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Tanith

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Tanith, Minor System Lord

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Tanith as a symbiote

 

The Mythological Tanith

Tanit, Chief Goddess of Carthage

Tanit, also spelled TINITH, TINNIT, or TINT, chief goddess of Carthage, equivalent of Astarte. Although she seems to have had some connection with the heavens, she was also a mother goddess, and fertility symbols often accompany representations of her. She was probably the consort of Baal Hammon (or Amon), the chief god of Carthage, and was often given the attribute "face of Baal." Although Tanit did not appear at Carthage before the 5th century BC, she soon eclipsed the more established cult of Baal Hammon and, in the Carthaginian area at least, was frequently listed before him on the monuments. In the worship of Tanit and Baal Hammon, children, probably firstborn, were sacrificed. Ample evidence of the practice has been found west of Carthage in the precinct of Tanit, where a tofet (a sanctuary for the sacrifice of children) was discovered. Tanit was also worshiped on Malta, Sardinia, and in Spain.

The Sign of Tanit, Interpretations of a symbol
The greatest triumph of the human intellect probably lies in the opening up of unlimited possibilities for the expression of abstract concepts in concrete form. This was achieved and brought to fruition in the East, where the Phoenicians discerned, through analysis, that a concept as abstract as thought expressed in the spoken word could ultimately be broken down into various elements. It could then be reconstituted and fixed by putting the elements together again, by virtue of the concrete images conveyed by written characters.

The reverberation of this triumphant achievement echoed as far as Carthage, where the priests took the lead over the scribes in producing the symbol erroneously known to us as the "sign of Tanit". That sign, which an entire civilisation, abandoning its earthly preoccupations, used for more than a thousand years to express its hopes and beliefs.

It appears that the primitive form of this sign was a trapezium closed by a horizontal line at the top and surmounted in the middle by a circle. The horizontal arm was often terminated either by two short upright lines at right angles to it or by hooks. In the course of time the trapezium often became an isosceles triangle.

A stele from the sanctuary at Carthage bears an incised representation of the silhouette of a priest praying with up-raised arms and wearing a long robe on which the sign is inscribed1. This suggests that the sign is a diagrammatic representation of the man who wears it. E. Ronan had already expressed his opposition to this theory that the sign symbolised the votary2 when P. Berger returned to the first explanation3, adding the hypothesis that the sign was also a conical image of the deity, the outline of the sacred cone4.

Meanwhile, Clermont-Ganneau confined himself to stating that it was now the accepted custom to call this figure the "sign of Tanit", without trying to explain what it represented5. E. Babelon saw it as the symbol of the Punic trinity which, we should add, never actually existed, or perhaps a degenerate representation of the human form6.

Basing his theory on the Phoenician representations of Astarte as Isis Hathor, quoted by Clermont-Ganneau7, E. Vassel interpreted the figure as a diagram of the conical stone of Astarte crowned, by assimilation with Hathor, with the solar disc between two cow's horns, frequently replaced by the horns of the "crescent moon"8. Father Lagrange saw it as the sacred stone itself9 and R.P. Ronzevalle as an idealised version of the Egyptian ankh, the sign of life10.

Finally, S. Gsell attempted to discover the origin of the symbol11. While dismissing this last explanation, along with Goblet d'Alviella's suggestion -- the sign arose from the fusion of representations of the sacred stone and the Egyptian handled cross -- he concluded that it must be regarded as a compound of two basic elements: the cult, represented by the altar at the bottom, and the deity, represented by a heavenly body at the top12.

More than twenty years have passed since I first promised myself that one day I would come back to the problem of the formation of this sign13, and I am still stopped by the same problem, since in the meantime the only conclusion I have formed is that none of the explanations offered so far is correct because none of them is complete. The reason is this : throughout the whole Punic period the sign performs the function of a sort of pentagram, the number of elements of which is not limited to five; i.e., as a true diagram, a single entity comprising countless different elements. It is therefore, and it always will be, impossible to disentangle the fundamental element, that which was originally chosen to serve as a base for all the others, for we do not know the exact date when this or that element was assimilated into the design. A glance over the catalogue of its variations leaves no doubt that the details of the sign were elaborated or pared down at random over the course of the years.

Only one fact is clear. From its first appearance the symbol was complete, not only comprising all the allusions the scholars have deduced, all of which are well-grounded, but above all permitting the further inclusion in its design of the whole ecumenical repertoire of representational imagery. The oldest versions of the -- sign of Tanit" known to me are already fully developed, whether they are engraved on stone or in the form of the amulets which I had the occasion to discover in urns dating to the end of the sixth century, or more probably the beginning of the fifth, in the sanctuary at Carthage.

Certainly the explanations given below14 for the "baetylic", or "bottle", signs, which embody other symbolic concepts, are perfectly acceptable. It will nevertheless be agreed that these signs too are diagrammatic forms of numerous caricatures, such as Osiris with folded arms, in the sanctuaries, or the universally diversified sex symbols, the lozenge-shaped or triangular forms of which have symbolised the female from prehistoric times onwards, on vases or many other objects.

"Urged by the involuntary tendency towards simplification, the human intellect spontaneously and unceasingly combines the most disparate elements to produce a sort of 'resultant' "15. And, in connection with the components of the "sign of Tanit", I have said elsewhere that "the cast of mind which tries to combat the greatest number of evils simultaneously by pitting against them an array of different protective powers, sometimes highly complex, is at the heart of particular practice"16. I still hold to this opinion.

It is impossible to support the view that a number of the symbols erroneously called the "sign of Tanit" do not incorporate the ankh sign, which was known to the Carthaginians at that time. it cannot be positively stated that the sign does not represent a votary, when a cippus which I excavated myself, dating back at least to the fifth century B.C., proves the contrary. It cannot be denied that several versions of the symbol, probably by association with the knot of Isis's girdle, are simply female fertility symbols

The lower half of the symbol, with its lateral appendages representing incense-burners, unquestionably represents an altar, since this is proved by an altar-cippus of fifth century date from the sanctuary, although it has a baetylic column on top instead of a disc. It cannot be argued that the astral baetyl, which probably never had anything to do with the female symbol, is not interchangeable with the baetylic column. Another altar-cippus of similar shape and date actually shows the symbol itself with an astral baetyl on top. Carved in detail on the stone (unlike some examples, which are finished with little more than the bare outline of a simple contour), this specimen is one of the richest, if not the earliest, sources of information for an enquiry into the components of the "sign of Tanit". On the slab of one altar a whole temple is shown. The incense-burners on each side are in this case the fire-altars in 7 front of the entrance, just as they appear on another cippus from the sanctuary which, precisely, reproduces a temple, and on some of the stelae from Sousse. In other cases they take the form of acroteria at the ends, thus forming a horned altar. The steps on the back are those of the stair by which the image of the deity, in the baetylic form of a bottle, a column or a disc, is approached. Finally, to call this symbol the "sign of Tanit" is a fundamental error. In the sanctuary at Constantine, which, judging by the number of votive inscriptions, was dedicated to Baal Addir and Baal Hammon, the symbol appears just as frequently. It is regularly seen on stelae dedicated to these gods alone, and on the other hand is frequently absent from stelae happening to invoke Tanit. The sanctuary at Carthage itself, according to indisputable epigraphic evidence, was originally dedicated to Baal Hammon. At the top of one of the earliest examples of the famous sign17 the written word "Baal" is actually engraved on the stone instead of the astral disc. It was not until the fifth century that Tanit, who appears to be the result of an ill-defined Punic syncretism, infiltrated (timidly at first) into the sanctuary, and succeeded in a remarkably short time in asserting her own undisputed supremacy there -- a development which was not apparent anywhere else. In defense of those who are responsible for naming this diagram the "sign of Tanit", it must be admitted that this intrusion occurred at a time when a parallel syncretism was clearly taking place in the realm of symbolic imagery.

Tanit, also spelled TINITH, TINNIT, or TINT, chief goddess of Carthage, equivalent of Astarte. Although she seems to have had some connection with the heavens, she was also a mother goddess, and fertility symbols often accompany representations of her. She was probably the consort of Baal Hammon (or Amon), the chief god of Carthage, and was often given the attribute "face of Baal." Although Tanit did not appear at Carthage before the 5th century BC, she soon eclipsed the more established cult of Baal Hammon and, in the Carthaginian area at least, was frequently listed before him on the monuments. In the worship of Tanit and Baal Hammon, children, probably firstborn, were sacrificed. Ample evidence of the practice has been found west of Carthage in the precinct of Tanit, where a tofet (a sanctuary for the sacrifice of children) was discovered. Tanit was also worshiped on Malta, Sardinia, and in Spain.

Stargate Tanith

FIRST APPEARED - "Crossroads"

Related Episodes: Crossroads | Exodus | Between Two Fires

Tanith was the symbiote carried by Shan'auc, Teal'c's lover, who convinced her that he hated the Goa'uld and everything they did, and that he wanted to be a Tok'ra. He was lying, and later, having taken Hebron as a host, he killed her for her temerity in daring to tell him, her god, what he should think or feel. He lived among the Tok'ra as a spy for Apophis, though they were aware of his duplicity. He believed that the Tok'ra were taken in by him, and that he was acting as a concealed spy for the Goa'uld in the Tok'ra ranks, unaware that the Tok'ra were using him to spread misinformation to the Goa'uld when possible. (Crossroads) As part of his cover, he gave at least one piece of useful info to the Tok'ra: the location of the meeting between Apophis and Heru'ur. (Serpent's Venom) Over several months, the Tok'ra fed him enough misinformation to keep Apophis otherwise occupied while they saved hundreds of lives and pulled agents out of dangerous situations. When the Tok'ra had a chance to move their home base, they decided it was too risky to keep Tanith around, and told him they knew about him.  Tanith escaped from Vorash and alerted Apophis to the Tok'ra's location and managed to badly injure or kill Teal'c and take him to Apophis. (Exodus) He didn't die in the explosion of the sun with Apophis's fleet; he was in the single one-man pod that escaped, and found himself a new master to serve. Hadn't lost his hatred of Teal'c or the rest of SG-1, and nearly succeeded in destroying Earth by getting the Tollans to do his dirty work for him. (Between Two Fires) While scouting a new planet to use as a base, along with a contingent of Jaffa, he was killed when Teal'c shot directly into bridge of the al-kesh Tanith was flying, causing it to crash and burn. (48 Hours). Eventually, it becomes clear that the new, unnamed master must have been Anubis. (Summit)
A very young Goa'uld, Tanith has continued to prove that he is evil and untrustworthy through-and-through. 
Tanith is soft-spoken and self-controlled, and his loyalties are uncertain. He is young and therefore lacks much respect from other Goa'uld, who probably have no idea who he is. But as he continues to ally himself with more powerful Goa'uld, Tanith himself will no doubt expand his influence.

APPEARANCES

"Crossroads" - Tanith betrayed and murdered Shau'nac, the Jaffa who incubated him, and joined the Tok'ra as a spy for Apophis -- though they were aware of it, and planned to use him to relay false information. (Season 4)
"Exodus" - The Tok'ra confront Tanith about his duplicity, but he escapes them and delivers Teal'c to Apophis (Season 4)
"Between Two Fires" - With Apophis dead, Tanith revealed that he has joined forces with a mysterious and powerful Goa'uld -- and led the battle that resulted in the annihilation of the Tollan. (Season 5)
"48 Hours" - Teal'c wins his revenge against Tanith, apparently killing him by shooting down his ship before escaping through the Stargate. (Season 5)


Sites used:

For the Mythological Tanith:

http://www.phoenicia.org/pagan.html#anchor87202

http://www.barca.fsnet.co.uk/punic-gods.htm

For the Stargate Tanith

http://ozstargate.tripod.com/sg1/abydos/goauld-t.html

http://www.trickster.org/arduinna/stargate/goauld.html

http://gabi.utgjiu.ro/sg1/goauld.php#tanith

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