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Category: Incantation

Nakamura: The Common Terrain Shared by Myth and Iconography

“After this “enlivening,” the āšipu then molds this clay into various figures of power and protection, in effect reenacting the divine creation of humans from the clay of the apsû, the primordial underground freshwater ocean.

(Similar narratives of the creation of humankind reiterate a trope of the divine formation of being from clay. In the Atrahasis epic (Tablet I, lines 210–213) humankind is born from the mixing of primordial clay and the blood of a slain god, and in Enki and Ninmah (lines 24–26) humankind is made from this clay only.)

Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic Babylonian, about 17th century BC From Sippar, southern Iraq A version of the Flood story The story outlines the structure of the universe according to Babylonian beliefs. Heaven is ruled by the god Anu, the earth by Enlil and the subterranean sweet water by Enki. The text then explains how the minor gods work in the fields but then rebel. As a result, humans are made from clay, saliva and divine blood to act as servants of the gods. This does not prove a perfect solution, as the humans reproduce and their noise disturbs Enlil's sleep. He decides to destroy them with plague, famine, drought and finally a flood. However, each time Enki instructs one of the humans, Atrahasis, to survive the disasters. The god gives Atrahasis seven days warning of the flood, and he builds a boat, loads it with his possessions, animals and birds. He is subsequently saved while the rest of humankind is destroyed. However, the gods are unhappy as they no longer receive the offerings they used to. There is a gap in the text at this point but it does end with Atrahasis making an offering and Enlil accepting the existence and usefulness of humans. Copies of this story have survived from the seventeenth to the seventh century BC showing that it was copied and re-copied over the centuries. This is the most complete version. There are clear similarities between this Flood story and others known in Mesopotamian literature, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh. T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1988) S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press, 1991) W.G. Lambert and A.R. Millard, Atra-hasis (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969) http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/c/cuneiform_the_atrahasis_epic.aspx

Cuneiform tablet with the Atrahasis Epic
Babylonian, about 17th century BC
From Sippar, southern Iraq
A version of the Flood story
The story outlines the structure of the universe according to Babylonian beliefs. Heaven is ruled by the god Anu, the earth by Enlil and the subterranean sweet water by Enki. The text then explains how the minor gods work in the fields but then rebel. As a result, humans are made from clay, saliva and divine blood to act as servants of the gods.
This does not prove a perfect solution, as the humans reproduce and their noise disturbs Enlil’s sleep. He decides to destroy them with plague, famine, drought and finally a flood. However, each time Enki instructs one of the humans, Atrahasis, to survive the disasters. The god gives Atrahasis seven days warning of the flood, and he builds a boat, loads it with his possessions, animals and birds. He is subsequently saved while the rest of humankind is destroyed. However, the gods are unhappy as they no longer receive the offerings they used to. There is a gap in the text at this point but it does end with Atrahasis making an offering and Enlil accepting the existence and usefulness of humans.
Copies of this story have survived from the seventeenth to the seventh century BC showing that it was copied and re-copied over the centuries. This is the most complete version. There are clear similarities between this Flood story and others known in Mesopotamian literature, for example, the Epic of Gilgamesh.
T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)
S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press, 1991)
W.G. Lambert and A.R. Millard, Atra-hasis (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969)
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/c/cuneiform_the_atrahasis_epic.aspx

And this mimetic act doubles back, for at the end of the incantation the āšipu invokes the creative utterance of Enki (Ea) and incants himself into the picture; here he blurs his position as both mime and mimed other: “in this way, as both chanter and person chanted about, as demonstrator and demonstrated, he creates the bridge between the original and copy that brings a new force, the third force of magical power, to intervene in the human world” (Taussig 1993:106).

(One creation myth (of many) also poses Enki (Ea) as taking on the organization of the entire universe and accomplishes this feat solely in the creative power of his word (Black and Green 1992:54)).

And it is the āšipu’s body that provides the ligature of this bond:

O Ea, King of the Deep, to see…

I, the magician am thy slave.

March thou on my right hand,

Be present on my left;

Add thy pure spell unto mine,

Add thy pure voice unto mine,

Vouchsafe (to me) pure words,

Make fortunate the utterance of my mouth,

Ordain that my decisions be happy,

Let me be blessed wherever I tread,

Let the man who I (now) touch be blessed.

(Utukki Limnuti, III/VII:260 ff. Thompson 1903-04:27-9, added emphasis).

It is bodily sense — initiated by the āšipu’s voice, movement, and touch — that forges a correspondence between the natural and the divine.

Through the mimetic faculty, magical craft and performance invites a direct and sensuous relation with the open world capable of recuperating a pre-organized state of sensation and perception.

This visceral presentation of the self-becoming-other and spirit-becoming-substance, reproduces the original fold of being that encompasses divine, human, and natural worlds. The Mesopotamian world was indeed enchanted, and humans, always already engaged in such a world, needed only to feel or sense in order to retrieve such unity.

I have dwelled upon the bodily aspects of practice — namely, those gestures of relating and transforming through incantation, touch, and movement — to underscore magic as a technique, as a knowing and producing that choreographs a dis/re-organization of worldly relations.

Magical performance amounts to a mimetic demonstration of vital correspondences between ideas, essences, and things in the processual enactment of an ideal made real. The affective force of such bodily techniques arises from the kinetic communication and experience of the performance; but how are we to make sense of the power or force of ideal protection made real through the burial of miniature figurine deposits?

Most commonly, scholarship has approached this ritual practice and material assemblage by considering certain symbolic and conceptual linkages to Neo-Assyrian ritual, religion, and culture, for instance, the common terrain shared by myth and iconography (see Green 1983; 1993; Wiggermann 1992; 1993).

While such critical analyses get at important aspects and processes of ancient intellection, they ultimately fail to consider the devastatingly material logic of magic that often subverts (only to reinforce) such discursive productions of meaning. To redress this imbalance, I presently examine this concrete logic and how it discloses apotropaic power.”

Carolyn Nakamura, “Mastering matters: magical sense and apotropaic figurine worlds of Neo-Assyria,” Archaeologies of materiality (2005): 30-1.

Apkallu Details (Excerpt from Wiggermann)

“Although text II is an extract, and as such less informative on the ritual than text I, it nevertheless supplies information not supplied by text I. The extra information of text II is given below figure by figure in the order of text I.

Human apkallu, known as ummiamu, distinguished with two pairs of wings. In a gesture of ritual purification, he holds a

Human apkallu, known as ummiamu, distinguished with two pairs of wings. In a gesture of ritual purification, he holds a “cleaner” cone in one hand, and a bucket in the other. The cone is called a mullilu, the bucket a banduddu. From Nimrud, capital of king Ashurnarzipal.
AO 19845

For each figure the details relevant to the discussions below are added: number of order in text II, name, number of statues, material, nature, character of incantation and inscription, attributes.

1.1          umu-apkallû, I 44ff.; 7; e’ru; anthropomorphic/human.

attributes: in the right hand: a cornel(-stick) charred at both ends; left hand on breast.
buried: ina SAG g’N?., “at the head of the bed” (II Obv. 11).
incantation: ÉN VII NUN.ME.MEŠ a-šá-red-du-tú, “seven leading sages” (II Obv. 11). Text I omits this incantation; its function is apparently fulfilled by the incantation ÉN UDUG HUL EDIN.NA DAGAL.LA I 40 (cf. below III.C.).

These figures are not supplied with horns of bronze/copper, which would positively identify them as gods, nor do the inscriptions and incantations characterize them as divine: they are sages of human descent, giving life by their incantations, and putting to flight evil.

The lack of added precision in the description (in contrast to the specifications of the bird- and fish-apkallū), and the head dress, garments, and hands, make them anthropomorphic.

A King, Ashurnasirpal, interacts with an attendant at far right. An apkallu is depicted at far left, denoted by his wings and his characteristic pose, with raised right hand and left hand holding a bucket. Apkallu in this pose typically have a cone in their right hands, which they use to ritually sprinkle water.

A King, Ashurnasirpal, interacts with an attendant at far right. An apkallu is depicted at far left, denoted by his wings and his characteristic pose, with raised right hand and left hand holding a banduddu bucket. Apkallu in this pose typically have a cone in their right hands, a mullilu, which they use to ritually sprinkle water.

[ … ]

9.2          Bird-apkullū, I 170ff.; 7; clay and wax; human/bird.

attributes: in the right hand a cleaner (mullilu), in the left a bucket.
buried: ina SUHUŠ É II-i ina SAG gis NÁ, “at the base of the (wall of the) “second room”, at the head of the bed” (II Obv. 14). The translation of II-i is uncertain: Smith JRAS 1926 696: “second pavement”(709 14: “not clear”); Gurney, Hibbert and Rittig suppose that II-i introduces an alternative position, which seems improbable in the present context.

In MAss/NAss the ša bīti šanî (CAD B 296b) is a servant in the dining room, and bītu šanû is accordingly perhaps “dining room”, cf. CAD B 297f., Kinnier Wilson CTN I 85, Postgate FNALD 5:5, Dailey CTN 3 165 ad 12. An incantation to these figures is attested only in text II (Obv. 14, incipit): ÉN at-tú-nu NU NUN.ME ma-sa-ri, “incantation: you are the statues of the sages, the guardians”: the incipit reveals only a part of their character: they are guardians.

In the top register, Ummiamu, human apkallu that are postdiluvian, tend to a sacred tree. In the lower register, antediluvian apkallu with avian heads tend to a sacred tree.  The pinecones and buckets in their hands are now understood to be standard devices used to sprinkle water. The water sprinkling ritual was intended to liberate sin.

In the top register, Ummiamu, human apkallu that are postdiluvian, tend to a sacred tree. In the lower register, antediluvian apkallu with avian heads tend to a sacred tree.
The tree cones and buckets in their hands are now understood to be standard devices used to sprinkle water, known as mullilu and banduddu, respectively .
The water sprinkling ritual was intended to liberate sin.

10.3        Fish-apkallū, I 174ff.; 7; clay; human/fish.

attributes: in the right hand a cleaner, in the left a bucket.
buriedina I.DIB. É.NUN, “at the threshold of the bedroom (II Obv. 16)”. The incantation to these figures is the same as the one to the bird-apkallū (only in text II Obv. 16).

11.4        Fish-apkallū, I 178ff.; 7; clay; human/fish.

attributes; in the right hand on offshoot of the datepalm, the left on the breast (Ed Note: sic).

buried: ina tar-siina EGIR gil GU.ZA, “opposite the gate, behind the chair” (II Obv. 18)
The incantation to these figures is the same as the one to the bird-apkallū (only in text II Obv. 18).

12.5        Fish-apkallū, I 181ff.; 7; clay; human/fish.

attributes: in the right hand a standard, the left on the breast.
buried: ina MÚRU É ina IGI-[at]gis GU.ZA, “in the middle of the room, in front of the chair” (II Obv. 20).
The incantation to these figures is the same as the one to the bird-apkallū (only in text II Obv. 20.”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, pp. 46-9.

Ritual Sacrifice in Babylonian Exorcism

” … In addition, however, to burning the images of demons or sorcerers or throwing them into the water, a large variety of other symbolical actions are introduced in the incantation series, all falling within the category of sympathetic magic. The image is bound, hands and feet, so as not to be able to move, its eyes are pierced or filled with spittle, its tongue pulled out or tied, its mouth covered, or poison dripped into it or stuffed with dust, its body slit open [9] and the like; and thus mutilated, it is thrown into water or fire or on a dust heap.

From such rites it is not a long step to the endeavor to transfer the demon from the victim to some substitute a lamb, a pig or a bird, which appears then to have been offered up as a vicarious sacrifice for the life of the victim. [10]

“The lamb as a substitute for a man,
The lamb he gives for his life.
The head of the lamb he gives for the head of the man,
The neck of the lamb he gives for the neck of the man,
The breast of the lamb he gives for the breast of the man.”

The underlying thought is that the demon passes out into the animal which is offered to the gods, to appease their anger against the human sufferer. We are justified in drawing this conclusion from the caution expressly given [11] not to eat the animal which is declared to he taboo:

“Take a white lamb of Tammuz, [12]
Place it near the sick man,
Tear out its insides.
Place in the hand of the man,
And pronounce the incantation of Eridu.
That lamb whose insides thou hast torn out,
Cover it up as forbidden food for that man,
Consign it to the flame or throw it into the street.
That man shut up in a room and pronounce the incantation of Eridu.”

The animal has become unclean through the demon that has been transferred to it ; therefore it is not to be eaten, and while it is offered to the gods as a means of diverting their anger from the man on whom it has been visited, it is not a sacrifice in the ordinary sense. The demon may be also transferred to a bird which is caught for the purpose, slaughtered and cut up, after which the blood together with its skin and some portions of the body is burned in the fire [13] to the accompaniment of an incantation.”

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

Marduk Kills Tiâmat

” … When Anu reported his inability to deal with Tiâmat, a council of the gods was called, and Ea induced his son, Marduk to be present.

We next find Anshar in converse with the god Marduk, who offers to act as the champion of the gods and to fight Tiâmat and her allies. Marduk being a form of the Sun-god, the greatest of all the powers of light, thus becomes naturally the protagonist of the gods, and the adversary of Tiâmat and her powers of darkness.

Then Anshar summoned a great council of the gods, who forthwith met in a place called “Upshukkinaku,” which may be described as the Babylonian Olympus. It was all-important for Marduk to appear at the council of the gods before he undertook his task, because it was necessary for him to be formally recognised by them as their champion, and he needed to be endowed by them with magical powers.

The primitive gods Lakhmu and Lakhamu, and the Igigi, who may be regarded as star-gods, were also summoned. A banquet was prepared, and the gods attended, and having met and kissed each other they sat down, and ate bread and drank hot and sweet sesame wine.

The fumes of the wine confused their senses, but they continued to drink, and at length “their spirits were exalted.” They appointed Marduk to be their champion officially, and then they proceeded to invest him with the power that would cause every command he spake to be followed immediately by the effect which he intended it to produce.

Next Marduk, with the view of testing the new power which had been given him, commanded a garment to disappear and it did so; and when he commanded it to reappear it did so.

Illustration: Shamash the Sun-god setting (?) on the horizon. In his right he holds a tree (?), and in his left a ... with a serrated edge. Above the horizon is a goddess who holds in her left hand an ear of corn. On the right is a god who seems to be setting free a bird from his right hand. Round him is a river with fish in it, and behind him is an attendant god; under his foot is a young bull. To the right of the goddess stand a hunting god, with a bow and lasso, and a lion. From the seal-cylinder of Adda ..., in the British Museum. About 2500 B.C. [No. 89,115.]

Illustration: Shamash the Sun-god setting (?) on the horizon. In his right he holds a tree (?), and in his left a … with a serrated edge. Above the horizon is a goddess who holds in her left hand an ear of corn. On the right is a god who seems to be setting free a bird from his right hand. Round him is a river with fish in it, and behind him is an attendant god; under his foot is a young bull. To the right of the goddess stand a hunting god, with a bow and lasso, and a lion. From the seal-cylinder of Adda …, in the British Museum. About 2500 B.C. [No. 89,115.]

Then the gods saluted him as their king, and gave him the insignia of royalty, namely, the sceptre, the throne and the pala, whatever that may be. And as they handed to him these things they commanded him to go and hack the body of Tiâmat in pieces, and to scatter her blood to the winds.

Thereupon Marduk began to arm himself for the fight. He took a bow, a spear, and a club; he filled his body full of fire and set the lightning before him. He took in his hands a net wherewith to catch Tiâmat, and he placed the four winds near it, to prevent her from escaping from it when he had snared her.

He created mighty winds and tempests to assist him, and grasped the thunderbolt in his hand; and then, mounting upon the Storm, which was drawn by four horses, he went out to meet and defeat Tiâmat. It seems pretty certain that this description of the equipment of Marduk was taken over from a very ancient account of the Fight with Tiâmat in which the hero was Enlil, i.e., the god of the air, or of the region which lies between heaven and hell.

Marduk approached and looked upon the “Middle” or “Inside” or “Womb” of Tiâmat, and divined the plan of Kingu who had taken up his place therein.

In the Seventh Tablet (l. 108) Marduk is said to have “entered into the middle of Tiâmat,” and because he did so he is called “Nibiru,” i.e., “he who entered in,” and the “seizer of the middle.” What the words “middle of Tiâmat” meant to the Babylonian we are not told, but it is clear that Marduk’s entry into it was a signal mark of the triumph of the god.

When Kingu from the “middle of Tiâmat” saw Marduk arrayed in his terrible panoply of war, he was terrified and trembled, and staggered about and lost all control of his legs; and at the mere sight of the god all the other fiends and devils were smitten with fear and reduced to helplessness.

Tiâmat saw Marduk and began to revile him, and when he challenged her to battle she flew into a rage and attempted to overthrow him by reciting an incantation, thinking that her words of power would destroy his strength. Her spell had no effect on the god, who at once cast his net over her.

At the same moment he made a gale of foul wind to blow on her face, and entering through her mouth it filled her body; whilst her body was distended he drove his spear into her, and Tiâmat split asunder, and her womb fell out from it.

Marduk leaped upon her body and looked on her followers as they attempted to escape. But the Four Winds which he had stationed round about Tiâmat made all their efforts to flee of no effect. Marduk caught all the Eleven allies of Tiâmat in his net, and he trampled upon them as they lay in it helpless.

Marduk then took the TABLET OF DESTINIES from Kingu’s breast, and sealed it with his seal and placed it on his own breast.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, et al, & the British Museum, The Babylonian Legends of the Creation & the Fight Between Bel & the Dragon Told by Assyrian Tablets from Nineveh (BCE 668-626), 1901, pp. 9-10.

The First Zodiac

” … Not content with Ummu-Khubur’s brood of devils, Tiâmat called the stars and powers of the air to her aid, for she “set up” …

(1) the Viper,

(2) the Snake,

(3) the god Lakhamu,

(4) the Whirlwind,

(5) the ravening Dog,

(6) the Scorpion-man,

(7) the mighty Storm-wind,

(8) the Fish-man, and

(9) the Horned Beast.

These bore (10) the “merciless, invincible weapon,” and were under the command of (11) Kingu, whom Tiâmat calls “her husband.”

Thus Tiâmat had Eleven mighty Helpers besides the devils spawned by Ummu-Khubur. We may note in passing that some of the above-mentioned Helpers appear among the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac which Marduk “set up” after his conquest of Tiâmat, e.g., the Scorpion-man, the Horned Beast, etc.

This fact suggests that the first Zodiac was “set up” by Tiâmat, who with her Eleven Helpers formed the Twelve Signs; the association of evil with certain stars may date from that period. That the Babylonians regarded the primitive gods as powers of evil is clear from the fact that Lakhamu, one of them, is enumerated among the allies of Tiâmat.

The helpers of Tiâmat were placed by her under the command of a god called KINGU who is TAMMUZ. He was the counterpart, or equivalent, of ANU, the Sky-god, in the kingdom of darkness, for it is said in the text “Kingu was exalted and received the power of Anu,” i.e., he possessed the same power and attributes as Anu.

When Tiâmat appointed Kingu to be her captain, she recited over him a certain spell or incantation, and then she gave him the TABLET OF DESTINIES and fastened it to his breast, saying, “Whatsoever goeth forth from thy mouth shall be established.”

Armed with all the magical powers conferred upon him by this Tablet, and heartened by all the laudatory epithets which his wife Tiâmat heaped upon him, Kingu went forth at the head of his devils.

When Ea heard that Tiâmat had collected her forces and was determined to continue the fight against the gods which Apsû and Mummu had begun, and that she had made her husband Kingu her champion, he was “afflicted” and “sat in sorrow.” He felt unable to renew the fight against the powers of darkness, and he therefore went and reported the new happenings to Anshar, representative of the “host of heaven,” and took counsel with him.

When Anshar heard the matter he was greatly disturbed in mind and bit his lips, for he saw that the real difficulty was to find a worthy antagonist for Kingu and Tiâmat. A gap in the text here prevents us from knowing exactly what Anshar said and did, but the context suggests that he summoned Anu, the Sky-god, to his assistance. Then, having given him certain instructions, he sent him on an embassy to Tiâmat with the view of conciliating her.

When Anu reached the place where she was he found her in a very wrathful state, and she was muttering angrily; Anu was so appalled at the sight of her that he turned and fled. It is impossible at present to explain this interlude, or to find any parallel to it in other ancient Oriental literature.”

Illustration: Shamash the Sun-god rising on the horizon, flames of fire ascending from his shoulder. The two portals of the dawn, each surmounted by a lion, are being drawn open by attendant gods. From a Babylonian seal cylinder in the British Museum. [No. 89,110.]

Illustration: Shamash the Sun-god rising on the horizon, flames of fire ascending from his shoulder. The two portals of the dawn, each surmounted by a lion, are being drawn open by attendant gods. From a Babylonian seal cylinder in the British Museum. [No. 89,110.]

E.A. Wallis Budge, et al, & the British Museum, The Babylonian Legends of the Creation & the Fight Between Bel & the Dragon Told by Assyrian Tablets from Nineveh (BCE 668-626), 1901, pp. 8-9.

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