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Mesopotamian Apotropaic Gods and Monsters

“It remains, however, that art expresses theological development less clearly than the written sources. The types of art and their contexts were fixed in the third millennium, and only minor changes are allowed through time. Most of the supernatural beings treated in this book become defeated adversaries of gods at some point in their history, but […]

Gane: Neo-Babylonian Monsters, Demons & Dragons From a Narrow Slice of Time & Space

A number of scholars have already correlated Mesopotamian iconography with cuneiform texts to identify and illuminate composite beings over a wide range of periods in terms of their historical development, association with deities, and impact on humans within ancient systems of religion and mythology. The present research draws heavily on their work, but uniquely focuses […]

Selz: Connects the Apkallu with the Fallen Angels

“The correspondance between Enmeduranki, for a long time considered to be the Mesopotamian Enoch, with an apkallū named Utu-abzu, proved highly informative. (See W.G. Lambert, “Enmeduranki and Related Matters,” JCS 21 (1967): pp. 126-38; idem, “New Fragment.”) In 1974 Borger observed in an important article, that in tablet III of the omen series Bīt Mēseri (“House of […]

Kvanvig: On Šēp lemutti, Averting Evil

“The apkallus were also an essential part of the composition Šēp lemutti. The composition starts by defining the purpose of the ritual as to avert evil from the house. Then the text prescribes the types of figures to be fashioned and buried at set locations in the house. This section contains a long passage describing […]

Kvanvig: The Bīt Mēseri Ritual

“The study of F.A.M. Wiggermann on protective spirits has contributed considerably to the understanding of the apkallus in Bīt Mēseri. (Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits; Wiggermann deals with Bīt Mēseri especially on p. 105f. The connection between the apkallus and prophylactic rituals was already noticed by Oliver Robert Gurney, “Babylonian Prophylactic Figures and their Rituals,” Annals of […]

Kvanvig: Discrepancies Between the Lists

“The Sumerian concept of me, “cosmic ordinances,” has a wide range of meanings connected to culture and human conditions. The myth Inanna and Enki has a list which gives good illustration of what is regarded as me: human relations, cultural relations, political relations, occupations, sciences, crafts, arts, deeds, etc. —in short, all the human characteristics […]

Lenzi: A Fault Line Where Legend and History Collides

“If this were the only instance of apkallū in a ritual context, this difference in genre would be of little consequence. But, in fact, it is not. The seven apkallū are mentioned, for example, in anti-witchcraft incantations in Maqlû II 124,36 V 110,37 VII 49,38 VIII 38 (though without names). (Note that the next line…has “the […]

Lenzi: Human apkallū are a Later Inclusion

Lenzi states that human apkallū in lists deriving from rituals were artificially grafted onto ancient texts.

Lenzi: On the apkallū–ummânū Association

“There are of course quite early precedents for king lists, antediluvian or otherwise; there are also several earlier examples of kings being listed with their chief scholarly advisor (see the overview in A. Kirk Greyson, “Königslisten und Chroniken,” Reallexikon der Assyriologie 6 (1980) 86-135). But there is nothing that traces the royal scholars back through […]

Wiggermann Defines the Lamassu

“The limited number of candidates available for identification with e’ru, libbi gišimmari and urigallu enables us to choose a denotation, even when the results of philology are not unequivocal in each case. The sages and the lesser gods of NAss art share attributes and therefore functions: goat, sprig, greeting gesture, cone, bucket and mace. Both […]

On the Fish-Apkallu

“Lamaštu amulets: The fish-apkallū on Lamaštu amulet 2 (and 4?), exactly like the ūmu-apkallū on Lamaštu amulets 3 and 61, has his left hand on the bed of the sick man. The right hand is slightly damaged, but probably greeting. Wrong hand: Occasionally apkallū are attested holding the bucket in their right hand: AfO 28 57f. 30 (above IIiI/6), Lamaštu […]

Bird Apkallu, Characterized as Griffin Demons

Excerpt: “…the griffin-demon does not stem from Babylonia; there he is attested first on the assyrianizing robe of Nabû-mukîn-apli holding cone and bucket…”

On the Names of the Umu-Apkallu

“History. The name-like designations of the ūmu-apkallū are artificial and systematic; they do not even pretend to be historical realities. The names all start with ūmu / UD and may have been grafted on the u4- and p i r i g – names of other apkallū (Güterbook ZA 42103, Hallo JAOS 83 175, Reiner […]

Things that Apkallu Hold

” … we present a survey of the objects in the hands of apkallū on reliefs, seals, and in the Kleinplastik. The survey is not meant to be complete. It is based on the recent treatments of Rittig (Kleinplastik), Kolbe (Reliefprogramme), and Reade (BaM 10 17ff.). Lamaštu amulets: Occasionally on Lamaštu amulets (2, 3, 5, 20 […]

On the Mullilu, the “cleaner,” the Purification Instrument of the Apkallu Exorcist

“–mullilu, “purification instrument” (literally: “cleaner”). When it is agreed upon that a word denoting the cone, the most common object in the hands of the bird-apkallū and the fish-apkallū, must appear among the terms denoting objects held by the apkallū in ritual I/II, this word can only be mullilu. The identification of mullilu as denoting the […]

On the Banduddu, or Bucket

“–banduddû, “bucket”. Banduddû unquestionably denotes the bucket held by many figures of the reliefs, cf. Frank LSS III/3 671, Zimmern ZA 35 151, Smith JRAS 1926 70913, Hrouda Kulturgeschichte 77, Madhloom Chronology 109ff., Kolbe Reliefprogramme Type IIA, VI, IIB, IIC. The object is attested also in the hands of clay figures: Rittig Kleinplastik 70ff. (bird-apkallu), […]

Statues in Private Rooms, the apkallū, “Sages.”

“In the bedroom (kummu, cf. III.B.6), the “place of life” (AAA 22 88:146f.), at the head of the bed of the threatened man, the seven anthropomorphic ūmu-apkallū, the “leading sages” (cf. II.A.3.1), are stationed. The seven bird-apkallū are buried against the wall at the head of the bed, but in an adjoining room (uncertain, cf. […]

Apkallu Details (Excerpt from Wiggermann)

An excerpt on the three kinds of apkallu from Wiggermann. The apkallu are perplexing entities portrayed on Sumerian and Neo-Assyrian artworks, combining bird heads with human bodies, and human heads on fish bodies. They are attested throughout Sumerian and Assyrian literature, and the so-called Seven Sages of Sumeria were apkallu.

Lahmu, “The Hairy One,” is Not Apkallu

“The Babylonian scientific and religious texts reveal the names of over three thousand gods and demons, members of local and national pantheons. Most, if not all, play a part in cult or magic, and must have been represented in some form. Gods and demons, cult and magic, are the main subjects of Babylonian art, but generally […]

Editorial Note on the Apkallu and the Roadmap Ahead

I am breaking the narrative stream to speak directly to the process emerging from our reading on the apkallū, the antediluvian and postdiluvian sages of ancient Mesopotamia. If you are reading along over my shoulder, you noticed that we digressed from Martin Lang, “Mesopotamian Early History and the Flood Story,” in a post titled On the Date of the Flood. Martin […]

Gane: Review of the Literature on Monsters, Demons and gods

“When a monster is associated with an anthropomorphic deity, it operates in the same field of action or part of nature as that of the deity. Whereas the deity functions in the entire domain of his or her rule, the monster’s activity is limited to only part of the god’s realm. Thus, a monster that […]

Gane: Composite Beings in Neo-Babylonian Art

“An examination of all the extant, provenanced depictions of composite beings, Mischwesen, in Neo-Babylonian (NB) iconography sheds important new light on the worldview of the last great Mesopotamian civilization. The types of hybrids that are portrayed include such disparate forms as the apkallu and the genius in human form, as well as creatures based on […]

Melvin: Divine or Semi-Divine Intermediaries

The Divine Source of Civilization in Mesopotamian Myths “The motif of the divine origin of civilization is common in the ancient Near East, especially in Mesopotamia, and it stands in stark contrast to the portrayal of the rise of civilization in Genesis 1– 11. (Although many of my observations with regard to the view of […]

Izre’el: Origins of the Adapa Myth

“Adapa the Sage Adapa was known in Ancient Mesopotamia as The Sage. The original etymology of the name Adapa may not have reached us. A lexical text lists a term adapu as meaning “wise” (Igituh I: 107), an attribute that is further attested in another late text (Lambert 1962: 74). This adjectival noun is undoubtedly […]

Kvanvig: Dates the apkallu to the Beginning of the 1st Millennium BCE

“Most of the sources we have to these imaginations developed around the apkallus are Assyrian. This does not, however, mean that the imaginations only belonged to Assyrian mythology. Of the three lists of the apkallus known, two are Babylonian, and Bīt Mēseri was known in Babylonia. The most extensive description of their role we find […]

Kvanvig: At the Brink of Legendary Time and Historical Time

“In Bīt Mēseri and Berossos, where there are narratives connected to the names, it is clear that the apkallus were those who brought humankind the basic wisdom needed to establish civilization. This is written out in a full story in Berossos; the same is referred to in Bīt Mēseri in the phrase “plans of heaven and […]

Kvanvig: On the Correspondences Between Antediluvian Myths

Is Anu never portrayed in Mesopotamian art?

Kvanvig: Initiation is a Restriction of Marduk

“We think van der Toorn is right in taking this as a comment to the tendency present in the Catalogue. This is still no absolute chronology, since apkallus are listed as authors in III, 7; IV, 11; and VI, 11. Nevertheless, the commentary seems to underscore three stages in the transmission of highly recognized written […]

Kvanvig: Antediluvian Scribes of the gods

“We find an indication that Uanadapa was regarded as a recipient of revelations, we find it in the Verse Account of Nabonidus, where the king compares himself with Adapa. He boasts of his “wisdom;” he has “seen what is hidden” and “secret things:” “He would stand in the assembly (and) exalt him[self] (as follows): “I […]

Kvanvig: Transmission of Antediluvian Revelation

“The apkallus provided the human race with the fundamental wisdom necessary to develop human civilization. They did so through their teaching, and according to Mesopotamian tradition, developed in the first millennium, they did so also through their writing activity. The apkallus are listed several places as authors of literary works in the Catalogue of Texts […]

Kvanvig: The apkallus as Watchers and Guardians

“As demonstrated in the rituals, the apkallus were not only figures of the past. Surely, they visited the earth in antediluvian time to bestow wisdom on mankind, but they were still alive and invisibly present in the human world. They were present as “guardian spirits,” as we have seen in the depiction of the sick […]

Kvanvig: Assurbanipal Studied Inscriptions on Stone from Before the Flood

“The first thing to notice is the strange expression salmīšunu, “their images.” The pronoun refers back to the primeval ummanus / apkallus. They had “images,” created by Ea on earth. A line from Bīt Mēseri sheds light on the issue. šiptu šipat Marduk āšipu salam Marduk “The incantation is the incantation of Marduk, the āšipu […]

Nakamura: the āšipu was Master of the Figurines

“There is a sense here of Derrida’s (1994) autonomous automaton, the animate puppet with a will of its own that yet obeys some predetermined program. By containing, concealing, and hiding these magical figures, the priest has made his mastery of their power complete.”