Patients and Performative Identities: At the Intersection of the Mesopotamian Technical Disciplines and Their Clients (Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale) 9781575067438, 1575067439

The missing piece in so many histories of Mesopotamian technical disciplines is the client, who often goes unnoticed by

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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Between Social History and the Life of the Mind: Professionals and Their Clients in Ancient Mesopotamia
Chapter 2: Just in Case: Rituals for Entering the Palace or Perversion of Justice
Chapter 3: Egalkura and Late Astrology
Chapter 4: Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts
Chapter 5: The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy
Chapter 6: Healing in Images and Texts: The Sickbed Scene
Chapter 7: Performative Elements in the Aramaic Magic Bowls
Chapter 8: Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-ritual Contexts
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Patients and Performative Identities At the Intersection of the Mesopotamian Technical Disciplines and Their Clients


Patients and Performative Identities

Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale Proceedings

1. Language in the Ancient Near East, edited by L. Kogan, N. Koslova, S. Loesov, and S. Tischchenko. 2 volumes (RAI 53) 2. City Administration in the Ancient Near East, edited by L. Kogan, N. Koslova, S. Loesov, and S. Tischchenko (RAI 53) 3. Organization, Representation, and Symbols of Power in the Ancient Near East, edited by Gernot Wilhelm (RAI 54) 4. La famille dans le Proche-Orient ancien: réalités, symbolismes et images, edited by Lionel Marti (RAI 55) 5. Time and History in the Ancient Near East, edited by Lluis Feliu, J. Llop, A. Millet Albà, and Joaquin Sanmartín (RAI 56) 6. Tradition and Innovation in the Ancient Near East, edited by Alfonso Archi (RAI 57) 7. Private and State in the Ancient Near East, edited by R. DeBoer and J. G. Dercksen (RAI 58) 8. Fortune and Misfortune in the Ancient Near East, edited by Olga Drewnowska and Małgorzata Sandowicz (RAI 60)

Associated Volumes

1. Divination in the Ancient Near East, edited by Jeanette C. Fincke (RAI 54) 2. Divination as Science, edited by Jeanette C. Fincke (RAI 60) 3. Studying Gender in the Ancient Near East, edited by Saana Svärd and Agnès Garcia-Ventura (RAI 59 and 60) 4. Distant Impressions: The Senses in the Ancient Near East, edited by Ainsley Hawthorn and Anne-​Caroline Rendu Loisel (RAI 61) 5. Patients and Performative Identities: At the Intersection of the Mesopotamian Technical Disciplines and Their Clients, edited by J. Cale Johnson (RAI 60 and 61)

Patients and Performative Identities At the Intersection of the Mesopotamian Technical Disciplines and Their Clients

Edited by J. Cale Johnson with the assistance of Marie Lorenz

Eisenbrauns   |  University Park, Pennsylvania

The work on this volume as part of the project BabMed—Babylonian Medicine has been funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013; Project No. 323596

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Johnson, Justin Cale, 1971– editor.  |  Rencontre assyriologique internationale (60th : 2014 : Warsaw, Poland)  |  Rencontre assyriologique internationale (61st : 2015 : Geneva, Switzerland; Bern, Switzerland) Title: Patients and performative identities : at the intersection of the Mesopotamian technical disciplines and their clients  /  edited by J. Cale Johnson. Description: University Park, Pennsylvania : Eisenbrauns, [2020] | Series: Rencontre assyriologique internationale  |  This volume consists of papers that were originally delivered at BabMed panels at the 60th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale in Warsaw (theme: “Fortune and Misfortune”) and the 61st Recontre Assyriologique Internationale in Geneva and Bern (theme: “Text and Image”).  |  Includes bibliographical references. Summary: “A collection of essays investigating how Mesopotamian technical specialists interacted with their clients and in doing so forged their social and professional identities”—Provided by publisher. Identifiers: LCCN 2020016971  |  ISBN 9781575067438 (hardback) Subjects: LCSH: Professions—Iraq—History—To 1500.  |  Iraq—Intellectual life.  |  Iraq— Civilization—To 634. Classification: LCC DS69.6 .P37 2020  |  DDC 331.70935—dc23 LC record available at Copyright © 2020 The Pennsylvania State University All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America Published by The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA 16802–1003 Eisenbrauns is an imprint of The Pennsylvania State University Press. The Pennsylvania State University Press is a member of the Association of University Presses. It is the policy of The Pennsylvania State University Press to use acid-free paper. Publications on uncoated stock satisfy the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Material, ansi z39.48–1992.


List of Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   vii

Chapter 1.  Between Social History and the Life of the Mind: Professionals and Their Clients in Ancient Mesopotamia . . . . . . . . . . . . .    1 J. Cale Johnson

Chapter 2.  Just in Case: Rituals for Entering the Palace or Perversion of Justice . . . . . . . . . . . . .   23 JoAnn Scurlock

Chapter 3.  Egalkura and Late Astrology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   35 Marvin Schreiber

Chapter 4.  Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts . . . . . . .   49 Ulrike Steinert

Chapter 5.  The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy . . . . . . . . . . 115 Netanel Anor

Chapter 6.  Healing in Images and Texts: The Sickbed Scene . . . . . . . . . . 129 Strahil V. Panayotov

Chapter 7.  Performative Elements in the Aramaic Magic Bowls . . . . . . . . . 159 Siam Bhayro

Chapter 8.  Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-ritual Contexts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 Maddalena Rumor

List of Abbreviations

Museum Sigla AO Antiquités Orientales, museum siglum of the Louvre Museum Ass. Assur, field number of the tablets excavated in Assur BM British Museum, museum siglum of the British Museum CBS Catalog of the Babylonian Section, museum siglum, University Museum, University of Pennsylvania IM Iraq Museum, siglum of Iraq Museum in Baghdad K Kuyunjik, museum siglum of the British Museum MS Martin Schøyen, siglum of the private collection of Martin Schøyen Rm Rassam, museum siglum of the British Museum U Ur, museum siglum in London, Philadelphia and Baghdad VA Vorderasiatische Abteilung, museum siglum of the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin VAT Vorderasiatische Abteilung, Tontafel W Warka, field numbers of the tablets excavated at Warka Bibliographical Abbreviations ABL R. F. Harper, editor. Assyrian and Babylonian Letters Belonging to the Kouyunjik Collections of the British Museum. 14 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1892–1914 ADFU Ausgrabungen der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft in Uruk-Warka AfO Archiv für Orientforschung AHES Archive for History of Exact Sciences AMC Assur Medical Catalogue AMD Ancient Magic and Divination AMT R. Campbell Thompson. Assyrian Medical Texts from the Originals in the British Museum. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1923 AOAT Alter Orient und Altes Testament AoF Altorientalische Forschungen BagM/Bh Baghdader Mitteilungen Beihefte BAM Die babylonisch-assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen





List of Abbreviations

H. Zimmern, Beiträge zur Kenntnis der babylonischen Religion. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1901 Bibliotheca Mesopotamica Bibliotheca Orientalis L.W. King, Babylonian Magic and Sorcery. London: Luzac, 1896 Biblioteca del Proximo Oriente Antiguo Babylonian Records in the Library of J. Pierpont Morgan Bulletin on Sumerian Agriculture Bulletin of the School of Oriental (and African) Studies I. J. Gelb, et al., editors. The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. 21 vols. (A–Z). Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1956–2011 Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative ( Cuneiform Digital Library Notes ( .html) Culture and History of the Ancient Near East Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum Cuneiform Texts from Nimrud Cuneiform Monographs Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology R. C. Thompson, A Dictionary of Assyrian Botany. London: British Academy, 1949 A. T. Clay, Documents from the Temple Archives of Nippur. PBS 11/1–2. Philadelphia: University Museum, 1913 Guides to the Mesopotamian Textual Record Journal of the American Oriental Society S. Shaked, J. N. Ford, and S. Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls. Volume 1. Leiden: Brill, 2013 Journal of Cuneiform Studies Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes Journal of Near Eastern Studies Journal of the Semitic Studies F. Köcher, Keilschrifttexte zur assyrisch-babylonischen Drogen- und Pflanzenkunde. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1955 Keilschrifttexte aus Assur literarischen Inhalts E. Ebeling, Keilschrifttexte aus Assur religiösen Inhalts I/II. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1919–23 Keilschrifturkunden aus Boghazköi A. Sachs, T. Pinches, and J. Strassmaier. Late Babylonian Astronomical and Related Texts. Providence: Brown University Press, 1955 L. Ebeling, Literarische Keilschrifttexte aus Assur. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1953 H. G. Liddell and R. Scott. Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. with revised supplement. Revised by H. S. Jones and R. McKenzie. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996 Leipziger Semitistische Studien

List of Abbreviations


Mitteilungen der Altorientalischen Gesellschaft Mesopotamian Civilizations Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires Orientalia, new series University of Pennsylvania Publications of the Babylonian Section K. Preisendanz et al. Papyri Graecae Magicae. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1928–31 Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology H. Rawlinson et al., The Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia. 5 volumes. London: Bowler, 1861–1909 Revue d’Assyriologie et d’Archéologie Orientale State Archives of Assyria State Archives of Assyria Bulletin State Archives of Assyria Cuneiform Texts State Archives of Assyria Studies Sources of the Ancient Near East Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization Spätbabylonische Texte aus Uruk Science, Technology, and Medicine in Ancient Cultures O. Gurney and J. Finkelstein, The Sultantepe Tablets. Volumes 1–2. London: British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, 1957–64 Time, Astronomy, and Calendars Veröffentlichungen der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft für Theologie Yale Oriental Series, Babylonian Texts Zeitschrift für Assyriologie


Chapter 1

Between Social History and the Life of the Mind: Professionals and Their Clients in Ancient Mesopotamia J. Cale Johnson Freie Universität Berlin

If we want to understand the intellectual life of professionals and other literati in cuneiform and post-cuneiform Mesopotamia, we might first imagine the two prototypical contexts in their public lives: the point at which the technical knowledge that anchored their identity was inculcated and the various moments at which this knowledge was put into practice. The first of these prototypical contexts was undoubtedly the schoolroom or professional atelier in which he—and it was almost always a he— received his training in a specific discipline. (As a kind of appendix to professional training, we should also keep in mind the process through which individual technical literati found their professional way in the world, as a school teacher or for the lucky few a royal sinecure, but this touches on questions of patronage and will be taken up separately below.) The second of these prototypical contexts for Mesopotamian intellectual life was rather different: it consisted of the actual professional work of such a specialist, chiefly in the form of interactions with clients. Needless to say, we need not and should not collapse these two crucial moments of the intellectual life into a purely social history of professions, concerned above all with the place of certain professions in society. There should be, in other words, a dimension to the life of an exorcist or physician or astronomer that did not exist for a shepherd or tavern-keeper, prostitute or priestess, even if the inhabitants of these latter social roles, no doubt, had wisdom of their own. The female tavern-keeper Siduri, in the Old Babylonian version of The Gilgamesh Epic, famously tells us: O Gilgamesh, where are you wandering? You cannot find the life that you seek: when the gods created mankind, for mankind they established death, life they kept for themselves. You, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full, keep enjoying yourself, day and night! Every day make merry, dance and play day and night! Let your clothes be clean! Let your head be washed, may you be bathed in water! Gaze on the little one who holds your hand! Let a wife enjoy your repeated embrace! (Translation by A. George)1 1.  A. R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic,1:279. W. G. Lambert situates this text within its non-intellectual milieu (“Some New Babylonian Wisdom Literature,” 31).



J. Cale Johnson

But this is not the type of technical or professional knowledge that we are concerned with here.2 The extra dimension in the life of a technical specialist was his concern with a body of information, practices and doctrines—whether oral or written or a mixture of the two—that could be used to carry out types of professional practice that were not generally available to nonspecialists. Of these two prototypical moments in the intellectual life (training and professional practice), the first was the topic of a conference volume that I edited in 2015, entitled In the Wake of the Compendia, whereas this volume (Patients and Performative Identities: At the Intersection of Mesopotamian Technical Disciplines and Their Clients) focuses on the second of these two prototypical contexts. In a sense, therefore, this volume should be seen as a companion volume to In the Wake of the Compendia: where In the Wake of the Compendia was primarily concerned with the role that compendia played in the institutional situation of technical disciplines (and thus necessarily on training rather than professional practice), this volume looks at the formation of professional identity through interactions with clients and devotes a great deal of effort and length to identifying the clients themselves within the cuneiform and postcuneiform textual record.3 Both volumes originate from conference panels in which BabMed staff and others connected in one way or another to Mark Geller’s research unit at the Freie Universität Berlin predominate. And both volumes also pursue a common set of themes and methodologies in both cuneiform and post-cuneiform Mesopotamia, stretching ideally from the origin of writing, ca. 3300 BCE, down to the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258 CE. This volume consists of papers that were originally delivered at BabMed panels at the 60th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale in Warsaw (theme: “Fortune and Misfortune”) and the 61st Recontre Assyriologique Internationale in Geneva and Bern (theme: “Text and Image”). I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organizers of both meetings (Warsaw: A. Drewnowska, R. Koliński, A. Kryszeń, M. Kapełuś, M. Sandowicz, and P. Taracha; Geneva and Bern: A. Ahrens, P. Attinger, A. Cavigneaux, M. Jaques, S. Kulemann-Ossen, P. M. Michel, C. Mittermayer, G. O. Nicolet, M. Novák, S. Rutishauser, A. Sollee, C. E. Suter, and J. Tudeau), both for allowing the BabMed Project to organize a panel at each of the two conferences and for permission to collect the proceedings from those panels in this volume. It will be apparent that certain papers in this volume originated in one venue or another (the Egalkura materials in Warsaw and Panayotov’s investigation of the sickbed scene in Bern, for example), but we at the BabMed Project hope, in bringing the papers from these two panels together in this volume, to demonstrate the multifaceted work of the BabMed Project itself as well as the fellow travelers who have joined us at one time or another. The BabMed Project, funded through an Advanced ERC Grant that Mark Geller received in 2012, provided substantial funding for both the travel and lodging of participants in the original panels as well as funding for some of the preliminary 2.  There is also a species of proverbial and non-technical lore that operates within specific disciplines such as the “literary” scholasticism that has been explored by Martha Roth (see especially her work on legal scholasticism), but this kind of disciplinary lore only intersects with the technical literature and professional practice in marginal and peripheral ways and will not preoccupy us here. 3.  This formulation already broaches the at-times murky distinction between a technical “discipline” and a “profession,” a still largely unformed distinction.

Between Social History and the Life of the Mind


editorial work and formatting that Marie Lorenz carried out on the individual papers in this volume in 2016 and 2017.4 Unlike the technical compendia at the center of In the Wake of the Compendia— manifested in a wide range of textual remains throughout the latter phases of the cuneiform textual record, interactions between clients and technical specialists are very nearly invisible in the textual record. Ulrike Steinert’s contribution to the volume, to which we return in detail later on, goes to heroic lengths to identify named individual clients in the cuneiform textual record, and yet the BabMed team quickly realized, in our preparations for the first panel in Warsaw, that an unreserved search for individual named clients was not going to deliver an entirely convincing or realistic picture of interactions between professional literati and their clients. It was soon decided that we would focus initially on a family of ritual texts that often use the Sumerian expression e2-gal ku4-ra ‘Entering the Palace’ as a rubric,5 and as the reader will quickly surmise, roughly half of the volume is concerned with these materials in one way or another (Scurlock, Schreiber, and Steinert). One of the main reasons for this initial focus is that these rituals combine in themselves two aspects of a single interpersonal relationship: the link between professional practitioners (exorcist, physician, or what have you) and “god and king, courtier and prince,” a native series of terms for “rulers” at different levels of political scale that I will subsume here under the term crown.6 This relationship was like a pendulum, oscillating between two different social roles: the technician or specialist would at times have the crown as patient or client—undoubtedly the single most important client in the life of any given specialist or technician—but at other times, especially in the ‘Entering the Palace’ rites and rituals, the technical specialist is the client, in a different sense of the term, pursuing the patronage of a political or institutional leader. Less-ambivalent evidence for this complex relationship can be found in other genres: the letters of scholars to the Neo-Assyrian kings serve as stark examples of the king as patient or client, while The Forlorn Scholar and similar materials perfectly capture the exorcist or physician as a client to his patron, the crown. We can even bear witness, in the ‘Entering the Palace’ materials, to learned specialists filling both roles, as technical specialist and as client seeking advantage at court, unifying, as it were, the two different social roles in his own person.7 4.  This volume is a publication of the BabMed Project, which is supported by a European Research Council Advanced Grant awarded to Markham J. Geller in 2013 under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (ERC Grant agreement no. 323596). 5.  Alongside fairly standard conventions (words in both Sumerian and Akkadian transliterations linked with hyphens, Sumerian in roman type, Akkadian in italic type, all indexes identified by subscripted numerals), I will also use capitalized phrases in single quotation marks such as ‘Entering the Palace’ to refer to groups of textual materials that are identified as such by rubrics of one kind or another. I should emphasize, however, that membership in such a genre is defined not strictly by the occurrence of a particular rubric in a specific text but rather by generic similarities between the texts subsumed within the category. Only some members of the ‘Entering the Palace’ materials are explicitly labelled with the rubric e2-gal ku4-ra, but all similar materials, whether bearing the rubric or not, are included within the category. 6.  Stadhouder’s translation of ilu šarru kabtu u rubû in SpTU 4.129 iv 22 ( “A Time to Rejoice,” 304). 7.  Daniel Schwemer has pointed to alternations between 2nd and 3rd person in certain passages of technical literature and raised the possibility that these represent practitioners carrying out their rites upon themselves (“Secret Knowledge of Lu-Nanna,” 224); Anor discusses the same issue in his contribution to this volume.


J. Cale Johnson

Patronage in Mesopotamian Intellectual Life For at least some few periods of Mesopotamian intellectual history, it is possible to draw up a fairly detailed picture of the place of intellectuals and literati in Mesopotamian society. The patronage that rulers and other elites could direct at technical specialists was a particularly important part of social and economic history in Mesopotamia, even if it only provides indirect indications about their intellectual work. Mention of “patronage” in the context of the ancient Near East immediately brings to mind Raymond Westbrook’s 2005 paper “Patronage in the Ancient Near East.” Westbrook’s overview suffers, however, from a common dilemma in work on Mesopotamian law and related topics: it begins with a definition of patronage rooted in Roman practice (and subsequently absorbed into many anthropological accounts) and thereby excludes much of Near Eastern patronage due to the typically institutional and formal character of these relationships in Mesopotamia. As Westbrook puts it, “patronage is an informal tie, based on moral obligations, and the sanctions for breach of these obligations are moral and social.”8 Westbrook is well aware that his “Roman” emphasis on noninstitutional and informal links is going to be a problem: “most of the primary sources from the region are institutional—from the palace or temple—and record formalized relationships of dependence. Even private sources tend to be of a purely legal, commercial or administrative nature, revealing little of the social relations between individuals.”9 Here we see the real heart of Westbrook’s definition—private inducements to favoritism, traveling in both directions—and it is little wonder that Westbrook ends up with a curious mixture of exemplars: technical specialists seeking a post from the crown, the Amarna Letters from Syro-Palestinian vassals to the Pharaoh and The Poor Man of Nippur. The last of these, a literary parody of the heavily formalized social practices required for entry into the municipal elite of the city of Nippur is the most telling, since it is a parody and burlesque of formal practices—thus critiquing the very formalism that Westbrook’s definition devalues—and the Poor Man himself, Gimil-Ninurta, goes on to imitate and indirectly mock the technical literati in service to the crown. So, as it happens, three of Westbrook’s examples of patronage actually deal, in one way or another, with technical specialists seeking a position in the royal court. And, as is clear from the centrality of the šulmānu gift in The Poor Man of Nippur, patronage in Near Eastern courts was almost never informal and private: even if Westbrook’s official definition of patronage (“a personal voluntary long-term relationship between a socially dominant patron, namely the king, and his socially inferior clients, namely the scholars, based on the mutual exchange of goods and services,” in Radner’s paraphrase) is still serviceable in certain respects and can be adapted for use,10 his choice of exemplars and their contextualization does not really illuminate what is going on here. 8.  Westbrook, “Patronage,” 211. Westbrook’s definition goes on to allow for co-occurrence of informal ties within or alongside formal or institutional relationships (“It [patronage] can co-exist with . . . formal relationships [and] . . . can also exist as a system[, but g]iven its symbiotic capacity, it may even result in parallel formal and informal systems of governance within the same state” [p. 212]), but these co-occurring formal links play no significant role in his exemplars, so perhaps we should value Westbrook’s exemplification over his definitions. 9.  Ibid., 214. 10.  Ibid., 211 apud Karen Radner, “Royal Decision-Making,” 363–64. The paraphrase actually goes on to say “patronage is a flexible relationship shaped by privilege and obligations, favours and expectations, quite separate from the rights and duties of office.”

Between Social History and the Life of the Mind


Two more recent papers from Charpin and Waerzeggers, which appeared as chapters 12 and 34 in The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture,11 offer a far more useful and illustrative description of patronage in the ancient Near East, in particular of the royal patronage that was directed at individual technical literati (and the institutions such as temples that supported many others). Charpin takes up the diviner (Akk., bārû) named Asqudum at Old Babylonian Mari and demonstrates the importance of his example, particularly during the reign of Zimri-līm. If we look at the broad expanse of the textual evidence assembled by Charpin, it seems clear to me that royal patronage of a leading diviner such as Asqudum was very much concerned with “the rights and duties of office.” Indeed, one of the fascinating moments in Charpin’s description is when Bannum, one of the chiefs of the Simʾalite tribe that had helped to put Zimri-līm on the throne, objects to the central role of Asqudum—a holdover from the reign of Šamši-Adad—in vetting would-be royal appointees. As Charpin explains: Bannum also underlined the danger represented by Asqudum’s proximity to the king for nominations to other posts, given his origins in Ekallatum, home of the recently ousted dynasty. This fear is explained when we know that those who took up their posts submitted to “oracular enquiry”: clearly, although somewhat obliquely, Bannum is accusing Asqudum of wanting to manipulate the omens to favor the nomination of Šamši-Addu’s former servants to key posts in the kingdom.12 This is precisely the type of “privileges and obligations, favours and expectations” that Westbrook might have wished for, but it is very much concerned with “the rights and duties of office,” which Westbrook would have excluded: Bannum is concerned that Asqudum is using his role in the appointment process (and perhaps his relationship to Zimri-līm) to affect Zimri-līm’s appointments. In Waerzegger’s description of royal support for temples and temple staff in the Neo-Babylonian materials, likewise, the focus is very much on royal acts of patronage, including “the erection and renovation of buildings, the provision of regular sacrifices, and the supply of objects for use in the daily worship and at festivals.”13 But here as well, a great deal of royal patronage consisted of the prebends that were established by the crown in order to provide for the livelihood of the many different kinds of temple priests. As Waerzegger says: In view of the fact that prebends were intimately linked to membership in the priesthood, the question of who allotted the prebendary rights is crucial. The figure of the king looms large here . . . we can distinguish three phases in the lifespan of a prebend: its creation, its transfer and its suspension or removal.14

11.  Radner and Robson, Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. 12.  Charpin, “Patron and Client,” 253. 13.  Waerzegger, “The Pious King,” 726. 14.  Ibid., 744.


J. Cale Johnson

The prebends were hereditary, however, so we might think that the ruler had no power over who occupied these offices once they had been created. But, as Waerzegger goes on to emphasize, the kings . . . had great control over the social dynamics of the priesthood. They did not monitor the transfer of prebends as such, but by levying a tax on the initiation rite, they kept track of who was active in which local cult (Waerzeggers and Jursa 2008). . . . We know several examples of priests who petitioned for the restoration of their positions.15 Thus, here as well, a great deal of royal patronage activities were centrally concerned with the management of offices and office holders. But in both of these situations— whether an Old Babylonian diviner directly engaged in the royal court or a NeoBabylonian priest indirectly supported by a royal prebend—the ultimate responsibility for the correct performance of both palace and temple business rested on the head of the sovereign. That we can reconstruct the patronage relationships and broader social life of technical literati in Mesopotamia is indeed one of the beautiful circumstances of the cuneiform writing system and its unparalleled durability as a written medium. The availability of this type of information about literati, which in most other times and places is much harder to come by, has often led Assyriologists and other ancient historians interested in the “intellectual history” of Mesopotamia to focus on this type of information alone. And this approach certainly has its bellwether moments: the simple observation that the types and amount of astronomical data that were produced in first-millennium-BCE Mesopotamia, which served as the dataset for major advances in both Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman astronomy, could only have been produced under the longterm royal patronage described here, for example.16 This approach acknowledges the importance of technical literatures but frames its own historiographic concerns in terms of a social history of offices or professions that happen to involve intellectual activities, and it can be traced, without too much difficulty, from Oppenheim’s still-foundational 1975 paper “The Position of the Intellectual in Mesopotamian Society” to Veldhuis’s recent survey, “Intellectual History and Assyriology,” in the inaugural issue of The Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History in 2014. Both of these papers are crucial moments of synthesis and reflection for any “intellectual history” of Mesopotamia, and the four decades that separate these two papers are instructive. Faced with a still largely unstudied topic, Oppenheim suggests three ideal types: (1) the “manager” in a great organization, a palace or temple, (2) the “poet-scribe” occupied with the composition of literary works on behalf of the crown, and (3) the “scholar-scribe,” concerned with technical literature of one kind or another. Forty years later, in contrast, Veldhuis can offer three fleshed-out case studies of how technical literati went about their business at specific moments in the Mesopotamian historical record. This shift from ideal types to historically situated case studies is a major advance, and we should not lose sight of it. 15.  Ibid. 16.  Grasshoff, “Babylonian Meteorological Observations.”

Between Social History and the Life of the Mind


And yet, it must be acknowledged, all of these studies of patronage, professional life, and the social history of knowledge workers in the Mesopotamian alluvium pay relatively little attention to the life of the mind.17 How did technical literati and other littérateurs conceptualize what they were doing? How would they have understood a moment of intellectual triumph (say, composing a lengthy hymn in Sumerian on the occasion of the New Year celebrations) or a defeat (being dismissed from a royal sinecure)? One can, of course, suspect that these types of situations (and the mixture of emotion and intellection that arose in response to them) are primarily reflected in socalled wisdom literature. Here we see a fundamental dimension of the life of the mind in literary form. But as Beaulieu emphasized in his 2007 overview of Mesopotamian wisdom literature, literary representation of this dimension of intellectual life—epitomized by literary works such as Ludlul and the Theodicy—only emerges out of a very specific brand of exorcism (Akk., āšipūtu) in the later phases of the second millennium BCE. The main character in Ludlul, Subši-mešrê-Sakkan, lived and worked during the reign of Nazi-maruttaš (1307–1282 BCE), whereas the relatively well-known exorcists Esagil-kīn-apli and Saggil-kīna-ubbib, who were active a few centuries later in the reign of Adad-apli-iddina (1064–1043 BCE), reorganized bodies of technical literature (such as Esagil-kīn-apli’s new editions of The Diagnostic Handbook and The Physiognomic Corpus) and wrote masterpieces of intellectual self-reflection such as the Theodicy.18 With the possible exception of the correspondence of Neo-Assyrian scholars with their king, the combination of technical literature with theological reflection in works such as Ludlul and the Theodicy, during the last few centuries of the 2nd millennium BCE, represents the single most important textual array for understanding the life of the mind in Mesopotamian history. This unique moment, with its amazingly beautiful conjunction of compendial reorganization and reflection on the origins of misfortune and disease, cannot be seen as normative, however. It was made possible, as Beaulieu makes clear, by the new prominence gained by the learned classes, who often depicted themselves as the protagonists of compositions of the pious sufferer. Intellectuals occupy the entire space of the discourse in these texts, in that they appear as both sufferer and mediator, as patient and doctor.19 Over the millennium and a half that precede this moment at the end of the second millennium BCE, we can follow the social lives of technical literati and even the codification of scholastic compendia (first attested, properly speaking, in the Early Dynastic III period, ca. 2600–2400 BCE), but this type of intellectual reflection on the life of the mind—the type of reflection that we find in Ludlul and the Theodicy—is almost 17.  This contrast should not be misunderstood as a statement about the essential nature of professional practice in itself; obviously any profession involves both social interactions and intellectual practices. The opposition described here is between two different modes of historiographic study, one focusing on the social and economic lives of individuals in certain types of offices and the other focusing on the content of ideational systems and the reactions of intellectuals to shifts or revaluations of that content. 18.  The dates follow Beaulieu, A History of Babylon, 126, 155. For an overview of Nazi-Maruttaš in later tradition, see Frazer, “Nazi-Maruttaš,” 187–220. Special thanks to the anonymous reviewers who suggested several improvements to this section. 19.  Beaulieu, “Social and Intellectual Setting,” 18.


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entirely absent. One of the rare occurrences of this type of material in the latter phases of the Old Babylonian period, ca. 1800–1600 BCE, is also to be found in the scholastic dialogues that formed part of the “alumni literature” (identifiable, in large part, by the incipit dumu e2-dub-ba-a u4-ul-la-am3, “son of the Tablet House, in the old days”) in the latter phase of the Tablet House curriculum. Mark Geller and I edited a scholastic dialogue entitled The Class Reunion in 2015, and here we find anonymous but still characterized figurations of the life of the mind carefully portrayed through snippets of scholastic dialogue. Like the late second-millennium BCE wisdom literature that Beaulieu describes, the scholastic dialogues were also solipsistic, exclusively concerned with scribal identity and the life of the mind in the midst of professional life. In The Class Reunion, for example, the “professor” critiques the scribal skills of one of his schoolboy friends, who has gone into the management of economic institutions, and in return, a few lines later, the “bureaucrat” also describes the moral failings of his former classmate, who remained within the academy. Like the ideal types proposed in Oppenheim’s “The Position of the Intellectual in Mesopotamian Society,” the opposition between the “professor” and the “bureaucrat” in The Class Reunion portrays two contrasting possibilities for the life of the mind, but here, still squarely in the midst of the Old Babylonian period, the contrast is framed in terms of scribal and rhetorical skills rather than a theological meditation on the origins of misfortune and illness. The problem with these two moments in the Mesopotamian “life of the mind” is that they do not easily generalize. Both the scholastic disputations from the latter phases of the Old Babylonian period, ca. 1800–1600 BCE, and the pious sufferer materials from the Second Dynasty of Isin half a millennium later—Nebuchadnezzar I reigned 1126–1104 BCE—are deeply embedded in a heavily self-referential intellectual milieu: Tablet House (e2-dub-ba-a) disputations were built up out of citations from lexical lists and would have made no sense outside the Old Babylonian schoolroom; likewise, the pious sufferer literature of the Second Dynasty of Isin extends a particular model of misfortune and disease causation that could only be properly comprehended within the rather unusual presuppositions of the disciple of āšipūtu. For nearly all other periods of Mesopotamian history, technical specialists and other literati went about their business but did not inscribe texts such as these. Thus, in order better to appreciate and model the practical application of intellectual canons in older periods of Mesopotamian history, the papers collected in this volume turn instead, for the most part, to the activities that defined a particular technical profession, and it is primarily for this reason that this volume focuses especially on the relationship between specialist and client, doctor and patient. In the hope of arriving at a picture of intellectual practice for the many periods of time in which nothing like Ludlul or The Class Reunion exists, the first section of this volume (“Egalkura Rites as the Critical Context”) takes the ‘Entering the Palace’ (e2-gal ku4-ra) rituals as its point of departure. Like the Old Babylonian scholastic disputations and later texts such as Ludlul and the Theodicy, the ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals are largely, though often only indirectly, concerned with the interior intellectual lives of technical specialists, as they sought a favorable reception at court. In contrast to the ‘Entering the Palace’ texts, which often reflect the pragmatics of the relationship between technical specialists and their most important clients, the next section (“Looking for Clients in Mesopotamian Ritual”) turns resolutely to a search

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for clients, both royal and otherwise, in the technical literatures that define so many Mesopotamian professions. In the third section (“Reconstructing Performativity”), the focus shifts yet again to the isolation of performative contexts through modes of signaling other than the ordinary denotational meaning of rituals and other texts. These other modalities (performative speech acts in Bhayro’s contribution and the iconography of the sickbed in Panayotov’s) also describe aspects of the interaction between specialists and clients, but the clients here are anonymous and nondescript. The final section (“Traces of Transmission: Interactions with the Greco-Roman World”) abandons the identification of clients and focuses on the transmission of pharamaceutical recipes from Mesopotamia to the Greco-Roman world. The rest of this introduction will briefly review the key findings from each of these papers.

Egalkura Rites as the Critical Context This first section of the volume is concerned with the ‘Entering the Palace’ rites, as a decisive context for our understanding of the professional identity of the technical literati. Henry Stadhouder is currently preparing a critical edition of all relevant materials (and he will, no doubt, also provide a full research history in that edition), so here we can make do with an abbreviated outline of the most recent work. It is, therefore, all the more appropriate that the volume opens with JoAnn Scurlock’s contribution, “Just in Case: Rituals for Entering the Palace or Perversion of Justice,” since it was Scurlock’s samizdat version of the ‘Entering the Palace’ materials that served as the basis for many discussions of these materials until recently. As Scurlock’s contribution here makes abundantly clear, the ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals were not a large body of rites at the center of a specific state-managed institution—not, in other words, a body of rituals maintained by palace authorities—but instead the homespun rituals of “officials” and other professionals, who might appear before the ruler at one point or another. Many are framed as legal or administrative confrontations with a bēl dabābi, “opponent,” and seek to control, through a series of incantations and rituals, the unpredictable aspects of these encounters. Or, as Scurlock summarizes their purpose, “to calm anger, win friends and influence people.” The otherwise unpredictable, uncontrollable, or interpersonal aspects of these situations could take many forms (ranging from slander and gossip to political influence) and the ‘Entering the Palace’ materials seem to provide a means of controlling, or at least affecting in a positive way, the many unpredictable or unknown dimensions of a legal or administrative decision. These rituals exhibit “scale” in a number of different ways. The position of the protagonists (the client and his bēl dabābi) on scales of social prestige and wealth was a primary fact in making sense of any particular ‘Entering the Palace’ ritual, but the rituals themselves can also be plotted along a trajectory of increasing material costs for their performance: the most basic ritual might consist of placing a blade of lardu-grass behind one’s ear, while the more involved and expensive rites drew on the anti-witchcraft literature, involved expensive ritual objects, and called for more-orless explicit accusations of wrongdoing against the bēl dabābi. Even where there were accusations of wrongdoing, in the most elaborate of the ‘Entering the Palace’ rites, the


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concrete reference of these accusations, though known to participants, are never stated explicitly in the written texts, that is to say, the name of the opponent never appears in the textual record. Even if known, the names of opponents were left out in order to protect against judicial indictment on charges of witchcraft, so the anonymity of the bēl dabābi also serves as an indication of cost and scale, although so far only as an upper bound. The type and function of anonymity in the ‘Entering the Palace’ texts is rather different from the anonymity that we find in the depersonalized case histories outlined in the In the Wake of the Compendia volume. Like the legal rescripts on which they were modeled, the medical case histories were presumably depersonalized before being introduced into the medical compendia and originally included personal names and the like, although the precise mechanics of this process remain largely unknown. It was their inclusion in the compendia that forced them into an anonymous form. For the written manifestations of the ‘Entering the Palace’ materials, in contrast, the texts seem to have been put down in writing in an anonymous form—presumably as model texts—and in the moment of use (or “entextualization” in the sense of Urban and Silverstein 1996), the actual name of the client was plugged in (typically noted as annanna in Akkadian or NENNI in logographic form in the written texts). This concrete moment of anonymity in the written texts, to be filled in with the name of the client, does not exist for the bēl dabābi or any other opponent involved in the ‘Entering the Palace’ rites, so there is good reason to infer that opponents were never explicitly named in the various entextualizations of these rituals. To the degree that we can imagine specific opponents being named in a particular instantiation of the rituals, these would have been off-script and improvised. One of the other important features of the ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals that Scurlock highlights in her contribution is the rather clear distinction between the genders in the textual record. Even if anonymous, men and women appear in the ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals in different contexts of use, and to some degree they also make use of different ritual techniques. Males often appear in legal or juridical contexts, such as in suits over business ventures, debts and real estate, whereas females—where they can be distinguished in the textual record—are more often concerned with charges of slander or gossip that impugn their character and raise “face” or life-threatening implications. An accusation of witchcraft or adultery could easily lead to social or physical death and was not a trivial matter. Indeed, some of the most interesting legal situations known from the ancient Near East arise from a false or unproven accusation: we known from both legal compendia such as Codex Hammurabi and elements of legal scholasticism embedded in Sumerian literature that a false accusation of adultery against a women could lead to a public shaming of the accuser, by shaving off half his head of hair and forcing him to collect “refuse” (literally “feces” in one Sumerian line) from the streets. The rituals used by both men and women could be directed at either the crown, so as to make a favorable decision, or at the opponent, in order to impede the opponent’s effectiveness in argument or debate, but in the rituals that deal with slander or gossip, which seem to have been of greater concern to women, Scurlock also points to the centrality of “knot magic” in the ritual practice. This type of ritual may well grow out of the concern (and stereotypical association) of women with the textile arts, especially in

Between Social History and the Life of the Mind


a domestic context, but it might also remind us of one of the rituals associated with the so-called Eclipse Myth in the sixteenth and final chapter of Utukkū Lemnūtu.20 With strings tied to the different parts of the royal body, presumably by the female members of the royal family acting in the place of Uttu (the goddess in charge of weaving and domesticity), the ritual in the first major section of Utukkū Lemnūtu XVI takes knot magic to an extreme. (And it may well be that this ritual mirrors or inverts specific elements of the ‘Entering the Palace’ rites, though for that we will have to wait for Stadhouder’s edition.)21 At a more mundane, non-royal level, however, it seems that knot magic played a particularly important role in the ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals for and by women. Scurlock adroitly summarizes the overall situation as follows: “In sum, the perhaps unfortunate victim of a bad reputation had a wide smorgasbord of rituals to remedy the situation.” In Marvin Schreiber’s contribution, “Egalkura and Late Astrology,” we turn to the latest phase of the ‘Entering the Palace’ tradition, after the invention of the zodiac (and the several techniques for coordinating zodiacal and especially micro-zodiacal patterns within the calendar) in the fifth and later centuries BCE. In one sense, as Schreiber emphasizes, these new zodiacal techniques were not really new, at least in their goal of fixing the performance of the ‘Entering the Palace’ rites to specific days in the calendrical year, since this had also been a regular feature of the ‘Entering the Palace’ rites before the invention of the zodiac. What changed with the introduction of zodiacal techniques was primarily the way in which these specific days in the calendrical year were noted in the text (and justified in terms of the overarching rationalization of the zodiacal system). At the heart of this new notational technique (and its corresponding species of rationalization) was the micro-zodiac, which reiterated twelve (or thirteen) micro-versions of the twelve signs of the zodiac within each macro-zodiac sign and then postulated at least two different schema for moving between the microzodiacal signs.22 20.  See Geller, Canonical Udug-hul Incantations, 499–541, for the definitive edition of first-millennium Utukkū Lemnūtu. The only ritual practices mentioned in chapter or tablet 16 are the ringing of a copper bell (see Panayotov, “A Copper Bell,” 80–87, no. 50, for an actual copper bell with iconography that aligns with the 16th chapter of Utukkū Lemnūtu) and three lines giving instructions for a knot ritual: “(80) Spin a double-strand thread in the palace gate! (81) Spin a multi-colored twine of hair of a virgin kid and virgin lamb! (82) Bind the limbs of the king, son of his god” (translation after Geller, Canonical Udug-hul Incantations, 521). These lines recapitulate a knot or binding ritual found chapter 12, lines 172–81, there directly involving Uttu, but with no mention of the king (see ibid., 480). Two recent discussions (Wee, “Grieving with the Moon,” 29–67, and Konstantopoulou, They are Seven, 286–87) take it for granted that the first major section in chapter 16, through line 103 in Geller’s new edition, concerns an eclipse even though neither of the key terms (an.ge6 or an.ta.lu3) appears, as Geller already notes in his comment on line 40: “the meaning of sumug is ‘darkened’ rather than ‘eclipsed’, which is either an-gi6 or an-ta-lu3’ (Canonical Udug-hul Incantations, 510). This first section—up to the rubric in line 103—may, therefore, actually be referring to the interlunium, Akk. bibbulu, but the matter requires further study. 21.  This idea seems to derive from Stadhouder’s 2013 Würzburg talk (“Egalkura and Related Incantations”) on the ‘Entering the Palace’ rites, cited in Konstantopoulous, They are Seven, 143, but it is also noteworthy that Wee recognizes the centrality of the patron-client relationship between the crown and his technical specialists as an essential context for The Eclipse Myth (see Wee, “Grieving with the Moon,” 23 and 37). Note, in particular, lines 93ʹ–94ʹ: “May the evil Udug, Alû, ghost, Sheriff-demon, god, and Bailiffdemons not enter the palace . . . nor come near the king” (translation from Geller, Canonical Udug-hul Incantations, 522–23). 22.  As Schreiber succinctly puts it: “each of the twelve signs is again subdivided into twelve parts, with names identical to the main signs, and every main sign begins with the micro-sign of the same name”


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Schreiber gives an overview of this notational system and explains how only the so-called dodekatemoria scheme, which, in its simplest form, tracks the 13-degreeper-day movement of the moon through the zodiac (and micro-zodiac), appears in conjunction with the ‘Entering the Palace’ materials. For our purposes here, Schreiber’s most important observation is twofold: (1) all occurrences of seemingly macro-zodiacal signs in the ‘Entering the Palace’ texts are best interpreted as micro-zodiacal signs that specify a particular day in the year, and (2) the days indicated through the new micro-zodiacal notation seem to correspond, at least in the rather limited evidence available, to the days specified in the pre-zodiac, hemerological texts.23 The second of these conclusions is not particularly surprising, since the application of the dodekatemoria scheme to the older hemerological tradition probably arose as a kind of commentary on and legitimation of the hemerological dates. This means that specific rituals may have remained more-or-less constant throughout the first millennium, even as the notational system for marking these days in the calendar changed fundamentally, from a hemerological system to a system rooted in the micro-zodiac. As Schreiber puts it, “the older calendar-based magic was not replaced but rather transformed into a zodiac-based form of Astral Magic, as part of the general development of these techniques in the Late Babylonian period.”

Looking for Clients in Mesopotamian Ritual At the center of the volume, still in pursuit of the clients who must have populated professional practice in Mesopotamia, two papers speak to the difficulties of identifying clients in the cuneiform textual record. Both Ulrike Steinert’s “Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts” and Netanel Anor’s “The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy” seek to identify the client in the textual record in very different ways. As one of the core team members of the BabMed Project, Steinert agreed in advance to prepare an extensive study of the attestation of clients in the cuneiform textual record, and in this volume she presents a comprehensive survey of the available sources for named clients in cuneiform, but in addition she has also outlined a new methodology for identifying well-defined social groups who were the prototypical users of certain types of ritual, in part using similar rituals in the Greco-Roman world as comparanda. In contrast to Steinert’s massively comparative approach, Anor looks at a single but nonetheless particularly important compendium of rituals that were to be used by the “seer” or “diviner” (Akk., bārû) and outlines the overall structure of the compendium. Crucially, as Anor stresses, the differentiation of the professional, here the bārû, and the client is often made difficult by the logographic verbal orthographies that regularly appear in the text as well as an unwritten convention that defines who is doing what in particular, genre-defined sections within the text. (p. 38). Interested readers should consult Schreiber’s contribution to this volume as well as Wee, “Virtual Moons over Babylonia,” and the references therein. 23.  Though, as Schreiber notes, the inverse proposition, namely, that all Egalkura rites listed in an older hemerological treatise such as STT 300 are also found in the dodekatemoria scheme, does not seem to be the case.

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Steinert’s investigation of the client in the cuneiform textual record begins with a fundamental division within the textual record and a particularly powerful comparison to Greco-Roman materials. According to Steinert, if we are interested in identifying clients in the cuneiform record, the single most important contrast is between textual corpora (or handbooks), on the one hand, which are not oriented to individual clients, and, on the other hand, amulets and other practice-oriented texts. Only the latter can be expected to yield personal information of any kind, and it is to these practice-driven or “practical” texts that Steinert turns initially. Beyond the work of surveying and cataloging, however, Steinert also proposes a new methodology for the identification of well-defined and delimited groups of clients, even if they remain unnamed: through a comparison with Greco-Roman “practical” texts that are oriented to many of the same purposes as the Mesopotamian materials, Steinert highlights the “contextual links and hints, which point to potential or envisaged groups of clients and their social milieu.” Simply put, even though there are a number of major functional similarities between Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman ritual materials, they differ fundamentally in their use of named individual clients: whereas individual named clients appear fairly often in Greek katadesmoi or thymokatocha and Latin defixiones, they are very nearly nonexistent in the corresponding cuneiform materials. The differing scribal norm, in these quite-different scribal traditions, let us see how intertextual links between ritual and nonritual texts in the Greco-Roman world might also be identifiable in the cuneiform written record. Stated in more abstract terms, Steinert is using a cross-cultural framework that looks at similar genres of ritual practice in Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman society, and then, on the basis of the intertextual links between particular genres of ritual practice, she suggests that particular ritual practices were typically oriented to clients in well-defined social sectors. This is a major advance in the identification of clients, particularly in a society and scribal tradition such as Mesopotamia, where anonymity and depersonalization are regular features of the scribal tradition. Up to now, efforts like this to identify meaningful groups of clients or domains of use within the Mesopotamian ritual tradition have usually focused on classifications and oppositions that originate from present-day research or our own modern systems of folk classification. Contrasts between “black” and “white” magic, or between “aggressive” and “defensive” magic do provide a classification for different types of rituals, but they can also be misleading and wildly anachronistic. The only clear opposition in the Mesopotamian textual record, however, seems to be between (appropriate) “ritual practice” (Akk., āšipūtu) and (inappropriate) “witchcraft” (Akk., kišpū). Scurlock, for example, has argued that the acceptance of “aggressive” magic into catalogs such as BRM 4, 19–20 or STT 300 resulted from West Semitic or Egyptian outside influence, traditions that regularly allow both “aggressive” and “defensive” magic into their compendia. Steinert acknowledges the heterogeneity of the nonMesopotamian sources: it seems that the Egyptian and Greek ritual practitioners in the first millennium BCE were more receptive to external influences than the native Mesopotamian practitioners (āšipu/asû) in this period.


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But she ultimately concludes that In this line of argument, the “foreign” elements, which JoAnn Scurlock detects in STT 300 and BRM 4, 19–20 do not appear to be compelling enough to prove clear Egyptian or Greek influence. Steinert’s meditation on different categories of magic and the permeability of lists of ritual genres such as STT 300 and BRM 4, 19–20 raises many of the same issues about compendia that were the central preoccupation of In the Wake of the Compendia. As suggested in the introduction to that volume, if those who are editing a compendium hold themselves to be authorized members of the originating group, they will be more likely to revise the inherited tradition, but if not, they are more likely to leave the inherited materials untouched and encapsulated. Having used the similarities between Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman ritual practices to help elucidate key features of the “practical” genres of Mesopotamian magic, the final section of Steinert’s paper turns to a more detailed comparison between certain types of Greek magical practice, in particular the so-called binding spells (katadesmoi) and anger-restraining spells (thymokatocha) and the ‘Entering the Palace’ rites that were dealt with in the first section of the volume. To a substantial degree, the two types of Greek magic that Steinert outlines overlap with the gendered use of ‘Entering the Palace’ materials from Scurlock’s overview. The binding spells (katadesmoi) were largely used in competitive situations arising between male social equals, whereas the anger-restraining spells (thymokatocha) were more likely to occur in the form of amulets, including inscribed gemstones, knotted cords, and rings, and were primarily oriented to restraining of the anger of males and social superiors. Although these similarities are noted in Faraone’s work, there it was used to to investigate the possibility of historical diffusion. Steinert, in contrast, focuses on identifying the social groups who were most likely to make use of these different kinds of ritual: The structural and functional correspondences between Greco-Roman Egyptian and Mesopotamian spells can be interpreted as reflecting similar groups of clients with similar concerns, although the possibility of intercultural borrowing should not be excluded. Toward the end of her paper, Steinert acknowledges that “the preceding overview of Mesopotamian textual sources has yielded very little information about individual users of and related rituals.” Through her comparative investigation of Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman rituals meant to win favor and impede the opponent, however, Steinert has provided us with an entirely new approach to identifying clients in the cuneiform textual record. The second paper in this section (Netanel Anor’s “The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy”), also provides a new take on the identification of clients in the cuneiform textual record and focuses in particular on a compendium consisting of five different ritual texts meant for the use of the Mesopotamian “seer” or “diviner” (Akk., bārû). The texts assembled in this compendium deal with two rather different social situations in the professional practice of the Mesopotamian bārû: much of the activity of the bārû is focused on his individual preparation for the work and do not involve the

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client, but in other sections of the compendium we are presented with idealized ritual interactions between the seer and his client. In the course of reconstructing and editing the compendium in his doctoral work, Anor noted that “even in lines that can be fully reconstructed, there is some ambiguity in the language and in orthography. The manner in which the descriptors are articulated does not always allow us to determine whether it is the seer or the client who is the agent of a certain action.” Thus, rather than attempting to identify named individual clients, as we saw in Steinert’s contribution, Anor is seeking to isolate the role of the client in complex sequences of ritual action. And, as we will see in a moment, Anor’s efforts to disambiguate the client in these materials also have implications for textual criticism, particularly a textual criticism aimed at early technical and scientific literature in Mesopotamia. As is so often the case in first-millennium technical literatures, as Anor spells out in his contribution, verbs are usually written in a very condensed logographic writing that often consists of a Sumerogram and a single Akkadian phonetic complement, following the logogram. This type of notation can easily lead to ambiguities, since differences in grammatical person are signaled in Akkadian at the beginning of the verb. There were, of course, conventions in late technical literature for the expected grammatical person of the professional and the client: typically, in contexts where both the professional and the client are collaborating in a ritual or a procedure, the technical specialist is addressed in the second person—as though a master teacher or colleague were addressing him—while the client is regularly referenced in the third person. The problem that Anor tackles in this compendium of rituals meant for the bārû is that the social situation does not remain constant throughout the compendium: in some sections only the bārû is at work and no client is mentioned, while in other sections both the seer and the client work together in order to carry out specific ritual practices. By assembling the full set of textual witnesses and taking into consideration the differing social scenarios at work in different parts of the compendium, Anor demonstrates that many seemingly ambiguous orthographies can actually be definitively resolved into either second or third person verbal forms, if we carefully consider the interactional setting in particular sections. As Anor points out, the ten sections that make up the more than 200 lines in Extispicy Ritual I, for example, can be systematically divided into “ethical” sections (§§1 and 6), in which the seer is referenced in the third person and no mention is made of the client, and, in contrast, “operative” sections (§§2–5 and 7–10) in which, as we might expect, the seer is addressed in the second person, while the actions of the client are described in the third person (and in a syllabic orthography that makes third person reference explicit). This carefully articulated compendial structure allows for the relatively underdetermined use of logographic writings, which do not in themselves explicitly code grammatical person. While Anor’s demonstration that orthographic form was relativized to specific subsections within the compendium will certainly be of interest to specialists in cuneiform and those interested in how notation or orthography interact with compendial structure, both of the papers in this section are of particular importance for their reconstructions of idealized contexts of use. This type of discourse-oriented or rhetorical approach to ancient science has been the stock-in-trade for many specialists in the history of ancient science over the past twenty years, and one of the most influential and insightful papers within this tradition is Philip Van der Eijk’s “Towards a Grammar of Scientific Discourse,” published in 1997. As Van der Eijk suggests, the focus


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in this type of work must be on the reconstruction of contexts of use rather than the traditional mechanics of textual transmission. The two contributions from Steinert and Anor in this section, therefore, provide a wide-ranging survey of the different ways in which “contexts of technical practice” can be reconstructed on the basis of the material remains found in the Mesopotamian textual record.

Reconstructing Performativity If the first four papers in the volume (Scurlock, Schreiber, Steinert, and Anor) present us with a series of perspectives and methodologies for the identification of the “client” in Mesopotamia, in the three remaining papers (Panayotov, Bhayro, and Rumor), the focus shifts back to the professional himself. This section (“Reconstructing Performativity”) looks at the different ways in which we can access the in-situ performative practice of technical specialists, while the final section (“Traces of Transmission: Interactions with the Greco-Roman World”) turns to the transmission of Mesopotamian materials into the Greco-Roman world. The two papers in this section (Panayotov and Bhayro) each look at a different kind of evidence for performativity in the ancient Near East: Panayotov’s study of the sickbed scene in Mesopotamian seals and related incantations offers us a glimpse into the key moment of professional practice from an iconographic point of view, while Bhayro’s study of explicitly performative speech acts in Aramaic magic bowls looks at how performativity is encoded in linguistic form in one of the most important post-cuneiform Semitic traditions in ancient Mesopotamia. Panayotov’s study (“Healing in Images and Texts: The Sickbed Scene”) takes as its point of departure the well-known sickbed scene in the iconographic tradition, and it then seeks to identify both the texts that co-occur on the amulets and also distinct texts in the Lamaštu and Hulbazizi traditions that describe the elements found within the iconography.24 As Panayotov emphasizes, the configuration of actors and other orthographic elements in these scenes can be confusing to the modern, Western eye. In what Panayotov terms a “flat perspective,” the three-dimensional space of the sickroom is mapped into a decidedly two-dimensional representation, often leading to distortions in the placement of elements as we attempt to work backward from the two-dimensional representation to its original three-dimensional form. This approach to the iconography builds on Frans Wiggermann’s extensive work on these and similar materials, and Panayotov certainly acknowledges that debt, particularly in terms of correlations between elements of the iconography and the texts from the Lamaštu and Hulbazizi traditions. Panayotov has also made a major advance in this contribution, however, with his recognition of two different paradigms for the correlation of text and image. The first step in separating out these correlational paradigms, as Panayotov explains, is to recognize a formal contrast in the iconography between scenes in which the sickbed stands in the same register as the Lamaštu figure and scenes in which these two elements—sickbed and Lamaštu—are located in distinct registers. As Panayotov 24.  Panayotov’s approach grows out of his dissertation work on Mesopotamian amulets (Tаблички с дръжка), but readers unable to access this work may want to consult Heeßel’s recent overview of the amulet literature in cuneiform (“Amulette und ‘Amulettform’”).

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demonstrates for the amulets in which the sickbed and Lamaštu occupy the same register, “the Hulbazizi and Lamaštu incantations have been combined with the Pazuzu standard inscription A. Importantly, no. 61 combines Lamaštu incantation no. 1 not only with the incantation ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu (Hulbazizi), but also with other Hulbazizi spells, demonstrating the close apotropaic context of Hulbazizi and Lamaštu spells in the context of the sickbed scene.” In contrast, where the sickbed and the Lamaštu figure occur in distinct registers, “Hulbazizi and Lamaštu incantations appear separately but without a Pazuzu incantation; in place of the Pazuzu incantation the artist included an image of Pazuzu on the amulets.” This formal opposition suggests a substitutionary model between text and image, in which the presence of Pazuzu iconography in the second of the two types obviates any need for a textual representation of Pazuzu in the same text. Here, then, the two media of text and image seem to be equally effective carriers of ritual function, a fascinating hypothesis that we can only hope Panayotov will continue to investigate in future work. Alongside numerous other contributions to our understanding of the sickbed scene and its textual correspondences, Panayotov also argues for the significance of the two professionals regularly depicted in the sickbed scenes. These “two healers, mythical apkallus or humans” would correspond nicely to the two healing professions or disciplines known from ancient Mesopotamia, namely, the āšipu or mašmaššu “exorcist” and the asû “physician,” and Panayotov goes on to argue that the presence of Hulbazizi materials in both KAR 44, the “Exorcist’s Catalog” and the Assur Medical Catalog “might support my suggestion that the two healers from the amulet symbolize the two Mesopotamian healing professions.” This raises the broader issue of the possible collaboration of the two professions in the process of treatment, a model that has often been taken for granted in studies of the two professions. No doubt, in the special circumstances of a member of the royal family who was ill, both professions would have been in attendance and would have collaborated as much as their respective disciplines would allow, but the nature of this possible collaboration and its existence outside the royal court certainly deserves further study. The second paper in this section (Bhayro’s “Performative Elements in the Aramaic Magic Bowls”) moves us from the realm of iconographic depictions of the performative moment to the linguistic means through which performative utterance can be achieved. As Bhayro stresses at the outset, performative speech acts have had a huge significance in many different fields in the fifty years or so since J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words (1962) first appeared. And more so than we might at first imagine, Bhayro’s analysis of performative speech in post-cuneiform Aramaic magic bowls shares many features with Panayotov’s discussion of the sickbed scene within the Mesopotamian iconographic tradition. Both genres sometimes combine iconographic and textual elements in the performance of a single act of healing or exorcism, and in some sense each of these two papers is looking at the multimodal performative moment from the perspective of one of its privileged media: Panayotov takes the iconographic as his point of departure, while Bhayro focuses on the performativity of the Aramaic verbs embedded in the written text of the magic bowls. As Bhayro emphasizes, however, it is a mistake to treat any and all words in the magic bowls as inherently performative. Drawing largely on J. R. Searle’s systematization of Austin’s original work, Bhayro emphasizes that performativity does not inhere in the words themselves, but rather relies for its effectiveness on four contextual features


J. Cale Johnson

that allow for a successful performative speech act: (1) an extra-linguistic institution, (2) the position of speaker and hearer within the institution, (3) a convention within the institution that treats a literal statement as performative, and (4) the speaker’s intention to create a new reality through the speech act. Bhayro, however, goes on to stress the somewhat different ontological status of this institution in the context of the ancient Near East: For the inhabitants of late-antique Mesopotamia, there was not simply human agreement but also a perceived supernatural agreement, which permitted the bowls to succeed in their aims. So in uttering the Aramaic equivalent of “I adjure you,” the scribe who had fashioned a bowl was not simply appealing to a social and linguistic convention operating within society but in fact was bringing about “a new reality, in which the behavior of supernatural forces changed and the client received the desired therapeutic benefits.” At the heart of Bhayro’s presentation is a distinction between two different verbal forms that were used in performative speech acts in the Aramaic magic bowls: an active participle in ritual, magic, and legal texts and a performative perfect that, as Bhayro argues here, probably derives from epistolary usage. Alongside grammatical elements that correspond to English “hereby” and a relatively limited array of verba dicendi, these two distinctive verbal forms (participial and perfect) represent the most important markers or signs of performativity in the different genres of the Aramaic tradition. Indeed, Bhayro points out that the participial form is dominant in the relatively straightforward idioms used in Jewish Aramaic and Syriac magic bowls, where these turns of phrase mostly derive from legal usage. Bhayro also, however, proposes a novel interpretation of the contrastive use of performative perfects within certain more elaborately formulated texts, arguing that the likely model for the use of the performative perfects was a specific epistolary usage. The Aramaic letters often use a perfect verb, along with a family of grammatical particles meaning “and now” (KʿN for example) to mark the end of the introductory first section of a letter in which greetings and blessings are offered to the recipient of the letter; after the perfect, the main body of the letter begins and the key issue in the letter is addressed. Bhayro goes on to argue that there is a group of magic bowls with complex historiolas in the same position as the preface of an ordinary letter and that the use of the performative perfect in these historiolas mirrors the usage in the letters, as can be seen in JBA 25: I (hereby) tie up the edges of the earth and I (hereby) bind the mysteries of the sky. I (hereby) subdue the l(ower) abysses. I (hereby) tie up, bind and subdue all demons. . . . Now you are bound and sealed and double sealed. Note in particular that the to-be-exorcized demon is only addressed in the second person after the completion of the historiola in introductory section. Bhayro summarizes the formal analogy between these two genres as follows: I argue, therefore, that the above historiola is the structural equivalent to the greeting section of the epistolary texts, in which the perfect verbal forms serve

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performatively to establish immediacy/proximity prior to the crucial “now” moment. This explanation brings us full circle and returns us to the point that Bhayro emphasized at the beginning of his paper, namely that performative speech acts in the magic bowls are not simply rooted in the usual felicity conditions of performative speech, but must also appeal to and reorder the supernatural world involved in the transaction.

Traces of Transmission: Interactions with the Greco-Roman World The final section of this volume turns to broader issues in the historiography of medicine in antiquity, in particular Maddalena Rumor’s demonstration of a proper methodology for studying continuities in pharmaceutical practice between Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world (“Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-ritual Contexts”). Given the importance of the Hippocratic tradition and the bodies of pharmaceutical prescriptions assembled by figures such as Pliny and Galen, any coherent approach to this type of knowledge must continually strive to keep parallel practices and phenomena in the Mediterranean world in mind. However, the problem that continually emerges in comparative enterprises such as this is that the more familiar materials in Greek and Latin tend to dominate discussions of the nature of ancient medicine, and this in spite of the fact that the Mesopotamian materials are older (sometimes up to a millennium older), better organized into compilations and compendia, and often assembled and edited by state-financed specialists representing an entire discipline or profession within a given city. Rumor’s model case study looks at an ingredient known as u2SIKIL in its Sumerogram, sikillu in Akkadian, and σκιλλα in Greek, arguing that it is to be identified as “sea squill” (Urginea Maritima). The great danger, however, particularly when we look at seemingly borrowed or cognate plant names, is that we stop with this first step and take this sort of equation for granted. As Rumor makes abundantly clear, however, proof of identification requires far more than similarity in name alone. Rumor begins with physical descriptions of the plant in question, including the often laconic descriptions of the plant in the Mesopotamian šumma šikinšu lists as well as the much lengthier and more discursive descriptions of preparations, procedures, and uses in Pliny and similar Greco-Roman encyclopedists. Likewise, in descriptions of the geographical and environmental conditions in which the plant is normally found, as well as the way in which it was pre-processed or prepared for use, Rumor is primarily dependent on the Greco-Roman sources, although the terse cuneiform materials do not contradict them. The crucial step in Rumor’s analysis, however, is her comparison between the medicinal uses of the plant in these two medical traditions. Here, Rumor discovers an amazing variety of uses for sikillu/σκιλλα: for intestinal disease, as a diuretic for dropsy, for diminished vision, toothache, foot disease, and snake bite, as well as purifying against magic and witchcraft. The alignment in the uses of this drug in Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world is almost perfect and offers a particularly convincing argument for the identity and common usage of sikillu/σκιλλα in the two regions.


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Bibliography Austin, John L. How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962. Beaulieu, Paul-Alain. A History of Babylon: 2200 BC–AD 75. London: Blackwell, 2018. ———. “The Social and Intellectual Setting of Babylonian Wisdom Literature.” Pages 3–19 in Wisdom Literature in Mesopotamia and Israel. Edited by Richard J. Clifford. Atlanta: SBL, 2007. Charpin, Dominique. “Patron and Client: Zimri-Lim and Asqudum the Diviner.” Pages 248– 69 in The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Edited by K. Radner and E. Robson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Eijk, Philip van der. “Towards a Rhetoric of Ancient Scientific Discourse: Some Formal Characteristics of Greek Medical and Philosophical Texts.” Pages 77–129 in Grammar as Interpretation: Greek Literature in Its Linguistic Contexts. Edited by Egbert J. Bakker. Leiden: Brill, 1997. Frazer, Mary. “Nazi-maruttaš in Later Mesopotamian Tradition.” Kaskal 10 (2013): 187–220. Geller, Markham J. Healing Magic and Evil Demons: Canonical Udug-hul Incantations. With the Assistance of Luděk Vacín. BAM 8. Boston: de Gruyter, 2016. George, A. R. The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Grasshoff, Gerd. 2011. “Babylonian Meteorological Observations and the Empirical Basis of Ancient Science.” Pages 33–48 in The Empirical Dimension of Ancient Near Eastern Studies / Die empirische Dimension altorientalischer Forschungen. Edited by Gebhard J. Selz, with the collaboration of Klaus Wagensonner. Vienna: LIT, 2011. Heeßel, Nils P. “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’: Zum Zusammenhang von Form, Funktion und Text von Amuletten im Alten Mesopotamien.” Pages  53–77 in Erscheinungsformen und Handhabung heiliger Schriften. Edited by J. F. Quack and D. C. Luft. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014. Johnson, J. Cale, ed. In the Wake of the Compendia: Infrastructural Contexts and the Licensing of Empiricism in Ancient and Medieval Mesopotamia. STMAC 3. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015. Johnson, J. Cale, and Markham J. Geller. The Class Reunion: An Annotated Translation and Commentary on the Sumerian Dialogue Two Scribes. CunMon 47. Leiden: Brill, 2015. Konstantopoulou, Gina. They Are Seven: Demons and Monsters in the Mesopotamian Textual and Artistic Tradition. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 2015. Lambert, W. G. “Some New Babylonian Wisdom Literature.” Pages  30–42 in Wisdom in Ancient Israel. Edited by J. Day, R. P. Gordon and H. G. M. Williamson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Oppenheim, A. Leo. “The Position of the Intellectual in Mesopotamian Society.” Daedalus 104 (1975): 37–46. Panayotov, Strahil V. “A Copper Bell to Expel Demons in Berlin.” NABU (2013/3): 80–87 no. 50. ———. Tаблички с дръжка (амулетни таблички) от Месопотамия: II–I хил. пр.Хр. Sofia: Diomira, 2016. Parpola, Simo. “The Forlorn Scholar.” Pages 257–78 in Language, Literature and History: Philological and Historical Studies Presented to Erica Reiner. Edited by Francesca Rochberg-Halton. New Haven, CT: American Oriental Society, 1987. Radner, Karen. “Royal Decision-Making: Kings, Magnates, and Scholars.” Pages  358–79 in The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Edited by K. Radner and E. Robson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Radner, Karen, and Eleanor Robson, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Schwemer, Daniel. “Secret Knowledge of Lu-Nanna, the Sage of Ur: Six Astral Rituals for Gaining Power and Success.” Pages  211–28 in Saeculum. Gedenkschrift für Heinrich

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Otten anlässlich seines 100. Geburtstags. Edited by A. Müller-Karpe, E. Rieken, and W. Sommerfeld. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2015. Scurlock, JoAnn. “Sorcery in the Stars: STT 300, BRM 4.19–20 and the Mandaic Book of the Zodiac.” AfO 51(2005–6): 125–46. Silverstein, Michael, and Greg Urban. Natural Histories of Discourse. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Stadhouders, Henry. “A Time to Rejoice: The Egalkura Rituals and the Mirth of Iyyar.” Pages 301–23 in Time and History in the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the 56th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale at Barcelona 26–30 July 2010. Edited by L. Feliu, J. Llop, A. Millez Albà, and J. Sanmartín. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013. ———. “Egalkura and Related Incantations: Tablets, Texts, and Themes.” Presentation at Universität Würzburg, April 16, 2013. Steele, John M. “Astronomy and Culture in Late Babylonian Uruk.” Pages 331–41 in Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy: Building Bridges Between Cultures; Proceedings of the 278th Symposium of the International Astronomical Union and “Oxford IX” International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy, Held in Lima, Peru, January 5–14. Edited by Clive L. N. Ruggles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Steinert, Ulrike, ed. Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues: Medicine, Magic and Divination. BAM 9. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2018. Veldhuis, Niek. “Intellectual History and Assyriology.” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History 1 (2014): 21–36. Waerzegger, Caroline. “The Pious King: Royal Patronage of Temples.” Pages 725–51 in The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Edited by K. Radner and E. Robson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Waerzegger, Caroline, and Michael Jursa. “On the Initiation of Babylonian Priests.” Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 14 (2008): 1–23. Wee, John Z. “Grieving with the Moon: Pantheon and Politics in The Lunar Eclipse.” Journal of Near Eastern Religions 14 (2014): 29–67. ———. “Virtual Moons over Babylonia: The Calendar Text System, Its Micro-Zodiac of 13, and the Making of Zodiology.” Pages 139–229 in The Circulation of Astronomical Knowledge in the Ancient World. Edited by J. M. Steele. TAC 6. Leiden: Brill, 2016. Weiher, E. von. Uruk: Spätbabylonische Texte aus dem Planquadrat U 18. Teil IV. Ausgrabungen in Uruk-Warka, Endberichte 12. Mainz am Rhein: von Zabern, 1993. Westbrook, R. “Patronage in the Ancient Near East.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 48 (2005): 210–33. Repr., pages 217–43 in Law from the Tigris to the Tiber: The Writings of Raymond Westbrook, vol. 1: The Shared Tradition. Edited by B. Wells and F. R. Magdalene. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009.

Chapter 2

Just in Case: Rituals for Entering the Palace or Perversion of Justice JoAnn Scurlock Elmhurst College Among the corpus of ancient Mesopotamian magical texts are to be found a series of rituals that were, as they themselves tell us, designed to help a litigant win a legal case. We know from some labeled examples that they came under the common designation É.GAL.KU4.RA or ‘Entering the Palace’.1 Not all the rituals, however, have this rubric. What they do usually (if not always) have is a rubric or introductory formula that mentions the mastering of legal adversaries (bēl dabābi) and/or the silencing of slander as the object of the ritual. ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals had a specific public use and were to be performed on behalf of officials who literally had to enter the palace as part of their official duties.2 In this context, the idea was to protect the office holder from possible slander, which could cost him not only his job but his life. Private individuals had equally cogent reasons for pretrial stress. The advantages of being guaranteed a win in a legal case are fairly obvious to us, but in a very face-to-face society where personal reputation was essential for success in business, winning in the court of public opinion could be as important as staying on the right side of the law. Successful practice of corrective rituals, then, had the potential of reversing fate and of turning misfortune into fortune, as indeed is promised in the introductory formulas. (This ritual is to be performed) if a person wishes . . . to prevail over his enemy in [a legal case], to have what he says heard, [to] have his speech made pleasant to courtier and attendant and palace gate(man), to have god, king, magnate and prince, courtier and ˹attendant˺ take pity on him as if they were the father ˹who engendered˺ [him and the mother] who gave him birth, to have whoever looks upon him be glad ˹to˺ see him, to have him always go safely [into] his palace, to 1.  It has been argued by Wilson (“Introduction to Babylonian Psychiatry,” 290) that these rituals represent diagnoses and treatments of schizophrenia. However, there is really no reason to doubt that going to an actual court would have been stressful in ancient Mesopotamia or, given the occasional instruction to insert the name of the actual adversary, that the āšipu believed the fears to be imaginary. In any case, if this were a modern patient for whom the entire situation was imaginary, he would be diagnosed with manic depression with paranoia and not schizophrenia. Note as well that Wilson also describes Ludlul bēl nēmeqi as “the autobiography of a paranoid schizophrenic” (ibid., 296). He seems to have had paranoid schizophrenia on the brain. 2.  For example, a letter of Kudurru mentions the performance of an “entering the palace” ritual for Bel-eṭir (Parpola, Letters, no. 371 [ABL 276] rev. 6–11).



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have him achieve ˹whatever he wishes˺, to fulfill his desires, ˹to˺ have his bread offerings ˹be˺ loved and (those of) his legal opponent be hated (by the gods) so that whatsoever he says may be fulfilled and ˹whenever he speaks˺ it may be ˹agreed upon˺ and he ˹may be cleared˺ (of blame), to perform his ˹purification rituals˺ (and) to make him have good dreams.3 Other texts add that the client has been experiencing financial losses and that his children die young, whereas the ritual has the power to “restore his profit” and to provide “grown-up sons and daughters.”4 Like love magic, with which there is actually some not-insignificant overlap, ‘Entering the Palace’ spells clearly walk the line between socially accepted and socially condemned magical practices. We might assume that the practitioner always thought what he was doing was legitimate, whereas the victim will have been screaming: “kišpu” (sorcery). However, an examination of the rituals themselves tells a rather more complex story. A person entering the legal arena might be innocent or guilty but might also have a weak case or be up against a well-connected opponent or might have a bad reputation, all of which would make him lose the case without deserving such a loss. To take extreme examples of innocence, he might have been in the position of accusing the popular son of a wealthy man of a theft of which he was the only witness or, conversely, he might have been a hardened criminal but not the one who committed this particular crime. The āšipu did not presume to judge the actual facts of the matter but instead provided help to the client to give relief but at the same time (and not, as we shall see, always with the best of success) to keep the client from teetering off the knife’s edge of legitimate praxis into DI.BAL.A ‘Perversion of Justice’ and KA.DIB.BI.DA ‘Binding of the Mouth’. Many of the preserved examples of ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals seek simply to calm anger, win friends, and influence people, as masterfully outlined in Henry Stadhouders’s Barcelona Rencontre paper.5 Such rituals doubtless had a long past and provably a bright future. Any number of formulas for success in business (or litigation), without really trying, have come down to us in the PGM, or collections of Greek magical papyri from late antique Egypt.6 References in ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals to Nabû’s akītu, in the month of Ayyaru with its sacred marriage theme, for example in the stones allegedly used by Naram-Sîn of Uruk,7 make perfect sense. In addition to being a patron of scribes and Babylonian kingship, Nabû had, in the late periods, usurped Ninurta’s role as the guardian of oaths and treaties. To reference him, therefore, was quite appropriate in a context in which the imagined judge, whom the ritual sought to influence, was a person of authority and a representative of the monarch, if not the king himself. What is more, Nabû in 3.  Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 7.6.6 lines 1–13. Similarly, see text 8.13 lines 1–13. 4.  Ibid., text 7.6.7, lines 8–9, 17, 19. 5.  Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 301–24. 6.  See Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, for translations of these fascinating texts. 7.  For the sacred marriage theme, see Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 313–21. For the stones used by Naram-Sîn of Uruk, see SpTU 4.129 iv 1ʹ–27ʹ. For a discussion of this text, see Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 303–5, 310.

Just in Case


Ayyaru was celebrating his marriage to Tašmetum, which left his concubine, Nanaya,8 in an incredibly awkward position, much like the client of the Egalkura and similarly in need of an audience, a hearing, and a favorable outcome. Thus, it is not surprising that Mesopotamian grace and favor spells were under the aegis of the goddess Nanaya or other goddesses of the Ištar variety.9 Most ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals were cheap and easy; probably the cheapest and easiest required a client to pluck lardu-grass from the riverbank and to go into court with some of it tucked behind his ear and, for good measure, daubed on his nose— doubtless the original brown nosing.10 Perhaps for this reason, simple spells of this sort were best suited for little problems. If you wanted to lay out for a really important case using a more elaborate ritual, you needed to take a leaf from anti-witchcraft magic. This required several things: you needed to make direct accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the legal opponent and, whatever you did, you were supposed to avoid directly naming your opponent. Indeed, you needed to pretend that you did not even know what sex he/she was.11 The reason for this is, quite simply, that ancient Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft magic was what the Azande call smart magic, fully capable of judging the relative merits of the client’s case. For example, the magnetic hematite often employed in ‘Entering the Palace’ rituals was a “truth” stone that had a habit of repeating whatever truth or falsehood you uttered directly to Šamaš. You were advised, therefore, to wear it only if you were pious and, both by nature and education, inclined to say “pure” and exclusively kind things.12 If the client’s accusation was false, the magic would come right around again and do to him whatever he was trying to do to the alleged witch. So, if the client accused his adversary directly and his adversary was innocent, the client was in big trouble, whereas if the client merely accused “whoever it was who was trying to hex him” and nobody was, in fact, trying to hex the client, then there was no harm done. Framing one’s accusations in this way also avoided falling off the edge into witchcraft, itself not only morally wrong but legally actionable. In spite of all the careful filtering, an interesting distinction nonetheless reveals itself through the screen of non-specificity. Although the sex of the alleged miscreant is carefully concealed by the ritual itself, it is normally a bēl dabābi that is suspected in matters of full-blown sorcery.13 When it came to bad business involving courts of 8.  Strikingly, it is always Nanaya who is mentioned in this connection; see ibid., 314, 316–17, 320. 9.  So, for example, KAR 238 rev. 1–7 (over a shell to be bound in the hem). 10.  A bit of tamarisk behind the ear did similar duty in calming the anger of one’s god on entering his temple. See BAM 318 iii 34–39, iii 40–iv 1. For lardu-grass daubed on the nose, see LKA 107 obv. 1–8; cf. also KAR 237 rev. 1–11. 11.  Classic examples are Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 8.3.1, text 8.3.2, and text 8.4 lines 1–67, which are virtually indistinguishable from ordinary anti-witchcraft rituals, simply listing Egalkura-type machinations alongside every other conceivable type of sorcery that could have been performed against the client. 12.  BAM 194 vii 14ʹ–18ʹ (see Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 33, 39, but reading the last lines as LÚ na-ʾ-du-ma GAR-šú iḫ-zi-šú / KÙ-tú qab-be-šú SIG5-ma). 13.  The artificiality of the inclusion of figurines of sorceresses in the rituals may readily be seen from Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 8.3.1 lines 12–15, where every possible type of sorcery-plotting enemy is enumerated in male and female form, the latter being rarely, if ever, attested outside this and similar passages.


JoAnn Scurlock

law or public opinion, where slander was the major fear, by contrast, it was usually a woman who was contemplated as the adversary. “This is he, this is she. She runs after me; she strives to seize me. In her mouth, she carries evil words; in her hands are spittle and hate magic; her arms are full of dirty bath water.”14 We may readily unpack this phenomenon by remembering that, in Babylonia, women rarely owned any substantial property and were thus comparatively unlikely to be directly involved in run-of-the-mill disputes over business ventures, debts, and real estate. Where they would have been disproportionately involved, again in Babylonia, is in court-ordered separations. And, as we know from Ḫammurapi’s laws, such situations generated a noticeable problem with gossip, if not outright slander.15 A successful performance of an ‘Entering the Palace’ ritual brought about speech that was “pleasant to god and king” and led to a warm welcome in the palace, with happy faces and smiles all round.16 Let us suppose that you had been put at odds with someone before god, king, magnate, and nobleman, and the very sight of you brings displeasure.17 No problem. Smeared with the right salve, all you had to do was to essentially will yourself into favor, with a little help from the goddess Ištar:18 “I am in favor, I am in favor, I am in favor with Utu, I am in favor with Anu, I am in favor with Utu, my god, I am in favor with the gods, I am in favor with the king, I am in favor with the prince, I am in favor with the magnate, I am in favor with (any) man, I am in favor with all mankind!”19 Suppose you had a bad reputation and needed a bit of help to be believed. Not to worry. You concealed a bead-threaded cord in your hem, reciting three times: “I have tied yanibu-stone around me; my waist is studded with carnelian. I swear I have not cursed the nāgiru; I swear that I have not cursed the mayor. I swear that I have not opened the door and caused the enemy to enter. I swear that I have not done anything without the knowledge of my lord!” After that, you were sure of a warm reception.20 And then there was that irresistible red cummerbund: “I have tied on a garment of good looks; a sash of red wool is tied around my waist. Look at me, lord; rise and kiss me.”21 Less constructively, you could more or less ignore the prince and paralyze your legal opponent:

14.  Ibid., text 7.8,.2 lines 14ʹ–19ʹ. 15.  See Scurlock, “Not Even Her Own Jewelry.” 16.  Pleasant speech: Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 1.8.2 lines 9ʹ–10ʹ. A warm welcome: for example, KAR 71 rev. 11, 18, 26; 237 obv. 12, rev. 21; 238 obv. 6, rev. 7; LKA 104 rev. 16; 105 obv. 5; 106 rev. 8; 107 obv. 8. Happy faces: KAR 237 rev. 6–7. 17.  Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, Text 7.10.1,1 lines 203ʹʹʹʹ–7ʹʹʹʹ. 18.  The right salve: Ibid., text lines 208ʹʹʹʹ–13ʹʹʹʹ and 214ʹʹʹʹ–18ʹʹʹʹ; KAR 237 obv. 13–17 // LKA 105 obv. 1–5 // LKA 107 rev. 4–7; KAR 237 obv. 7–12 and the very similar KAR 237 obv. 18–23 // KAR 238 obv. 1–6; cf. also LKA 107 rev. 1–3. A brief nocturnal ritual involving setting up a censer burning burāšu-juniper and pouring out a libation of beer ensured Ištar’s cooperation. (See Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text lines 216ʹʹʹʹ–17ʹʹʹʹ). 19.  Ibid., text lines 219ʹʹʹʹ–28ʹʹʹʹ. 20.  KAR 71 rev. 19–26. 21.  KAR 237 rev. 16–21 // LKA 105 obv. 15–20, especially KAR 237 rev. 16–17 // LKA 105 obv. 15–16.

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They are taking me to a difficult case; my lawsuit is far reaching. At the assembly by the palace gate, at the gathering of the experts, Ninkurra, obstruct the mouths of your young dogs; put muzzles on the mouths of your strong dogs. Nobody is going to look to you, (so) don’t you say anything.22 I am wearing asḫar-stone; asḫar-stone [goes] before me. Let it turn aside my bēl dabābi; let it answer for me.23 The object of this exercise was to “calm anger,” and, as might be expected, the client was to take some of the stone, whose name literally means “I turned (him/it) round,” make it into a salve and put the rest of the stone around his neck.24 Another anger-countering spell marked by label as an Egalkura, whose stated objective was “you will enter into the presence of the prince and he will welcome you” or “whoever looks upon you will be glad to see you,” required a seven-knotted cord, designed literally to bind the opponent’s tongue, to be worn into court, concealed in the hem of the client’s garment: Why did you look at me and not laugh? At the distance of one double-hour you rage; at the distance of two double-hours you scorch; at the distance of three double-hours, you beat your weapons together! I will dip your weapons in blood; I will fill you [with it?] all the way up to the brim. . . . Look at me! Come! Arise! I have spun a three-stranded cord of blue wool. (With it), I will bind your mouth three times. I will bind your tongue; I will bind the profit of your tongue.25 This binding could be legitimate, but only assuming that your opponent was using similar magic and that he started it. So, for example, slander was commonly dealt with by means of such knot charms. This technique used an amulet laced with plants and knotted with seven knots to turn back the slanderer’s “evil words” or to make the client impervious to them: “I am chaff, and so cannot be twisted; I am a pebble and so cannot be peeled.”26 In what is more than irony, what the client declares while twining his thread and knotting it is: “She is someone who twines, I am one who releases.”27 Equally disingenuous are a series of rituals that require tying seven knots or binding various magical substances including sulfur into a black cloth amulet on the Day of the New Moon while claiming that this day was ideal for countering witchcraft of the “evil words” variety.28 22.  Literally, “Long, be silent; short, don’t speak.” 23.  KAR 71 obv. 1–10 // LKA 104 obv. 11–21. Stadhouders (“A Time to Rejoice,” 308) argues that the object was to turn the adversary into an advocate. The idea is charming, but I prefer my interpretation. 24.  KAR 71 obv. 11–13. LKA 104 rev. 1–2 omits the amulet and gives the further information that the salve was to go on the face. 25.  KAR 71 obv. 14–25 // STT 237 obv. 1–rev. 7 // LKA 106 obv. 8–rev. 8 // LKA 107 obv. 9–18. 26.  Seven knots: Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 7.8.2 lines 12ʹ– 13ʹ, text 7.8.3 lines 32ʹ–34ʹ; cf. text 7.8.6 lines 35ʹ–36ʹ (three). To turn back the slanderer’s “evil words”: text 7.8.2 lines 7ʹ–10ʹ; cf. text 7.8.3 lines 24ʹ–30ʹ. To make the client impervious: text 7.8.3 lines 7ʹ–8ʹ. 27.  Ibid., text 7.8.6 lines 33ʹ. 28.  Tying seven knots: Ibid., text 7.8.3 lines 57ʹ–58ʹ. Binding magical substances: text 7.8.3 lines 13ʹ–16ʹ. Claim that this day was ideal for countering witchcraft: text 7.8.3 lines 2ʹ–12ʹ, lines 46ʹ–56ʹ; cf. text 7.8.5 lines 1–30.


JoAnn Scurlock

For obvious reasons, no justice-perverting spells have come down to us directly but may be guessed at from descriptions given in measures allegedly taken to counter them. The practitioners of illegitimate court case magic might inflict anxiety or depression and “hot lungs” on his victims.29 Another wicked thing to do was to take a figurine and use it to obstruct the victim’s tongue with combed hair and to bind his limbs, so that he could not walk about or open his mouth to speak, so that, quite apart from having a headache and being dizzy, he was quite literally tongue-tied (KA.DIB.BI.DA).30 An accomplished witch could even steal the words literally out of the client’s mouth.31 Nefarious rites of this sort could be countered simply by drinking a potion containing the right plants over which an appropriate recitation had been recited.32 Alternatively, you could overturn a little clay boat in the river, so that “just as this turns over, may their sorceries turn over and go onto them and their persons.”33 Of particular value, because they could be worn inconspicuously on the person while arguing the case against whatever schemes had been planned by the bēl dabābi, were amulets of one kind or another. Even better if you used both a potion and an amulet.34 More aggressively, it was possible to take measures directly to counter the DI.BAL.A and KA.DIB.BI.DA allegedly being practiced by the client’s enemies. I say this is more aggressive because witchcraft does not only win legal cases; it does so by making the opponent physically ill or even killing him. For slander, you could try smashing pots, a rite still used in modern Egypt to ensure the permanent departure of an unwanted female.35 It was also possible to attack the slanderous tongue more-orless directly. All you needed was a bit of tallow with which to manufacture a tongue. This tongue was made to drink bile and had its face enveloped with cobwebs before being shut up in a hole toward the west. To keep it in, the opening was sealed with seals of šubû-stone and šadānu-stone.36 And while you did this, you warned your imaginary slanderous adversary to cease and desist in no uncertain terms: Who is this woman who runs after me, who strives to seize me? I have seized you (f.) with the wisdom of Ea; I have detained you with the rituals of the sage of the gods, Marduk. I have given you spittle of bile to drink; I have enveloped your face with cobwebs as would a spider. Cast away the evil spittle of your

29.  Anxiety: Ibid., text 7.6.7 lines 1–11; text 8.3.2 lines 1–3. Depression and “hot lungs”: Ibid., text 1.8.2 lines 6ʹ–9ʹ. 30.  Obstructing the tongue and binding the limbs: Ibid., text 10.4.1 unnumbered lines 1–2. Headache and dizziness: text 8.3.1 lines 21–32, especially lines 23 and 26. Victim is “tongue tied”: text 10.4.1 unnumbered lines 3–4, 33ʹ–35ʹ. Similarly, Gurney, “Tablet of Incantations,” obv. 28–29, where sorcerous oil was used to worsen the victim’s sagallu and to make the victim too depressed to speak. 31.  Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 7.8.5 lines 10, 22. 32.  Ibid., text 1.8,2 lines 1ʹ–10ʹ. 33.  Gurney, “Tablet of Incantations,” obv. 29–rev. 8. 34.  The wearing of amulets: Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text lines 192ʹʹʹ, 194ʹʹʹ; also text lines 187ʹʹʹ–88ʹʹʹ, text line 189ʹʹʹ, text lines 190ʹʹʹ–91ʹʹʹ, text lines 192ʹʹʹ–93ʹʹʹ, and text lines 194ʹʹʹ–200ʹʹʹ. Both a potion and an amulet: text 7.8.8 lines 10ʹ–14ʹ. 35.  Ibid., text 7.6.6 lines 48–59. 36.  Ibid., text 7.8.2 lines 42ʹ–45ʹ.

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mouth; throw down the spittle of hate magic from your hands; may your arm hold go slack!37 The sealed hole was also imaginatively to be guarded by one too blind to see that there was someone outside and by another too weak to open the door.38 Countering the alleged sorcerer also allowed for the legitimate manufacture and manipulation of figurines representing the client’s enemy. At the relatively on-theup-and-up end were purification rituals in which the figurines were manipulated and washed over.39 But this was a slippery slope that inevitably led downward to nastier and nastier magic, with occasional loss of any pretense to legitimacy. One ritual required a named figurine to be positioned covering its own mouth and anus with its hands. An iron spike was stuck in, and the lot was sealed into a clay pot with seals of šubû-stone and lapis. At the threshold of the client’s gate, it was strewn over and then smashed under heel to make the client prevail in the case.40 The specific object of the exercise, as explained in the accompanying recitation, was to make it physically impossible for the client’s enemy to slander him or distort his words.41 Presentation of the figurine to Šamaš, god of justice, also cast a cloak of legitimacy over what was essentially ‘Binding of the Mouth’ magic, with the enemy actually unable to speak or, as one recitation puts it quite baldly: “Heavens, pay attention; things of the earth, hear my voice42 until I strike the cheek and tear out the tongue of my legal adversary, so-and-so, son of so-and-so. I will return his word to his mouth; his mouth will revolt against talking; I will not (even) allow him to fart!”43 All this over an apparently harmless copper ring.44 Alternatively, the figurine was covered with pitch, beaten, and washed or buried in a washroom.45 Symbolically, the opponent or his reputation was blackened and they were beaten in the legal case, particularly if clothing connected to the ritual or magic stones used in the ritual got worn in court as a charm.46 A particularly fascinating example of this type requires the practitioner actually to perform in toto the rite he is allegedly cancelling. This ritual required the client to make a figurine of himself and to stick the thorn of a date palm into its head. In 37.  Ibid., text 7.8.2 lines 22ʹ–30ʹ. 38.  Ibid., text 7.8.2 lines 36ʹ–37ʹ. 39.  So, for example, ibid., text 7.8.4 lines 1ʹ–24ʹ; cf. text 7.8.5. 40.  Ibid., text 8.12 lines 7–18. 41.  Ibid., text 8.12 lines 1–6. 42.  Similarly: “The heavens will quake; the mountains will be smashed. The canebrake of the mighty will be cut up; the scepters of the nobles in the palace gate will be broken” (KAR 237 obv. 2–4 // LKA 105 obv. 7–9). 43.  KAR 71 rev. 1–8; cf. Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals), text 7.8.4 lines 25ʹ–33ʹ. 44.  KAR 71 rev. 9–11. Similarly, KAR 71 rev. 12–18. 45.  Covered, beaten, and washed: Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 7.6.7 lines 34–40; cf. text 8.1 lines 38ʹʹ–66ʹʹ. Buried in a washroom: text 7.6.3 lines 26ʹʹ–30ʹʹ, 33ʹʹ–34ʹʹ. The rite for a male sorcerer is cleverly crossed with a pot-smashing ritual for a female slanderer (lines 24ʹʹ–26ʹʹ, 28ʹʹ, 30ʹʹ–33ʹʹ), whose pot is used as the container in which the figurines are beaten (lines 29ʹʹ–30ʹʹ). The pot-smashing rite of text 7.6.6 lines 48–59 also accompanies a ritual for dealing with a male sorcerer. 46.  Symbolically blackening the reputation and beating at law is made explicit in Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 8.1 lines 52ʹʹ–54ʹʹ. Clothing worn in court: text 7.6.7 lines 20–28. Magic stones worn in court: text 7.8.4 lines 13ʹ–24ʹ.


JoAnn Scurlock

addition, the client made figurines of the alleged miscreant (in male and female form) and mistreated them, as is described in the accompanying recitation that takes the form of a plea to Šamaš for justice: Šamaš, this is the figurine that the sorcerer and sorceress made of me. I, soand-so son of [so-and-so], whose personal god is so-and-so, whose goddess is so-and-so, have placed it before you. With your noble consent, at your ˹supreme˺ command . . . I have had figurines made of my sorcerer and sorceress and placed them before you. I have smeared ˹their˺ faces with ˹black paste˺. I have ˹twisted˺ their arms behind them; I have bound them with the sinew of a dead cow. I have bound their feet with the sinew of a dead cow in such a way as to make them (the feet) cross. Be present at my trial so that I may not be wronged and that my trial may go aright!47 The client then removed the thorn that he had previously stuck into his own figurine and stuck it in the figurines of his adversary, thus magically reversing the alleged sorcery his opponent had practiced.48 For good measure, the client doused his enemy’s figurines in fish oil.49 After being doused, the alleged sorcerer’s figurines were buried, whereas the patient’s figurine was soaked in beer before being disposed of in the river.50 The soaking was intended to purify the figurine, but the rite is a fairly clear reference to a ritual used to cause Dumuzi to rise magically from the netherworld,51 invoking the ancient Mesopotamian metaphor of return from the dead for healing. At the top end of aggression were rites that would actually have killed the person being attacked by the spell. A harmless-looking example is KAR 171: 1–rev. 8 // KAR 178 rev. 13–27, which is careful to name the victim only indirectly but that has as its goal literally sending the victim to the netherworld. Kneeling over a clay figurine presented as submissive and fashioned to represent the adversary in court was not so bad, but throwing it into the river in the dead of night was uncalled for, particularly when the rite was performed on the 29th of Abu. Similarly, the practice of sealing clay tongues into a little boat with cylinder seals made from šubû-stone and hematite sounds harmless enough.52 However, the full version of this ritual also uses figurines of the alleged sorcerer and sorceress that are sealed into the boat along with seven and seven tongues. The reference is to the netherworld, also signaled by seven and seven loaves of bread, and the performance of the ritual on the 27th of Abu, co-terminus with the ancient Mesopotamian equivalent of Halloween, which ensured that the victim would be transported to the netherworld along with the returning ghosts.53 Most hair-raising was the practice of performing an actual anti-witchcraft ritual in which the standard pairs of figurines, made of various substances, were burned in a crucible, while reciting a formula inviting the alleged sorcerer or sorceress to burn, 47.  Ibid., text 8.1 lines 39ʹʹ–44ʹʹ. 48.  Ibid., text 8.1 lines 46ʹʹ–51ʹʹ, 57ʹʹ. 49.  Ibid., text 8.1 lines 51ʹʹ, 58ʹʹ. 50.  Ibid., text 8.1 lines 59ʹʹ–76ʹʹ. 51.  Livingstone, Court Poetry, no. 38 rev. 8. 52.  Gurney, “Tablet of Incantations,” obv. 1–20. 53.  Ibid., obv. 21–27.

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itself at the edge of legitimate praxis. This ritual burning made it possible to involve one’s opponent in court.54 To do this, you made a single figurine of your legal opponent from clay and then twisted its arms behind its back and sealed its mouth with seals of šubû-stone and šadānu-stone, presumably rolled at right angles to one another, while reciting this edifying spell: You are the figurine of my adversary in court. [I have bound your] ˹arms˺; I have ˹put˺ refuse ˹in˺ your epigastrium; [I] have seized your mouth for it not to say bad things against me; I have sealed your lips with a seal of šubû-stone and šadānu-stone [for them] ˹not˺ to bring up my name.55 Thus far, the client had essentially performed KA.DIB.BI.DA but was just getting started. The spell continues with an appeal to Marduk literally for perversion of justice: “Asalluḫi, exorcist of the gods, show me the ˹overcoming˺ of my adversary in court, (then) I will praise your glory.”56 To give a shadow of legitimacy to any of this, the client also presented the figurine to Šamaš for trial and washed his hands over it before slipping it into the crucible with the other figurines.57 If the adversary in court was not really guilty, nothing terrible would happen to him, but he would still lose the case, which would have been adjudicated in the meantime. And, as though to confirm the sorcerous nature of the rite, the resulting triumph was supposed to be immediate. Or, as the text itself promises: “As soon as he has done this, he will quickly overcome his adversary.”58 If one were looking for a text of real, concrete sorcery from ancient Mesopotamia, this would be it. At whatever level of complexity, it is noticeable that the involvement of the god Marduk wound the proceedings up a notch in the direction of sorcery: “Copper is mighty; Marduk is mighty. What was bound is loosened. I am wearing iron; an iron dagger is drawn against my opponent.” This in an apparently harmless salve containing powdered copper.59 In some cases, the involvement borders on devotio: “I have delivered them to Marduk, lord of life.”60 It is doubtless involvement in this sort of magic that accounts for the fact that Marduk is once characterized as a god of sorcery.61 We may unpack this apparently hostile remark by noting that he was the enforcer, the one who actually carried out divine punishments. Like most enforcers, he did not determine innocence or guilt; as required, he simply unleashed floods, earthquakes, and the like, and, when he did, good and bad alike suffered, as Mesopotamians knew only too well. But having an amoral force on board was not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you deserved punishment. Of course, that was not the way you phrased, it, at least not to Marduk’s 54.  Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 7.6.6 lines 14–35. 55.  Ibid., text 7.6.6 lines 35–44. 56.  Ibid., text 7.6.6 lines 44–45. 57.  Ibid., text 7.6.6 lines 38, 47–48. 58.  Ibid., text 7.6.6 lines 60–61. 59.  LKA 104 rev. 9–11, 14–16. 60.  Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 7.8.4 line 40ʹ. 61.  Böck, Das Handbuch Muššuʾu “Einreinbung”, 196 lines 64–65.


JoAnn Scurlock

face. Instead, he could be relied on to “blow away your sin,” to make whatever you did that was wrong somehow not wrong.62 So, you could appeal to Marduk to have his wind blow away the strewn offerings your opponent had allegedly made on the first, seventh, and fifteenth days of the month to set the spell.63 You knew all about this, because you had already done this strewing yourself. While the trouble persisted, you scattered your strewn offerings on the specified days.64 And, after the issue at hand was resolved, you had to cancel your curse before it came back to haunt you: I am the Seventh of the Month, sister of Marduk. The Zappu (Pleiades) conceived me; Balu (Mars) gave me birth; Luḫušû (Nergal’s panther) adopted me. I raised my fingers; I stationed (them) between the Zappu and Balu. I stationed before me Ištar (the Bowstar), great lady, the one who answers for me. (I am) the ˹sister˺ of Marduk; The Fifteenth of the Month (is) my mother; the (First) of the Month (is) my father. May they reconcile all persons I have cursed/enemies with me. May the curse which I uttered not approach (me), merciful Marduk.65 You thus knew exactly what plants to put around your neck as an apotropaion66 or what potion you had to drink to loosen the curse. What plants were specifically to be used varied with the divinity patronizing the strewing, so Marduk’s plants were not the same as those of Ištar, which, for good measure, went into a ritual brush pile that accompanied full-fledged offerings and a “hand raising” prayer to the goddess.67 Although Ištar might have had an interest in the proceedings in a pro forma way, at the witchcraft end of the spectrum, she is addressed not in her capacity as goddess of sexual attractiveness but as patroness of warfare. Indeed, like Anat at Ugarit, she is credited with Marduk’s victory in battle.68 Invoking her under the aegis of Scorpio also associated her directly with black magic.69 In sum, the perhaps unfortunate victim of a bad reputation had a wide smorgasbord of rituals to remedy the situation. At one end of the spectrum there were essentially harmless rituals to, as we would say, prepare the client psychologically to win friends and influence people. Off the deep end in the other direction were what can only be characterized as the darkest sorcery, designed to absolve the guilty client and convict the innocent enemy. The gods of justice who knew the hearts of humans—could they be relied on to protect the innocent and punish the guilty? Only time would tell.

62.  Annus and Lenzi, Standard Babylonian Poem, 1 40; 3 61. 63.  Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 7.8.3 lines 35ʹ–42ʹ. 64.  BM 42272: 16–18. See Scurlock, Sourcebook for Ancient Mesopotamian Medicine, 631–33. 65.  BM 42272: 10–15. See Scurlock, Sourcebook for Ancient Mesopotamian Medicine, 631–33. 66.  Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 7.8.3 lines 43ʹ–45ʹ. 67.  Ibid., text 8.13 lines 14–67ʹʹ. 68.  Ibid., text 8.13 lines 25–40, text 8.13 line 32. 69.  Ibid., text 7.8,4 lines 13ʹ–24ʹ. For example, one particularly nasty form of cutting of the breath was performed before Scorpio in Addaru (ibid., text 12.1 lines 52–56).

Just in Case


Bibliography Abusch, Tzvi, and Daniel Schwemer. Corpus of Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals. Volume 1. AMD 8/1. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Annus, Amar, and Alan Lenzi. Ludlul bel nemeqi: The Standard Babylonian Poem of the Righteous Sufferer. SAACT 7. Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2010. Betz, Hans Dieter. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985. Böck, Barbara. Das Handbuch Muššuʾu “Einreinbung”: Eine Serie sumerischer und akkadischer Beschwörungen aus dem 1. Jt. vor Chr. BPOA 3. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigationes Científicas, 2007. Gurney, Oliver E. “Tablet of Incantations Against Slander,” Iraq 22 (1960): 221–27. Livingstone, Alasdair. Court Poetry and Literary Miscellanea. State Archives of Assyria 3. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1989. Parpola, Simo. Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars. State Archives of Assyria 10. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1993. Schuster-Brandis, Anais. Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel: Untersuchung zu ihrer Verwendung in der Beschwörungskunst Mesopotamiens im 1. Jt. v. Chr. AOAT 46. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2008. Scurlock, JoAnn. “Not Even Her Own Jewelry: Marital Property in the Middle Assyrian Laws.” 59th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale in Ghent. Forthcoming. ———. Sourcebook for Ancient Mesopotamian Medicine. Society for Biblical Literature Writings from the Ancient World 36. Atlanta: SBL, 2014. Stadhouders, Henry. “A Time to Rejoice: The Egalkura Rituals and the Mirth of Iyyar.” Pages 301–24 in Time and History in the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the 56th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale at Barcelona. Edited by L. Feliu et. al. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013. Wilson, J. V. Kinnier. “An Introduction to Babylonian Psychiatry.” Pages 298–98 in Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday. Edited by Hans G. Güterbock. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965.

Chapter 3

Egalkura and Late Astrology Marvin Schreiber Like many other magical rites and medical therapies in the Late Babylonian period,1 Egalkura (É.GAL.KU4.RA ‘Entering the Palace’) was combined with astrology. These materials represent magical incantations and rituals that were used to gain access to the palace and to establish a good relationship with the authorities at court. In this paper, I will focus on the Egalkura materials and similar rites in order to show how months were equated with zodiacal signs in Late Babylonian astrology but also how hemerologies (menologies, magical almanacs, and the like)2 evolved, at this moment in Mesopotamian history, into a zodiological form of astral magic. Furthermore, this magic became part of the astrological medicine in the late period, where it was included in the system of the Iatromathematical Calendar.3 In addition, evidence for the practical use of this type of Late Babylonian astral magic will be presented and thus the importance of the (astrologically) appropriate time for both patient and practitioner demonstrated. Last, the social setting of Late Babylonian astral magic will be briefly discussed. Egalkura appears in a first-millennium hemerology, the so-called Exorcist’s Almanac, together with many other spells and rituals.4 The earlier version of this text can be defined as a Magical Rite Hemerology; the “later version,” however, offers a combination of different rites related to the (micro)-zodiac.5 The best preserved (and nearly complete text) of the Exorcist’s Almanac is an amulet-shaped tablet from late

Author’s note: I would like to thank Henry Stadhouders for looking over this paper and making useful remarks. 1.  Late Babylonian refers in this paper roughly to the second half of the first millennium BCE and, concerning the astrology of this period (“Late Astrology”), especially the time after the introduction of the zodiac (ca. 400 BCE). 2.  A hemerology in Mesopotamia is a list of auspicious and inauspicious days for all aspects of daily life according to the order of the calendar (from Greek ἡμέρα [hēmérā] “day,” “date”). There is an inconsistent and somewhat imprecise use of terminology in the assyriological literature. Other terms that appear from time to time are almanac (rather general term, information is given for the days or months of the whole year), calendar text (or Kalendertext, a specific type of zodiological hemerology) and menology (information is given for the whole month). The Mesopotamian terms for this genre were biblānu, “portable,” U4.MEŠ DÙG.GA/uttukku “good days,” or AB.ŠE.GE.DA, “favorable.” See Livingstone, Hemerologies, 2–3; Koch, Mesopotamian Divination Texts, 212–13. 3.  See Schreiber, “Die astrologische Medizin.” 4.  This text is a mixture of hemerology and menology. Sometimes exact days are given, but in other cases entire months are included. It is not included in the edition of hemerologies published by Livingstone (Hemerologies), but it can be categorized as part of the genre. For this text group in general, see Labat, “Hemerologien,” 317–23; for a complete overview of the texts and publication history and a critical review of Livingstone’s edition, see Marti, “Chroniques Bibliographiques,” 161–99. For necessary corrections of the edition of Livingstone and additions to the corpus of hemerologies, see Jiménez and Adalı, “ ‘Prostration Hemerology’ Revisited,” 154–91; and Jiménez, “Loose Threads of Tradition,” 197–227. 5.  In at least one case (BRM 4 20), it is accompanied by a commentary (discussed below).



Marvin Schreiber

Neo-Assyrian Ḫuzirina (Sultantepe), published as STT 300.6 In addition, there are two small unpublished fragments that are partial duplicates: BM 37080 and CBS 562.7 STT 300 lists propitious days for the performing of the rites during the twelve months of the year. The first two entries are, somewhat unexpectedly, for the two last months of the calendar (Šabāṭu and Addaru);8 then, the tablet continues on with the twelve months in the correct order. Thus, the incipit itiBÁRA UD.10.KAM UD.DA. KAM ŠÀ.BAL.BAL (“10th Nisannu, the day for ‘Changing Someone’s Mind’”) appears in line 4.9 Egalkura is mentioned two times in the hemerology. The first entry is connected with two full months as a favorable period for ‘Entering the Palace’. STT 300 11: DIŠ ina itiGU4 u itiSIG4 KI.ÁG É.GAL.KU4.RA TA UD.1.KÁM E[N] UD.[3]0. [KÁ]M [D]ÍM-ma AL.SILIM If in Ayyaru and Simānu, ‘Love-Magic’ and ‘Entering the Palace’, from the 1st day to the 30th day, you perform it and it will go well. A few lines later Egalkura appears a second time.10 STT 300 16–18: DIŠ ⸢ina itiKIN⸣ UD.1.KÁM UD.DA.KÁM dÍD.KÙ.GA UD.21.KÁM UD.DA. KÁM É.GAL.KU4.RA UD.24.KÁM GIDIM DIB-ti KI LÚ ana NU KÉŠ! NU LÚ ana UG7 NU pa-qá-diš GIDIM me! ana NAG.NAG-e ana ḫi-⸢bil⸣-ti šu-ṣi-i DÍM-ma AL.[SI]LIM If in Ulūlu, the 1st day is the time for ‘Purification Through the River Ordeal’, the 21st day is the time for ‘Entering the Palace’, the 24th day (is the time for) 6.  Due to its colophon, this tablet can be dated to the reign of the penultimate Assyrian king Sînšar-iškun (626–612). For the eponym of Bēl-āha-uṣur, two different dates are proposed in the secondary literature: 619 BCE (Parpola, “Texts with Eponym Dates,” xix) and 621 BCE (Reade, “Assyrian Eponyms,” 256). Already Gurney, who published the copy in 1964, noticed that STT 300 is related to the later version, mainly represented by BRM 4 19 and 20. Existing editions of STT 300 include Casaburi, “Early Evidences,” 63–88; Scurlock, “Sorcery in the Stars,” 125–46; Glassner, “Exorcisme et Chronomancie selon STT 2, 300,” 75–81; Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia, 47–57. 7.  On each fragment, only one side duplicates STT 300. BM 37080 obv.: lines from Irianna (Uruanna) III; rev.: Exorcist’s Almanac. CBS 562 obv.: Exorcist’s Almanac, Prostration Hemerology (for this text in general, see Livingstone, Hemerologies, 161–75); rev.: commentary on an unidentified pharmacological text. For CBS 562, see Rutz, “Late Babylonian Compilation,” 97–112; Jiménez and Adalı, “‘Prostration Hemerology’ Revisited,” 173, 177, 186 n. 56; for BM 37080, see Schreiber, “Calendrics and Pharmacology Combined,” (NABU 2019/2, no. 51, 84–86). 8.  The reconstruction of STT 300 1–3 follows Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia, 47. For the first lines, see also Scurlock, Sorcery in the Stars, 127–28. The later texts are different: the potency ritual ŠÀ.ZI. GA, for example, which occurs in STT 300 1 in connection with the eleventh month, appears in line 38 of BRM 4 20. 9.  That this is the correct incipit is known from BRM 4 20 67. This tablet also contains a commentary on the hemerology and refers to the text using its incipit. For the term UD.DA.KAM and its meaning, see Stadhouders and Panayotov, “From Awe to Audacity,” 642 n. 29. 10.  Transliteration and translation of this section largely follows Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia, 48, 55.

Egalkura and Late Astrology


‘Seizing a Ghost in Order to Bind a Figurine to a Man’, ‘Not Entrusting the Figurine of a Man to the Dead’ (and) ‘Giving Water to a Ghost to Drive Out Misfortune’. You perform it and it will go well. Egalkura is listed in this latter entry between other rites that are to be performed in the sixth month Ulūlu, and the appropriate time is just a certain day. One can only speculate whether it was possible to perform Egalkura in other months, or on other days of the year. What I referred to above as the “later version” is, in contrast, an update of the hemerology, in which the days and months are replaced by elements drawn from new astrological techniques, in particular the (micro)-zodiac. At least one tablet of the “later version” is not simply a reworked version but also contains an appendix with a commentary on certain terms of the text (lines 45–66). In BRM 4 20 67, it is stated that this commentary section is a ṣâtu u šūt pî, “extract and oral explanation.”11 Known tablets that belong to this category of zodiacally updated hemerologies are: BRM 4 19 (MLC 1886) BRM 4 20 (MLC 1859) LBAT 1622 (BM 35072) + BM 47755 i 1ʹ–7ʹ12 LBAT 1626 (BM 35537) SpTU 5 243 (W 23293/34) All tablets are from the Hellenistic era: LBAT 1622 and LBAT 1626 are assumed to be from Babylon, and the others originate from Uruk. BRM 4 20 has a colophon with the name of the scholar Iqīšâ from the Ekur-zakir family13 and thus can be clearly dated to the late 4th century BCE. These texts are not really duplicates; they are simply lists of similar groups of magical rites in connection with the (micro)-zodiac. They even differ in terms of their content, the connections that they draw, and the way in which these connections are explained. After the introduction of the zodiac, astrological reworkings of the hemerological materials were needed, and these texts can be seen as an addendum that integrates the older material into the newly invented system of zodiacal astrology. Much has been written about these tablets,14 so this paper will focus on the Egalkura entries in particular.

11.  For this type of commentary, see Frahm, Babylonian and Assyrian Text Commentaries, 48–55; for BRM 4 20 as a commentary, see p. 31. 12.  The hemerology is found on the LBAT fragment. Its format resembles that of BRM 4 19; LBAT 1622 also duplicates some lines from this text. An edition of the whole text appears in Schreiber, “Die astrologische Medizin.” 13.  Iqīšâ was an Urukean scholar from the Ekur-zakir family, active in the early Hellenistic period (late fourth century BCE). More than 150 tablets can be attributed to his library with certainty. For more information on this scholar and his library, see Oelsner, “Von Iqīša und einigen anderen spätgeborenen Babyloniern,” 797–814; Frahm, “Zwischen Tradition und Neuerung,” 74–108; Clancier, Les bibliothèques en Babylonie, 53, 59–73, 84, 387–406; Clancier, “Teaching and Learning,” 41–66. 14.  Ungnad, “Besprechungskunst und Astrologie” 251–84; Bottéro, Mythes et Rites de Babylone, 100–112; Reiner, Astral Magic in Babylonia, 108–11; Scurlock, Sorcery in the Stars; Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia; Wee, “Virtual Moons over Babylonia,” 167–73, 201–11.


Marvin Schreiber

BRM 4 19 12: [6 24 UD.DA.KAM É.GAL.KU4.RA 6 24 4 12 ALLA šá ABSIN ZI]15 (Month) 6, (day) 24 is the time for ‘Entering the Palace’. 6 24 4 12, microCancer of Virgo is the distance.16 BRM 4 20 12: É.GAL.KU4.RA KI mulAL.LU5 ‘Entering the Palace’: region of (micro)-Cancer.17 In the first entry, a complete ecliptic position in the form of four numbers is given, whereas the second passage offers only the name of the relevant micro-zodiacal sign. The ecliptic position in the first example consists of four numbers, which can be interpreted as month—day—degree—sign. For a better understanding of the sequence of four numbers in BRM 4 19, we should take a brief look at the development of the Babylonian astral sciences in the 5th and 4th century BCE. The most important event, and the real starting point for the last stage, namely, so-called Late Astrology, was surely the introduction of the zodiac, which took place in the late 5th century.18 The zodiac is a circular figure of twelve equal parts, each measuring 30º, with the ecliptic at its center, in which the sun, the moon, and the planets move. The zodiac was constructed in parallel with the schematic calendar of 12 months, with 30 days in each month.19 Thus, the signs and degrees mirrored the months and days of the ideal or schematic calendar, which also means that a date can correspond to a position in the zodiac, and a month can be equated with a sign (and both vice versa). This is one of the main principles of Late Babylonian astrology, which was also relevant for the practice of Egalkura in the late 1st millennium, as will be shown below. Shortly after the zodiac, two reciprocal, astrological schemes were invented: the Dodekatemoria and the Kalendertext schemes.20 The basis for these schemes is a more complex version of the zodiac: the micro-zodiac. In the micro-zodiac, each of the twelve signs is again subdivided into twelve parts, with names identical to the main signs, and every main sign begins with the micro-sign of the same name (Aries begins with micro-Aries, Taurus with micro-Taurus, Gemini with micro-Gemini, and so on). The two above-mentioned schemes are, in cuneiform texts, mostly expressed with four numbers.

15.  This line is not preserved on the original tablet, but it can be reconstructed with the help of BRM 4 20. The reconstruction follows Ungnad, “Besprechungskunst und Astrologie,” 274; and Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia, 40. 16.  The translation of the sign ZI follows Rochberg, In the Path of the Moon, 158. In astronomical texts from the Seleucid period, ZI (nisḫu/nasāḫu) can have the meaning “displacement,” “to displace itself,” or “subtraction,” “to subtract.” See Ossendrijver, Babylonian Mathematical Astronomy, 597. 17.  That the mention of Cancer should be interpreted as micro-Cancer can be derived from the entry in BRM 4 19 above. 18.  See Britton, “Studies in Babylonian Lunar Theory,” 617–63. 19.  See Brack-Bernsen and Steele, “Babylonian Mathemagics,” 102. 20.  See Brack-Bernsen and Steele, “Babylonian Mathemagics,” for an extensive explanation and discussion. The connection between STT 300, the BRM texts, and other materials with the calendar text system and its schemes is also a central topic in Wee, “Virtual Moons over Babylonia.”

Egalkura and Late Astrology


The first position of the Dodekatemoria scheme could be constructed the following way:21 1 13 1 1 (sign—degree—month—day) The background for this scheme is the lunar mean motion of 13º per day. So the next position would be 1 26 1 2, followed by 2 9 1 3,22 and so on. The Kalendertext scheme, which accompanies the eponymous genre of the Kalendertexte,23 is an inverted version of the Dodekatemoria scheme. The corresponding Kalendertext scheme position of the third Dodekatemoria scheme position 2 9 1 3 would be: 1329 (sign—degree—month—day) We can see that it is derived by interchanging the values of day and degree on the one hand (that is, 3 takes the places of 9 and vice versa) and sign and month on the other. This way, every degree of the ecliptic of 360º could be connected with a certain day in the 360-day schematic calendar. In the Kalendertext scheme, every position increases 277º per day (that is, 9 zodiacal signs + 7º). The next position after 1 3 2 9 would be 10 10 2 10. In our examples, the numbers are explained as the sequence sign— degree—month—day, but the pair sign/degree could also be interpreted as month/ day (and vice versa). If we return to our examples from STT 300 and the BRM texts, we can state that the months Ayyaru and Simānu from our first STT quotation seem to have been discarded when the hemerology or almanac was transformed into an astrological system. Instead, in connection to Egalkura, the 21st Ulūlu was specified as the right time for this magical rite according to STT 300. But how did the 21st of Ulūlu become 6 24 12 4, which normally corresponds to the 24th of Ulūlu (6) or 12º Cancer (4) or, in other words, the micro-Cancer of Virgo? First, month equals sign, thus, the sixth month, Ulūlu, becomes the sixth zodiacal sign Virgo. But why the 24th day instead of the 21st? 21.  The position of the numbers can change, and the month or sign can also be written with its logogram at times. 22.  When the thirty degrees of a sign are exceeded, it starts again with one. Therefore 26º + 13º = 9º (of the second sign). For a simple overview of these schemes and their numbers, see Steele, “A Late Babylonian Compendium,” 190. 23.  This type of text could also be defined as part of the hemerological-menological literature. It contains materia medica, cultic and ritual activities, food prohibitions, behavioral rules, and similar materials for each of the thirty days of a given month in the schematic calendar. Known texts of this genre are VAT 7816 (+) U 180(5) + 180(6) + 180(22) (Nisannu), BagM/Bh 2: no. 79 (Ayyaru), LBAT 1586 + 1587 (Simānu), W 20030/133 (Abu), VAT 7815 (+) U 180(17) (Kislīmu), BagM/Bh 2: no. 78 (?). For an edition of VAT 7815 and 7816 (without the Uruk fragments), see Weidner, Gestirn-Darstellungen auf babylonischen Tontafeln, 41–48. Beside these texts (in my thesis, named Hemerologische Kalendertexte), there is a different type (named Iatromathematische Kalendertexte) that connects the days of the month with animal substances (such as hair, fat, and blood). Texts of this type include SpTU 3 104 and 105, BM 50508 i 8ʹ–14ʹ, BM 35072 + 47755 iii 1ʹ–14ʹ. For an edition and study of the Kalendertexte, see Schreiber, “Die astrologische Medizin.”


Marvin Schreiber

Table 3.1.  Dodekatemoria Scheme for Ulūlu/Virgo, with the Date from STT 300 and the Ecliptic Position from the BRM texts Ulūlu/Virgo VI

Position on the Ecliptic


6 6 7 7 8 8 9 9 9 10 10 11 11 12 12 12 1 1 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 5 5 6 6 6

13º 26º 9º 22º 5º 18º 1º 14º 27º 10º 23º 6º 19º 2º 15º 28º 11º 24º 7º 20º 3º 16º 29º 12º 25º 8º 21º 4º 17º 30º

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

For this we should take a look at the complete Dodekatemoria scheme for the sixth month (see table 3.1). The first column contains the subdivisions of the month/ sign, namely, the micro-signs. In the second column, we have the number of degrees, and in the third column, the corresponding days. The 21st day, in this scheme, would have corresponded to micro-Gemini 3º. But as we can see, the micro-zodiac of the Dodekatemoria scheme is not simple, with twelve signs, but actually makes use of thirteen micro-signs: the sixth sign is reached by the moon at the end of the month again (28th–30th day). Maybe for this reason the date for Egalkura has been shifted to the next micro-sign, which resulted in the 24th of Ulūlu, 12º Cancer. This could have compensated for the insertion of a thirteenth sign in the micro-zodiac.24 Another 24.  Another Late Babylonian astrological tablet that seems to transform dates in the calendar and positions on the ecliptic, in a similar way, is LBAT 1593 (for an edition, see Reiner, “Early Zodiologia,” 421–27). In obv. 15ʹ and 16ʹ, two numbers-sequences are given: 1 1 1 13 and 1 2 1 26. They are obviously the first two positions of the Dodekatemoria scheme (in a slightly different order, as explained above, but such an interchange of the two pairs of numbers is possible and appears in some cases). Both positions are then explained as NE šá BAR, “micro-Abu of Nisannu,” and ZÍZ šá BAR, “micro-Šabāṭu of Nisannu.”

Egalkura and Late Astrology


explanation would be to assume that there is an error in BRM 4 20 (the BRM 4 19 entry is only a reconstruction and may therefore be different).25 A comparison of the entries in BRM 4 19 with the original almanac shows that, in most cases, the dates of the schematic calendar are simply transformed into the Dodekatemoria scheme, without shifting to another micro-sign.26 And, furthermore, it should not be forgotten that there may have been different traditions at work here. BRM 4 20 and STT 300 give, for some rites, more than one date. This is also the case with the two examples of Egalkura materials in the Sultantepe text above. So we do not know if there is an error or an intentional modification in the texts. What we can say for certain is that the BRM texts are not using a simple microzodiac of twelve signs, and they also make no use of the Kalendertext scheme. They only use the Dodekatemoria scheme for calculating the right time for the performance of Egalkura.

Astral Magic in Practice Traces of the practical use of Late Babylonian zodiacal astrology are often sparse, and the available information can be presented quite briefly. In many cases, it is not easy to bring it into accordance with data from the hemerologies and the BRM tablets. One example we can find is in the still-unpublished tablet BM 47457,27 which contains incantations and rituals for Egalkura, as well as similar and related magical rites. After the opening formula, which invokes Marduk, the first incantation (obv. 1–8), and the ritual (obv. 9–14), there follows a short statement between two separating lines. BM 47457 obv. 15: ——— Abu and Šabāṭu are the names of the fifth and the eleventh month in the schematic calendar. Here again, we see that signs and months are interchangeable in Late Astrology: the micro-signs Leo and Aquarius are, in this case, explained as micro-months. But the 13th and 26th days in the Dodekatemoria scheme for the first month correspond to micro-Virgo and micro-Pisces. So in LBAT 1593, we see again a shift of one sign, this time backwards. For a possible interpretation, see Wee, “Virtual Moons over Babylonia,” 191–95. 25.  There are scribal errors in BRM 4 19: signs and numbers are sometimes not in accordance with each other: 23: (. . .) 12 27 11 21 GU šá IKU! (text: GU) ZI 24: (. . .) 12 28 12 4 IKU! (text: GU) šá IKU ZI 25: (. . .) 12 29! (text: 19) 12 17 IKU! (text: GU.LA) šá IKU ZI 27: (. . .) 2! (text: 4) 12 7 6 RÍN šá MÚL.MÚL ZI 29: (. . .) 5 29 5 17 UR.A! (text: ABSIN) šá ⸢UR.A⸣ ZI There are additional small errors: the reason for these errors was inter alia that more than one date was sometimes given for a certain form of magic, which could be confusing. Other errors may have been due to miscalculation or errors in writing. 26.  See Scurlock, Sorcery in the Stars, 128–43. Scurlock’s explanation of the BRM texts is a little different, but the discrepancies between STT 300 and the later texts are described. 27.  The tablet will appear in the forthcoming edition of Egalkura by Stadhouders. See for now Stadhouders and Panayotov, “From Awe to Audacity,” 623–97, with an overview of the texts, and Stadhouders “A Time to Rejoice,” 301–23 with parts of BM 47457 edited (pp. 311, 316–17). See also Schwemer, “Secret Knowledge of Lu-Nanna,” 214, 224.


Marvin Schreiber

(. . .) KI múlAB.SÍN ⸢DÙ-uš⸣ SILIM-im ——— It is to be performed in the region of (micro)-Virgo.28 It will be effective. This Egalkura tablet locates the correct time for performance in the region of Virgo, which is in accordance with the (reconstructed) entry of BRM 4 19 and, of course, STT 300 as well. In obv. 14, we find the purpose of the ritual: a-na NITA ù ⸢MUNUS⸣ ⸢a-mir⸣-šú ana IG[I-š]ú ḫa-di-i, “in order that the man and woman who sees him will rejoice at seeing him.” This is a form of sympathy magic which is closely related to Egalkura. In the preceding incantation, there are some clear references to the entering of a palace. But it is not completely the same, and under the title a-mir-ka ana IGI-ka ḫa-de-e : ra-a-š[i], “the one who sees you will rejoice and be happy at seeing you,” we can find it in BRM 4 19, 16 (= 2ʹ). The time for its performance is 8 21 5 3, namely, 21st of Araḫsamna, Leo 3º, or more simply, the micro-Leo of Scorpio.29 The “region of Virgo” would fit much better with regular Egalkura, but the two above-listed texts, LBAT 1626 and SpTU 5 24330, which are of the BRM type, contain different information. In one of the texts we can find a “time” that is in accordance with BM 47457. LBAT 1626 rev.? 2ʹ31: [āmirka ana amārika ḫ]a-de-e KI mulABSIN (. . .) The one who sees you will rejoice at seeing you. Region of (micro)-Virgo (. . .) Both BM 47457 and LBAT 1626 are from Babylon, but the BRM texts are from Uruk. It is possible that the two cities used a somewhat different tradition or system.32 For the following four incantations (and their accompanying rituals) in BM 47457, after line 15, which we looked at a moment ago, no zodiacal sign is given, so this zodiacal timing is the only direct reference to astrology in the whole text.33 Because of the lack of further zodiological information in the known Egalkura tablets, we have to look at similar magical texts for insight into the practice of zodiological 28.  This is indeed a reference to the micro-zodiac, as was likely the case with single zodiacal signs generally in this period. See the entries in BRM 4 20, which only lists single sign names, but from BRM 4 19 it is known that they are clearly referring to micro-signs. The evidence from LBAT 1626 below confirms this. 29.  This is the correct equivalent in the Dodekatemoria scheme for the date given in STT 300 26, which also has the 21st of Araḫsamna. 30.  Geller is interpreting some signs in SpTU 5 243 rev. 8 as É.⸢GAL.KU4⸣, “entering the palace” (Melothesia in Babylonia, 59: 5ʹ), but the tablet reads more likely ŠÚR.ḪUN.GÁ, “appeasing (divine-) anger.” 31.  See Reiner, Astral Magic, 110 n. 493; Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia, 58. 32.  But note that both cities are mentioned in BRM 4 20, 44, which shows that the content was composed of material from both Uruk and Babylon: GABA.RÌ ŠEŠ.UNUGki u TIN.TIRki “(Based on) copies from Uruk and Babylon.” ŠEŠ.UNUGki is Ur rather than Uruk, but Ungnad, Besprechungskunst und Astrologie, 273, already suggested that this refers to Uruk. Cf. Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia, 31 n. 54. 33.  In obv. 30, after a ritual and a horizontal ruling, there is a ‘Stone, Plant and Wood’ sequence: na4ZA. GÌN gišḪA.Š[U]R úSIKIL, “uqnû-lapislazuli, ḫašūru-wood, sikillu-plant.” The stone-plant-wood schema is a typical element of the micro-zodiac series, also famous for the Gestirndarstellungen, which can be found on some of the tablets (see Weidner, Gestirn-Darstellungen; and Heeßel, “Stein, Pflanze und Holz,” 1–22 for a general overview of this ‘Stone, Plant and Wood’ schema). This could be considered another astrological element of BM 47457. The next line states that the purpose of these materials is the making of a salve (tēqītu).

Egalkura and Late Astrology


astral magic: the substantial corpus of tablets written and owned by members of the Urukean Ekur-zakir family offers some material that is relevant to this question. At the beginning of a tablet with incantations and rituals for ‘Loosening the Grasp’ (ŠU. DU8.A), we can read the following. SpTU 2 23, 1–2: DIŠ ina itiGU4 UD.10.KAM UD.DA.KAM ŠU.DU8.A.KAM múlABSIN šá MÚL.MÚL In the month Ayyaru, on the 10th day, is the time for ‘Loosening the Grasp’. (Micro)-Virgo of Taurus34 This is further evidence that references to zodiacal signs in Late Babylonian magical texts are most likely to be interpreted as references to micro-zodiacal signs. This statement is in complete agreement with the BRM texts, as already recognized by von Weiher in his edition.35 But in some instances—even in the same historical moment and city—there are still calendar dates given, without any reference to the micro-zodiac. In another tablet from Uruk, which includes relevant incantations, we find the following statement: SpTU 2 24, 18–20: ——— ina itiAPIN UD.20.KAM UD.DA.KAM ŠÀ.BAL.BAL NUN ina É.GAL MU-šú ana SIG5-tim ḫa-sa-sa UD.21.KAM MIN a-mir-ka ana! IGI-ka ḫa-de-e u ra-a-ši ——— In the month Araḫsamna, on the 20th day, is the time for ‘Changing Someone’s Mind’ (and) ‘The Prince Remembers His Name Favorably in His Palace’. The 21st day, ditto, “the one who sees you will rejoice and be happy at seeing you.” From all these examples, the importance of the appropriate time for carrying out the rites becomes evident. Even the mention of simple (micro)-zodiacal signs can be connected with certain days, with knowledge of the Dodekatemoria scheme serving as the essential background. Another example, from the unpublished Late Babylonian tablet BM 45755 (18817-6, 169),36 which includes a statement similar to a celestial omen, should be briefly mentioned here as well: BM 45755 obv. 11: [. . . MU.R]U.UB ana DÙ-ka BE dDil-bat ana TÙR 30 KU4 mim-ma te-pu-šú GI37 34.  Literally, MUL.MUL, “the stars,” in Akk. zappu, “bristle.” This constellation is in the micro-zodiac equivalent to the second sign Taurus, and they often appear next to each other as a designation for the same zodiacal section. See, for example, Weidner, Gestirn-Darstellungen, pl. 6 (penultimate section in the row below the Gestirndarstellung of Leo, MUL.MUL and mulGU4, “Taurus,” appear together). 35.  See von Weiher, Spätbabylonische Texte aus Uruk, 124. 36.  A complete edition is also going to appear in the forthcoming Egalkura volume by Stadhouders. 37.  I owe the reading of this line from the unpublished tablet to Steinert and Stadhouders.


Marvin Schreiber

[. . . MU.R]U.UB38 for you to make: if Venus enters the “cattle pen” (= halo) of the Moon, any (magic) you perform will be effective. The Venus section of the astrological omen series Enūma Anu Enlil contains some similar, though not identical, omen protasis referring to Venus’s “entering” the moon (without TÙR = tarbaṣu, “cattle pen”).39 The information in BM 45755 shows that it was not only the newly invented zodiacal astrology that was combined with older forms of magic and medicine in the first millennium BCE but also still forms and elements from traditional celestial divination. The fact that more than one day could be appropriate for some rituals, or even complete months, was already known from STT 300. An example of a text that exhibits many possible days for the performance of a ritual on the same tablet is a ritual against enmity from the Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale in Rome, which originates most likely from Late Babylonian Uruk.40 It lists fourteen appropriate days, but for each of these days a different substance is to be used in the rite: for example, obv. 2/3: “On the 1st of Nisannu he washes himself over snake skin. On the 15th of Nisannu he washes himself over scorpion exuvium.” The following instructions are all in the same style.41 From all these examples, it becomes clear that different ways of expressing the appropriate time coexisted in Late Babylonian astral magic (calendar dates, zodiacal signs, non-zodiacal astrology), as well as different traditions and doctrines.

Context and Social Setting of Late Babylonian Astral Magic As demonstrated above, Egalkura and similar rites were originally cataloged and positioned in hemerologies/menologies. In the second half of the first millennium BCE, after the introduction of the zodiac, astrology became more and more the dominant form of science in Mesopotamia, which influenced all other fields of knowledge. The result was that the hemerologies were astrologically updated. Even if the evidence is sometimes sparse, we find short references to zodiacal astrology in some forms of magical texts that are also listed in the Exorcist’s Almanac (STT 300 and duplicates) and in its astrological versions (BRM texts and the like). So we can conclude, at this point, not only that an updating of the older texts with only months and days was required but that this kind of updating did in fact take place 38.  The meaning of MU.RU.UB is still unknown. See Finkel, “On Some Dog, Snake and Scorpion Incantations,” 238–39, which mentions the text briefly and quotes some lines from it. 39.  See, e.g., Reiner and Pingree, Babylonian Planetary Omens, 44:42–45, 90:10–14, 106:4, 158:13ʹ, 217:18–20 (DIŠ mulDil-bat ana ŠÀ Sîn KU4-(ub), “If Venus enters into the Moon”). The presence of heavenly bodies inside the lunar halo was also the topic of Enūma Anu Enlil tablet 10; see Verderame, “Enūma Anu Enlil Tablets 1–13,” 449–50 n. 23 (Venus is not mentioned in the listed sources). Additionally, other planets and stars inside the lunar halo are appearing quite regularly in the Neo-Assyrian ‘Astrological Reports’; see the glossary s.v. tarbaṣu in Hunger, Astrological Reports, 340–41. 40.  See Mayer, “Ein Ritual gegen Feindschaft,” 21 n. 11, for a list of incantations and rituals that give certain dates for the performance of the magic. Some of the LB examples are discussed above, but most are from the Neo-Assyrian period. 41.  Another interpretation would be that the ritual must be performed on each of the fourteen days throughout the course of the year in order to be completed (see ibid., 22), but a ritual that takes a year to complete would seem to be an unlikely scenario.

Egalkura and Late Astrology


during the compilation of late magical texts. The older calendar-based magic was not replaced but rather transformed into a zodiac-based form of astral magic, as part of the general development of these techniques in the Late Babylonian period. A short summary of the hemerological genre should make clear its importance for the Late Babylonian culture. Hemerologies and menologies were, in general, meant to deal with every aspect of daily life, and their content was intended for the common people. Time had its own magic in Mesopotamia,42 with some texts only listing favorable and unfavorable days.43 One specific example of the hemerological genre was one of the “most popular and most widespread texts”44 in Mesopotamia, namely, the Babylonian Almanac, which also came into existence in the formative period of Babylonian literature and originated approximately in the middle of the second millennium.45 Another series that is related to the hemerologies is iqqur īpuš, “He tore down, he built.”46 It is an omen series, but it is comparable to the hemerologies in that it also deals with daily life, activities, and events on certain days. On some tablets, sections from iqqur īpuš follow the actual hemerology,47 which is not so surprising in light of the similar nature of both texts. The series can therefore be seen as a mixture of two of the most important fields of knowledge: Tagewählerei and omens. Another text group, the above-mentioned Kalendertexte, are part of the genre as well in terms of their form and structure: they contain information about Astrological Geography,48 materia medica (‘Stone, Plant and Wood’), typical hemerological instructions for every day of the schematic calendar, accompanied by the Kalendertext scheme, and a section from the ‘Lying Down Menology’ for the respective month.49 This text group, together with the micro-zodiac series (they were seen as reciprocal techniques and share the same or at least similar content), was one of the most important in Late Astrology and is really a further developed stage of the hemerological tradition.50 As mentioned earlier, the best-preserved manuscript of the almanac, STT 300, is an “amulet-shaped” tablet.51 It is not the only hemerology of that shape,52 and therefore 42.  See, for this topic, Livingstone, “Magic of Time.” 43.  See Livingstone, Hemerologies, 83–101. 44.  Ibid., 7. 45.  Compare ibid. 46.  Edition: Labat, Un Calendrier Babylonien. 47.  See Livingstone, Hemerologies, 3. 48.  For the “Astrological Geography,” see, for example, Weidner, “Astrologische Geographie im Alten Orient,” 117–21. 49.  For the ‘Lying Down Menology’, see Jiménez and Adalı, “‘Prostration Hemerology’ Revisited,” 186 n. 54. A section from this menology also appears, together with a reference to the astrologically reworked almanac (BRM type texts, quoted above), in the ritual text SpTU 2 23 iii 7–10. 50.  Both text series (Kalendertexte and micro-zodiac texts) contain furthermore slightly modified entries from the ‘Prostration Hemerology’; see Jiménez and Adalı, “‘Prostration Hemerology’ Revisited,” 179:14, 180:18, 182:34. 51.  Panayotov, “Ritual for a Flourishing Bordello,” 287, thinks the term is no longer acceptable, because most tablets of that shape had no apotropaic function. He prefers the more neutral term tablets with a projection, or handle. An overview of this tablet format and its possible function is offered by Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 53–77. 52.  Examples are T 1923, T 1927 (both iqqur īpuš texts from Tell Tayinat), KAR 147, CTN 4/58 (two Neo-Assyrian hemerologies for the first eight days of the seventh month Tašrītu), BRM 4 24 (hemerology). See Panayotov, “Ritual for a Flourishing Bordello,”, 287 n. 18. A list of lucky days of this shape is also known: MS 2781 (see Livingstone, Hemerologies, 99 for a photograph).


Marvin Schreiber

an interesting aspect of this genre is that it was produced in a shape that was, already in antiquity, seen as something special.53 In the BRM texts (and the like) or the rituals it was sometimes sufficient to write solely the name of a micro-sign, because if this information is combined with the base text (the hemerology), the zodiacal sign is indirectly given, in line with the “month equals sign” rule in Late Astrology. And for a scholar or practitioner who knew the Dodekatemoria scheme, it was possible to calculate the day for the performance if the ecliptic position was given (namely, sign and micro-sign), or, vice versa, calculate the ecliptic position from a calendar date. So it can be stated that amulet-shaped hemerologies, almanacs, lists of lucky days, and other texts with a handle, which allowed them to be affixed to a wall, could perhaps function as a kind of calendar. Of course, this is only one way of imagining its use, and it cannot be proven for now.54 In conclusion, we can say that Egalkura and other magical rites were part of the astral-magical corpus of the Late Babylonian period and that they were also integrated into the popular genre of hemerologies as well as the field of astrology, which was of highest importance in the second half of the first millennium BCE. The magic of Egalkura and similar rites was intended to serve common people, but they were also studied by scholars and combined with the increasingly important astral sciences and astrological speculations.55 53.  For a possible interpretation, see Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 72–73. 54.  In some cases the amulet-shaped tablets seemed to be “simply” votive offerings or had a protective function in temples (ibid., 71–72). 55.  The Babylonian scholar Iddin-Bēl (active late 4th–early 3rd century BCE), for example, wrote hemerological texts as well as procedure texts (mathematical astronomy); see Jiménez, “Loose Threads of Tradition,” 205.

Bibliography Bottéro, Jean. Mythes et Rites de Babylone. Geneva: Slatkine, 1985. Brack-Bernsen, Lis, and John M. Steele. “Babylonian Mathemagics: Two Mathematical Astronomical-Astrological Texts.” Pages 95–123 in Studies in the History of Exact Sciences in Honour of David Pingree. Edited by C. Burnett et al. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Britton, John. “Studies in Babylonian Lunar Theory: Part III. The Introduction of the Uniform Zodiac.” AHES 64 (2010): 617–63. Casaburi, Maria C. “Early Evidences of Astrological Aspects in a Neo-Assyrian Medical Hemerology.” SAAB 14 (2002–5): 63–88. Clancier, Philippe. Les bibliothèques en Babylonie dans la deuxième moitié du 1er millénaire av. J.-C. AOAT 363. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2009. ———. “Teaching and Learning Medicine and Exorcism at Uruk During the Hellenistic Period.” Pages 41–66 in Scientific Sources and Teaching Contexts Throughout History: Problems and Perspectives. Edited by A. Bernard and C. Proust. Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science 301. Dordrecht: Springer, 2014. Finkel, Irving L. “On Some Dog, Snake and Scorpion Incantations.” Pages 213–50 in Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical, and Interpretative Perspectives. Edited by T. Abusch and K. van der Toorn. AMD 1. Groningen: Styx, 1999. Frahm, Eckart. Babylonian and Assyrian Text Commentaries. GMTR 5. Münster: UgaritVerlag, 2011.

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———. “Zwischen Tradition und Neuerung: Babylonische Priestergelehrte im achämenidenzeitlichen Uruk.” Pages 74–108 in Religion und Religionskontakte im Zeitalter der Achämeniden. VWGTh 22. Edited by R. Kratz. Gütersloh: Walter Kaiser, 2002. Geller, Markham J. Melothesia in Babylonia: Medicine, Magic and Astrology in the Ancient Near East. STMAC 2. Boston: de Gruyter, 2014. Glassner, Jean-Jacques. “Exorcisme et Chronomancie selon STT 2, 300.” Pages 75–81 in Et il y eut un esprit dans l’Homme: Jean Bottéro et la Mésopotamie. Edited by X. Faivre, B. Lion and C. Michel. Paris: de Boccard, 2009. Heeßel, Nils P. “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’: Zum Zusammenhang von Form, Funktion und Text von Amuletten im Alten Mesopotamien.” Pages 53–77 in Erscheinungsformen und Handhabungen heiliger Schriften. Edited by J. Quack and D. Chr. Luft. Materielle Textkulturen 5. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014. ———. “Stein, Pflanze und Holz. Ein neuer Text zur ‘medizinischen Astrologie.’” Or n.s. 74 (2005): 1–22. Hunger, Hermann. Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings. SAA 8. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1992. Jiménez, Enrique. “Loose Threads of Tradition: Two Late Hemerological Compilations.” JCS 68 (2016): 197–227. Jiménez, Enrique, and Selim F. Adalı. “The ‘Prostration Hemerology’ Revisited: An Everyman’s Hemerology at the King’s Court.” ZA 105 (2015): 154–91. Koch, Ulla S. Mesopotamian Divination Texts: Conversing with the Gods; Sources from the First Millennium BCE. GMTR 7. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2015. Labat, René. Un Calendrier Babylonien des travaux des signes et des mois (séries iqqur īpuš). Paris: Champion, 1965. ———. “Hemerologien.” Pages 317–23 in volume 4 of Reallexikon der Assyriologie. Berlin: de Gruyter 1972–75. Livingstone, Alasdair. Hemerologies of Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars. CUSAS 25. Bethesda, MD: CDL, 2013. ———. “Magic of Time.” Pages 131–37 in Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical, and Interpretative Perspectives. AMD 1. Edited by T. Abusch and K. van der Toorn. Groningen: Styx, 1999. Marti, Lionel. “Chroniques Bibliographiques 16. Les Hémérologies Mésopotamiennes.” RA 108 (2014): 161–99. Mayer, Werner R. “Ein Ritual gegen Feindschaft im Museo Nazionale d’Arte zu Rom.” Or 59 (1990): 14–33. Oelsner, Joachim. “Von Iqīša und einigen anderen spätgeborenen Babyloniern.” Pages 797– 814 in Studi sul vicino oriente antico: dedicati alla memoria di Luigi Cagni. Edited by S. Graziani. Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 2000. Ossendrijver, Mathieu. Babylonian Mathematical Astronomy: Procedure Texts. New York: Springer, 2012. Panayotov, Strahil V. “A Ritual for a Flourishing Bordello.” BiOr 70 (2013): 285–309. Parpola, Simo. “Texts with Eponym Dates.” Pages xviii–xx in The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, 1/I: A. Edited by K. Radner. Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1998. Reade, Julian. “Assyrian Eponyms, Kings and Pretenders 648–605.” Or 67 (1998): 255–65. Reiner, Erika. Astral Magic in Babylonia. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1995. ———. “Early Zodiologia and Related Matters.” Pages 421–27 in Wisdom, Gods and Literature: Studies in Assyriology in Honour of W. G. Lambert. Edited by A. R. George. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000. Reiner, Erika, and David Pingree. Babylonian Planetary Omens, Part Three. CunMon 11. Groningen: Styx, 1998. Rochberg, Francesca. In the Path of the Moon: Babylonian Celestial Divination and Its Legacy. AMD 6. Leiden: Brill, 2010.


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Rutz, Matthew. “A Late Babylonian Compilation Concerning Ritual Timing and Materia Medica.” Pages 97–112 in The Scaffolding of Our Thoughts: Essays on Assyriology and the History of Science in Honor of Francesca Rochberg. Edited by C. Jay Crisostomo et al. AMD 13. Leiden: Brill, 2018. Schreiber, Marvin. “Die astrologische Medizin der spätbabylonischen Zeit.” Ph.D. diss., Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2017. Schwemer, Daniel. “Secret Knowledge of Lu-Nanna, the Sage of Ur: Six Astral Rituals for Gaining Power and Success (BM 38599).” Pages 211–28 in Saeculum: Gedenkschrift für Heinrich Otten anlässlich seines 100. Geburtstags. Edited by A. Müller-Karpe, E. Rieken, and W. Sommerfeld. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2015. Scurlock, JoAnn. “Sorcery in the Stars: STT 300, BRM 4.19–20 and the Mandaic Book of the Zodiac.” AfO 51 (2005–6): 125–46. Stadhouders, Henry. “A Time to Rejoice: The Egalkura Rituals and the Mirth of Iyyar.” Pages 301–23 in Time and History in the Ancient Near East. Edited by L. Feliu et. al. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013. Stadhouders, Henry, and Strahil V. Panayotov. “From Awe to Audacity: Stratagems for Approaching Authorities Successfully; The Istanbul Egalkura Tablet A 373.” Pages 623– 97 in Mesopotamian Medicine and Magic: Studies in Honor of Markham J. Geller. Edited by S. V. Panayotov and L. Vacín. AMD 14. Leiden: Brill, 2018. Steele, John M. “A Late Babylonian Compendium of Calendrical and Stellar Astrology.” JCS 67 (2015): 187–215. Ungnad, Arthur. “Besprechungskunst und Astrologie in Babylonien.” AfO 14 (1941–44): 251–84. Verderame, L. “Enūma Anu Enlil Tablets 1–13.” Pages 447–57 in Under One Sky: Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient Near East. Edited by J. M. Steele and A. Imhausen. AOAT 29. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2002. Wee, John Z. “Virtual Moons over Babylonia: The Calendar Text System, Its Micro-Zodiac of 13, and the Making of Zodiology.” Pages 139–229 in The Circulation of Astronomical Knowledge in the Ancient World. Edited by J. M. Steele. TAC 6. Leiden: Brill, 2016. Weidner, Ernst. “Astrologische Geographie im Alten Orient.” AfO 20 (1963): 117–21. ———. Gestirn-Darstellungen auf babylonischen Tontafeln. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse Sitzungsberichte 254/2. Wien: Böhlau, 1967. Weiher, Egbert von. Spätbabylonische Texte aus Uruk, Teil II. ADFU 10. Berlin: Mann, 1983.

Chapter 4

Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts Ulrike Steinert Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz

What do we know about the clients of Mesopotamian healers and ritual specialists? Comparing the evidence from Mesopotamia and the Greco-Roman world, one cannot help but notice a dearth of information regarding individual clients in the former tradition, while these data are relatively abundant in the latter. Why is this the case? This paper presents a comparative analysis of Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman textual traditions, ritual techniques, and objects of applied practice in order to shed light on this question. On the one hand, the following analysis indicates many similarities between Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman ritual traditions, their envisaged clients, and their social contexts, as is elucidated in a discussion focusing on rituals for bringing about personal success in matters of daily life. On the other hand, the discussion points out that cross-cultural differences in the ritual practices are partially responsible for the very different level of preserved information about individual ritual clients in Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman sources. This paper reviews rituals for personal success in the Mesopotamian textual sources from the first millennium BCE and in Greco-Roman traditions, which are preserved on objects of applied practice dating as early as the sixth century BCE and in the Greek magical papyri from Roman-period Egypt. The latter materials reflect a fusion of various cultural traditions that probably took shape in the Hellenistic period. The analysis allows us to draw some conclusions concerning potential scenarios for cross-cultural transmissions of ritual practices from Mesopotamia to the Greek-speaking Mediterranean world.

Gleanings on the Clients of Mesopotamian Ritual Specialists: Handbooks Versus Objects of Applied Practice The clients of Mesopotamian medical and ritual practitioners have received little attention in Assyriological research up to now.1 This is not surprising, since the client in Mesopotamian ritual texts (and the patient in medical texts) is usually anonymous and generalized, retaining no individual characteristics or information. Moreover, 1.  The final stage of work on this article was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation)—project no. 215342465 / GRK 1876 (“Early Concepts of Humans and Nature”) at Mainz University.



Ulrike Steinert

Figure 4.1a (above).  Stone head of the demon Pazuzu with vertical drill hole, height 3.4 cm. Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe (Inv.-Nr. 71/92). See also Heeßel, Pazuzu, catalog no. 97. Figure 4.1b (left).  Bronze Pazuzu head with loophole, height 6.9 cm. From: Heeßel, Pazuzu, catalog no. 74.

the cuneiform medical corpus does not include case histories of individual named patients.2 While this lack of information applies to the majority of Mesopotamian technical texts, including rituals, handbooks, and compendia, which typically consist of multiple procedures, there are on the other hand a considerable number of texts and objects that directly or indirectly reflect applied practice, namely, the performance of one particular ritual for one specific client or household, or the involvement of ritual specialists (āšipu/mašmaššu), providing professional services to clients. The texts belonging to the professional corpus of the āšipu consist predominantly of incantations, prayers, and rituals, which focus on protecting or removing any form of misfortune and evil as well as on promoting and establishing personal well-being, success, and fortune in all matters of daily life.3 As a consequence, objects of applied practice 2.  This genre is an invention of 5th-century BCE Hippocratic medicine (Asper, “Medical Acculturation?” 26, 40; Johnson, “Depersonalized Case Histories,” 289–315. 3.  For the āšipu, “ritual specialist” (lit. “conjurer”), and his professional text corpus, which is described in the so-called Exorcist’s Manual (KAR 44 and duplicates), see the overview in Schwemer, “Magic Rituals,” 418–42; Geller, “Exorcist’s Manual,” 292–312; Jean, La magie néo-assyrienne en contexte, 62–83.

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reflecting the professional engagement of the āšipu with private clients are prominently attested in the form of apotropaic charms and protective objects, which can be figurative or textual or present a combination of imagery and text, often embedded in multiple ritual contexts of use. A second, smaller group of evidence consists of texts (prayers and incantations) composed or excerpted from compendia for application in a concrete ritual performance for specific clients. The following two sections provide an overview of the source material reflecting applied ritual practice in the functional contexts outlined above. Protective Charms and Objects Including “Amulets” In a recent study of Mesopotamian amulets, Nils Heeßel4 subsumes under the rubric “amulet” any type of figurative and/or textual object displaying a specific “amulet shape” characterized by a device for suspension or attachment, which was either worn on the body or placed in buildings for display and which often, but not always, has a protective or prophylactic function. While the majority of protective charms from the Mesopotamian area were indeed used as amulets, the category of protective objects also includes images (figurines, for example) installed in buildings in other ways than by hanging or suspension, either through visible or invisible placement (as in, for example, a ritual deposit/burial). The first group of charms worn on the body includes small figurines and amulet pendants of various shapes (made predominantly from stone, metal or clay) with figurative imagery and (sometimes) an inscription, attached to the neck with a string (see fig. 4.1a–b).5 An example of a pendant is a Neo-Assyrian amulet showing the protective spirits Ugallu and Lulal, which is small (ca. 2.5 cm length/height) and pierced with several holes for attachment, running through the vertical axis (see fig. 4.2).6 Beside their legal functions, stamp or cylinder seals bearing imagery and (especially in the case of cylinder seals) often also an inscription, such as an incantation or prayer that includes the owner’s name, were likewise worn on the body and fulfilled a protective function.7 Occasionally, magico-medical texts recommend inscribing a stone or clay seal with an incantation to be placed around the patient’s neck.8 These 4.  Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 57–58 with n. 13. 5.  See ibid., 55. Amulet pendants (“jewelry amulets” and clay amulets in the shape of cylinder seals) featuring apotropaic incantations of the genre Hulbazizi have been studied in Finkel, “HUL.BA.ZI.ZI,” 79, 81, 294–306, 318–31, pls. 42–44, 55–56. For examples of jewelry amulets inscribed with an ownership or producer’s note, see Heeßel, Pazuzu, 51, 69–74, 103–13, 139–68, 220–43; George, Mesopotamian Incantations, 53 no. 66, pl. 140; p. 52, 109 no. 116; pp. 91–92 no. 67, pl. 140. 6.  Wiggermann, “Lamaštu,” 247. Not all amulets worn on the body were of precious material; see, for example, the clay amulet BM 78613 from Sippar (Wasserman, “BM 78613,” 49–57). 7.  See Salje, “Siegelverwendung im privaten Bereich,” 125–37, with fig. 128; Finkel, “HUL.BA.ZI. ZI,” 78, 140, 284–93, pls. 57–59. For protective prayers and incantations on seals, see Limet, Les légendes des sceaux cassites, 4.29, 5.1–2, 5.5, 7.10, 7.21, 8.13–14, 8.21–23. For apotropaic amulets attached to fibulae or seals, see Pedde, Vorderasiatische Fibeln, 313–20 with Tafel 73; Heeßel, Pazuzu, 130–33, 134–39, 212–13, 215–19. For protective amulet necklaces in medical contexts see Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, esp. p. 21. 8.  See Farber, Lamaštu, 70 Lam. 1 10, which instructs the reader to inscribe a cylinder seal (na4kišib) with the incantation Lamaštu (ddì mārat Anu šumša ištēn (Inc. 1). See further W. Farber, Schlaf, Kindchen, Schlaf, 116 §41 (BM 134780: 6ʹ–7ʹ), recommending the same incantation on a clay seal. In K. 3628 + rev. 9–12, a collection of prescriptions for babies, a clay seal is inscribed with an incantation to


Ulrike Steinert

Figure 4.2.  Neo-Assyrian amulet with the protective spirits Ugallu and Lulal. Rijksmuseum van Oudheden Leiden. From: Wiggermann, “Lamaštu,” 247.

prescriptions are often concerned with the protection of babies from the attack of illness demons (Lamaštu, “anything evil”). A comparison of the material form of amulets featuring texts or images from the neighboring cultural regions, especially from Egypt, reveals that culture-specific writing techniques have a strong impact on the material form of protective amulets. Thus, while in Mesopotamia amulets with texts or imagery are predominantly manufactured from clay or stone, in Pharaonic Egypt they were inscribed on linen or papyrus (in the Roman period also on gold or silver foil) and subsequently folded or rolled up so as to be worn on a string around the neck.9 Turning to the protective objects associated with installation in buildings, we encounter a similar range of object types as in the case of protective objects worn on the body. Figurines take a prominent position among the various forms of protective charms from Mesopotamia in connection with buildings. These figurines representing deities, protective spirits (Mischwesen) or animals were placed at various locations, either on visible display (especially at gates and room entrances) or in non-visible Ninurta (the star Sirius), which is fired and either placed around the patient’s neck or hung at the head of the bed; Farber, Schlaf, Kindchen, Schlaf, 128–29 §46. See further Finkel, “Amulets Against Fever,” 232–71. 9.  See Dieleman, “Materiality of Textual Amulets,” 23–58, esp. pp. 31–33, 46–47). In Egypt, the practice of wearing protective textual amulets inscribed with an incantation seems to derive from the use of linen strips for applying bandages, objects, and medicaments to the body during rituals, combined with the recitation of an incantation.

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Figure 4.3.  Schematic drawing of an amulet tablet. From: Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 57.

places, for instance, underneath floors, foundations, thresholds, and in corners. These beings functioned as mediators between human beings and the supernatural, as they were believed to ward off evil forces and invite positive divine powers to be present in the building.10 Among the better-known examples of display figurines are those of the demon Pazuzu, a protective spirit believed to repel evil demons associated with sickness such as Lamaštu.11 Examples of non-visible deposits in buildings are dog figurines, often bearing inscriptions, as well as figurines of protective beings such as the Apkallusages and various mythological figures and monsters (Mischwesen), which are closely linked to apotropaic rituals aimed at warding off evil and preventing it from entering a person’s house (šēp lemutti ina bīt amēli parāsu).12 Apart from figurines, we also know of numerous protective amulets in the shape of flat rectangular tablets bearing imagery and (especially in the cases of larger amulets) inscriptions, which were displayed in buildings.13 Notably, besides occasional archaeological information about the amulets’ find spots, the typical form of these 10.  See, for example, discussions of the material by D. Rittig, Assyrisch-babylonische Kleinplastik; Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits; Nakamura, “Dedicating Magic,” 11–25; Nakamura, “The Matter of Magic”; F. Tourtet, “‘Demons at Home’,” 241–65; Feldt, “Monstrous Figurines,” 59–95. For protective figurines as part of visible decorations of Neo-Assyrian palaces, see, for example, Kolbe, Die Reliefprogramme; Engel, Darstellungen von Dämonen und Tieren; Kertai, “Guardians at the Doors,” 325– 49, with further literature. 11.  For a contextualized example of a Pazuzu figurine from Dūr-Katlimmu, see Kühne, “Archäologische Forschungen,” 267–72; Tourtet, “‘Demons at Home’,” 251–53, 257–58). For a survey of Pazuzu statuettes, see Heeßel, Pazuzu, 51–54, 95–96, 115–20, 180–93. 12.  For discussion see Rittig, Assyrisch-babylonische Kleinplastik, 116–21; Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits, 29 with nn. 194–95; Tourtet, “‘Demons at Home’,” 247–50, 254–56; Feldt, “Monstrous Figurines,” 66–88. Interestingly, one important assemblage of deposited figurines comes from the “House of the Incantation Priest” at Aššur, owned by a family of ritual specialists, which closely matches an extract text of the šēp lemutti-ritual (KAR 298) found in the library housed in this building. 13.  See Farber, Lamaštu, 54–63; Reiner, “Plague Amulets,” 148–55; Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 175–90. For a study of the amulet tablets, see Panayotov, Tablets with Projection.


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amulets includes clear signs that they were meant to be hung,14 indicating that they could potentially have a display function (see fig. 4.3). The following overview is restricted to amulets whose imagery and inscriptions point to their use as protective objects in the context of services provided by Assyrian and Babylonian ritual specialists (āšipu) for a private client. It should be noted that not all of these amulets containing texts from the āšipu’s corpus were also manufactured by āšipus. Thus, the materials of the amulets point to their manufacture by different specialists and workshops: stone and metal amulets were produced by stone cutters and metal workers or goldsmiths, while clay amulets, especially amulets inscribed with prayers and incantations from the āšipu’s corpus, indicate that these were also produced by āšipus for their clients.15 Further, if we turn to the Lamaštu amulets,16 many of them bear incantations duplicating or resembling spells in the Lamaštu Ritual Series, while others are inscribed with independent, often truncated incantations or “pseudo-inscriptions,” implying that some craftsmen cooperated with āšipus and copied drafts made available by āšipus, while others—either literate or illiterate—composed their own inscriptions after known models.17 In his short overview of the Lamaštu amulets, Farber discusses two exemplars with ownership statements, commenting that this is a “very unusual feature.”18 One of them, found at Byblos (Lamaštu amulet no. 60, made from stone), belonged to Ilu-ittīya, a ša rēši official of the Assyrian King Šamšī-Adad V (823–811 BCE), as is noted in a colophon-like statement inscribed on the amulet’s projection, followed by a Lamaštu incantation.19 The amulet’s purpose was to protect the owner from the “ban/curse” (divine punishment resulting from a broken oath) and from the sickness demons Lamaštu, Labāṣu, and Ahhāzu.20 The other Lamaštu amulet, no. 77, made from limestone (see fig. 4.4), has a peculiar ownership note below the imagery on the obverse, in which the amulet seems to be designated as the “tablet” (dub?!) of 14.  Reiner (“Plague Amulets,” 150) concluded from allusions in the amulet inscriptions that they were hung up at the outer house entrance, but the archaeological evidence is not conclusive enough to specify an exact location in most cases (see Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 62–63). Usually amulets were hung by loops in the case of metal amulets and bore holes in the case of stone/ clay amulets, which are drilled through a rectangular projection protruding on one side of the amulet; for variants of figurative projections in the shape of Pazuzu heads, see Wiggermann, “Lamaštu,” 247; Heeßel, Pazuzu, 122, 197 no. 17; Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 56. 15.  For indications that occasionally incantations and amulets could be produced by common, literate users, see Wasserman, “What You See,” 55 n. 28; Barjamovic, “Contextualizing Tradition,” 48–86. 16.  For studies of the Lamaštu amulets, see also Wiggermann, “Lamaštu,” 219–48; Heeßel, Pazuzu, 98–103, 123–30; Tourtet, “‘Demons at Home’,” 242–46; Götting, “Lamaštu.” For Lamaštu amulets found in graves, which were worn on the body, see ibid., 23–26; Limper, Uruk, 90 no. 334b, taf. 55; Becker, Uruk, 4, no. 1, taf. 1. 17.  See Farber, Lamaštu, 29–34 and passim (with numerous photos); George, Mesopotamian Incantations, no. 62–65, pls. 137–39; Finkel, “HUL.BA.ZI.ZI,” 79–80, 140, 307–18, pls. 45–55. See further Farber, “Tamarisken—Fibeln—Skolopender,” 85–105. For a similar division of labor between the magos and the stone engraver in the Greco-Roman world, see Nagy, “Engineering Ancient Amulets,” 211–12. 18.  Farber, Lamaštu, 32–33. 19.  Farber, Lamaštu, 31 fig. 13, pl. 83 text “Ai,” 32–33 lines 1–8. Ilu-ittīya also served as eponym in 804 BCE and as governor of Assur under Šamši-Adad V and Adad-nērārī III. 20.  Ibid., 32–33: (4) a-na na-ṣar zi-šú (5) nam.érim a-na su-šú nu te-e (6) [dd]ì ddì ddìm. me.hab (7) [a-n]a mdingir-it-ti-ia dumu dingir-šú nu te nu dim4, “In order to safeguard his life, to prevent the Curse from seizing him, (and) to prevent Lamaštu, Labāṣu (or) Ahhāzu from coming near (or) drawing close to Ilu-ittīya, the son of his god.”

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Figure 4.4.  Lamaštu amulet no. 77, obv., part of the inscription written on the left edge. After: Farber, Lamaštu, 31, fig. 12, 445, pl. 64; J. G. Westenholz, ed., Dragons, Monsters and Fabulous Beasts (Jerusalem: Bible Lands Museum, 2004), 94–95, no. 150. Drawing: Yves Lindner.

Anu-naʾid(?), son of Ina-tēšê-eṭir, and continues with a warning typical for tablet colophons against the intentional removal of the object.21 Because of this unique statement, Wiggermann suggests that this amulet was a library piece, possibly lent by the owner for instruction, which could imply that the owner was a ritual specialist.22 21.  Ibid., 33–34, 31 fig. 12 (photo) and pl. 64 (copy), lines 1–3; see also Farber, “Ein bedeutsames neues Lamaštu-Amulett,” 115–28 with photos. 22.  Wiggermann, “Lamaštu,” 241 n. 179.


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A third Lamaštu amulet tablet with a fragmentary ownership label has recently been published by Andrew George,23 which belonged to one of the Sargonid kings (Esarhaddon or Aššurbanipal). Since the imagery and incantation on this piece is also encountered on another amulet found at Nineveh, both amulets may have been hung up in the royal bedroom for the protection of the king.24 Besides protective amulets for display in buildings, which feature both images and texts, almost exclusively made from precious materials such as stone and metal, there is also a group of amulets, bearing only texts but no imagery, inscribed almost exclusively on clay tablets sharing the “amulet shape” characterized by a pierced projection (hanging device). From the text amulets identified up to now, a protective and apotropaic function can be attributed especially to those bearing incantations and prayers, which moreover can be connected with the text corpus used by the āšipu. While these protective text amulets made from clay are certainly not a late development, they can nevertheless be regarded as the āšipu’s (cheaper) version of figurative amulets made from precious materials that only the elite could afford.25 Thus, on some of these amulet tablets, we find references to the clients and owners for whose protection these objects were made. The texts inscribed on this group of amulets are apotropaic incantations connected predominantly to the genres of Hulbazizi and Namburbi spells and short prayers addressing deities associated with healing and apotropaic rites (Marduk, Ea, Šamaš, Išum) or with bringing illness/plagues (Erra, the Sebitti).26 Similarly, extracts from the Erra Epic, a first-millennium BCE literary text about the raging of the plague god Erra, were written on amulet tablets, as this text was believed to have inherent magic power to protect the house in which it was displayed from illness and pestilence.27 23.  George, Mesopotamian Incantations, 52–53, 91 no. 63 (2.B.10), pl. 138. 24.  The ownership statement reads ekal m[RN] šar kiššati [šar māt Aššur], “palace (property) of [RN], king of the world, [king of Assyria].” 25.  Most protective text amulets discussed in the literature are from the first millennium BCE and predominantly from Assyria (see also Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 73 n. 94). The oldest text amulet with a Lamaštu incantation from Kanesh dates to the Old Assyrian period (Michel, “Une incantation paléo-assyrienne,” 58–64; Farber, Lamaštu, 74–75 text “OA1”; Barjamovic, “Contextualizing Tradition,” no. 2a); another amulet tablet presumably from Emar, featuring three Lamaštu incantations as well as seal impressions, dates to the Middle Babylonian period (Farber, Lamaštu, 14–16, pls. 66–67, 84–89). For amulet tablets bearing texts other than prayers or incantations, which do not have a protective function in a domestic context and thus do not reflect the engagement of āšipus with clients, see Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 63–73, which also discusses their functional contexts of use. 26.  See Reiner, “Plague Amulets,” 151–54; Finkel, “HUL.BA.ZI.ZI,” 14, 72–73, 75 (text c = KAR 76 amulet-shaped(?) tablet with Hulbazizi and other incantations; Pedersen, Archives and Libraries, 39 N3 (34); Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 175–90; Maul and Strauß, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete, 13–14, 51–54 no. 22–23; Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 59–62, with further literature. 27.  The author of the Erra Epic actually states at the end of his work that a copy of the text will protect the owner’s house from pestilence; for discussion, see Reiner, “Plague Amulets,” 148–55; Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 59–60. Extracts of tablet 3 are found on the stone amulet BM 118998 (excavated at Assur in a domestic context), extracts from tablet 5 on two amulet tablets from Nineveh (King, “New Fragments,” 50–51, 54–58) and on one from Ur (U 18122), see Cagni, L’Epopea di Erra, 258–59; Lambert, “Fifth Tablet of the Era Epic,” 119–25, pl. 36 (copy). According to Pedersen (Archives and Libraries, 56, 62 no. 120), KAR 166, which contains tablet 5 and was found at Assur (in the N4 library belonging to the “House of the Incantation Priest”), is also an amulet tablet (Cagni, L’Epopea di Erra, 527–28 taf. 5–6). Further, one large amulet tablet from Assur contains the whole epic (KAR 169, ibid., 50, 258–59; photo: Gössmann, Das Era-Epos, 110–11. It was unearthed in an area of private houses (Pedersen, Archives and Libraries,. 56 n. 33).

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Figure 4.5.  Neo-Assyrian amulet tablet BM 118998. Reproduced with permission of University of Chicago Press; from E. Reiner, “Plague Amulets and House Blessings,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 19 (1960), pl. 2. Permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.

These text amulets often contain the client’s name, typically in a formulaic invocation appended to the incantation/prayer, which can be written on the edges or over the pierced projection of the tablet. Thus, on BM 11899828 (see fig. 4.5) featuring an extract from Erra Epic tablet 3, the owner is named in a subscript on the upper and left edge (anāku md[X]-mušēzib aradkunu lubluṭ “I, [. . .]-mušēzib, your (pl.) servant, shall be healthy!”). Similarly, four Neo-Assyrian amulets preserve the same short prayer invoking the main divine characters of the Erra Epic (Erra, Marduk, Išum, and the Sebitti), 28.  Reiner, “Plague Amulets,” pl. 2.


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Figure 4.6.  Neo-Assyrian amulet tablet K. 5984, written for a certain Šumma-Nabû. Photograph © The Trustees of the British Museum. See also Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative;

asking for protection from epidemics (see fig. 4.6).29 Three of them contain the name of the owner, while on the fourth the space for the client’s name was left blank for later insertion.30 A few clay amulet tablets are inscribed with prayers to Ea, Šamaš, 29.  Ibid., 151; Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 60. 30.  The owner is identified, but no genealogical affiliation or professional title is included. Two of the amulets come from Nineveh, one having been written for Šumma-Nabû (K. 5984, see Reiner, “Plague Amulets,” 151; photo CDLI,, the second for Hapatira (Thompson, “Cuneiform Historical Texts from Nineveh,” 128 pl. 17 no. 41; Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 60). In contrast to these, the third amulet (KAR 282 + VAT 11219 [+] KAR 37, from Assur) contains not only this short invocation, but also a fragmentary Namburbi spell; see Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 179; Maul and Strauß, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete, 13, 51–54 no. 22. Both the invocation and the Namburbi spell contain the name of the client, a certain Bulālu. Another tablet fragment with a Šuila prayer to Marduk, published by Maul and Strauß (ibid., 117 no. 61), was written for the same man. These two texts were found in a library in the crown prince’s palace at Assur built by Sennacherib (Pedersen, Archives and Libraries, 76–81). The fourth, fragmentary piece is from Tell Halaf (Friedrich, Meyer, Ungnad, and Weidner, Inschriften vom Tell Halaf, 47 pl. 17 no. 100); Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 180–81.

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Figure 4.7.  Inscription and design on projection of the amulet tablet KAR 35 from Assur. From: Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 177.

and Asalluhi, closely related to incantations in the Namburbi rituals.31 They typically feature an additional short invocation to Marduk, Erra, and Išum, written into “magical diagrams,” which cover the blank spaces on the reverse and on the amulet’s projection (reverse and obverse) and consist of rectangles divided into triangular fields by internal crossing lines (see fig. 4.7).32 The invocation reads: 31.  Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung. 32.  Reiner, “Plague Amulets,” 152; Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 177. For an interpretation of the “magic diagram,” see Reiner, “Plague Amulets,” 151–52. Amulets featuring this design and invocation include KAR 37 (+) KAR 282 + (Namburbi amulet for Bulālu), KAR 35, KAR 120 (two Namburbi amulets for Bābu-aha-iddina, possibly identical with the Assur scribe who wrote two tablets of the Erra Epic; see Frankena, “Untersuchungen zum Irra Epos,” 2–10, pl. 2 [A. 130 and 131]; Radner and Parpola, Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, 247; Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 178–79; Reiner, “Plague Amulets,” 153), KAR 36 + 261 (very fragmentary), LKA 128 (Namburbi amulet written for Nabû-zēra-iqīša, an Assur scribe; see Panayotov, “Who Is the Client,” 16–17 no. 11.; see also Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 179–80 who believes this piece is a student’s tablet). Fragmentarily preserved diagrams are found on the pieces published in Maul and Strauß, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete, 54 no. 23; Miglus, “Assur—Frühjahrskampagne 2000,” 27 fig. 10; and Maul, “Schriftfunde aus Assur,” 76 no. 15. All these amulet tablets were unearthed at Assur (see Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 175–181; Heeßel, “Amulette und ‘Amulettform’,” 64 with n. 34). Another amulet tablet with a Namburbi prayer and magic diagram has recently been published


Ulrike Steinert

Field 1 (end or reverse): God who keeps me in good health, Asalluhi/God who keeps me in good health, Marduk! Field 2 (projection on reverse): Išum, herald of the gods, lord of the street(s), Field 3 (on upper edge of projection): When(ever) you pass by in the street, over the house of Field 4 (projection on obverse): [personal name], the son of his god, place protection! Although we lack definite archaeological information confirming that the discussed amulet tablets were actually hung up in their owners’ houses—nor can it be excluded that some of the pieces were models used and kept by scribes and ritual practitioners—the personalized examples bearing the owner’s name firmly suggest that most of our examples should be seen as deriving from actual use in residential contexts. All owners are men (heads of households).33 Excerpt Tablets with Incantations/Prayers Used on Specific Occasions In addition to amulet tablets that reflect the practice of ritual specialists, including their interactions with private clients, a number of tablets with “personalized” prayers or incantations have come down to us, which insert the client’s name in those places where, in incantation compendia, a generic, anonymous formula occurs (anāku annanna mār annanna ša ilšu annanna ištaršu annannītu, “I am so-and-so, child of so-and-so, whose (personal) god is so-and-so, whose (personal) goddess is so-andso”).34 Many of these personalized incantations are written in the name of a royal by George (Mesopotamian Incantations, 155–59 no. 61 [MS 3187], pls. 132–36), which was made for Nabû-zēra-iddina, possibly identical with the Assur goldsmith in whose archive at least one more clay amulet tablet was found (see ibid., 156; Maul and Strauß, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete, 4 n. 25, for discussion and literature). Note further LKA 129 (Namburbi amulet with uninscribed projection on the left side of the tablet) and a fragmentary Namburbi amulet from Tarsus, which was written for Nabû-dūr-ilišu (Goetze, “Cuneiform Inscriptions from Tarsus,” 11–16 no. 8). For the latest joint edition of KAR 35, KAR 36 + 261, LKA 129 together with KAL 2, 40 and MS 3187, see also Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2: text 11.4. In addition, KAR 169, an amulet tablet containing the complete Erra Epic, preserves part of the invocation on the reverse of the projection, written in continuous fashion and without crossed lines (Reiner, “Plague Amulets,” 153). 33.  This is not surprising, since households/families are predominantly patrilocal/patrilineal in secondand first-millennium BCE Mesopotamia. Note however that personal amulets worn on the body were often owned by women (as are seals); see, for example, the amulets in the shape of cylinder seals featuring the same Hulbazizi spell, collected by Finkel, “HUL.BA.ZI.ZI,” 79, 94, 160–61 no. 18 lines 68–72, esp. line 71 (mss. A, B, D, E, F, H), two of which belonged to women; see also pp. 296–97. See Finkel, “Amulets Against Fever,” discussing a group of clay amulets from Nippur (second half of the first millennium BCE) in the shape of cylinder seals, each inscribed with a spell against fever. Three exemplars include the name of the female client for whom they were produced: Bāba-ēṭerat, daughter of Bānitay. 34.  All known examples date to the first millennium BCE. Among the Old Babylonian texts there is one unique tablet of love incantations from Isin (IB 1554), which seems to have been used as an object of applied ritual practice. Besides its peculiar find spot (intentionally broken and deposited in a sealed jar in the city wall), three of the incantations on the tablet address two men named Erra-bāni and Iddin-Damu (as targets; see Wilcke, “Liebesbeschwörungen aus Isin,” 188–209; Scurlock, “Love-Hungry Ēntu-Priestess,” 107–12; Groneberg, “Liebes- und Hundebeschwörungen im Kontext,” 91–92; Wasserman, Akkadian Love

Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts


client and preserved on excerpt tablets bearing no other text, which points to their potential use in the context of a ritual performance.35 For example, two manuscripts of a Šuila prayer to Marduk (gašru šūpû ilitti Eridu) insert the name of the Assyrian King Aššurbanipal or that of his brother Šamaš-šumu-ukīn instead of the generic formula.36 Since, in the prayer, the supplicant pleads for the removal of impending evil signaled by a lunar eclipse, Oshima suggests that this prayer was recited by or for both monarchs on the occasion of the same celestial event.37 In the case of another Šuila prayer preserved in two copies from Nineveh, one of which contains Aššurbanipal’s name instead of the annanna-formula and displays a distinct handwriting, Alasdair Livingstone argued that this tablet was written by the king himself as part of his scribal education.38 Beside Šuila-prayers written in the names of the kings Sargon II (721–705 BCE), Aššurbanipal (668–631 BCE), Šamaš-šumu-ukīn (667–648 BCE), and Sîn-šar-iškun (626–612 BCE),39 which were often embedded in rituals concerned with purification and with warding off evil and ominous signs, there are also a few instances of “personalized” prayers, which are written in the name of a commoner.40 Notably, Literature, 24, 257–74). Further, another Old Babylonian multi-text incantation tablet (YOS 11, 21) contains a colophon mentioning the names of two men who commissioned the tablet, which indicates that they could have been the intended users of these texts (see Wasserman, “What You See,” 57 for discussion). 35.  For a list of the names of supplicants mentioned in prayers, see Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 54–56. Apart from tablets with Šuila prayers inserting the name of a ruler, there are also several literary prayers composed in the name of rulers or scholars, for example, the prayer of Aššurnaṣirpal I to Ištar of Nineveh on the occasion of an illness (von Soden, “Zwei Königsgebete an Ištar aus Assyrien,” 38–45; Foster, Before the Muses, 327–30) or Aššurbanipal’s Acrostic Hymn to Marduk and Zarpanītu (Livingstone, Court Poetry, 6–10 no. 2; Foster, Before the Muses, 821–26), and the Gula Hymn of Bulluṭsarabi (Lambert, “Gula Hymn of Bulluṭsa-rabi,” 116–32). In a few instances, prayers may have been actually composed by a (royal or other) supplicant, such as the Unnīnu-Prayer of the prince Nabû-šuma-ukīn, son of Nebukadnezar II (Finkel, “Lament of Nabû-šuma-ukīn,” 323–42; Foster, Before the Muses, 852–56; Oshima, Babylonian Prayers to Marduk, 316–28 P 16), or the Acrostic Prayers to Marduk and Nabû by the exorcist Nabû-ušebši (ca. eighth century BCE; see Lambert, “Literary Style,” 130–32; Seux, Hymnes et prières aux dieux, 264–66; Foster, Before the Muses, 704–5; Oshima, Babylonian Prayers to Marduk, 311– 15 P 14). Further, for an overview of Akkadian prayers and hymns to deities on behalf of Mesopotamian rulers, see Livingstone, Court Poetry, 1–20 no. 1–7; Foster, Before the Muses; Foster, Akkadian Literature, 42–43, 82–87; Oshima, Babylonian Prayers to Marduk, 24–31. 36.  Ibid., 25–26, 337–45 text IP 2 (AOAT 34, 28 (+) 29, duplicated by BMS 54 (ms. C), both of which feature the generic formula, while PBS 1/2, no. 108 (ms. D) inserts the name of Šamaš-šumu-ukīn and BMS 55 (ms. E) inserts Aššurbanipal (Oshima, Babylonian Prayers to Marduk, 342–45); see also Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 395 (= Marduk 2). 37.  Oshima, Babylonian Prayers to Marduk, 337–38; see also Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars, 351 n. 649, who connects PBS 1/2 no. 108 as well as other prayers prepared for Šamaš-šumu-ukīn with a lunar eclipse in 661 or 660 BCE; see Ungnad, “Figurenzauber für den kranken König Šamaš-šumu-ukīn,” 293–94. 38.  See Livingstone, “Ashurbanipal: Literate or Not?” 108–10 and 115–18, esp. line 26ʹ for the Aššurbanipal tablet K. 8005 + (fig. 3) and the “Vorlage” K. 6692 (fig. 4). Oshima (Babylonian Prayers to Marduk, 337 n. 6) suggests that BMS 55 could likewise be a tablet written by the king (see Oshima, Babylonian Prayers to Marduk, 338 for a photo of K. 6792 = BMS 55). 39.  The appendix of this paper lists the texts. 40.  See Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 55, for a list of petitioners’ names in prayers. Many examples do not include a patronymic, but only give the names of the personal deities. Note, for example, LKA 57 // LKA 40 // LKA 40a, the latter of which preserves the name of the client, Balasi (Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2: text 9.7 mss. B–D). For LKA 154+155, see Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1: text 8.2 ms. B (esp. obv. 39, only father’s name preserved). For STT 67 (Banītu-tēreš), see Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft


Ulrike Steinert

LKA 51, an extract tablet with the Nusku prayer no. 3, inserts the name of the scribe Aššur-mudammiq and that of his personal deities, Nabû and Tašmētu.41 The tablet’s colophon seems to give the date on which the ritual and prayer was performed for Aššur-mudammiq.42 Although most examples of prayers/incantations performed for named persons concern men, we know of one fragmentary tablet from the Achaemenid period with an incantation mentioning a female patient whose name and affiliation is unfortunately only fragmentarily preserved, possibly to be restored as Banītu’a, daughter of Ea-[. . .].43 The fragmentary incantation addressing the goddess Aruru seems to indicate a birth context, since it mentions a “child, baby,” lillidu.44 This survey of attestations of clients’ names on protective objects and tablets with incantations/prayers has yielded a limited but not inconsiderable number of instances, which apparently reflect the engagement of ritual specialists with individual clients. In the few cases where we are informed about the profession or social status of these clients, they belong to the upper social strata, holding positions such as scribe or governor/royal official. It is possible that many more single-text tablets bearing an incantation were written by ritual practitioners for individual clients, given to them, for example, as protective or apotropaic objects.45 Unfortunately, in many cases the texts in question do not provide any contextual clues such as clients’ names.

Mesopotamian Ritual Genres, Clients, and the Question of Intercultural Transmission in the First Millennium BCE Apart from the protective objects and texts (re)produced by ritual specialists for particular clients on specific occasions, the collections of ritual texts also contain contextual links and hints, which point to potential or envisaged groups of clients and their social milieu. It is these contextual hints that I would like to focus on in the rest of this Rituals, 2: text 9.6 ms. C (obv. 14). For KAR 235 (Aššur-šāliṭ), see Maul and Strauß, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete, no. 26 (obv. 12ʹ and 18ʹ). Note also A. 3471, a fragmentary ritual and prayer to avert the evil of fungus seen by the client, Nabû-ēṭir (Caplice, “An Apotropaion Against Fungus,” 345–49). 41.  See Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 38–39, esp. p. 33 with n. 12; Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 406. 42.  The colophon reads [ina i]ti.⸢bára˺ u4.19.kám / ˹ina nu˺-bat-ti in-né-˹ep-šu?˺ / ša man.šár-mu-sig5 ˹x x x˺, “On the 19th of Nisan, in the evening, it was performed. Concerning/belonging to Aššur-mudammiq.” Curiously, LKA 51 was found in the N4 library (“House of the Incantation Priest”); see Pedersen, Archives and Libraries, 47, 50. Aššur-mudammiq, son of Nabû-mušēṣi, grandson of Bēl-kundi-ila’i, chief scribe and scribe of the Aššur temple, is also attested in texts from Nineveh; see Radner, Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, 197. 43.  I will publish BM 54846, in my edition of gynecological texts in preparation. The fragmentary colophon is dated to the 28th of Simānu of year 31(?) of King Artaxerxes (I or II, late 5th or early 4th century BCE). 44.  Moreover, Christopher Walker (personal communication) has discovered a unique tablet (BM 36727) also dating to the Achaemenid period (twenty-eighth year of Artaxerxes I or II), which preserves a list of incantation incipits, which are matched with personal names. This could indicate that the tablet represents an account or memorandum of incantations to be copied for ritual performances on behalf of individual clients. 45.  This was suggested by Wasserman (“What You See,” 55–56), who doubts that single-text tablets with incantations were always school texts, as is often proposed.

Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts


paper. Clues about the envisaged clients of ritual texts can be gleaned from textual rubrics (designations of ritual/incantation genres), from incantations describing the patient’s problem(s) and from the ritual instructions. I would like to point out how this information as well as cross-cultural comparisons can be used to throw light on the social contexts of Mesopotamian rituals/incantations. In a recent survey of the rituals employed by Mesopotamian ritual specialists for individual clients, Schwemer differentiates between a large group of rituals that are defensive in nature (concerned with the removal of evil, illness, or misfortune caused by demons, ghosts, angry deities, witchcraft, or transgression of taboos or indicated by negative signs) and a smaller group of “aggressive rituals whose performance was intended to give the client power over others.”46 In the latter category, Schwemer includes love magic, rituals for success in business, and rituals for succeeding against an opponent in court or for a successful audience in the palace, the latter known by the Sumerian rubric é.gal.ku4.ra, literally, “entering the palace.” According to Schwemer, the “aggressive rituals” formed “a grey area between approved āšipūtu and proscribed witchcraft” and were regarded as ambivalent by the practitioners who used them. I would like to question this clear-cut distinction between defensive and aggressive magic,47 since some of the rituals described as aggressive are rather ambivalent, showing both aggressive and defensive aspects. Seen from a more neutral and psychological perspective, the purpose of rituals such as é.gal.ku4.ra was to boost the client’s self-esteem and to help him cope with the uncertainties of social interaction and competition. In the following sections, I will look more closely at the social relations reflected in these “aggressive” rituals, at the attitudes of clients expressed in the incantations, and at the ritual actions that were used to symbolize and materialize the ritual’s aims. In doing so, I will seek to highlight the ambivalent features of “aggressive” rituals such as é.gal.ku4.ra. As a first approach to elucidating the place of “aggressive” rituals within the āšipu’s lore, we shall look at their grouping with other rituals, on the basis of their rubrics, in a text known from at least three very different manuscripts from the first millennium BCE (STT 300 and BRM 4 19–20), namely, the Exorcist’s Almanac.48 The almanac stipulates the proper time for the performance of various types of rituals for private 46.  Schwemer, “Magic Rituals,” 431 47.  Ibid., 432. Although magic has become a debated term in recent years, and it is apparent that our etic categories distinguishing between “religion,” “magic,” and “science” did not exist in the ancient Mesopotamian cultures, the term magic still has value as a heuristic tool and will be used here to designate an area of religious activity revolving around rituals that serve pragmatic ends by trying to influence or control individual or collective well-being, health, and success and that include the use of words (recitations, incantations, prayers), materia medica (including natural substances and manufactured objects), and the performance of specific (symbolic) actions to achieve a respective goal (for recent discussions, see for example Otto, Magie; Schwemer, “Magic Rituals,” 419–20; Bremmer, “From Books with Magic,” 10–12; Feldt, “Monstrous Figurines,” 60–66). As a consequence, Mesopotamian “magic” overlaps with domains such as religion, medicine, and divination, as all these areas are linked in the diverse professional profile of the Mesopotamian “ritual experts” and “physicians; healers” (āšipu/mašmaššu and asû). 48.  See Gurney and Hulin, Sultantepe Tablets, 15. The almanac has been recently discussed in Scurlock, “Sorcery in the Stars,” 125–46.; Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 160; Geller, Look to the Stars, 25–56; Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia, 27–46. BRM 4 20 was written by the exorcist Iqīša (see Frahm, “Babylonische Priestergelehrte,” 74–108; Clancier, Les bibliothèques en Babylonie, 47–73, 387–409); BRM 4 19 comes from the same Uruk archive. The Neo-Assyrian precursor STT 300 dating to late 7th century BCE was written on an amulet (see the editions by Casaburi, “Early Evidences,” 63–88;


Ulrike Steinert

clients. The manuscript BRM 4 20 from Late Babylonian Uruk, dating roughly to end of the fourth century BCE, assigns ritual genres to a constellation (zodiac sign), indicating the appropriate time (ūmu adannu) during which each ritual should be performed so as to be particularly effective.49 BRM 4 20:1–25   1.  šà.bal.bal ki mulur.a

(Rituals/spells for) changing (someone’s) mind (lit., “heart”). (In the) region of Leo. mul   2.  di.bal.a ki (Rituals/spells for) overturning a verdict. Region of Aquarius.   3.  šu.du8.a.kam ki mulab.sín (Rituals/spells for) loosening (someone’s) hand (so that he gives you what you desire). Region of Virgo.   4.  nam.érim.bú ki (Rituals/spells for) dissolving the curse (resulting from broken oath/taboo). Region of Aquarius.   5.  ki.ág.gá nita ana munus ki (Rituals/spells for causing) a man to love a mul zi-ba-nu woman. Region of Libra.   6.  ki.ág.gá munus ana nita ki (Rituals/spells for causing) a woman to love a mul kun.meš man. Region of Pisces.   7.  ki.ág.gá nita ana nita ki (Rituals/spells for causing) a man to love a mul gír.[tab] man. Region of Scorpio.   8.  munus ki mullú.hun.gá (Rituals/spells for) a woman to come (to you). Region of Aries. mul   9. ki pa.bil.sag . . . (Rituals/spells for) cutting of the throat. Region of Sagittarius . . . (variant). 10. ki mul⟨maš⟩ (Rituals/spells for) bringing about a volte-face. Region of Gemini. d mul 11.  íd u pú kù.ga ki suhur.máš (Rituals/spells for) cleansing by river or well (ordeal). Region of Capricorn. 12.  é.gal.ku4.ra ki mulal.lu5 (Rituals/spells) for entering the palace. Region of Cancer. mul 13. šúr.hun.gá ki gu.[la] (Rituals/incantations) for appeasing anger. Region of Aquarius.

Glassner, “Exorcisme et chronomancie selon STT 2, 300,” 75–81; Geller, Look to the Stars, 45–54; Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia, 47–68). 49.  The rituals found in the three texts are largely identical (although appearing in different order). But there is one decisive difference between them: STT 300 lists the days and months of the lunar year on which certain types of rituals should be performed in order to be successful. In BRM 4 19, the dates known from STT 300 (with some variants and changes) stand for micro-zodiacal positions in a sign of the zodiac (see Neugebauer and Sachs, “The ‘Dodekatemoria’ in Babylonian Astrology,” 65–66; Casaburi, “Early Evidences,” 81–86; Rochberg-Halton, “Elements of the Babylonian Contribution,” 58; Rochberg-Halton, In the Path of the Moon, 143–66; Scurlock, “Sorcery in the Stars,” 127–44, for discussion). Finally, BRM 4 20 presents a simplified chart that correlates the rituals with zodiac signs/constellations but without adding a micro-zodiacal position. Thus, generally speaking, STT 300 reflects a calendrical system before the establishment of the zodiac in the Achaemenid period, which was based on favorable days, while BRM 4 19–20 reflect the conversion to a new astrological system based on the zodiac.

Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts


14.  lugal ina é.gal-šú mu-šú ana sig5-tim ḫa-sa-sa ki 5 uš ina igi mul[x]

(Rituals/spells for) having the king remember his (the client’s) name favorably in his palace. Region of five degrees before (constellation) [x].

15.  nun ina é.gal-šú mu-šú ana sig5-tim mu-ár ki mulkun.meš

(Rituals/spells for) having a prince pronounce his (the client’s) name favorably in his palace. Region of Pisces. (Rituals/spells for) the “one who sees you” to be happy and joyful to see you. Region of Leo. (Rituals/spells to) induce a woman to talk (consent to intercourse?). Region of Aries. (Rituals/spells for making) “the one who sees you” point favourably at you. Region of Virgo.

16.  a-mir-ka ana igi-ka ha-de-e u ra-a-ši ki mulur.[a] 17.  munus šu-ud-bu-bu ki mul lú.hun.[gá] 18.  a-mir-ka ššú ana sig5tim ana mu-hi-ka ta-ra-aṣ ki mul ab[sin] 19.  ši-kin kù.babbar ki sa4 šá mul[na] 20.  záh ki mullugal . . . 21.  munus lú ana nita šá-nim-ma igiII-šú u igi la na-še-e ki mul maš gal.[gal] 22.  hul.gig ki mul˹gír˺.[tab] 23.  uš11.bú ki . . . 24.  gìri hul-tú ina é lú tar-si ki mul mul . . . 25.   iš-di-hu lú.kurun.nam šur-ši-i ki mulal.lu5

(Rituals/spells for) depositing silver. Region of the brightest star of Taurus. (Rituals/spells for) returning a runaway (slave). Region of Regulus . . . (variant). (Rituals/spells for) a man’s wife not to lift her eyes and face towards another man. Region of Gemini. (Rituals/spells for) hate (magic). Region of Scorpio. (Rituals/spells for) dissolving witchcraft. Region of Aquarius . . . (variant). (Rituals/spells for) blocking the path of evil from a man’s house. Region of Taurus (Pleiades) . . . (variant). (Rituals/spells for) bringing about profit for an innkeeper. Region of Cancer . . . (variant).

The rituals listed in BRM 4 20 refer to genres, some of which are well known from extant texts linked to the āšipu’s corpus, and present us with apotropaic, protective, and purificatory rituals concerned with removing illness and misfortune caused by demons, ghosts, and sorcery. Thus, there are numerous ritual texts “to remove the (divine) curse” (nam.érim.bú resulting from a broken oath or from the transgression of a taboo, as well as ritual prescriptions to counter destructive sorcery designated as “cutting the throat (magic)” (, “hate (magic)” (hul.gig), and “dissolving (of) witchcraft” (uš11.bú On the other hand, BRM 4 20 features 50.  For the corpus of anti-witchcraft rituals, see, for example, Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, vols. 1–2. Some of the ritual genres in this category are known from the Exorcist’s Manual, KAR 44, a catalog of the texts belonging to the āšipu’s craft (see Geller, “Exorcist’s Manual”; Jean, La magie néo-assyrienne, 62–82). Some rubrics in BRM 4 20 concerned with illness and health matters are known either from the ritual/medical texts or from KAR 44 and include treatments for the head, for skin conditions, for stopping female hemorrhage, for epilepsy, “hand of a god,” “hand of a ghost,” rectal disease, diarrhea, fever, headache and potency (lines 26–32, 36–37, 44–45). Tablets with rituals against “cutting the throat” ( are found among the anti-witchcraft


Ulrike Steinert

ritual genres that give the impression of being “manipulative” or “egoistic,” aimed at bringing about the personal success of the client in various matters of daily life, ranging from social relations such as sexuality, love, or business matters to legal conflicts and relations with a superior. These rituals are concerned with influencing or manipulating social relations to the advantage of the client, including rituals entitled “entering the palace” (é.gal.ku4.ra), “changing (someone’s) mind” (šà.bal. bal), “overturning a verdict” (di.bal.a)51, “loosening (someone’s) hand” (šu.du8.a), and “appeasing (someone’s) anger” (šúr.hun.gá), as well as rituals aimed at winning someone’s favor (lines 14–18).52 Finally, BRM 4 20 includes rituals that definitely sound “aggressive” and harmful in nature: their purpose is solely to inflict damage on others. The designations of some of these ritual types point to practices that resemble the indigenous category “sorcery” (kišpū etc.), practices that are usually fought or countered rather than employed in the traditional āšipūtu texts, such as rituals “for a ghost to inflict (someone), for binding (a ghost) to a man, for entrusting the figurine of a man to a dead (person).”53 A similar type of aggressive magic aimed at destroying other people’s relationships or damaging a rival, virtually unknown in the cuneiform sources, is represented in ritual titles such as “setting a man against (another) man,” “to remove a powerful person from the palace,” “to separate the king from the man he loves,” “to separate (someone) from the woman he loves,” and spells “to frighten off a female rival or to remove a man from his office.”54 Assyriologists have largely sought to explain this unusual and contradictory mixture of what we would call “black” and “white” magic in BRM 4 20 (and in the related texts BRM 4 19 and STT 300) by trying to assign the rituals as a whole to one category. The texts, while the category “hate (magic)” (hul.gig) is so far only known from listings of evil sorcery countered in the anti-witchcraft texts (Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 63–67, 160). 51.  While in the anti-witchcraft texts, di.bal.a refers to a form of aggressive magic resulting in the victim’s loss in a court trial, the entry could refer here to rituals that counteract this evil magic, which are designated by the same expression; see Mayer, “Ein Ritual gegen Feindschaft,” 17, 30–31 (VAT 13683: 28), for a ritual text against a personal enemy, which mentions a salve against di.bal.a. The same principle applies to genres such as and hul.gig; see also Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 66, 160. 52.  See, for a discussion of such genres, ibid., 128–29, 159–60. Similarly, line 46: ma-gàr lugal ana lú, “(for) favor of the king towards a man.” An intermediate between rituals with defensive and egoistic character could be genres entitled “(so that) a man’s wife does not lift her eyes and face towards another man” (line 21), “for an important person or magnate not to indulge/believe in slander” (line 38), “not to receive insults” (line 39), “not to believe slander” (line 39, 72). 53.  For “sorcery,” see Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung. Line 33/62 reads: gidim dab-bat ki lú ⟨ana⟩ kéš nu lú ana ug7 pa-qá-du. For references from the anti-witchcraft texts concerning these sorcerous practices, see, for example, Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 98–108, 160–61, 200–201; Daxelmüller and Thomsen, “Bildzauber im alten Mesopotamien,” 50–51. Interestingly, in the precursor STT 300.17, the latter two phrases occur as negations suggesting that in BRM 4 20, formerly apotropaic rituals were reinterpreted as aggressive rituals (namely, “for a ghost afflicting (someone) not to get tied to a person, for not entrusting the figurine of a man to a dead (person),” which would fit the following entry, “(spells) for giving water to a ghost (and) removing harm” (ana gid[im a.meš] ana nag-e hi-bil-ti è-i, BRM 4 20.33–34, var. STT 300.17–18; see Scurlock, “Sorcery in the Stars,” 133–34; Geller, Melothesia in Babylonia, 55). For a comparable ritual context, see KAR 178 rev. col. i 34–52, Livingstone, Hemerologies of Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, 132, 151–53. 54.  “Setting a man against (another) man”: Line 39/50: lú ana igi lú [šá-ka-nu]; also BRM 4 19.34. “To remove a powerful person from the palace”: Line 41: lú idim ina é.gal ana zi-hi; also BRM 4 19.36. “To separate the king from the man he loves; [to separate (someone) from the woman he loves]”: Line 42/63: lú ki.ág.gá lugal ana ta[r-si munus.ág ana tar-si]; see also BRM 4 19.37. “To frighten off a female rival or to remove a man from his office”: Line 49: pur-ri-di ù lú ina man-za-zi-šu zi-hi; see also BRM 4 19.41. Similarly, line 50: lú ina qí-ip-ti-šú zi-hi, “to remove a man from his position of trust.”

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rituals have been understood as either apotropaic/defensive or as entirely sorcerous.55 A more nuanced interpretation is suggested by Schwemer, who notes that the borderline between defensive and aggressive magic that we apply to the Mesopotamian sources is rather ambiguous and fluid, since many of the “aggressive” rituals mentioned in the almanac, ostensibly aimed at someone else, were conceptualized as justified means of dealing with one’s own personal problems.56 Thus, our dualistic categories (black/white magic or defensive/aggressive rituals) are applicable to the Mesopotamian situation in only a limited sense: whether something was seen as a legitimate ritual action depended on the client’s and the practitioner’s perspective, and it seems that the āšipus perceived the dividing line between legitimate and illegitimate to coincide with professional boundaries. While their own practices are viewed as legitimate, those of other practitioners outside āšipūtu and the other scholarly disciplines, usually designated pejoratively as “witches” and “sorcerers,” were perceived as potentially illegitimate and threatening, even if practitioners of āšipūtu employed many of the same ritual techniques attributed to competing practitioners in āšipūtu texts.57 A second way of explaining the unusual features of the almanac has been pursued by Scurlock, who suggests that some of aggressive magic enumerated there originated in the West, especially in Egypt, a culture in which both defensive and aggressive magic were employed by priestly specialists and where aggressive types of magic were not regarded as immoral or illegal.58 For comparison, Scurlock draws on the Greek magical 55.  Apotropaic/defensive: Ungnad, “Besprechungskunst,” 282; Reiner, Astral Magic, 108–10, indicating countermeasures. Entirely sorcerous: Scurlock, “Sorcery in the Stars.” 56.  Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 159–63; “Magic Rituals,” 431–32. See further Schwemer, “Mesopotamia,” 36–64, esp. pp. 57–61. Notably, the term kišpū, “witchcraft, sorcery,” referring to detested forms of aggressive magic, does not figure in the almanac. However, since “aggressive” rituals and anti-witchcraft rituals employ the same ritual techniques that witches and sorcerers are thought to use, the dividing line between acceptable and proscribed forms of magic can be elusive. Furthermore, just as the āšipus observed timings determined by planetary and zodiacal constellations and performed rituals under the influence of certain stars during which they addressed astral deities, the anti-witchcraft texts also suggest that sorcerers apply the same techniques; see, for example, Reiner, Astral Magic, 106–7; STT 89.31, 36, 50, 54–55, 74. See Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:434–43, for an edition with commentary. 57.  For the groups of people (predominantly women) suspected as potential sorcerers in the antiwitchraft texts, which include lower-status professionals associated with cultic rituals, magic, divination, and healing, see Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 72–81; Schwemer, “Mesopotamia,” 49–52, and 55–57, for the occasional legal persecution of accused witches. For the mirroring magic techniques of sorcerers and anti-witchcraft rituals, see Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 84–147, 199–217; Daxelmüller and Thomsen, “Bildzauber im alten Mesopotamien,” 49–51. It is possible that the entries concerned with aggressive magic in the almanac refer to days on which counter-rituals against such types of magic could be undertaken by the āšipu, based on the idea that sorcerous rites would likewise be performed on specific “evil” days or “in front of” certain stars (see Reiner, Astral Magic, 106–7; Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 102–5). 58.  Scurlock, “Sorcery in the Stars.” See Ritner, Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, 1–28; Ritner, “Egyptian Magical Practice,” 3353–55. This stance seems to differ from the views held in the Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman cultures. In contrast to the Greco-Roman societies, which developed a dichotomy between “religion” and “magic” (and “rational science”) to mark cultural and social boundaries, we find no general concept or word for “magic” or “religion” in Mesopotamia; see Asper, “Medical Acculturation?”; Lloyd, Magic, Reason and Experience, 10–32; for a comprehensive discussion of the history of discourses on “magic,” see Otto, Magie, who emphasizes that the Greek term mageia is strongly connected to a polemical rhetoric that developed in the Classical period, against ritual practices employed by individuals working outside official temple cults and tapping superhuman powers for private, egoistic/anti-social aims. Interestingly, in Mesopotamia a similar boundary is drawn between the legitimate magical practices of the “conjurer” (āšipu/mašmaššu), which are sanctified through their ascribed divine origin, and the practices


Ulrike Steinert

papyri from Egypt and the Mandaic Book of the Zodiac, which are, however, much later than the Mesopotamian sources.59 The Greco-Egyptian magical texts date roughly between the third century BCE and the seventh century CE, but the majority of them were written during the Roman period. Similar to the Mesopotamian sources, these texts are preserved in handbooks or formularies, written mainly in Greek, Demotic, and Coptic, on papyrus and other materials such as parchment or linen, but magical spells are also found on objects of applied practice such as inscribed metal tablets, amulets, and engraved gemstones.60 These heterogeneous texts are characterized by cultural pluralism and cross-cultural influences, displaying a mixture of Egyptian religious concepts and practices with Hellenistic Greek elements, as well as elements coming from Jewish, Christian, Persian, and occasionally even Mesopotamian backgrounds.61 Textual parallels, such as the following extract from a papyrus compendium in Greek with various spells, prescriptions, and divinatory techniques (ca. third century CE), present us with a list of timings for various rites and divinatory acts according to the position of the moon in the zodiac, which is very similar to BRM 4 20: The orbit62 of the moon: Moon in Virgo: anything is rendered obtainable. In Libra: necromancy. In Scorpio: anything inflicting evil. In Sagittarius: an invocation or incantations to the sun and moon. In Capricorn: say whatever you wish for best results. In Aquarius: for a love charm. In Pisces: for foreknowledge. In Aries: fire divination or love charm. In Taurus: incantation to a lamp. In Gemini: spell for winning favor. In Cancer: phylacteries. In Leo: rings or binding spells. (PGM 7 284–99, third/fourth century CE)63 While the application of a framework corresponding to the zodiacal astrology developed in Achaemenid- and Seleucid-period Babylonia points to a transmission of astrological lore from Mesopotamia to Egypt and the Greco-Roman world,64 the question of witches and sorcerers (kišpū), which are depicted as harmful and regarded as criminal acts. The main difference between the “witches/sorcerers” and the āšipu (and asû) is that the former practitioners are said to work in secrecy and independently from an institutional or scholarly background—in contrast to āšipus and asûs, who were often integrated in the temple communities and schools. 59.  Rochberg-Halton, “Babylonian Origins,” 237–47, traces originally Mesopotamian elements in the Book of the Zodiac, a work probably originating in the Sassanian period. 60.  See Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3389, 3412–20; on the materiality of objects of applied magic (from antiquity to the early modern period), see the collection of articles published in Boschung and Bremmer, eds., Materiality of Magic, with further literature. 61.  See for an overview Ritner, “Egyptian Magical Practice,” 3333–79; Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3380–3684; Quack, “Demotische magische und divinatorische Texte,” 331–85; Jördens, “Griechische Texte aus Ägypten,” 417–20, 429–45. Ritner (“Egyptian Magical Practice,” 3355–71) argues that the magical papyri were compiled by Egyptian specialists (priests, scribes) with a speaking and writing knowledge of Greek. 62.  Greek, kyklos. The word here seems to refer to the subsequent positions of the moon in the twelve zodiac signs, which can be compared with the use of ki (erṣetu), “region” in BRM 4 20. For a similar passage, see also PGM 3 275–81 (Betz, Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, 26). 63.  Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 124; translation, E. N. O’Neil. 64.  See already Reiner, Astral Magic, 108–12, who regarded the exorcist’s almanac as a precursor to Greek astrology and noted parallels in the Latin Lunaria. Concerning a Mesopotamian influence on Egypt in the realm of astronomy/astrology, see Parker, Vienna Demotic Papyrus; Jones, “Place of Astronomy in Roman Egypt,” 25–51; von Beckerath, “Astronomie und Astrologie,” 511–14; Loprieno-Behlmer, “Stern,” 11–14; von Lieven, “Divination in Ägypten,” 99–105, 117; Jones, “Transmission of Babylonian Astronomy,” 1877–81). The transmission of elements from Babylonian and Egyptian astrology and astronomy

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of cross-cultural influences between Egypt and Mesopotamia, particularly with respect to the rites and practices reflected in BRM 4 20 and in the Greco-Egyptian magical papyri, requires closer examination. Thus, Scurlock pointed out a few entries in BRM 4 19–20 that correspond to PGM 7 284–99, such as the association of Virgo with rituals for “opening (someone’s) hand” (šu.du8.a), of Aries with rituals “to make a woman come” (, of Gemini with rituals “for bringing about a volte-face,” and of Leo with rituals for “calming anger” (šúr.hun.gá).65 These correspondences show the existence of a few comparable types of rituals and spells in first millennium BCE Babylonia and in Egypt during the Hellenistic and Roman period, which seem to fall especially into the domain of productive magic aimed at influencing others to one’s own advantage such as love magic, and spells for favor and success, addressed at superiors and/or rivals. On the other hand, we also encounter several differences between the Mesopotamian almanac and its Greek counterpart. Besides the fact that the rituals and spells with corresponding timings are designated in differing ways in the Mesopotamian and Greek context, the passage in PGM 7 refers to a number of rituals and divination techniques for which an Egyptian background or a Greek origin must be suspected.66 Since the zodiacal system was adopted from Babylonia, the existence of a few similar magic rituals in the Greco-Egyptian papyri and the Mesopotamian exorcist’s almanac could likewise reflect traces of borrowings or adaptations of materials from Mesopotamia, which is nevertheless difficult to prove on the basis of the available textual or historical evidence. The growing amount of information for intercultural transfers in various domains of technology, science, writing, literature, religion, and myth between the Near Eastern and Mediterranean cultures in the Bronze and Iron Age seems to stand in opposition to the idea that comparable types of spells in Mesopotamian texts and Greco-Egyptian magical papyri represent completely independent developments.67 Judging from the Egyptian willingness to integrate foreign cultural to the Greeks points to the Hellenistic period and could have occurred first in Ptolemaic Egypt, although there is also some limited evidence for Babylonian astronomers settling in second-century BCE Greece (see Rochberg-Halton, “Elements of the Babylonian Contribution,” 51–62; Rochberg-Halton, “Babylonian Astral Science”; Kuhrt, “Ancient Mesopotamia in Classical Greek and Hellenistic Thought,” 55–66; Jones, “Transmission of Babylonian Astronomy,” 1879–81; von Lieven, “Divination in Ägypten,” 100; Popović, “Networks of Scholars,” 153–94). 65.  Scurlock, “Sorcery in the Stars,” 130–33; see pp. 138, 140, and 142 for more examples. 66.  For instance, necromancy, lamp divination, and rites of revelation can be connected with earlier Egyptian practices; see Ritner, “Egyptian Magical Practice,” 3345–53; von Lieven, “Divination in Ägypten.” More controversial are attributions of “ethnic” labels to the genres of love and “binding” spells in the magical papyri. Christopher Faraone investigated the early Greek origins of “binding” spells and love magic but also pointed out parallels in the Mesopotamian and Egyptian traditions (see Faraone, “Kestos and Apples,” 219–243; Faraone, “Binding and Burying,” 165–220; Faraone, “Handbooks and Anthologies,” 195–214; see also Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 5–32; Faraone, Ancient Greek Love Magic). For the intermixture of Egyptian and Greek (beside other) elements in the late papyri, see also Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3390–98; Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, xliv–xlvii; compare Quack, “Demotische magische und divinatorische Texte,” 331. That Mesopotamian ritual practices had a decisive direct influence on the Greco-Egyptian papyri seems even more unlikely given that few Mesopotamian traces have so far been identified in these texts, restricted to the occasional occurrence of divine names such as Ereškigal and Šamaš, which appear beside Greek and Egyptian deities such as Hekate, Persephone, Helios, Isis, or Re. 67.  For the indebtedness of Greek religious ritual and myth to its eastern neighbors, see, for example, Bernal, Black Athena; Burkert, Orientalizing Revolution; West, East Face of Helicon. For Egyptian influence on Greek magic, see de Salvia, “Stages and Aspects,” 335–43. While transmissions of Mesopotamian cultural elements to Greece in the preceding period of the Late Bronze Age could have occurred via mediating cultures (especially via the Levant and Hittite Anatolia), especially for the first millennium BCE it


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or religious elements—visible in the late papyri—and the explicit statements in Greek authors about their indebtedness to Mesopotamian and Egyptian scholars and lore, it seems that the Egyptian and Greek ritual practitioners in the first millennium BCE were more receptive to external influences than the native Mesopotamian practitioners (āšipu/asû) in this period. The textual corpora of the Mesoptamian practitioners are always identified, in colophons, for example, as stemming from native Babylonian or Assyrian sources and frequently advise their users to guard their knowledge from outsiders, especially those outside institutionalized scholarly circles.68 In this line of argument, the “foreign” elements, which Scurlock detects in STT 300 and BRM 4 19–20 do not appear to be compelling enough to prove clear Egyptian or Greek influence.69 Thus, although some magical practices occurring in the Exorcist’s Almanac are not yet known from other cuneiform sources or seem untypical in contrast to traditional āšipūtu and Mesopotamian moral sentiments, such as the inclusion of homosexual love and the multiple types of aggressive magic, these “new” traits do not necessarily imply foreign cultural influence. An alternative to arguing for external influence could be that the unusual types of magic encountered in the Exorcist’s Almanac may represent integral, though partially subversive, components of Mesopotamian cultural practice70 and that the growing has been argued on the basis of references in Greek texts that Greek migrant or itinerant professionals (magicians, healers) travelled to the East and brought back orally received elements of Mesopotamian lore (see Burkert, “Itinerant Diviners and Magicians,” 111–19). Asper (“Medical Acculturation?” 27–31) argues instead that organized groups of Mesopotamian practitioners migrated and slowly spread their knowledge all over the Eastern Mediterranean between the ninth and seventh centuries BCE. However, in contrast to the Late Bronze Age, we have no comparable historical evidence for Mesopotamian migrant professionals in the first half of the first millennium BCE (see Couto-Ferreira, “Circulation of Medical Practitioners,” 401–16; Arnott, “Minoan and Mycenaean Medicine,” 153–73. 68.  This relative immunity of the Babylonian ritual and healing professions to foreign influences does not apply in toto to earlier periods (third millennium and first half of the second millennium BCE), when foreign magicians and healers had a high reputation and Babylonian practitioners adopted incantations in foreign languages (especially Hurrian and Elamite) into their corpus, which were transmitted to the first-millennium BCE sources. On the other hand, Mesopotamian traces can be identified in Levantine incantations encountered in Egyptian translation in papyri from the New Kingdom period; see FischerElfert, “Sāmānu on the Nile,” 189–198; Müller, “Levantinische Beschwörungen,” 275–93; Beck, Sāmānu. 69.  Since STT 300 dates to the late seventh centuty BCE and was copied from an older Vorlage, the Egyptian/Greek influence on Mesopotamian magical practices that Scurlock supposes should have taken place earlier during the Neo-Assyrian period. This is not impossible, since Egyptian “magicians” (ḥarṭībi) and Egyptian “scribes” were among the scholars employed at the Neo-Assyrian court after Esarhaddon’s conquest of Egypt (671 BCE) and during Aššurbanipal’s reign, together with Mesopotamian scholars as well as Syro-Anatolian augurs (Parpola, Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, xiv with n. 4). However, the contemporary scholarly sources do not show a noticeable impact of Egyptian ritual lore on Mesopotamian texts connected to the āšipu’s craft. Similarly, there is no trace of an impact of Egyptian on Mesopotamian medical practice (except for the import of some drugs). Although Markus Asper (“Medical Acculturation?” 19–42) has suggested a scenario for prolonged intercultural contacts and “acculturation” of Mesopotamian medical practices and knowledge into Greece between the ninth and seventh centuries BCE, we have no evidence at present for Mesopotamian āšipus or other healing practitioners migrating or living in foreign lands during this period. Greater opportunities for knowledge exchange between Greece and Mesopotamia started, no doubt, with Alexander’s conquest and during the following Seleucid period, when elements of Babylonian scholarship, such as astronomy and astrology, were adopted by Greek scholars (see for discussion Popović, “Networks of Scholars”; Rochberg-Halton, In the Path of the Moon, 3–18, 143–66; Jones, “Babylonian Astronomy,” 139–56; Campion, “Babylonian Astrology,” 509–553; van der Spek, “Multi-Ethnicity and Ethnic Segregation,” 101–15). 70.  For homosexuality as a recognized practice in Mesopotamia that was neither condemned per se nor illegal if it was practiced within relationships that did not conflict with ideas of masculinity and social status,

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emphasis on these forms of magic in the texts of the āšipu might reflect shifts in the professional profile of ritual practitioners in the course of the first millennium BCE. Thus, it is possible that some of the previously unattested types of aggressive magic in the almanac represent strands of Mesopotamian ritual practices that were developed by āšipus during this time. Another possibility is that these types of rituals were adopted from other native practitioners, against whom the āšipus were competing. These competing practitioners would be largely invisible in the cuneiform record, because their lore was oral and because the āšipus strove to differentiate themselves and their knowledge from these other practitioners, typically indicated in the āšipūtu texts only by negative designations such as “witch” or “sorcerer.” It is noteworthy that the almanac texts focus on private clients in different social situations, which fits the general trend in the Late Babylonian period, when native dynasties were coming to an end, namely, that the āšipus sought to expand their clientele and sources of income by placing a stronger focus on the needs of private clients in various endeavors instead of focusing on the king who was the most prominent employer, patron, and client for āšipus in earlier periods.71 It is probably no coincidence that a similar trend toward aggressive types of magic for the benefit of private clients took place in Egypt starting with the Ptolemaic period, first visible in the Demotic and Greek papyri. In the following sections, I will present a case study comparing corresponding types of spells and rituals found both in Mesopotamian texts and in the Greek traditions reflected in archaeological and textual evidence from Greece and the Mediterranean, including Greco-Roman Egypt. The focus will be on Mesopotamian and Greek spells aimed at overcoming a personal opponent and at winning the favor of a superior. This analysis will focus in particular on structural similarities and differences between the spells and ritual practices, in order to reassess the question of possible cross-cultural borrowings.

Tracing Social Contexts: Mesopotamian Rituals for “Entering the Palace” and Greek “Binding Spells” The Greek “Binding Spells” and Charms for Anger-Restraint In a study from 2004, Christopher Faraone pointed out structural similarities between the Mesopotamian é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals and the Greek “binding spells,” elucidating see Bottéro and Petschow, “Homosexualität,” 459–68; Guinan, “Auguries of Hegemony,” 468–71. Other details stressed by Scurlock as pointing to a Western/Egyptian influence, such as the preference for days correlating with the Egyptian use of 10-day weeks (decans), may be explained on the basis of Mesopotamian astronomical knowledge (see Casaburi, “Early Evidences,” 84–85). Similarly, the rites designated as “inviting deities to a banquet” seem to rest on an Akkadian formulation referring to offerings to the gods, rather than pointing to an influence of Hellenistic theurgic ideas (see CAD Q, s.v. qerû). 71.  See also Maul, Die Wahrsagekunst im Alten Orient, 292–94. As in Egypt, Mesopotamian ritual and healing specialists (āšipu/mašmaššu) were sometimes attached to temples and exercised priestly functions (see Koch, Mesopotamian Divination Texts, 20–21, with literature). Although physicians (asû) were not normally priests, a number of them officiated as šangû-administrators of the Gula temple at Assur (Menzel, Assyrische Tempel, 201 nos. 27–28, 80).


Ulrike Steinert

Table 4.1.  The Two Types of Greek Binding Spells and Their Use Contexts (Following Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal”) Anger/Passion-Restraining Spells Typical users Targets, purpose Social context Ritual techniques

Binding Spells

social inferiors and women (wives) soothe/restrain the anger of irritated men/ social superiors (male heads of household, king) used by social inferiors against superiors

Men inhibit a rival, legal opponent, or enemy to act and speak effectively used in agonistic situations (social equals) amulets (metal sheets or gemstones inscribed lead tablets inscribed with spell), knotted cords, rings, (defixiones) ointments figurines (effigies of metal, wax, clay)

correspondences in the social contexts and in the practices associated with these rituals.72 The present discussion extends Faraone’s comparison of ritual genres but will also reveal a few striking differences between the Greek and Mesopotamian traditions. Following Faraone’s analysis, the Greek binding spells fall into two different types, connected with two traditions and social contexts of use (see also table 4.1). 1. The “binding spells” (katadesmoi, Latin defixiones) are connected with cursing and were used to bind a personal enemy, competitor, or legal opponent. Such spells (in Greek, Latin, and other languages) were usually inscribed on thin sheets or strips of metal (tabellae, “curse tablets”), which were rolled up, pierced with nails and deposited in graves, at sanctuaries of chthonic deities or in underground bodies of water, such as wells and baths.73 The magical papyri from Egypt (in Greek, Demotic, Coptic) also contain numerous instructions for “binding spells,” which can occasionally be recognized as models of formulas found on tabellae.74 As a variant ritual technique for binding spells, the manipulation and burial of figurines representing the target (often inscribed with a personal name) is attested, which could also be combined with inscribed “binding spells” and deposited together (see fig. 4.8a–c).75 72.  For discussions of the binding spells and curse tablets, see also Preisendanz, “Fluchtafel (Defixion),” 1–29; Jordan, “Defixiones from a Well,” 205–55; Faraone, “Antagonistic Context”; Gager, Curse Tablets; Ogden, “Binding Spells,” 3–90; Versnel, Fluch und Gebet; Blänsdorf, “Curse Inscriptions,” 293– 308; Curbera, “From the Magician’s Workshop,” 97–122, with further literature. 73.  See, e.g., Gager, Curse Tablets, 19, fig. 4. The earliest Greek curse tablets were produced at Greek colonial settlements in Sicily (sixth century BCE), but their use spread rapidly to Attica and the Black Sea area. By the Hellenistic period, they are found throughout the Mediterranean world, and in Roman times even beyond (for example, in England). The most important publications and surveys of the text corpus are Wünsch, Corpus Inscriptionum Atticarum; Audollent, Defixionum Tabellae; Daniel and Maltomimi, Supplementum Magicum; Jordan, “A Survey of Greek Defixiones,” 151–97; Jordan, “New Greek Curse Tablets,” 5–46. For Latin defixiones, which are fewer in numbers, see also Kropp, Defixiones. 74.  Sometimes multiple such tablets can be shown to have been produced by the same practitioner(s)/ workshop or for the same client; see, e.g., Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 4; Jordan, “Defixiones from a Well,” 210–11; Jordan, “A Survey of Greek Defixiones,” 155 nos. 3–4, 160–62 nos. 24–35, 38, 186 nn. 146– 47; Wortmann, “Neue magische Texte,” nos. 1–3; Curbera, “From the Magician’s Workshop,” 109, 111–13. For defixiones on other materials (such as papyrus, ostraca, pottery), see Gager, Curse Tablets, 3 with notes. 75.  See Faraone, “Binding and Burying,” for a survey; further, Gager, Curse Tablets, 14–16, 97–98, 203–5; Blänsdorf, “Curse Inscriptions,” 195–96; Curbera and Giannobile, “A ‘Voodoo Doll’ from Keos,” 123–26; Gordon, “From Substances to Texts,” 160–66. The earliest datable examples of figurines in

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Figure 4.8a.  Deliberately decapitated male figurine of lead, pierced with two iron nails; hands and feet are tied up with lead bands. The figurine from the area of Attica was found in a grave. From: Richard Wünsch, “Eine antike Rachepuppe,” Philologus 61 (1902): 27.

Figure 4.8b (left).  Lead statuette from Keos (Greece, ca. 350 BCE), with arms twisted on the back indicating bondage. The figurine is inscribed with a list of names, referring to the targets of a binding spell. © Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin—Preussischer Kulturbesitz. Inv. no. 30741. Photo: Johannes Laurentius. Figure 4.8c (right).  Drawing of the lead statuette from Keos, by Sergio Giannobile. From: Curbera and Giannobile, “A ‘Voodoo Doll’ from Keos,” 123–26 and pl. 5.


Ulrike Steinert

2. By contrast, the younger tradition of “anger-restraining spells” (thymokatocha), attested in the Greek magical handbooks of the Roman period as well as through objects of applied practice, is connected with ritual practices such as protective amulets and inscribed gemstones, as well as with knotted cords, rings, and ointments— practices that pertain to the female sphere of adornments and cosmetics.76 These spells were meant to restrain the anger/passions (thymos) of males or win the favor of social superiors and were mainly used by women and social inferiors.77 While the tradition of binding spells on lead tablets seems to be a Greek invention, Faraone argues that the thymokatocha are a late phenomenon that can be compared with Mesopotamian traditions of protective magic.78 The main difference between the tradition of the defixiones and the “passion-restraining spells” seems to be that the former are employed against equals in competitive and agonistic situations, while the latter are directed primarily against superiors. The practices connected to the “binding spells” (lead tablets and figurines) seem to contrast with the protective traditions of the amulets linked to spells for restraining anger, inviting an opposition between “black” and “white” magic. The border, however, between a “defensive” and “aggressive” stance can be blurred at times. Thus, Faraone argues that the manipulative actions involved in the defixiones (the binding or piercing of effigies) were meant not to destroy the target but to restrain them from doing harm.79 The users of defixiones may have seen their practices as defensive actions against a rival with an “unfair” advantage, meaning that they were usually employed in lopsided situations.80 defensive binding rites against private enemies (from Attica and Sicily) are from the fifth century BCE, but later in the Hellenistic period, these figurines are also attested in other regions on which Greek culture exercised influence (Italy, North Africa, Egypt, and Palestine/Syria), showing features of a syncretistic fusion of Greek and non-Greek rituals. The typical characteristics of figurines (made from metal, wax, or clay) in private binding rites are as follows. The figurines’ limbs are twisted and bound, sometimes nails or pegs are driven through body parts such as the eyes, mouth, ears; the victim’s name is inscribed on the figurines, which are then buried, often in graves. Sometimes they are placed in a lead box or wrapped in a lamella inscribed with a judicial curse. Faraone traces the use of effigies in defensive binding rites back to myths and early accounts about the practice of setting up bound divine statues, like that of Ares, in Greek cities or burying figurines of enemies in border land in order to protect the inhabitants from enemy attacks. At the same time, Faraone draws attention to similar defensive rituals employing effigies in the Egyptian and Mesopotamian sources (Faraone, “Binding and Burying,” 172–80). 76.  For inscribed gemstones and metal sheets (lamellae, whether of gold or silver) worn as amulets, see Bonner, Studies in Magical Amulets; Bonner, “Miscellany of Engraved Stones,” 138–57; Daniel and Maltomimi, Supplementum Magicum; Kotansky, “Incantations and Prayers for Salvation” 107–37; Kotansky, Greek Magical Amulets; Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3476–84; Zwierlein-Diehl, Magische Amulette und andere Gemmen; Michel, Die Magischen Gemmen; Dasen, “Probaskania,” 177–203; Nagy, “Engineering Ancient Amulets”; Dijkstra, “Interplay between Image and Text,” 271–92; van den Hoek, Feissel, and Herrmann, “More Lucky Wearers,” 309–56. 77.  Faraone (“Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 144–62.) relates the thymokatocha to a contextually similar category of spells to mollify or soothe irritated husbands. One should also note the overlap between “passion-binding spells,” spells for victory, charm (niketikon, charitesion) and “subjugation charms” (hypotaktikon). 78.  Ibid., 151–60. 79.  Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 8–9. 80.  See Preisendanz, “Fluchtafel (Defixion),” 21. The requests of the defigens include illness, failure in business, general misfortune, and occasionally the death of the victim. John Gager (Curse Tablets, 21–22) argues that it would be naive to take the languages of these curses literally and regards their main function as psychological: the message is directed at the defigens as the main audience of the ritual. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the spells and cursing rituals were believed to produce the desired effect; they may perhaps be better described as “persuasive analogies”; see Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 8, citing Tambiah, “Form and Meaning of Magical Acts,” 199.

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The earliest defixiones often consist of only a name or a list of names, usually of men but less often of women, but the complex formulas of the binding spells which developed over time often employ the first-person singular in the form of a performative utterance (often using the verb katadein, for example, “I bind PN”) accompanied by a ritually significant act such as the perforation of a metal tablet or the binding of the hands/legs of an effigy. Another prominent formula invokes gods, demons, or the ghost of the person in whose grave the spell is deposited, urging them to perform the binding of the target (for example, “Restrain PN!”).81 Another recurring element is the use of “persuasive analogies,” namely, similia similibus formulas, that associate the victim with the ritual objects, actions, and setting.82 The preserved defixiones can be divided in terms of social contexts into (1) commercial spells against the business, workshops and profit of others, (2) curses against athletes and public performers, (3) amatory spells, of separation or attraction, and (4) judicial curses.83 The judicial binding spells offer close parallels to the Mesopotamian rituals against the adversary in court (bēl dabābi) and to é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals involving an opponent. Such defixiones were commissioned prior to the final outcome of a trial and were intended to inhibit the faculties of an opponent in court, especially their ability to think and speak effectively, so that they will lose the case.84 The prominent target of the early judicial katadesmoi is usually the tongue of the opponent, although other faculties and capacities such as nous, psyche, thymos, and orgē also figure in these texts.

81.  Sometimes the appeals to chthonic deities or ghosts are phrased or designated as letters, and the defixiones can be linked with the general practice of letter writing on lead sheets. Furthermore, a group of curse tablets mostly concerning thefts can be characterized as petitions for justice and revenge, usually invoking deities, which were deposited in a temple or in a grave; see Versnel, “Beyond Cursing,” 60–106; Versnel, Fluch und Gebet; Gager, Curse Tablets, 175–99. 82.  Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 5; Gager, Curse Tablets, 13–14. 83.  1.  Commercial defixiones are predominantly attested from Greece and Greek colonies in Sicily from ca. 450 BCE onward. They either target one particular named competitor or several rival businesses, for example, shield makers, tavern keepers (often women), silversmiths, bronze workers, painters, flour sellers, scribes, seamstresses, doctors, and ship’s captains (see, for example, Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 11; Jordan, “A Survey of Greek Defixiones,” nos. 3, 11, 20, 48, 72, 129, 170; Gager, Curse Tablets, 151–74, including examples from Roman times). 2.  The binding spells related to athletic and theatrical contests aim at impeding the performance (body parts, energy, strength, faculties, wits) of the opponent (such as actors, charioteers, wrestlers, runners); see, for instance, Jordan, “Defixiones from a Well,” 213–22; Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 12–13; and Gager, Curse Tablets, 42–77 for an overview with examples. 3.  Amatory binding spells either aim at breaking up an existing relationship by inhibiting a rival or at forcing the desired person into an erotic relation with the client; see, for example, Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 13–15; Faraone, Ancient Greek Love Magic, 41–68, 132–59; Winkler, “Constraints of Eros,” 214–43; Gager, Curse Tablets, 78–115; Ritner, “Egyptian Magical Practice,” 3348–50; Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3444. 4.  See Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 15–17; Gager, Curse Tablets, 116–150. It is noteworthy that commercial and judicial curses are found mostly in the Classical and Hellenistic periods, while curses against athletes usually date to the Late Roman period (second century CE and later). Spells for attracting a lover are likewise a later phenomenon, emerging in the second century CE in North Africa and Syria, while separation spells can be found in early and late periods, attested from the fourth century BCE onward; see Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 10–15. 84.  Preisendanz, “Fluchtafel (Defixion),” 9–10, noted that the commissioners of judicial defixiones can be found primarily among those being sued (the defendant); see also Gager, Curse Tablets, 117–18. The users of judicial spells can be shown to cut across all social classes (Gager, Curse Tablets, 119–20). The spells can be addressed not only against the opponent but also against attorneys, witnesses (including women), and judges (Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 15–17).


Ulrike Steinert

Hermes of the Underworld and Hekate of the Underworld. Let Pherenikos be bound before Hermes of the underworld and Hekate of the underworld. . . . And just as this lead is worthless and cold, so let that man and his property be worthless and cold, and those who are with him who have spoken and counseled concerning me. Let Thersilochos, Oino[philos], Philotios, and whoever else is a legal advocate for Pherenikos be bound before Hermes of the underworld and Hekate of the underworld. The soul, the mind, the tongue, the plans of Pherenikos, and the things that he is doing or plotting concerning me—let all these things be opposed to him and to those who plot and act with [him . . .]. (DTA 107, Attica, fifth/fourth century BCE)85 In later “binding spells” from the Roman period, a stronger focus is placed on the thymos “anger, passion” of the target.86 In the Roman-period magical handbooks from Egypt, we also find the category of “anger-restraining spells” (thymokatocha), which focus on binding or cooling down the anger of an opponent without explicit mention of a judicial situation and are also combined with other types of ritual practices such as the fabrication of amulets or inscribed gemstones or the performance of specific gestures and elaborate ritual actions.87 The other conspicuous feature of the late period handbooks and objects of applied practice, such as defixiones, is their incorporation of a variety of elements from different cultures, a “turn” that was probably triggered by the “internationalization” of local practices and the formation of Greek handbooks of magical content in the Hellenistic period.88 The changes connected with this turn, which become evident around the beginning of the first century CE, can be recognized through the extensive use of voces magicae (long rows of magic words and the secret names of the deities or daimons being addressed) and the inclusion of magical imagery (figures of spirits, gods, or the target of the spell), magical designs (visual arrangements of letters and words), and charactêres (magical signs, some of which bear resemblance to Egyptian hieroglyphs; see fig. 4.9).89 85.  The address to Hermes and Hekate is written on the outside of the tablet. Wünsch, Corpus Inscriptionum Atticarum; Faraone, “Antagonistic Context,” 15; Gager, Curse Tablets, 126–27. 86.  Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 145–46, with examples. 87.  Many examples of instructions for fabrication of amulets or inscribed gemstones from the papyri are collected in Betz, Greek Magical Papyri; see also Gager, Curse Tablets, 218–42; Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3443–46, 3480–84; 3494–3506. The majority of the magical gems were made and used in the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt; their production started in the late Hellenistic period (Nagy, “Engineering Ancient Amulets,” 209–10). For the performance of specific gestures and elaborate ritual actions, see, for example, PGM 79–80 or PGM 12.179–81; see Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 299, 160; Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 147–48. Other restraining spells combined with a defixio in the late handbooks seem to integrate Egyptian elements; see PGM 7.429–458 (fourth/fifth centuries CE; Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 129–30), a “restraining rite for everything” (using a defixio inscribed with a conjuration to Osiris). 88.  Nagy, “Engineering Ancient Amulets,” 211; see Bremmer, “From Books with Magic,” 250–55 for the formation of Greek anthologies in Alexandria. 89.  For discussions of these characteristics, see Gager, Curse Tablets, 5–13; Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3412–46; Ritner, “Egyptian Magical Practice,” 3360–71; Quack, “Kontinuität und Wandel in der spätägyptischen Magie,” 77–94; Quack, “Griechische und andere Dämonen,” 427–507. For the historical development of Greco-Roman magical handbooks, see also Faraone, “Handbooks and Anthologies”; Bremmer, “From Books with Magic.”

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Figure 4.9.  A defixio from Rome, with drawing of figurines and charaterêres. The figure at the bottom, encircled by snakes, depicts the target of the binding spell. From: Richard Wünsch, Sethianische Verfluchungstafeln aus Rom (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1898), 16.

Another noteworthy feature of late defixiones is the amalgamation of “angerrestraining spells” with similar types of incantations such as “subjection spells” (hypotaktikon), as in the following example. Come to me . . . (invocation of divine personae)! Subordinate, silence, utterly enslave the whole race of mortals, both male and female, with their fits of wrath, which are under the authority, under the feet of so-and-so, especially this one (add the name you wish here)! (PGM 9.1, 5–8, fourth or fifth century CE)90 90.  Betz, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 148, Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 152.


Ulrike Steinert

Figure 4.10.  A protective amulet from Macedonia, consisting of a silver sheet inscribed with a Greek spell and magical words and names. The amulet was worn rolled up in a bronze tube, depicted at the bottom. From: David M. Robinson, “A Magical Text from Beroea in Macedonia,” in Classical and Medieval Studies in Honor of Edward Kennard Rand, ed. Leslie Webber Jones (New York: Leslie Webber Jones, 1938), 245–53, pl. 1.

The accompanying recipe combines the introductory recitation of an anger-restraining spell, written in iambic meter,91 with two “subjection spells” (PGM 9.1–8, 9–10), the 91.  PGM 9.1 and 12–14 is probably of an older date; the spell starts with the words “I’ll give you rest from wrath and soothe your raging.”

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first of which (cited above) is spoken, while the second is inscribed on a metal tablet together with the victim’s name and images of two figures.92 The genre of the “subjection spells” seems to be heavily influenced by older Egyptian traditions, as can be seen in features such as the trampling motif or the occurrence of Egyptian deities.93 In some of the thymokatocha, there is also an extension of the targeted persons (“all men and women”) and a stronger focus on the performer of the spells, whose name can now be included in the formula.94 These aspects are visible in several applications of “anger-restraining spells” for achieving success, victory, and the favor of superiors, which are usually combined with charms and rituals focusing on the performer of the spell, especially protective amulets, gemstones, and ointments (see figs. 4.10–4.11). The aim of these charms was to enhance the power and attractiveness of the performer in order to influence other people, gain their favor, and to be victorious in legal cases or safe from the punishment of a superior.95 This overlap of related uses, which may reflect the process of textual compilation in handbooks, resembles the flexibility of the Mesopotamian é.gal.ku4.ra rituals and related genres. Spells for favor/charm (charitesion) related to “anger-restraining spells” often put an emphasis on winning the favor of wayward superiors and making the practitioner powerful, victorious, attractive and admired, as in a complex instruction for the fabrication and consecration of a ring with an engraved gemstone, from which I cite an extract:96 92.  The papyri from Egypt offer multiple examples for the combined use of “anger-restraining spells” with “subjection spells,” such as PGM 7.396–404 (defixio), PGM 7.925–939 (subjugation charm using an “anger-restraining spell”), PGM 7.940–68 (charm inscribed on papyrus). Subjugation is also a prominent theme in love/attraction spells, agôgai); see Gager, Curse Tablets, 81; Ritner, “Egyptian Magical Practice,” 3348–49; Faraone, Ancient Greek Love Magic, 55–69, 133–51. 93.  For the tradition of subjugation and execration rituals in ancient Egypt, see Ritner, Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, 111–43; Ritner, “Egyptian Magical Practice,” 3352; Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3390–95. Compare for the motif of trampling PGM 10.36–50 (“Apollo’s charm to subject,” fourth/fifthcentury CE papyrus), where a metal leaf is inscribed and put into the practitioner’s sandal while reciting the subjection spell (“Let PN [add the name], the trouble-maker, be trampled!”). A similar subjugation charm put under the sole of the foot is PGM 7.925–39, inscribed with an “anger-restraining spell.” Egyptian traces can also be seen in the mixture of Egyptian and Greek deities in the restraining rite PGM 7.429–58, or in the reference to Osiris and Seth in the “anger-restraining” and subjugation spell PGM 7.940–68; similarly PGM 36.1–34 (a restraining spell involving Seth, to be engraved on a lead tablet). 94.  See, for example, PGM 51.1–27. Also see Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 283; Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3555. For other defixiones inserting the name and mother’s name of the performer (defigens), see Jordan, “A Survey of Greek Defixiones,” nos. 161–62, 164, and 169; for more examples see Gager, Curse Tablets, nos. 45–47, 94–115. Identification of the target with added matronymic seems to be widespread in magical texts of the Roman period and may be an element of Jewish or Egyptian origin. 95.  For charms to win favor (charitesion), see Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3502; Faraone, “Kestos and Apples,” 225–27; Faraone, Ancient Greek Love Magic, 25, 28, 107; Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal” 158; Dijkstra, “Interplay between Image and Text,” 280; van den Hoek, Feissel, and Hermann, “More Lucky Wearers,” 321–25, 341–42. An interesting multipurpose “anger-restraining spell” is found in PGM 36.35–68 (Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 269–70), a “charm to restrain anger and to secure favour and an excellent charm for gaining victory in the courts,” which promises that “it even works against kings.” It contains a design for an amulet to be worn under the garment (silver lamella), while the incantation to be inscribed on the amulet targets a specific opponent (“Give to me, so-and-so, whom so-and-so bore, victory, favor, reputation, advantage over all men and over all women, especially over so-and-so, whom so-and-so bore, for ever and all time.”) Note further PDM 14.451–58 (PGM 14b.12–15; see Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 221), a Greek spell involving Osiris in a Demotic magical papyrus from Thebes (third century CE), which is recited seven times “for going before a superior if he fights with you and will not speak with you,” describing a situation that is reminiscent of some é.gal.ku4.ra incantations. 96.  The recipe is headed by a rubric in Demotic, while the rest of the text is in Greek. Other Egyptian elements are presented in the engraved imagery such as a scarab with rays, and the use of hieroglyphics to inscribe a divine name on the gem. The instructions include astrological timings and secrecy formulas.


Ulrike Steinert

Figure 4.11a–b.  Silver ring engraved with a lion and a bear. Early Byzantine Period, 6th–7th century CE, place of manufacture: Eastern Mediterranean. Width: 2.4 cm. The Greek inscription around the bezel asks for favor (charis) and victory (nike) for the wearer. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Inv. no. 2005.291. Gift of Mrs. Claude-Claire Grenier.

A little ring for success and for favor/charm (charis) and for victory. It makes men famous and great and admired and rich as can be, or it makes possible friendships with suchlike men. . . . The world has nothing better than this. For when you have it with you, you will always get whatever you ask from anybody. Besides, it calms the passionate outbursts of kings and masters. Wearing it, whatever you say will be believed, and you will be pleasing to everybody. (PMG 12.270–73, 277–80, fourth century CE, Thebes)97 The phrase “you will always get whatever you ask from anybody” reminds us of almost identical statements in Mesopotamian rituals related to é.gal.ku4.ra. Moreover, as in the Mesopotamian tradition, a few Greek spells for “anger-restraint,” favor and victory include the application of ointments. One fourth-century CE recipe on a papyrus from Fayum recommends reciting a prayer to Helios and anointing one’s hands, head, and face with oil.98 97.  Betz, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 163–65; Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 156. 98.  PGM 36.211–30; Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 274; Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 157. The prayer to Helios is recited as a charm for restraining anger, for victory and favor. It can be compared with the role of the sun-god Šamaš in Mesopotamian rituals against the legal opponent and parallel ritual instructions in é.gal.ku4.ra rituals, discussed below. Similarly, in the Demotic papyrus PDM 14.309–34 from Thebes (third century CE), we find a recipe for an ointment combined with a lengthy spell for causing

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In addition to amulets, rings and ointments, the practice of tying knots as a ritual action, known from the é.gal.ku4.ra rituals as well, was employed in connection with “anger-restraining spells.”99 In his analyses, Faraone drew attention to the close relation between the amuletic traditions found in the Greek “anger-restraining spells” and in rituals of love magic that were performed by women and goddesses to calm the passions and win the affection of men.100 As he also pointed out, similar patterns of practices and genres of spells can be found in the Mesopotamian tradition, to which we will turn in the next section. The Mesopotamian Tradition: Rituals Against Personal Opponents Noting similarities between the tradition of the Greek “anger-restraining spells” and the Mesopotamian é.gal.ku4.ra rituals, Faraone argued for the possibility of influences from the Mesopotamian tradition on the Greek practices.101 The similarities between the Greek “anger-restraining spells” and the é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals are apparent especially on the level of shared ritual practices (amulets, rings, ointments), and on the level of corresponding purposes and social contexts, namely, to win the favor of a social superior, often in the context of a trial involving a legal or personal opponent. In the following, I would like to show that the intercultural similarities go even further. The Mesopotamian tradition offers counterparts for both social contexts elicited by Faraone for the Greek “binding spells” and “anger-restraining spells.” Thus, the é.gal.ku4. ra-rituals often combine the two purposes outlined by Faraone, namely, influencing a social superior and inhibiting an opponent, in an integrated fashion. Their joint purposes link the é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals with other ritual genres encountered in the Exorcist’s Almanac discussed in the second section of this paper. One group of related genres are agonistic rituals against a personal enemy or legal opponent, which are linked to the anti-witchcraft rituals. The other group of genres related to the é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals focuses on influencing other people to one’s own advantage or winning someone’s favor, which can be subsumed in genre titles such as šúr.hun.gá, “appeasing anger,” hú, “(that whoever sees you) is happy to see you” and šu.du8.a, “loosening the hand.” The latter group of rituals could be used against anyone, including superiors and rivals. These links between ritual genres imply a fluidity of uses that is similar to what we encountered in the Greco-Egyptian “anger-restraining spells.” The structural and functional correspondences between the Greco-Egyptian and Mesopotamian favor, in which the practitioner invokes Thoth and requests him to “give me praise, love [and respect before] so-and-so, the king and his people . . . so that he does everything which I shall say to him.” The oil, which is prepared from various ingredients, is smeared on the practitioner’s face and on a wreath, which he has to hold in his hand when he goes out to meet people. Interestingly, the recipe is attributed to the Achaemenid King Darius (see Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 213–15). Similar to some Mesopotamian rituals, the spell is to be recited over the oil seven times at dawn, before having spoken to anyone. 99.  See, for example, PGM 13.251–252 (fourth century CE; Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 179; Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 156): “To restrain anger: Enter the presence of the king or magnate, and while you have your hands inside your garment say the name of the sun disk while tying a knot in your pallium [a special cloak] or shawl. You will marvel at the results.” 100.  Faraone, “Kestos and Apples”; Faraone, Ancient Greek Love Magic; Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal.” 101.  Ibid. He also notes connections between Mesopotamian rituals to soothe a husband’s anger and Greek love magic designed for the same purpose.


Ulrike Steinert

spells can be interpreted as reflecting similar groups of clients with similar concerns, although the possibility of intercultural borrowing should not be excluded. Thus, the following analysis will review similarities and differences between these two traditions in order to draw some conclusions about the extent or impact of possible Mesopotamian elements in the Greek traditions. One striking difference between the Greek and Mesopotamian source material is the abundance of information concerning the users of magic rituals in the Greek sources, while corresponding information from Mesopotamian sources is almost completely absent. This discrepancy can partially be explained in the light of the preserved source material, which reflects differences in ritual practice. Thus, one reason for the wealth of evidence for users of “binding magic” from the Greco-Roman world lies in the choice of more durable materials for the magical objects, which are traceable in the archaeological record. Thus, the choice of metal as the material for the Greek defixiones has resulted in hundreds of examples of these objects of applied magic that have survived the ages and are regularly encountered in excavations. By contrast, the corresponding Mesopotamian rituals predominantly applied techniques that have not left material traces, such as through the intentional use of perishable materials or through the destruction of magical objects in the course of rituals.102 In contrast to the Greco-Roman sources for the study of “binding rituals,” the Mesopotamian evidence for corresponding types of rituals is almost entirely restricted to the practitioners’ handbooks.103 This difference is particularly apparent if we compare the Mesopotamian rituals against a personal enemy (bēl lemutti) or legal opponent (bēl amāti/dabābi) with the Greek counterpart, the “binding spells” and defixiones. Both types of rituals share the same social context, namely, as in the case of the Greek “binding spells,” the Mesopotamian rituals against the bēl lemutti/bēl amāti/dabābi reflect agonistic situations (legal or other personal conflicts) between social equals.104 However, while the Mesopotamian rituals indicate a focus on conflicts between two male opponents, the Greek defixiones were actually employed both by men and women, against male and female targets, often against groups of people. Mesopotamian rituals against the personal enemy or legal opponent are known from a handful of first-millennium BCE cuneiform texts, preserved on a number of smaller excerpt tablets and in longer, multicolumn compilations. The majority of these texts bear strong links to the Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft rituals.105 Thus, the enemy 102.  For the ritual destruction of figurines representing evil agents in Mesopotamian therapeutic rituals, see Heinrich, “Durchlöchert, verbrannt, begraben,” 287–313. 103.  I have discussed the preserved sets of objects of applied magic connected to protective or apotropaic rituals, mainly amulets, earlier in this paper. 104.  The expressions bēl lemutti (en hul), “adversary,” bēl amāti (en inim) and bēl dabābi (en du11. du11), “legal opponent” are often employed interchangeably. 105.  The relevant sources from the Neo-Assyrian period are: A. 2720 + 3022 // KAL 2.31 // KAL 2.30 (all from Aššur, library N4; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:135–38 sub 7.6.6. mss. E, F, G), STT 256 (ibid., 138–39 sub 7.6.7.); K. 66 (IVR2 55/2) // BM 66627 (ibid., 365–71 sub 8.13); KAR 253 (from the area of the prince’s palace at Assur, written by a physician; see Ebeling, “Beschwörungen gegen den Feind,” 196–202 no. 4; Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone, no. 243); KAR 171 // KAR 178 rev. col. i 10–27 (Livingstone, Hemerologies, 131–32, 156–57). Texts from the Late Babylonian period: Mayer, “Ein Ritual gegen Feindschaft,” 14–33; VAT 35 (Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:362–64 text 8.12); SpTU 2.22 + SpTU 3.85 obv. ii 13–57,

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or legal opponent is portrayed as an evil aggressor who has performed sorcerous acts against the client, which resulted in symptoms such as constant fear, personal misfortune, and lack of social or economic success. Second, the rituals against the enemy/ legal opponent predominantly employ procedures that are central in anti-witchcraft texts and other defensive rituals, above all the manipulation, disposal, or destruction of figurines representing the enemy. In both anti-witchcraft texts and rituals against bēl lemutti/dabābi, figurines representing the target are often burned or buried. Before disposal or destruction, the figurines are regularly manipulated or mistreated in various ways.106 One such ritual against the opponent, preserved in three texts from Assur (A. 2720 + 3022 // KAL 2.31 // KAL 2.30),107 begins with setting up a crucible and performing an offering before the sun-god Šamaš who, as the god of justice, is the central divine figure in both anti-witchcraft and bēl dabābi rituals. Four pairs of figurines are made of tallow, wax, sesame pomace, and bitumen,108 which are subsequently burned in the crucible while the client recites the bilingual incantation kúr-kúr bíl, “I burn the enemy.” Then, the practitioner fashions a clay figurine representing the adversary, with its arms twisted behind its back and its mouth sealed with a seal of šubû- and šadânu-stone. These gestures of silencing, bondage, and control are also common in the Greco-Roman “binding spells” and related figurine magic, as we have seen above. While reciting a second incantation addressing the litigant, the client washes their hands over the figurine, a common action found also in Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft rituals, which symbolizes the transfer of evil or sorcery back to the enemy. Afterward, the figurine is thrown into the crucible and a third incantation, accompanied by the symbolic smashing of an unfired pot, concludes the ritual. Another Neo-Assyrian ritual against an opponent, preserved in STT 256 from Sultantepe, presents an adaptation of an anti-witchcraft ritual for another related purpose. In this text, the patient’s problems are explicitly attributed to acts of witchcraft carried out by an adversary.109 The main actions of the counter-ritual consist of offerings to rev. iii 3–37, iv 9–12 (Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 247–64; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2: text 3.4 ms. a). 106.  See Heinrich, “Durchlöchert, verbrannt, begraben,” 303–7. 107.  All three manuscripts are one-column tablets, and KAL 2.30 preserves a shorter memorandum version of the ritual, omitting the text of the accompanying incantations; see Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:129, 137–38 ms. F. The introductory purpose description refers first to overcoming the client’s opponent, but subsequently focuses on purity, success, and the favor of authorities (A. 2720 + 3022 obv. 1–13): “If a man (has acquired an adversary): so that his adversary (bēl lemuttīšu) n[ot approa]ch him, and so that he prevail over him (šū elīšu šuzuzzi) . . . so that the word he speaks be heard, so that his talking be sweet [t]o courtier and attendant and to (the guard of) the palace gate, and so that he find compassion before god, king, magnate and nobleman (and before) courtier and attendant . . . so that one who sees him be delighted to see him (āmiršu ana amārīšu hadê), so that he always visit his palace safely, so that he pursue his [heart’s] wish[es] and obtain what he desires, [so that] hi[s] bread offerings be loved, so that his litigant (bēl amātīšu) be made an object of hate, so that he ask and achieve and find consent wherever [he speak]s, so that his purity be achieved . . . so that his dreams be made favorable” (Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:142). 108.  The pairs of figurines allude to the common practice in anti-witchcraft rituals of making a male and a female figurine representing warlock and witch in order to cover all possibilities, since the identity of the person causing the bewitchment was usually unknown to the victim. 109.  See the symptom description (Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:144–45 ms. H lines 1–19). This tablet was written by a young apprentice scribe (šamallû ṣehru) named Bēl-ašarēd (Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone, no. 385).


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Šamaš and the Gods of the Night (stars), followed by the fabrication and mistreatment of two clay figurines of warlock and witch: they are beaten with a stick, and hot pitch is poured over them. As in the preceding ritual from Assur, the patient washes himself over the figurines and also dresses in a fresh garment.110 A somewhat different ritual procedure to make someone prevail over his adversary in court is preserved in the Late Babylonian excerpt tablet VAT 35.111 Here, the adversary is represented with a clay figurine grasping its mouth with the right hand and its rectum with the left hand.112 The adversary’s name is written on the left shoulder of the figurine,113 which is beaten with an iron spike, placed in a pot, and convicted before Šamaš. Then the pot with the figurine is sealed and placed on the threshold of the client’s house. After cress, malt porridge, and ashes have been sprinkled on it—reminiscent of a ritual offering for a burial—the client washes his hands and feet over the pot and then crushes it with the heel of his right foot. Interestingly, the accompanying incantation addresses not the adversary but a female subject, indicating an adaptation of an incantation against a witch to a related ritual context.114 The symbolic purification of the patient by washing himself over an object occurs also in a Late Babylonian tablet from Uruk with ritual instructions against the adversary (bēl lemutti), which was published by Mayer.115 This text recommends the use of various figurines and objects made of different materials and forms, including animal skin, figurines of wood, clay, and stone, and representations of animals and protective spirits, depending on the date on which the ritual is performed (lines 2–15). In addition, oil and a “salve for overturning a verdict” (napšaltu ša di.bal.a) are to be prepared for the patient (line 26–28). Both the use of an ointment and the incantation that is spoken over the ointment resemble the motifs and formulations encountered in spells of the é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals.116 In the incantation, the patient boasts being anointed with a lapis lazuli salve and surrounded by divinities, which protect him and render him immune to the gaze of the angry adversary. The incantation emphasizes the qualities of lapis lazuli, apparently alluding to the oil and salve for di.bal.a put on by the patient, which could have had a blue color from the lapis lazuli powder that was added to it.117 110.  Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:144–45 sub 7.6.7. 111.  Ibid., 1:362–65 rev. 6 predicts: [ina] muhhi bēl amātīšu izzazzu. 112.  Note a similar gesture in a Roman-period gemstone from Syria inscribed with a Greek angerrestraining spell, the obverse of which is engraved with a figure raising its right hand to its lips (Bonner, Studies in Magical Amulets, 105–6; Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 148). See also below for an é.gal.ku4.ra incantation referring the same gesture as prescribed for the enemy’s figurine in VAT 35. Faraone (“Binding and Burying,” 189 n. 89) mentions a bronze figurine from Syria (sixth century BCE) in that posture and compares the Mesopotamian evidence with similar finds of figurines employed in magic rituals from Greece and Italy (ibid., 200 no. 2 and fig. 6). 113.  Inscribing the victim’s name forms another parallelism to Greek (but also Egyptian) figurine magic associated with subjecting and binding an opponent (or the object of desire in love magic); see, for example, Gager, Curse Tablets, 15, 97–100; Faraone, “Binding and Burying,” 190–91. 114.  The spell (VAT 35 obv. 1–6; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:362–63) focuses on the opponent’s faculty of speech: “I have seized your (fem.) mouth, I have dried out your tongue, I have seized your hands, I have put (a muzzle) of thread on your mouth! I have now opened your mouth, I have now torn out the tongue from [your] mo[uth], so that you are not able to slander me, so that you are not able to distort my words.” 115.  Mayer, “Ein Ritual gegen Feindschaft,” 15–18. 116.  Ibid., 26–31. 117.  As suggested by Mayer, “Ein Ritual gegen Feindschaft,” 28–29.

Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts


The salve empowers the patient and makes him attractive, while the enemy is exposed as someone without strength and social standing.118 A concern for ritual timing is also found in the peculiar ritual against the bēl dabābi inserted into a hemerological compendium from Assur (KAR 178 rev. i 10–27), a duplicate of which is preserved on an excerpt tablet prepared by the exorcist KiṣirAššur for practical application (KAR 171).119 In this ritual, the client squats over game pieces (passu) made of clay and inscribed with the opponent’s name, symbolically defecating, as it were, on the opponent, before tossing the pieces in the river at night. The text promises that the client will gain the upper hand over the opponent. These ritual prescriptions using figurines or inscribed game pieces can, in many respects, be compared to the Greco-Roman dolls and metal tablets inscribed with the opponent’s name or “binding spells.” The Mesopotamian rituals focus on the physical destruction of the objects representing the target, using them as vehicles to transfer and remove the defilement of the client, while the katadesmoi focus on establishing permanent control over the target by symbolically binding and handing them over to the netherworld. The character of both the Mesopotamian ritual against the opponent and the Greco-Roman judicial defixiones can be regarded as defensive. This is apparent in the Mesopotamian examples through their overt links to the anti-witchcraft rituals and the expressed attitude of the client, who sees himself as the innocent victim of an evil plot. The defensive or apotropaic character is further indicated by the application of amulets to ward off the adversary, forming a parallel to the use of inscribed protective gemstones and amulets to overcome enemies in the Greco-Egyptian world during the Roman period.120 Thus, several sections of a Late Babylonian compendium from Uruk (SpTU 2.22 + SpTU 3.85), written by the exorcist Iqīša and including prescriptions for amulet necklaces and leather pouches stuffed with stone beads and other ingredients, are devoted to this topic.121 In one of the entries concerned with the adversary, we encounter ritual genres that are listed in the Exorcist’s Almanac, here indicating the types of aggressive magic that have been performed against the client: If a man has an adversary (and) he is surrounded by his legal opponent, by “hatemagic” (hul.gig), “overturning of a verdict” (di.bal.a), “cutting of the throat” (, “seizing of the mouth” (ka.dab.bé.da) (and) evil-doer(s), (if) he is 118.  An extended, variant version of the incantation is preserved on the single text tablet VAT 13683 (// LKA 104 obv. 1ʹ–11ʹ, see ibid., 26–27), in which a certain Nergal-uballiṭ, introduced as “the great exorcist of Babylon,” speaks in favor of the client (in the form of a performative statement). The appearance of a named practitioner within the incantation is unusual. 119.  See Livingstone, Hemerologies, 131, 156. The text states that the ritual, which is to be performed on the nineteenth of Abu, will drive away the legal opponent (bēl dabābi), who is pursuing the client. The second entry connected to Abu 19 in KAR 178 rev. i 7–8 warns to undergo the river ordeal on that day, lest “the river will take him away,” which provides a thematic link to the legal implications of the ritual against the litigant. The short invocation addressed to the personal god and goddess reads: “O god and goddess, I am so-and-so, son of so-and-so. My opponent who has gained the upper hand over me, harasses me daily, constantly triumphs over me.” 120.  For example, Gager, Curse Tablets, 220; Bonner, Studies in Magical Amulets, nos. 149, 151, 156. 121.  See Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 247–64; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2: text 3.4 ms. A. The compendium is mainly concerned with fear, misfortunes, and social problems such as slander, rejection by superiors, and divine wrath, caused by witchcraft or by an adversary.


Ulrike Steinert

dismissed from before god, king, magnate and nobleman, (if) he is in constant fear, suffers losses regularly, (if) he is slandered, his words are distorted, his profit is cut off, (if) he is not received in his palace . . . (if) the finger is pointed at him maliciously behind his back, (if) the evil eye is pursuing him constantly, (if) he is always in fear of legal persecution . . . the “hand of mankind” and the wrath of Marduk are pursuing that man. In order to reconcile god, king, magnate and nobleman with him and to let him get the upper hand over his opponent.122 The text continues with recipes for leather pouches and stones (col. ii 22–28, 29–32), which are assembled into a necklace to be worn by the client. This is accompanied by an offering to the Goat Star and a spell to the goddess Gula, who is associated with this star (col. ii 33–43).123 In addition, an ointment is prepared and activated with an incantation invoking Marduk (col. ii 44–57). The following section (col. iii 3–31) is devoted to reconciling the patient with his legal opponent and his superiors. The ritual revolves around a “gift” (níīštu, col. iii 7, 14, 26) of seven grains (še) of gold and seven of silver, which the client first gives to the conjurer, who then offers it on behalf of the client to the sun-god as the lord of justice. The following sections of SpTU 2.22 + SpTU 3.85 confirm the association between the legal opponent and sorcery and include recipes for amulet necklaces “to cause his legal opponent to give up his schemes” and “to loosen cutting-of-the-throat (magic)” (col. iii 32–35, 36–37), “to calm down anger” (col. iv 1–3 ana šúr.hun.gá), “that the sorcery performed by a man’s wife not affect him” (col. iv 7–8), “to have a man’s legal opponent make a volte-face” (col. iv 9-10), and “to cause a man’s legal opponent to suffer from ‘seizing of the mouth’” (ka.dab.bé.da šuršîma), thereby preventing him from getting the upper hand over the client in his trial (col. iv 11–12). As in the case of the salve for di.bal.a encountered above, the amulets in SpTU 2.22+ are of a protective or apotropaic nature, even though their aims are phrased in an aggressive way. With the exception of SpTU 2.22+ col. iv 9–10, which employs ka.dab.bé.da against the opponent, in all other textual instances, this kind of aggressive magic, which we encountered prominently in the Exorcist’s Almanac, is always said to have been performed against the client. Consequently, the ritual and/or medical corpus includes protective prescriptions or treatments for symptoms caused by “seizing of the mouth” (ka.dab.bé.da), “hate magic” (hul.gig), “cutting of the throat” (zi.ku5. ru.da) and “overturning of a verdict” (di.bal.a).124 Moreover, enumerations of types 122.  SpTU 2.22 + SpTU 3.85 ii 13–21; Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 251–52; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamin Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2:15. 123.  In the spell, the client beseeches the goddess to stand on his side in his court trial, so that the evil machinations and plots of his opponent may fall back on him. 124.  For rituals and prescriptions against, see Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian AntiWitchcraft Rituals, 1:399–424, 2:356–94; see further BAM 209: 1–36 // BAM 473 i 1–25 // BAM 461 iii 25ʹ–32ʹ // BAM 463 rev. 1–4 (prescriptions against hul.gig, ka.dab.bé.da, di.bal.a and; see overview in Scurlock, Magico-Medical Means; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2: text 10.6); BAM 190 (= KAL 2.49) rev. 13–16 (eleven plants against ka.dab.bé.da; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1: text 7.10.1. unit xiiiʹʹʹ, 7.10.3 Ms. F); CBS 14161: 3–4 (oral medicament against sorcery, zi.ku.ru5.da, ka.dab.bé.da, and di.bal.a; Leichty, “Guaranteed to Cure,” 262; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2: text 10.15); AO 17622 (Labat,

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of aggressive magic such as hul.gig,, di.bal.a, and ka.dab.bé.da are often found in anti-witchcraft texts.125 Curiously, these lists of aggressive magic occasionally include categories that are attested as genres in the corpus of the ritual texts, namely, “love (magic)” (ki.ág.gá), “calming (someone’s) anger” (šúr.hun.gá) and “entering the palace” (é.gal.ku4.ra).126 This shows that these latter rituals were sometimes regarded as negative—not by the performers themselves, but by those who believed that they were the targets of these rituals. The same ambivalent attitude can be seen in the straightforward use of “seizing of the mouth” against one’s opponent in SpTU 2.22+, even though this magical practice would normally be described as a form of sorcery, if one believed oneself to be the victim of such a ritual. A similar pattern is presented by two traditions related to the Greek binding spells.127 The tradition of the katadesmoi offered rituals to overcome one’s enemies, while the tradition of the amulets and anger-restraining spells provided protection from becoming the victim of the binding rites performed by one’s enemies. Rituals for “Entering the Palace” and Related Genres for Winning Favor In a recent article, Stadhouders sketched the social context of the é.gal.ku4.ra rituals, which are “about how to get access to the authorities in charge of jurisdiction in order to have one’s claim or defense allowed and investigated, and to have the legal administrator judge favorably on one’s case.”128 In short, é.gal.ku4.ra rituals aim at inducing social superiors to act favorably toward a male client, often in the context of a legal trial against an opponent.

“Ordonnances médicales ou magiques,” 171; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2: text 10.17); SpTU 1.58 (single recipe/lotion against ka.dab.bé.da; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2: text 10.16). For ka.dab.bé.da, see also ibid., 2: text 10.14 and 10.18. For discussions of these forms of aggressive magic, see Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 63–64, 66, 159–60, with further literature. Concerning illness symptoms associated with these forms of sorcery, see also Scurlock and Andersen, Diagnoses in Assyrian and Babylonian Medicine, 563–65; Steinert, Aspekte des Menschseins im Alten Mesopotamien, 277–282; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:434–43 text 8.14 (STT 89); Wiggermann, “Sexualität,” 415. 125.  See, for example, BAM 434 v 14–21 // BAM 435 v 16– vi 12ʹ // BAM 436 v 1ʹ–vi 11ʹʹ (Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:221–24 text 7.10.1. lines 187ʹʹʹ–237ʹʹʹ, recipes to counter sorcery performed by the legal opponent, having surrounded the patient with hul.gig,, di.bal.a, ka.dab.bé.da [lines 203ʹʹʹ–205ʹʹʹ]). 126.  See Maqlû 1 89–92, 4 10–12, 5 57–59, 7 75–76 (Abusch, Witchcraft Series Maqlû, 48–51, 84–85, 104–5, 130–31; Meier, Die assyrische Beschwörungssammlung Maqlû, 10:88–91, 29:13–16, 36:61–63, 49:79–80; see also Meier, “Studien zur Beschwörungssammlung Maqlû,” 70–81); Lambert, “An Incantation of the Maqlû Type,” 289–90 lines 11–14 (with further duplicate SpTU 2.19: 25–27); see also the amulet tablets KAR 35: 13–16 and KAR 36 + 261: 8–10 // (Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 181–84: 13–16). Another genre found in the Exorcist’s Almanac that crops up in some enumerations of evil magic is “changing (someone’s) mind” (šà.bal.bal), which is translated as libba ana nabalkuti/šunnî in BRM 4 20: 46–47 and found beside šanê/šinīt ṭēmi (or díúr.ra), “confusion, insanity” in the lists of sorcerous practices. There are to my knowledge no preserved rituals bearing the label šà.bal.bal. 127.  Gager, Curse Tablets. 128.  Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 305–6. I would like to thank Stadhouders, who is currently preparing an up-to-date edition of the é.gal.ku4.ra texts, for sharing his working manuscript with me, which includes many hitherto unpublished texts. For a study of the material, see Klan, Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat oder; Stadhouders and Panayotov, “From Awe to Audacity,” 623–97.


Ulrike Steinert

Table 4.2.  Mesopotamian Types of Rituals for Winning Someone’s Favor and Their Purposes Rubric

Purpose, Social Context é.gal.ku4.ra (sometimes with the phrase ša hūd pānī, “for a joyful face” added) šúr.hun.gá / uzzi nuhhi hú (āmiršu [ana pānīšu] hadê)

• inducing a social superior to act favorably • inhibiting an opponent in a trial situation šu.du8.a, “loosening the hand”

• appeasing the anger of a superior or opponent • “(That) who sees him is happy (to see him)” (winning someone’s favor—superior, equal, opponent) • inducing someone to give you what you desire

As has been previously shown by Faraone, the Mesopotamian é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals have many elements in common with the Greek “anger-restraining spells.” First, rituals for “entering the palace” share thematic links not only with the rituals against the legal opponent, but also with other forms of productive magic aimed at influencing social relationships such as “love spells” and rituals for calming anger—a pattern that mirrors the broader context of the Greek “anger-restraining spells” in the magical papyri. Further, as will be shown in a moment, the similarities between the Mesopotamian genres are apparent in certain analogous motifs in the incantations and in a similar range of ritual techniques. The texts published to date with rituals for “entering the palace” are preserved primarily on one-column tablets and small excerpt tablets dating to the Neo-Assyrian period, most of which were found at Assur (in the library N4 belonging to the “House of the Incantation Priest”). But several hitherto unpublished texts from Nineveh, Babylon, and Sippar show that this genre was well known in Babylonia and Assyria in the first millennium BCE.129 The tablets with é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals frequently include other types of ritual, identified by rubrics that we already encountered in the Exorcist’s Almanac, which share thematic and contextual links with the rituals for “entering the palace” (see table 4.2). 129.  See Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 301–23; for an overview of the relevant material, see Scurlock, “Love-Hungry Ēntu-Priestess,” 108–10; Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 128; Klan, Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat, 11–12, 38–100; Stadhouders and Panayotov, “From Awe to Audacity.” Almost all Assur texts of é.gal.ku4.ra rituals stem from the N4 library (see Pedersen, Archives and Libraries, 59–75 nos. 68, 74, 104, 102, 157, 170, 288; Stadhouders and Panayotov, “From Awe to Audacity,” 625–26): KAR 71 (designated as nishu in the colophon), KAR 237+ (written by an apprentice scribe; Meinhold, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete II, 63–68 no. 25), LKA 104–6, the latter being a landscape tablet, quickly excerpted (haṭṭu [nasha]), LKA 107a (Stadhouders and Panayotov, “From Awe to Audacity,” 684–87), VAT 7820 (Meinhold, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete II, 61–63 no. 24), and VAT 13683 (Mayer, “Ein Ritual gegen Feindschaft,” 26, bearing one é.gal.ku4.ra incantation). The tablet STT 237 from Sultantepe contains a single incantation/ritual of this genre; also noteworthy: STT 144, which combines an é.gal.ku4.ra-type incantation with a spell against anger or a legal opponent on the obverse (see Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 322–23 with n. 42; Reiner, “Another Volume of Sultantepe Tablets,” 184). SpTU 1.18 from Late Babylonian Uruk is a small fragment of é.gal.ku4.ra incantations. Furthermore, the compendium for amulet necklaces SpTU 4.129 contains a multipurpose incantation explicitly applied for é.gal.ku4.ra (SchusterBrandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 326–27 ii 21ʹ–47ʹ; see also iii 1ʹ–27ʹ). Stadhouders (“A Time to Rejoice,” 312–13) reports one example of a collection of é.gal.ku4.ra and related rituals on a six-column tablet with Assur provenance (BM 103385); for a photo of the tablet see /research/collection_online/search.aspx.

Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts


The prototypical social constellation in the é.gal.ku4.ra incantations involves a client, often speaking in the first person, and his social superior, sometimes addressed in the second person, whom he tries to influence to his own advantage. The social superior is often depicted as a “prince; nobleman” (rubû), including a range of authorities from the king down to palace officials or the local mayor (hazannu). The envisaged situation is an audience, frequently expressed by verbs such as amāru, “to see, to meet,” and erēbu, “to enter”; the “palace” (ekallu) is often mentioned as the site of this encounter.130 The client’s chief concern is to induce a favorable disposition on the part of the social superior, leading to the granting of a request, plea, or favor, which is expressed with verbs such as hadû “to be happy; to be favorably disposed toward someone,” or magāru, “to consent; to agree.” The accompanying ritual actions in preparation for the meeting, especially the recitation of an incantation over ointments, amulets, or items of clothing,131 typically aim at heightening the client’s physical attractiveness and boosting his self-esteem, thereby inducing the “prince” to be pleased and to act according to the client’s wishes. Sometimes the incantations relate to emotions such as love and erotic attraction, reminiscent of love spells, in order to describe the emotional reaction the client hopes to elicit from the target.132 The favorable disposition and goodwill of other people, including superiors, is also the central topic of incantations with the rubric hú, which share several similar expressions and motifs with the é.gal.ku4.ra-incantations and may be seen as an overlapping genre, since é.gal.ku4.ra-incantations are sometimes designated as specifically suitable for causing hūd pānī, “joy of the face,” a favorable disposition in

130.  See Zgoll, “Audienz,” 181–99, for the Mesopotamian concept of the audience. 131.  Ointments: ashar-stone in oil (SpTU 2.24:32–34 // KAR 71 obv. 11–13 // LKA 104 rev. 1–2); copper, obsidian, and iron powder in oil (LKA 104 rev. 14–16); (good/pure) oil (SpTU 2.24; 13–15 // KAR 237 + obv. 22 // KAR 238 obv. 5–6; KAR 237 + obv. 11–12; KAR 237 + obv. 16–17 // LKA 105 obv. 4–5 // LKA 107 rev. 9–10; LKA 104 rev. 8; KAR 237 + obv. 5 // LKA 105 obv. 10). Amulets and objects worn on the body: copper finger ring (KAR 71 rev. 10–11, 17–18); ashar-stone worn around the neck (KAR 71 obv. 11–13 // LKA 105 rev. 9–10); nību-stone and carnelian bound into the cloak belt (KAR 71 rev. 24–25); kapāṣu-shell bound into hem (KAR 238 rev. 6ʹ–7ʹ) sassatu-grass placed behind the ear (KAR 237 + rev. 11); knotted threads of blue wool bound into the garment/hem (KAR 71 obv. 24–25 // LKA 106 rev. 5–8 // LKA 107 obv. 17–18 // STT 237 rev. 13–15); leather pouch (SpTU 2.24:16–17). Items of clothing: belt and sash of red wool (KAR 237 + rev. 16–21 // LKA 105 obv. 15–19); shoes (KAR 237 + rev. 12–15 // SpTU 2.24: 36–43); cloak (LKA 105 obv. 11–14); turban (BM 48481: 7ʹ (Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 309–10). Note further that collections of prescriptions for amulet necklaces with stones often include recipes for purposes related to é.gal.ku4.ra; see Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 163–67, 341–45 text 13, version 1 = SpTU 4.129 iii 1ʹ–27ʹ; version 2 = CT 51, 89 i 1ʹ–24ʹ; see Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 304–5); Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 167–69, 346–53 text 14, esp. lines 15, 26, 35, and 45, pp. 173–77 “Kette 214–216” (stones for courtiers entering the palace), “Kette 217–218” (stones for “loosening the hand”), “Kette 223” stones for “joy and for a cosmetic(?) eye salve,” “Kette 224” stones for inducing “joy, speaking (and) being heard, and for consent.” 132.  See, for example, the incantation in BM 457457:39–43 // BM 32515:25ʹ–29ʹ; Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 311, in which the speaker wishes that “laughter, charm, talk and love” (ṣuhhu kuzbu dabābu râmu) come to him so that governor and mayor will be enticed by his words, which shall “fall onto their hearts like an apple.” The semantic nuance of “to talk” (dabābu) as a way of winning over superiors relates to the notion of seduction, present in love rituals designated as ana sinništi šudbubi, “for making a woman talk” (namely, for her to give in to starting an erotic relationship); see, for example, Biggs, Ancient Mesopotamian Potency Incantations, 71, KAR 61: 22–25; Geller, “Mesopotamian Love Magic,” 131–32, 133–35.


Ulrike Steinert

another.133 The parallel nature of both genres is obvious in the two following examples of a spell and ritual for “entering the palace” and for evoking a favorable attitude in others (āmiršu ana amārīšu hadê): KAR 237+ obv. 13–17 // LKA 105 obv. 1–5 // LKA 107 rev. 5–10:134 Incantation. “I am anointed with oil of good looks; my hands are filled with oil of (good) fortunes. Before god, king, prince, nobleman (and) dignitaries my head is held high. Seven young maidens will make my lord favor me.” ——— [Recitation for] Entering the [Pala]ce. ——— The ritual for it: You recite this incantation three times over good oil. He anoints his face and hands (with it), he shall enter before the prince and he will be pleased with him (text: you). BM 47457: 1–8 (and duplicate):135 Incantation: Anointed with kanaktu-oil I am about to enter the palace, (with the oil) which Ištar prepared for herself, With hīštu-oil which Nanaya prepared for her husband and brought down from heaven for her own pleasure. At the command of Nanaya, lady of charm and love, I am anointed with the oil of life of the goddess Bēlet-ilī (lit., “mistress of the gods”). Look at me, prince, and be pleased with me! Palace courtier, do not stop enjoying my attractiveness! Door and bolt, be glad at my sight! Let (them) be attentive to what I have to say between my entrance and my exit by the command uttered by Bēlet-ekalli! Incantation formula. The latter incantation is recited over oil containing the aromatic kanaktu, with which the client anoints himself (lines 9–13). The result is that “whoever sees him, man or woman, will be happy to see him” (line 14). By comparing the persuasive and attractive qualities of the ointment with the cosmetic oil of goddesses associated with love and sexuality, typically employed in erotic encounters with their spouses or lovers, the speaker appropriates these qualities for himself.136 133.  For instance, the same incantation is found in KAR 237+ rev. 10 as hūd pānī and in LKA 107 obv. 5 as é.gal.ku4.ra ša hūd pānī. The repeated announcement at the end of é.gal. ku4.ra rituals, ana pān rubê terrubma rubû hadīka, “you will enter into the presence of the prince and the prince will be pleased (to see) you,” can be compared with similar phrases in texts of the hú type; see, for example, SpTU 2.24:15, āmirūka ana amārīka hadû, “those who see you will be happy to see you”; similarly, 2.24:16, 20. Note that the word āmiru, “the one who sees,” may particularly mean “ill-wisher”; cf. Jiménez and Adalı, “The ‘Prostration Hemerology’ Revisited,” 178 (line 3). 134.  Ebeling, “Aus dem Tagewerk,” 50 no. 6; Meinhold, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete II, no. 25. 135.  See Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 316–17, for transliteration of the spell and accompanying ritual. 136.  In some é.gal.ku4.ra spells, people’s joyful attitude toward the client is compared with the merrymaking in the month Ayyaru, which alludes to religious festivals celebrating the divine marriage between Nabû and Tašmētu/Nanaya, which took place in this month. Ayyaru was generally regarded as a favorable month of merrymaking in hemerologies and, according to the exorcist’s almanac (STT 300.11), particularly suited for performing love spells and é.gal.ku4.ra rituals; see Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 313–23, for discussion and further references.

Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts


Apart from these links between the genres of é.gal.ku4.ra and hú, incantations and rituals for “loosening the hand” (šu.du8.a) and “calming anger” (šúr.hun. gá or uzzi nuhhi) were also seen as similar to rituals for “entering the palace,” since there are examples of tablets containing a combination of these spells with é.gal.ku4.ra texts.137 While the šu.du8.a-rituals are also similar in purpose to the é.gal.ku4.ra rituals in that they are meant to induce others to hand over gifts (or economic favors) to the performer,138 the incantations for calming anger share elements with the é.gal.ku4.ra spells involving a trial against the client in the “palace” (ekallu), where he expects to meet his superior or an assembly of officials as well as an opponent or rival (bēl dabābi) who utters charges and accusations against him. Sometimes, the accusers can be a crowd of people. On the one hand, the speaker’s aim in these incantations is to render the opponent ineffective by inhibiting his speech or to overcome him by inducing him to make a volte-face, typically expressed with the verb sahāru, “to turn around”). On the other hand, the speaker wants to win the case and convince the jury or the person who will render the verdict. This courtroom setting is found repeatedly in various incantations of the genres é.gal.ku4.ra, hú and in spells for calming anger. The following é.gal.ku4.ra incantation focuses on silencing the opponent: [Incantation.] “I have [put] on copper, the life of the mountains(?) . . . As for my legal opponent, so-and-so, son of so-and-so, I strike his cheek, Tear out his tongue, put back his word(s) into his mouth. His mouth will be too confused for him to talk. I will not (even) allow him to fart!”139 Incantation. ——— 137.  For example, KAR 71 preserves a spell for calming anger (uzzi nuhhi) together with four é.gal. ku4.ra incantations; KAR 238 contains one spell for “loosening the hand” (šu.du8.a.kam) beside é.gal.ku4. ra material. 138.  Note the compendium with incantations and prescriptions for amulet necklaces SpTU 4 no. 129, which in col. v 21ʹ–47ʹ (= col. ii in Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 326–27, text 11) contains an incantation classified in the text rubric as a šu.í that could be used for multiple related purposes: for appeasing divine wrath (dingir.šà, “loosening the hand” (šu.du8.a), inducing sexual desire (šà and for “entering the palace” (é.gal.ku4.ra). The prayer aims at restoring the favor of an unspecified person, whose name is to be inserted, toward the client, so that this person’s hatred and contempt turns into love and that their hand will be “loosened.” The prominent ritual associated with “loosening the hand” is the fabrication of an open hand from lead (KAR 238 rev. 16–19), which is attached to the client’s neck (see Ebeling, “Aus dem Tagewerk,” 41–43; Scurlock, “Love-Hungry Ēntu-Priestess,” 108). The incantation spoken over the hand invokes its powers to “loosen what is bound,” to ask for something and to receive it (KAR 238 rev. 8–14). A more complex variant of the ritual promising that “whatever you desire, they will give (it) to you” is found in the šu.du8.a collection SpTU 2.23: 10–20, 42–50, which is marked in the colophon as oral tradition. Here, a “hand of the Anzû-bird” is made from an alloy of metals, which is threaded on a necklace together with seven hands of wax. The ritual draws on the mythological figure of Anzû as master-thief who stole the tablet of destinies from Enlil, that is, as someone who gets what he wants, even if through illegitimate means. 139.  The reconstruction of this incantation follows the new edition of Stadhouders (forthcoming). The binding of the opponent’s mouth is frequently alluded to in é.gal.ku4.ra incantations. For example, in KAR 71 obv. 14–25 // LKA 106 obv. 8–rev. 8 // LKA 107 obv. 10–19 // STT 237 obv. 1–rev. 16 (Klan, Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat, 43–44), the speaker says that he binds (rakāsu) the mouth of the opponent with a three-stranded lapis lazuli–colored thread, while in the accompanying ritual three threads of blue wool are spun, knotted, and tied to the client’s garment. The inhibition of the opponents’ verbal faculties is expressed in SpTU 2.24: 11–12 //: “I will not allow your (mas. pl.) mouth(s) to open, your lip(s) to close, your tongue to speak!” Similarly, in KAR 71 rev. 12–18 (Klan, Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat, 47–48), the speaker likens his power to “seize the mouth of weak and strong” to the power of copper to “seize” (ṣabātu) the ground, which he appropriates for himself by putting a piece of copper around his neck.


Ulrike Steinert

[Reci]tation for Entering the Palace. ——— The [ri]tual for it. You recite the incantation three times over a copper ring, you put it ˹on˺ your finger. You enter into the presence of the prince, and the prince will be pleased with you. (KAR 71 obv. 26–rev. 1–11)140 The court hearing context is also found in the following hú ritual, preserved on a Late Babylonian tablet from Uruk, which evokes a verbal pun between the ashar-stone,141 the main ingredient of the ointment that the client daubs on himself, and the aim of the ritual, namely, to “bring around” (sahāru Š-stem) the members of the jury and even the opponent so that they side with the speaker. (Incantation.) “. . . I am rubbed with ashar, I am washed with ashar, my neck is surrounded by ashar like by fog or by a rain cloud. The city has been brought around, the palace has been brought around, my legal adversary has been brought around, they are (all) following me (now).” Incantation formula. ——— Recitation (of the type) “Who sees him will be pleased” (to see him). The ritual for it: You crush ashar-stone in oil, you recite the incantation three times. You anoint your face, your arms and chest area (with it), and wherever one goes one will find acceptance. (SpTU 2.24: 26–31 //)142 One of the recurring features of é.gal.ku4.ra and related incantations is the comparison of the ritual target (either the superior or opponent) with aggressive animals, for example, a lion roaring or raging in the palace or “a merciless dog.” The speaker perceives himself in need of defense against both despotic and hostile authorities as well as malicious foes.143 Turning the rage of the target into a peaceful and positive attitude seems to be a common purpose of spells for calming anger and for “entering the palace” as well as hú 140.  Ebeling, “Aus dem Tagewerk,” 31–34; Klan, Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat, 46 no. 3 141.  The mineral ashar is equated with “yellow antimony” (š sig7.sig7) in lexical lists and seems to have been associated with earth minerals, used for eye salves and possibly for facial makeup like antimony (kohl); see Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 399–400. 142.  Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 307–8. 143.  See, for example, the hú incantation, SpTU 2.24: 1–12, which addresses the opponent with the words “Why are you aroused like a lion, rabid like a wolf, having convened the assembly like a kurgarrû?” (lines 1–3) and alludes to a trial and a river ordeal: “I have stepped on you (masc. pl.) like on a raft, I have sunken you like a boat . . . I will not allow your mouth(s) to open, your lips to close, your tongue(s) to plead” (lines 8–9, 11–12). The é.gal.ku4.ra incantation BM 103385 vi 1–5 speaks of the palace as a place of punishment and terror, “whose inhabitant is a merciless dog” and in turn prays to Šamaš for help and a favorable verdict (references courtesy of Stadhouders). The persuasive imagery in KAR 237+ obv. 1–6 // LKA 105 obv. 6–10 is also telling here: the ointment is thought to empower the speaker to rise to heaven, smash mountains and break the staffs of the court dignitaries (cf. Meinhold, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete II, no. 25). 144.  For example, KAR 237+ rev. 6–9: “May the [rag]ing ones take on a joyful [lo]ok, may the ˹angry ones˺ [lift] their [he]ads (pay attention)! May [his] ra[ge and] maliciousness be (covered up) in the ground, may his joyful mood be with me!” (incantation for [é.gal.ku4.ra ša] hūd pānī; cf. Meinhold, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete II, no. 25).

Looking for Clients in the Mesopotamian Ritual Texts


A few incantations found in collections of é.gal.ku4.ra texts actually focus on the anger and hostility of the targeted person and employ special ritual actions that are similar to first-millennium BCE rituals for appeasing another person’s anger.145 Thus, in LKA 106 obv. 1–7 // LKA 107a: 20–25,146 a spell is to be recited over a lump of salt, which, according to LKA 106, is to be thrown into a pursītu-vessel (probably in order to dissolve it in a liquid). A similar ritual is performed in KAR 43 rev. 19–24 // KAR 63 rev. 17–21, “if a person shouts angrily at him” (šumma amēlu raʾbāniš išassûšu, incantation rubric KAR 43 rev. 18 // KAR 63 rev. 16).147 There, the accompanying incantation is recited over a knot of straw taken from the filling of a wall, which represents the “knot” of the angry person’s heart.148 The client puts the straw into his mouth, and “when he shouts at you angrily, you throw it from your mouth against the chest of the man and the anger of the man’s heart will calm down” (KAR 43 rev. 22–24 // KAR rev. 19–21). Other anger-calming rituals on Neo-Assyrian tablets from Assur have features in common with the anti-witchcraft tradition and rituals against the legal adversary, such as employing a figurine or spittle against the target.149 The preceding overview of the Mesopotamian textual sources has yielded very little information about individual users of é.gal.ku4.ra and related rituals, while the Greek source material for “binding rituals” contained more information in this respect.150 This is due to the divergent practices in the Greek and Mesopotamian 145.  Prescriptions with the Sumerian label šúr.hun.gá, “calming (someone’s) anger,” are rare. This label is to my knowledge only attested in the enumerations of sorcerous practices such as Maqlû 1 90 and Lambert, “An Incantation of the Maqlû Type,” 290:13. One recipe for an amulet necklace/leather pouch for this purpose is preserved in the Late Babylonian compendium SpTU 2.22 + SpTU 3.85 rev. iv 1–3; see Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 254. The first-millennium BCE Akkadian incantations against anger that bear genre labels are designated as uzzi nuhhi (KAR 71:11), lú.šà (KAR 43 // KAR 63 rev. 1; Ebeling, “Aus dem Tagewerk,” 17 no. 3), ka.inim. ma ⟨⟨diš⟩⟩ zenâ ana sullume, “to pacify an angry person” (KAR 62:21; Ebeling, “Aus dem Tagewerk,” 22 no. 4), and šumma amēlu mamma elīšu sabus, “if somebody is angry with a man.” The latter rubric is similar to that of incantations for a “woman whose husband is angry with her” (STT 257 rev. 10; Scheil, “Catalogue de la collection Eugène Tisserant,” 21–27 no. 17 obv. ii 9ʹ, sinništu mussa elīša sabus/šabsu). 146.  Klan, Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat, 94–95 no. 32. 147.  Both KAR 43 and 63 are excerpt tablets unearthed in the library N4. KAR 63 was written by the conjurer Kiṣir-Aššur and copied from a wax tablet with recipes from the Gula temple at Assur, which could imply that é.gal.ku4.ra rituals were also performed by asûs (“healer, physician”), while KAR 43 is designated in the colophon as material copied from a tablet from “Akkad” (Babylonia); see Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone, no. 199 and 275. 148.  The incantation (KAR 43 rev. 7–17 // KAR 63 rev. 4–15) addresses the angry man by name, saying: “(as) if (it was) a door, I will open your mouth; (as) if (it was) a door bolt, I will cover your lips; (as) if (it was) a knot of the wall, I will loosen the knot of your heart!” 149.  See, for example, KAR 43 obv. 1–20 // KAR 63 obv. 1–18, where the client washes himself over the saliva/spittle (ruʾtu) of the targeted person, which is buried in the ground—an act symbolizing the silencing of the angry person. In the ritual on KAR 62, another small excerpt tablet written by Kiṣir-Aššur (Hunger, Babylonische und assyrische Kolophone, no. 203), a clay figurine of the target inscribed with his name is seated on the figurine of an ox and buried by the river. In the accompanying incantation, the speaker announces that since “I am coming to you like a divinity (and) entering to you like a king,” the angry person should loosen up and “put into my hands, what is in your hands.” These phrases are reminiscent of šu.du8.a and é.gal.ku4.ra spells. 150.  For a fragmentary clay figurine, found at Tell ed-Dēr (stratigraphically datable to the Old Babylonian period), which was pierced several times with a palm leaf and can be connected with the performance of an (anti)-witchcraft ritual, see Gasche, “Une figurine d’envoûtement paléo-babylonienne,” xiii, 97–101; Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 212–14. See also above, pp. 60–61 with n. 34, for text finds mentioning users of incantations or targets of aggressive rituals by name.


Ulrike Steinert

traditions, which results in major differences in the preserved source materials: while the Mesopotamian sources are largely restricted to handbooks/compendia and almost never appear on objects of applied practice, the situation is reversed in the GrecoRoman source material. The é.gal.ku4.ra texts tell us relatively little about the social status of the client, and Stadhouders is right to emphasize that the anonymous client in the é.gal.ku4.rarituals could be a commoner striving for justice or a high-ranking courtier wishing for rehabilitation and that these texts would have been “meaningful for state officials and their dependents in the upper classes.”151 Despite this ambiguity, a few conclusions concerning potential users of the é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals can be drawn from the rituals themselves, in particular by comparing them with similar social constellations found in contemporary documents such as letters. In light of the examples presented here, it can be surmised that the situations described by the client in the é.gal.ku4.ra-incantations line up quite well with the concerns of employees of the royal court, confronted with rivals and intrigues that could potentially destroy their reputation or oust them from their position. This social context would have called for a similar “defensive” stance, as suggested by Faraone for the performers of the Greek “binding spells.”152 Looking at the petitionary letters of scholars and court employees of the NeoAssyrian kings, letters in which they ask for an audience in order to discuss their concerns, to get a request granted, or to affirm their faithfulness in spite of the calumnies of other courtiers, it is easy to see in the senders one group of potential clients for the é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals. For instance, in SAA 16, no. 78, Mannu-kī-Libbāli, an official of Esarhaddon in charge of organizing building works at the royal palaces, reveals to the king that a colleague of his, a palace scribe, hates him and tells lies about him, while he asserts his own honesty and faithfulness, trusting in the right judgment of the king: The king, my lord, knows from those times when I was (still) in his [the palace scribe’s] service how he used to regard me and what trust he used to place in me. (But) ever since the king, my lord, appointed me to his household, it has been intolerable to him. [In fact, he told] the king, my lord, not to appoint me. He regards me as a mortal enemy. He has gone [. . .] (and) he has been spreading tales about me—[the king], my lord, should ask the [. . .]s and the servants of the palace scribe. Hence, now . . . Kanunayu, the deputy, has made me out to be even more hateful to him, and he (now) regards me as very much of a mortal enemy indeed. It is in this light that the king, my lord, should determine what the truth is. I swear that I did not know (and) did not learn about this matter, that I am not implicated in it, that I have told the king, my lord, (the truth about) what I heard in the inner precinct of Calah, what the wife of the “third man” speaks against me, and (why) I refused to litigate with her, saying, “Let the king determine my veracity.” 151.  Abusch, “Dismissal by Authorities,” 95. See Stadhouders, “A Time to Rejoice,” 306 n. 10. 152.  For example, the é.gal.ku4.ra incantation KAR 71 rev. 19–23 // LKA 107a obv. 6–9 sounds like the client’s solemn oath that he is innocent of all the calumnies of which he is accused (Ebeling, “Aus dem Tagewerk,” 33; Klan, Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat, 48 no. 5).

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Bel and Nabû have given vast insight to the king, my lord. If I am implicated in this matter, let the king, my lord, punish me. (SAA 16, no. 78: 13–22, rev. 2–17)153 In a letter from Nimrud (SAA 19, no. 91), Aššur-daʾʾinanni, the governor of the province Mazamua, who has been entrusted with collecting horses the king has received as tribute, accuses another official of denouncing him to the king (Tiglath-pileser III), evoking the confrontational trial situation typical for é.gal.ku4.ra spells: “Now he has been prompted to send a message to write to the king, my lord, and slander me . . . I [have don]e my work. We shall come to the king my lord’s presence, and [I] and he shall litigate b[efore the king], m[y lord]. Because of the excellent enemy horses that I receive, he has been hostile with me, like an enemy. Because of envy he has been prompt to slander me.” (SAA 19, no. 91 rev. 13–15, 17–22)154 Evidence for the actual performance of é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals for a high-status client comes from a letter of the Babylonian exorcist Kudurru to Esarhaddon155, in which he recommends his colleague Nabû-šumu-lešir to the crown, on the basis of Nabû-šumulešir’s experience in performing rituals such as bīt rimki, é.gal.ku4.ra and rituals for “undoing a curse” (māmīti u pašāri, rev. 6–11) on behalf of the governor of Babylon (Bēl-ēṭir). In terms of potential users of é.gal.ku4.ra-rituals, it is also interesting that there are anomalous intermixtures of second- and third-person singular verbal forms in the ritual instructions of é.gal.ku4.ra and related ritual texts. As Schwemer has pointed out, this may indicate that these rituals were often used by the ritual practitioners for their own benefit, particularly at court.156 Despite their occasional association with sorcery, the letter SAA 10, no. 371, to Esarhaddon cited above implies that the é.gal.ku4.ra rituals were nevertheless regarded as legitimate, also by the Assyrian king, even though the ruler features as a potential target in these rituals. Thus, two late Babylonian scribal exercises (BM 25676 and BM 25678 = CT 22.1) contain the copy of a letter of an Assyrian king—most likely Aššurbanipal or Esarhaddon—to a scholar, in which the genre é.gal.ku4.ra is mentioned within a list of ritual texts of a mostly protective and apotropaic nature. The king asks that these texts be delivered to him from the tablet collections of the scholars of Borsippa and from the Ezida, the local temple of Nabû, and describes them as something that is needed in the palace and beneficial for his governance (lines 27–28 and 37).157 Although one could interpret the king’s request as a matter of prestige, 153.  Luukko and van Buylaere, Political Correspondence of Esarhaddon, 74–76. 154.  Luukko, Correspondence of Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II, 95–96. 155.  SAA 10, no. 371; Parpola, Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, 308. 156.  See Schwemer, “Secret Knowledge of Lu-Nanna,” 224 and lines 25–26. Instances of ritual instructions using the second person throughout are also indicative that the rituals were often employed by the āšipu himself; see, for example, KAR 237 + rev. 11–13: “You recite the spell three times over grass that (grows) by the river, put it behind your ears, then you enter before the prince and the prince will be pleased with you.” (cf. Meinhold, Ritualbeschreibungen und Gebete II, no. 25). 157.  See Frame and George, “Royal Libraries of Nineveh,” 280–82. Note in this connection that it is not unusal for text genres concerned with the social well-being of commoners, such as hemerologies, to be


Ulrike Steinert

namely, that he wanted any kind of existing ritual texts to be present in the royal library at Nineveh, we might also suspect that the Assyrian king saw the ownership of these texts as a means of limiting their potential power. While we have seen that the Assur āšipus who owned the library N4 as well as their Babylonian colleagues had access to é.gal.ku4.ra texts and performed them for clients in the Neo-Assyrian period, we should also note the fringe position of the é.gal.ku4. ra texts and other types of productive magic within āšipūtu. Neither é.gal.ku4.ra nor related rituals such as love magic are listed in the Exorcist’s Manual (KAR 44) among the core text series of the āšipu’s lore. This could point to the special status of rituals such as é.gal.ku4.ra outside the mainstream of āšipūtu and possibly to a somewhat different origin for these materials.158 The é.gal.ku4.ra rituals are, as a rule, shorter, simpler, and often less expensive than other rituals belonging to the core of āšipūtu, which could point to the popular usage of é.gal.ku4.ra and related types of rituals. Within the genre, one can identify cheaper rituals possibly designed for less wealthy people (where a bit of grass or oil suffices to perform the ritual), and more expensive ones (those involving amulets of precious stones) designed for clients from the upper social strata, as can be seen from references to elaborate dress and apparel, shoes, and turban. In this context, it is noteworthy that rituals such as é.gal.ku4.ra differ from the core texts of āšipūtu, which are largely defensive in character. For example, the é.gal. ku4.ra incantations are less likely to invoke deities directly, so as to solve the client’s problem, and Marduk and Ea, who typically occur in āšipūtu materials, do not feature so often in these texts. Direct appeals to deities are also less common within é.gal.ku4. ra texts.159 Incantations of the genres related to the é.gal.ku4.ra tradition much more often refer to female deities and tend to conjure the powers or positive properties of deities or natural objects on behalf of the performer who equips or surrounds himself with these attributes and powers.160 Concerning the historical development of the é.gal.ku4.ra rituals and related genres, it is conspicuous that, except for love and anger-calming spells, which are already attested in texts from the third or second millennium BCE, é.gal.ku4.ra rituals and related genres seem to be preserved only in first-millennium BCE copies.161 Could this point to an earlier oral circulation of é.gal.ku4.ra rituals, resulting in their late arrival in drawn on and adapted by Neo-Assyrian court scholars for the use of the king; see Jiménez and Adalı, “The ‘Prostration Hemerology’ Revisited,” 188–89, for discussion. 158.  Interestingly, in the letter CT 22.1: 19, mentioned above, é.gal.ku4.ra is listed among “additional tablets” (liginnātēšunu atrāti; Frame and George, “Royal Libraries of Nineveh,” 281) and differentiated from other, longer series, implying that the former had a less central position within the scholarly corpus, even in the Neo-Assyrian period. 159.  An exception in this respect are the rituals against the legal adversary, which often invoke the sun-god Šamaš and represent a side-branch of the anti-witchcraft texts belonging to the core texts of the āšipūtu corpus. 160.  See the discussion in Bimsbergen and Wiggermann, “Magic in History,” 29–32, which points out similarities with the so-called Kultmittelbeschwörungen, focusing on the activation of ritual substances. In a few é.gal.ku4.ra incantations, however, we find the traditional imagery of deities accompanying and protecting the patient. In a few é.gal.lu4.ra incantations, deities are said to surround the performer, providing him with protection and inspiring awe; see, for example, VAT 13683:1–rev. 8 (Mayer, “Ein Ritual gegen Feindschaft,” 26) // LKA 104: 1ʹ–11ʹ); LKA 104 rev. 5–6. 161.  See van Bimsbergen and Wiggermann, “Magic in History,” 31, who mention a single reference in an é.gal.ku4.ra incantation, which may allude to an older second-millennium BCE background; Klan, Als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat, 106–7.

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the corpus of texts and genres used by the āšipu? If a strong oral tradition is implied, we also must raise the possibility that é.gal.ku4.ra rituals were used and transmitted by other practitioners as well, such as asûs162 or experts in magic from outside scholarly and elite circles. Although we lack conclusive information to solve these issues, the increase of textual material for productive rituals concerned with influencing social relations during the Neo-Assyrian and Late Babylonian periods may reflect the general trend that, at that time, āšipus sought to expand their clientele by offering a wider variety of magical rituals for every little problem or inauspicious moment in life.

Conclusions: Ritual Practices, Social Contexts, and Cross-Cultural Transmission In terms of social contexts, the preceding sections have substantiated the conclusions of Faraone163 that the Greek and Mesopotamian cultures used sets of rituals for comparable social purposes, designed for similar groups of clients. The first type of ritual offered by practitioners in both cultures (Greek judicial katadesmoi and Mesopotamian rituals against the bēl dabābi) reflects antagonistic or competitive situations and was used predominantly by male clients in order to inhibit a social opponent or rival. The second type of ritual reviewed here (revolving around Greek anger-binding spells and Mesopotamian ritual for “entering the palace”) served the purpose of winning someone’s favor and was used predominantly by male social inferiors to influence their relationship with a superior such as a ruler. The set of rituals to win favor is varied in both cultures and overlaps with the first set of antagonistic rituals. Thus, in Mesopotamian rituals for “entering the palace,” we often encounter a fusion of the two targets involved in a court trial against the client: the authorities or social superior who will make the decision and the opponent. Similarly, the Greek thymokatocha (“anger-restraining spells”) could be used for both of these purposes as well. Further, both the Greek thymokatocha of the Roman period magical handbooks and the Mesopotamian ritual genres discussed above show similar processes of extension, which allowed their application against any possible target, whether superior or equal, man or woman. Thus, we witness a development of branches of related ritual genres in both textual corpora, serving to accommodate various specific circumstances or different groups of clients. One difference between Greek judicial katadesmoi and Mesopotamian rituals against the bēl dabābi, particularly in terms of who made use of these rituals, is that in Mesopotamia these rituals appear to be largely designed for men, while in Greece women and slaves also appear as users and targets of “binding spells.” It is also noteworthy that the katadesmoi, such as judicial binding spells or curses against athletes, were often used by or against whole groups of contestants and opposing factions, while in the Mesopotamian é.gal.ku4.ra spells and rituals against the bēl dabābi, the target is in most cases an individual, although in a few é.gal.ku4.ra spells the opponents are an anonymous group of people, indicated by the use of second-person plural pronouns. 162.  This is implied by the colophon of KAR 63, mentioned above, referring to the é.gal.ku4.ra rituals on the tablet as copied from an original in the possession of the Gula Temple at Assur. 163.  Faraone, “Binding and Burying”; Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal.”


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The second similarity between these two cultural traditions concerns the magical practices employed in the two sets of rituals, although some ritual practices are also culture specific. While the Greek tradition of the katadesmoi focused on an act of binding brought about by spells inscribed on durable materials that were deposited in graveyards as messages to the denizens of the netherworld, in Mesopotamia spells against personal opponents were recited orally and combined with rituals focusing on the manipulation of figurines of nondurable materials, which have left hardly any trace in the archaeological record.164 However, the Greek evidence for the combined use of figurines and “binding spells” presents a close parallel to the Mesopotamian rituals against the bēl dabābi, a parallel deepened by the occurrence of similar gestures of binding and silencing performed on figurines of the opponent, practices that are also paralleled in the incantations. These similarities have been interpreted by some as indications of ritual practices that were transmitted from Mesopotamia to Greece.165 Even closer similarities between ritual practices are evident for the second type of ritual discussed here—Mesopotamian rituals for “entering the palace” (and related genres) and Greek “anger-binding” spells. In both cultures, these rituals are connected to a tradition of ritual techniques involving amulets, knotted cords, rings and ointments. These correspondences have likewise been attributed to transmissions of knowledge from Mesopotamia to Greece.166 However, beside general similarities, the forms of magical objects and embedded practices attested for Mesopotamia and Greece also reflect cross-cultural variation. Thus, the use of inscribed gemstones and metal tablets worn as amulets in connection with spells such as thymokatocha is not attested in the corresponding Mesopotamian ritual genres, where the spells are always recited over a ritual object such as an amulet.167 Thus, the amuletic traditions found in the Greek magical papyri reflect a development that was probably sparked in the Hellenistic period, which has absorbed other influences as well, for example, from the Egyptian tradition of phylacteries. Similarly, the developments reflected in the use of drawings, designs, charactêres, and voces magicae witnessed in the late magical handbooks and objects of applied practice betray a mingling of various cultural elements: Jewish, Egyptian, Persian, Greek. 164.  Heinrich, “Durchlöchert, verbrannt, begraben,” 300–301. In Mesopotamia, ritual acts of binding are predominantly associated with evil sorcery and are consequently often employed in the counter-rituals; see, for example, Schwemer, Abwehrzauber und Behexung, 9–10, 85–87, 94–96. Note that the é.gal.ku4.ra incantations refer to the binding of the opponent’s verbal faculties only in the incantations, but this binding is not acted out through figurine magic in the accompanying rituals. 165.  Faraone (“Binding and Burying,” 179–80, 199) sees the widespread use of effigies in Mesopotamian rituals (for example, in anti-witchcraft rituals and rituals against enemies, ghosts, demons, and negative omens) and similar traditions in the Hittite texts (including material stemming from Hurrian and Babylonian traditions) as potential models for Greek defensive rituals involving figurines, which would suppose an early date of transmission (second half of the second millennium to first half of the first millennium BCE). In addition, ancient Egyptian parallels have been adduced as a potential source of influence for the practices of coercive binding rituals in the Greek magical papyri, which may reflect a later date of intercultural contact or stratum of transmission such as in the Hellenistic period. An early transmission of practices from Egypt to Greece in connection with the use of effigies targeting political enemies is likewise not excluded, given the ample Egyptian evidence for these practices in early periods. 166.  See Faraone, “Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 153–60, drawing on examples from the Greek magical papyri and Mesopotamian é.gal.ku4.ra rituals. 167.  Mesopotamian amulets bearing text or imagery and worn on the body are embedded in a different functional context: they are largely apotropaic, serving mostly to protect from illness and misfortune caused by demons; this is discussed in the first section of this paper.

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Furthermore, the differences in detail between the Greek and Mesopotamian material analyzed here reflect two divergent, independent textual traditions. Thus, we have encountered culture-specific designations of ritual genres, and, of greater significance, Greek formulas and spells show no overt signs of extensive borrowing, direct transmission, or translation of texts from the Mesopotamian corpus. Mesopotamian and Greek rituals are also embedded in culture-specific ways in each textual tradition and linked to divergent developments.168 Thus, the Mesopotamian rituals against the legal opponent have closer links to the anti-witchcraft rituals typically involving the sun-god as the deity responsible for the client’s case. In contrast, the Greek “binding spells” predominantly invoke the domain of the netherworld deities and spirits of the dead in order to put the spells into effect, which would probably have been regarded as a sorcerous practice by Mesopotamian ritual practitioners (āšipus). In conclusion, the traditions of the Mesopotamian rituals against opponents such as the é.gal.ku4.ra rituals and the Greek “(anger)-binding spells” are comparable in function and reflect cross-culturally similar ways of coping with the uncertainties of personal success and with anxieties associated with interpersonal conflicts. They were employed to influence and control other people’s emotions and actions to one’s own advantage, for the most part targeting superiors or opponents but sometimes both at the same time. They were used by similar groups of clients—often upper-class men in their dealings with equals and superiors—and reflect similar mechanisms and social tensions in stratified societies characterized by hierarchy and by a degree of social mobility and competition. A few tentative conclusions may also be proposed about whether the continuities in the ritual techniques employed in the Mesopotamian and Greek rituals are independent developments or reflect Mesopotamian influences on the Greek traditions—the reverse direction of transmission is unlikely given the earlier date of the Mesopotamian texts. Since the similarities with the Mesopotamian texts are most prominent in the “anger-binding” spells (thymokatocha) and in elements of ritual actions found in the late handbooks (Roman period to late antiquity), we may be witnessing crosscultural transfers that took place largely in the Hellenistic period, a time of immense intercultural contacts between the cultures of the Near East and the Mediterranean. On the other hand, the Greek magical papyri indicate multiple different cultural influences, especially from ancient Egyptian traditions, and since there are similarly broad correspondences between the Greek “binding rites” and Egyptian ritual practices, it is hard to prove instances of borrowing from a specific society. There are, however, a few archaeological and textual sources for fifth- and fourth-century BCE Greece linked to the use of effigies in “binding rites” and other defensive rituals, which confirm the existence of ritual practices corresponding to Mesopotamian texts and could point to an earlier stratum of transmitted elements.169 168.  Note, for instance, that the Greek katadesmoi were adapted to varying social contexts (spells against athletes and public performers, spells against business rivals, and spells against legal opponents), a transformation that is not attested in the same way for Mesopotamian antagonistic rituals. 169.  See Faraone, “Binding and Burying,” 196–99 and pp. 72–74 n. 75 above. In another contribution, Faraone (“Thumos as Masculine Ideal,” 145–60) describes the thymokatocha as a late specialized form of the “binding spell” but traces connections between Mesopotamian rituals to soothe a husband’s anger and early Greek literary references to the use of similar charms in connection with love magic.


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On the other hand, the differences between the Greek and Mesopotamian ritual traditions, especially with regard to the early material for katadesmoi from the Classical period, could imply that the impact from Mesopotamia on Greek ritual practices before the Hellenistic period was less decisive than in the domains of mythology, medicine, and technology and that even in the Hellenistic-period transmission of knowledge was more pronounced in other domains, especially in astronomy and mathematics. Thus, possible early borrowings of Mesopotamian ritual practices found in second- or first-millennium BCE cuneiform texts into the Greek tradition of the “binding spells” seem to be restricted to relatively few ritual elements and adapted motifs such as the use of effigies, which in my view suggests a largely oral and probably indirect form of transmission. This conclusion is substantiated by the late appearance of Greek magical handbooks and anthologies of ritual texts in Late Hellenistic Egypt.170 The most probable date for a late transmission of elements from the Mesopotamian ritual traditions to the Greek-speaking world, which can be recognized in the Greek magical papyri, such as in the thymokatocha, is the Hellenistic period. The existence of corresponding types of ritual in Mesopotamia and Greece can be seen as parallel but largely culture-specific formations triggered by similar psychological and social needs, representing comparable strategies to cope with interpersonal conflicts and social relations in two stratified societies. But in contrast to the more conservative, stable, and closed Mesopotamian textual traditions, which were shaped and transmitted in large part by the ritual practitioners (āšipus), the Greek practitioners were more receptive to external influences from the neighboring cultures of the Levant, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, as is witnessed by the “international” flavor of the late Greek magical handbooks as well as by magical objects that reflect local or individual practices.

170.  See Faraone, “Handbooks and Anthologies,” 197–202; Bremmer, From Books with Magic, 253; Nagy, “Engineering Ancient Amulets,” 211; Brashear, “Greek Magical Papyri,” 3412–46; Ritner, “Egyptian Magical Practice,” 3360, 3367–68.

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Appendix Šuila-Prayers Written in the Name of Sargonid Kings Text



1.  Manuscripts of prayers with Sargon as supplicant LKA 53 (// BMS 20 8–20 (+) BMS 49 rev.

Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 378 (Adad 1a); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 96–99, 144–47; Seux, Hymnes et prières, 305–7

from library N4; extract tablet

2.   Manuscripts of prayers with Aššurbanipal as supplicant BMS 2 11–42 (and duplicates)

BMS 27 1–24 (and duplicates)

BMS 56 (and duplicates)

KAR 55

Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 404 (Ninurta 1); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 24–27, 26 n. 8 ms. D (K. 223); Seux, Hymnes et prières, 314– 16; Laessøe, Studies on the Assyrian Ritual and Series bīt rimki, 25 (also used in bīt rimki ritual) Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 478–81 (Nergal 2, ms. A); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 112–15 with n. 113; Seux, Hymnes et prières, 312–14; cf. dupl. Lutz, Selected Sumerian and Babylonian Texts, PBS 1/2 no. 119 Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 405 (Ninurta 4); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 150–53; cf. Lutz, Selected Sumerian and Babylonian Texts, no. 110; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 2: text 10.8 ms. A Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 410 (Šamaš 2); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 52–55; Seux, Hymnes et prières, 286–87;

concerned with an eclipse; the duplicate LKA 41.16 inserts the name of Sîn-šar-iškun with eclipse formula

extract from library N4


Ulrike Steinert

LKA 39 (and duplicates)

Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 490–94 (Sîn 1); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 6–9; Seux, Hymnes et prières, 278–80

also used in the bīt rimki ritual

3.   Manuscripts of prayers with Šamaš-šumu-ukīn as supplicant Scheil, Une saison de Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Forfouilles à Sippar, no. 2 mensprache, 402 (= Nergal 1, as (and duplicates) planet Mars); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 8–11; Seux, Hymnes et prières, 340–41 Scheil, Une saison de Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Forfouilles à Sippar no. 6 mensprache, 450–54 (Gula 1a = Bēlet(and duplicates) ilī 1); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 46–49, 54–57; Seux, Hymnes et prières, 337–38 with n. 1 and 9; Laessøe, Studies on the Assyrian Ritual and Series bīt rimki, 25; cf. pp.95–96 §§42–43 Scheil, Une saison de Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Forfouilles à Sippar, no. 18 mensprache, 490–94 (Sîn 1); Seux, // PSBA 40 (1918), Hymnes et prières, 278–80 with n. 23; pl. 7 cf. above, LKA 39 Scheil, Une saison de Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Forfouilles à Sippar, mensprache, 384, 393 (= Ea, Šamaš no. 36: 1–7, 8–27 // and Marduk 14, 15 and Kulla 1); Lutz, Selected Sumer- Ambos, Mesopotamische Baurituale, ian and Babylonian 132:14ʹ, 134:30ʹ, c + 5ʹ, c + 9ʹ Texts, no. 124: 1–7, 8–11, rev. 2ʹ–10ʹ // Scheil, Une saison de fouilles à Sippar, no. 734 + 841 (+) 740:1–7, 8–23, rev. 4ʹ–9ʹ PBS 1/1, no. 12 (and Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Forduplicates) mensprache, 410, 503–10 (= Šamaš 1); Ungnad, “Figurenzauber für den kranken König,” 294–95; Laessøe, Studies on the Assyrian Ritual and Series bīt rimki, 93–94; Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars, 351 n. 649

excerpt tablet

with eclipse formula; used in the mīs pî and bīt rimki rituals

also used in bīt rimki

three incantations written in the king’s name; used in the context of a building ritual

concerns the removal of evil signs (related to the breaking of various parts of the king’s chariot)171

171.  Another manuscript of the prayer Šamaš 1 from Sultantepe (STT 61) was written for a certain Aplūtu and focuses as well on the occurrence of evil signs (breaking of a peg of the chariot and red ants in the house).

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Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache, 400–401 (= Nabû 6); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 110–13 PBS 1/2, no. 110 (and Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Forduplicates) mensprache, 405 (= Ninurta 4); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 150–53; Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian AntiWitchcraft Rituals, 2: text 10.8 ms. D PBS 1/2, no. 119 (and Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Forduplicates) mensprache, 478–81 (= Nergal 2); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 112–15 with n. 113; Seux, Hymnes et prières, 312–14 Langdon, PBS 10/2, no. 18 Mayer, Untersuchungen zur For(and duplicates) mensprache, 422 (= Šamaš 102); Lambert, “An Incantation of the Maqlû Type” 288–99 (ms. B); Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 1:270–92 text 8.3 lines 11–99, esp. line 97 (ms. F) BM 78219 (CT 44, 35) (and Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Forduplicates) mensprache, 433 (= Nisaba 1); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 142–43; Langdon, “Religious Interpretation of Babylonian Seals,” 67–68


PBS 1/1, no. 18 (and duplicates)

used in antiwitchcraft rituals

recited in the bīt rimki and mīs pî rituals

4.   Manuscripts of prayers with Sîn-šar-iškun as supplicant LKA 41 duplicate BAM 2:11–42 inserts the name of Aššurbanipal

Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Forfrom Assur mensprache, 404 (Ninurta 1); Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie “Handerhebung”, 24–27 (ms. F); Seux, Hymnes et prières, 314–16;


Ulrike Steinert

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Ulrike Steinert

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Ulrike Steinert

Nakamura, Carolyn. “Dedicating Magic: Neo-Assyrian Apotropaic Figurines and the Protection of Assur.” World Archaeology 36 (2004): 11–25. ———. “The Matter of Magic: Material Figures of Memory and Protection in Neo-Assyrian Apotropaic Figurine Rituals (First Millennium BC).” Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 2008. Neugebauer, Otto, and Abraham Sachs. “The ‘Dodekatemoria’ in Babylonian Astrology.” AfO 16 (1952–53): 65–66. Ogden, Daniel. “Binding Spells: Curse Tablets and Voodoo Dolls in the Greek and Roman Worlds.” Pages 3–90 in Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome. Edited by V. Flint, R. Gordon, G. Luck, and D. Ogden. London: Athlone, 1999. Oshima, Takayoshi. Babylonian Prayers to Marduk. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Otto, Bernd-Christian. Magie: Rezeptions- und diskursgeschichtliche Analysen von der Antike bis zur Neuzeit. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011. Panayotov, Strahil V. Tablets with Projection (Amulet-Shaped Tablets) from Mesopotamia: 2nd–1st Millennium BC. Sofia: DioMira, 2016. [Bulgarian] ———. “Who Is the Client of the Namburbi Tablet with Handle A 114 (LKA 128) in Istanbul?” NABU (2013/11): 16–17. Parker, Richard A. A Vienna Demotic Papyrus on Eclipse- and Lunar-Omina. Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 1959. Parpola, Simo. Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1993. ———. Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, part 2: Commentary and Appendices. Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1983. Pedde, Friedhelm. Vorderasiatische Fibeln: Von der Levante bis Iran. Saarbrücken: Saarbrücker Druckerei und Verlag, 2000. Pedersen, Olof. Archives and Libraries in the City of Assur: Part II. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1986. Popović, Mladen. “Networks of Scholars: The Transmission of Astronomical and Astrological Learning between Babylonians, Greeks and Jews.” Pages 153–94 in Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature. Edited by J. BenDov and S. L. Sanders. New York: New York University Press, 2014. Preisendanz, Karl. “Fluchtafel (Defixion).” Pages 1–29 in Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum Edited by T. Klauser. Volume 8. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1972. Quack, Joachim F. “Demotische magische und divinatorische Texte.” Pages 331–85 in Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments. Edited by B. Janowski and G. Wilhelm. Neue Folge 4. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2008. Pages 427–507 in Das Ägyptische und die Sprachen Vorderasiens, Nordafrikas und der Ägäis. Edited by T. Schneider. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2004. ———. “Griechische und andere Dämonen in den spätdemotischen magischen Texten.” ———. “Kontinuität und Wandel in der spätägyptischen Magie.” Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici sul Vicino Oriente antico 15 (1998): 77–94. Radner, Karen, ed. The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire 1/1. Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1998. Radner, Karen, and Simo Parpola, eds. The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire 1/2. Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1999. Reiner, Erica. “Another Volume of Sultantepe Tablets.” JNES 26 (1967): 177–211. ———. Astral Magic in Babylonia. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1995. ———. “Plague Amulets and House Blessings.” JNES 19 (1960): 148–55. Ritner, Robert K. “Egyptian Magical Practice under the Roman Empire: The Demotic Spells and Their Religious Context.” Pages 3333–79 in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt. Edited by H. Temporini, W. Haase, and J. Vogt. Volume 2.18.5. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995.

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———. The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1993. Rittig, Dessa. Assyrisch-babylonische Kleinplastik magischer Bedeutung vom 13.–6. Jh. v. Chr. Munich: Uni-Druck, 1977. Robinson, David M. “A Magical Text from Beroea in Macedonia.” Pages 245–53 in Classical and Medieval Studies in Honor of Edward Kennard Rand. Edited by Leslie Webber Jones. New York: Books for Libraries, 1938. Rochberg-Halton, Francesca. “Babylonian Astral Science in the Hellenistic World: Reception and Transmission.” Center for Advanced Studies E-Series 4 (2010). Ludwig-MaximilansUniversität München. ———. “The Babylonian Origins of the Mandaean Book of the Zodiac.” Aram 11–12 (1999– 2000): 237–47. ———. “Elements of the Babylonian Contribution to Hellenistic Astrology.” JAOS 108 (1988): 51–62. ———. In the Path of the Moon: Babylonian Celestial Divination and Its Legacy. Leiden: Brill, 2010. Salje, Beate. “Siegelverwendung im privaten Bereich: ‘Schmuck’—Amulett—Grabbeigabe.” Pages 125–37 in Mit Sieben Siegeln versehen: Das Siegel in Wirtschaft und Kunst des Alten Orients. Edited by E. Klengel-Brandt. Mainz: von Zabern, 1997. Scheil, Victor. “Catalogue de la collection Eugène Tisserant.” RA 18 (1921): 1–33. ———. Une saison de fouilles à Sippar. Le Caire: L’Institue Français d’Archéologie Orientale, 1902. Schuster-Brandis, Anais. Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel. Untersuchung zu ihrer Verwendung in der Beschwörungskunst Mesopotamiens im 1. Jt. v. Chr. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2008. Schwemer, Daniel. Abwehrzauber und Behexung: Studien zum Schadenzauberglauben im alten Mesopotamien. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007. ———. “Magic Rituals: Conceptualization and Performance.” Pages 418–42 in The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Edited by K. Radner and E. Robson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. ———. “Mesopotamia.” Pages 36–64 in Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic. Edited by D. Frankfurter. Leiden: Brill, 2019. ———. “Secret Knowledge of Lu-Nanna, the Sage of Ur: Six Astral Rituals for Gaining Power and Success.” Pages 211–28 in Saeculum: Gedenkschrift für Heinrich Otten anlässlich seines 100. Geburtstags. Edited by A. Müller-Karpe, E. Rieken, and W. Sommerfeld. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2015. Scurlock, JoAnn. Magico-Medical Means of Treating Ghost-Induced Illnesses in Ancient Mesopotamia. Leiden: Brill; Boston: Styx, 2006. ———. “Sorcery in the Stars. STT 300, BRM 4.19–20 and the Mandaic Book of the Zodiac.” AfO 51 (2005–6): 125–46. ———. “Was There a Love-Hungry Ēntu-priestess Named Eṭirtum?” AfO 36–37 (1989–90): 107–12. Scurlock, JoAnn, and Burton R. Andersen. Diagnoses in Assyrian and Babylonian Medicine. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005. Seux, Marie-Joseph. Hymnes et prières aux dieux de Babylonie et d’Assyrie. Paris: Cerf, 1976. Soden, Wolfram von. “Zwei Königsgebete an Ištar aus Assyrien.” AfO 25 (1974–77): 37–49. Spek, Bert van der. “Multi-Ethnicity and Ethnic Segregation in Hellenistic Babylonia.” Pages 101–15 in Ethnic Constructs in Antiquity: The Role of Power and Tradition. Edited by T. Derks and N. Roymans. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009. Stadhouders, Henry. “A Time to Rejoice: The Egalkura Rituals and the Mirth of Iyyar.” Pages 301–23 in Time and History in the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the 56th


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Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale at Barcelona 26–30 July 2010. Edited by L. Feliu, J. Llop, A. Millez Albà, and J. Sanmartín. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013. Stadhouders, Henry, and Strahil V. Panayotov. “From Awe to Audacity: Stratagems for Approaching Authorities Successfully; The Istanbul Egalkura Tablet A 373.” Pages 623– 97 in Mesopotamian Medicine and Magic: Studies in Honor of Markham J. Geller. Edited by S. V. Panayotov and L. Vacín. Leiden: Brill, 2018. Steinert, Ulrike. Aspekte des Menschseins im Alten Mesopotamien: Eine Studie zu Person und Identität im 2. und 1. Jt. v. Chr. Leiden: Brill, 2012. ———. “Review of B. Böck, The Healing Goddess Gula: Towards an Understanding of Ancient Babylonian Medicine.” JNES 73 (2014): 357–64. Tambiah, Stanley J. “Form and Meaning of Magical Acts: A Point of View.” Pages 199–229 in Modes of Thought: Essays on Thinking in Western and Non-Western Societies. Edited by R. Horton and R. Finnegan. London: Faber & Faber, 1973. Thompson, Reginald C. “A Selection from the Cuneiform Historical Texts from Nineveh (1927–32).” Iraq 7 (1940): 85–131. Tourtet, Francelin. “‘Demons at Home’: The Presence of Demonic Figures in the Ancient Near Eastern Domestic Architecture.” Pages 241–65 in Dūr-Katlimmu 2008 and Beyond. Edited by H. Kühne. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010. Ungnad, Arthur. “Besprechungskunst und Astrologie in Babylonien.” AfO 14 (1941–44): 251–84. ———. “Figurenzauber für den kranken König Šamaš-šumu-ukīn.” Or n.s.12 (1943): 293–301. Versnel, Hendrik S. “Beyond Cursing: The Appeal to Justice in Judicial Prayers.” Pages 60–106 in Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion. Edited by C. A. Faraone and D. Obbink. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. ———. Fluch und Gebet: Magische Manipulation versus religiöses Flehen? Berlin: de Gruyter, 2009. Wasserman, Nathan. Akkadian Love Literature of the Third and Second Millennium BCE. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2016. ———. “BM 78613: A Neo-Babylonian Imposture of an Old Babylonian Amulet?” RA 88 (1994): 49–57. ———. “Old-Babylonian, Middle-Babylonian, Neo-Babylonian, Jewish Babylonian? Thoughts about Transmission Modes of Mesopotamian Magic through the Ages.” Pages 255–69 in Encounters by the Rivers of Babylon: Scholarly Conversations Between Jews, Iranians and Babylonians in Antiquity. Edited by U. Gabbay and S. Secunda. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014. ———. “What You See Is What You Get? Comments on Early Akkadian Magical Tradition Based on Physical Aspects of Incantation Tablets.” Pages 47–70 in Traditions of Written Knowledge in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia: Proceedings to Two Workshops Held at Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main in December 2011 and May 2012. Edited by D. Bawanypeck and A. Imhausen. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2014. West, Martin L. The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997. Westenholz, Joan G., ed. Dragons, Monsters and Fabulous Beasts. Jerusalem: Bible Lands Museum, 2004. Whiting, Robert M. “An Old Babylonian Incantation from Tell Asmar.” ZA 75 (1985): 179–87. Wiggermann, Frans A. M. “Lamaštu, Daughter of Anu: A Profile.” Pages 217–52 in Birth in Babylonia and the Bible: Its Mediterranean Setting. Edited by M. Stol. Groningen: Styx, 2000. ———. Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts. Groningen: Styx, 1992. ———. “Sexualität (Sexuality) A. In Mesopotamien.” Pages 410–26 in Reallexikon der Assyriologie. Edited by M. P. Streck. Volume 12. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011.

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Wilcke, Claus. “Liebesbeschwörungen aus Isin.” ZA 75 (1985): 188–209. Winkler, John J. “The Constraints of Eros.” Pages 214–43 in Magika Hiera, Ancient Greek Magic and Religion. Edited by C. A. Faraone and D. Obbink. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Wortmann, Dierk. “Neue magische Texte.” Bonner Jahrbücher 168 (1968): 56–111. Wünsch, Richard. Corpus Inscriptionum Atticarum. Appendix continens defixionum tabellas in Attica regione repertas (DTA). Berlin: Reimer, 1897. ———. “Eine antike Rachepuppe.” Philologus 61 (1902): 26–31. ———. Sethianische Verfluchungstafeln aus Rom. Leipzig: Teubner, 1898. Zgoll, Annette. “Audienz—Ein Modell zum Verständnis mesopotamischer Handerhebungsrituale. Mit einer Deutung der Novelle vom Armen Mann von Nippur.” Baghdader Mitteilungen 34 (2003): 181–99. Zwierlein-Diehl, Erika. Magische Amulette und andere Gemmen des Instituts für Altertumskunde der Universität zu Köln. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1993.

Chapter 5

The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy Netanel Anor Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena

Extispicy was one of the main techniques used in the ancient Near East when inquiring about one’s fortune. This discipline was practiced by trained specialists who were responsible for determining the fate of a person by inspecting the entrails of a sacrificial animal. A well-defined procedure allowed these specialists to provide either a positive or negative answer to the question they formulated beforehand. In other words, the aim of the procedure was to determine whether the query had a favorable or unfavorable answer, whether the inquirer, or client, would be fortunate or unfortunate. Numerous ancient sources bear witness to this procedure. Extispicy prayers, oracle questions, extispicy reports, and queries to the sun-god1 all provide us with different hints about the role of each of the participants in the act of extispicy. Even what seems to be, at first glance, a type of theoretical literature, such as the omen series and compendia, provides modern scholars with clues about the nature of the interaction between the seers and their clients.2 But the texts that provide us with the most significant information about this type of interaction are the Extispicy Rituals. This group includes at least five different ritual texts that were copied in a fixed order and are attested in a few dozen tablets from Nineveh. They describe a series of different rites, instructions about sequences of offerings, and descriptions of gestures and prayers performed during an extispicy. The last comprehensive edition of these texts was published by Zimmern in 1901.3 Although dozens of tablets deal with these descriptions, the reconstruction of the texts is not yet complete, and some passages are still missing. The tablets witnessing the sections concerning the preparative measures made by the participants as well as those elaborating about the concluding acts are well preserved. But the sections of the tablets that describe the manner in which the oracle answer was received are rather damaged and create gaps in the text. As a result of these gaps, the roles of the seer and client also remain ambiguous at some points. Interest in how the ritual of extispicy was carried out has increased in the last two decades. Attention has been focused on the timing of the different phases of the ritual,

1.  Extispicy prayers: Starr, Rituals of the Diviner. Oracle questions: Lambert, Babylonian Oracle Questions. Extispicy reports: Koch-Westenholz, “Old Babylonian Extispicy Reports,” 131–46, Al-Rawi, “Texts from Tell Haddad and Elsewhere,” 35–43; for a report in Ebla, see Maul, Wahrsagekunst im Alten Orient, 363. Queries to the sun-god: Starr, Queries to the Sungod. 2.  Anor, “Secret of Extispicy Revealed,” 7–20. 3.  Zimmern, Beiträge zur Kenntnis der babylonischen Religion. The line numbering of this composition had to be altered due to the new manuscripts discovered since Zimmern’s edition. The line numbers in this paper refer to the numbers in a new edition that I am currently preparing for publication. For a concordance of the lines given here with those in Zimmern’s edition, see the appendix at the end of this paper.



Netanel Anor

whether, for instance, it took place during the day or at night,4 as well as the role of the different deities in its cosmological setting.5 The roles of the human participants in the ritual, however, have been largely neglected, possibly due to the condition of the relevant sources. As mentioned earlier, some of the passages in the texts are fragmentary and therefore remain ambiguous. Moreover, even in lines that can be fully reconstructed, there is some ambiguity in the language and in orthography. The manner in which the descriptions are articulated does not always allow us to determine whether it is the seer or the client who is the agent of a certain action. In fact, there are two main obstacles in understanding the procedure described by the ritual text. The first problem is that the vast majority of these actions are described in impersonal language. They state either “you do such-and-such” or “he does suchand-such.” The second problem is that many of the verbs in the text are not written syllabically but are, instead, represented by a logogram. This means that, in these cases, it is even harder to determine whether the verb is to be read in the second or the third person, because this mode of writing often leaves out the pronominal prefix, which would allow us to identify the subject of the sentence easily. This paper will tackle these two problems by analyzing the different sections of the main ritual text, demonstrating that there are, in fact, patterns in the use of different grammatical persons in well-demarcated sections of the text and that these patterns clarify the grammatical subject of each verb. The ritual text that will be analyzed here is the text referred to by Zimmern as BBR 1–20 and referred to in the present study as Extispicy Ritual 1 (or ER 1, for short), because it is the most detailed and the most fully preserved ritual text. It includes descriptions of dozens of procedures. Nevertheless, only a few passages mention the seer or client by name. One of these few cases is the opening line of the ritual: [enūma?] mār bārî niqâ ukān qaqqar kitti ša Šamaš u Adad isan[niq] [When] the apprentice seer sets up an offering, he draws near “the place of truth of Šamaš and Adad”6 Another example is line 113 of the text, where it states: apkal šamni mār bārî erēna uššašā-ma mêmeš ana šamni inamdi The oil expert, the apprentice seer, will raise7 the cedar and pour water into oil.

4.  Fincke, “Ist die mesopotamische Opferschau ein nächtliches Ritual?”. 5.  Steinkeller, “Of Stars and Men,” 11–47. 6.  It is common for such rituals to begin with enūma, “when.” See, for example, the ritual of the kalû (SpTU 4, 141), as well as other ritual texts. The fact that ER III also begins with enūma supports this reconstruction. One would expect a subjunctive, which is missing from this sentence. Note that, for this reason, Jiménez, “New Fragments of Gilgameš,” reconstructs šumma “if,” instead of enūma. This reconstruction seems improbable to me, because the particle šumma has not yet been attested in a sentence opening a ritual text, whereas the enūma formula is the usual opening for compositions of this genre. 7.  According to the context, this should be a form of the verb našû in the Š stem. Only one manuscript gives this form unambiguously, namely, ms. A, with the form ú-šá-áš-šá-ma. In mss. D, E, and F, the orthography is ú-šá-ÁŠ-ma, which probably, needs to be read as ú-šá-aša2-ma or emended to ú-šá-áš-⟨šá⟩-ma. Borger (Mesopotamisches Zeichenlexikon, 457) lists a number of VCV orthographies, including aša2 for

The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy


Sometimes the client is also mentioned explicitly: line 132 of the text has the following instruction: qāt bēl niqê taṣabbatma kīam tadabbub You hold the hand of the client and thus you say While line 85 states: bēl niqê qāssu inaššima utnen uškênma The client raises his hand, he prays, and he prostrates himself. These examples reveal to the modern reader who the different human participants in ER 1 are. At the same time, however, they also demonstrate the exceptional cases, in which the terms bārû, “seer,” or the bēl niqê, “client,” are used explicitly. However, in most cases, readers of the Extispicy Rituals faced a problem, namely, the lack of a clearly specified agent for certain ritual actions. Line 52 of the text is one of the many passages in which this problem is exemplified: 3 nignakkī burāša erēna maṣhata tasarraq You scatter three incense-burners, one of juniper, one of cedar and one of fine flour. This line shows how, when taken out of context, one cannot determine who is in charge of the ritual action, at least not in formal terms. In other words, from this sentence, it is unclear whether it is the seer or the client who should scatter the different offerings. Familiarity with other pieces of Mesopotamian technical literature might lead the reader to assume that it is the expert who is being addressed and that, consequently, it is the seer who is in charge of this action. Indeed, other kinds of instructional texts often refer to the expert in the second person and to the client in the third person, as we have seen in the discussion of line 85 above. There, the agent of the verb is not ambiguous because the client is explicitly referenced: bēl niqê qāssu inaššima utnen uškên The client raises his hand, he prays and he prostrates himself. The matter is not so simple, however. The two preceding examples (lines 52 and 85) do indeed follow the usual pattern found in technical literature. The expert is being addressed by the text in the second person, while the client is referred to in the third person. The problem is that some of the passages in ER 1 do not follow this convention. This is particularly clear in two of the examples we looked at earlier from lines 1 and 113 of the text: [. . . . . .] mār bārî niqâ ukān qaqqar kitti ša Šamaš u Adad isan[niq] ÁŠ, citing Deller, “Studien zur neuassyrischen Orthographie,” 187 no. 192. Deller, however, provides only a single example of this orthography from ABL 342 rev. 19, namely, aša2-par.


Netanel Anor

[When] the apprentice seer sets up an offering, he draws near “the place of truth” of Šamaš and Adad apkal šamni mār bārî erēna uššašā-ma mêmeš ana šamni inamdi The oil expert, the apprentice seer, will raise the cedar and pour water into oil. As can be seen in these two examples, the seer is here referred to in the third person, contrary to previous examples, where he is addressed in the second person. The only way of explaining this is to suggest that there is a switch in the modus of speech in the different sections of the ritual. The idea that different sections of this text have different functions was already suggested by Lambert. In the course of reediting the legend of Enmeduranki, he noticed that some passages from the legend were strongly reminiscent of the Extispicy Rituals.8 In other words, he pointed out that some sections of this ritual serve a more ethical or admonitory rather than practical purpose. However, his objective was to shed light on the parallel passages in the legend of Enmeduranki, and he therefore referred only to the lines of the Extispicy Rituals that were relevant to his purpose, without properly defining the different sections of the ritual. Fincke has also been concerned with some of the turning points in this text.9 Her aim, however, was to determine the specific timing of each of the procedures along a timeline, from preliminary preparations in the early afternoon to inspection of the slaughtered animal after sunrise the next day. She therefore paid particular attention to time descriptions such as dusk, dawn, or afternoon as well as the appearances of the stars, a classification that does not tell us much about the role of the human participants in the ritual. Therefore, the problem presented above calls for a more refined definition of the different sections of ER 1. The following analysis of the content of the text shows that only particular parts of the text, parts that do not include explicit ritual instructions, use this somewhat unusual mode of speech. ER 1 can be divided into the following sections: Section 1 (lines 1–26) An ethical section concerning the qualifications of the Babylonian seer: Section 2 (lines 27–64) The presentation of the sacrifice and the oracular question in front of the gods, different instructions concerning the protection of the procedure from evil interference: 1.  instructions concerning favorable timing during the month and year 2.  offerings for the gods of the night who are protecting the procedure 3.  offerings to the personal gods and to the healing goddess in order to protect the client Section 3 (lines 65–69) Presentation of the client and a prayer for favorable conditions for the first inspection:

8.  Lambert, “Qualifications of Babylonian Diviners,” 142–46. 9.  See Fincke, “Ist die mesopotamische Opferschau ein nächtliches Ritual?”

The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy


Section 4 (lines 70–93) Slaughtering of the lamb and purification of the different parts of the exta; presenting them for purification in front of the gods: Section 5 (lines 94–109) Presentation of the offerings for the gods of extispicy and to the personal gods, in the course of lying out the entrails of the sacrificial lamb: Section 6 (lines 110–19) An additional ethical section that describes the conditions in which the seer receives an answer from the gods: Section 7 (lines 120–31) Preparations of the different offering tables for the gods before the slaughtering of a second lamb: Section 8 (lines 132–36) A second introduction of the client and prayer for favorable conditions for a second inspection: Section 9 (line 137–69) Slaughtering of the second lamb followed by the purification of the entrails and presentation of its different parts in front of the gods involved: Section 10 (lines 170–209) Conclusion of the ritual: the client removes the incense-burners and the seer removes the offering tables while performing some ritual gestures: As demonstrated by this analysis of the structure of the text, the text as a whole includes sections, namely, §§1 and 6, that are unusual, especially in comparison to other ritual descriptions. Ritual and instructive texts belonging to the technical disciplines can sometimes include occasional ethical remarks, but the inclusion of entire sections dedicated to mythical or ethical matters is rather odd. The first section and the sixth section add up to more than 30 lines, which forms a considerable portion of ER 1. As mentioned earlier, the first section of the ritual bears a striking resemblance to the legend of Enmeduranki, a fact that strengthens its mythical/ethical status. The ethical function of this section is made especially clear in lines 4–5 of the text: mešrêtu lū šuklulat zaqtā īnā [hesi]r šinnī ša ubānšu nakpat ašar purussā bārûti ul iṭehhi May his limbs be perfect: he, who is blind (lit., “sharp with his eyes”), who has a chipped tooth or a cut-off finger, shall not approach the place of oracular verdict. Crucial parts of §1 are broken, but its objectives are nevertheless quite clear. As demonstrated by the last example, the passage deals with the physical properties of the Babylonian seer. Moreover, it describes his education as an apprentice and mentions the compositions that he should study. Reference is made to the niṣirti bārûti, “the Secret of Extispicy,” which will be revealed to him when he is initiated into the inspection of the entrails of the sacrificial lamb.10 10.  See Anor, “Secret of Extispicy Revealed,” for the latest discussion about texts labeled as “Secret of Extispicy” and their relevance to the ritual.


Netanel Anor

Line 26, the last line in this ethical section, is especially interesting. And as such, it serves as a key turning point from the first section, which consists of the ethical narrative, to the second section, which uses the instructive modus of speech. Until recently, only a small part of this line was known, but thanks to the recently collated manuscript K 10917,11 it can now be fully reconstructed: mudê erri bārû ša ihzī ālišu kašdu “Knower of the entrails,” the seer, he who has mastered the learning of his city The reason this line is important is that it is followed by lines 27 and 28, in which we find the first occurrences of verbs in the second person: [ana mahar] Šamaš u Adad tukannušu tāmīt pirište [ipa]ttušu You will set [in front of] Šamaš and Adad the secret tamītu-question and they will reveal it to you!.12 Parts of these two lines are broken, but it is indisputable that at least one of the verbs here can only be reconstructed as a verb conjugated in the second-person singular. Thus, lines 27 and 28 shed light on the function of the newly recovered line 26. This line can now be recognized as a sentence with a vocative function, addressing the seer. The text, at this phase, concludes the opening descriptive section by introducing the seer; it has begun to speak to the seer and stopped describing his qualifications and abilities. In other words, line 26 marks the transition from an ethical section to the instructive section. This reconstruction of line 26 allows these two different modes of address to be differentiated in a straightforward way. We can now conclude that in the ethical sections, the seer is always referred to in the third-person singular. On the other hand, in sections dealing with operative instructions, the seer is addressed in the second person and the client is the one referred to in the third person. Table 5.1 summarizes these conclusions. In light of this pattern, it should be evident that different passages in ER 1 11.  Lambert identified this tablet as part of the ritual but unfortunately did not include it in his reconstruction of the lines he dealt with. See Lambert, “Qualifications of Babylonian Diviners,” 142. The tablet was later collated in November 2012 and November 2013 as part of my dissertation project titled “The Extispicy Rituals: Theory and Practice” submitted at the Freie Universität Berlin in December 2015 and defended in June 2016. These collations allowed some of the insights of the current paper, presented in the workshop in Warsaw, July, 2014. I thank Enrique Jiminez for providing me with a draft of his, thenforthcoming article on the subject after I had given my presentation. He has thus made me aware of his collations of the tablet, as well as those of the duplicating tablet K 3272+, to which he joined K 14480, also witnessing the lines discussed here. 12.  I can only understand the pronoun -šu to be a mistake, either for -ka or -ši. The pronoun in question can only refer to either the seer or the tāmītu question. The problem is that tāmītu is a feminine noun that requires the pronoun -ši, while the seer is already referred to in this sentence in the second person (requiring the pronoun -ka). That the gods should reveal the secret to the client seems highly improbable to me. It is possible that this mistake (witnessed only in one manuscript) originated from the scribe having a parallel passage in mind, from the Legend of Enmeduranki, where it is said: ta-mit pi-riš-ti ul i-pat-tu-šú. For this passage, see Lambert, “Qualifications of Babylonian Diviners,” 149:38. I thank the anonymous reviewer for pointing out this parallel. Note the small but crucial difference between the two passages, marked by the negation ul. This difference is, however, understandable, as the Enmeduranki passage relates to the unqualified apprentice or a person having physical defects, while our ritual passage refers to the authorized seer.

The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy


Table 5.1.  The Modes of Speech According to Sections The Ethical Sections

The Instructive Sections

the expert referred to in the third-person singular referred to in the second-person singular the client not mentioned referred to in the third-person singular Table 5.2.  Structure of the ER 1 Section


Character of Content

Mode of Speech That Refers to the Seer

 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10

1–26 27–53 54–69 70–93 94–109 110–19 120–31 132–36 137–69 170–209

ethical instructive instructive instructive instructive ethical instructive instructive instructive instructive

third person second person second person second person second person third person second person second person second person second person

refer to the same person using two different modes of speech. Table 5.2 shows how these two different modes function within the structure of ER 1. Once we recognize this pattern, it can help us solve the second problem under discussion, namely, the absence of explicitly encoded verbal subjects or agents. In order to address it, one has first to determine whether the verb in question is part of an ethical section or part of an instructive section, because only the instructive sections make use of second-person verbs. This simple observation must be kept in mind, because many of the verbs are represented in a logographic orthography that does not explicitly differentiate which of the two participants performs the action. For example, line 56 is written as follows: 1 dug ní ana im.˹kur˺.ra ana igi dinanna lú gar-an This sentence, for example, could be transcribed and translated in two different ways: Either: 1 karpat nignakki ana šadî ana mahar ištar amēli tašakkan You (the seer) place one incense-burner in front of the personal goddess toward the east. Or: 1 karpat nignakki ana šadî ana mahar ištar amēli išakkan He (the client) places one incense-burner in front of the personal goddess toward the east.


Netanel Anor

The logographic spelling here does not allow the grammatical person of the verb to be directly determined, and, consequently, it is hard to know whether the client or the seer should set up the incense burner. Fortunately enough, it seems that the ancient scribes were aware of the problem, and they sometimes provide their readers with an orthographic clue. The anonymous scribe of tablet K 2818+ (ms. E), for instance, was not always happy with this kind of purely logographic writing, because he provided us with some variant forms spelled syllabically. In line 93, for example, we have a verb that—without ms. E as a witness—might show the same type of ambiguity that we saw in line 56. Three manuscripts bear witness to this specific line: K 2812+ (ms. E) r. 9, K 9735+ (ms. D) r. 1, K 5785+ (ms. I), v. 18ʹ: E9–10 D2ʹ I18ʹ

a.gú ta-nam-di/ 10.[. . . . . . . . . te-eš]-ši-ir a.gú šub-di ⟨tu⟩-uš-ke-en-ma te-eš-[ši-ir] a.gúb.‹ba šub-di› [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]

If we examine only mss. D and I, it is impossible to decide who the agent of the first verb in the line is, in strictly formal terms. The verb nadû is represented in these manuscripts by the logogram šub, which could also have been transcribed in the third person present: inamdi. But ms. E proves that it is the second person that is meant here, since it uses the syllabic spelling ta-nam-di, an orthography that can only be interpreted as a second person verb. Verbal forms that follow this verb also support this fact, because they also are in the second person:13 egubbâ tanamdi tuškênma teššir you pour water from the holy-water vessel. You prostrate and then you straighten up. Another line, line 70, also has a variant that demonstrates the reading of a logogram in the second person: E3ʹ C14ʹ–15ʹ H3ʹ–4ʹ

sískur ta-naq-qí-ma udu.[níta . . . . . . . . . šú-luḫ-ḫ]i ta-⸢sal-laḫ⸣ sískur / bal-qí-ma  udu.níta ú-kal-lu-ma šu-luḫ-ḫi ta-sal-laḫ sísk[ur] / [. . . . . . . . . . . .] ⸢ú⸣-kal-lu-ma šu-luḫ-ḫi ta-sal-laḫ

Once more, it is ms. E that confirms a reading in the second person: this time of the verb naqû. This reading likewise confirms the following normalization: niqâ tanaqqīma immera ukalluma šuluhhi tasallah You make a sacrifice, and while he presents the lamb, you perform the purification ritual.

13.  The only witness for this part of the line is ms. D, which reads uš-ke-en-ma te-eš-[ši-ir]. I can only understand this as a mistake of the scribe because logically the person who is to lie prostrate should be the one standing up afterward, hence the correction in the transliteration to ⟨tu⟩-uš-ke-en-ma. See CAD E 354 (there, BBR 1–20:100), which reconstructs accordingly.

The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy


Especially interesting are the contrastive strategies that the manuscripts apply to the spelling of the verb sarāqu. If we compare line 52 to line 35, both of which make use of this verb, it is clear that the logograms are to be read in the second-person singular. In line 52, ms. E adopts, as usual, the syllabic spelling, while the other manuscripts do not, and thus confirm the reading in the second person: E7ʹ A3 D10–11 F10–11 I15ʹ–16ʹ N6ʹ–7ʹ

[x x x š]imli giš![eri]n zìmad.gá ta-sár-raq 3 ní šimli šimhi.a zìmad.g[á. . . . . . . . .] 3 ní šimli / [. . . . . . . . . . . . d]ub-aq [. . . . . .] šimli gišerin / [. . . . . . . . .] [x níg.n]a šimli gišerin zìmad.gá / [. . . . . .] [. . . . . .] / gišeri[n . . . . . . . . . . . .]

3 nignakkī burāša maṣhata tasarraq You scatter three incense-burners, one of juniper, one of cedar, and one of fine flour. The ambiguity produced by the different modes of writing in ER 1, which appears to have led the scribe who wrote ms. E to shift to a syllabic orthography in some cases, led other scribes to adopt a somewhat unorthodox orthography for second-person verbs. Here in line 35, ms. A (and perhaps ms. O as well) presents us with the orthographic form ta-dub.dub-aq. A32 ní [ši]mli zì ta-dub.dub-aq k[aš].sag bal-qí C26ʹ–27ʹ ní šimli / [. . . . . . . . .] kaš.sag bal-qí O13ʹ–14ʹ [. . . . . .] / [ta]-dub.dub-aq [. . . . . . . . .] nignakka burāša qēma tasarraq šikara tanaqqi You scatter some incense of juniper and some flour and you poor some premium-quality beer as libation. This example should be emphasized because it witnesses a very unusual orthography. Phonetic complements to logograms are very common, but particularly in technical literature such as this, phonetic complements normally only follow the logogram; the addition of the second-person marker ta- at the beginning of a logographic writing is unusual and rare.14 This is the only occurrence of this sort of orthography in the corpus of the Extispicy Rituals, and it originates as an ad hoc elaboration of the relatively standard orthography dub.dub-aq. If so, the addition of ta- to this orthographic form represents further evidence that the ambiguity of logographically written verbs in ER was a significant problem for users and transmitters of the text. 14.  This scribal practice is unattested elsewhere in the corpus of ER. Divinatory texts from Susa sometimes note phonetical prefixes before logograms, as do omen texts from the late Old Babylonian Sealand area. For a short discussion about this phenomenon in the Sealand texts, see George, Babylonian Divinatory Texts, 136–37. Note, however, that it seems not very probable that we are dealing here with a transmission of this practice to Nineveh and even less probable that this actual variant originated in these other sites.


Netanel Anor

Line 35, with its unusual ta-dub.dub-aq orthography, occurs in an instruction section of ER, so, strictly speaking, the addition of ta- is redundant. But it is important in that it emphasizes the general rule for the instructive sections, namely, that the second-person singular is the usual mode of speech for referring to the actions of the seer and that, consequently, otherwise unspecified logograms should be interpreted as second-person forms, if there is no other contradictory evidence. If we apply this rule to line 56: 1 dug ní ana im.⸢kur⸣.ra ana igi dinanna lú gar-an it should be interpreted as: 1 karpat nignakki ana šadî ana mahar ištar amēli tašakkan (not išakkan) You (the seer) place one incense-burner in front of the personal goddess towards the east. The way in which the text refers to the client also supports this suggestion. As previously mentioned, ER 1 always addresses the client in the third person. When surveying the text, it is also important to recognize that the text almost exclusively uses syllabic orthographies for third-person verbs that refer to the client. Line 209, at the end of the text, is a good example: ní ú-nak-kar-ma uš-ke-en-ma iš-ši-ir nignakka unakkarma uškênma iššir He removes the incense-burner, prostrates himself and stands up. The fact that none of the three verbs in this line is written logographically seems to be an intentional choice on the part of the scribe. It might suggest that a syllabic orthography has been used here, so as to avoid confusion between the different participants in the ritual. In other words, it may be possible to suggest a general principle for the interpretation of logographically written verbs in the instructive sections. If a logographically written verb in an instructive section does not include explicit indication of its person, then it should be interpreted as a second-person verb that refers to the seer. In contrast, syllabically written verbs in these same sections normally refer to the client in the third person. For this reason, in instructive sections, scribes used both types of orthography as an indirect indication of the person of the verb: logographically written verbs refer to the seer in the second person, while syllabically written verbs normally refer to the client in the third. Where the client is referenced with a full noun phrase, however, the scribe could switch back to a logographic orthography because the person was made clear by the co-occurring nominal phrase. The only exception to this general rule that third-person verbs that refer to the client are written syllabically can be found in a phrase that repeats itself in lines 85, 90, 170, 175, 180, and 205. This phrase is always written as follows: en udusískur šu-su íl-ši-ma .ut-nen uš-ke-en-ma

The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy


Table 5.3.  Spelling Strategies According to Type of Section

the expert the client

The Ethical Sections

The Instructive Sections

Spelling Strategy of the Verb

referred to in the thirdperson singular not mentioned

referred to in the secondperson singular referred to in the thirdperson singular

logographic and syllabic almost exclusively syllabic

As previously mentioned, this phrase is to be transcribed and translated as follows: bēl niqê qāssu inaššima utnen uškênma The client raises his hand, he prays and he prostrates himself. In this passage, there is indeed a logographically written verb that refers to the client in the third person, namely, íl-ši-ma, but because it co-occurs with the full noun phrase bēl niqê, there is no need for syllabic orthography to indicate that the verb is in the third person. In all other cases, the text uses a syllabic spelling for the third person singular, a strategy applied in order to avoid confusion between the participants. Table 5.3 summarizes the suggested spelling rules applied in ER 1. To conclude, the data summarized in table 5.3 indicates that, in ER 1, logographically written verbs in instruction sections regularly refer to the second person, as is well supported by the different variants. This is the usual way in which the instructive handbooks of the technical disciplines refer to experts. The client, on the other hand, is not an obvious agent for some of the actions, so when the client is mentioned, the ancient scribes made this clear by writing the verb syllabically. The manner in which this system functions in other Extispicy Rituals will be discussed in a study that is currently in preparation.15

15.  The role of the participants in Extispicy Rituals 2–5 as well as the spelling conventions in these texts have been investigated in the context of my above-mentioned dissertation and will be included in its publication.


Netanel Anor

Appendix: Concordance with the Earlier Edition Since Zimmern’s edition, several new manuscripts have been recovered, and they shed new light on the structure of the Extispicy Ritual. New line numberings had to be given in order to reflect the new understandings of the composition’s structure. Therefore, a table with some of the line numbers from Zimmern’s 1901 edition in BBR is given below. This table facilitates access to references in publications of the last century that made use of the old numbering system. Note that only selected line numbers are given here. They nevertheless refer to important parts of the text and allow for an easier alignment of the new edition in relation to other publications. BBR 1–20 (a)

ER 1

1 10 15 16 25 31 35 40

1 11 16 17 26 31 35 40

47 51 — 55 61 68 73 80 90 99 101 105 110 120 127

46 49 53a–f 54 60 65 70 76 83 92 94 98 103 113 120

128–35 136 140 150 165 177 186 200 215 225

— 121 124 134 147 159 168 182 197 207

The Seer and His Client in the Ritual of Extispicy


Bibliography Al-Rawi, Farouk N. H. “Texts from Tell Haddad and Elsewhere.” Iraq 56 (1994): 35–43. Anor, Netanel. “The Extispicy Rituals: Theory and Practice.” Ph.D. dissertation, Freie Universität Berlin, 2016. “ ———. Secret of Extispicy Revealed.” Pages 7–20 in Esoteric Knowledge in Antiquity. Edited by K. Geus and M. J. Geller. Berlin: Max Planck, 2014. Borger, Rykle. Mesopotamisches Zeichenlexikon, Zweite, revidierte und aktualisierte Auflage. Münster, Ugarit-Verlag 2010. Deller, K. “Studien zur neuassyrischen Orthographie.” Or. n.s. 31 (1962): 186–96. Fincke , Jeanette. “Ist die mesopotamische Opferschau ein nächtliches Ritual?” BiOr 66 (2009–10): 519–58. George, Andrew R. Babylonian Divinatory Texts Chiefly in the Schøyen Collection. CUSAS 18. Bethesda, CDL 2013. Jiménez, Enrique. “New Fragments of Gilgames and Other Literary Texts from Kuyunjik.” Iraq 76 (2014): 99–121. Koch-Westenholz, Ulla S. “Old Babylonian Extispicy Reports.” Pages 131–46 in Mining the Archives: Festschrift for Christopher Walker on the Occasion of His 60th Birthday 4 October 2002. Edited by Cornelia Wunsch. Dresden: ISLET, 2002. Lambert, Wilfred G. Babylonian Oracle Questions. MesCiv 13. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2007. ———. “The Qualifications of Babylonian Diviners.” Pages 141–58 in Festschrift für Rykle Borger zu seinem 65. Geburtstag am 24. Mai 1994: Tikip santakki mala bašmu. Edited by S. M. Maul. Groningen, Styx, 1998. Maul, Stefan M. Die Wahrsagekunst im Alten Orient: Zeichen des Himmels und der Erde. Munich: Beck, 2013. Starr, Ivan. The Rituals of the Diviner. BiMes 12. Malibu, CA: Undena, 1983. ———. Queries to the Sungod: Divination and Politics in Sargonid Assyria. SAA 4. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1990. Steinkeller , Piotr. “Of Stars and Men: The Conceptual and Mythological Setup of Babylonian Extispicy.” Pages 11–47 in Biblical and Oriental Essays in Memory of William L. Moran. Edited by A. Gianto. Biblica et Orientalia 48. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 2005. Zimmern, Heinrich. Beiträge zur Kenntnis der babylonischen Religion: Die Beschwörungstafeln Šurpu; Ritualtafeln für fen Wahrsager, Beschwörer und Sänger. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1901.

Chapter 6

Healing in Images and Texts: The Sickbed Scene Strahil V. Panayotov Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Introduction The sickbed scene first appears in the iconography of cylinder seals in the second millennium BCE.1 It is best preserved, however, on the Lamaštu-Hulbazizi amulets,2 which are crucial for the interconnections between Mesopotamian magico-medical texts and the images associated with these writings. The sickbed imagery conveys multifaceted ideas related to healing and averting evil within a house. Diverse incantations and rituals address the micro-world of the sickbed, but, notably, textual explanations of the sickbed scene are not always preserved on the amulets themselves. Thus, this paper will not only intertwine the amulet’s imagery with the texts on the amulets but will also link it with a number of other manuscripts, in order to offer case studies of selected scenes from the amulets. First, I will discuss the methodology employed, the location of the bedroom, and the particular way images were depicted on the amulets, which will be spoken of as flat perspective. Then, special attention will be paid to the way in which the narration of the scenes unfolds on amulet no. 1. This paper also presents several new amulets and offers a collection of all sickbed scenes on all known amulets. Some new amulets dealing with the incantation ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu, “The one who transgressed the privacy of my bed,” are edited in score format. This article also focuses on Lamaštu’s attributes and makes several new element identifications on specific amulets: the dagger and the vessel, and the image of Bidu, the gatekeeper of the netherworld. Furthermore, the paper discusses the position of the lamp of Nuska in connection with a gesture of the stretched-out sick person, known from the ritual bīt mēseri, “House of Confinement,” as well as arguing which incantations the patient and the healer were reciting. In addition, I discuss fumigation and the place of the incense burner and link a compendium with incantations for fumigation to an image Author’s note: This paper is dedicated to Frans Wiggermann. This is a BabMed, ERC-Project publication. Alphabetically, Andrew George, Daniel Schwemer, David Kertai, and Eva Götting helped with article issues. Gratitude is due to Irving Finkel, who provided me with crucial texts, and especially to Frans Wiggermann, who read an earlier draft and discussed the amulets during many occasions. The identification of Bidu arose from a chat with Frans in Berlin. Also, Luis Sáenz warned me about several errors. Last but not least, my gratitude goes to Gene Trabich and Cale Johnson. For the publication of the new material and photos, I thank the Trustees of the British Museum and the Louvre. 1.  Meissner, “Neue Siegelzylinder,” 162, Abb. 3 and 4. For more on the sickbed scene on seals, see the appendix at the end of this paper. 2.  These objects are mostly referred to as Lamaštu amulets, which is only partly true because many of the incantations written on them belong, in fact, to the Hulbazizi (“Eradicate that evil!”) genre. Thus, a designation Lamaštu-Hulbazizi amulets is more appropriate.



Strahil V. Panayotov

of an evil dragon, one of the evil transgressors in the bedroom, as demonstrated by amulet no. 107. Finally, I will speculate that the two healers from the amulets (mythical and/or human) might well represent the two Mesopotamian healing professions, the physician and the exorcist. After the conclusion, I offer an appendix on the sickbed scene on seals.

Methods Special attention must be paid to methodology first. Two major studies of the sickbed scene are especially important for this issue. The first belongs to Frank, who published his groundbreaking Babylonische Beschwörungsreliefs more than a century ago, in 1908. Outdated now as it may seem, this book uses a rudimentary methodology of connecting images of the sickbed from the Lamaštu-Hulbazizi amulets with incantations and rituals. Almost 100 years after Frank, in 2007, Wiggermann published the article “Some Demons of Time and Their Functions in Mesopotamian Iconography.” He paid special attention to the lamp of Nuska in his discussion of the sickbed on amulet nos. 1, 2, 62, and 63 and demonstrated that the pictorial setting of the sickbed scene from these amulets is directly related to the incantation Nuska šar mūši munammer ukli, “O Nuska, king of the night, illuminator of darkness.” The latter is embedded in the ritual bīt mēseri, which is, importantly, not found as text on the amulets but is found on other tablets. Wiggermann also connected an exorcist scene on a Neo-Babylonian amulet no. 107 (fig. 6.15) with a Hulbazizi incantation, ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu, “The one who transgressed the privacy of my bed.”3 So, both Frank and Wiggermann searched for an explanation of the amulets’ sickbed scene in texts preserved not on the amulets but in other manuscripts.4 In other words, linking the text and the image is left to the modern scholar, which brings different personal interpretations into play and opens the emic-etic discussion. The methods that will be employed in this paper are the following: A.  Matching texts and images on the same amulet B.  Interconnecting texts and images on different media C.  Interpreting A and B

emic approach etic approach etic approach

We can be quite certain that method A yields valid results, since it is emic: the ancient amulet’s creator intentionally connected specific texts and images on a single object. On the other hand, methods B and C involve linking texts and images from different objects and manuscripts, so these methods are, necessarily, bound to modern scholarly interpretation, being etic in essence.

3.  Wiggermann, “Some Demons of Time ,” 106–8; Wiggermann, “Lamaštu, Daughter of Anu,” 224 and 246. 4.  Franke, “Persönliche Frömmigkeit im Alten Orient,” 85–98, observed a similar situation for the cult pedestal.

Healing in Images and Texts


The Bedroom The sickbed scene was a reality in the Mesopotamian bedroom (bīt erši/mayāli),5 which was always in a domestic space, since there were, at that time, no “hospitals.” Paradoxically, the bedroom was not always a place of rest, because fear, anxiety, bad dreams, and evils manifested there and were counteracted, for instance, with apotropaic figurines or different amulets.6 But where was the bedroom located within a house? In Babylonian architecture, the bedroom is assumed to be one of the smaller rooms beside the main living room, which might also be connected to another room with an exit to a courtyard (tarbaṣu).7 The situation in Assyria seems similar. The bedroom might have been connected not only to the courtyard (tarbaṣu) but also to a bathroom.8 Thus, a Mesopotamian “standard” bedroom might be imagined both as an end room and as a through room (Durchgangszimmer). On the other hand, the incantation ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu (text example 1 discussed below) illustrates that the privacy of the bed was more central than the room itself. Importantly, a bed could simply be placed in a room, which could then serve as a bedroom, even if that was not its original function. Without any preserved furniture in situ, we cannot really tell where the bed or the bedroom was.

The Flat Perspective Before turning to the ancient images, it is crucial to understand how they were depicted in Mesopotamia. First, the scenes from the amulets are ideal depictions, snapshots from a particular moment of healing or an evil-averting act in a room with a bed. The ancient artist who made these amulets used what I would like to call “flat perspective.” The artist rendered an ideal three-dimensional scene, how they imagined the setting in a particular moment, on the plane surface of each amulet by flattening it into two dimensions.9 In this way, the artist reduced three dimensions to two. Importantly, although the images are static, the amulets are active objects, narrating active scenes and not passive images. Wiggermann suggested that the artist selected the most important acts and participants. Although the decision behind a single composition is always personal, it is constrained by some informal criteria because we can recognize the workshops that made these amulets.10 It is essential for our methodology that each 5.  Farber, Lamaštu, 14, and see the instances of bīt erši in the glossary. In cases of serious illness, the sickbed turns into a deathbed (erši namtari). Reference to bīt erši were kindly provided by one of the reviewers, to whom I express my gratitude. See for instance Jiménez, Babylonian Disputation Poems, 268. 6.  See Ritter and Wilson, “Prescription for an Anxiety State,” 197. Apotropaic figurines: See Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits, 48, 65, 71–72, 83, 103, 107–9, 116. The ritual texts refer to the bedroom with kummu, “innermost room.” Amulets: Panayotov, “Magico-medical Plants,” 192–222. 7.  Baker, “Family Structure,” 376–79 and 391. 8.  Radner, Neuassyrischen Privatrechtsurkunden, 266–67. 9.  This is basically how the ancient world depicted spaces before the invention of the perspective. In Egyptology, a similar phenomenon has been called “aspective”; see Lippke, “Southern Levant in Context,” 213. 10.  For instance, amulets nos. 50, 54, and 105 belong to one workshop, but nos. 84, 101, and 111 belong to another, and so on.


Strahil V. Panayotov

Figure 6.1.  (AO 2491), amulet no. 3, photo and design by author. Courtesy of Musée du Louvre, Paris.

plane from the amulet, but also from the seal, is a combination of images, which with a bit of imagination can be reconstructed back into its three-dimensional form. This is done in order to match images with texts better. The flat perspective on amulet no. 3 (fig. 6.1) could be unfolded in a room, showing a combination of a sickbed, two healers, an incense burner, and two protective spirits, Lulal (left) and Ugallu (right). The latter are not simply located somewhere in the room, behind the healers; instead, they must be placed at the entrance and fulfill their duty as doorkeepers.11 The two healers might also be envisioned as standing beside 11.  The spirits Ugallu and Lulal served as door guardians; see, in detail, Kertai, “Guardians at the Doors,” 325–49. For the exorcistic bell in Berlin, see especially Panayotov, “A Copper Bell.” One might

Healing in Images and Texts


Figure 6.2.  (AO 22205), amulet no. 1, photo and design by author. Courtesy of Musée du Louvre, Paris.

the bed and not at its ends. The incense burner is depicted at its proper location, at the head of the bed, as we will see from text examples 7 and 8 below. Other images and combinations as on amulet no. 1 (fig. 6.2)12 require other interpretations. There are two Ugallus and only one Lulal, but this might be due to the lack of space, and so a second Lulal might be imagined there as well. All of them must be placed at the entrances, since they are the doorkeepers. The two healers are not humans this time, like on amulet no. 3, but rather mythical fish-apkallus.13 They might also have been at the sides of the bed and not at both ends. The lamp of Nuska, although it looks as though it is situated behind the fish-apkallu to the left, must be placed at the head of the bed, and we will see that this is actually supported by text example 4. However, imagine that Ugallu and Lulal might have been drawn on the doors of private houses or standing on the crucial spot as plaques and figurines. 12.  Now housed in the Louvre (AO 22205), it belonged to the former de Clercq collection. 13.  The fish-cloaked beings are mythical creatures borne out of human imagination and are not humans dressed in fish skin, as stated in Dalley, “Apkallu.” This is supported by the fact that similar images of fishcloaked beings are spread among cultures with no physical contact. One might compare Mesopotamian fish-cloaked apkallu with images of the Inuit shamans from Baker Lake (Canada); see Vitebsky, Schamanismus, 92.


Strahil V. Panayotov

Figure 6.3.  (AO 22205), amulet no. 1, photo and design by author. Courtesy of Musée du Louvre, Paris.

because we are not certain whether the bedroom was always an end room, we might also imagine it as a through room (Durchgangszimmer), suggesting that the guarding spirits were securing both entrances to the room (see fig. 6.3).

The Pictorial Narration on Amulet No. 1 (AO 22205) The images on amulet no. 1 deserve special attention here.14 The pictures are in a flat perspective and must be interpreted. The obverse is divided into sky, earth, and water 14.  It has never been pointed out in the literature that this amulet-plaque had been already broken in antiquity. It presumably fell down on the left corner (obverse) and was partly chipped from the bottom upward. An ancient craftsman repaired the damage by inserting a tiny bronze nail between the two broken parts. This nail runs diagonally down from the obverse to the reverse and still holds the pieces together. Above the nail, there are two holes—one filled with the remains of a bronze wire or dirt, the other empty—through which a wire could have run in order to ensure that the chipped pieces remained together. Concerning the breastfeeding mentioned in Wiggermann, “Breast-Feeding of Animals by Women,” 411, there is additional evidence for Wiggermann’s idea in the short film Rätsel der Urwaldhölle (1938), about

Healing in Images and Texts


Figure 6.4.  Amulet no. 1, photos by author. Courtesy of Musée du Louvre, Paris.

registers (see fig. 6.4).15 In the first register, the stratigraphy starts in heaven with gods and their symbols, providing the divine power needed for successful healing and the averting of evil. The second register represents earth, beginning with the seven protective urigallu-standards,16 followed by another section with the doorkeepers, Lulal and Ugallu, the two mythical apkallus, and a lamp, all exemplifying healing and apotropaic actions around the sickbed. The third register, presumably the most central register, shows the apotropaic objects from the Lamaštu ritual and the evil transgressor. The narration goes down and reaches the water of the Ulâ river,17 which will take Lamaštu to the netherworld and end the healing process, as described in the Lamaštu series. From the other side of the amulet, the Pazuzu gloats over the whole scene, inspecting the domestic healing by “staring into the sickroom where the amulet was posted.”18 All these scenes suggest a reading of the images like a cartoon, with the understanding that the whole amulet is a narration of general healing and evil-averting acts which are not specific but rather collective ideas that can be linked to different texts, as will be shown in the following pages. an Amazonian expedition lead by Otto Schulz Kampfhenkel (available on YouTube: .com/watch?v=cr0eXOtuMjs). There, some puppies have been breast fed by a woman after the death of the mother dog. 15.  Obverse is used here in a technical sense, in order to designate the side with the inscription. There is no real obverse or reverse on amulets; they can be viewed from either side. See Wiggermann, “Sichtbare Mythologie,” 123 (Abb. 12) and 130. 16.  I follow Wiggermann, “Lamaštu, Daughter of Anu,” 247–48, pace the confusing supposition in Seidl and Sallaberger, “Der ‘Heilige Baum,’” 54–74. The main argument against the interpretation of Seidel and Sallaberger is that the “Palmettenbaum” does not appear even once on Lamaštu-Hulbazizi amulets, which clearly represent bīt mēseri, where urigallu is expected. On the contrary, the images with the “Palmettenbaum” are known mostly from royal contextualized imagery in palaces, which cannot easily be assigned as bīt mēseri setting. 17.  The river depicted on the amulets must be the Ulâ river from the incantation series, Farber, Lamaštu, 2.46, p. 232. 18.  Wiggermann, “Four Winds and the Origins of Pazuzu,” 126.


Strahil V. Panayotov

Figure 6.5 (left).  (CMAA 015), amulet no. 97, drawing by author. Figure 6.6 (right).  Amulet no. 121, drawing by author.

Additional Amulets with the Sickbed Scene Several amulets with the “sickbed” scene should be added to the corpus.19 The artists that made these objects even deprived the sick person of their bed, as on no. 97 (fig. 6.5) and possibly also on no. 121 (fig. 6.6).20 The familiar sickbed has been replaced by a thin reed mattress under the sick person (figs. 6.5 and 6.6), aligning this depiction with the iconography of the seals.21 The reasoning behind this particular composition might lie in the fact that there was not enough space on the amulet to depict a sickbed with legs between the snakeheads and the patient.22 Thus, the artist replaced the bed with an image of a smaller reed mattress. 19.  Wiggermann, “Some Demons of Time,” 107 n. 5. Wiggermann, “Breast-Feeding of Animals by Women,” 407 n. 4; and different numbering by Götting, “Exportschlager Dämon?” 438. The slight difference in the numbering of amulets is due to the fact that Götting overlooked the numbers in Wiggermann’s articles just cited. There are also new pieces not recorded by Farber, Lamaštu. See a collection in Panayotov, “Review of Lamaštu,” 599–600. Add also Zomer, “Lamastu Amulet No. 44”; Bácskay, “Lamaštu Amulet BM 120388”; Ermidoro, “A Travelling Lamaštu,” 19–22. Ermidoro offers new photos of no. 70F, which allow one to see that the style of no. 70F resembles the style of nos. 66 and 122 and the material of no. 118. This raises some consideration concerning the originality of these objects. There are also new pieces in George, Mesopotamian Incantations, nos. 62–71. For the numbering of all amulets, see Panayotov, Tаблички с дръжка, 23–37. PBS xiv 1053 might also be added to the Lamaštu-Hulbazizi amulets. For the Aramaic on the Zincirli amulets (nos. 31 and 46), see DeGrado and Richey, “Aramaic-Inscribed Lamaštu Amulet,” 107–33. 20.  Figure 6.5 can be viewed on the website of the California Museum of Ancient Art (CMAA 015):; see Panayotov, “Review of Lamaštu,” 600. The image of fig. 6.6 is no longer available on the website of the Miho Museum (Japan). The amulet is recorded in Panayotov, Tаблички с дръжка, 30. 21.  Wee, “Lugalbanda Under the Night Sky,” 32–33, figs. 4–5, 7–9. In simple Mesopotamian households, there was only a reed mattress instead of a bed; see Salonen, Die Möbel des alten Mesopotamien, 107–46. The reed mattress on the seals and amulet nos. 97 and 121 seems positioned over something, which might well be a mud bed. Constructions such as this are known elsewhere; see Koloss, Traditional Institutions in Kembong (Cameroon), 71. 22.  One more amulet could also have contained the sickbed scene positioned above the heads of the double-headed snake, as in amulet no. 122; this item was sold at Christie’s Auction in New York on December 6, 2000, lot no. 203.

Healing in Images and Texts


Figure 6.7.  (BM 104891), amulet no. 105, photo by author. Courtesy of the British Museum.

Figure 6.8.  A detail with the sickbed (BM 104891), drawing by author. Courtesy of the British Museum.

Another new amulet, no. 105 (BM 104891, fig 6.7), shows well-known configurations of images and incantations (text example 1, below).23 Its sickbed is almost completely broken off, but one leg and a part of the supporting bar are clearly recognizable (figs. 6.7 and fig. 6.8).24 The position of the sickbed, behind (slightly above or below) 23.  British Museum, BM 104891 (Rm IV 4 467) is manuscript JJ (pl. . 53) in I. Finkel, “ Ancient Mesopotamian Exorcistic Incantations. Ph.D. Thesis (Birmingham, 1976).” The massive amulet shares similarities in image composition and text with nos. 50 and 54. The images on BM 104891 need a full-length study, which cannot be attempted here. One of the images is unique, apparently showing a headless woman (or female child), which is chiselled out to the right of the left leg of Lamaštu and to the left of the dog’s belly and legs. Additional evidence for a headless woman is preserved on a cuneiform tablet with drawings (BM 33055; see preliminary assessment by I. Finkel, “Drawings on Tablets,” Scienze Antiche 17 (2011): 338, 341 fig. 7). The scene is discussed in Wiggermann, “BM 33055.” 24.  The bore holes designated by half-arrows on the photo are modern, presumably made in the nineteenth or the twentieth century, and were probably used to display the item in the past.


Strahil V. Panayotov

Figure 6.9.  (BM 80–7-19, 319), amulet no. 101, photos by author.

or in front of Lamaštu’s head is well known.25 In such cases, the Lamaštu is always much bigger than the patient, which connotes her power over the sick person and her presence in the bedroom, from which she had to be expelled. Two additional amulets add exceptional detail to this sickbed scene: the tiny fragment of shell or ivory, no. 101 (fig. 6.9) and an amulet in the Schøyen collection, no. 111 (MS 2779 = CUSAS 32, no. 63).26 No. 101 shows people walking toward the sickbed (fig. 6.9). They are led by a mythical healer, a fish-apkallu, and another person. Each is holding a mullilu, “purifier,” and a banduddû, “bucket” (fig. 6.9, photo to the right). The sickbed scene can be unquestionably reconstructed from no. 111 (CUSAS 32, no. 63) because both amulets have exactly the same image composition and even the same incantation, consisting of the seven Lamaštu names. The fragmentary lines on no. 101 read: 1[. . . DU]MU dA-nim 2[. . .]-en 3[. . . M]EŠ šá SILA.MEŠ 4 [. . .] x-x-tu-u?. This unmistakably connects it with the opening incantations of the Lamaštu series (Lam. 1).27 In the lower register of no. 101 (fig. 6.9, right photo), Ugallu and Lulal are armed with daggers. They are depicted standing in front of each other,28 and they appear to be embracing each other while holding the daggers. This is, however, a distortion created by the flat perspective, since the Ugallu and Lulal were certainly meant to be 25.  Nos. 1, 50, 58, and 64. Nos. 36, 38, and 54 are broken, but the composition might suggest that the sickbed was in the broken part. 26.  See George, Mesopotamian Incantations, no. 63. A photo can be consulted via the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (, CDLI no. P251828. 27.  Farber, Lamaštu, 68–69. 28.  See also Panayotov, “A Copper Bell,” 82 and fig. 3.

Healing in Images and Texts


Figure 6.10.  Detail from no. 101, drawing by author.

positioned back in their proper places at the entrance to the room, which they guard. On no. 101, we expect two pairs of Ugallu and Lulal, because we have this configuration on no. 111 and on no. 84.29 The latter is a stylistic counterpart to nos. 101 and 111. Thus, the upper register of no. 84 might be reconstructed from nos. 101 and 111. All three belong to one workshop, which made high-precision amulets using precious stones and ivory. This could indicate their great value in Assyria and suggests that they were in use by high society.30 The striding persons in the upper register on no. 101 and 111 hold objects in both of their hands (fig. 6.10), which are also known from the projection of amulet no. 80.31 The explanation of these objects certainly lies in ancient rituals and incantations, but it is still uncertain what they are.

Images and Texts In order to narrow our analysis of the sickbed scene, I will divide the amulets into two groups that can be used as a database of sickbed images. One group consists of sickbed 29.  See Auction Catalogue Christie’s, Wednesday, December 13, 1995, lot no. 142. Wiggermann, “Lamaštu, Daughter of Anu,” 223 describes the style of amulet no. 84 as Babylonian, which might suggest that amulet nos. 101 and 111 also follow a Babylonian style in Assyria. See also p. 219 n. 11. 30.  See also George, Mesopotamian Incantations, no. 63. 31.  Amulet no. 80 was earlier published in Sotheby’s, 1997, Antiquities Erlenmeyer Collection, Part 2, Thursday, June 12, 83, Nr. 149. Now, it is housed in the Schøyen Collection, MS 2819. The photo can be consulted via the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (, CDLI no. P251866; and see George, Mesopotamian Incantations, no. 64. The copy in ibid., no. 63 (amulet no. 111), does not clearly show the objects in the hands of the striding persons, but inspection of the photos in George and of CDLI no. P251828 shows that the objects are the same as on amulet nos. 80 and 101. These objects might remind one of what Nebuchadnezzar II holds in his right hand on the Tower of Babel stele (MS 2063); see George, “A Stele of Nebuchadnezzar II,” no. 76 and p. 154, with a short discussion of the unidentified object.


Strahil V. Panayotov

Table 6.1.  The Sickbed in the Same Register with Lamaštu Amulet Numbers



4 20, 64, 97, 121 50 58 61 105 97 and 121

ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu ? ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu? gaʾe Pazuzu dumu Hanba diverse ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu + Lam. unclear

Hulbazizi ? Hulbazizi Pazuzu A Lamaštu 1 / Hulbazizi Hulbazizi / Lamaštu 1 unclear

Table 6.2.  The Sickbed in a Separate Register without Lamaštu Amulet Numbers



1 2 3 5 29 37 101 and 111

instead of text, the body of Pazuzu text unfinished, the body of Pazuzu ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu Kamadme* dumu Ana šumša ištēn instead of text, the body of Pazuzu ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu Kamadme dumu Ana šumša ištēn

Pazuzu? ?/Pazuzu? Hulbazizi Lamaštu 1 Pazuzu? Hulbazizi Lamaštu 1

* For the reading Kamadme, instead of Dimme, see George, Mesopotamian Incantations; and especially George, “Kamadme.”

scenes that are situated in the same register as the Lamaštu, for instance, on no. 5832 or nos. 97 and 121 (figs. 6.5 and 6.6 and table 6.1). The other group will include sickbed scenes that are depicted in a separate register, without the presence of Lamaštu, as on no. 3 (figs. 6.1 and 6.14 and table 6.2). In the group in which the sickbed is in the same register as Lamaštu, the Hulbazizi and Lamaštu incantations have been combined with the Pazuzu standard inscription A. Importantly, no. 61 combines Lamaštu incantation no. 1 not only with the incantation ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu (Hulbazizi) but also with other Hulbazizi spells, demonstrating the close apotropaic context of Hulbazizi and Lamaštu spells in the context of the sickbed scene. In this group, Hulbazizi and Lamaštu incantations appear separately but without a Pazuzu incantation; in place of the Pazuzu incantation, the artist included an image of Pazuzu on the amulets. The two groups have a similar mixture of incantations, if we disregard the image composition. There is no specific connection between text and image, but rather there are multiple variations in both text and image, all pointing to the need to identify combinations between textual and visual apotropaic features in one object.

The Incantation ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu The incantation is crucial for the sickbed scene because its appearance on amulets helps connect texts to images; for instance, we will explore this in the section 32.  See the photo in Oates and Oates, Nimrud, 63, fig. 35.

Healing in Images and Texts


concerning the Image of Bidu, below. This spell was first connected to the sickbed scene by Frank.33 Afterward, Ebeling, Wilhelm, and Fales listed additional amulets that include it. The incantation was translated and discussed in the context of the sickbed by Wiggerrmann.34 I have listed new amulet numbers in a previous publication.35 Wilhelm’s labels are indicated in parentheses: nos. 3 (C), 4 (D), 7 (A), 8 (B), 23 (E), 36 (G), 37 (H), 54 (K), 61 (L), 62 (M), 106 (F), 113 (J)36. The additional amulets included here are: no. 75: photo collated37 no. 105: BM 104891, collated (fig. 6.7) no. 125: Schaffhausen, Museum zu Allerheiligen, Sammlung Ebnöther, (Abteilung “Schrift”), photo collated, but edges are not visible, reference to the amulet is courtesy of Eva Göttingen and can be viewed online at https://commons no. t5: KAR 76, collated38

Text Example 1: Score and Bound Text

1.  šiptu ša malṭi39 eršīya ittiqu 3 obv. 1 ÉN šá ma-al-ṭi er!(NI)-˹ši˺-i[á . . .] 4 obv. 1 ÉN šá mal-ṭi er-ši-iá e-ti-˹qu˺ 7 obv. 1 ÉN šá mal-ṭi gišNÁ-ia5 DIB 8 obv. 1 [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . gišN]Á-ia5 ˹e˺-[ti]-q[u] 23 obv. 1 [. . . š]á! ˹ma!-al!-ṭi!˺ [. . . . . . . . . . . .] 36 obv. 1 ÉN šá ma[l-ṭi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 37 obv. 1 ÉN šá mal-ṭi er-ši-iá e-ti-qu! 54 obv. [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 61 obv. 9 ÉN šá mal-ṭi gišNÁ-ia5 it-ti-qu 62 obv. 1 ÉN šá mal-ṭi gišNÁ-ia5 . . . . . .] 105 obv. 1 [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]-x-ṭi! gišNÁ-i[a5 DI]B! 106 obv. 1 ÉN šá mal-ṭi gišNÁ-ia5 ˹DIB˺ 33.  Frank, Babylonische Beschwörungsreliefs, 87–92. 34.  Ebeling, “Sammlungen von Beschwörungsformeln,” 403–7 (Gattung 4); Wilhelm, “Ein neues Lamaštu-Amulett,” 34–40; Fales, Prima dell’alfabeto, 230–31. Fales seems to have missed the publication of Wilhelm, “Ein neues Lamaštu-Amulett,” 34-40. Wiggermann, “Some Demons of Time,” 106–8. 35.  Panayotov, Tаблички с дръжка, 23ff. 36.  The museum number in Wilhelm, “Ein neues Lamaštu-Amulett,” 35, J: Bab. 36889 = VABab. 1987, should be changed to Ass. 4850 = VA 5163. 37.  Fales, Prima dell’alfabeto, 230–31; Farber, “Ein bedeutsames neues Lamaštu-Amulett,” 115 (no. 75). Fales, and del Fabbro, “Mankind and the Gods,” 184–85, no. 130. 38.  No. t5 is a text amulet made of clay, containing no images but diverse Hulbazizi incantations. It is not recognized as such by Ebeling, “Sammlungen von Beschwörungsformeln,” 403–23 (Gattung 4) or by Wilhelm, “Ein neues Lamaštu-Amulett.” Note that nos. 50 and 107 (IM 19189; Wiggermann, “Some Demons of Time,” 106, fig. 2.), and also no. 54 might have contained the same incantation. 39.  For discussion of the word malṭu, see Wiggermann, “Some Demons of Time,” 106–7 n. 3.


Strahil V. Panayotov

113 obv. 125 obv. 1 t5 obv. 1

[. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] ÉN šá ma-alx!(AN)-tì gišNÁ-ia? [. . . šá ma-a]l!-ṭi gišNÁ-ia [. . .]

2.  upallihanni ušagriranni 3 obv. 2 [. . . . . . . . .] x [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 4 obv. 2 ˹ú-pa-lih˺-a-ni ú-šag-ri-˹ra-a-ni˺ 7 obv. 2 NÍ-ni UR4-ni40 8 obv. 2 ˹ú-pal-li˺-ha-ni ú-šá-ga-ri-i 23 obv. 2 N[Í-an]41-ni ú-šag-ri-˹ra˺42-an-ni 36 obv. 2 NÍ-an-ni [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 37 obv. 2 ú-pa-lih-a-ni ú-šag-ri-ra-a-ni 54 obv. 1ʹ [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ú-šag-ri-r]a-an-[ni] 61 obv. 10 ú-pal-lìh-an-ni ú-šag-ra-ra!-an-ni 62 obv. 1ff. [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] / ú-šag-ra-ra-an-ni 105 obv. 2 [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] ú-šag-ri-r[a-an-ni] 106 obv. 2 ú-pal-lìh-an-ni ú-šag-gar-an-ni 125 obv. 2 (ú)-?pa-lih-an-ni ú-šag-gar-. . . t5 obv. 2 [ú-pa]l-lìh-an-ni ú-šag-r[a-ra-an-ni] 3.  šunāti pardāti43 ukallimanni 4 obv. 3ff. MÁŠ.GE6.MEŠ pár-da-a-t[i] / ú-kal-lim-˹a˺-[ni] 7 obv. 3 MÁŠ.GE6.MEŠ pár-dà-te IGI-ni 8 obv. 3 MÁŠ.GE6.MEŠ pár-da-ti ú-kal-lim!(BAR)-an-ni 23 obv. 3ff. MÁŠ.GE6.MEŠ pár-da-a-ti IGI!-an-/-ni 36 obv. 3 MÁŠ.GE6.MEŠ [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 37 obv. 3 MÁŠ.GE6.MEŠ pár-da-a-ti ˹ú˺-k[al!-. . . . . . . . .] 54 obv. 2ʹ [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] ˹pár-da˺-a-ti IGI!-an-ni 61 obv. 11 MÁŠ.GE6.MEŠ pár-da-a44-ti ú-kal-la-man-ni 62 obv. 2ff. M[ÁŠ . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] / ˹ú˺-kal-lim-an-ni 75 obv. 1ʹ [M]ÁŠ!?45.GE6.MEŠ pár-da-ti [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 105 obv. 3 [MÁŠ.G]E6.MEŠ pár-da-a-t[i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 106 obv. 3ff. MÁŠ.GE6.MEŠ pár-da-MEŠ ú-kal-lìm-an-ni 113 obv. [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 125 obv. 3 (MÁŠ)?.GE6.MÉŠ pár-da-ti x . . . t5 obv. 3 [MÁŠ.G]E6.MEŠ pár-da-a-ti ú-kal-l[im-an-ni] 4.  ana Bidu idugal erṣeti ipaqqidūšu 4 obv. 5ff. ˹a˺-na dbí-du8 ˹Ì.˺[. . . . . . . . . . . .] / ˹i˺-pa-q[í . . . . . . . . .] 40.  See p. 144 n. 56 below. 41.  This spot is damaged by the secondary borehole. 42.  This spot is damaged by the secondary borehole. 43.  Note the spelling pár-da-MEŠ on amulet 106 obv. 3. 44.  The a is written with three vertical wedges like the numeral 3. 45.  ˹AN˺.MImeš according to Fales, Prima dell’alfabeto, 230, which does not make much sense and is not visible on the photo in that source or in Fales and del Fabbro, “Mankind and the Gods,” 184, fig. 130.

Healing in Images and Texts

7 obv. 4 8 obv. 4ff. 23 obv. 4ff. 36 obv. 4ff. 37 obv. 4ff. 54 obv. 3ʹ 61 obv. 12 62 obv. 3ff. 75 obv. 2ʹ 105 obv. 4 106 obv. 5ff. 113 obv. 125 obv. 4 t5 obv. 4


ana dbí-du8 Ì.DU8.GAL KI ŠID.DÙ46-šú a-na dbí-du8 Ì.DU8.GAL KI-tì / i-pa12(PI)47-qí-du-šú ana dbí-du8 Ì.DU8.GAL KI-ti / ŠID-šú ana dbí-du8 [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] / [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] a-na dbí-d[u8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] i48-x-[. . . . . . . . . ] [ana dbí-d]u8 Ì.DU8.GAL KI-ti ŠID!(or RA?)-˹šú˺ ˹ana˺ dbí-du8 Ì.DU8.GAL KI-tì i-paq-qí-du-šú ana˺ db[í-du8. . . . . . . . . . . . ] / [x] x x x [. . .] ana dbí-du8 Ì.DU8.GAL šá K[I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] [ana db]í-du8 Ì.DU8.GAL!(MA) K[I. . . . . . . . .] ana dbi-dè Ì.DU8. / GAL KI-tì lip-qí-du-šú [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] [ana db]í-du8 Ì?.DU8.X? KI [a-na] dbí-du8 Ì.DU8.GAL KI-tì i-˹paq-qí˺-d[u-šú]

5.  ina qibīt Ninurta mār māri / apli / māri ašarēdi māri rāmi 4 obv. 7 ina qí-bi[t . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 7 obv. 5 ina qí-bit dMAŠ A MAŠ A ÁG 8 obv. 6 ina ME49 dMAŠ A SAG.KAL DUMU ra-mu 23 obv. 5 ina DUG4 dMAŠ ˹A˺ M[A]Š ˹A ÁG˺ 36 obv. 5 [. . .] DUG4 dM[AŠ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 54 obv. 4ʹ [ina ME dMAŠ] ˹A˺ MAŠ A ÁG 61 obv. 13 ina qí-bit dMAŠ IBILA SAG.KAL DUMU ra-a-me 75 obv. 3ʹ ina qí-bit dMAŠ A TUR!?50 [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 105 obv. 5 [ina D]UG4 dMAŠ A MAŠ A51 Á[G52] 106 obv. 7ff. ina qí-bit dMAŠ a53-ša-re-du A ra-a-ma 113 obv. [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 125 obv. 5 x x MAŠ aš-x . . . t5 obv. 5 i-na qí-bit dMAŠ IBILA SAG.K[AL DUMU] ˹ra-ʾ-mu˺ 6.  ina qibīt Marduk āšīb Esagil u Bābilu 7 obv. 6 i-na qí-bit dKU DÚR É.SAG.GÍL u KÁ.DINGIR 8 obv. 7ff. ina ME dMES a-šib É.SAG.GÍL / u KÁ.DINGIR 36 obv. 6 ina DUG4 dŠ[Ú . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] 54 obv. 5ʹ [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . a-š]ib É.GÍL.SAG ˹KÁ˺.⟨DINGIR⟩ 61 obv. 14 ina qí-bit dŠÚ a-šib É.SAG.GÍL! KÁ.dDIŠ 46.  For ŠID.DÙ as paqādu, see Antagal E ii 31 in the catalog of the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary (; An-ta-gal2 Tablet E ii 31′ in Cavigneaux, Güterbock, and Roth, The Series Erim-ḫuš, 211. 47.  With Borger, Mesopotamische Zeichenlexikon, no. 598. 48.  It is unclear whether this element belongs to the following phrase. 49.  See Wiggermann, “Some Demons of Time,” 107 n. 4. 50.  A-i in Fales, Prima dell’alfabeto, 230, seems misleading; the sign looks more like TUR. 51.  Note that the A signs on this line are written differently. 52.  There seems to be enough space for more than one sign. 53.  Maybe a sandhi between the Sumerian A and the expected Akkadian epithet, a-šá-re-du.


Strahil V. Panayotov

75 obv. 4ʹ 105 obv. 6 106 obv. 9ff. 113 obv. 1ʹ 125 obv. 6 t5 obv. 6ff.

ina qí-bit dMES a-š[ib . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] ina DUG4 dKU a-šib ˹É˺.[. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] ina qí-bit dŠÚ a-šib É.SAG.GÍL / KÁ.DINGIRki [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] u KÁ.DINGIR x x x x x x (unclear from photo) i-na qí-bit dAMAR.UTU a-š[ib] ˹É˺.SAG.ÍL / u TIN.TIRki

7.  dalat u sikkūr54 lū tīdâ giš 7 obv. 7 IG gišSAG.KUL lu ti-da-a giš 8 obv. 9 IG gišSAG.KUL lu ti-da-a giš 36 obv. 7 IG gišS[AG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 54 obv. 5ʹ [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . l]u ˹ ti-da-a˺ giš 61 obv. 15 IG u gišSAG.KUL lu ti-da-a giš 75 obv. 5ʹ IG gišSAG.[. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] giš 105 obv. 7ff. IG gišSAG.KUL lu t[i-da / ] giš 106 obv. 11 [ I]G gišSAG.KUL lu ti-da!? giš 113 obv. 1ff.ʹ IG  sik-kur!(MAN) / x x x giš t5 obv. 7 IG u giš˹SAG˺.KUL lu-u ti-da-a 8.  kî ana kidin ša šinâ ilāni bēlāni andaqut anāku tê šipti 7 obv. 8ff. ana ki-din 2 DINGIR.MEŠ EN.MEŠ / an-dà-qut TU6.ÉN! 8 obv. 10 a-na ki-dì-ni šá DINGIR EN.ME-ni / an-da-qut ana-kux(SÌLA) ÉN 36 obv. 7ff. [. . . . . . . . . . . .] / šá 2    EN.MEŠ a[n-. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] 61 obv. 16ff. ana ki-din 2 DINGIR+EN.MEŠ-e / an-da-qut TU6.EN 75 obv. 6ʹ ana ki-din šá DI[NGIR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] 105 obv. 7ff. [. . . /. . .] EN?.MEŠ an-da-qut [. . . . . .]55 106 obv. 12ff. [ana ki]-din šá 2 EN.MEŠ an-d[a-qu]t / ana-ku te ÉN 113 obv. 2ff.ʹ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . / an-da-qut TU6.EN t5 obv. 8 ki-i a-na ki-din šá EN.˹MEŠ˺ an-da-qut TU6.EN Translation (Incantation!) The one who transgressed the privacy of my bed—2made me fear, crawl,56 (and) 3showed me frightening dreams57—4must be handed over to Bidu, the gatekeeper of the netherworld 5on the command of Ninurta, the foremost son, the beloved son, (and) 6on the command of Marduk, who dwells in Esagil 1

54.  The vocative is obvious from amulet no. 113 obv. 1ʹ–2ʹ. 55.  Presumably, Lamaštu incantation 1 follows: 105 obv. 8-9.: [ÉN dKAM]ADx.ME DUMU AN . . .[. .] / . . .[. . DIN]GIR SILA! x . . .[. .]. 56.  “In convulsions” according to amulet no. 7 obv. 2, where UR4 is used; see Wilhelm, “Ein neues Lamaštu-Amulett,” 36. UR4 as šugarruru is not self-evident; however, UR4 yields the proper nuance of arāru D “suffer cramps, convulse.” 57.  Var., “eclipses” if the reading [A]N.MI.MEŠ (Fales, Prima dell’alfabeto, 230) is correct.

Healing in Images and Texts


and Babylon! 7You door and bar, you should know 8that I have fallen into the protection of the two divine masters (Ninurta and Marduk)! (Incantation-spell!) The opening phrase alludes to a variety of evils that transgress the privacy of the bed, and Lamaštu is one of them.58 The particular evil transgressor, however, is well defined only by the images on the amulets: this is certainly Lamaštu. She is always much bigger than the sick person,59 illustrating her dominance in the scene. Although this incantation addresses the sickbed, not all amulets with this incantation have the sickbed depicted as an image. Thus, image and text might either complement or allude to each other, but they did not need to be used in combination. This shows a distinct, separate existence of text and image on the amulets. The choice of a precise combination was a decision made by the artisan, who mingled elements with corresponding apotropaic significance.

Lamaštu’s Attributes Wiggermann and Farber have shown how scenes from the register with Lamaštu are pictorial representations reflecting the ritual text of the canonical Lamaštu series.60 Thus, the explanation for the elements actually comes from sections of the ritual text, written on other tablets, and not from the texts preserved on the amulets themselves. The following objects are particularly important since their visual existence clearly connotes Lamaštu: Text Example 2: Lamaštu 3:4ff.:61 To the right and left of the Daughter-of-Anu, a dog, a pig, a lamp, a scor[pion, a distaff], a comb, a mirror(-case), (and) a donkey’s ankle. You have her hold snakes in her hands. These objects are almost always represented on the amulets, although occasionally some are omitted or added.62 The depiction of the objects is selective and appears in different combinations. Accordingly, the ritual text might have served as a handbook for the elements, but it does not specify the exact image composition, which was the task of the amulet’s creator.

58.  See Frank, Babylonische Beschwörungsreliefs, 90–91.; Butler, Mesopotamian Conception of Dreams, 50–51. 59.  Especially in the group nos. 50, 54, and 105. 60.  See, for instance, Wiggermann, “Breast-Feeding of Animals by Women,” 409; Farber, “Tamarisken—Fibeln—Skolopender,” 85–105. 61.  Farber, Lamaštu, 187. 62.  Amulet nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 (mold), 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 30, 31, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 (fake), 49, 50?, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56 (fake), 57, 58, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 101?, 102, 103, 104, 105, 111, 118, 119 (fake), 120, 121, 122.


Strahil V. Panayotov

Figure 6.11 (left).  Detail from amulet no. 58, drawing by author. Figure 6.12 (right).  Amulet no. 4, photo by author.

The Dagger and the Vessel The object under the bed in no. 5863 is still unexplained (fig. 6.11). I would like to identify it with the dagger and the vessel mentioned in the Lamaštu ritual: Text Example 3: Lamaštu 1, rit. 4:95ff. // 3:131ff.:64 You fill a (vessel of one) sūtu (capacity) with ashes and stick a dagger in it. For three days you place it at the head of the patient. The dagger seems to be placed below the bed (fig. 6.11). This is, once again, a distortion caused by the flat perspective. The ancient sculptor stamped the image on to the flat surface of the amulet, causing distortion during the conversion from three dimensions to two. Thus, the vessel and the dagger are in fact at the head of the bed, as the ritual text prescribes, but on the image, they are distorted in the flat perspective.65 63.  See the photo in Oates and Oates, Nimrud, 63. The drawing made by Rickards in Heeßel, Pazuzu, 200, no. 21, does not clearly show the dagger and the vessel but connects the dagger and the vessel to the sickbed’s leg and to the hand of Pazuzu. The drawing made by Alizadeh is more precise, showing the dagger stuck in a vessel below the sickbed; see Farber, “Tamarisken—Fibeln—Skolopender,” 87; and Farber, Lamaštu, xiv. 64.  Farber, Lamaštu, 155, 195. 65.  The image of the dagger and the vessel should be compared with those from no. 64, showing clearly a dagger and the vessel behind the sickbed, this time in accordance with the ritual text. The design of the vessel on 64 is the same as on amulet no. 58, showing stripes around the vessel. I will not connect, however, amulet no. 64 with an incense-burner as on amulet nos. 3 and 37, because the iconography

Healing in Images and Texts


Figure 6.13.  The image of Bidu from amulet no. 4 (left), and no. 58 (right), drawings by author.

The Image of Bidu, the Gatekeeper of the Netherworld Amulet no. 58 (fig. 6.11) pictures the head of Pazuzu behind the sickbed. Below this head, there is a rather corpulent dwarf-like66 figure, which stays in the Ulâ river, covered in water up to the ankles. Its hands are raised toward Lamaštu, as though it welcomes her. Similar image composition is also known from amulet no. 4 (fig. 6.12). There, below the Pazuzu head, an equivalent figure receives Lamaštu with raised hands. Who is this figure? The answer comes from the incantation on amulet no. 4, šiptu ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu (text example 1), which clearly states that the evil transgressor, Lamaštu, must be handed over to Bidu,67 the gatekeeper of the netherworld. In this case, we rely on method A, as described above. Therefore, the figure on amulet nos. 4 and 58 can certainly be identified as Bidu (figs. 6.11–6.13), who welcomes Lamaštu to the netherworld. The image of the gatekeeper Bidu standing in the Ulâ and welcoming Lamaštu at the gates of the netherworld also aligns with a description of the Ulâ river, which is said to flow at the gates of the netherworld.68 On both amulets, Bidu has a canine head and human hands, more easily recognizable in no. 58. Notably, this matches the description of Bidu from the Underworld Vision: “Nedu (i.e., Bidu), the is certainly different. For an earlier opinion, see Farber, “Tamarisken—Fibeln—Skolopender,” 95 n. 29: “Einige andere an Dolchgriffe erinnernde Darstellungen (z.B. Nr. 3, oberes Register, neben der Kline; Nr. 64, ebenso; Nr. 37. neben der Lampe) sind dagegen wohl eher als Räucherständer zu interpretieren (Hinweis Wiggermann).” 66.  Anti-witchcraft rituals prescribe the making of a Namtar figurine, whose body is one cubit tall, which might suggest that it was a dwarf; see Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, text 8.25, Z. 23ff. 67.  For Bidu in texts, see Streck, “Türhütergottheiten,” 163–64. 68.  Ulâ is an allomorph of Ulaya, which is a mythical river at the gates of the netherworld; see Kwasman and Parpola, Legal Transactions, no. 288:16. The real river, however, was situated on the border between Mesopotamia and Elam and was deified; see Frame, “Ulai, Ulaja. A,” 302–3; and Krebernik, “Ulai, Ulaja. B,” 303. According to Farber, Lamaštu, 232, the river is still not definitely identified. See furthermore Wiggermann, “Scenes from the Shadow Side,” 212. However, the secure identification of Bidu on amulet no. 4 and the clear association of the Ulâ river with the gates of the netherworld speak against Schwemer’s interpretation: “Anders als die Rituale, die ihre Handlungen nach Westen, dorthin, wo die Sonne in die Unterwelt eintritt, ausrichten, beabsichtigt diese dämonische ‘Ostreise’ offenbar keine Bannung des Übels in die Unterwelt”; see Schwemer, Akkadische Rituale aus Hattuša, 71.


Strahil V. Panayotov

porter of the underworld, had a lion’s head, and human hands, his feet were those of a bird.”69 Unfortunately, Bidu’s feet are not visible and are slightly broken off in no. 4 (figs. 6.12–6.13), whereas they are under the water in no. 58 (figs. 6.11, 6.13), so we cannot see whether Bidu had bird feet on the amulets (fig. 6.13).

The Lamp’s Position On amulets, the sickbed is sometimes accompanied by the lamp of Nuska (amulet no. 1 [fig. 6.4], and amulet no. 2).70 This is also supported textually: a compendium with incantation prayers (KAR 58 and related)—collected for specific night activities—addresses the god of artificial light, namely, Nuska. The rubric of the opening prayer from the compendium prescribes the exact position of the lamp. Text Example 4: KAR 58: 2571 kaʾinimma ina IGI nūri ša rēš marṣi šaknu tamannu Recitation: (nūru ana Marduk kurub, “O lamp bless on behalf of Marduk”): You (the exorcist) shall recite (it) in front of the lamp, which is placed at the head of the sick person. The position at the head of the sickbed aligns with amulet nos. 1, 2, 4?, 20?, 58, 61, 64, 105, 107?, 121. However, on nos. 1, 58, 61, 64, 105, and 121, the position of the lamp is distorted due to the flat-perspective.

The Gesture of the Stretched-Out Sick Person. A rubric from the ritual bīt mēseri deserves the special attention here: Text Example 5: K. 7664 + r. iiʹ 38ff.ʹ72 kīma annâm tamtanû marṣa ana IGI nūri tatarraṣma kīam tušamnašu Once you (the exorcist) have recited this (incantation nūru ana Marduk kurub; see text example 4), you shall stretch out the sick person in front of the lamp and so you let them (the sick person) recite (the incantation Nuska šar mūši munammer ukli). It refers to images of the sickbed including the lamp of Nuska and a sick person stretched out on the bed. Notably, exactly this setting—a lamp and a sick person 69.  Translation after Livingstone, Court Poetry, 72, text 32 r. 7. Collations and copy of VAT 10057 in Fadhil, “Eine kleine Tontafelbibliothek aus Assur (Ass. 15426).” 70.  Amulet no. 37 depicts the incense burner and the Nuska lamp close to each other. 71.  Panayotov, “Die Lampe am Krankenbett,” 14:25a. 72.  Panayotov, “Die Lampe am Krankenbett,” 14:25b.

Healing in Images and Texts


Table 6.3.  Who Is Reciting What? Protagonist Incantation


Text Example Figure


nos. 1, 2 no. 3 no. 3 nos. 1, 2

nos. 4, 5 no. 6 no. 6 nos. 4, 5


nūru ana Marduk kurub mušallim ekurra ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu Nuska šar mūši munammer ukli

no. 6.4 nos. 6.1, 6.14 nos. 6.1, 6.14 no. 6.4

stretched on the bed—can be seen on amulet no. 1 (fig. 6.4) and amulet no. 2. In contrast to this, the images that do not show the lamp picture the sick person with their knees at an angle (amulet no. 3 [figs. 6.1 and 6.14] and amulet no. 37). Thus, the stretched-out sick person in combination with the lamp was an important gesture in bīt mēseri, which matches the images from amulet nos. 1 and 2.

Who Is Reciting What? The incantation nūru ana Marduk kurub (text example 4) had to be spoken by the exorcist in front of the lamp in the bīt mēseri ritual, but also in Maqlû.73 This might be envisioned in the pictorial scenes from amulet no. 1 and amulet no. 2. Notably, the rubric of text example 5 also reveals which incantations the exorcist and the sick person recited. Accordingly, the images on the amulets show the sick person with one or both hands raised (amulet no. 1 and amulet nos. 2 and 37), which is the šuʾillakku, “raised-hand,” gesture, demonstrating that the sick person was saying an incantation prayer (šuʾilla)—in this case, Nuska šar mūši munammer ukli.74 The last line of the fumigation compendium BM 45393 + provides additional evidence.75 Text Example 6: BM 45393 + iv 22: ina libbīka lū tatamma ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu tê šipti By your inside/heart you should swear: “He who (transgressed) the privacy of my bed.” Incantation spell. This is the end of the mušallim ekurra incantation, which was reserved for the healers, while ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu was recited by the patient. A similar situation might well be envisioned on amulet no. 3, which fits the fumigation context (figs. 6.1, 6.14). In table 6.3, I summarize who is reciting what. 73.  For the incantation’s Sitz im Leben, see Panayotov, “Die Lampe am Krankenbett,” 4, 66 (according to Schwemer’s reconstruction of the ritual tablet), but slightly different in Abusch, Magical Ceremony Maqlû, 211 n. 87. 74.  The same incantation is known from dream rituals; see Panayotov, “Die Lampe am Krankenbett,” 66. 75.  Dated to the third year of Alexander the Great by the scribe Tanittu-Bēl; see Finkel, “Muššuʾu, Qutāru, and the Scribe Tanittu-Bēl,” 103; and Finkel “On Late Babylonian Medical Training,” 189–95.


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Figure 6.14.  Amulet no. 3, drawing by author.

Fumigation The iconography on amulet no. 3 shows an incense burner covered by its bowl at the head of the sickbed.76 The healer to the left is reciting an incantation over the fumigations,77 while dispersing, with one hand, the wafting mists that were reaching the face of the sick person. It seems that the other healer is touching the sick person on the foot78 and also reciting an incantation. This might be a distortion of the flat perspective, and, as said above, the healers might also be standing beside the bed. 79 This location of the incense burner can be confirmed in the fumigation compendium (BM 45393+): Text Example 7: BM 45393+ ii 2980 erba šipāti annâti ana muhhi qūtari ša Lamaštu tamannūma ina panāt er[ši tašakkan] You recite these four incantations over the fumigants against the Lamaštu and then place (them) on top of the bed. 76.  The purpose of the bowl is to collect the pleasant or pungent smoke and then release it. For the shape of the Near Eastern incense burner, see Invernizzi, “Near-Eastern Incense-Burners and Pyraeums,” 241–61. 77.  See also Wiggermann, “Lamaštu, Daughter of Anu,” 248. 78.  For the power of touch in Mesopotamia, see Majno, Healing Hand, 29–68; and Geller, “Archaeology of Touch,” 63–72. 79.  The surface is worn off now, and it seems that some details have been lost since the photo in Thureau-Dangin, “Rituel et amulettes contre Labartu,” pl. 1. 80.  See also Farber, Lamaštu, 26.

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Figure 6.15.  Amulet no. 107, drawing by F. A. M. Wiggermann.

The mentioned incantations from the compendium are well known from the Lamaštu Series, where we find additional information about the placement of the fumigations.81 Text Example 8: Lamaštu 3: 100ff.82 anamdi šipta ana lazzu milikki / ina muḫḫi šalāšat qutārī tamannūma / ina šumēl bābi ina rēš erši u šēpīti erši tašakkan “I will cast a spell (against?) your persistently (destructive) spirit,” you recite over three fumigations and place (them) to the left of the door, at the head of the bed, (and) at the foot of the bed. Thus, the incense burner was usually placed at the head of the bed, which corresponds to amulet no. 3 (figs. 6.1 and 6.14). This position is quite logical for an incense burner because in this way one could easily smell the wafting scents. It is also illustrated in the royal images of Ashurbanipal’s Banquet Scene, where he is relaxing on his bed,83 with the fumigation providing a pleasant, cleansing atmosphere and presumably also an appetizing scent during royal meals.84 The usual placement of the fumigations at the head of the bed is not only for treatments against Lamaštu but also for therapies against antašubba-epilepsy (BM 45393 + iii 3), hīp libbi-depression (BM 45393 + iii 15), and mišittu-stroke (BM 45393 + iv 4). Importantly, the incantations that had to be recited over these fumigants come from textual series such as Hulbazizi, Maqlû, or Udug-hul. Thus, the positioning of the 81.  Ibid., 47, 58, 229 n. 66. 82.  Ibid., 193. 83.  See BM 124920 on the website of the British Museum: /collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=366859&partId=1&searchText=The +Banquet+Scene+ashurbanipal&page=1. 84.  Not mentioned in Ermidoro, Commensality and Ceremonial Meals, 142, 157, where fumigation is recorded only as a part of the divine meal.


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incense burner visible in amulet no. 3 (figs. 6.1, 6.8) might be imagined in a number of different healing settings.

Evil Dragon Wiggermann has shown that the Neo-Babylonian amulet no. 107 visually represents the incantation ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu.85 On that amulet, an evil dragon-snake transgressed the sickbed, and the healers exorcised it (fig. 6.15).86 Intriguingly, the incantation mušallim ekurra, at the end of which ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu has been cited (text example 6), contains a Sumero-Akkadian description of a similar or even the same kind of evil. Text Example 9: BM 45393+ iv 13ff. ragga mu-pà-da ˹an-na˺ / ˹mu˺-un-ši-in-gin-na arm[ū?] ˹šaptāka˺ kalû panūka / kišādka nirāhu The wicked one, called by name (only) in heaven, (you), the one who follows me, co[vered?] are your lips, yellow paste (coloured) is your face, your neck being a nirāhu-snake This description illustrates the image of the evil as the dragon-snake depicted on the Neo-Babylonian amulet no. 107 (fig. 6.15). We can, furthermore, imagine that the patient is pointing at that evil, saying the incantation ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu, while the healer is addressing and conjuring the evil with the incantation mušallim ekurra. The assistance of another healer is depicted at the back of the scene. Possibly also the lamp of Nuska and/or an incense burner might be positioned at the head of the bed.

How Many Healers? Notably, two healers, mythical apkallus or humans, are almost always87 represented in the healing scenes around the sickbed on amulet nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 29, 37, 101?, 107, and 111.88 But why do we constantly find two healers? I speculate that this situation might symbolize the two healing professions. This is not so far fetched, because the texts on the amulets that show two healers belong to the series Hulbazizi (including ša malṭi eršīya ittiqu), which was part of the activities of both the mašmašu/āšipu and the 85.  Wiggermann, “Some Demons of Time,” 106, fig. 2. 86.  The attacking pose is reminiscent of what is found on the seal impressions: see Wee, “Lugalbanda Under the Night Sky,” 32, fig. 5. 87.  Amulet no. 61 has one healer beside the bed. 88.  The anonymous reviewer, to whom I am thankful for various suggestions, points out that in literary texts a “mourner” (lallaru) is often mentioned by the patient’s bed. Note also that in Ludlul III purifying figures appear by the sufferer’s bed, one of them with “purifying tamarisk” (bīnu mullilu) in her hand, which also alludes to the iconography of Hulbazizi and Lamaštu amulets.

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asû, as shown by the exorcist catalog KAR 44 as well as the Ashur Medical Catalog (AMC), both of which list the incantation series Hulbazizi.89 In addition, we know that mušallim ekurra was spoken over fumigants in therapeutic texts against ghosts and head complaints, which suggests they were part of the milieu of the asû.90 The same incantation, mušallim ekurra, however, also shows a close intertextual relationship with the addendum to Udug-hul tablet 1,91 which then points to mašmašu/āšipu. In short, the constant appearance of two healers on the amulets and the incursions of the Hulbazizi series into the milieu of both the mašmašu/āšipu and the asû might support my suggestion that the two healers from the amulet symbolize the two Mesopotamian healing professions.

Conclusion The images on the amulets operate like ancient cartoons, narrating healing rituals in a distorted two-dimensional setting, what I have termed the flat perspective, which needs to be unfolded and imagined as an idealized three-dimensional space. The texts on the amulets do not always refer to the sickbed scene on the amulet itself, and text and image are not necessarily coordinated. Nonetheless, the images of the sickbed scene in a separate register without Lamaštu can also be explained using texts that are not preserved on the amulets themselves, demonstrating that the images on the amulets complement their own texts and/or other texts. These pictures have wider correlations with several different apotropaic series: not only with Lamaštu and Hulbazizi but also with bīt mēseri, Maqlû, dream rituals, Udug-hul, Pazuzu, and therapeutic texts. In fact, the image of the sickbed scene operates along much the same lines as an incantation that could be used in many different rituals. The fundamental concept behind the sickbed scene on the elaborated amulets from the first millennium BCE is the intention to combine multiple interconnected apotropaic features into an apotropaic visual narrative.92 Thus, the image of the sickbed scene on the amulets is much more powerful in communicating complex meanings than is possible with a single text. The power of the images is so convincing and omnipotent that the text can even be completely excluded. Then only images narrate the multiple apotropaic practices and tropes as exemplified on the Louvre Lamaštu amulet no. 1 (fig. 6.4).

Appendix: Sickbed Scene on Seals Healing scenes including the sickbed were depicted on cylinder seals as well. Recently, Wee argued that the settings on the seals might resemble magical celestial healing as 89.  KAR 44: Geller, “Incipits and Rubrics,” 244:7. AMC: Beckman and Foster, “Assyrian Scholarly Texts,” 14, 9d rev. 17. Edition of the AMC: Steinert et al., “AMC Text Edition,” 209–19. 90.  BAM 469 36ʹ, rev. 7; AO 17614 rev. 3; Durand, Textes babyloniens d’époque récente, no. 42. The latter text helps to reconstruct Maul, Zukunftsbewältigung, 375: 12aʹ–12kʹ (correct text B to C), and should be added to Schuster-Brandis, Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel, 141, Kette 136. 91.  Geller, Healing Magic and Evil Demons, 55–56. 92.  Compare also Berlejung, “There Is Nothing Better Than More!” 1–42.


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known from the Lugalbanda story.93 But the seals that Wee used for his comparisons with the story are much later than the story itself and do not always show celestial bodies. This raises methodological difficulties and makes his interpretation, at least in some aspects, unsustainable. However, there is one seal (A 27902), not discussed by Wee, that might be relevant. It may be one of the oldest examples of a sick person on a bed, seemingly depicted on ED IIIB cylinder seal. The setting was interpreted either as an oneiromancy (by Asher-Greve), as giving birth (Battini), or as a marriage scene (Wiggermann),94 demonstrating that scholars are uncertain of its interpretation. Importantly, the seal shows a crescent and a star over a person on a bed. Thus, an astral setting might be suggested for this seal as well, and it may even be contemporary with the time of the Lugalbanda story. These observations might support Wee’s interpretation and connect A 27902 to astral healing, at least in theory. While on some seals, there is clear contact between the sick person and celestial bodies,95 others depict the sick person in a reed-hut clearly separating the person from the celestial bodies.96 Thus, we need another explanation for the healing scenes in which the celestial bodies are not in direct contact with the sick person. Some seals clearly show healing by means of fumigation,97 which links the sickbed on seals with the images from the amulets. The seals often depict two persons at each end of the bed, which might again suggest a portrayal of both healing professions, as might be the case with the amulets. 93.  Wee, “Lugalbanda Under the Night Sky,” 31–35. 94.  Literature in Attinger, “La médecine Mésopotamienne,” 58–59, fig. 6; and especially in Wiggermann, “Sexualität (Sexuality) A. in Mesopotamien,” 421. 95.  Wee, “Lugalbanda Under the Night Sky,” 32, figs. 4 and 5. 96.  Idem, 32–33, figs. 6–9. 97.  Idem, 33, fig. 9; M. J. Geller, Ancient Babylonian Medicine: Theory and Practice (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) 52, fig. 2.2. The photo in Wee, “Lugalbanda Under the Night Sky,” 33, fig. 8, is not clear, but the drawing of ID - 0829 by L. al-Gailani Werr, “Nimrud Seals,” in: New Light on Nimrud. Proceedings of the Nimrud Conference 11th-13th March 2002 (ed. J. E. Curtis et al. London: British Museum, 2008) 158, fig. 19k, shows fumigation.

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Meissner, Bruno. “Neue Siegelzylinder mit Krankenheitsbeschwörungen.” AfO 10 (1935–36): 160–62. Oates, Joan, and David Oates. Nimrud: An Assyrian Imperial City Revealed. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 2001. Panayotov, Strahil V. “A Copper Bell to Expel Demons in Berlin.” NABU (2013/3): 80–87, no. 50. ———. “‘Die Lampe am Krankenbett’: Untersuchungen zu altorientalischen Gebeten an den Lichtgott Nuska.” Cuneiform Digital Library Preprints 4. January 23, 2016. http://cdli. ———. “Magico-medical Plants and Incantations on Assyrian House Amulets” Pages 192– 222 in Sources of Evil: Studies in Mesopotamian Exorcistic Lore. Edited by G. van Buylaere, M. Luukko, D. Schwemer, and A. Mertens-Wegschal. AMD 15. Leiden: Brill, 2018. ———. “Review of Lamaštu: An Edition of the Canonical Series of Lamaštu Incantations and Rituals and Related Texts from the Second and First Millennia.” BSOAS 78 (2015): 599–600. ———. Tаблички с дръжка (амулетни таблички) от Месопотамия—II–I хил. пр.Хр. Sofia: Diomira, 2016. Radner, Karen. Die Neuassyrischen Privatrechtsurkunden als Quelle für Mensch und Umwelt. SAAS 6. Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1997. Ritter, Edith K., and James V. Kinnier Wilson. “Prescription for an Anxiety State: A Study of BAM 234.” Anatolian Studies 30 (2013): 23–30. Salonen, Armas. Die Möbel des alten Mesopotamien: Nach sumerisch-akkadischen Quellen, eine lexikalische und kulturgeschichtliche Untersuchung. Helsinki: Suomalainen tiedeakatemia, 1963. Schuster-Brandis, Anais. Steine als Schutz- und Heilmittel: Untersuchungen zu ihrer Verwendung in der Beschwörungskunst Mesopotamiens im 1. Jt. v. Chr. AOAT 46. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2008. Schwemer, Daniel. Akkadische Rituale aus Hattuša. Dies Sammeltafel KBo XXXVI 29 und verwandte Fragmente. Texte der Hethiter 23. Heidelberg: Carl Winter. Seidl, Ursula, and Walther Sallaberger. “Der ‘Heilige Baum.’” AfO 51 (2005–6): 54–74. Steinert, Ulrike, Strahil V. Panayotov, Markham J. Geller, Eric Schmidtchen, and J. Cale Johnson. “AMC Text Edition.” Pages 209–19 in Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues: Medicine, Magic and Divination. Edited by U. Steinert. Die babylonischassyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen 9. Berlin: de Gruyter. Streck, Michael P. “Türhütergottheiten (Divine Door-Keepers). A. in Mesopotamien.” Pages 163–64 in volume 14 of Reallexikon der Assyriologie. Edited by E. Ebeling et al. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014–16. Thureau-Dangin, François. “Rituel et amulettes contre Labartu.” RA 18 (1921): 161–98. Vitebsky, Piers. Schamanismus: Reisen der Seele, magische Kräfte, Ekstase und Heilung. Glaube und Rituale. Munich: Knaur, 2006. Wee, John Z. “Lugalbanda Under the Night Sky: Scenes of Celestial Healing in Ancient Mesopotamia.” JNES 73 (2014): 23–42. Wiggermann, Frans A. M. “BM 33055: A Late Babylonian Clay Tablet with Figures and Captions.” Pages 877–99 in Mesopotamian Medicine and Magic: Studies in Honor of Markham J. Geller. AMD 14. Edited by S. V. Panayotov and L. Vacin. Leiden: Brill, 2018. ———. “Dogs, Pigs, Lamaštu, and the Breast-Feeding of Animals by Women.” Pages 407–14 in Von Göttern und Menschen: Beiträge zu Literatur und Geschichte des Alten Orients; Festschrift für Brigitte Groneberg. Edited by Dahlia Shehata et al. Cuneiform Monographs 41. Leiden: Brill, 2010. ———. “The Four Winds and the Origins of Pazuzu.” Pages 125–65 in Das geistige Erfassen der Welt im Alten Orient Beiträge zu Sprache, Religion, Kultur und Gesellschaft. Edited by C. Wilcke. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007. ———. “Lamaštu, Daughter of Anu. A Profile.” Pages 217–52 in Birth in Babylonia and the Bible: Its Mediterranean Setting. Edited by M. Stol. CunMon 14. Groningen: Styx, 2000.


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———. Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts. Cuneiform Monographs 1. Groningen: Styx, 1992. ———. “Scenes from the Shadow Side.” Pages 207–30 in Mesopotamian Poetic Language: Sumerian and Akkadian. Edited by M. E. Vogelzang and H. L. J. Vanstiphout. Cuneiform Monographs 6. Groningen: Styx, 1996. ———. “Sexualität (Sexuality) A. in Mesopotamien.” Pages 410–26 in volume 12 of Reallexikon der Assyriologie. Edited by E. Ebeling et al. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2009–11. ———. “Sichtbare Mythologie: Die symbolische Landschaft Mesopotamiens.” Pages 109–32 in Arbeit am Mythos: Leistung und Grenze des Mythos in Antike und Gegenwart. Edited by A. Zgoll and R. G. Kratz. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013. ———. “Some Demons of Time and Their Functions in Mesopotamian Iconography.” Pages 102–16 in Die Welt der Götterbilder. Edited by B. Groneberg and H. Spieckermann. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007. Wilhelm, Gernot. “Ein neues Lamaštu-Amulett.” ZA 69 (1979): 34–40. Zomer, Elyze. “Lamastu Amulet No. 44 (BM 128857).” NABU (2016/2): 77–78 no. 47.

Chapter 7

Performative Elements in the Aramaic Magic Bowls Siam Bhayro University of Exeter

Initial Remarks The subject of this paper immediately presents two not-unrelated problems that need to be addressed. First, what circumstances permitted a magic bowl to contain elements that would have been perceived, in Late Antiquity, as being performative? And, second, how can we, as modern scholars, identify these elements? 1 I argue that, although it may seem counterintuitive, it is important to dismiss entirely any notion that the words contained in the magic bowls are intrinsically performative. In a very important analysis of performative statements, Searle demonstrated clearly that the words contained in a performative utterance are not special—what matters is the presence of four features: first, an extralinguistic institution; second, the position of speaker and hearers within this institution; third, a convention within this institution that receives a literal statement in a performative way; and, finally, the speaker’s intention to create a new reality.2 Put simply, if I were to declare “I hereby dissolve parliament,” parliament would continue to meet despite my protestations. For my words to have a performative force, I would need to be part of the parliamentary system (that is, within the institution) and to possess the necessary authority within that institution so that the other members recognize the performative force of my statement. My words would then need to conform to the established convention of how parliament is to be dissolved (that is, best not uttered in the pub while intoxicated), and, of course, I would have to be serious about wanting all those honorable members to vacate. It will become clear in this paper that the Aramaic magic bowls possess elements that were considered performative in Late Antiquity. Before we analyze some of these, however, it is important that we establish properly how these elements were able to function performatively—it was not simply by means of the words but, instead, as Searle observed, by3 conventions, rules, and institutions that enable certain utterances to function to create the state of affairs represented in the propositional content of the

1.  I would like to thank Stephen Kaufman for a very helpful correspondence regarding performatives in early Aramaic. 2.  Searle, “How Performatives Work,” 548. 3.  Ibid., 555.



Siam Bhayro

utterance. These new facts are essentially social, and the act of creating them can succeed only if there is successful communication between speaker and hearer. Searle appeared reluctant to extend his analysis into the supernatural realm, but he did state:4 Fairy stories, by the way, are full of declarations performed by witches, wizards, magicians, etc. We ordinary humans do not have the ability to perform supernatural declarations, but we do have a quasi-magical power nonetheless of bringing about changes in the world through our utterances; and we are given this power by a kind of human agreement. All of these institutions in question are social institutions, and it is only as long as the institution is recognized that it can continue to function to allow for the performance of declarations. I think there is much to be gained from applying Searle’s approach to the magic bowls. For the inhabitants of late-antique Mesopotamia, there was not simply human agreement but also a perceived supernatural agreement, which permitted the bowls to succeed in their aims—the scribes were no ordinary humans. To apply this to the magic bowls, therefore, we must first identify the institution— this is best understood as late-antique Near Eastern scribalism, particularly scribalized magic.5 Within this institution, the scribe occupied the special position, while his hearers were both the human clients and the supernatural entities being addressed. In other words, simply writing the words “I adjure you” was not sufficient to make the adjuration successful. In order for the assumed supernatural hearers to respond properly, and thus for the human clients to have confidence in the process, these words would have to have been written by the scribe, that is, the special person within the institution. At this point, the convention would have insured that the words “I adjure you” were lifted from being mere words to a performative statement. In doing so, the scribe was thus aiming to create a new reality, in which the behavior of supernatural forces changed and the client received the desired therapeutic benefits. We can, therefore, speak of performative words in the magic bowls. But this is not because the words possess an intrinsic power over and above other words. Rather, it is because of the social context, the relationship between the scribe and clients, the use of established methods/conventions by the scribe, and the intention of both scribe and clients. Having established a working answer to our first question, we can now address our second question on the basis of the above understanding of performatives. The key to identifying performative elements in the magic bowls is understanding prevailing and well-established conventions that would have been recognized by both scribe and client (and, presumably, also the supernatural entities).

4.  Ibid., 549. 5.  For the scribalization of Jewish magic in Late Antiquity, see Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic, 284–85; for a demonstration that the scribes who wrote the magic bowls were part of the mainstream Jewish scribal guilds of late-antique Mesopotamia, see Bhayro, “Divorcing a Demon,” 121–32.

Performative Elements in the Aramaic Magic Bowls


Performatives in Aramaic The third of Searle’s features requires the use of a grammatical form that would have been recognized as possessing the potential to express the performative. Grammatically speaking, performatives were expressed in the earlier phases of Aramaic using the perfect. Obvious examples are the commonly attested ‫שלחת‬, “I (hereby) send,” and ‫ברכתך‬, “I (hereby) bless you,” which are found in the greeting section of letters,6 but other examples are clearly attested, particularly in legal contexts, for example, ‫נתנת‬, “I (hereby) give.”7 In later forms of Aramaic, it appears that the active participle was used to express the performative. Max Rogland gives several examples of performative participles in Classical Syriac, including the following from a baptismal liturgy that was originally published by Sebastian Brock: ‫ ܘܚܬܡ ܐܢܐ‬. . . ‫ܡܩܪܒ ܐܢܐ‬, “I (hereby) offer up . . . and I (hereby) seal”; ‫ܡܘ�ܡܐ ܐܢܐ‬, “I (hereby) adjure.”8 Not surprisingly, magical texts are replete with performative participles, for example, this series from a collection of Syriac texts published by Hermann Gollancz: ‫ܐܣܪܝܢܢ ܘܡܚܪܡܝܢܢ ܘܛܪܕܝܢܢ ܘܣܚܦܝܢܢ‬ ‫ܘܡܦܩܝܢܢ‬, “we (hereby) bind and execrate and expel and destroy and drive out.”9 In a previous paper, I argued that performative participles probably also existed in Jewish Aramaic, giving the following example from a clause in the early divorce document Murabbaʿat 19:8, 21: ‫בדין כול כסף יהבנא‬, “I hereby give all the silver.” Furthermore, I argued that, although unnecessary, the combination ‫ בדין‬represents the Aramaic equivalent of the English “hereby” and thus reinforces the performative aspect of the clause.10 This raises the question of which grammatical form would have been used to express performative utterances in the magic bowls—would it have been the perfect or the participle? I suggest that, given that the magic bowls contain formulas that appear to have had a long prehistory, we can probably expect them to contain both performative perfects and performative participles.11 As we shall see, the period in which a formula developed is probably only a secondary factor—it is likely that genre is a more important factor (although the two are related).

Performative Participles in the Magic Bowls Performative participles are relatively straightforward to identify in both the Jewish Aramaic and the Syriac magic bowls; for example: ‫מומינא עלכי ומשבענא עלכי‬, “I (hereby) 6.  See, for example, A2.4 r. 5 and A2.4 r. 1, respectively, in Porten and Yardeni, Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, vol. 1: Letters, 16. For a discussion of these forms that clearly understands them in a performative sense, see Fitzmyer, “Aramaic Epistolography,” 192. 7.  See, for example, B1.1 r. 2, in Porten and Yardeni, Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, vol. 2: Contracts, 12. 8.  Rogland, “Performative Utterances,” 246. 9.  See Gollancz, The Book of Protection, 10 (Syriac text) and p. xxxiii (English translation); see also Rogland, “Performative Utterances,” 246. 10.  See Bhayro, “Performatives in Aramaic Documents,” 47–52. 11.  Perhaps the clearest example of a magic bowl formula that has a long prehistory is the “angels on all sides” formula, for which, see Levene, Marx, and Bhayro, “‘Gabriel Is on Their Right’,” 185–98.


Siam Bhayro

̈ adjure you and I (hereby) beswear you”;12 ‫ܠܟܘܢ ܡܚܘܢܐ‬ ‫ܦܬܓ�ܡܐ ܗܢܐ‬, “I (hereby) 13 declare this spell to you.” Interestingly, the following Hebrew phrase, which also uses a performative participle, opens a number of bowl texts: ‫לשמך אני עושה‬, “By your name I (hereby) act.”14 It is possible, therefore, that a convention also existed in Hebrew for the use of a performative participle in a magical context. One reference from the Hebrew Dead Sea Scrolls appears to support this: part of the ritual/magical text 4QSongs of the Sagea (4Q510) reads: ‫ואני משכיל משמיע הוד תפארתו לפחד ולבהל כול‬ ‫רוחי מלאכי חבל‬, “And I, a sage, (hereby) declare the splendor of his radiance in order to frighten and terrify all the spirits of ravaging angels.”15 Given the use of performative participles in legal texts, it is not surprising that, when the magic bowls appropriate legal formulas for a magical use, they continue this convention. This is perhaps best seen in the numerous divorce texts, as in, for example, this excerpt, which reflects the rabbinic divorce formula: ‫דפטרנא יתכון מינהון בספר תרוכין‬ ‫וגט פיטורין ואיגרת שיבוקין כדת משה וישראל מן יומא דין ולעלם‬, “For I (hereby) release you from them by a document of divorce and a deed of release and a letter of dismissal, according to the law of Moses and Israel from this day and for ever.”16

Performative Perfects in the Magic Bowls There are also clear performative perfects in the magic bowls, for example, the following phrase that opens both JBA 48 and JBA 49: ‫אומית עלך ואשבעית עלך‬, “I (hereby) adjure you and I (hereby) beswear you.”17 Again, the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls provide one reference that suggests that this was a well-established convention—the very fragmentary text 4QExorcism ar (4Q560) uses a performative perfect of the same verb: ‫אומיתך רוחא‬, “I (hereby) adjure you, O spirit.”18 Thus far, nothing altogether surprising or controversial has been stated. At this point, however, I would like to suggest what I think is a novel line of argument. We have seen that performative participles are common in the fields of ritual, magic, and law and that the magic bowls continue this convention. Given that the magic bowls contain several examples of the appropriation of legal formulas, and by nature are ritual/magical objects, this is to be expected. So, can the same genre-based approach show us anything about performative perfects? As we saw above, the one genre in which performative perfects are clearly identifiable and would have thus been well recognized as a convention in Late Antiquity, is epistolary texts—particularly in the introductory greeting section that precedes the 12.  From JBA 9:7 in Shaked, Ford, and Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells, 79. 13.  From bowl 14:6 in Moriggi, Syriac Incantation Bowls, 80. 14.  E.g., JBA 9:1 in Shaked, Ford, and Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells, 79. 15.  From 4Q510 1:4–5; see García Martínez and Tigchelaar , eds., Dead Sea Scrolls, 1028–29. Regarding the genre of 4Q510 and 4Q511, Chazon states that “these hymns qualify as incantations on the basis of this prophylactic function, as well as their form and content, including the citation of Psalm 91 and the naming of demons”; see also Chazon, “Hymns and Prayers,” 263. 16.  From JBA 21:12; see Shaked, Ford, and Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells, 130. See also Shaked, “Poetics of Spells,” 173–95. 17.  See Shaked, Ford, and Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells, 219 and 221. 18.  From 4Q560 1.2:6; see Naveh, “Aramaic Magic Book,” 256–57.

Performative Elements in the Aramaic Magic Bowls


main body of the letter. Thus, for example, consider the following excerpts from a letter from Achaemenid Egypt: ‫שלם בית בתאל ובית מלכת שמין אל אחתי נניחם מן אחכי נבושה‬ ‫ לשלמכן שלחת ספרה זנה‬. . . .‫ וכעת מטתני כתנה זי אושרתי לי‬. . . .‫ברכתכי לפתח זי יחוני אפיך בשלם‬, “Greetings to the Temple of Bethel and the Temple of the Queen of Heaven. To my sister PN from your brother PN. I (hereby) bless you by Ptaḥ that he will let me see your face in peace. . . . And now: the tunic that you sent to me. . . . For your welfare, I (hereby) send this letter.”19 According to Fitzmyer’s analysis of the structure of Aramaic letters, the above excerpts consist of the following elements:20 initial greeting (a) praescriptio initial greeting (b) main body of letter concluding formula

“Greetings to . . .” “To x from y” “I (hereby) bless you by Ptaḥ” “And now:” “the tunic . . .” “For your welfare . . .”

The initial greeting, which contains the performative perfect, is not essential—more formal correspondence will tend to omit clauses of this sort and move straight from the praescriptio to the main point of the letter,21 for example, the opening to an official letter from ancient Bactria reads: . . . ‫מן אחמזר על בגונת ודיניא וכעת‬, “From PN to PN and the magistrates. And now . . . .”22 The function of the initial greeting, therefore, appears to be to establish proximity or immediacy (perhaps, intimacy and favor) between the sender and the recipient, perhaps to make the recipient more receptive to the main point of the letter (something not required in a more official or formal letter, particularly from a superior to an inferior). The crucial element in the move from the various introductory elements to the main body of the letter is the “(and) now,” which can take several forms: ‫ וכען‬,‫כען‬, ‫כעת‬, ‫וכעת‬, ‫כענת‬. Regarding this element, Fitzmyer states that it is “a word that either introduces the body of the message or is repeated in the course of it as a sort of message divider; it marks logical breaks in the letter and has often been compared to English ‘stop’ in telegrams.”23 The ubiquity of this epistolary structure is demonstrated by the recently published documents from ancient Bactria; for example, the following excerpt contains the praescriptio, followed by the greeting, and then the main body of the letter (which is introduced using ‫)וכעת‬: ‫מן בחתרפרן על אחי שתרשרדת שלם ושררת שגיא הושרת לאחי וכעת תנה‬ ‫“ קדמי שלם קדמיך שלם יהוה וכעת אגרתא זי שלחת עלי‬From PN to my brother PN. I (hereby)

19.  From A2.1 r. 1–4 and v. 12–13, in Porten and Yardeni, Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, vol. 1: Letters, 10. 20.  Fitzmyer, Aramaic Epistolography, 188–95. Fitzmyer clearly understands the perfect form in the initial greetings section as performative (p. 192), but he takes the perfect form in the concluding formula section as nonperformative (“I have sent this letter,” p. 194). I would be inclined to view both as performative, but, as my argument here only concerns the verb in the initial greeting section, this distinction is moot. 21.  So Fitzmyer, “Aramaic Epistolography,” 191. 22.  From A1 r. 1, in Naveh and Shaked, Aramaic Documents, 68–69. 23.  Fitzmyer, “Aramaic Epistolography,” 193.


Siam Bhayro

send my brother much peace and health. And now: here with me there is peace; may there be peace with you. And now: the letter that you sent to me.”24 Given the ubiquity of this epistolary structure, I suggest that we can legitimately search for this convention in the magic bowls. In this regard, consider the following formula, which occurs at the beginning of several bowls:25 ‫אסותא מן שמיא תיהוי לה למהדוך בת ניונדוך בשום אברחססיה לחיקרי ארעה נחתית עיקרי‬ ‫תיביל חזיתי בעיני רעשי תיביל איסתבלית בהון והא שמעית קל מילוליה דיממליל מיגו חשמלא‬ ‫ממליל וכן אמר אנה הוא סגי מלאכא קלילאה דקאים קודם מריה דעלמה על ולדי נשייא‬ ‫דמיתחטפין ומפשח וכן אמר על קברי מיתי יתיבית והא שמעית קל נשיא דתוחן ומתוחן בכיין‬ ‫ומבכיין צוחן ומצוחן מפשחן בחד קלא וכין אמרן בידמות ברקא הוינא בדמות עננין איתילידנא‬ ‫והא ארבע חיון רברבן דמישתדרן על ולדיא דחאנקן וחטפן מממרקן ואכלן כאריה דחטיף וחניק‬ ‫מממריק ואכיל אילין אינון דחנקן וחטפן ממרקן ואכלן כען אסיריתון וחתימיתון‬ May there be healing from heaven to PN daughter of PN. By the name of Abraḥsasia. I (hereby) descend to the depths of the earth, I (hereby) see the foundations of the world with my eyes, I (hereby) look at the tremors of the world. And lo, I (hereby) hear a voice of a speech that speaks from the midst of the electrum. It speaks and thus it says: “I am Segai, the swift angel, who stands in the presence of the Lord of the World in the matter of the children of the women who are snatched away.” It bursts out26 and thus it says: “I (hereby) sit at the tombs of the dead and lo, I (hereby) hear the voice of women who moan and sigh, cry and weep, shout and scream, bursting out in unison and saying thus: ‘We were in the form of lightening, we were born in the form of clouds.’ And lo, four great living beings who are sent out against children, who strangle, snatch, crush and devour like a lion that snatches, strangles, crushes and devours. These are the ones who strangle, snatch, crush and devour.” Now: You are bound and sealed. As Shaked notes, in this formula, “the historiola is quite elaborate and contains a story within a story.”27 The bowl’s overall purpose is to assure protection for the infants of the client’s household.28 It is apt, therefore, that the central story in the historiola revolves around a character called Segai, the swift angel who stands in the heavenly court on behalf of mothers who have lost infants. Segai stands before God and relates that he has witnessed the activities of two groups: first, the mothers themselves, as they mourn the loss of their children and, second, the creatures responsible for killing the children. The use of the term ‫והא‬, “and lo,” by Segai suggests that we should 24.  From B4 r. 1–2, in Naveh and Shaked, Aramaic Documents, 154. 25.  Based upon MS 1927/61; compare also MS 2053/13 and MS 2053/188. For preliminary editions of all three texts, which are from the Schøyen Collection, see Shaked, “Transmission and Transformation,” 192–94, 207–10. My use of the term formula with respect to the texts found on the magic bowls accords with the conventions established in Shaul Shaked’s paper. My translation of this formula differs very little from Shaked’s, except for my attempts to identify performative perfects according to the pattern of the epistolary texts. 26.  See Shaked, “Transmission and Transformation,” 193 n. 20. 27.  Ibid., 200. The interpretation given here differs slightly from Shaked’s. 28.  So, ibid., 199.

Performative Elements in the Aramaic Magic Bowls


understand the two perfects of the central story as performatives—the angel is performing these actions in God’s presence and thus showing him these two visions in real time. This, however, is the central story in this historiola. In order to reach it, the initial story relates, in the first person, a journey of descent undertaken by an unnamed person. It is related using a series of four performative perfects, again with the use of ‫והא‬, “and lo,” to introduce the climax of the descent—the central account of Segai—as if in real time. Comparing this structure to the well-established epistolary conventions, we can note the following points: 1. In both contexts, the term ‫כען‬, “now” (or something of the like), is used to introduce the main point (either the purpose of the letter or the invocation of the bowl). 2.  In both contexts, prior to this term, performative perfects are used in passages that are unnecessary in terms of the overall aim of the text but that serve to establish the sense of proximity and perhaps to make the intended recipients more receptive. 3.  The equivalent of the epistolary praescriptio in the magic bowl is the initial phrase “May there by healing from heaven to PN.” 4.  Just as epistolary greetings often invoke a divine name (e.g., “by Ptaḥ”), the magical text does the same—“by the name of Abraḥsasia.” The change in genre from epistle to magic text has one obvious effect: the object of the praescriptio shifts from the recipient of the letter to the client of the bowl. This means that, when we reach the main point of this particular bowl’s text, the demons, though addressed in the second person, are unnamed: “You are bound and sealed.” I argue, therefore, that the above historiola is the structural equivalent to the greeting section of epistolary texts, in which the perfect verbal forms serve performatively to establish immediacy/proximity prior to the crucial “now” moment. Although not a necessary component to the magic bowl, the historiola probably sought to make the (demonic) recipients more receptive to the main point, that is, the invocation. In his analysis of this formula, Shaked states, “The vision is essentially brought to life by the narration; the retelling of the historiola makes the experience real, present and effective on each occasion at which the spell is written or recited.”29 The line of argument presented here, therefore, simply extends this by suggesting that part of this strategy includes the use of performative perfects and that this would have been recognized on account of well-known epistolary conventions. In view of this, I also suggest that we should understand part of JBA 25 as following a similar structure: . . . ‫כפתינון לכיפי ארעה ואסרתינון לרזי רקיעא כבשתינון ליתהומי ת‬ ‫ כען אסיריתון וחתימיתון ומחתמיתון‬. . . ‫כפתינון אסרתינון וכבשתינון לכל שידי‬, “I (hereby) tie up the edges30 of the earth and I (hereby) bind the mysteries of the sky. I (hereby) subdue 29.  Ibid., 200. 30. For the translation of ‫ כיפי‬as “edges of” (as opposed to “rocks of”), see Ford, “Notes on Some Recently Published Magic Bowls,” 236–37.


Siam Bhayro

the l(ower) abysses. I (hereby) tie up, bind and subdue all demons. . . . Now, you are bound and sealed and double sealed.”31

Conclusion The identification of performatives in the Aramaic magic bowls is not simply a grammatical issue—it also involves the understanding of conventions that had existed for centuries and were imported into the realm of magic from other genres/spheres. To a certain extent, this has already been recognized in terms of law and the use of performative participles. Furthermore, comparisons with both contemporary and earlier magical texts permit us to identify performative participles and perfects. The addition of the epistolary genre to this approach, however, permits us to identify more performative perfects than was hitherto possible.32 31.  From JBA 25:3–4, 9, in Shaked, Ford, and Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells, 140–41; for the parallel text, bowl 5:2–3, see Naveh and Shaked, Amulets and Magic Bowls, 158–59. The translation given in the edition of JBA 25 is “I have tied up,” and so on, whereas the translation given in the edition of bowl 5 is “I bind,” and so on, which better reflects the performative nature of the perfects. Compare also JBA 23:1, in which the perfects should also probably be understood as performative: Shaked, Ford, and Bhayro, Aramaic Bowl Spells, 134. 32.  At some point in the future, I intend to discuss the possible performative aspects of the drawings on the Aramaic magic bowls. For an introductory discussion of these drawings, see Vilozny, “Aramaic Incantation Bowls,” 29–37.

Bibliography Bhayro, Siam. “Divorcing a Demon: Incantation Bowls and BT Giṭṭin 85b.” Pages 121–32 in Talmudic Archaeology. Edited by M. J. Geller. Leiden: Brill, 2015. ———. “On Performatives in Aramaic Documents.” Aramaic Studies 11 (2013): 47–52. Bohak, Gideon. Ancient Jewish Magic: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Chazon, Esther G. “Hymns and Prayers in the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Pages 244–70 in The Dead Sea Scrolls After Fifty Years: A Comprehensive Assessment. Edited by P. W. Flint and J. C. VanderKam. Leiden: Brill, 1998. Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “Aramaic Epistolography.” Pages 183–204 in A Wandering Aramean: Collected Aramaic Essays. Edited by J. A. Fitzmyer. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1979. Ford, James N. “Notes on Some Recently Published Magic Bowls in the Schøyen Collection and Two New Parallels.” Aula Orientalis 32 (2014): 235–64. García Martínez, Florentino, and E. J. C. Tigchelaar, eds. The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition. Leiden: Brill, 2000. Gollancz, Hermann. The Book of Protection. London: Oxford University Press, 1912. Levene, Dan, Dalia Marx, and Siam Bhayro. “‘Gabriel Is on Their Right’: Angelic Protection in Jewish Magic and Babylonian Lore.” Studia Mesopotamica 1 (2014) 185–98. Moriggi, Marco. A Corpus of Syriac Incantation Bowls: Syriac Magical Texts from LateAntique Mesopotamia. Leiden: Brill, 2014. Naveh, Joseph. “Fragments of an Aramaic Magic Book from Qumran.” Israel Exploration Journal 48 (1998): 252–61.

Performative Elements in the Aramaic Magic Bowls


Naveh, Joseph, and Shaul Shaked. Amulets and Magic Bowls: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity. 3rd edition. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1998. ———. Aramaic Documents from Ancient Bactria (Fourth Century BCE). London: Khalili Family Trust, 2012. Porten, Bezalel, and Ada Yardeni. Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, volume 1: Letters. Jerusalem: Hebrew University Press, 1986. ———. Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt, volume 2: Contracts. Jerusalem: Hebrew University Press, 1989. Rogland, Max F. “Performative Utterances in Classical Syriac.” JSS 46 (2001): 243–50. Searle, John R. “How Performatives Work.” Linguistics and Philosophy 12 (1989): 535–58. Shaked, Shaul. “The Poetics of Spells: Language and Structure in Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity. 1: The Divorce Formula and Its Ramifications.” Pages 173–95 in Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical, and Interpretative Perspectives. Edited by T. Abusch and K. van der Toorn. Groningen: Styx, 1999. ———. “Transmission and Transformation of Spells: The Case of the Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls.” Pages 187–217 in Continuity and Innovation in the Magical Tradition. Edited by G. Bohak, Y. Harari, and S. Shaked. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Shaked, Shaul, James N. Ford, and Siam Bhayro. Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls. Volume 1. Leiden: Brill, 2013. Vilozny, Naama. “The Art of the Aramaic Incantation Bowls.” Pages 29–37 in Aramaic Bowl Spells: Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Bowls. By S. Shaked, J. N. Ford, and S. Bhayro. Volume 1. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Chapter 8

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-ritual Contexts Maddalena Rumor Case Western Reserve University

The following paper is divided in two main parts. The first argues for an identification of the Akkadian plant sikillu (Sum., Ú.SIKIL) with Greek σκíλλα (Lat., scilla) by means of a comparative analysis of their linguistic characteristics, physical description, habitat, medicinal properties, and use in magic and purification rituals. From these multiple parallels, I suggest that Akkadian sikillu and Greek skilla are one and the same plant. The identification leads to further observations shedding light on various aspects of both the Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman traditions, which I discuss in the second half of the paper. Here I suggest, for example, that early attested Greek uses of σκíλλα, such as in ritual cleansing or in Hippocratic womb therapy, may not necessarily be explained by concepts of “sympathy” or “antipathy”; instead, they could have developed out of Near Eastern practices involving the use of squill (sikillu) to purify and cleanse the insides of the body mechanically (as an evacuant). Hence, having acquired a reputation as a purifying agent (as its own name indicates), the squill would have also begun to be applied in a translated, prophylactic, or symbolic way to dispel more elusive or external evils such as general pollution, moral stains, grief, marginal persons, and the like, which is how it is employed in the early Greek tradition.

Introduction Mesopotamian pharmacology is an intricate labyrinth, in whose maze the meaning of the majority of terms is lost. For instance, the Akkadian language includes about 350 words that refer to simple botanical drugs,1 and several other terms are also used for ingredients of compound medicines. Of all these names, today only a small fraction

Author’s note: I wish to thank the organizers of the BabMed workshop at the RAI 61 in Bern (June 2015) for their support, the participants for their helpful observations, the anonymous reviewers for their comments, and Cale Johnson, in particular, for his careful reading and valuable suggestions on a draft version of this paper. All errors, of course, remain my own. I am also indebted with Andrej Petrovic for his generosity in sharing with me his notes on the use of σκíλλα in ancient Greek literature, at a time when I was first approaching the subject and knew little about it. Abbreviations used throughout this paper may be found in the volume’s abbreviation list. Greek and Roman authors are cited according to the Oxford Classical Dictionary (4th ed.). 1.  See Böck, “Sourcing, Organizing, and Administering,” 700. She counts roughly 340 simple drugs, most of which were vegetative.



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can be identified with any certainty.2 The identification of even one more plant used in medicine has the potential to give us not only a better understanding of its contextual use, but possibly it can also be the key to the solution of larger issues. The identification of such plants, however, is easier said than done, since in most cases, scholars must rely on etymology alone to identify a plant—which is, alas, not always a reliable method. A safer (although not always feasible) way to identify the approximate meaning of a drug/plant name is to search for additional elements, such as the physical description of the plant, the procedures with which it was handled or applied, or the diseases it was supposed to cure. Employing this multipronged method of inquiry, I will argue here that the plant in Akkadian known as sikillu may be identified with the plant that in Greek and Latin was known as σκίλλα/scilla (which from here on will be referred to only as skilla). Needless to say, the Akkadian and Greek names seem to be etymologically related, as noted briefly by Stol,3 although a more in-depth analysis is necessary to prove the connection.4 Larger implications of this finding, in particular concerning magic, ritual, and apotropaic practices, will also be discussed below.

Mesopotamian Sikillu In cuneiform texts, sikillu (or usikillu)5 is a loanword from Sumerian Ú.SIKIL, literally the “pure/clean plant.” This word seems to share some elements with SUM. SIKIL(.SAR), the “pure/clean bulb,” which referred to the onion. While these are different plants, it is reasonable to posit that they may have something in common,6 and the concept of being “pure” or “purifying” immediately suggests itself. I will offer a possible explanation for this shared nomenclature below. Physical Description Some aspects regarding the physical appearance of sikillu, its medicinal properties, and where and on what day it is to be applied, can be reconstructed from an analysis 2.  Better understood are the names of food items (mostly because of their much more common and continuous use in everyday life), such as oil, fat, garlic, and onion. These, and other food ingredients, were often used in medical recipes and healing rituals, mostly as mediums but also because of their curative virtues. On the problem of botanical identifications, see also Tavernier, “KADP 36,” 191–202. 3.  See Stol, “Garlic, Onion, Leek,” 61, who writes: “I am not averse to the opinion that these words and Greek skilla are basically the same (‘bulb’?).” 4.  While Sumerian-Akkadian /k/ normally seems to be transcribed with Greek /χ/, and Greek /κ/ is normally derived from Akkadian /q/, these rules are in some cases ignored. For instance, there are at least three cases in the Greco-Babyloniaca tablets where Akk. /k/ is rendered in Gr. with /κ/ instead of the expected /χ/. In particular, the sumerogram ki.sikil is read as κισκιλ (Maul, “Neues zu den Graeco-Babyloniaca,” 98), which makes the Greek rendering of sikil/sikillu with σκιλ(λα) not at all surprising. Conversely, cuneiform transcriptions of some Greek names also consistently ignore the pattern (see Monerie, “Transcribing Greek in Cuneiform,” p. 350 n. 7). 5.  Also written šigillu, ešigillu in the Ras-Šamra Recension of Ḫḫ, or at times referred to as šammu ellu, šamme tēlilte. 6.  For more discussion of Akkadian terminology for the cultivation of alliaceae, see Stol, “Garlic, Onion, Leek,” 59.

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


of written passages describing it. For instance, in the treatise (or herbal) on medicinal plants Šammu šikinšu, sikillu is depicted in these terms: The plant whose appearance is like (that of) the kūru-reed, whose leaves are like the leaves of the canebrake-fig,7 [whose x (stem?) is like (that of) l]eek, (2) whose pitch (lit., blood) is as (that of) the dark carob tree x x x—[that plant] is called [sikillu-plant?]; (3) it is good for dispelling witchcraft. [(To be applied) by cle]aning the (bewitched) person’s f[ac]e? (with it) on the day of the moon’s disappearance.8 The plant [whose appearance] is (such) that its leaves droop? like (those of) the canebrake-apple (ḫašḫūr-api),9 whose fl[ower (GURUN)] is as [. . .] as the fl[ower of the . . .]—that plant is called sikillu-plant, plant for purifica[tion, plant] for dispelling [witchcr]aft. [(To be applied) likewise], on the day of the mo[on’s disappearance].10 The plant whose appearance is like (that of) the sun-plant, whose fruit is like the fruit of the ašāgu-thorn - it is called barīrātu-ferula (var., “sikillu” in CTN 4 195 + 196 iii 3ʹa), a plant for purification. You cle[anse] the man (with it).11 As is often the case, Šammu šikinšu offers a description that is more elaborate than we can find in any other Akkadian pharmacological work, but the information it provides is still not sufficient on its own for a definitive modern identification, either because the text is broken or because these plants are described by comparing them to other plants that are also not identified. It is important to note that sikillu somehow resembles a leek, that its leaves are similar to those of a canebrake plant, that it was used for purification and dispelling of witchcraft, and that it was applied on the last day of a lunar month (“the day of the moon’s disappearance,” that is, the last day at conjunction, when the moon was not visible, either the twenty-ninth day of a hollow month or the thirtieth of a full month). We will come back to all these clues below and see how they contribute to its identification. Additional information can be gleaned by looking at other sources. For instance, sikillu is never mentioned in Babylonian gastronomical recipes, and consequently, despite its name being so similar to the onion (which, together with garlic, leek, and other less-common alliaceae, was instead widely employed in those recipes),12 we can infer that sikillu was not used for cooking. This suggests it was not considered an edible food. The context in which it was used seems to have been restricted to healing recipes and rituals. 7.  Slightly modified from Stadhouders, “Šammu šikinšu: A Translation,” text 1.18. Perhaps to be corrected to “canebrake-apple.” See Stadhouders, “Šammu šikinšu: An Edition,” 7 n. 34. 8.  Stadhouders, “Šammu šikinšu: A Translation,” 1–21; see Stadhouders, “Šammu šikinšu: An Edition,” 3–51. 9.  Literally, “apple” or “small fruit of the canebrake”: note the resemblance in the shape of the leaves between generic reeds and bulb plants such as onions, garlic, and leeks. 10.  Slightly modified from Stadhouders, “Šammu šikinšu: A Translation,” text 1.19. 11.  Ibid., text 2.24. For another, although looser, translation, made by combining elements from the three passages, presumably in an attempt to capture the essential features of the plant, see Böck, “Las plantas y el hombre,” 44. This insight is courtesy of one of my anonymous reviewers. 12.  Cf. Bottéro, Textes culinaires Mésopotamiens.


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From a contemporary drug inventory, we also learn that it was stored on the upper shelf, which would have been the warmest, and thus it is likely that the plant was mostly kept and used in dry form (or after being processed).13 Finally, sikillu was somehow related, either in shape or function, to another plant, the maštakal. In some lexical lists, in fact, it was designated “maštakal of the mountains,” 14 which should mean that sikillu naturally grew in the mountains. Unfortunately, the maštakal plant has not been identified,15 but in anticipation of some arguments below, I would suggest that the sikillu plant may have grown in the mountains that lined the Lebanese and Syrian coasts. Comparison with Classical Sources: Sikillu = Skilla? Since several medicinal plants were employed for similar purposes both within and outside Mesopotamia, potentially relevant information about sikillu may also be preserved in the pharmacological literature of neighboring cultures. To wit, as noted above, Greco-Roman literature records the name of a plant that is very similar to sikillu, namely, Greek skilla,16 which is commonly translated in English as “sea squill,” or “sea onion.”17 The phonetic similarity of the Akkadian and Greek words 13.  KADP 36:17 ina gišGIDRU ˹AN.TA˺-te. This would explain why the medical recipes never mention that it should be cooked, boiled, or dried in the sun for a long time before it is used, as, instead, skilla is recommended to be in the classical sources (I will discuss this below). By the time the physician applied it on a patient, the sikillu would have quite likely already been processed into its premedicinal form. 14.  úSIKIL | úMIN (mal-ta-kal) šá KUR-i (KADP 2 i 8). Despite the specificity of this designation, it has been suggested (Böck, “Las plantas y el hombre,” 44) that sikillu is simply another name for maštakal (I owe this reference to one of my anonymous reviewers). Böck’s argument, however, that the two terms are equated in the Uruanna pharmaceutical list, is not accurate because the list never pairs the two terms directly; it only pairs sikillu to “maštakal of the mountains,” suggesting they are two different plants. Furthermore, both maštakal and sikillu occasionally appear as two different ingredients next to one another in medical or magical prescriptions (e.g., BAM 575 iv 30; KUB 37, 43 obv. I 10ʹ; BAM 161 obv. iv 24–25; VAT 14427 obv. 4–9, to give just a few of the many examples), indicating that the two names referred to two distinct, although probably kindred, substances. 15.  Thompson saw in it “some sort of soapwort” (DAB 41), but the dictionaries show some skepticism. 16.  Besides being very rich and much more descriptive than the Akkadian pharmacological literature, Greco-Roman sources are heavily based on more ancient writings that were almost contemporary with the last few centuries of cuneiform culture. 17.  The accepted scientific name of the sea squill, urginea maritima, was created by John Gilbert Baker in 1872. Before then, the plant was usually known in the taxonomic literature by the Linnaean name scilla maritima (Linnaeus, 1753). The Linnaean term maritima is probably derived from cepa maris (sea onion, as the squill is still often called) as a corruption of cepa muris, mouse onion. See the medieval encyclopedia Das Buch der Natur [book 5], by Konrad von Megenberg, which was a vernacular translation of the De Natura Rerum by Thomas of Cantimpré, thirteenth century (before the sixteenth century, compilers of herbals most often relied on classical sources for their descriptions of simples, rather than on nature itself). Book 5, entitled “On the Mouse-Onion,” reports: “Squill is called mouse-onion because that plant kills mice . . . and accordingly it is false to write cepa maris, that is, the sea-onion, in place of cepa muris, that is, mouse-onion. This would be the poisonous kind, but there is another kind that is harmless” (see Stannard, “Squill in Ancient and Medieval Materia Medica,” 701). Furthermore, skilla is also named “rat’s onion” in Arabic (Chase, “Notes on Squill in Antiquity,” p. 31 n. 10). This effect of the squill, specifically on mice and rats, can be explained by the fact that rodents cannot vomit and therefore are killed by the toxic nature of the squill that cannot be expelled from the body. Finally, squill “has been found growing in the very sand of the sea-shore, and again at the distance of a hundred miles inland, for instance, at the foot of the Estrella mountains (Arizona); so that, as Link observes, maritimum is rather a fallacious appellation” (Mills, “Urginea maritima [L.] Bak.”).

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


is striking, and yet this is not the only element that seems to support a relationship between the two. Valuable information is also found in ancient passages that describe the physical aspect, properties, and uses of these two plants, all of which will be examined in the following paragraphs. Environmental Conditions: Habitat In general terms, the English translation of skilla, “sea squill” or “sea onion,” suggests a maritime environment, whereas sikillu, as we learn from lexical lists, appears to have come “from the mountains.”18 At first glance, these seemingly different habitats pose a serious problem for equating these two plants, but, on a closer examination, we will see that this problem is merely one of perspective. The designation “sea squill” is derived from the fact that the plant grows all around the coastal regions of the Mediterranean, as modern herbals describe,19 although this does not mean that it grows only near the water at sea level. On the contrary, it also thrives inland all the way up to an elevation of 900 meters.20 The plant is thus also found on the mountains that line the coast of the Levant. Naturally, from the point of view of a Westerner, the sea is an essential component to the plant’s native environment, whereas from the point of view of a Mesopotamian, the same area would be identified more with the mountains. In other words, when travelling from the East, one first encounters the mountains upon which the plant is also known to grow before one reaches the sea. Consequently, the fact that cuneiform sources identify sikillu as “maštakal of the mountains” is no barrier to identifying this plant with the sea squill. Greco-Roman Physical Depictions The physical appearance of skilla was almost never fully described by Greco-Roman authors of botanical works, possibly because it was a very common plant. And in fact, Pliny the Elder comments that, “of the bulbs, the skilla is the most famous,” and continues stating that “no other bulb is of larger size, just as no other has a more powerful

18.  See above, n. 14. 19.  See a modern encyclopedia’s description of the medicinal squill (“Squill” in Encyclopedia Britannica, 270–71): “Squill, the name under which the bulbous root of Urginea Scilla (family, Liliaceae) is used in medicine. The medicinal squill is a native of the countries bordering the Mediterranean, and grows from the sea level up to an elevation of 3,000 ft. The bulbs are globular and often weigh more than 4lb. Two varieties are met with, the one having white and the other pink scales. They are collected in August, when leafless, the membranous outer scales being removed and the fleshy portion cut transversely into slices and dried in the sun. Three pharmacopoeial preparations of this powerful drug are of importance: the syrup, composed on one part of squill, eight of dilute acetic acid and four of sugar; the Pilula Ipecacuanhae cum scilla, in which ipecacuanha and opium are the chief constituents; and the tincture made by macerating one part of squill with five of alcohol. The drug is a cardiac stimulant. Even in small doses it is a powerful expectorant and a fairly active diuretic. The drug must not be given alone, owing to its irritant action. An allied species, Urginea indica, is used in India in the same manner as the European species. The true squills are represented in Great Britain by two species, Scilla autumnalis and S. verna. These are confined to the sea-shore. There are 80 species or more in temperate regions of the old world. Several species are grown in gardens, notably S. bifolia and S. sibirica, originating from the Caucasus region and S.W. Asia. S. nonscripta or English bluebell and S. hispanica or Spanish bluebell are also widely cultivated.” 20.  Ibid.: “and grows from the sea level up to an elevation of 3,000 ft.”


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pungency.”21 Pliny goes on to observe that there are two medicinal varieties of skilla, one white and one red, and that these are normally inedible, a view confirmed by Artemidorus (second century CE).22 Only a third variety, the “Epimenides’s squill,” was considered edible, according to Pliny.23 Another interesting trait of skilla is revealed by Theophrastus, who explains that “Skilla is tenacious of life, for it lives even when hung up, and continues to do so for a very long time. It is even able to preserve other things that are stored, for instance the pomegranate, if the stalk of the fruit is set in it.”24 The ability of skilla to aid in the growth and preservation of fruit is expanded upon by Pliny in book 17: “It is said that if a fig-tree is planted stuck in a squill, it bears fruit very quickly, and is not liable to attacks of worms, as is also the case with all other kinds of fruit-trees planted in a similar way.”25 These two final comments are crucial, because they point to a plausible explanation for the plant’s Sumerian name: it would have been originally called ú SIKIL, “pure/purifying,” because it repelled vermin, likely including mice and rats, and as such it helped preserve food from rotting and trees from being attacked by pests. While other plants could be described as having cleansing or repellent properties, the sikillu is the only one that clearly shares the name and many other characteristics with Greco-Roman skilla/scilla.

Preparation of Skilla Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder, who were probably drawing their information from the same source or sources, both describe extensively not only the physical aspect of the plant, but also how it was prepared. Here is Dioscorides: The squill has sharp and heating properties; it becomes extremely useful after it has been baked. It is wrapped in dough or clay then placed in an oven or buried in coals until the surrounding dough is well baked. Removing the dough, if the squill did not become tender, it is wrapped in new dough or clay and we shall repeat the process. For unless it was baked this way it is harmful to give, especially if offered for intestinal ailments. It is also baked in a lidded clay pot set in the oven. It is its core that is used, the outer parts being stripped off. It is also boiled cut up, the first water is poured out and fresh water is added until the water is neither bitter nor pungent, then the squill is dried in the shade, sliced and the slices are kept separate with linen thread so as not to touch each other.26 21.  Pliny, HN 19.93. 22.  Oneirocritica 3.50: “Squill, for farmers, is a sign of dearth due to its being inedible. But it is good for shepherds, because it is by nature destructive to wolves. And it is good for all who are in a state of worry and grief. For it is considered cleansing. And for those who are faring well it has been observed to attract fear and worries. For there is no need for cleansing for those who are not amidst difficult circumstances” (slightly modified from Harris-McCoy, Artemidorus’ Oneirocritica, 284–85). 23.  For more on Epimenides and squill, see Chase, “Notes on Squill in Antiquity,” 42–43. 24.  Theophrastus, Hist. pl. 7.13.4; trans. Hort, Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants. 25.  Pliny, HN 17.87; trans. Rackham, Pliny: The Natural History. 26.  Dioscorides, MM 2.171.1–2; trans. Beck, Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbus.

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


And in another passage: Vinegar flavored with squill is prepared this way: after cleaning, cutting up, and threading white squill with a linen thread so that the sections do not touch each other, dry them in the shade for 40 days; then taking one mina of it drop it into 12 xestes of good vinegar and let it steep for 60 days in the sun, having sealed carefully the vessel. Then scoop up and squeeze the squill, discard it, and after straining the vinegar, bottle and store it. Some, however, mix ⟨one⟩ mina with five xestes of vinegar and some, right after cleaning it and without drying it, add the same amount of vinegar and leave it for six months: this sort becomes more biting.27 In order to be ready for use, it needed an elaborate preparation that included baking, boiling, and drying or being macerated in an alcoholic drink (vinegar or wine) for several days. This process is also well described by Pliny.28 It is also worth noting that, from these passages, it is evident that skilla could not be eaten or prescribed raw. In cuneiform texts, on the other hand, the procedure with which sikillu was handled, before it was added to a compound remedy, is never made explicit. One observation that can be derived from the recipes is that it was often recommended to be taken with sour beer, in a fashion similar to the administration of squill vinegar or wine in GrecoRoman pharmacology.

The Medicinal Uses of Skilla and Sikillu Turning from a description of these plants’ preparation to a description of their medicinal uses, a comparison of the therapeutic texts of both cultures reveals that skilla and sikillu were both used in a targeted way, that is, they had a limited number of applications, and these applications appear to be alike. Afflictions of the Abdomen/Chest The Greco-Roman pharmaceutical sources indicate one of the most common uses of skilla was for afflictions of the abdomen or chest, both in the context of stomach problems/indigestion (heartburn?) and in the contexts of coughs and related issues. Dioscorides for example, notes that, when put into liquid medicines and fragrant prescriptions, squill is given to “people with stomach ailments” who have trouble digesting, “to the colicky,” and also “to people who have chronic coughs, to asthmatics and to those who spit up either blood or phlegm.” He reports that squill is “boiled together 27.  Dioscorides, MM 5.17.1–3; trans. Beck, Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbus. 28.  Pliny, HN 20.97–98: “The squill used in medicine is white (the dark squill is female), and the whiter it is the more beneficial. When the dried skin has been torn from it, what is left of the living plant is cut up and hung on a cord at short distances. Afterwards the dry pieces are plunged still hanging into a jar of very strong vinegar, so as not to touch any part of the vessel. Then the jar, plastered with gypsum, is placed under tiles, which receive the sun the whole day long. This is done forty-eight days before the solstice. After this number of days the vessel is removed and the squills taken out, the vinegar being poured into another vessel” (trans. Jones, Pliny: The Natural History).


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with honey and eaten for the same purposes, assisting digestion very nicely” and that it acted as an emetic by softening the bowels.29 Skilla-flavored vinegar is particularly noted to be beneficial “for stomach problems and indigestion” and wine flavored with squill is “good for indigestion, for food poisoning, for people who vomit their food, for those whose stomach or abdomen contains gross humors.”30 The same is also reported by Pliny31 and by Celsus, who notes: If there is flatulence (in a dropsical patient) and, owing to that, pain is frequent, a vomit is beneficial . . . it is useful to suck a boiled squill bulb; but for a long while after such attacks of flatulence the patient should abstain from everything that causes it.32 Celsus also adds that the vinegar of skilla is useful to sip for a dry cough: If the cough is dry and very troublesome (vehementissime), it is relieved by taking a cup of dry wine, provided that this is done only three or four times at rather long intervals; further, there is need to . . . take juice of leeks or horehound; to suck a squill, to sip vinegar of squill, or at any rate sharp vinegar.33 A comparison of this information with what we know from Babylonian recipes about sikillu shows very close similarities. In cuneiform medical texts, sikillu appears several times as one of the ingredients to be used for various afflictions of the abdomen/ 29.  Dioscorides, MM 2.171.2–4: “2. . . . We use the slices for wine, vinegar, and oil of squill; the core of raw squill, boiled with olive oil or sodden with pine resin, is applied to fissures on the feet, and it is a poultice for viper bites when boiled in vinegar (. . .) . 3.  To soften the stool, we give on an empty stomach one or two spoonfuls of one part baked squill with eight parts triturated baked salt; we also give it in draughts and in fragrant prescriptions to those whose micturition (urination) we wish to set in motion, to those with edemata (= dropsy), to people with stomach ailments whose food remains crude in the stomach, to the jaundiced, the colicky, to people who have chronic coughs, to asthmatics, and to people who bring up either blood or phlegm. It is enough to take in lozenge form with honey an amount of one triobolon. 4.  It is also boiled with the honey and eaten for the same purposes, assisting digestion very nicely; it does drive the glutinous element down the bowel. It is good boiled for the same purposes being taken the same way; one must not give it, however, to people who have any kind of internal ulceration; baked and smeared on, it is also good for thin-necked warts and for chilblains. Its seed, ground, compounded with dry figs or honey, and eaten, softens the bowel. It does also ward off evil when hung whole on front doors” (trans. Beck, Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbus). 30.  Dioscorides, MM 5.17.3, 5.18.3. 31.  Pliny, HN 20.39; see HN 20.98–101: “This vinegar sharpens the vision, is beneficial for pains of the stomach and sides if taken for two days at a time (. . .) . Taken in vinegar and honey they bring away tapeworm and other intestinal parasites. Fresh squills placed under the tongue prevent dropsical patients from suffering thirst. They are cooked in several ways: either in a pot lined with fat or clay, to be put into an oven or furnace, or else they are cut up and cooked in a stew pan. Raw squills too are dried, then cut up, boiled in vinegar and then applied to snake bites. Another way is to roast the squills and then clean them, after which the centre parts are again cooked in water. Thus prepared they are used for dropsy, as a diuretic, drunk with honey and vinegar in doses of three oboli, and also for diseases of the spleen and stomach, when food floats undigested, provided that no ulceration is felt, for griping pains, jaundice, and chronic cough with asthma (. . .) . Cooked too in honey squills are used as food, especially to promote digestion. So prepared they also purge the bowels” (trans. Jones, Pliny: The Natural History). 32.  Celsus, De Medicina 3 21.9–10; trans. Spencer, Celsus. 33.  Celsus, De Medicina 4 10.3; trans. Spencer, Celsus.

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


chest or, to be precise, of the libbu (the English translation of which swings between “heart,” “stomach,” “abdomen,” “entrails,” etc.).34 In particular, the second tablet of suālu mentions it several times, in the context of stomach problems. BAM 575 (lines 2–6), for instance, describes these symptoms with the following words: “If a man is sick in his libbu” the remedy consists in bandaging a mix of ingredients, among which are sikillu and various flours, on the stomach of the patient.35 A few lines below, in the same tablet, sikillu is this time prescribed for a serious affliction of the libbu,36 and here the prescription recommends not a topical application but rather that the patient drink sikillu that has been pounded with other plants and added to beer. As a result, the sick person will “evacuate through his anus” and eventually recover.37 As was the case with skilla in Dioscorides, sikillu is also one of the ingredients chosen for the preparation of an evacuant. Further down, in the second column of the same text, sikillu is to be mixed with only fat and sucked on, on an empty stomach, while drinking “sour beer” (šikara emṣa): If ditto [from line 17: “If a man’s intestines are continually bloated and swollen up that his stomach continually tries to vomit”], sikillu, its green (yellowish fleshy part), mix with lard, let him suck it on an empty stomach, drink sour beer and he will recover.38 Once again this use is strikingly similar to that found in the Celsus passage quoted above, where, for stomach problems, it was recommended that the patient suck on the boiled bulb of the skilla. Furthermore, the administration of sikillu on an empty stomach, with sour beer, for a person whose abdomen is disturbed and who vomits coincides with the use of squill vinegar and squill wine in Greco-roman medicine.39 In at least two other cases, parts of the plant are instead prescribed specifically for a bad cough, with symptoms that include presence of blood, phlegm, some sort of fever, and other stomach or intestinal problems. Examples of this use are BAM 575 iii 21–22 and iv 30–33: BAM 575 iii 21–22: (21) If a man is seized by phlegm (ḫaḫḫu), seeds of sikillu, seeds of karān šēlibi, kamantu, supālu?, urânu. These five ingredients together. . . . (22) Boil down in kasû water, press out (the liquid) with some cloths, bind the top of his libbu (his epigastrium?) crush the white plant in water, let him drink on an empty stomach (and) he will recover.40 34.  CAD L 164–65. 35.  See Cadelli, “Recherche sur la medécine mésopotamienne,” 124, 148, 169. 36.  “[DIŠ N]A ŠÀ-šú GIG ma-dam GIG” (ibid.,127). 37.  BAM 575 i 52. See Cadelli, “Recherche sur la medécine mésopotamienne,” 127: “(8 more plants) ú SIKIL úIGI.NIŠ GURUN [. . . PA] ˹úGIR.TUR˺ PA úUKUŠ2.LAGAB SÚD ina KAŠ NAG ina DÚR-šú SI.SÁ.” 38.  BAM 575 ii 19. See Cadelli, “Recherche sur la medécine mésopotamienne,” 130: DIŠ KI.MIN (SÀ. MEŠ-šú MÚ.MÚ it-ta-né-bi-ṭu SÀ-šú ana pa-re-e e-ta-né-pa-áš) úSIKIL SIG7-su SÚD KI Ì.ŠAḪ ḪE.ḪE NU pa-tan ú-na-ṣab KAŠ BÍL.LÁ NAG T[I].” 39.  Cf. Dioscorides, MM 2.171.3 and 5.18.3. 40.  (21) DIŠ NA ḫa-ḫu DAB-su NUMUN úSIKIL úGEŠTIN KA5.A úÁB.DUḪ úNIGINsar úTÁL.TÁL 5 Ú.MEŠ ŠEŠ TÉŠ.B[I . . .] (22) ina A GAZIsar tara-bak ina TÚG.ḪI.A SUR SAG ŠÀ-sú LÁL-id úBABBAR SÚD ina A.MEŠ NU pa-tan NAG T[I]” (ibid., 137).


Maddalena Rumor

BAM 575 iv 30–32: (30) If ditto [from l. 11: “If a man . . . with his sputum continually gives blood, he is ill with internal stricture/congestion, he is affected with ṣētu-heat, is sick to his stomach and intestines”], the remedy is: pound leaves of sikillu, leaves of maštakal, leek fruit, pomegranate fruit, ḫaluppu seeds, (31) leaves of Euphrates poplar and boil down with kasû-water in a kannu-container, then press out (the liquid) with a cloth, bind on day and night. Make it boil in water and wash him (with it). (32) Let him drink these (ingredients) with [(some sort of fat/oil?)], make him vomit?, let him eat and drink the remedy. 41 Again, the use of sikillu coincides with the medicinal use of skilla, as described in the passages by Celsus, Dioscorides, and Pliny mentioned above.42 Diuretic The squill was also administered by the Greeks and Romans as a diuretic: Scribonius Largus, a sensible and practical doctor working in Rome in the 1st century CE, gives a very detailed description of a potion for diseases of the spleen; he writes that the same potion, with water and honey is also beneficial to patients suffering from dropsy,43 as it stimulates urination.44 Now, this potion was made of nine ingredients, but of these, the squill was the heaviest component, with a weight of 12 denarii, at least six times the amount of any other ingredient in the potion. Furthermore, the diuretic property of the squill is later confirmed by other writers: Dioscorides: “we also give it in draughts and in fragrant prescriptions to those whose micturition (need to urinate) we wish to set in motion” Pliny: “Another way is to roast the squills and then clean them, after which the center parts are again cooked in water. Thus prepared they are used for dropsy, as a diuretic (ad urinam ciendam), drunk with honey and vinegar in doses of 41.  (11) “[. . . KI] ÚḪ-šú MÚD ŠUB.ŠUB ki-ṣir-te ŠÀ GIG UD.DA SÁ.DI ŠÀ-šú qer-bé-nam GIG” . . . (30) “PA gišGI.ZÚ.LUM.MA PA úSIKIL PA úAŠ.BAD GURUN GA.RAŠsar GURUN gišNU.ÚR.MA NUMUN gišḪA.LU.ÚB (31) PA gišASAL2 GAZ ina A GAZI2sar ˹ina dugGAN tara˺-bak ina TÚG SUR ur-ra u GE6 LÁ ina A SEG6-šal tara-ḫás-s[u Ú] ŠEŠ (32) ina ˹Ì x˺ [. . .] ˹x NAG˺ tu-šá-[ap?-ra-sú-m]a DÙG. GA GU7 DÙG.GA NAG ka-la UD u GE6 ina K[Á . . .] GUB (33) ina gišNÁ-˹šú˺ [. . . ina š]e-rì A ŠEG6-tim TU5-šú Ì.GIŠ ŠEG6 ŠÉŠ UD 3.KAM G[UR-ma T]AG” (ibid.,144–45). 42.  See Dioscorides, MM 2.171.3: “we also give it in draughts and in fragrant prescriptions . . . to people who have chronic coughs, to asthmatics, and to people who bring up either blood or phlegm” (trans. Beck, Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbus). And Pliny, HN 20.100: “Thus prepared (roast the squills, then clean them, after which the center parts are again cooked in water) they are used . . . for diseases of the spleen and stomach, when food floats undigested, provided that no ulceration is felt, for griping pains, jaundice, and chronic cough with asthma” (trans. Jones, Pliny: The Natural History). Also Pliny, HN 20.65: “Lettuces loosen thick phlegm. . . . They are aided for these purposes by oboli of digestive . . . mixing with it, if the phlegm be thick, squill or wormwood wine” (trans. Jones, Pliny: The Natural History). 43.  An entire study has been devoted to the use of squill in the treatment of dropsy (Stannard, “Squill in Ancient and Medieval Materia Medica”). 44.  Scribonius Largus, Comp. 129. “Potio ad leniosos: balani, quo unguentarii utuntur, X (= denarius) p. II, costi X p. I, capparis radicis X p. I, hederae nigrae bacarum X (denarius) p. II, periclymeni quam silvae matrem vocamus, pondus victoriati, galbani pondus victoriati, cardami nigri, id est nasturcii, seminis X p. II et victoriati, piperis nigri X p. I, scillae coctae X p. XII. haec omnia colliguntur melle, fiunt globuli.dantur pondere X duum vel unius ex melle et aceto mixtis cyathis quattruor aut tribus. eadem facit ad hydropicos bene ex aqua mulsa, urinam movet” (Sconocchia, Scribonii Largi Compositiones, 67–68).

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


three oboli. . . . (Squill vinegar) is very beneficial for (other ailments and) afflictions of the kidneys, but it must be avoided when there is ulceration.”45 Galen himself confirms a “Pill of Chrysermos,” the main ingredient of which was squill, “for those suffering problems with the spleen and who have ‘dropsy.’46 It is also a good diuretic, (and) it softens the bowels.”47 As it happens, Babylonian medical recipes also recommend sikillu to promote urination in patients affected by “constriction of the urethra/bladder,” by šāšitūnu, and by mūṣu. In the first case, if a person “suffers from ‘stricture of the bladder,’”48 sikillu is given in a fragrant prescription, together with several other plants and aromatics. The patient is then expected to drink it “either in strong wine, or in beer, on an empty stomach.”49 The disease šāšitūnu, described in BAM 7.1:14 as an affliction that made the patient get up at night constantly and, as a variant adds, that caused his bladder to be swollen (evidently because he had trouble urinating, perhaps because of an enlarged prostate), was also characterized by “constriction of the urethra,” among other symptoms. One of the remedies for this ailment calls for a mix of sikillu and three other plants (úḪAB, suādu and lišān kalbi), which needs to be taken in wine, milk, or beer, each day for three days.50 Once again, Greco-Roman skilla and Mesopotamian sikillu are employed in a very similar manner, in this case as a diuretic, in the same medical context.51

Other Parallel Uses Besides the plants in both traditions being used as diuretics and for problems of the abdomen and chest, other (minor but, I argue, not coincidental) parallel uses of sikillu and skilla are found in cases of diminished vision, toothache, wounds in the feet (?), and snakebites. Diminished Vision A Babylonian medical recipe, for instance, prescribes sikillu together with other ingredients for an eye ailment that is unfortunately lost, but that presumably has something to do with cataract, since the preceding recipes (lines 4–6) are intended to cure šišītu of the eyes, commonly translated as “membrane” or “film.”52

45.  Dioscorides, MM 2.171.3; Pliny, HN 20.100, 23.59 (trans. Jones, Pliny: The Natural History). 46.  Dropsy was thought to originate in the spleen. See van der Eijk, Diocles of Carystus, fr. 112. 47.  Galen, De comp. med. sec. loc., 9 (13:243 K.): “Χρυσέρμου σπληνικοῖς, ὑδρωπικοῖς. ἔστι δὲ καὶ διουρητικοῖς ἀγαθή, κοιλίας μαλακτική.” 48.  BAM 7.2:37. “DIŠ NA GIG hi-niq BUN GIG ana TI-šú.” For other references, see Scurlock and Andersen, Diagnoses in Assyrian and Babylonian Medicine, 105. 49.  BAM 7 N. 2.42: “lu ina GEŠTIN.KALA.GA [ina KAŠ NU pa-tan NAG-ma TI]” (trans. Geller, Renal and Rectal Disease Texts). 50.  BAM 7.1:19–22. 51.  The use of squill as a diuretic continues through the Middle Ages (see Grieves, A Modern Herbal, 768: “The mediaeval reputation of squill was originally as a diuretic, the older authorities attributing its diuretic action to a direct stimulant effect upon the kidney”). 52.  In medical contexts, šišītu is described as found over the eyes or, more specifically, over the pupil of the eye (BAM 515 ii 49).


Maddalena Rumor

If a man’s eyes are covered with a film (šišītu) . . . (rev. 11: alternative recipe): tamarisk, dog tongue, pound and daub, kirbān eqli, qutru, [x x] in oil . . . donkey eyes (?) powder of garlic, dry out, in the middle of [x x x]; tamarisk sap (lit., water), juniper sap (lit., water), sikillu, [x x pound?], daub on.53 Additionally, a Neo-Assyrian fragment that apparently fits in the context of prescriptions/rituals to cure head- or eye-diseases prescribes a treatment that includes sikillu tied to the forehead (or the temple) of the patient, a more “magical” treatment that likely grew out of the reputation those ingredients had of being effective in the specific context.54 The use of squill in the context of diminished vision is also recorded in classical times. In regard to squill vinegar, Pliny says that, “incidentally, it (a solution of squill) sharpens the eyesight,” and that “this vinegar sharpens the vision.”55 Dioscorides notes that it “does promote sharp-sightedness” and adds that “it is capable of resisting hardness of hearing when instilled.”56 Toothache Furthermore, both sikillu and skilla were used for toothache. In the Mesopotamian tradition, the leaves of the sikillu are described as being useful in a salve aimed at relieving the patient of a toothache: If a man’s teeth hurt him, to heal him: leaves of sikillu, leaves of šunû (Agnus Castus?) baluḫḫu, baluḫḫu resin, ṭīru, date skin—crush (and) sift, mix with fat, bind on and he will recover.57 Likewise, in Greco-Roman sources, skilla was employed in the context of afflictions of the teeth, while its vinegar was especially praised for its efficaciousness in strengthening the gums and teeth. Dioscorides recommends squill vinegar as a mouth rinse: 53.  BAM 23 rev. 6, 11–14: “(6) DIŠ NA IGI.MIN-šú ši-ši-tú ú-kal-la . . . (r.11) [gišŠINI]G úEME. UR.GI7 S[ÚD] te-qé (r.12) [LA]G A.ŠÀ.GA qut-ra ina Ì [ x x ] gišŠU.[x] (r.13) IGI ANŠE si-ik-ti SUMsar tur-ár ina ŠÀ [x x x] GÁL (r.14) A gišŠINIG A šimLI Ú.SIKIL [x x SÚD?] te-q[é].” 54.  The Neo-Assyrian fragment AMT 14.2:6 (K 11723): Text: “ina DUR SÍG SA5 È-ak Ú.[x x x] Ú.SIKIL, GIŠ.GAN.U5, zēr gišŠINIG, ina SAG.KI-šú KÉŠ ˹LI?˺ [. . .].” “On a knot of red wool thread: X-plant [. . .] sikillu plant, GAN.U5-wood (or is this kiškanû?), tamarisk seed, bind on his forehead.” Thompson thought this tablet belonged to the same tablet as K 5451A (AMT 14.3), which at line 6 recommends washing the eyes of the patient with the medicament (AMT p. 47). The sumerogram SAG.KI can be rendered both with nakkaptu, “temple,” or with pūtu, “forehead.” Note Scurlock’s observations on the magical nature of the treatment: “The reason that the ‘magic’/’medicine’ line is so hard to draw is that, in ancient Mesopotamia as indeed in ‘folk’ magico-medical traditions generally, many plants came to be endowed with ‘magical’ qualities precisely because they were observed to have medicinal effects. How else is one to account for the prophylactic use of medicinal remedies, i.e. taking something which can be supposed, indeed in some cases even proven, to have been of medical benefit when applied as a salve or potion and putting it into a leather bag strung about a patient’s neck or even burying it in the threshold of his house?” (Scurlock, Magico-Medical Means, 82). 55.  Pliny, HN 23.28 and 20.98, respectively. Additionally, a recipe in the Hippocratic treaty “Diseases of Women” instructing how to prepare a powder medicament for eyes that are “tearful and rheumy” recommends the use of skilla powder (Hippocrates, Diseases of Women 1.105). 56.  Dioscorides, MM 5.17.3. 57.  BAM 26:1–5: (1) DIŠ NA ZÚ.MEŠ-šú i-saḫ-ḫa-la-š[ú] (2) ana TI-šú PA úSIKIL PA gišŠE.NÁ.A (3) šim BULUḪ ILLU šimBULUḪ (4) šimḪAB qí-lip ZÚ.LUM.MA (5) GAZ SIM ina Ì.UDU ḪI.ḪI LÁ-ma TI.

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


“Used as a rinse, it is good for gums afflicted with pyorrhea, tightening them and making them firmer, for loose teeth and for bad breath, eliminating it quite nicely.”58 And Pliny confirms that skilla was said to be “good for gums and teeth when chewed by itself.”59 Foot Disease Both sikillu and skilla were also employed in the treatment of various foot conditions. In the case of Babylonian recipes, it is recommended especially for muruṣ kabbarti, an infection of the foot that caused the patient pain, inflammation, and lesions.60 BAM 120 ii 5 is a very broken recipe, the beginning of which can be reconstructed based on what follows. It begins with “[If a man’s feet (other symptoms) and] cause him pain,” after which sikillu is said to be pounded (presumably with other ingredients, which are lost) and bound on the patient, who will then recover. The cause of pain in the feet is broken in this section of the tablet, but the symptoms in the following recipe are: “If a man’s feet have fever/heat and are full of munû-lesions.” Once more, in another recipe (BAM 124 ii 17), sikillu is one of several ingredients recommended for a bath aimed at curing a bad infection of the foot (muruṣ kabbarti) that involves a wound with a black appearance.61 The cuneiform texts thus suggest a context in which feet are suffering from infected wounds that are, presumably, painful. In classical texts, squill is suggested for the treatment of cracks in the feet. The condition causing these cracks is not specified, suggesting that squill (boiled in oil or soaked in resin) merely aimed at treating the symptom. Pliny: “cooked in oil and mixed with resin, squills heal cracks (rimas) in the feet” Dioscorides: “We use the slices for wine, vinegar, and oil of squill; the core of raw squill, boiled with olive oil or sodden with pine resin, is applied to fissures (ῥαγάδας) on the feet.” 62

Snakebites Finally, both plants were endorsed for the treatment of snakebites.

58.  Pyorrhea is an inflammation of the tissue around the teeth, causing their loosening. Dioscorides, MM 2 17.2, trans. Beck, Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbus. 59.  Pliny, HN 20.99; 30.23–24. Also Pliny, HN 23.59 (squill vinegar): “Squill vinegar is supposed to improve with age. Besides the uses I have mentioned . . . it removes offensive breath, braces the gums, strengthens the teeth and improves the complexion” (trans. Jones, Pliny: The Natural History). 60.  Cf. Eypper, “Diseases of the Feet,” 1–58. 61.  “If a person has muruṣ kabbarti (and) the soreness extends as far as his shins, the appearance of [his] flesh rapidly [changes (for the worse)?], the surface of his sore looks black, (and) that illness does not let up despite the use of bandages (and) . . . you bake ox dung, gazelle dung, (and) šunû-chastetree in an oven. He bathes his feet (with it). You crush lišān kalbi, ‘sunflower,’ burāšu-juniper, [kukru?], anameru, azallû, ḫarmunu, ˹amḫaru˺, pizallurtu-gecko-plant, kamantu-henna(?), kamkādu, date . . . sikillu, ‘fox-grape,’ kalbānu, nīnû-mint (and) bīnu-tamarisk [seed]. You decoct (it) in beer in a tamgussu-vessel (and) bandage (him with it)” (Scurlock, Sourcebook for Ancient Mesopotamian Medicine, 446–47 and 451). 62.  Pliny, HN 20.101; Dioscorides, MM 2 171.2.


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KADP 1 v 31: “Seed of sikillu | simple-plant for snake bite, pound (and) anoint (on the bite) with oil.”63 Dioscorides: “We use the slices for wine, vinegar, and oil of squill; the core of raw squill, boiled with olive oil or sodden with pine resin . . . and it is a poultice for viper bites when boiled in vinegar.” Pliny: “Raw squill too is dried, then cut up, boiled in vinegar, and then applied to snake bites.”64 Furthermore, Scribonius Largus explains in detail that, when used as an antidote (for a wound caused by snakebite), squill is to be applied externally with vinegar.65 This plant is one of (many) components of at least two more of his antidotes against poisons, such as the poisonous bites of rabid dogs and snakes.66 Although from the first passage (KADP 1 v 31) it appears that in Middle Assyrian times the “seed” of the sikillu was recommended for snake bites, and not the bulb, as in Greco-Roman medicine, if the concept “seed” (zēru) also included the “core of the raw” bulb of sikillu (in other words, the truncated lower part of the bulb, which was sometimes used as seed)67, the sources would agree perfectly. In all the cases presented above, which represent the main uses of sikillu in Meso­ potamian therapy, including its use as a diuretic and for afflictions of the abdomen/ chest, eyesight, teeth, feet, and poison from snakebites, the applications of sikillu and skilla seem to fit the same symptomatic context. As of yet, no significant or unexplainable contradictions seem to have emerged from the comparison; I have not been able to find a clear Mesopotamian use that is not included in the Greco-Roman pharmacological descriptions of squill, although I do not exclude the possibility that other cases will be identified in the future.

The “Magical” and Purificatory Uses of Skilla and Sikillu Sikillu and skilla, however, were used not only for similar medical conditions but also specifically in the context of the prevention of witchcraft and various evils (and the purification of victims after the fact). Probably as a result of their beneficial medicinal effects, both plants were believed by the Babylonians and the Greco-Romans to have cathartic and apotropaic virtues, although, as I will discuss below, in some cases the Babylonian definition of evil or witchcraft seems to have referred to actual physical ailments. 63.  “Ú NUMUN SIKIL | Ú ZÚ.KUD MUŠ sa-ku ina Ì.GIŠ [ŠÉŠ].” Here, in the Middle Assyrian pharmacological list KADP 1 v 29–30, sikillu and its seed are the simple medicaments that should be applied at the time of the new moon. On the significance of the new moon, see “The Purificatory Aspects of Greek Skilla,” pp. 185–89 in this paper. 64.  Dioscorides, MM 2 171.2; Pliny, HN 20.100 65.  Scribonius Largus, Comp. 174: “Extra itaque ea sunt imponenda, quae etiam sana corpora exulcerant, ut aleum, lepidium, chelidonium, batracium, sinapis, scilla, cepa cum aceto. optime facit et caprifici liber per se contritus et impositus ulceri; item laser per se.” (Sconocchia, Scribonii Largi Compositiones, 83). 66.  Scribonius Largus, Comp. 175 and 176. 67.  Cf. Stol, “Garlic, Onion, Leek,” 61.

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


The Use of Akkadian Sikillu for Purification and to Dispel Witchcraft As recorded in Šammu šikinšu, sikillu is defined as a plant “for purification” and for the “dispelling of witchcraft.”68 Again, a list of simplicia, KADP 1, mentions it as one of five plants particularly effective against witchcraft and that were often administered as emetics.69 The ancient Babylonians evidently thought that witchcraft could be expelled with vomit, or possibly realized that the symptoms (phlegm, heartburn, lack of appetite, and so on) they attributed to witchcraft were of a kind that benefitted from vomiting and expectorating. This can be seen, for instance, in BAM 190:22–26, where the ingredients diluted in beer are clearly aimed at expelling (from the mouth) various symptoms of this physical affliction: If a man’s epigastrium gets (more and more filled with) phlegm, his epigastrium causes him a burning pain, he has no desire to eat or drink, his flesh is ‘poured out’, that man has been given witchcraft to eat and drink. To undo (it): ḫašûplant, tullal-plant (and) sikillu-plant you pound together; you put (it) in beer (and) leave (it) overnight under the star(s). In the morning you have him drink (var. he drinks) (it) on an empty stomach; he will vomit and then recover.70 “Witchcraft” was thus a malady that was “fed” to the sick, who were normally bewitched because they had been given bewitched food to eat or bewitched beer to drink or they had been anointed with bewitched oil. Several examples of this could be cited from cuneiform texts,71 but the idea survived in later times as well and, as mentioned above, Dioscorides recommended to drink wine made from skilla for food poisoning. If sikillu was a variety of squill, as skilla was, its choice would have been particularly appropriate in the case of witchcraft-induced symptoms, due to its wellknown emetic and expectorant properties. A similar cathartic function is also seen in rituals aimed at treating witchcraftinduced loss of male potency. Sikillu is recommended at least four times in ŠÀ.ZI.GA rituals for men with sexual dysfunctions that render them impure or were caused by impurity. In these rituals, it is administered either as a drink or applied as an amulet on the patient’s neck, and once the impurity linked with the sexual impediments was removed, the patient’s condition was supposed to improve.72 In these cases, sikillu seems to have been used in a more magical way.73 68.  Stadhouders, “Šammu šikinšu: An Edition,” text 1.18. 69.  See Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 24: “Some plants were regarded as especially effective against (ingested) witchcraft. Most lists of ingredients contain tarmuš (lupine?), imḫūr-līm, imḫūr-ešrā, maštakal (soapwort?) and sikillu; these plants are also named in the list of simplicia as effective against witchcraft (KADP 1 rev. V 19, 24, 27–28, 30).” And again: “Enemas are virtually absent from anti-witchcraft prescriptions. . . . The potions described often served as emetics; it was probably assumed that the witchcraft residing in the patient’s body was discharged with the vomit.” Kišpu, witchcraft, was the source of ailments of the upper body, whereas māmītu, curse, caused symptoms in the lower abdomen and therefore needed to be purged from below. 70.  Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 240. 71.  For additional examples, see ibid., 63 text 1.8 and 157 text 7.7, among others. 72.  See Biggs Ancient Mesopotamian Potency Incantations; AMT 62.3:12 (p. 51); STT 280 i 26 (p. 66); STT 280 ii 5 (p. 67); 81-7-27, 73 obv. 5 (p. 68). 73.  See p. 180 n. 54 above (Scurlock, Magico-Medical Means, 82).


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The last two examples demonstrate well how sikillu was recognized to have physically cleansing properties. It is, therefore, likely that, because of these virtues, it was also employed in a translated, symbolic, or magical way, that is, as an amulet (I discuss this more below). The Use of Greek Skilla to Dispel Witchcraft Greek and Roman pharmacological sources also mention skilla as effective in dispelling evil, although they fail to explain exactly why and how this particular plant came to be associated with magico-religious practices. Theophrastus (fourth–third century BCE), in his Historia plantarum, writes: “It is said that, if planted before the entrance door of a house, it (skilla) wards off mischief, which threatens it.”74 While he is merely reporting here what many people believed, without necessarily endorsing it himself, he may have sensed a relation between this alleged property of the squill and its power to keep other foodstuffs from rotting, which he had just described at the beginning of the same paragraph:75 “Skilla is tenacious of life, for it lives even when hung up, and continues to do so for a very long time. It is even able to preserve other things that are stored, for instance the pomegranate, if the stalk of the fruit is set in it.”76 Dioscorides repeats the same statement: “it (skilla) does also ward off evil when hung whole on front doors,”77 and Pliny explains that the philosopher Pythagoras (who apparently had composed an entire book on this plant) had written that squills could ward off evil enchantments, if hung on a doorway.78 Although in cuneiform sources I am not aware of the specific recommendation to hang sikillu on a door or to bury it under a threshold, Babylonian texts do attest to other medicinal plants being buried under the doorstep in order to prevent sickness from entering the house.79 Outside its native context, the Babylonian employment 74.  Theophrastus, Hist. pl. 7 13.4. 75.  Note Scarborough’s discussion of this in “Pharmacology of Sacred Plants,” 146. 76.  Theophrastus, Hist. pl. 7 13.4. 77.  Dioscorides, MM II 171.4 (trans. Beck, Pedanius Dioscorides of Anazarbus). 78.  Pliny, HN 19.93–94 and 20.101: “The philosopher Pythagoras wrote a whole book about them (squills), including an account of their medicinal properties . . . squills too, hung in a doorway, are said by Pythagoras to have the power to keep off evil enchantments” (trans. Rackham, Pliny: The Natural History). Born on Samos in the mid-sixth century BCE, Pythagoras was said to have received his earliest training by Chaldean instructors and to have travelled throughout his life extensively in the Near East (he seems to have “visited the Egyptians, the Arabians, the Chaldeans and the Hebrews”) in order to acquire knowledge (Porphyry, Life of Pythagoras, 1 and 11). This biographical detail is described by various Greek sources of the third century of our era (Iamblichus, Porphyry, Diogenes Laertius), who all agree on the point that he spent several years in Babylon, where he perfected his scientific education. Iamblichus writes “till at length being taken captive by the soldiers of Cambyses, he was brought to Babylon. Here he gladly associated with the Magi, was instructed by them in their venerable knowledge, and learnt from them the most perfect worship of the Gods. Through their assistance likewise, he arrived at the summit of arithmetic, music and other disciplines; and after associating with them twelve years, he returned to Samos about the fifty-sixth year of his age” (trans. Taylor, Iamblichus’ Life of Pythagoras.). Similarly, Porphyry (Life of Pythagoras, 12) relates: “In Babylon he associated with the other Chaldeans, especially attaching himself to Zaratos, by whom he was cleansed from the pollutions of this past life, and taught the things fitting for a virtuous man to be pure. Likewise he heard lectures about Nature, and the principles of wholes. It was from his stay among these foreigners that Pythagoras acquired the greater part of his wisdom” (trans. Guthrie, Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library). 79.  See, for example, SpTU 5 no. 246 iv 13–20, where the seeds of seven medicinal plants are buried under the threshold of the outer gate of a house in a preventive way (Scurlock, Magico-Medical Means,

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


of sikillu to purify the body from “witchcraft” may thus have merged together with other elements, likewise typical of purification rituals,80 such as the spreading of various other purifying agents, for example, oil and blood, on doorsteps and thresholds, which was common both in Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft and apotropaic rituals (that is, Namburbi),81 and in Greek purification rituals. The Greco-Roman use of hanging skilla on a door finds a place within the same context. The Purificatory Aspects of Greek Skilla As it happens, squill is also mentioned as a typical agent of purification in Greek and Latin literature. Already at the end of the fourth century BCE, one of the surviving fragments from the comic playwright Diphilus82 describes a mythological scene in which the seer Melampus purifies the daughters of Proetus, who had fallen sick with madness, which in the Greek tradition was seen as a kind of evil spirit, or daimon, sent by the gods, that needed to be exorcised. The seer uses various items to perform the purification, including a squill, a torch, sulfur, bitumen, and a special type of water: Cleansing the daughters of Proetus and their father Proetus the son of Abas, and the old woman to make five in all, with one torch and one squill for all those people and (fumigation with) sulfur and bitumen, and (water from the) much resounding sea, drawn from deep and gentle flowing Okeanos (’Ωκεανοῖο).83 The purpose of this scene is to ridicule Melampus, the great seer, who is portrayed making use of superstitious healing methods thought to be typical of “the lowest contemporary charlatans,” which would include the famed magi of Mesopotamia.84 It is particularly noteworthy that all the elements described in this passage, the torch, the sulfur, the bitumen, the fresh water from Okeanos, and also the squill (provided that the latter is equivalent to sikillu) seem to have been carefully chosen by the author as

p. 159 n. 1327). For a Neo-Assyrian example, see Abusch and Schwemer, Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Rituals, 426–27. 80.  Sealing rings depicting double squills next to vertical elements (of a door/building?) have been found in Minoan Crete. See Warren, “Of Squills,” pls. 7.2, 3, and 5. The author interprets, however, the squill’s presence in these rings as a symbol of fertility. From the textual material collected here, it seems more likely to me that it was associated with ideas of purification and, because of this, would have been used in a fertility scene (below, I discuss skilla/sikillu and infertility). 81.  For rituals to counteract evil omens, see Caplice, “Namburbi Texts in the British Museum V,” 170– 73; Caplice, Akkadian Namburbi Texts, 14; Maul, Zukunftbewältigung, 398–99, 462–62. For Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft and apotropaic rituals, see Caplice, “Namburbi Texts in the British Museum IV,” 124–32; Caplice, Akkadian Namburbi Texts, 18–19. See also Caplice, “Namburbi Texts in the British Museum II,” 279–86; Maul, Zukunftbewältigung, 256–64. For a further discussion of similarities between Greek and Semitic purificatory practices, see West, East Face of the Helicon, 51–54. 82.  Greek poet and playwright, native of Sinope (on the southern shore of the Black Sea), who mainly worked in Athens (fourth through third century BCE). 83.  Diphilus (fourth–third century BCE), fr. 125 (126). Slightly modified from Parker, Miasma, 207. The reeking mineral substances sulfur and bitumen were burned for κάθαρσις, a term that may derive from Akkadian qatāru (see Burkert, “Rešep-Figuren,” 77; West, East Face of the Helicon, 39). The semantic range of the Greek term for purification, originally meaning “to smoke/fumigate,” would have over time expanded to include other forms of purifications that did not necessarily involve burning (water, oil, etc.). 84.  See Parker, Miasma, 207.


Maddalena Rumor

typically Eastern and in fact are very common elements in Babylonian purification rituals (more on this below). How the purification was supposed to take place, however, is not certain, nor the rationale behind its use, at least in regard to skilla. The practical cleansing action of fire, mineral fumigants, and water is easy to recognize, but why would squill have had any role in a Greek purification ritual? Was the family of Proetus supposed to suck on boiled squill in order to vomit? The passage does not seem to suggest this. That the squill was a cleansing substance, however, is stated explicitly by Artemidorus, who writes that the squill “is good for all who are in a state of worry and grief. For, it is considered to be cleansing.”85 Some of the same elements mentioned by Diphilus (sulfur, bitumen, and the squill) are also profusely recommended in the roughly contemporary Hippocratic gynecological treatises.86 Since Mesopotamian sikillu is virtually absent from gynecological recipes,87 the presence of this plant in the Greek gynecological tradition may, at first glance, given the comparative discussion provided in this paper, be unexpected. Here, however, the squill is recommended not to stimulate evacuation but, as a cleansing vaginal suppository, to soften, purify, and render the uterus receptive for reproduction.88 Because it is difficult to argue for a rational or phytochemical explanation for such a therapy, the employment of squill in this context is usually understood by modern scholars through sympathetic notions such as “absorption of dangerous by dangerous” (interpreting squill as a “dangerous” plant). An easier explanation, however, is once again offered by a link with Near Eastern purificatory practices: since a vaginal suppository of squill obviously does not soften or purify the uterus, as it does with the bowels, it seems more likely that Hippocratic gynecology retained the general idea (present in Mesopotamia) of using squills/sikillu to purify and cleanse the insides and then applied it to uterine disorders simply because of its reputation as a purifying agent.89 If one remembers that in the Babylonian texts sikillu was used for male impotence (by removing the person’s state of impurity), its application to female infertility would be a natural extension. It is worth noting that the pharmacological sources of the early Roman Empire (first and second centuries CE) carrying the first full pharmacological descriptions of this plant also never endorse the use of the squill for gynecological purposes. Whether its pharmacological properties were thoroughly known in the early Greek culture or not, the Hippocratic use of this bulb for female diseases appears to have been somehow affected by ideas derived from Babylonian anti-witchcraft notions. Based on all these

85.  Oneirocritica, 3.50 (see p. 174 n. 22 above). 86.  See von Staden (“Women and Dirt,” 18), who discusses the complex of mineral, excremental, and vegetable substances used for purification of polluted women. 87.  This plant is mentioned only once in the context of women’s diseases, in BAM 240 obv. 31, although the application is, in this recipe, external; furthermore, this passage resembles very closely another recipe from a suālu tablet, for stomach/abdomen disorders (see suālu, BAM 574 iv 43), suggesting that it may have been wrongly recopied from that series. 88.  Cf. von Staden, “Women and Dirt,” 18; for textual references, see p. 28 n. 101. 89.  The Hippocratic gynecological works seem to belong to the oldest strata of the Corpus (von Staden, “Women and Dirt,” 18–19), and their recipe collections are thought to preserve therapies long in use (Hanson, “Talking Recipes,” 82).

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


considerations, the presence of skilla in Greek gynecological texts turns out to be not that surprising, after all. A further early-Greek practice may shed additional light on the Greek context. This practice is recorded in the fragments of the Ionian poet Hipponax of Colophon (a Greek foundation on the west coast of Asia Minor), which describe squills and fig branches being used to beat the pharmakós, the Greek (human) equivalent of a scapegoat, out of town in order to purify the city from various evils.90 Once more, this procedure is rationally unexplainable, and thus it is commonly marked as either magical, associative, or a ritual that was handed down based on ancestral beliefs.91 I argue, instead, that the symbolic presence of squill in such a ritual is justifiable, if this plant had traditionally maintained a reputation for being an agent of purification. This reputation, which initially developed in Mesopotamia because of the plant’s ability to expel unwanted substances and is attested by its own name (the squill has the ability to remain “pure”), could have then been applied in a translated, apotropaic way to dispel more evasive causes of impurity or evils that were external to the inner workings of the body, such as in the case of general pollution, moral stains, grief, marginal persons, and the like. The early attested Greek uses of skilla (as we saw in the invectives of Hipponax, Pythagoras, Hippocratic gynecology, Diphilus, and Theophrastus) appear to have been derived from these symbolic uses. The identification of skilla with sikillu would thus easily clarify the presence of squill in early Greek purification rites. This would further suggest that such a use was born out of various occasions for intercultural communication with the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia,92 although at first it would have probably been inherited without fully understanding the rationale behind the magical and symbolical uses.93

90.  Tzetzes (fl. c. A.D. 1130), Chiliades 5.737–9 (see edition Leone, Ioannis Tzetzae Historiae) = Hippon. fr. 6; West, Iambi et elegi graeci, 1 109–71. For further discussions on the scapegoat or the pharmakos, a vast subject in Classical scholarship, see Burkert, Structure and History, 64–65; Hughes, Human Sacrifice, 139–65; Bremmer, Greek Religion and Culture, 169–214. 91.  See Burkert, Structure and History, 67–72. Various other scholars have commented on the problem, usually leaving it without a final solution. Bremmer (Greek Religion and Culture, 184–89) has advanced the idea that the choice of the squill in the ritual of the pharmakós would be due to the fact that it was an arbor infelix, an unproductive plant. This is an attractive conjecture, although one that is not completely convincing when applied to early Greek uses of squill. 92.  Evidence of such interactions is abundant, varied, and scattered throughout history, from archaeological and artistic materials to linguistic, philological, literary and mythological connections. Ancient sources also include explicit narratives of individuals or people meeting, clashing, knowing of each other, and learning from one another. Due to modern divisions of academic specializations, however, this is not an easy area of enquiry, and no scholarly work has addressed the subject in a comprehensive manner. A few have been selectively comprehensive, whereas a multitude of studies has concentrated on very disparate and more specialist cases. Scholars who have shown particular interest in such inter-connections include W. Burkert, M. L. West, D. Goltz, M. J. Geller, J. Scurlock, J. M. Steele, R. Rollinger, J. Monerie, and I. von Bredow, to name but a few. In my Ph.D. dissertation, I have also considered the matter, exploring connections between the Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman worlds by means of parallels in their use of Dreckapotheke. 93.  This impression that the Hippocratics’ direct knowledge of squill may not have been very extensive was also reached by Stannard, who investigated the use of squill for dropsy in the Corpus (Stannard, “Squill in Ancient and Medieval Materia Medica,” 690): “Still the fact remains that there is no incontrovertible evidence that Hippocrates or the anonymous authors of the Hippocratic corpus had any experience of squill beyond its preparation for purposes of administration.”


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A final confirmation comes from the ancients themselves, who appeared to be well aware of an association between the skilla and the Near East, and specifically Babylon, as is strongly suggested by a passage in Lucian of Samosata (second century CE).94 The text tells the story of Menippus,95 a cynic philosopher who decided to descend into Hades to find out the right way to live. To do so, he resolved to go to Babylon and contact one of the Chaldeans, because he had “heard that with certain charms and ceremonials, they could open the gates of Hades, taking down in safety anyone they wanted to, and guiding him back again.” Menippus then recounts the personal purification performed by the Chaldean with various items, among which were torches, the pure water of the Choaspes river, and a squill: On my arrival I conversed with one of the Chaldeans . . . whose name was Mithrobarzanes. . . . This man, after taking charge of me, first of all for twentynine days, beginning with the new moon, took me down to the Euphrates in the early morning, toward sunrise, and repeatedly bathed me. . . . [then the magus recites some incantations and the passage goes on saying:] We ate nuts, drank milk, mead and the water of the Choaspes, and slept out of doors on the grass. And when the preparation regime was satisfied [after 29 days], around midnight he led me down to the Tigris River and purged me, cleansed me, and consecrated me with torches and squills and many other things, murmuring his incantations as he did so.96 The author’s intention in this passage is to recreate a clearly Babylonian scene.97 The two main rivers of the area, the Tigris and the Euphrates, are mentioned, an allusion is made to the local use of lunar months, the water offered to Menippus is drawn from the Persian river Choaspes (the “pouring-apsû”?),98 a river noted for its particularly sweet water, and the Chaldean who leads him performs incantations and uses torches “and many other things.” What emerges is that squill, together with other elements, was understood by Lucian (and probably also by his contemporaries in the second century CE) as a typically Chaldean element of purification rituals. It is, therefore, not so far-fetched to believe that Diphilus was also playing on these well-known associations almost five centuries earlier. Other elements in Diphilus, especially when read in the light of the passage in Lucian, also suggest a connection with the East. For instance, the name of the father, 94.  See Scarborough’s comment on this (“Pharmacology of Sacred Plants,” 147): “One may also note the reappearance of the very ancient and very muted Near Eastern ties with the magico-religious association of squill, as Lucian pokes fun at the ‘Chaldean’ practice of ‘cleansing with torches and squills.’” 95.  Menippus sive necyomantia (“Menippus or the Descent Into Hades”), §§6–7. 96.  Lucian, Nec. 6–7; translation adapted from Harmon, Lucian, 83–85. 97.  For another discussion of Menippus’s journey to the netherworld in the context of Akkadian ritual practice, see Geller, “The Last Wedge,” 58–60. He examines the Akkadian etymology of Menippus’s own name and a list of details (not mentioning the skilla, however) that “belong exclusively to the world of Mesopotamian ritual texts.” 98.  Τοῦ Χο-άσπου, lit., “of the pouring/flowing Aspes”? I wonder whether this name may be a Hellenization of the Mesopotamian term apsû, the “deep ocean” or “fresh water from the deep ocean.” The Choaspes was a tributary to the Tigris river (Herodotus 1.188; 5.49, 52), and its water was famously sweet, for which reason the kings of Persia wanted to drink only from it (Herodotus 1.188, Pliny, HN 24.160–66).

Akkadian Sikillu and Greek Σκíλλα in Their Medical and Magico-rtual Contexts


Abas, is clearly Semitic, and the reference to “deep and gentle flowing Okeanos,” the Titan son of Ouranos (Sky) and Gaia (Earth) who was believed to be an enormous fresh-water river encircling the inhabited earth and source of all other fresh-water streams,99 is very reminiscent of the Sumerian abzu (Akk., apsû), the “deep ocean” that provided all sources of fresh water such as rivers, lakes, holy wells, and springs, with their sweet water, and is likely the inspiration for Greek Okeanos.100 An essential characteristic of skilla/sikillu is further noted in Lucian: at midnight after the twenty-ninth day, and thus early on the thirtieth day of the lunar month, when there was no moon,101 squill was used to purify the initiate. When we recall the passage from the herbal Šammu šikinšu with which this paper began, that sikillu was to be used “on the day of the moon’s disappearance” for purification and to dispel witchcraft, the very same use and day in the Lucian passage, the hypothesis that Mesopotamian sikillu is to be identified with Greek skilla (already corroborated by etymological and physical similarities, and by the many parallels in terms of medical, magical and ritual uses) becomes virtually certain. Even more striking, we know from one last example, an Akkadian pharmaceutical text, that sikillu (or the seed of sikillu) was “a plant to exorcise (lit., pašāru, loosen) death: two leaves (should be used) on the day of the new moon [to clean the face of the patient]” (KADP 1 v 30). Lucian’s fictitious magus, at this point, could not have chosen a more appropriate plant to purify Menippus, protecting him from death right before his descent into Hades, on the day of the new moon. The only conclusion is that Lucian must have been very familiar with the correct Babylonian use of squill, as is revealed to us from cuneiform sources.

Conclusions From the parallels presented above, including name, physical description, habitat, healing properties, and reputation in magic and purification rituals, it appears that Akkadian sikillu and Greek skilla were one and the same plant. Once this identification is accepted, additional light is shed on both the Mesopotamian and Greek traditions. For instance, the uses of the plant in Greek and Latin sources supply us with an explanation for the origin of the Sumerian name Ú.SIKIL, meaning “pure/purifying plant,” which is otherwise inexplicable. That is, this was a plant that naturally fought off decay and had the power to keep anything pure from the attack of parasites. The identification also offers an explanation for the association of this plant 99.  The appearance of Okeanos as a river encircling the inhabited world is attested in Greek literature as early as in the Iliad, depicted on the Shield of Achilles (Iliad 18.607). 100.  The Homeric idea of a freshwater river Okeanos that encircled the world and from which all sources of fresh water derived probably originates from the Mesopotamian concept of a deep flowing freshwater abzu (Akk., apsû), as already noticed shortly after the first tablets on Enūma Eliš were discovered, at the end of the nineteenth century. See Bremmer, Greek Religion and Culture, 2–3, and additional references. The same term, apsû, could be related with English abyss, which is commonly explained as deriving from Gr. a-bussos, meaning “without bottom/depth,” especially said of the sea (see LSJ s.v. βυθός and βυσσός). One of the two etymological explanations must be false, or one may have originated from the other. For more on the abzu (Akk., apsû), see Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, 334–47. 101.  Thus, at the “new moon,” also known as astronomical conjunction.


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in Greco-Roman sources with magico-religious cleansing: because sikillu was recognized as having specific medicinal effects (in particular, an emetic property) that were useful in the physical expulsion of symptoms of witchcraft, which were often physical ailments such as food poisoning or heartburn, the squill had acquired, over time, a reputation of being magically purifying. Consequently, it began to be applied in a translated, prophylactic way to dispel evils external to the body. While all these aspects are attested in the Babylonian tradition, only the symbolic/ apotropaic uses seem to be attested in early Greek sources. This may be an accident of preservation, although it is more likely, in my opinion, that the early Greeks inherited the idea of using squill in purification practices, either directly or indirectly, from the Near East, but probably at first without a full comprehension of the practical medicinal uses and thus without a full comprehension of the rationale behind the magical and symbolic uses. Finally, later Greek authors, such as Lucian, seem to confirm my reconstruction, as they were clearly aware that skilla/sikillu was a typically Babylonian element of purification rituals. For among hundreds of plants, they chose this specific plant to recreate Babylonian settings and did so in a very fitting manner.

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