Cultural associations of the Boar in ancient Lebanon and Egypt

In the almost collective myth of gods of rebirth being dispatched by irate gods there are two that will be focused on; the death of Osiris by his brother Seth and the death of Adonis by the jealous God Ares. These two gods of rebirth were dispatched by a wild Boar.

The strength, courage, and ferocity of the wild boar also made it a worthy adversary for hunters looking to gain prestige in the old world. In this view we see Adonis, the young champion of desire (or of an aesthetic fertility to a female orientated mystery cult from pre historic Lebanon) as a victim to a ferocious wild Boar. This image is juxtaposed by the view of the domesticated pig which is often seen as a slovenly creature. The pig today is treated with some disdain, whether seen as a manifestation of greed, filth or as culturally unclean animal, however overly broad this idea may be. The Boar in mythology, the wild boar, was a force to be reckoned with. The Boar was a fearsome quarry and sometimes a form of divine vengeance. The two examples of vengeful gods taking on the form of a wild Boar and their subsequent cultural vilification can perhaps be seen with the death of Adonis and the death of Osiris.

A vengeful God, whether it’s Ares, Artemis, Apollo or Persophene, takes the form of a Boar to dispatch the beautiful Adonis and Seth the jealous killer of Osiris takes the form of a Boar to mangle his twin brother Osiris. Adonis is killed by his lover’s jealous paramour Ares in the form of a boar. His death represented for Phoenicians and subsequently for the Greeks, the end of a seasonal cycle. The death of Adonis ties in with winter his subsequent revival with the coming of spring

Adonis, lover of the goddess Aphrodite, was warned not to hunt wild animals because they posed a dangerous threat to him. Adonis is seen as a young man and demigod trying to prove his manhood through the hunting ritual as a sort of passage of rites. Ignoring Aphrodite’s advice, Adonis meets his death whilst hunting a wild boar. In this tale, the wild boar symbolizes the death of an innocent or the loss of innocence. Others have theorized that the boar was either sent by Ares or was Ares himself, who being jealous of Adonis sent a wild boar to vicariously dispatch Adonis. Others say that it was Apollo who transformed himself into a wild boar and killed Adonis in order to avenge the blinding of his son Erymathus by Adonis’s lover Aphrodite. These alternate versions both conclude with a depiction of the wild boar as a tool of vengeance and death. In this way ancient Greeks would offer a sacrifice of wild domesticated pigs, which was seen as retribution for the killing of Adonis.

Our observations now move to Egypt, where the pig was domesticated from the Sus scrofa. Wild boars were abundant in ancient Egypt, inhabiting the ranges of the Nile Valley. The Boar and Pig have a shared ancestry, it seems that the divergence on breeds happened a long time before the domestication of the pig. The correlations between the Boar killing gods of rebirth in Egypt and north Lebanon are somewhat apparent, and yet it seems that greater cultural implications could exist beneath the surface.

It seems that there is a version of Osiris’s death in Egyptian folklore, (the popular version sees Osiris murdered by his jealous brother Set) that sees Typhon (identified with Set) turning into a wild boar after coming across Osiris’s mutilated body (an implication made by Frazer is that as a boar Typhon killed Osiris). The sacrifice of boars annually in Egypt can be identified with a ritualized revenge on the death of the beloved god Osiris. In this way a close correlation can be seen in the ritualized sacrifice of the boar in revenge for the death of a God from Egypt to Greece and Lebanon. The fact that both are Gods of rebirth, that when resurrected usher in spring, begs questions on the relation of the Boar to the period before spring. If there is any relation at all perhaps it can be seen in the ancient association of seasons with animals.

It seems in ancient Greece, the Boar hunting season began in September, and the Boar representing death ties in with the winter months in this way when Adonis is resurrected in spring it represents a profound culmination of the rebirth of a God and with this the coming of new life to world. The annual sacrifice of the Boar then takes on a dual meaning, it is revenge and the ushering in spring and the end of winter.

In Egypt the Boar according to Frazer was sacrificed to Osiris and the moon.The winter seasons are often related to the winter months when the nights are longer. With the coming of spring and the lengthening of the days, there is a transition that sacrificing Boars could represent (It can be seen that Boar’s are nocturnal creatures, adding another dimension to the winter/long night correlation). In this way a close correlation between two distinct ancient cultures can be seen. This either reinforces the idea of the spread of cultural ideas from Egypt to Lebanon or it is purely coincidental. However it would seem the evidence shows unique similarities. There are a multitude of references to communication between the two civilizations, one could perhaps allow that with this contact came an influence and the creation of a shared language. The language being one of association of natural phenomenon’s with rituals and mythical stories such as the death of Osiris and Adonis. Whilst there are many more examples of Gods of rebirth with spring, the association of the Boar in these stories remains  more unique.


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