Dagon, a nominal history

I started using the name Dagon sometime in the early 1980s on various computer bulletin boards. It's gotten to the point where I answer to it, and at a previous job, most of the orkers called me Dagon rather than Mark to avoid namespace collision. Anywhere else it might have sounded odd to hear on the paging system "Telephone call on line 5 for Dagon. Dagon, Line 5." Since I've taken up Poker, I've been amused to find that I really am, in some sense, half man and half fish.

The pronunciation of Dagon is a matter of some controversy. Some sources report that day-gone is correct, and that's what I used to recommend. However, I've gotten a few e-mails recently that claim dah-gone is the proper Hebrew pronunciation.

I initially took the name from the story The Shadow over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft He took the name from the Bible, which purportedly is based on a true story. Lovecraft's references to Dagon occur in only two stories, "Dagon" and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". Sometimes, the references are to "Father Dagon", and some sources cite Dagon as the father of Baal.

The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary describes Dagon thusly:

Dagon, chief god of the Philistines. Originally worshiped by Canaanites before Philistine invasion of Canaan, as indicated by place names such as Beth-dagon in Judah (Josh. 15:41), and in Asher (Josh. 19:27). Either a fish god or the god of agriculture, from Dag, "fish," or Dagan, "grain." On a wall of a palace in Babylon he is shown as half fish. That he was god of agriculture is supported by the tribute which priests and diviners bade the rulers to send when the ark was returned to Israel. Five golden mice and five golden emerods (tumors, ASV) were votive offerings expressing gratitude for Dagon's freeing their fields of mice and their bodies of tumors. Saul's head was placed in a temple of Dagon (I Chron. 10:10). Samson destroyed the temple of Dagon in Gaza (Judg. 16:30).
Another book describes him as having the head and hands of a man, but the body of a fish. Here are the verses mentioned in the excerpt above:
Judges 16:22-23, 30: But the Philistines took him [Samson], and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven. Then the lords of the Philistines gather them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.... And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.

Here's an interesting tie-in for you "Raiders of the Lost Ark" fans:

I Samuel 5:1-7: And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day. But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof. And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god.
Later, the Philistines carry the Ark of the Covenant around one of their major cities, Gath, and those within the city are smitten with "emerods in their secret parts." Yow! It's interesting to note here that the head and hands of the statue were cut off. The parts which some sources state are the human portions of Dagon... At another point, Saul and his sons are wounded in battle by the Philistines. Saul commits suicide by "falling" on his sword, and Dagon figures again:
I Chronicles 10:8-10: And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa. And when they had stripped him, they took his head, and his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to carry tidings unto their idols, and to the people. And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon.
There is also a Handel oratorio by the name of Samson that contains the following:
"Ye men of Gaza, hither bring
The merry pipe and pleasing string.
In joyous measures let our notes be sung (or something similar)
'Be Dagon praised by ev'ry tongue!'

Other info about the name Dagon
(fun with search engines)

  • The Catholic Encyclopedia has a very nice writeup of my namesake.
  • It's good to have a name that people write Filksongs about.
  • This guy makes the delightful observation that the mitre worn by high-ranking Catholic officials is a direct homage to Dagon.
  • A bunch of H.P. Lovecraft links.
  • In Burma, they even have a Dagon Hotel.