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the Euphrates or the Tigris, or being rubbed with oil. The following are examples of such texts:

Glittering water, pure water,

Holy water, resplendent water,

The water twice seven times may he bring,

May he make pure, may he make resplendent.
May the evil rabisu depart,

May he betake himself outside,

May the protecting shedu, the protecting lamassu,
Settle upon his body.

Spirit of heaven, be thou invoked!

Spirit of earth, be thou invoked !58

A simpler water-ritual runs thus:

All that is evil, . . . [which exists in the body] of N. [may it be carried off], with the water of his body, the washings from his hands, and may the river carry it away downstream.**

In another incantation, while rubbing the patient with oil, the priest recites the following formula appealing to Ea:

Pure oil, shining oil, brilliant oil.

Oil which makes the gods shine,

Oil which mollifies the muscles of man.

The oil of Ea's incantation, with the oil of Marduk's incantation I pour over thee; with the healing oil,

Granted by Ea for easing [pain] I rub thee;

Oil of life I give thee;

Through the incantation of Ea, the lord of Eridu,

I will drive the sickness with which thou art afflicted out of thee.55

In the use of fire, an image of the demon, wizard, or witch was made of wax or other inflammable material,

53 Jastrow, op. cit., pp. 289-290. 54 Thompson, in ERE iv, 742. 55 Jastrow, Civilization, p. 253.

and with hymns, sacrifices, and elaborate ceremonies, the gods of fire, usually Gibil and Nusku, were invoked to consume it. When it had disappeared, the sufferer was supposed to be purified and to be relieved of the demoniacal possession. The following is an example of such a hymn addressed to the fire-god and his reply:

Nusku, great offspring of Anu,

The likeness of his father, the first-born of Bel,

The product of the deep, sprung from Ea,

I raise the torch to illumine thee, yea, thee.

[sorcerers, sorceresses, charmers, witches who had bewitched the sick man],

Those who have made images of me, reproducing my features, Who have taken away my breath, torn my hairs,

Who have rent my clothes, have hindered my feet from treading

the dust,

May the fire-god, the strong one, break their charm.

Immediately following comes an incantation directed against the demons:

I raise the torch, their images I burn,

Of the utukku, the shedu, the rabisu, the ekimmu,

The labartu, the labasi, the akhkhazu,

Of lilu and lilitu and ardat lili,

And every evil that seizes hold of men.

Tremble, melt away, and disappear!

May your smoke rise to heaven,

May Shamash destroy your limbs,

May the son of Ea [i.e., may the fire-god],
The great magician, restrain your strength (?).56

Substitute victims.

Under certain circumstances, it was customary to offer the demons a substitute victim for the sick person, generally a kid or a sucking pig, the sacrificial animal being killed, and the carcass being laid beside the invalid while 56 Jastrow, Religion, pp. 286-287.

the exorcist transferred the evil spirit to it. In the following text, Ea, the supreme healer and 'lord of incantation,' shows the method of treatment, and placing the victim before Marduk, he says:

The kid is the substitute for mankind,

He giveth the kid for his life,

He giveth the head of the kid for the head of the man,

He giveth the neck of the kid for the neck of the man,
He giveth the breast of the kid for the breast of the man.57


In addition, the gods received offerings of various kinds, such as a bullock, a sheep, or a goat, or usually a kid or a lamb; or, for bloodless sacrifice, oil, dates, figs, incense, bread, grain, or honey.


While reciting such incantations in appeals to the deities, the priest usually performed manual magic by gestures and passes, and administered various remedies, alone or in combination, with suggestions of their mystic and magic value. The ritual texts enumerate many remedies used by the asipu-priest in connection with incantations, these including herbs, roots, and other drugs, such as onions, dates, palm-blossoms and palm-seeds, milk, butter, cream, honey, wine, oil, meat, salt, flour, and the juices and seeds of various trees and plants.58 Many substances that were foul and ill-smelling, as dung, urine of animals, and decaying matter, were administered, apparently with the intention of disgusting the demon, and of making his stay so disagreeable that he would depart.59

Thompson, Devils, ii, 21.

58 Zimmern, Beiträge zur Kenntniss der babylonischen Religion, pp. 98 ff.

59 Jastrow, in PRSM, 1913-1914, vii, 116-117; and in AMH, 1917, i, 240-248.



Prognosis in disease and guidance in life to forestall and to avoid the misfortunes of illness and of death were sought by the interpretation of dreams and omens, by the reading of stars and planets, and by hepatoscopy and other forms of divination. Charms and amulets, talismans made of knots of cord, pierced shells, bronze or terra-cotta statuettes, and bands of cloth, inscribed with magic words, were very commonly worn as being potent in warding off the evil eye and the enchantments of the black art, as well as averting disease and other misfortunes; while, for similar purposes, 'words of power' were engraved on cylinders of stone, on hematite, agate, rock-crystal, onyx, lapis lazuli, or jasper, and were worn on the head, neck, limbs, or hands and feet. The demon labartu, who lived on the mountains and in the canebrakes of marshes, was greatly feared for young children, and as a protection against her they hung around their necks a stone with the following inscription: "By the great gods mayst thou be exorcised; with the bird of heaven mayst thou fly away!" Pregnant women, in like fashion, were accustomed to wear bands with inscriptions claiming the protection of some deity, such as, "I am the servant of Adad, the champion of the gods,

the favorite of Bel."

Appeals to the demons.

In addition to the entreaties addressed to the deities for assistance in overcoming the activities of the evil spirits, and frequently instead of making such an appeal, these malevolent ones were approached directly through the medium of a magician, and various methods were used to divert them from their purpose, or to appease and

60 R. C. Thompson, "Charms and Amulets (Assyro-Babylonian)," in ERE iii, 409-411.

to propitiate them, and thus gaining their favor cause them to depart. Such practices and ceremonies were similar to those of 'medicine-men' among savage tribes and consisted in singing, wild dancing, shouting, beating of drums, and asserting that the demon or devil had been removed from the sick man and had been transferred to an animal or to the medicine-man, or had been driven away. In certain instances, the spirit of the invalid was assumed to have been carried off, and the medicine-man would be sent, often long distances, to recover it and to fetch it back to its owner.

Uniformity of belief in Mesopotamia.

The standards of religious beliefs as they pertained to disease and its treatment appear, so far as known, to have been practically the same throughout Mesopotamia and the neighboring non-Indo-Iranian tribes and nations.

A pious sufferer.

The following excerpts are from texts on tablets expressing the laments and observations, the sufferings and despair, of a man who seems to have been a ruler of Nippur who strove, and failed, to understand the mysterious ways of the gods. Having been faithful in the performance of his duties to the deities, he is not conscious of guilt, yet he is stricken with disease and cannot find help or consolation until, at the last extremity, a high divinity intervenes, and he recovers. His poem gives many details of his disease and sufferings, but the principal facts, illustrative of current beliefs as discussed above, are given in the following extracts:

(My eyeballs he obscured, bolting them as with) a lock (My ears he bolted), like those of a deaf person.

A king-I have been changed into a slave,

As a madman (my) companions maltreat me.

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