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

Apkallu Attributes

“–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 cone is based on the observation that the cone on reliefs, seals and in the Kleinplastik never occurs as the only object held by an apkallū; thus e’ru, libbi gišimmari, and urigallu, the other objects held by an apkallū, are excluded.

Klengel-Brandt (FuB 10 34, cf. Rittig Kleinplastik 215) thinks mullilu denotes “eine Art kurzen Wedel … der hauptsachlich zum besprengen mit Wasser benutzt worden ist“, and indentifies it with the cone. Correctly, but without justification, Parker (Essays Wilkinson 33) states that mullilu, “purifier”, “may be the cone-shaped object carried by the genii”.

Umu-Apkallū in the characteristic act of purification, sprinkling sacred water from the Banduddu bucket with the Mullilu cone.  From Nimrud, capital of king Ashurnarzipal. AO 19845

Umu-Apkallū in the characteristic act of purification, sprinkling sacred water from the Banduddu bucket with the Mullilu cone.
From Nimrud, capital of king Ashurnarzipal.
AO 19845

Unclear is BBR 26 v 39ff. (restored from 28:9, quoted by CAD M/2 189a), where the king carries a mullilu in his right and in his left hand. Never, on seals, reliefs or as a statue, does a figure carry a cone in both his left and his right hand.

The identity of the cone is still being debated: male inflorescence of the date-palm, or cone of a coniferous tree (cf., with previous literature, Stearns AfOB 15 2443). In a recent study, the second option is hesitantly favoured (Bleibtreu, Flora 61f., 93f., 123f.).

A bird-apkallu with mullilu and banduddu.  Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17323/17323-h/17323-h.htm#linkBimage-0011

A bird-apkallu with mullilu and banduddu.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17323/17323-h/17323-h.htm#linkBimage-0011

The Akkadian term mullilu does not give a clue. From a philological point of view the fir-cone (terinnu) is preferable to the male inflorescence of the date-palm (rikbu, cf. Landsberger Date Palm 19): terinnu is attested as an instrument bringing about the release of sin (Maqlû I 24, cf. Landsberger Date Palm 14) and thus resembles the other objects carried by the apkallū. For rikbu no such use is known.

Regarding cone and bucket, we conclude with the following:

  • The bucket is always carried in the left hand. The other hand may be empty, or may carry a variety of objects, such as the sprig (Kolbe Reliefprogramme Type VI), which occur also in the hands of figures not carrying buckets. The value of the bucket in the ritual cannot be dependent on the objects held in the other hand. The bucket, or rather its content, is effective simply by being present.
  • One object, the cone, appears only when the figure in question carries a bucket in its left hand. The value of the cone must in some way be dependent on the value of the bucket.
  • The texts indicate that the bucket contained holy water effectuating “release”. As was proposed before, the dependent cone “purifier”(mullilu) held in the right hand activated the holy water: it was a sprinkler (Klengel-Brandt, Rittig, CAD M/1l 189a).
  • The figures carrying buckets (and cones) are engaged in a purification ritual. As will be seen below, this accords well with their function of apkallū.
  • Figures carrying cones point their cone at the sacred tree, the king, or courtiers (Stearns AfOB 15 64f.). Figures standing in doorways and apparently pointing their cones at nothing, are perhaps best thought of as pointing their cones at passing visitors, just as the weapons and the gestures of greeting are directed at the visitors, and not at the building.
  • The sacred tree benefits from the activities of the genii, the genii do not need the tree, cf. Stearns AfOB 15 70ff. It is not necessary to understand the meaning of the tree in order to understand the meaning of the figures with bucket and cone.
  • For the tree we refer to Porada AASOR 24 108ff., Madhloon Sumer 26 137ff., Stearns AfOB 15 70ff. Genge AcOr 33 321ff., Hrouda BaM 3 41ff., Kolbe Reliefprogramme 83ff., Bleibtreu Flora 37ff., and passim, Parker Essays Wilkinson 38. For a doubtful connection with the texts, cf. van Dijk Syncretism 175 f., and Lugal 1 10 ff. (see below 000).”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 67.

On the Banduddu, or Bucket

Apkallu Attributes

“–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), 80ff. (fish-apkallu), 98f. (kusarikku). Two buckets from Babylon belonged to unknown figures of wood. The actual figures always carry the bucket with their left hand; the texts prescribe the banduddû for the left hand when another object is held in the right hand.

In Neo-Assyrian art these bird-headed "genies," as they were long described, are now known to be apkallu, "bird-apkallu," mixed-feature exorcists and creatures of protection created by the god Ea. They traditionally served as advisors to kings. Their association with sacred trees, as they are often portrayed, remains somewhat perplexing.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/lanpernas2/8606000868/

In Neo-Assyrian art these bird-headed “genies,” as they were long described, are now known to be apkallu, “bird-apkallu,” mixed-feature exorcists and creatures of protection created by the god Ea. They traditionally served as advisors to kings. Their association with sacred trees, as they are often portrayed, remains somewhat perplexing. The banduddu (bucket) and mullilu (tree cone) are clearly depicted, in a format which is repeated in Neo-Assyrian art.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lanpernas2/8606000868/

When a figure does not hold a second object, the hand with which to hold the banduddû is not specified (kusarikku, cf. also text V i 12′; urmahlullû, text VI Col. B:31). Only Ensimah in the divergent “Göttertypentext” (MIO 176 v 21) holds the banduddû in his right hand.

The banduddû bucket is not to be confused with the “flowing vase”, called hegallu, “abundance”, in Akkadian (MIO 1 106 vi 8). In rituals the banduddû was filled with water (cf. CAD : the exorcist imitates Marduk, who, on the advise of Ea, takes water from the “mouth of the twin rivers”, casts his spell over it, and sprinkles it over the sick man: VAS 171i 21ff. (OB) reads: gi ba-an-dug-dug gi a-1á gliš-GAMI -m a šu u m-ti-en / í d ka – min – na a …

Ishtar at far left, with weaponry on her back, knife in hand. She is acknowledging the greeting of a worshipper, with an animal sacrifice in hand.  I am unsure about the divinity portrayed in the center, she is a goddess, the horned headdress confirms it, and she appears to hold the hegallu, a flowing vase, which is synonymous with "abundance." My scholarship is yet too meager to hazard a guess about the remaining figures depicted.

Ishtar at far left, with weaponry on her back, knife in hand. She is acknowledging the greeting of a worshipper, with an animal sacrifice in hand.
I am unsure about the divinity portrayed in the center, she is a goddess, the horned headdress confirms it, and she appears to hold the hegallu, a flowing vase, which is synonymous with “abundance.”
My scholarship is yet too meager to hazard a guess about the remaining figures depicted.

What follows is barely readable, but the section ends with: (26′) a ù – m u – e – s ù. In the translation the broken lines have been restored after the late parallels KAR 91 Rev. 1ff. and CT 17 26 64ff. (bilingual): “take the bucket, the hoisting device with the wooden bail, bring water from the mouth of the twin rivers (cf. Falkenstein ZA 45 32 ad CT 17 26 65), over that water cast your holy spell, purify it with your holy incantation, and sprinkle that water over the man, the son of his god”.

The effect of sprinkling the holy water is the “release”(ptr) of the threatened man (cf. Šurpu VIII 41; K 8005+ 33, quoted by Zimmern BBR 157m and CAD B 79b). The connection between “banduddû” and “release” (ptr) may have been reinforced by etymological speculation (dug = patāru).

The gi b a – a n – dug – dug was originally a reed (determinative GI) container (b a – a n, cf. Oppenheim Eames 10, Steinkeller OrNS 51 359) used to carry liquids (VAS 17 1 i 21′, cf. Civil Studies Oppenheim 87); as such it was coated with bitumen: d ug, “to caulk” ((Oppenheim Eames 85, Falkenstein NSGU 3 110).

A b a – a n- dug – dug could be made of metal as well (cf. CAD B 79b). The Neo-Assyrian bucket was occasionally still decorated with an imitation of basket-work design, but in fact apparently made of metal (cf. Madhloom Chronology 110f., Stearns AfOB 15 2544).”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 66.

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. II.A.3.9).

This depiction of a fish-apkallū (Apkallu, Abkallu) guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud. A fish's head can be seen on Apkallu's head, and its skin hangs down over the back of Apkallu's body.  Neo-Assyrian era, 865-860 BCE. From the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu; Biblical Calah), northern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London). Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg) http://www.ancient.eu/image/2708/

This depiction of a fish-apkallū (Apkallu, Abkallu) guarded the entrance to the temple of Ninurta at Nimrud. A fish’s head can be seen on Apkallu’s head, and its skin hangs down over the back of Apkallu’s body.
Neo-Assyrian era, 865-860 BCE. From the Temple of Ninurta, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu; Biblical Calah), northern Mesopotamia, Iraq. (The British Museum, London).
Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP (Glasg)
http://www.ancient.eu/image/2708/

At the threshold of the bedroom seven fish-apkallū guard the entrance; two further groups of seven fish-apkallū are buried in front of, and behind the chair. The chair may have been in the bedroom or perhaps rather in an adjoining living-room or dining-room (the furniture of a dining room in the Neo-Assyrian period has been studied by K. Deller and I. Finkel in ZA 74 86f.; it includes a kussiu, “chair”, but no bed).

Material: the ūmu-apkallū are made of e’ru, a kind of wood well known for its magical properties, but as yet not identified with certainty; Thompson DAB 298f.: “Laurel”, CAD E 318ff.: a variety of cornel (followed by AHw 247a), Salonen Wasserfahrzeuge 99, 152: “Lorbeer” (cf., Oppenheim Eames 54), Civil apud Landsberger Datepalm 26: “(dwarf)ash” (followed by CAD M/1 221a, M/2 220b, S 202a, AHw 676a), see further Sollberger Genava 26 61 and Snell Ledgers and Prices 211.

The god Ea is portrayed at far left, with water coursing from his shoulders.  Two fish-apkallu hold banduddu buckets. This bas relief is atypical in that the left-side fish-apkallu holds his banduddu in his right hand, rather than the left, as is portrayed in most other depictions.  This bas relief is also unusual in that it portrays the fish-apkallu with different objects in their raised hands. The raised hand of the fish-apkallu on the left is indistinct, partially covered by the water flowing from the shoulders of the god Ea, while the other fish-apkallu raises an object that I have not yet identified.

The god Ea is portrayed at far left, with water coursing from his shoulders.
Two fish-apkallu hold banduddu buckets. This bas relief is atypical in that the left-side fish-apkallu holds his banduddu in his right hand, rather than the left, as is portrayed in most other depictions.
This bas relief is also unusual in that it portrays the fish-apkallu with different objects in their raised hands. The raised hand of the fish-apkallu on the left is indistinct, partially covered by the water flowing from the shoulders of the god Ea, while the other fish-apkallu raises an object that I have not yet identified.

In the incantation UDUG HUL EDiN.NA DAGAL LA (cf. text III.C), that accompanies the fabrication of the statues of the ūmu apkallū, the e’ru of which they are to be made is called: gis HUL.DÚB.BA GIŠ NAM.TI.LA, “mace that hits evil (cf. Grayson Iraq 37 69), wood of life” (AAA 22 88:152f.).

Analogous to the designation of the tamarisk of which the gods were made as the “bone of divinity” (above A), the designation of the material of the ūmu apkallū reveals something of their character: they chase evil away, and procure life.

Probably relevant is the “mystical” commentary (cf. below note 3e) gis TUKUL MA.NU: VII u4-mu gis TUKUL dAMAR.UTU, “the mace of e’ru: the seven ūmu-demons, the mace of Marduk“. Here “the mace of cornel” may refer to the seven ūmu-apkallū holding an e’ru stick or mace in their right hands. In straight-forward ritual contexts (notes 2, 13c, d, e) “mace of cornel” is rather an alternative designation of the e’ru (stick/mace) itself.

The ūmu-apkallū certainly did not belong to the bīnūt apsê, “creatures of apsû” (I 144); they probably did not belong to the bīnūt šamê, “creatures of heaven”, either, since the preceding designation salmī annūti, “these statues”, refers to the statues of tamarisk made the same day, and not to the statues of cornel made the day before (I 143).

The line closing the description of the statues of cornel does not contain a general term analogous to I 143 closing the tamarisk section; perhaps I 28 did contain such a term, or perhaps no such term was used.

A bas relief in the Louvre.  In this case the bird-apkallū tends to a sacred tree. Considering the mullilu in his right hand and the banduddu in his left, (tree cone and water bucket), he is engaged in a water ritual intended to sanctify the sacred tree. This is a common motif in Sumerian and Neo-Assyrian idols.  This bas relief is in the Louvre.  Primary publicationNimrud NW Palace I-24 = RIMA 2.0.101.023, ex. 189 (f) Collection	Nimrud, Iraq (a); British Museum, London, UK (b); Louvre Museum, Paris, France (c); Nimrud, Iraq (d); Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA (e); British Museum, London, UK; Louvre Museum, Paris, France  Museum no.	Nimrud fragment no. 42 (a); BM 098061 (b); AO 22198 (c); Nimrud fragment no. 43 and 45 (d); DIA 47.181 (e) (photo: DIA); AO 19849  Accession no.	1903-10-10, 0002 (b) Provenience	Kalhu (mod. Nimrud) Period	Neo-Assyrian (ca. 911-612 BC)

A bas relief in the Louvre.
In this case the bird-apkallū tends to a sacred tree. Considering the mullilu in his right hand and the banduddu in his left, (tree cone and water bucket), he is engaged in a water ritual intended to sanctify the sacred tree. This is a common motif in Sumerian and Neo-Assyrian idols.
This bas relief is in the Louvre.
Primary publication Nimrud NW Palace I-24 = RIMA 2.0.101.023, ex. 189 (f)
Collection Nimrud, Iraq (a); British Museum, London, UK (b); Louvre Museum, Paris, France (c); Nimrud, Iraq (d); Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, USA (e); British Museum, London, UK; Louvre Museum, Paris, France
Museum no. Nimrud fragment no. 42 (a); BM 098061 (b); AO 22198 (c); Nimrud fragment no. 43 and 45 (d); DIA 47.181 (e) (photo: DIA); AO 19849
Accession no. 1903-10-10, 0002 (b)
Provenience Kalhu (mod. Nimrud)
Period Neo-Assyrian (ca. 911-612 BC)

The bird- and fish-apkallū are made of clay, and are included among the bīnūt apsê, “the creatures of apsû” (I 144). They and the other statues of clay are the salmū sākip lemnūti ša Ea u Marduk, “the statues repelling the evil ones, of Ea and Marduk“, stationed in the house “to expel the foot of evil” (I 160f. 165f.). The bird- and fish-apkallū are separated, however, from the other figures of clay by a line indicating the end of a section (I 183).

In text I the clay of the bird-apkallū is mixed with wax.”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 65.

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.

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