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The Ea-Rite of Exorcism by Water

“We have already had occasion in discussing the views held of Ea, the water-god, [3] and of Nusku (with various other designations), [4] the fire-god, to point out that water and fire constitute the two chief elements in the symbolical rites for exorcising the demons. The Ea-ritual involved washing or sprinkling the body of the victim with water that is to be taken from the Euphrates or Tigris as the sacred streams, or from some bubbling source coming directly out of the earth.

So we read: [5]

“With pure, clear water,
With bright, shining water,
Seven times and again seven times,
Sprinkle, purify, cleanse !
May the evil Rabisyu depart !
May he step to one side !
May the good Shedu, the good Lamassu, remain in my body!
By heaven, be ye forsworn,
By earth, be ye forsworn.”

An image is frequently made of the demon or of the sorcerer or sorceress, placed on a little boat and sent over the waters to the accompaniment of formulas, voicing the hope that as the image passes along the evil spirit may depart. The little boat is made to capsize and the image is drowned, or it is directly thrown into the water and thus again the hoped for release is dramatically reproduced.

The variations in the rites are naturally endless. It is merely a further modification of the Ea ritual if we find elsewhere directions to surround the bed on which the sick man lies with some kind of porridge made of water and barley, to symbolize the isolation of the individual, and with this isolation to secure his release from the torturing demons.”

Morris Jastrow, The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915, np.

Exorcising Babylonian Demons

“The methods of obtaining release from the demons are as various as the demons themselves, though they all rest on two motifs: the power supposed to reside in certain formulas urging the demons to leave their victim, and the performance of certain rites based on sympathetic or symbolical magic, either mimicking the hoped-for release or applying certain remedies; but always with the idea that they will drive the demon away, rather than that they will have any direct beneficial effect on the patient.

The magic formulas invariably involve the invocation addressed to some divine agent or to a group of deities. The names of the gods have a certain power, the name being, according to a widely prevalent view, part of the essence of the being.

Besides, words as such are also imbued with power: a thought naturally suggested by the command of a superior which is obeyed by the one dependent upon a chief, and reinforced by the mystery of writing as the reflex of the spoken word.

A few specimens of the formulas will not be out of place. A brief and comprehensive one that is frequently found is:

“By the name of heaven be ye forsworn, by the name of earth be ye forsworn,”

Or the exerciser appeals to all the gods as:

“By the name of the gods, I adjure you”

Or certain gods are specifically named as at the close of a rather elaborate command to the demons to leave the body: [1]

“Away, away, far away, far away,
Be ashamed, be ashamed ! Fly, fly away !
Turn about, go away, far away,
May your evil like the smoke mount to heaven ! [2]
Out of my body away,
Out of my body far away,
Out of my body in shame,
Out of my body fly away,
Out of my body turn away,
Out of my body go away.
To my body do not return,
To my body do not approach,
To my body draw not nigh,
My body do not afflict.
By Shamash, the powerful, be ye forsworn,
By Ea, the lord of the universe, be ye forsworn,
By Marduk, the chief diviner of the great gods, be ye forsworn,
By the fire-god, who consumes you, be ye forsworn,
From my body be ye restrained!”

The magic formulas with the invocation to the gods constitute, however, only half of the exorcising ritual, the other and in many respects more important half being marked by ceremonies, accompanying the formulas, which as suggested either represent dramatically and symbolically the destruction or driving out of the demons, or fall within the category of medicinal charms that are supposed to have a direct effect on the demons.”

Morris Jastrow, The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915, np.

The Seven Babylonian Demons

“A group of seven frequently occurring in the texts and depicted on monuments [3]  is described as follows: [4]

“Seven, they are they seven,
In the deep they are seven,
Settling in heaven they are seven.
In a section of the deep they were nurtured;
Neither male nor female are they,
Destructive whirlwinds are they,
They have no wife, they produce no offspring.
Mercy and pity they know not,
Prayer and petition they hear not,
Horses raised in the mountains [5] are they.
Hostile to Ea [6] are they,
Throne bearers of the gods are they,
To hem the way they set themselves up in the streets.
Evil are they, evil are they,
Seven are they, they are seven, twice seven are they.”

Their universality as well as their function in seizing hold of their victims, taking up their seat in any part of the human body, is emphasized in another description.

More specific is the description of the demon Ti’u, the demon of head troubles and of fevers. [7]

“The head disease roams in the wilderness, raging like the wind,
Flaming like lightning, tearing along above and below,
Crushing him who fears not his god like a reed,
Cutting his sinews like a khinu-reed,
Maiming the limbs of him who has not a protecting goddess,
Glittering like a star of heaven, flowing like water,
Besetting a man like a whirlwind, driving him like a storm ;
Killing that man,
Piercing another as in a cramp, [8]
So that he is slashed like one whose heart has been torn out,
Burning like one thrown into the fire, [9]
Like a wild ass whose eyes are clouded, [10]
Attacking his life, in league with death,
So is Ti’u, who is like a heavy storm whose course no one can follow,
Whose final goal no one knows.”

Elsewhere the invisibility of the demons is dwelled upon. Of the Ashakku it is said [11] that, sweeping along like a storm, driving through the streets and highways

“He stands at the side of a man, without anyone seeing him,
He sits at the side of a man, without anyone seeing him,
He enters a house, without anyone seeing his form,
He leaves a house, without anyone observing him.”

Morris Jastrow, The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915, pp. 243-4.

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