Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothra: An Alternate Derivation

A Lesson From Semitic Theology:  Yes, Burquenos, three weeks later we are still living in the time of Mothra.  As Abq Jew pointed out, the ongoing Miller moth infestation has destroyed our nightlife, upended our backyard parties, crippled our economy, and made even a trip to the refrigerator a nerve-wracking endeavor.

Mothra, Abq Jew reminds you, is the title (and title creature) of the eponymous Japanese post-atomic film Mothra (1961).  How did Mothra get its name?, Abq Jew heard you ask.

In Learning-Hebrew in the Time of Mothra, Abq Jew proposed one explanation, based on a surface knowledge of the depth of the Hebrew language.  Starting with the Hebrew terms for cholera.

Well, Abq Jew would now like to propose another explanation, based on an even thinner knowledge of Semitic theology.  Starting with the Semitic god Mot.

Wikipedia explains:
In Ugaritic Mot 'Death' (spelled mt) is personified as a god of death. The word is cognate with forms meaning 'death' in other Semitic and Afro-Asiatic languages: with Arabic موت mawt; with Hebrew מות (mot or mavet; ancient Hebrew moth or maweth); with Maltese mewt; with Syriac mautā; with Ge'ez mot; with Canaanite, Egyptian, Berber, Aramaic, Nabataean, and Palmyrene מות (mwt); with Jewish Aramaic, Christian Palestinian Aramaic, and Samaritan מותא (mwt’); with Mandaean muta; with Akkadian mūtu; with Hausa mutuwa; and with Angas mut. The name of the god, in its abstract meaning of death, survives use in the English language in the game of chess, "mate".
The Britannica offers:
Mot, ( West Semitic: “Death”) ancient West Semitic god of the dead and of all the powers that opposed life and fertility. He was the favourite son of the god El, and the most prominent enemy of the god Baal, a god of springs, sky, and fertility. Mot was the god of sterility and the master of all barren places. Traditionally, Mot and Baal were perpetually engaged in a seasonal struggle in which Baal, like many similar harvest deities, was annually vanquished and slain. Mot, however, was also annually killed by Baal’s sister Anath, who thus aided Baal’s resurrection.
Isn't this fascinating?  Abq Jew first encountered these Semitic gods in Bible classes at the Jewish Theological Seminary.  Really - you've got to know all this if you're going to understand the many and varied books of the Bible in their historical contexts.

Anyway, the New World Encyclopedia expounds:
Mot, also written Mavet, was the West Semitic god of death, infertility, and drought. One of the sons of the high god El, he was the chief antagonist of the rain god Baal, whose life-giving waters brought fertility to the land. Mot was the Lord of the desert dryness, the underworld, and all that is opposed to life.

Mot was particularly important in the land of Canaan, which, unlike Mesopotamia and Egypt, had no great rivers and relied largely on rainfall to water its crops. In Canaanite mythology, Mot and Baal were bound in a cyclical battle in which Mot temporarily vanquishes Baal, whose body is heroically rescued by his sister Anath, after which Baal is resurrected, finally defeating Mot and returning life-giving rain to the land.

The struggle between Mot and Baal also figures in the biblical story of the prophet Elijah's battle with the prophets of Baal, played out in the context of a period of devastating drought. The Israelites must decide whether they will accept the Canaanite view that only by properly propitiating Baal can they hope for rain to return, or whether they will follow Elijah's teaching that the God of Israel controls both drought and rain alike.
How would Mothra be spelled in Hebrew?  Without checking, and based on a surface knowledge of the depth of the Hebrew language, Abq Jew proposes


This is made up of two Hebrew words:  מות (death) and   רע(bad) .  Put them together and you have "bad death", which seems an accurate description of the Miller moth.

Expanding on this theme:  The name Mothra could be a recombination of the English and Hebrew terms that together mean evil moth of death.

Please bear in mind once again that Abq Jew has absolutely no training whatsoever in linguistics or philology, or in most other istics or ologies.  He remains undeterred by this fact.

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