Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.
A Likely Event from Ancient TImes
One can only surmise the fear that people from ancient cultures of the Fertile Crescent must have felt when they saw a "fire-ball" in the night sky. That fear must have been heightened when the streak of light slanted toward the land and crashed. First came the release of light, then came the sonic boom that swept across nearby farms and villages. The deafening sound did little to reassure the dwellers that this not an act of god.
Soon, fear was replaced by curiosity. By morning, groups of people ventured toward the impact zone. Soon, they discovered it and were taken aback by what they saw; a large, blackened rock surrounded by smaller ones on the desert floor in and near the crater. Was it a sign a from their gods? Or, was it a judgement or revelation of their existence?
This cosmic event -- as natural as it was (and still is)-- took on supernatural significance among those that witnessed it. This particular rock fell in the region that will become known as the Middle East. The mysterious rock and its fragments (as well as future ones) will eventually become known as baetyls (the sacred stones). And they will come to shape ancient and modern religions in times to come.
These cosmic rocks had been known by many names and were worshiped in numerous ancient cultures
The scenario presented may sound far-fetched. However, such things happened throughout human history in various parts of the globe. While events of their arrival initially struck fear in those that witnessed it, they'd later discover the baetyls and venerate them as holy relics.
From Canaanite and Phoenician mythologies to Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions, baetyls played important roles in the formation of ancient and modern religions within the region deemed the "Cradle of Civilization".
In addition, these cosmic rocks had been known by many names and were worshiped in numerous ancient cultures outside the Fertile Crescent. The Ancient Greeks held the Omphalos of Delphi -- a suspected baetyl -- as one of the highest symbol of divinity.
This is merely a few examples of how something from space changed the course of history.
No Space Aliens Involved
First off, in understanding the impact of Baetyls -- essentially space rocks -- on human history, one must address the other cosmic concept. Lately, the ancient alien "theory" has been bandied about as a reason for the rise of civilization.
The belief, which started in the late 60s early 70s by the writer Erich Von Daniken , and made popular by the History Channel's Ancient Alien, states the aliens came to Earth to jump start civilizations around the world. Adherence to this concept claim that there are evidence; however much of it is speculative and flimsy, a best.
On the other hand, the evidence for baetyls are strong. In fact, some of the meteorites that have been labeled as these sacred stones still exist. Some are found in museums while others are still celebrated as holy relics.
In addition, recorded history and numerous archeological digs throughout Middle East, Europe and other regions have unearthed evidence that such things existed.
Finally, the impact of the baetyls tend to be more in the formation of religion than anything else. It's more of a catalyst rather than a being that supposedly intercedes in human endeavor to guide them toward civilization.
The Stones of Religion
Baetyls go by many names. The Phoenicians,Canaanites and other Semite tribes knew them as Beth-el or Baitylos. In fact, portions of its name bears the one given to the supreme god both cultures known as El (The "El" syllable is significant as it would end up as part of the names of prophets and one of the names for the biblical god.)
Judeo-Christian societies knew them as Bethel. The definition has also differed to some degree. While some cultures viewed them as venerated stones, others believed they were the "house of god" (Lendering, 2015).
The Nabataens, the original inhabitants of the city of Petra (in modern-day Syria) knew them as "standing gods". Standing gods were the stones that were meant to represent a deity's presence or residence within a house (amnh.org, 2009).
Baetyls, however, are not merely a thing of the past. To this day, one particular baetyl is still worshiped by a modern religion.
Even the Bible has numerous references to Baetyls:
• Psalm 28:1 - Psalm mentions the town of Bethel - which is a reference to God being likened to a rock.
• Genesis 28:11-19 - There are numerous references of prophets of Israel and Judah in conflict with worshipers over these particular stones.
The Greeks infused the stones into their mythology and daily religious rituals. One baetyl in particular, the Omphalos of Delphi, was held in the highest esteem. It was often meant to represent the patriarch god, Zeus.
Omphalos and the Greeks
The story behind the stone's importance is confusing, considering that there are three stories about its origin. In fact, many ancient Greeks were not sure where it came from or which cult it inspired. One account mentions that it was part of the sanctuary of Apollo and may have represented a god with an “oriental” background (Lendering, 2015).
Another account cites that the stone was a ruse to deceive Cronus, the father of Zeus. According to myth, Cronus was paranoid and weary of his children. He attempted to swallow them. However, the infant Zeus was spared this fate when Uranus and Gaea substituted the Omphalos for him.
The third account states that the Omphalos was a representation of Zeus's experiment with eagles. He released two eagles at the edges of Earth. The birds met above Delphi. A monument was erected to celebrate the outcome of this "mytho-scientific" experiment: it was called the "omphalos" (navel) (Lendering, 2015). It was the purpose of the venerated stone to represent that important occasion of a god who supposedly discovered the roundness of the Earth.
Despite the three origins, the stone was carefully preserved in Delphi. Its existence was symbolically important for the Greeks. As a result, the priests in the sacred city anointed it with oil every day and decorated it with raw wool during festivities.
Other Baetyls from Outer Space
The likelihood is that the Omphalos was a meteorite. Also, it wasn’t the only one of its kind to be found in the region. The Romans had one. So did the Phrygian (pre-Roman tribe).
Baetyls, however, are not merely a thing of the past. To this day, one particular baetyl is still worshiped by a modern religion. The best known modern baetyl is the Black Stone in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. This rock -- which is shrouded -- is considered so holy that Muslims from around the world will make a pilgrimage (the Hajj) to see it.
It is believed that the black rock was "sent by heaven" to be a guide for Adam and Eve to build an alter. Also, Islamic tradition states that Mohammad had preserved it intact within the walls of a structure commonly known as the Kaaba (Wikipedia, 2016)
The Black Stone is believed to be a meteorite, too. Like the Greeks, the baetyl in this religion has a sacred purpose that will last as a miracle of god, despite its origins in space.
Meteorites or not, baetyls have been idolized by true believer from nearly every religion from Europe through the Middle East. Whether they are an act of nature or a gift from God (or Gods), that's up to the true believers to decide.
- El | Semitic deity | Britannica
El, the general term for “deity” in Semitic languages as well as the name of the chief deity of the West Semites. In the ancient texts from Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) in Syria, El was described as the titular head of the pantheon, husband of Asherah
- Baetylus - Wikipedia
- Religion in Petra | AMNH
The prosperity of Petra enabled the city to honor its gods and goddesses through monumental architecture.
- Baetyl - Livius
Lendering, Jona, "Baetyl" Livius.Org, 2005 Revised, 2009 and 2015.
© 2016 Dean Traylor