Sneak Peek: The Ilhm of Phoenicia
7 months ago
by Onyx Path
Our next manuscript chapter will be available for backers on Tuesday, November 1st. Chapter Three: Pantheons expands our understanding of the Gods and Pantheons of The World with five Pantheons that carry with them ancient knowledge and enemies even older.
And with a margin of 5 votes, The Ilhm just edged out the Pālas, so let's get a taste of what's coming on Tuesday...
By the time the Phoenicians became adept sea traders in the 9th century BCE, the Ilhm already saw the writing — both literal and metaphorical — on the walls surrounding them, the mountains which rose at their people’s back, folding them between other peoples. The further and more frequently they stretched out their arms to protect their sea-going children, watching them establish extensive trading routes across The World, the more deeply Ilhm understood they could never go back to the quiet, isolated life in which they shepherded farmers through generation after generation. They knew their children would mix and mingle with other cultures, bringing home beliefs and superstitions, and if their Gods did not look forward with them, their people would simply shed them like old Mantles, leave them behind like worn cloaks.
The Ilhm claim this forward-looking mentality permitted them to seed their own belief system through most of the Western world. They assert (which most members of most other Pantheons firmly dispute, some quite loudly indeed) that they sent their Demigods out into The World, the better to continue their ascension to Godhood while carrying the values and structures of Phoenician life across the globe. The writings of Kinahhu the Younger, a scribe traveling with spice merchants aboard Asherat’s Breath in the 12th century BCE (and only known via attribution from later works) describe a cosmopolitan people intent on contacting as many different cultures as possible. Her writings describe broad-bottomed single-sail trading ships lined up at the ports of Africa’s Atlantic Coast while sailors clustered into temples positioned at trading posts, bringing offerings to the gathered Gods of many Pantheons, all of whom Kinahhu related to Phoenician deities.
Whether she simply meant to describe the other Gods in ways her audience could understand or the Phoenician Pantheon actively sought a syncretic future remains a matter of great debate among Scion scholars to this day. Some point to the mix of Ugaritic and Akkadian verb forms in her writing as evidence of broad-based knowledge pointing to a deeper understanding of divine plans, while others gesture to the fact that kinahhu simply means purple dye, the distinctive and now-extinct color made by crushing Murex molluscs native to the Levantine coast. As the Greeks called the Phoenicians and Canaanites by the Hellenized version of this term, ‘Kinahhu the Younger’ may simply translate into the equivalent of American, Jr.
Whatever the truth of the tale passed through centuries and summaries in the works of other writers, the Ilhm persist where other Pantheons faded. Their worship and homes still center in Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre in modern Lebanon.
The longer a family stays together, the more complicated their history: older than most other Pantheons, the Ilhm have built up for themselves more tangled stories accordingly. (Of course, Gods being Gods, every other Pantheon disputes this in some fashion — who could admit to not being quite as fabulous in every way as one’s neighbors?) The stories presented here represent the most common and mainstream versions of held by modern Phoenician qadeshtu throughout The World. Other interpretations exist, and Phoenician Scions often fiercely debate amongst themselves the veracity of the various myths their parents tell them. They focus on the lineages of their people, and at the behest of their deities, Ilhm Scions maintain some of the most fantastic genealogical records of any individuals in The World (or outside of it). They care less for the maintenance of their ancestral temples and homelands than some other Pantheons, though whether that springs from a genuine lack of concern or simply flows forth from several millennia where weather, war and time have had their way with the original stone temples in which they received worship remains debatable.
The Gods of the Ilhm Pantheon include: ʼIla (Heaven and justice), Asherah (creation and change), Gad (fortune and misfortune), Anat (war and fertility), Ba’al (lightning and air), Dagon (ocean and agriculture), Mot (death), Raḥmayyu (creation and stability) and Shachar and Shalim (twin Gods of dawn and dusk).
The Highest Tier, Divine Mothers and Wise Father
The Phoenicians observe a tiered hierarchy of Gods. ‘Ila, Asherat and Raḥmayyu alone inhabit the Highest Tier, their children and grandchildren arrayed in the lower tiers. They spend less time with their Scions than the Seventy Siblings do. Scions born of or chosen by the Mothers and Father receive less direction and focused attention than other Phoenician Scions, for good or for ill.
Aliases: Creator of Creatures; Creator of Heaven and Earth; Eternal Sage; Eternal Father; Father of Man; Wise Father; Your Patriarch
At the beginning of all and everything, ‘Ila swam in the darkness which precedes all things. He grew bored and restless with eternity to himself in a nothing with no company, so he decided to create everything according to his will. When he stretched his arms out, darkness and light came to his left and right hands. The oceans opened beneath him, and he rose above them. He looked upon the waters beneath him and loved their fluidity. He gazed upon the earth as he caused it to rise from the waters and loved its stability. He opened his hands and deserts and rivers fell from them. He sighed and winds brushed across the waters then and eternally, the remnants of his breath.
When they ate together, the women named him ‘Ila, the God of Heaven, because he appeared above them in the heavens. So it became given to women and those who give birth to name all things, as they name each child at its birth. As they chose ‘Ila as husband, he lay with them both, and all manner of beings came from their divine triple union; he claims as children all the Gods which spring from Asherah or Raḥmayyu, called the Divine Mothers. He grew restless, however, and could not stand still: ‘Ila went into the desert and beyond the desert. To this day, he wanders. His followers proclaim this as part of his divinity, that he does not remain in one place but moves through his people, and his qadeshtu refuse today as thousands of years ago to create a permanent marzeh to ‘Ila. Instead, the worship of ‘Ila takes place only in temporary and liminal locations; traditional ornate and heavily decorated tents made to established specifications remain central to his Scions and religion, but contemporary worship also takes place in subways, at the sides of highways, and in the hallways of hotels and hospitals. Any place not truly a place is holy to ‘Ila in the eyes of his followers.
‘Ila chooses rarely in modern days, but when he does, he selects strong leaders, those focused on wisdom and patient justice, and the restless for his children. The distant elder bull-God emerges rarely from the desert and selects those hungry for power and knowledge. Among those Scions descended from him, ‘Ila exalts those qualities most highly. One might just as easily find one of his children riding with a caravan of ancient, rattletrap VW buses following a psychedelic band across the Midwest as in the halls of quiet judicial contemplation. A Scion of ‘Ila finds it hard to rest, and if she manages spiritual quiet and peace for even a minute, she undoubtedly receives a swift gluteal goad from her divine father. Whatever else ‘Ila wants from his children, he always wants more.
Callings: Liminal, Judge, Sage
Purviews: Beasts (Bulls), Epic Stamina, Fertility, Fire, Journeys, Prosperity, Sky, Wild (Desert)
Aliases: Aserdu; Ašratu; Ašratum; Dione; Divine Mother of Transition and Transformation; ‘Ilat; Our Lady of Change and Growth; Most Exalted Goddess of the Day; She Who Treads on the Sea Dragon; She Who Walks On Waves
When ‘Ila moved over the waters alone as both darkness and light, he saw two women swimming in the ocean, and ‘Ila knew his desire for them. He lifted them from the water onto the land and appeared before them as the first of the men, the first of the bull-Gods, wearing the same horns which signify power and fertility that his son Ba’al would wear thereafter. His right hand created a bird, and his left hand produced a stave which he threw at the bird with great accuracy, striking it to the earth. He gave the bird to the women to cook and bade them to decide by the time the meat dripped grease down his chin with his first bite whether they chose to look upon him as husband or as father eternally. One woman opened her left hand and created death; the bird died in her grip. She opened her right hand and created fire. The other woman opened her left hand and created stones, then opened her right and created trees. Together they made a cookfire and cooked the first meal.
The women discussed together at the first cookfire and decided between them to take him as husband — though it isn’t as though their online dating profiles had an awful lot of selection at that point — and each other as wives and sacred companions.
When they ate together, she named herself Asherah (which she deemed to mean most exalted Goddess of the day) and took all manner of change into herself. When ‘Ila wandered off on his next quest for meaning, she stayed behind with their wife Raḥmayyu, and between the two of them they created all living things. The wives decided to flow between all roles, and took turns as father and mother, seed and earth, deciding between themselves who fertilized and who gestated. ‘Ila claimed the first seventy Gods as his own Sons and Daughters, and it served the Divine Mothers to humor him. Asherah’s qadeshtu keep the secret of this generation of divinity as their highest mystery, whispered only within the central chamber of the most sacred marzeh in Byblos. Asherah values that change which creates and advances, rather than that change which destroys or strikes down, and shines the bright light of day on all her children.
Asherah values fluidity as a form of strength, and so does she value all forms of flexibility in her children; her Scions and followers maintain that Asherah’s ability to move lithely through The World permitted her to preserve the Phoenicians when other civilizations failed. History credits her Scions with establishing the first of the well-known Phoenician trade routes; her qadeshtu originated the deep-seated Ilhm belief that most of the Western world’s Pantheons spring from the children of Asherah and Raḥmayyu, Scions who became Gods themselves.
Her Chosen Scions come from all countries, socioeconomic classes, and genders. She cherishes most those who transgress boundaries and create truth in that transgression. Civil rights organizers, writers, poets, and artists all gain her favor; one of her daughters travels the United States, teaching parents how to run for school and library boards to preserve Asherah’s values of diplomacy, a cosmopolitan understanding of the world and its people, and savviness in trade. She adores weavers and those who create textiles and clothing, and those who combine two or more of her favored categories—a weaver who works transgressive identity into their art, for example—delight her best of all.
Callings: Guardian, Healer, Lover
Purviews: Artistry (Dance), Beauty, Fire, Health, Passion (Love), Prosperity, Sun
Aliases: ʾAṯiratu of the Sea; Divine Mother of Byblos; Most Exalted Goddess of the Night; Our Lady of Creation and Home; Rahmay; Rahmaya; She Who Stands on Earth; Womb of all Wombs
When ‘Ila left, Raḥmayyu remained behind with Asherah; she longed not for her husband but for her wife, and gladly took most gestation upon herself. So from Raḥmayyu sprung all manner of animals: her womb bore into the world all of its fish and birds, all of its animals which run or swim or fly. From a whisper meant for her wife’s ears leapt every insect which pollinates, and from her weeping when parted even briefly from Asherah come all plants which bear pleasant flowers. Spoken of far less often than her wife or husband, Raḥmayyu nevertheless commanded her children to found the first marzeh in the city of Byblos, from which every other marzeh took its model. Where Asherah faced outward to the sea and ‘Ila brought back the distant mysteries of the desert and the stars, Raḥmayyu planted her feet upon the earth, bidding her children to found the triple cities from which the Phoenician culture sprung: Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre.
Raḥmayyu loves most in her children their ability to build and to create a truly inclusive world. Where ‘Ila focuses on wisdom as the ultimate harbinger of justice, Raḥmayyu loves those who bring others in from the cold, either metaphorical or literal. Her role as Most Exalted Goddess of Night centers around the building of strong homes in which her children may rest easily, yes, but in addition, those centers of safety, the strong buildings of stone which she showed her first Scions how to build, allow her children to dive into the deeper mysteries. Those who mistake the gestational mother-Goddess as solely a figure of gentle motherhood misunderstand Raḥmayyu entirely. She both studies the mysteries of death (which Asherah brought into the world) as well as giving birth to the Seventy Siblings with her wife. Her cults delve into forbidding Underworlds and travel to distant Overworlds, seeking deep knowledge where the children of ‘Ila seek broad knowledge.
Raḥmayyu’s Scions therefore tend to specialize where ‘Ila’s generalize: she loves those who dive deeply into a single topic and learn as much as possible about it, especially when they not only learn about that subject but bring that knowledge to the marzeh to share it with others. She adores those who create niche websites on obscure subjects and write their theses on a subtopic of a subtopic of a subtopic. Most treasured of all her children, she exalts those who open their doors to others and bring in the hungry, weary, and wounded without regard to their own safety or the nature of those they help. The outer doors to Raḥmayyu’s marzeh in Byblos never close; the inner doors open only to those devoted to the deep mysteries.
Callings: Creator, Lover, Sage
Purviews: Artistry (Pottery, Weaving), Beauty, Death, Earth, Epic Stamina, Fertility, Health, Moon
Aliases: Dagan; He Beneath the Waves; Oannes; Zeus Arotrios
Many inscriptions speak of Dagon as if he and Ba’al carried the same breath in their lungs, and many older writings declare Dagon and Ba’al the same individual: this holds truth, but not all truth. Ba’al claims he carried the Mantle of Ocean God before his younger brother’s birth. Dagon claims no ocean God existed before him, but Ba’al points out that his victories with Yam as an impossible feat without dominion over the ocean. Whatever the truth, Dagon’s Mothers washed his birth-blood away in the ocean; when they withdrew him from the waves, he wailed unceasingly. They returned him to the ocean, and his weeping ceased; at that moment Asherah demanded Ba’al give Dagon dominion over the oceans. Ba’al agreed to this on the condition that Dagon also take the job of looking after fields, which he found endlessly boring. Dagon agreed and, in between long stints creating new life beneath the waves, he taught the sea-loving Phoenicians to fortify their fields with fish guts and bone meal.
Dagon holds dominion over all water fallen to the earth. Rain answers to his brother Ba’al until the instant it lands; rivers, lakes, lagoons, seas, and streams obey Dagon. He takes special joy in the moments when humanity discovers his delightful creatures. From giant squid to tardigrades, if it lives in water, he claims he put his fingerprints on it. He is fondest of mermaids, who he made in his image; the ocean God spends most of his time with his favorites, curled up under the waves with the hungriest and loveliest of his children.
The God of the ocean chooses and exalts those of his children who love the ocean as much as he does. He treasures those who value fluidity, and he also love those who look after farmers and seek interesting new advancements in dealing with the global climate crisis and food supply. A year ago, he Chose graduate student Ari Swift after they spent a summer perfecting a valve which increased a crucial dew-collection system’s efficiency by 23%; their achievement averted a water crisis in Lebanon last year.
Callings: Creator, Guardian, Healer
Purviews: Artistry (Sports), Beasts (Ocean Life, Farm Animals Except Bulls), Epic Stamina, Fertility, Health, Prosperity, Water, Wild
The Phoenicians view everything truly important to them which exists outside The World as laying between the Mountains which encircle their ancestral homelands. For further information on The Wadi.
The Wadi comprises the whole of the Phoenician Overworld and Underworld rolled into one. It spreads out, a fertile river valley filled with greenery, ringed by a mountain range, El Shaddai, which juts up into the sky, separating the home of the Gods from the hostile desert beyond. El Shaddai, the breasts of Eretz, provide the bounty of The Wadi; all rivers flow from her. The depths of Tehom — the closest thing to hell the Phoenicians understand — ring about The Wadi outside of El Shaddai, protecting the Ilhm’s home from attack.
Upon the top of Mount Sappan, the tallest mountain in El Shaddai, live all the Gods of the Ilhm, save ‘Ila, Mot, and Arsay. Here, too, they keep homes to which they invite the most exalted and beloved of their Scions. Ascending Mount Sappan only grants access to the marzeh of the Ilhm on specific dates or when specific weather events come to pass; the Ilhm gift this sacred knowledge to those children who merit special gifts.
Predating the rest of the Pantheon, Shamayim does not just represent the Sky, especially the Night Sky, but Truth itself. A people walking the night desert under an endless sky understand the impossibility of hiding from Truth herself when beneath the desert night’s fathomless darkness. This genderless being walks endlessly between the mountains of The Wadi, and delights in playing riddle games with Scions as they walk along the banks of the multitudinous rivers which run through it. Presenting Shamayim with a riddle or puzzle which they have not yet heard brings their especial favor, and Scions who do so might convince the Primordial to help them puzzle out difficulties in their lives.
Quiet and steady, Eretz spends most of her time asleep in The Wadi; on the rare occasions when she wakes, however, The Wadi breaks open with celebration. Fruit trees flower and bear fruit in a rush, the rivers leap their banks and dance, and blessings pour forth on everyone present in the Wadi at that moment. She loves travelers, and she really, really loves food; the Primordial finds the process of cooking food fascinating — this thing that only humans do — and will happily talk for an eternity about preparation methods, flavorings, and recipes. Early Phoenician traders counseled each other to leave offerings of rare herbs, fruits from far-flung orchards, and spices from distant ports on the broad stone altars in wild places sacred to this mother of ‘Ila. (He never acknowledges her, or calls, or writes, which makes her so terribly sad). The mountains surrounding The Wadi, El Shaddai, are Eretz’s breasts, from which all rivers flow.
Sometimes called a Titan, sometimes a Primordial, nomenclature matters not at all to Yam: he spends almost all his time sulking in the deep ocean Tehom, plotting to overthrow Ba’al. He hasn’t had an original idea about this endeavor in at least a thousand years, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to come up with something new. This time, for certain, he’ll create the biggest Titanspawn and come up with the very best idea, and then he’ll be back in charge for sure and can smash as many ships as he wants.
Yam stands astride the line between Primordial and Titan. He represents not the comforting, familiar ocean of Dagon, understood and bargained with by the sea-trading Phoenicians, but the black abyss beneath the ocean’s surface. He fathers the raging storms which snap masts and flipped the maritime craft carved by the early followers of the Ilhm out of a single massive cedar trunk. He created Lotan and the Leviathan, which may or may not represent a single mythological figure and whom Ba’al hates. Having existed since before ‘Ila and his wives — or so he claims — the Gods threw him off the sacred Mt. Sappan because he would not promise that he would not wreck their followers’ ships. Ba’al fomented this exile, and Yam hates him more than any of the Gods. On multiple occasions, Yam has sent Titanspawn to destroy Sappan, Ba’al, and all his siblings, children, and followers. The mighty crash of wild storms at sea wash up over the shores of what would become modern-day Lebanon did not destroy the Phoenicians, and indeed, drove them to diversify their holdings. Ba’al promised he would never flood the entire world again after that incident with Attar and thus if they promulgate their trading posts across the world, Yam cannot drown them all.
Calling: Creator, Destroyer, Primeval
Purviews: Sky, Water
Seventy by Seventy: This American non-profit, currently run by Esi Nkansa, Scion of Raḥmayyu, has been run by the same Ashanti family since Reconstruction. Prior to that, they ran a shelter for refugees in Canada; the family escaped the plantation owner holding them hostage for labor and then worked tirelessly to free others. Seventy by Seventy (a reference to the first generation of Ilhm and the first generation of their Scions) works diligently to track Ilhm Scions and relatives lost to the Middle Passage and enslavement, but their mission extends far past that.
The Nkansa family passes along Relics and knowledge of many Underworlds through generations of their Scions, and their ability to descend into Underworlds in search of missing ancestors permits them to complete family trees broken by kidnapping and enslavement. Esi takes great pride in the fact that her family’s relationship with Raḥmayyu kept them from losing their heritage and link to marzeh — she can trace her family line back to the first Phoenician trading post in what’s now Ghana — and delights in passing on the gift of family knowledge to others.
Anat’s Rib: Technically, a sliver of Ba’al’s bone, and not always a portion of his rib: Scions encase these fragments of bone in the handles of their weapons or wear the slivers in their jewelry. From Anat’s Rib, Scions receive the strength of Anat when she fought Lotan.
OK, that's just a taste of the section on the Pantheons, just enough to give us a sample of what's coming. When we see the full text we'll also see more on the Ilhm plus the other four Pantheons featured. And a reminder that Tuesday's manuscript chapter will be available for backers only - you'll have to click to read the update on the website to have access to all of the links.
ACHIEVED! - At $95,000 in Funding - Backer T-Shirt – A Scion: God-themed Kickstarter Backer shirt will be hosted on Onyx Path’s Redbubble store for a limited time. Only backers will be notified when the shirt becomes available for purchase.
Also worth noting that we've hit our $95,000 milestone and can now regroup and continue to push forward towards our next big new content goal, further expanding the Companion supplement with some additional rules and options built around Realms.
At $100,000 in Funding – Scion: God Companion Supplement III – More on Realms! The Companion supplement will expand and clarify rules around Terra Incognita, Realms, and Sancta. Rules and guidance may include information on ruling over Realms, creating or destroying Realms, Realm Conditions, and Realm challenges.
So, share some thoughts on the sneak peek below, share your excitement for this campaign in your social circles and on your social media, and I'll see you back here on Tuesday for Chapter 3 of the Scion: God draft manuscript!
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