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Baal

Baal, Bel, Belus; plu., Baalim (lord, master), the name of one of the fnost widely venerated gods of the East, whose worship appears to have extended also amongst the primitive Keltic nations of Europe. This special form of idolatry must have grown up in Phoenicia, Chaldaea, and Assyria, but it was only another aspect of that natural religion which marks everywhere the early history of mankind. Baal seems to have represented the sun (2 Kings xxiii. 11), as Ashtaroth did the moon, though later on the more abstract notion of divinity was probably attached to the word. Thus we find Baal-peor (lord of the dead), Baal-berith (lord of the covenant), Beel-zebub (lord of flies), and Baal is even a feminine appellation, not only in the Septuagint, but in Rom. xi. 4. It forms an element in many names of places and persons, as Baalbec, Babylon, Baal-zephron, Hannibal (grace of Baal), and possibly may be traced in our Billingsgate (Belin's gate). The rites of this deity were always connected with the use of fire, and occasionally with human sacrifices (Jerem. xix. 5) and unclean orgies. His altars were on high places or pyramidical structures (Babel) and surrounded by groves. He was represented by a human head with the horns and ears of a bull, and with stars surrounding it. The Hebrews borrowed this idolatry very early from the Canaanites, and under several kings, Manasseh especially, Baal's worship superseded that of Jehovah, and the description of the discomfiture of his priests by Elijah in the reign of Ahab (1 Kings xviii.) gives a vivid picture of the pagan ritual. As Belus he was introduced into classical mythology, and identified sometimes with the father of the Assyrian Ninus, sometimes with Jupiter or Saturn, sometimes with the Eastern conception of Hercules. Among the early Britons his cult appears to have been mixed up with Druidism. Beal has left traces among the Irish Kelts, and Bel-tane, a spring festival, was observed until recent times with curious heathen ceremonies in the north of England and the lowlands of Scotland.

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