File:Natib Qadish Hamsa.jpg

Natib Qadish is a modern Neopagan religion based on ancient Canaanite religion.[1] Its adherents are called Qadishuma, singular, Qadish. The word "Qadisha" comes from a Semitic root (Q-D-Š) meaning "holy," and Wadi Qadisha is the Holy Valley in present-day Lebanon.


Main article: Canaanite religion#Revival

Small Semitic neopagan groups, such as Qadash Kinahnu ("Canaanite Sanctuary") and Natib Qadish ("Sacred Path") emerged in the 1990s. They are devoted to Canaanite gods such as El (Ilu) and Baal and goddesses such as Athirat and Anat. In 1997, Lilinah Biti-Anat formed an online Levant Pagan group and created a website called "Qadash Kinahnu".[2] In 2003, the term Natib Qadish was first used, and a 2006 PanGaia magazine published the first article on Natib Qadish. In 2009, Tess Dawson published her book Whisper of Stone: Natib Qadish, Modern Canaanite Religion,[3] the first book on the Neopagan Canaanite religion.[4]

These groups celebrate several holidays based on the Canaanite sacred calendar, and some use the hamsa as their symbol.[5][6][7][8][9]


File:Sarcophages puniques musée Louvre.jpg

Ancient religionEdit

The Canaanite religion that was practiced by people living in the ancient Levant throughout the Bronze Age and Iron Age was strongly influenced by their more powerful and populous neighbors, and shows clear influence of Mesopotamian and Egyptian religious practices. Like other people of the ancient Near East Canaanite religious beliefs were polytheistic, with families typically focusing worship on ancestral household god and goddess while acknowledging the existence of other deities.

Until the excavation of Ras Shamra in Northern Syria (the site historically known as Ugarit), and the discovery of its Bronze Age archive of clay tablet alphabetic cuneiform texts, little was known of Canaanite religion, as papyrus seems to have been the preferred writing medium, and unlike Egypt, in the humid Mediterranean climate, these have simply decayed.

Main article: History of Punic-era Tunisia, part II#Punic religion

Religion in Carthage was based on inherited Phoenician ways of devotion. In fact, until its fall embassies from Carthage would regularly make the journey to Tyre to worship Melqart ("King of the City"), bringing material offerings.[10] Transplanted to distant Carthage, these Phoenician ways persisted, but naturally acquired distinctive traits: perhaps influenced by a spiritual and cultural evolution, or synthesizing Berber tribal practices, or transforming under the stress of political and economic forces encountered by the city-state. Over time the original Phoenician exemplar developed distinctly, becoming the Punic religion at Carthage.[11] "The Carthaginians were notorious in antiquity for the intensity of their religious beliefs."[12] "Besides their reputation as merchants, the Carthaginians were known in the ancient world for their superstition and intense religiousness. They imagined themselves living in a world inhabited by supernatural powers which were mostly malevolent. For protection they carried amulets of various origins and had them buried with them when they died."[13]

At Carthage as at Tyre religion was integral to the city's life. A committee of ten elders selected by the civil authorities regulated worship and built the temples with public funds. Some priesthoods were hereditary to certain families. Punic inscriptions list a hierarchy of cohen (priest) and rab cohenim (lord priests). Each temple was under the supervision of its chief priest or priestess.

File:Tunis Bardo Masque 2.jpg
Main article: Religion in Carthage#Caste of priests and acolytes

Surviving Punic texts are detailed enough to give a portrait of a very well organized caste of temple priests and acolytes performing different types of functions, for a variety of prices. Priests were clean shaven, unlike most of the population. In the first centuries of the city ritual celebrations included rhythmic dancing, derived from Phoenician traditions.

Main article: Mask#Ritual masks

Ritual masks occur throughout the world, and although they tend to share many characteristics, highly distinctive forms have developed. The function of the masks may be magical or religious; they may appear in rites of passage or as a make-up for a form of theater. Equally masks may disguise a penitent or preside over important ceremonies; they may help mediate with spirits, or offer a protective role to the society who utilize their powers.[14]

Masks found in Punic tombs have been interpreted as death masks, or guardians and apotropaic devices that were personifications of death, worn by priests and priestesses during religious rituals. The Punic masks are mainly of the grotesque variety, depicting a grinning or grimacing man with wrinkled (old) or, less frequently, unlined (youthful) grin or grimace in fairly standardized patterns, similar to the Venetian carnival masks worn during the sex ritual scene in Stanley Kubrick's film Eyes Wide Shut.

Modern reconstructionEdit

Qadish theology largely revolves around dualism. Their views of divinity are generally theistic, and revolve around the goddess Qudshu (Baalat) and the god Qarnaim (Baal), thereby being generally dualistic. This dualism is traditionally represented as a split between male and female. This duality is common to various religions, such as Taoism, where it is represented through yin and yang. Some Qadishuma are polytheists, believing in multiple deities taken from various different Semitic pantheons, while others would believe that "all the goddesses are one goddess, and all the gods one god". Some see divinity as having a real, external existence; others see the Goddess and God as archetypes or thoughtforms within the collective consciousness. A key belief of Natib Qadish is that the gods and goddesses are able to manifest in personal form, either through dreams, as physical manifestations, or through the bodies of Qadishuma (adherents of Natib Qadish).


File:Baal Hadad with horns.jpg

Baal Qarnaim is the "Lord of Two Horns" or, "Horned God". The Canaanites were forbidden to speak his name, so they substituted it with the word "Qarnaim," meaning horns, to identify him by his horned headdress. Baal superseded El as chief god of the pantheon. Baʿal (Biblical Hebrew בעל, pronounced [ˈbaʕal], usually spelled Baal in English) is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord". Several deities had the title of Baal, and variations of the word were used by tribal leaders as a title of respect and notoriety. The most notable Baal Qarnaims, are: Hadad, bull-horned god of the Phoenician branch of Canaanites. As attested in Ugaritic sources, Hadad was the son of El. El and Baal are often associated with the bull in Ugaritic texts, as a symbol both of strength and fertility; Resheph, gazelle-horned god of the Hyksos branch of Canaanites that ruled Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period; Hammon, ram-horned god of the Carthagians. In Semitic religion El, the father of the gods, had gradually been shorn of his power by his son Baal Hadad and relegated to a remote part of his heavenly home -- while in Carthage, El once more reigned as head of the pantheon, under the enigmatic title of Baal Hammon.

Main article: Baʿal#Baʿal of Carthage

In Carthage and North Africa Baal Hammon was especially associated with the ram and was worshiped also as Baal Qarnaim ("Lord of Two Horns") in an open-air sanctuary at Jebel Bu Kornein ("the two-horned hill") across the bay from Carthage.


File:Qetesh relief plaque (Triple Goddess Stone).png

The Goddess Baalat Qudshu is often seen as having a triple aspect; that of Qudshu-Astarte-Anat. Qudshu-Astarte-Anat is a representation of a single goddess that’s a combination of three goddesses: Qetesh, Astarte, and Anat. A common practice of Canaanites (and Egyptians) was to merge different deities through a process of synchronization, thereby, turning them into one single entity. The Triple-Goddess Stone, once owned by Winchester College, shows the goddess Qetesh with the inscription "Qudshu-Astarte-Anat", showing their association as being one goddess, and Qetesh in place of Athirat.

Religious scholar, Saul M. Olyan (author of Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel), calls the representation on the Qudshu-Astarte-Anat plaque "a triple-fusion hypostasis", and considers Qudshu to be an epithet of Athirat by a process of elimination, for Astarte and Anat appear after Qudshu in the inscription.[15][16]

Athirat is the wife of El and sacred "Mother Goddess" of the Canaanites. Athirat was called Asherah by the Hebrews, and the Hyksos identified her with their goddess Qetesh in Egypt.

Astarte is closely associated with Baal, and Baal's sister and consort, Anat, along with his mother, Athirat. She is also linked to the Carthagian goddess Tanit (female counterpart of Baal, also known as Baalat, and Pene Baal "face of Baal"). According to myth, Astarte wore a bull's head over her own to signify her union with Baal.

Anat is Baal’s sister and putative mate. According to myth, she waited for Baal to return from hunting so she could seduce him and bare him a steer (son).


File:Tophet Carthage.5.jpg

The palm tree is one of the main symbols of Natib Qadish. The date palm is associated with the "Goddess" because of the tree's life-giving qualities: food, shade, and as an indication of water, because they grow where water or rain is present. The palm resembles the palm of the hand, and the name "palm" is derived from it.

The Greek name for the Canaanite Phoenicians comes from the Greek word "phoinike" (Greek: Φοινίκη: Phoiníkē) that refers to the purple-red dye created by them. The name Phoenix is related to the scientific name for the date palm tree: Phoenix dactylifera.[17]

The kappu (Phoenician for "palm of hand") symbol is used by Qadishuma, and represents the hand of the lord (Baal), that was held upright by various Canaanite deities as a symbolic gesture. The kappu, particularly the open right hand, is a sign of protection that also represents blessings, power and strength, and is seen as potent in deflecting the evil eye.

Main article: Hamsa#Name and origins

One theory of the hamsa traces its origins to Carthage (Phoenicia) where the hand (or in some cases vulva) of the supreme deity Tanit was used to ward off the evil eye.


The Shanatu Qadishti (sacred year) starts in autumn at the New Moon before autumnal equinox. The names of the holidays are not the original names (which are lost), but names put together from Ugaritic, a Canaanite language.

  • Qudshu Mathbati: New moon of the month of Autumnal Equinox, Festival of the Dwellings
  • Marzichu: Full Moon of the next month, the annual gathering of a social drinking club often to commemorate the ancestors (Sometimes celebrated in the summer instead.)
  • Qudshu Ari: Winter solstice Festival of Light. Athirat, Lady Athirat of the Sea (rabat ʼAṯirat yammi) is honored. As part of a modern celebration, some choose to light oil lamps or candles for her return.
  • Qudshu Shamni: 7 days after the coming New Moon, Festival of Oil. Oil of Wellbeing is offered to Baal. In modern celebration, new Shamnu Mori (myrrh oil) and new Shamnu Raqachi (spiced oil) is made.
  • Qudshu Ganni: Spring Equinox. Festival of the Garden. It is said this celebration involves being in a garden and eating fish soup. A surviving text about this celebration involves the removal of foodstuffs, but no indication is given as to what the “foodstuffs” are: some speculate this is leavened bread, but we cannot be certain. In honor of this “removal of foodstuffs” some choose to fast from a particular kind of food leading up to this holiday.
  • Qudshu Liyati: skip the next month, and go to the next full moon. Festival of Garlands. A text called the Gezer calendar from circa 900 BCE notes “harvest and feasting” in this month.
  • Qudshu Zabri: Summer Solstice. Festival of Pruning for grapevines. There is an ancient text that deals with pruning Mot like a grapevine. An effigy of Mot can be created from vines or vegetation and left to the elements or burned.
  • Rashu Yeni: Skip the next month, go to full moon on the month after. Festival of the New Wine. Lasts for 7 days of merriment, then it’s back to the beginning of the year once more.
  • Lunar Cycles: Offerings made during the New Moon (Chudthu) and Full Moon (Mlatu).


  3. [1]
  5. Dawson, Tess Whisper of Stone: Natib Qadish: Modern Canaanite Religion, 2009, ISBN 9781846941900.
  6. Hunter, Jenifer Magickal Judaism: Connecting Pagan & Jewish Practice, 2006, ISBN 0806525762, ISBN 978-0806525761
  10. Serge Lance, Carthage (Paris: Librairie Artheme Fayard 1992), translated as Carthage. A History (Oxford: Blackwell 1995) at 193.
  11. Gilbert Charles Picard and Colette Picard, Vie et mort de Carthage (Paris: Hatchette 1968) translated as The Life and Death of Carthage (New York: Taplinger 1968) at 45.
  12. B.H.Warmington, Carthage (London: Robert Hale 1960; reprint Penguin 1964) at 155.
  13. Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib (1971) at 22.
  14. Masques du Monde M.Revelard/G. Kostadonova pub. La Renaissance du Livre 2000 Tournai Belgium ISBN 2-8046-0413-6
  15. The Ugaritic Baal cycle: Volume 2 by Mark S. Smith - Page 295
  16. The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts by Mark S. Smith - Page 237