Shapash is the Phoenician Sun-Goddess, called the "Torch
of the Gods", or "Pale Shapash". She is all-seeing, and is frequently
dispatched on errands by El or Anat, acting as
their messenger or herald. Much like Hermes,
the Greek Messenger-God, She is also a psychopomp, or Deity who leads souls
into or out of the Underworld. The idea of the Sun as a traveller to the Underworld
is known from other cultures such as Egypt, where in their myths the Sun journeys
each night through the land of the dead (or the back/dark side of the world)
to emerge once more in the East. In one tale Shapash descends with the Warrior
Goddess Anat into the tomb of Ba'al, the Storm God and husband of Anat, and
while there weeps so many tears that She becomes drunk on them like wine. Later
She retrieves Ba'al from Sheol, the Underworld, where Mavet the God of Death
reigns, and returns Him to Anat.
Like Her daughter 'Um Pachal, Shapash
can cure the venom of snake bites, which is compared to the darkness or mists
that the rising sun dispells.
As is to be expected in a very hot land, Shapash the Sun Goddess
can be an ambivalent Deity, depending on the time of year, who can either cause
the crops to grow with Her gentle warmth or wither from Her excessive heat.
She is sometimes allied with Mavet, and at such times, Ba'al the Rain God is
considered dead, and the heavens seem to stop. Perhaps this refers to the summer
solstice, when the Sun is at its most powerful and at its most northerly point
in its yearly cycle; the word solstice does mean "sun stands still",
as it appears to set in the same spot for several days in a row before once
more moving towards the south. When Ba'al is restored (i.e. when the drought
of summer is ended) He does battle with Mavet, but Shapash convinces Mavet to
concede, and Ba'al is triumphant.
In another legend, Mavet desires the Virgin Anat, the Warrior
Goddess of bellicose character Who is happiest up to Her knees in the blood
of soldiers. (Notwithstanding the fact that in the Ba'al Epic She kills Him,
cutting him up in tiny pieces and sowing Him like wheat in a field!) To this
end He seizes Shapash and Yarikh, the Moon God, and takes Them down to Sheol.
Anat goes down there after Them Herself, and upon seeing Mavet decides that
She does after all desire Him too, so She agrees to a game of chance. For several
nights She plays against Him, each night winning a fraction of the light of
the Sun and Moon back, and then making passionate love to Mavet. At the end
of eight nights She has won both Her own freedom as well as that of Shapash
and Yarikh, and is then able to bring them back out into the world.
Also called: Shapshu, Sapas, Shapas, Shaph