This is the time the fig and bitter almond trees blossom, and it is time for the last grain harvest. Baking bread or small simple fruit cakes may be a good practice to An arch with a garland over an altar set with deity images and candleshonor this season. See Recipes for a couple of ideas.

As a purely modern practice, one may wish to create garlands to symbolize abundance, and to hold a feast. During the feast, participants may wear garlands and contemplate the many ways in which we are all abundant, and celebrate all that we have brought to fruition. Other modern practices could involve the making of small baskets of fruits and bread to share to honor the abundance of the earth, or bringing canned goods to shelters, or giving flowers to people.

This could be a good time to honor the fertility of Dagan of the fields for his abundance this year, for Nikkal of the Orchards as she will be blossoming, and for Yarikh who's dew will fertilze the orchards. If you are in a group, spritzing each other with water may be a good way to encourage fertility and abundance.

Dates for 'Ashuru Liyati

14 [Ugaru], Shanatu 84: Saturday, May 5, 2012
16 [Ugaru], Shanatu 85: Saturday, May 25, 2013
15 [Ugaru], Shanatu 86: Wednesday, May 14, 2014
15 [Ugaru], Shanatu 87: Sunday, May 3, 2015
15 [Ugaru], Shanatu 88: Saturday, May 21, 2016
14 [Ugaru], Shanatu 89: Wednesday, May 10, 2017
14 [Ugaru], Shanatu 90: Tuesday, May 29, 2018
14 [Ugaru], Shanatu 91: Saturday, May 18, 2019
15 [Ugaru], Shanatu 92: Thursday, May 7, 2020

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'Ashuru Zabri: Festival of Pruning / 'Ashuru Qazhi: Summer Festival

An effigy of Motu made from grapevinesIn Ugaritic, "zabru" means "pruning" and it refers to the pruning of the grapevines. Modern Qadishuma in Lebanon call this holiday 'Ashuru Qazhi, the Summer Festival. This is a summer solstice celebration. The month name has been lost, but I refer to the month as Gapnu, honoring the grape vines that shall be tended during this season. This month occurs during the Gregorian calendar months of mid-June through mid-July.

This may be the time of the year when the text of the Birth of the Gracious Gods/ Shachar and Shalim may have occurred—after all, this is a season of grapevine pruning. If so, Mot’s power of sterility and death was curtailed through using sympathetic magic to symbolically prune Mot like a grapevine and thereby cut his power; and by the display of fertility such as the birth of Shachar and Shalim. This holiday, if it involves the Birth of the Gracious Gods, may be a good time to honor and feed children.

Some Canaanites prefer to honor the Death of Ba'al at Summer Solstice, seeing the Ba'al Texts as a yearly cycle. Scholars heatedly dispute applying the Ba'al Texts to a yearly cycle, but my idea of the Festival of Pruning may also prove equally problematic, so celebrate as you feel appropriate. (2)

Dates for 'Ashuru Zabri/Qazhi

1 Ithtabnuma, Shanatu 84: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
13 [Gapnu], Shanatu 85: Friday, June 21, 2013
24 [Gapnu], Shanatu 86: Saturday, June 21, 2014
5 Ithtabnuma, Shanatu 87: Sunday, June 21, 2015
16 [Gapnu], Shanatu 88: Monday, June 20, 2016
27 [Gapnu], Shanatu 89: Wednesday, June 21, 2017
8 [Gapnu], Shanatu 90: Thursday, June 21, 2018
18 [Gapnu], Shanatu 91: Friday, June 21, 2019
29 [Gapnu], Shanatu 92: Saturday, June 20, 2020

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'Ashuru Ra'shi Yeni: Festival of New Wine

This is a seven-day holiday of feasting and celebration for the summer fruit harvest. The festival takes place during the month of the same name, Ra’shu Yani, In front of a postcard of Ilu sits an offering of grapes and incense. A candle is lit atop an alabaster candleholder.which means “new wine.” In the Gregorian calendar, this would occur around mid-August to mid-September. During the Chudthu, the new moon of the month, an offering of grapes is made to 'Ilu. The festival itself begins at Mlatu, the full moon. Participants feast and drink, celebrating the harvest and bounty of the land. A modern-day celebration could include a feast and perhaps a visit to a local vineyard. This marks the end of the year; Mathbatu is the next holiday and the Shanatu Qadishti begins again.

 

Dates for 'Ashuru Ra'shi Yeni

13 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 84: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
14 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 85: Tuesday, August 20, 2013
15 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 86: Sunday, August 10, 2014
16 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 87: Friday, July 31, 2015
16 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 88: Thursday, August 18, 2016
15 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 89: Monday, August 7, 2017
15 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 90: Sunday, August 26, 2018
15 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 91: Thursday, August 15, 2019
14 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 92: Monday, August 3, 2020

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1. Liver as seat of emotions: see Parker, Simon B., ed. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry. Society of Biblical Literature, U.S.A., 1997, p. 79, note #18.
2. Smith takes a thorough look at all the interpretations of the Ba'al texts, including the seasonal interpretation. See Smith, Mark S. The Ugaritic Baal Cycle, Volume I: Introduction with Text, Translation and Commentary of KTU 1.1-1.2. E.J. Brill, Leiden, the Netherlands, 1994, especially pages 60-67.

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Marzichu

Marzichu refers to both a certain type of celebration and to a group that commonly gathers for this type of celebration; the marzichu itself may have been a regularly group of people meeting to drink and to honor the dead.(1) A marzichu can meet at any time they wish, but in order to remain as a regularly meeting marzichu, they must meet at least once a year. In days of old the annual Marzichu gathering may have been held in summer.(2) I push it back to the autumn as the sun travels more towards the Underworld, and to even out the calendar, and because a possible name for one of the fall months is Pagruma which means "corpses." This gathering can be held on Chudthu (new moon) or Yamu Mlati (full moon).

A marzichu may certainly meet more than once a year. The Ugaritic texts include a tale of Ilu holding and attending a marzichu(3), so it would be appropriate to hold up a cup of blessing to honor him at a marzichu gathering.

We don’t have a great deal of information regarding what would occur at a marzichu. The marzichu would meet at a house, perhaps one they bought together for such purposes, or perhaps a building or a room set aside by one of the members.(4) The marzichu would have involved drinking in honor of the deities and the Rapi’uma, the spirits of the ancestors; perhaps a libation was poured to the marzichu's patron deity. As a modern practice, special life events such as an engagement, a birth, a graduation, a coming of age, et cetera, may also be honored at a marzichu.

1. Smith, Mark S. The Ugaritic Baal Cycle, Volume I: Introduction with Text, Translation and Commentary of KTU 1.1-1.2. E.J. Brill, Leiden, the Netherlands, 1994, p. 143-4
2. Parker, Simon B., ed. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry. Society of Biblical Literature, U.S.A., 1997, p. 197.
3. Parker 195
4. Pardee, Dennis. Ritual and Cult at Ugarit. Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Georgia. 2002, p. 217.

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Lunar Observances

Chudthu: New MoonA lit candle sits inside a glass candlehoder in a wire stand shaped like the crescent moon.

Out of the four phases of the moon—new, waxing, full, waning—new moon was probably as important as the full moon to the ancient Canaanites. Called chudthu in Ugaritic, the new moon marked the beginning of each new month and the passage of time. Offerings were made during the new moon, and some holidays occur during the new moon or in relation to the new moon: 'Ashuru Mathbati occurs on Chudthu, 'Ashuru Shamni occurs seven days after the new moon, and a sacrifice of grapes is offered to 'Ilu on Chudthu of Ra'shu Yeni.(1) As a modern practice, different contemplative activities and meditations are held during Chudthu. It is a time to reexamine oneself and one’s spiritual path, as well as “touching base” with other people. Modern Chudthu activities may include study groups, research, meditations, discussions, or even “movie nights.” See Chudthu Meditation in the Sipru Chukmi for a sample of a Chudthu meditation; or Chudthu could offer the introduction of a topic for thought that would then be discussed at Mlatu.

Mlatu: Full Moon

The full moon was called mlatu in Ugaritic, which meant “fullness." We know that offerings took place on Mlatu as well as Chudthu, and indeed more offerings were made on mlatu than on Chudthu. Most of the holidays, however, are as likely or more so to occur on a solar occurence such as equinox or solstice, or occur around mlatu.

For Chudthu and Mlatu dates, see Calendar

1. Pardee, Dennis. Ritual and Cult at Ugarit. Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Georgia. 2002, p. 63.

 

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Please do not use without permission, proper crediting, and a link to my site.

Natib Qadish: Modern Canaanite Polytheism is a site about Canaanite religion, also called Canaanite revivalism, or Canaanite reconstructionism. This site explores topics of interest for people who practice Canaanite religion, information regarding the ancient Canaanites themselves, and includes both ancient Canaanite religion and its modern counterpart.