A Prayer for Baalshamin

There are madmen in the streets.

These men burn and loot the ancient temples, destroying the ancient symbols of belief.  The statues and engravings, the urns, the altars and even the great stone columns are toppled from their foundations.  History and tradition are rendered into broken fragments, reduced to dust.

There are madmen in the streets.

These men kidnap, and torture, and execute any who do not believe as they do.  The priests of the temple, the men of great learning, and those unfortunate women who do not dress with the proper modesty, of course they all must die, publicly, painfully, for such are the wages of sin.

There are madmen in the streets.

These men shout religious slogans while waving their weapons in the air, and still our leaders stand by, paying lip-service to their role as keepers of the peace.  With each new Emperor comes harsher decrees against the old ways, and the Christian mob is emboldened to even greater acts of violence against the innocent.

That was then — this is now.

And more than sixteen-hundred years after the stoning and burning of priests and women, after the toppling of temples and the destruction of art throughout the Roman Empire, after the surrender of governance to barbarity, and the abdication of civil law to religious authority…,

There are still madmen in the streets.

A few days ago this latest band of religious extremists blew up the Temple of Baalshamin in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, and an important piece of history was lost forever.

Ruins in Palmyra

We have so little of our past left to us, intact.

Baalshamin appears to have been a sky-god among the Semitic peoples of Syria.  There is evidence that he was part of a trinity of Gods, with solar and lunar deities as his counterparts.  He also appears to have had some symbolism in common with the Greek god Zeus.

An ancient sculpture depicting Baalshamin (center) along with his Lunar and Solar counterparts.

An ancient sculpture depicting Baalshamin (center) along with his Lunar and Solar counterparts.

I do not know him.

He is a deity in a pantheon far removed from my own.

And yet, on this day, I offer him my prayer.

It is the same prayer I offer to all the gods and goddesses who have had their holy places desecrated at the hands of those who believe that there is only one right way in which to worship, and only one god worthy of that praise.

I ask them for their forgiveness, that we could not do more to protect the sanctity of their holy places.

I ask their guidance for the spirits of those who have fallen to the sword and the torch while seeking to preserve ancient knowledge.  Lead them safely to a place of honor in the lands of the dead.

I ask that they lend us the wisdom and courage to lead lives of tolerance and acceptance, even as we stand against anyone who would lead the world once again into an age of ignorance and religious persecution.

Baalshamin, on this day, and in your name, which in the language of your people meant ‘Lord of the Heavens’, I ask that you hear my prayer.

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Filed under Culture, Mythology, Religion, The Gods, Traditions

3 responses to “A Prayer for Baalshamin

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