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Tag: Magical Ceremony

Magical Practices in Ancient Babylonia

” … magic flourished like tropical fungi. Indeed, the worker of spells was held in high repute, and his operations were in most cases allowed free play.

There are only two paragraphs in the Hammurabi Code which deal with magical practices. It is set forth that if one man cursed another and the curse could not be justified, the perpetrator of it must suffer the death penalty.

Provision was also made for discovering whether a spell had been legally imposed or not. The victim was expected to plunge himself in a holy river. If the river carried him away it was held as proved that he deserved his punishment, and “the layer of the spell” was given possession of the victim’s house.

A man who could swim was deemed to be innocent; he claimed the residence of “the layer of the spell,” who was promptly put to death.

With this interesting glimpse of ancient superstition the famous Code opens, and then strikes a modern note by detailing the punishments for perjury and the unjust administration of law in the courts.

[ … ]

When a patient was wasted with disease, growing thinner and weaker and more bloodless day by day, it was believed that a merciless vampire was sucking his veins and devouring his flesh. It had therefore to be expelled by performing a magical ceremony and repeating a magical formula. The demon was either driven or enticed away.

A magician had to decide in the first place what particular demon was working evil. He then compelled its attention and obedience by detailing its attributes and methods of attack, and perhaps by naming it.

Thereafter he suggested how it should next act by releasing a raven, so that it might soar towards the clouds like that bird, or by offering up a sacrifice which it received for nourishment and as compensation.

Another popular method was to fashion a waxen figure of the patient and prevail upon the disease demon to enter it. The figure was then carried away to be thrown in the river or burned in a fire.”

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915.

In Which a Pharaoh Sends the Statue of a God on a Journey

The Prince of Bekhten, seeing that the priest was unable to afford relief to his daughter, sent once again to the king, and entreated him to send a god to his help.

When the ambassador from Bekhten arrived in Egypt the king was in Thebes, and on hearing what was asked he went into the temple of Khonsu Nefer-hetep, and besought that god to allow his counterpart Khonsu to depart to Bekhten and to deliver the daughter of the prince of that country from the power of the demon that possessed her.

It seems as if the sage Tehuti-em-heb had been sent to Bekhten by the advice of the god, for the king says, in addressing, the god, “I have come once again into thy presence”; but in any case Khonsu Nefer-hetep agreed to his request, and a fourfold measure of magical power was imparted to the statue of the god which was to go to Bekhten.

The god, seated in his boat, and five other boats with figures of gods in them, accompanied by chariots and horses on the right hand and on the left, set out from Egypt, and after travelling for seventeen months arrived in Bekhten, where they were received with great honour.

The god Khonsu went to the place where Bent-ent-resht was, and, having performed a magical ceremony over her, the demon departed from her and she was cured straightway.

Then the demon addressed the Egyptian god, saying, “Grateful and welcome is thy coming unto us, O great god, thou vanquisher of the hosts of darkness!”

“Bekhten is thy city, the inhabitants thereof are thy slaves, and I am thy servant; and I will depart unto the place whence I came that I may gratify thee, for unto this end hast thou come thither.”

“And I beseech thy Majesty to command that the Prince of Bekhten and I may hold a festival together.”

To the demon’s request Khonsu agreed, and he commanded his priest to tell the Prince of Bekhten to make a great festival in honour of the demon; this having been done by the command of Khonsu the demon departed to his own place.

When the Prince of Bekhten saw that Khonsu was thus powerful, he and all his people rejoiced exceedingly, and he determined that the god should not be allowed to return to Egypt, and as a result Khonsu remained in Bekhten for three years, four months, and five days.

On a certain day, however, the Prince was sleeping., and he dreamed a dream in which he saw the god Khonsu come forth from his shrine in the form of a hawk of gold, and having mounted into the air he flew away to Egypt.

The Prince woke up in a state of great perturbation, and having inquired of the Egyptian priest was told by him that the god had departed to Egypt, and that his chariot must now be sent back.

Then the Prince gave to Khonsu great gifts, and they were taken to Egypt and laid before the god Khonsu Nefer-hetep in his temple at Thebes.

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 211-3.

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