How Christians Confused the Celtic Underworld Boss Cromm Cruach with the Sumerian Baal and Biblical Devil
Baal's Story & The Neolithic Agrarian Revolution
Astronomically, first day of summer rites in many cultures have often been associated with cattle with the sun in the constellation Taurus, the bull. In ancient societies from the first cattle pictographs (picture writing that precedes syllabary and a phonetic alphabet in the evolution of writing) at Çatalhöyük that would eventually lead to the first Sumerian cuneiform writing system, to the Sumerian overgod El and his son Baal and their eventual cthonic underworld biblical Moloch, to the Greek Cretan Minoan Minotaur of King Minos on Crete, to the ritual sacrificial rites of Celtic Samhain, cattle have ancient associations with the first days of summer when they would be turned out to graze. It's no accident because cattle domestication, the Neolithic Agrarian Revolution, drastically changed how humans on earth lived in exploding their population, enabling cities, civilizations, and empires.
El, chief god to the Sumerians (like Zeus was to the Greeks) was the literal father of all of their gods. El means the god or creator and his symbol was the bull which is son Baal would later inherit. Agriculture developed during the Natufian Neolithic Agrarian Revolution (11 KBP-9 KBP [~9,000-7,000 BCE]) in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East of Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in modern day Iraq. It wasn't until roughly 3500 BCE that the first true civilizations, or empires, in Sumer and Egypt had emerged, taking roughly some five millennia to develop after the domestication of the first plants (~11 KBP, ~9,000 BCE) and then animals (~9 KBP, ~7,000 BCE).
Before, people lived in small bands of 20-50 people governed by chieftanships, women possessed more power because they produced a majority of our food through foraging than men did by hunting, and people were more equal and had more leisure time, but their total population numbers were limited by natural carrying capacity of their habitats like all animals. People migrated following animal herds or seasonally migrated to take advantage of certain plants flowering or ripening or the arrival of insect swarms. After farming and ranching, populations grew, technological advancement increased, annhilative warfare appeared, inequality between people and genders grew, and people lived in cities.
The first civilization that produced the first complete writing system in the world, cuneiform (predating Egyptian hieroglyphs by ~300 years, Sumerian cuneiform developed around ~3500 BCE compared to 3200 BCE for Egyptian hieroglyphs by comparison): the Sumerians. Sumer was the first civilization that developed in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia of Iraq on the crops and animals the Natufians domesticated developed the first cities in barley and wheat and sheep, pigs, goats, and cattle. Cities like Jericho and Ur and Uruk and their empire laid the foundation for the derivative Babylonian, Akkadian, Assyrian, and Persian empires who grew from the foundations Sumer laid, overpopulated themselves, and then laid waste to neighbors and assimilated them over the same region which lent itself geographically to the development of conquest and empires at the commercial crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe who would in Classical Antiquity subsequently face Classical Greek (in the Persian Wars), Hellenistic Greek (in Alexander the Great's conquest of the ancient world which laid the foundation for the Romans), and then Greco-Roman Civilization (in their domination of the Mediterranean world and the continent of Europe).
Historical archaeologists and anthropologists suggest that the Genesis story of the murder of Adam and Eve's son Abel by Cain in the Garden of Eden in the first fratricide in Cain's murder of his brother Abel told in Chapter 4 actually captures the transition from nomadic foraging (hunter-gathering) to settled pastoralism (ranching) and farming (to agriculture and civilization). It turned out that domestication of animals was more important than domestication of food crops because hooking a plow to a cow drastically increased food production and suprluses and dramatically increased human populations and freeing them from the search for food. The preference of the biblical God of Abel's sacrifice of the fat of the firstborn of his flock (Hebrew: צֹאנֹ֖ו (tzo·nov); tson: small cattle, sheep and goats, Strong's Concordance 6629; NASB translation: lambs or sheep), causing Cain's jealousy and fratricide of his brother captured this transition and supernatural endorsement of the domestication of animals and served as a nod to the Hebrews to continue it.
God, being more pleased by a blood sacrifice of an animal over Cain's sacrifice of the fruit of the soil in plant sacrifice captures the radical transformation of human life brought by the Agricultural Revolution that spurred civilizations across the planet after the last Ice Age. It represented probably the most radical revolution in the entirety of human history or prehistory, so it can't be understated. It simultaneously explains why some nation-states are rich and powerful today and others are not, and why some individuals and families are and others not. It explains human inequality as well as enhanced tribalism and warfare.
Farming and ranching meant that the human population would rapidly increase, leading to civilizations or empires across the world to arise and interact and attempt to conquer and dominate other empires—or those aboriginal, indigenous nomadic foragers and pastoralists without the advantages farming and ranching brought. The Roman Empire likewise subjugated the pastoralist Celtic Britons' due to those advances.
When the Natufians first hooked cattle to a plow, they transformed the productivity of the land which enabled much larger settled populations of humans and an explosion in technological innovation. More people meant as more connections between individuals and different communities grew, the greater the diversity in information and cultures that would develop. More people also meant more potential innovators, leading to the relatively rapid technological advancement of humans ever since, explaining the acceleration in the pace of technological advancement. People could now accumulate and improve knowledge enabled by writing and the collective learning that resulted from freeing people from the never ending quest for food—enabling job specialization and social stratification/hierarchy and ultimately technological advancement through irrigation, textiles, plumbing, religion, advanced technology, etc.
El's Cult Challenged by Baal's Cult: Attempted Religious Patricide Results in Moses' Filicide
Thus, it's no wonder that the Canaanite god of El is symbolized by the bull as cattle, more than any other domestic crop or animal, led to a revolution in the way humans lived on earth. In the same way the biblical God (Abraham's God, El) approved more of blood or animal sacrifice than plant or crop sacrifice, the domestication of animals more explained our development than farming ever could. Oddly enough, initially and over time, El's son Baal became associated with the harvest of the field while El himself remained more associated with livestock, just as Cain was associated with the field and AbEL with livestock. It's no wonder the biblical Yahweh more approved of Abel's sacrifice than Cain's because livestock had real consequence to human lifeways. The Genesis story seemed to be God's approval of the domestication of animals and admonishing his creation to do more of it. However, contrary to its biblical endorsement, for unknown reasons, over time, Baal's cult increased in popularity, meaning that El's cult shrank as Baal's increased.
This seems corroborated by recent discoveries in the early 21st Century at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey seem to indicate an animal worshiping religion predated and preceded the appearance of ivilization or empire itself (until recently, associated archaeology suggested religion comes from civilization, not the other way around). El's older cult, whose symbol is the bull, can thus be equated with the cattle domestication cult. Therefore, it tracks these recent discoveries about an older animal worshiping cult suggesting animal domestication was key in the development of religion. But as the crop domestication cult in El's son Baal's cult rose, most associated with the harvest and fertility, El's cult began to decline, and El's symbol in the bull transferred to Baal in cattle, and along with it El's associations with cattle domestication.
It could track the strange burial of the old icons at Göbekli Tepe, just like the older Egyptian polytheistic pantheon's devotees tried to wipe Pharaoh Nefertiti's sun-god Aten monotheism from history and memory. Newer cults threaten older cults, and the older cults often respond violently and afterwards justify the same religiously. Perhaps Baal's cult endeavored to stamp out the older animal domestication cult, and it backfired to boomerang in its own destruction.
Thus, in this manner, El's son Baal became associated with fall harvest and fertility festivals—that is, farming and ranching. The cultural and religious ideas of the Indo-Europeans from Central Asia who migrated into Europe deep in prehistory, the ancestors of the ancient Celts, traveled with them. And that's exactly the source of the error that still circulates, wrongly connecting Cromm with Baal on the basis of them being both fertility and harvest gods. Thus early linguists and scholars of comparative religion and mythology falsely made Cromm the analogue of the Sumerian Baal as harvest and fertility gods but ignored that Cromm's actual function to the Celts was more analogous to Sumer's Nergal as underworld boss of the dead. And thus they wrongly associated Celtic Samhain with Satanism. Baal (the Sumerian god of fertility [like the Roman Bacchus or Greek Dionysus]), was being worshipped alongside his father El in the land of Canaan. Baal would eventually supplant El, becoming the king of the gods in the Sumerian pantheon and replacing his father El. Baal's popularity overrode his father's cult. Both were being worshipped as the one true God simultaneously by the Sumerian Canaanites, and both had vigorous cults.
The father of Judaism (via Isaac), Christianity (via Isaac's descendant Jesus Christ), and Islam (via Ishmael) was Abraham (alternately, Abram). Abraham's cult to El (ELShaddai, ELohim, IsraEL) succeeded in stamping out the then ascendant but competing god Baal's worship when the Levites killed 3,000 golden calf worshipers of Baal (his father's iconography and domains eventually were transferred to Baal). The son's cult was wiped out by the father's cult in filicide, and the rest is recorded in the Holy Bible. The destruction of Baal's cult is recorded in Exodus 32 by Moses' commandment with the rest of Baal's worshipers finished off by plague. So, eventually, El's cult destroyed Baal's cult, became Judaism, and the rest is the history of Judeo Christianity and Islam, the Abrahic faiths of the Bible. Thus Baal's cult was demonized ever after by the Jews and Christians and Muslims consequently. And the parental abuse of Baal's cult that initially threatened El's ultimately led the father's cult of El to triumph, and ever after its devotees demonized remnant Baal cultists to ensure that Baal would eventually become synonymous with evil and the devil/Satan—just as El's cultists had demonized Baal's devotees in a similar manner.
It's through that convoluted process that the Celtic Cromm is often confused with the Sumerian Baal because both were fertility and harvest gods with festivals in the fall. As Indo-Europeans brought their religious cults with them as they settled Europe and migrated into Europe from Central Asia and the Middle East (from Mesopotamia) over the centuries. As a result, there are both accurate or valid and false linguistic cognates (when those who study mother and daughter languages over time can make errors because of mistaken similarities in word roots).
In the same way Cromm evolved from joyful and festive Dagda or Lugh fall solar fertility traditions of thanksgiving into far more somber remembrance and contemplation of the certainty of death, those original Indo-European religious beliefs hailing from the Sumerian, Egyptian, and Babylonian origins likewise continued to evolve and change. As a result of attempts to find common language roots and origins, Judeo-Christians had a tendency to lose nuance and generalize, lumping all pagan festivals to nature fertility gods of the harvest together, they did the same with those that more solemnly or frightfully contemplated death, life after death, the underworld, and the annual death of winter, and, in turn, to equate them with devil worship. Thus, in this way, attempts to understand "other" were perverted in vilifying or demonizing "other" in equating Baal with Beelzebub and the god of healing Biel for whom Beltane was likely named, and eventually Celtic Cromm as analogous because he was the god of the Celtic underworld like Beezlebub and Satan became synonymous as other names for Satan the great deceiver.
As Christian monks and missionaries undertook the study of others as scholars to report back to Crown and Pope, and undertook the study of the cultures of people different from themselves and record their histories, they made sense of their beliefs and practices by relating them to analogues more familiar in their own cultures. They did so in the similar manner many people today falsely say nirvana is Buddhist heaven (actually it's freedom from rebirth, nonexistence) and thus represents a terrible misconception.
One way that happened was due to people associating fertility gods like Baal and Cromm, and then taking the Celtic holiday of Beltane and saying it was a festival to Baal (false etymology), in sharing falsely made linguistic roots and then saying Baal was actually another name for the biblical Satan (which is not true even biblically). And as the devil to Judeo-Christians (influenced by Greek mystery cults with resurrection myths and concept of Tartarus as a place of punishment for wrongdoing with its lord Hades who tortured) was culturally created by Jesus' times, Baal became conflated with the devil who theologically was lord of the underworld, hell, of the Judeo Christian afterlife. Early Jews, Egyptians, and Greeks had no concept of hell, and only a concept of the afterlife or death and underworld, the place where both the righteous and unrighteous went. But by the Hellenistic Greek period, Hades had evolved to include a place of reward in the Elysian Fields and place of punishment in Hades, and the same thing happened within Judaism and within Egytian mythology.
The Egyptian analogue of the Celtic Cromm would have been Osiris; the Greek, Hades; the Roman, Pluto; and the Sumerian, Nergal or Moloch both similarly derivative from Baal in the same way Cromm was derivative of Dagda, and Baal of El. And so the logic of these scholars was to group the fertility gods and gods of the underworld then presuppose common origins in Indo European belief and was inductive in nature. They started from a premise, and sought evidence for their foregone conclusions, leading them to miss the nuance that in no way was Cromm actually derivative of Baal and they never in reality had any real or imagined relationship whatsoever.
The claim that Baal was the chief God of the Celts is flatly erroneous but still circulates today, especially in Christian sources. Ruth E. Kelley's seminal 1919 The Book of Halloween, the first book published on Halloween history, is one major source of this falsehood. Baal was not—as not one single Celtic deity is mentioned in the Holy Bible—the chief god of the Celts, nor was he ever. Thus this misunderstanding appears to derive from association of Baal, the Sumerian god of fertility, weather, and rainstorms (the son of their over god El), with the Sumerian god of the underworld Nergal in associating Cromm and Baal in both being fertility gods to whom sacrifices were made, irrespective that Baal was never an underworld god, and the false etymological linguistic (word origins) attempts to trace cosmologies from early proto-Indo-European people to the Celts.
Today, most scholars recognize that Baal is in no way remotely related to Cromm other than the fact they are both fertility Gods. But neither El nor Baal were ever gods of the underworld like Cromm was. Cromm got infected with the stigma of Baal because he had the misfortune of being a fertility god like Baal, and Baal had become associated with Satan/the devil. It's a case of guilt by false association, false etymology, and sloppy ethnocentric scholarship.
It was also likely influenced by projection and conflation by Christians of the devil or Lucifer in hell with the underworld. The chief god of the Irish Celtic pantheon was always and has always been Dagda, the "good god," or chief over god of life and death (and of seasons, agriculture, fertility, and magic). Cromm over the centuries evolved to replace aspects of Dagda as the god of seasons, agriculture, fertility, and magic, a necessary scapegoat like Lucifer evolved to become in the adversary biblically. But in reality, Lugh was the Celtic sun god like either Roman Sol or Greek Apollo, and Cromm the Celtic analog to the Greek Hades or Finnish Tuoni. There definitely were analogs in Indo-European and Finnic-Ugric peoples, the ancestors of all Europeans, but not all associations made by scholars were accurate.
But to group fertility gods and then take a function of one who also was associated with death as well as fertility and then equate the same to evil because hell was conceived of as being literally under the ground just like the Celtic underworld (likely inferred from hot springs and geothermal locations, enhancing imagery of hell as the midden burning pit of Sheol outside Jerusalem) was how people have unfortunately long incorrectly equated Cromm with the lord of hell Satan (by the 16th Century, Baal was strongly associated with Satan by the Roman Catholic Christians).
Thus, in the same way Westerners tried to convey the meaning of Buddhist nirvana to mean Buddhist heaven because it was a more familiar analogue, sources by the 1600s dedicated to these topics equated the Greek Hades, the Sumerian Baal, the Egyptian Osiris, and the Celtic Cromm and they were all used loosely and interchangeably by the Protestant Reformation to be synonymous with Beelzebub (the Lord of the Flies) and synonymous names for the devil. Because the underworld was underground below us (and heaven above us), all gods of the underworld in all cultures became to be seen as different names of Satan, the deceiver, who appeared to different people as different counterfeit deities instead of the one true god of El/Yahweh. Hades was just the Greek name for Lucifer, as Cromm was to the Celts it seemed. But these interpretations were vastly polluted by Christian emotional baggage.
Transliteration of the king of hell Bael mentioned in mid-17th Century (1600s) demonological grimoires is likely a corruption of Baal. In those sources, this king's name is alternately spelled Baal (also Baall or Boel), suggesting the hoarse-voiced king of hell who appears as a man, toad, or cat (imbuing the power of invisibility and commanding sixty-six legions of demons) had been by then equated by Christians with Satan, Lucifer, and Beelzebub. This suggests the equation of Baal with all things Satanic was complete by the start of the Enlightenment and Age of Reason, and poor Cromm just had the bad luck of being wrongly implicated as Baal's Celtic analogue.