Bird Apkallu, Characterized as Griffin Demons

by Esteban

Bird-apkallu

Bird-Apkallū statuettes in characteristic poses, right hands on their breasts, banduddu buckets in their left hands.

Bird-Apkallū statuettes in characteristic poses, right hands on their breasts, banduddu buckets in their left hands.

History: the griffin-demon does not stem from Babylonia; there he is attested first on the assyrianizing robe of Nabû-mukîn-apli (cf. Brinkman PHPKB 171, beginning of the 1st millennium) holding cone and bucket (King BBSt Pl. LXXIV); in Assyria, Syria, and the north he is attested much earlier (Parker Essays Wilkinson 33, Collon AOAT 27 222, on MAss seals: Klengel Brandt FuB 10 2438,39), cf. Madhloom Sumer 20 57ff.

Bird-apkallū, with hands on their chests, and banduddu buckets in their left hands.

Bird-apkallū, with hands on their chests, and banduddu buckets in their left hands.

Thus we are led to believe that a traditional northern hybrid with apotropaic functions was matched in Assyria with a traditional Babylonian literary figure with similar functions.

In Babylonia, from MB onwards, the apotropaic apkallū were viewed as partly man and partly carp; in the early first millennium Babylonia takes over the bird-apkallū (BBSt Pl. LXXIV), and Assyria the fish-apkallū (Rittig Kleinplastik 87).

The first millennium magical texts of Babylonian origin had to accommodate these foreign apotropaic beings.

Bird Apkallū and Fish Apkallū, side by side. Apkallū statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

Bird Apkallū and Fish Apkallū, side by side. Apkallū statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

The bird-apkallū are accommodated in bit mēseri by a slight change of form and sequence of the names of the fish-apkallū (text III.B.10). In ritual I/II they are simply provided with the same incantation as the fish-apkallū.

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 75-6.