In the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos, there was a sacred pool at the Temple of Baalat Gebal which overlooked the Mediterranean that people went to, so they could wash their feet. Baalat Gebal is called the lady of Byblos and she is the patroness of the shipbuilders. Visitors would recite this prayer, “Mother goddess Baalat Gebal, daughter of El, nurturer and bringer of life who blesses us with good fortune. Oh, queen watch over us and protect the city of Byblos, bestow rain on us and our crops. Great goddess of love and fertility blessed wife of Baal who rides in the clouds hear my prayer. Snow white lady with your shining silver blossom, help me to gain the strength and energy so I can honor you. Give me prosperity, guide me on my path and watch over the ones that I love.” This sacred pool is said to have healing powers, because of all the prayers that have been said there.
The Temple of Baalat Gebal was filled with Egyptian monuments and inscriptions. Byblos traded extensively with Egypt, exporting timber and importing papyrus. The Temple was originally constructed of wooden pillars which supported a grass or reed roof, and it had large stones at the base of its foundation. Altars and monuments were constructed from precious metals that were dedicated to Baalat Gebal. Just after the Temple was built, a high wall was constructed around the city, street patterns were established, and storm drainage was laid out, making Byblos one of the earliest towns that was actually planned out. Several centuries later, the Temple was destroyed by the Amorites, the same group of people that Joshua led his troops against during the extremely long day. It was later rebuilt by King Yehawmlik, who made a bronze altar and added many gold engravings.
Baalat Gebal has influence over war, love, fertility and the planet Venus. Baalat Gebal is a sister of Astarte and Asherah. She was also a wife of the Canaanite, Hittite, Philistine and Phoenician god El and after she bore him daughters, he gave the city of Byblos to her. Baalat Gebal is known as the Mistress, Lady, or Queen of Byblos. The Lady of Byblos is thought to be Heavenly, because she descended to Earth from a meteorite that fell from the sky in a blaze of fire. The meteorite fell into the sacred pool where her temple was built.
The early Phoenician people practiced religious tolerance, which was a most unusual characteristic at that time. This is seen in the temple that was built to the goddess of the city, as a small house and enclosed yard was set aside for her when they were fishermen and this eventually became a grand temple of rough-hewn stone. The Phoenicians allowed any visitor to call this feminine deity by whatever name they were comfortable. Egyptian visitors were allowed, and even encouraged, to call her Hathor, the goddess most similar to Baalat Gebal in the Egyptian pantheon. Canaanite visitors from other cities could, and did, call her Astarte. Greeks would later call her Aphrodite, and the Romans, Venus. All these names were acceptable to the Phoenicians without hesitation. Gifts from foreign dignitaries have been found in Byblos addressed to one or more of these names.
The first thing you would notice if you went to visit this Temple would be the emerald pool. The sacred pool is very deep and it is thought to be a portal to the spirit world. Priests would fling golden idols into the pool as a way of placating the Lady of Byblos when they were in need of rain. Many people come to bathe in the sacred pool and others come to pray, and there are many stories about the supernatural healing powers and fertility properties that this water is supposed to hold. People believe that this water symbolizes purity, because instead of coming from a mountain stream, it comes straight from Mother Earth.
The Phoenician goddess Baalat was usually depicted in typical Egyptian dress and she was called the wise old lady of the trees by the Sumerians. Her naked images were described as being sculpted in a well-endowed fashion holding her life-giving breasts in her hands. When clothed, she appeared in a stylish matron in a shoulder strapped tight robe sporting an elaborate Egyptian hairstyle. The Temple of Baalat-Gebal, the first known monument on the coast of Canaan and it was built around 2800 BC. This large and important temple was rebuilt a number of times, and it remained in use until the Roman period when it was replaced by a Roman style structure.
From the ruins of excavated sites, in the eighth century BC, it is thought that a series of earthquakes simultaneously overwhelmed this area. The magnitude of these catastrophes has no parallels in modern annals or in the concepts of seismology, as this area was gripped by the shocks which spread ruin from Troy to the valley of the Nile and laid waste to Byblos, destroying civilizations with the perturbations that changed the entire aspect of the known world from Europe to Asia and Africa. Fire raged, lava flowed, tremors traveled across ancient Phoenicia, as Byblos collapsed during a tremor.
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Tale Weaver #260 – Tremor hosted by Michael.