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Astral Magic in Babylonia 

Author(s): Erica Reiner 

Source: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 

pp. i-150 

Published by: American Philosophical Society 

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Astral Magic in Babylonia 


of the 
American Philosophical Society 

Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge 

VOLUME 85, Part 4, 1995 

Astral Magic in Babylonia 


Independence Square, Philadelphia 


Copyright © 1995 by The American Philosophical Society All rights reserved. Reproduction 
of this monograph in whole or in part in any media is restricted. 

Cover: Neo-Baby Ionian tablet with relief of a sundisk suspended before the sun god. 
Courtesy of the British Museum, no. 91000; published by L.W. King, Babylonian Boundary- 
Stones (London, 1912) pi. xcviii. 

Reiner, Erica 

Astral Magic in Babylonia 

Includes references and index. 

1. Babylonia 2. Magic 

3. Religion 4. History, Ancient 

ISBN: 0-87169-854-4 95-76539 


List of Illustrations vi 

Foreword vii 

Abbreviations x 

Introduction 1 

Chapter I: The Role of Stars 15 

Chapter II: The Art of the Herbalist 25 

Chapter III: Medicine 43 

Chapter IV: Divination 61 

Chapter V: Apotropaia 81 

Chapter VI: Sorcerers and Sorceresses 97 

Chapter VII: The Nature of Stones 119 

Chapter VIII: Nocturnal Rituals 133 

Index 145 


1. Relief from Assurnasirpal's palace with the king wearing a 
necklace hung with emblems of the planets 4 

2. Cylinder seal showing bearded Istar 5 

3, 4, 5. Representations of constellations incised on a Late 

Babylonian tablet 10, 11 

6. Middle register of a bronze plaque, showing a patient 

being cured 45 

7. Seal representing Gula with her dog 54 

8. Gula and her dog represented on a boundary stone 54 

9. Clay models of sheep livers inscribed with liver omens ... 60 
10. Bronze bell decorated with scenes of exorcisms of demons . . 80 



I, Muhammad ibn Ishaq, have lastly only to add that the 
books on this subject are too numerous and extensive to be 
recorded in full, and besides the authors keep on repeating 
the statements of their predecessors. 

al-Nadlm, Fihrist, vol. 1, p. 360 

Magic, astrology, and witchcraft have become fashionable of 
late. The appeal of the mysterious and the occult to the contem- 
porary public has spawned a considerable literature on magic, 
ancient and exotic alike. Classicists have mined Greek and 
Latin sources for elements of magic and sorcery, and have 
made forays into the neighboring territories of the ancient Near 
East for parallels, real or assumed. 

Knowledgeable as he may be in his own field, the Classical 
scholar cannot be expected to be equally well versed in the lit- 
erature of peoples whose records have survived in the cunei- 
form script only and are couched in dead languages that have 
been deciphered only in the last century. One, Sumerian, is not 
related to any known language; the other, Akkadian, even 
though it belongs to the Semitic family of languages, diverges 
from its relatives sufficiently to be difficult to master. Not sur- 
prisingly, the most apposite and interesting comparisons often 
suffer from a misunderstanding of the Near Eastern material. 
Connections between the oriental cultures and their echoes in 
the west become tenuous if one term of the equation is incor- 
rectly expressed. To provide a foundation for comparisons the 
Near Eastern material needs to be presented in a reliable form. 
This is the purpose of my study. My sources are culled from 
such scientific texts as medicine, divination, and rituals, which 
are not usually included in anthologies of Mesopotamian texts 
and are rarely available in translation. 

While I do not claim familiarity with the Classical data, it has 
seemed necessary that I refer to Greek and Latin sources as I 
attempt to point up parallels. Many suggestions for the paths 
to pursue and references to the literature came from David Pin- 



gree, whose wisdom and interest have sustained this work. My 
quotes from and my translations of Classical sources are 
neither independent nor original; I adduce them simply 
because they provide a context that the cuneiform sources lack, 
and therefore they situate in a broader background the Near 
Eastern texts 7 terse allusions. The point becomes evident from 
the examples of "drawing down the moon/' and "seizing the 
mouth/ 7 discussed in Chapters V and VI. 

In spite of some striking similarities which may simply attest 
to the universal and ubiquitous nature of magic practices, one 
must note that well-attested procedures in Hellenistic and later 
magic are not matched in their more specific details by the 
Mesopotamian material, as the comparison of rituals for the 
confection of amulets and prescriptions for molding figurines 
and their paraphernalia shows. Of course, the few Mesopo- 
tamian rituals with detailed descriptions of the materia and the 
dromena have been many times invoked by comparatists and 
historians of religion, from Mircea Eliade 7 s Cosmologie et alchimie 
babyloniennes (Bucarest: Vremea, 1937 [in Rumanian]; French 
translation Paris: Gallimard, 1991) to Walter Burkert's Die orien- 
talisierende Epoche of 1982 (Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger 
Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische 
Klasse, 1984/1 = The Orientalizing Revolution, Cambridge, Mass. 
and London: Harvard University Press, 1992), not to mention 
more romantic and popular books of the past. 

There are other important differences between the Near East 
and Greece. In Mesopotamia, preserved are those rituals that 
exorcists set down in handbooks and handed on to their disci- 
ples and successors through generations; these can be regarded 
as the official scientific manuals of the experts. Magic was not 
a marginal and clandestine manipulation; it was an activity pre- 
scribed and overtly practiced for the benefit of king and court, 
or of important individuals — only noxious witchcraft was for- 
bidden and prosecuted. The magic of the common folk prob- 
ably was never written down, and we have not much to go on 
when seeking to compare it with the material from the West. 
Neither can we document from Mesopotamia, as we can from 
the Hellenistic world and Rome, the changes in the social and 
legal status of magic and its practitioners. Moreover, in the Clas- 
sical world we are privileged to have a vivid documentation of 



the use of magic in the literary sources, whether they deal with 
mythological events or events deemed historical. Classical lit- 
erature provides the background against which the spells on 
lamellae, amulets, or gems can be delimited. The accounts of 
the preparation of a magic ritual, its aims, and its effects found 
in Homer, Greek drama and novels, in epics such as Lucan's 
Pharsalia, or the stories of Lucian, are the envy of the Assyriol- 
ogist who has to be content with the allusions, or tantalizing 
glimpses into the practice of magic, which Mesopotamian 
sources allow. 

The Near Eastern material for this book was collected over 
many years of association with the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, 
for the stimulation provided by discussions at the Institute for 
Advanced Study in Princeton (in the second term of 1990-91 
and the summer of 1992), and for the opportunity to explore 
a variety of avenues there I am indebted especially to the fac- 
ulty of the Institute's School of Historical Studies. The original 
impetus to study astral influences in Babylonia, as well as 
many suggestions, came from Otto Neugebauer; I could no 
longer seek his advice for the final manuscript in Princeton, but 
to his memory I would like to dedicate this work. 



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The nobles are deep in sleep, 1 

the bars (of the doors) are lowered, the bolts(?) are in place - 

(also) the (ordinary) people do not utter a sound, 

the(ir always) open doors are locked. 

The gods and goddesses of the country - 

Samas, Sin, Adad and Istar- 

have gone home to heaven to sleep, 

they will not give decisions or verdicts (tonight). 

And the diviner ends: 

May the great gods of the night: 

shining Fire-star, 

heroic Irra, 

Bow-star, Yoke-star, 

Orion, Dragon-star, 

Wagon, Goat-star, 

Bison-star, Serpent-star 

stand by and 

put a propitious sign 

in the lamb I am blessing now 

for the haruspicy I will perform (at dawn). 2 

One of the rare prayers from Mesopotamia that strike a 
responsive chord in a modern reader, this prayer, or rather lyric 
poem, is known among Assyriologists as 'Prayer to the Gods 
of the Night/ The Gods of the Night of the title is but the trans- 
lation of the Akkadian phrase ill musiti that appears in line 14 
of this poem and in the incipit of various other versions of 
the prayer. 

The Gods of the Night, as their enumeration in this poem 

1 The first word of the poem (here translated 'deep in sleep' from bullulu 
'to become numb?' with CAD B p. 44a s.v. balalu) has been read pullusu by 

Wolfram von Soden, ZA 43 (1936) 306 and AHw. 814a; a reading pullulu, with 
the translation 'secured' was proposed by A. Livingstone, NABU 1990/86. 

2 The translation is that of Oppenheim, Analecta Biblica 12 (1959) 295f., 
with minor modifications. 


shows, are the stars and constellations of the night sky. How 
prevalent is the appeal to stellar deities, and to what extent and 
in what circumstances are the gods and goddesses worshipped 
in Mesopotamia considered under their stellar manifestations, 
is the subject I wish to treat here. 

The situational context for reciting this prayer is divination, 
and more specifically the preparation by the haruspex— 
Akkadian baru — oi the lamb that will be slaughtered so that the 
inspection of its entrails — exta— yield an omen, usually as 
answer to the diviner's query. This role of the baru in Meso- 
potamian divination has not received particular attention in 
the many studies that deal with it and with its relationship 
to the Etruscan disciplina. 3 

Other areas of Mesopotamian life that rely on, appeal to, or 
use the power of the stars are magic machinations, meant to 
cause harm as well as to protect from harm; the confection of 
amulets and charms; the establishing of favorable or unfavor- 
able moments in time; and the complex domain of medicine, 
from procuring the herb or other medicinal substance, through 
the preparation and administration of the medication. 

There is a vast corpus of Babylonian literature, hardly ex- 
ploited by Assyriologists even, and of which a small part only 
is available to the non-specialist in translation or in excerpt, that 
can be mined for references or allusions to astral magic, that 
is, efforts to use the influence of the heavenly bodies upon the 
sublunar world, for purposes beneficent to man as well as for 
evil machinations. Such astral magic, as the art of harnessing 
the power of the stars may be called, was practiced on the one 
hand by scholars, such as the professional diviners and exor- 
cists, to foretell the future and to avert evil portents, and on the 
other by sorcerers and sorceresses who harnessed the same 

3 See especially Jean Nougayrol, "Trente ans de recherches sur la divina- 
tion babylonienne (1935-1965)" in La Divination en Mesopotamie ancienne et 
dans les regions voisines, XIV e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale 
(Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1966) 5-19; idem, "La divination 
babylonienne," in La Divination, A. Caquot and M. Leibovici, eds. (Paris: 
Presses Universitaires de France, 1968), vol. 1, pp. 25-81; see also Jean 
Bottero, "Symptomes, Signes, Ecritures," in Divination et Rationalite, J.-P. Ver- 
nant, ed. (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1974), 70-197. 


powers to inflict harm upon an adversary. The former were 
knowledgeable in apotropaic rituals, the latter in black magic. 

Of the stars that appear in these magic contexts it is not only 
the planets that are invoked for their influence, as they are in 
Hellenistic astrology, but also various fixed stars and constella- 
tions. Babylonian constellations take their names from the 
shapes that their configurations suggest: human figures, ani- 
mals, or common objects, similar, and sometimes identical to 
the names they had in Classical antiquity, as we learn from the 
descriptions of celestial configurations known as the Greek 
and the Barbaric, i.e., non-Greek, spheres, 4 the latter usually 
taken to refer to the Egyptian or the Babylonian sphere. 

Illustrations are rare and late in Mesopotamia; still, we are 
able to identify many constellations, even those whose names 
are uniquely Babylonian. The identifications are based mainly 
on astronomical data; these are complemented and confirmed 
by the single cuneiform text that gives a description of part of 
the heavens. 5 Thus, among the animal figures, the Goat is the 
constellation Lyra, and the Snake more or less corresponds 
to Hydra; among the demons and divine beings the Demon 
with the Gaping Mouth is roughly equivalent to Cygnus (with 
parts of Cepheus), and the True Shepherd of the god of the sky, 
Anu, is Orion; of the celestial counterparts of terrestrial objects 
the Arrow is Sirius, the Furrow, Spica, and the Wagon is Ursa 
Maior, our Big Dipper. 

Mathematical astronomy in Mesopotamia appears in the 
fifth century B.C. The observation of the heavens and the rec- 
ognition of the periodicities of heavenly phenomena go back, 
nevertheless, much farther in time. The identity of the appear- 
ances of Venus as Evening star and Morning star was known 
early, and so was, though possibly at a later date, that of the 
two appearances of Mercury. The telling names given to the 
fastest planet, Mercury: the Leaping One, 6 and to the slowest, 
Saturn: the Steady One 7 also testify to the astronomical knowl- 

4 Also called Sphaera graecanica and Sphaera barbarica, see Boll, Sphaera 
pp. 411f. 

3 E. F. Weidner, "Eine Beschreibung des Sternenhimmels aus Assur," 
AfO 4 (1927) 73-85. 

6 GUD.UD = Sihtu, see A. J. Sachs, LBAT p. xxxvii. 

7 SAG. US = kayamanu. 


FIGURE 1. Relief from Assurnasirpal's palace with the king wearing a 
necklace hung with emblems of the planets. Courtesy of the British Mu- 
seum, no. 124525. 

edge of the Babylonians. Of the other planets Mars was, obvi- 
ously, the Red planet, also known as the Enemy; 8 Jupiter was 
Heroic. 9 Sun and Moon were included in the number of the 
seven planets. The Sun, surveying the entire earth, omnipres- 
ent and omniscient, was as in other cultures the god of justice, 
as expressed in the great hymn to Samas, discussed below, and 
the Scales (the constellation Libra, Akkadian Zibanitu) have as 
epithet "Samas's star of justice/ 7 an association comparable to 
that of personified Justice holding the scales in her hand on 
medieval representations. 10 

The stars and planets may be addressed under their astral 

8 Makru 'red/ and Nakru 'enemy.' 

9 Sumerian UD.AL.TAR, Akkadian Dapinu; the meaning of Jupiter's most 
common name, SAG.ME.GAR, has so far remained opaque, not even the cor- 
rect reading of the signs ME.GAR (that is, whether they are to be pronounced 
megar or not) is known. 

10 It was the constellation Virgo, which is adjacent to Libra, that was asso- 
ciated with Dike, the goddess of Justice, see RE 9 (1903) 577ff ., as in the Com- 
mentaries to Aratos' Phaenomena 602 (Maass): virgo iusta quae et libra vocatur. 
For the scales as attribute of the goddess Justitia see, e.g., Lexicon der christ- 
lichen Ikonographie , Engelbert Kirschbaum S. J., ed., vol. 2 (Rome: Herder, 
1970) 467f.; see especially Karl Ludwig Skutsch, "Libramen Aequum," Die 
Antike 12 (1936) 49-64. 


FIGURE 2. Cylinder seal showing bearded Istar, published as no. 371 in 
Edith Porada, Corpus of Ancient Near Eastern Seals in North American Col- 
lections, I (The Bollingen Series XIV), Washington: Pantheon Press, 1948. 

names or as the deities they represent: Ninurta, Istar, Gula, 
etc.; the difference between the two designations may be ex- 
pressed in the cuneiform writing by the sign that precedes their 
names: either the sign for "god" or the sign for "star." The 
prefixed cuneiform sign indicates, as do other so-called "deter- 
minatives/ 7 the class to which an entity belongs. The determina- 
tive for divine names, customarily transcribed as a raised letter 
d ( d ), is abbreviated from the Sumerian word dingir 'god/ itself 
evolved from the pictogram representing an eight-pointed star; 
the determinative for stars is the word-sign for the Sumerian 
word mul 'star/ whose pictographic predecessor was a configu- 
ration of three stars. Thus, the spellings MUL.PA.BIL.SAG and 
d PA.BIL.SAG 'Sagittarius/ MUL.SIPA.ZI.AN.NA and d SIPA.ZI.AN. 
NA 'Orion/ MUL.GU 4 .UD and d GU 4 .UD 'Mercury/ MUL Delebat 
and d Delebat 'Venus 7 are interchangeable, sometimes even in 
one and the same text. 11 

The highest divine triad, Anu, Enlil, and Ea, are not identi- 
fied with individual stars, constellations, or planets; rather, 
among them they represent the entire sky, not only in the 
person of Anu, the sky god par excellence, whose name in 

11 Late astrological and astronomical texts occasionally use other deter- 
minatives, such as the signs TE, AB, and GAN, for which the readings mul, 
mul x and mul 4 were devised by Assyriologists; the reasons for the choice of 
these determinatives elude us; they may represent a learned pun or a crypto- 
gram. For AB see the literature quoted by A. J. Sachs, JCS 21 (1967, published 
1969) 200. 


Sumerian, an, means 'sky/ 12 but especially as lords of the 
three "paths" in the sky, the "Path of Ami," the "Path of Enlil," 
and the "Path of Ea," which represent three segments of the 
horizon over which the stars rise. 13 

The two appearances of Venus, even though identified as the 
same planet, were attributed to two distinct manifestations of 
the same deity: As morning star, Venus was female; as evening 
star, male, 14 and the two aspects corresponded to the double 
character of Istar as goddess of love and war. As the male deity 
Istar is described as bearded, 15 and she is so represented on 
an Islamic bronze candelabra, now in the Musee des Arts 
Decoratifs. 16 As for Mercury who, just as in Hellenistic astrol- 
ogy, is both male and female, 17 the identity of the planet in his 
evening and morning visibilities was recognized long before 
astronomical tables calculating Mercury's period were com- 
posed: Mercury is addressed as "star of sunrise and sunset." 18 

Mars, the hostile planet, presides over destruction, and is 

12 The pictogram which evolved into the cuneiform sign AN, which also 
stands for dingir 'god/ is the image of an eight-pointed star. 

13 For this identification, see David Pingree, BPO 2 p. 17f. The three 
"paths" frequently occur in celestial omens. 

14 Usually the opposite is held, in conformity with Ptolemy's assignment 
of genders to planets in Tetrabiblos 1.6 and 7. The Babylonian evidence is 
based on an explanatory text dealing with Venus, published in 3R 53 (K.5990, 
republished in ACh Istar 8) from which the lines "Venus is female at sunset" 
and "Venus is male at sunrise" were communicated by Sayce, in TSBA 3 
(1874) 196; the text is also cited by Parpola, LAS 2 p. 77 and n. 157 In fact, 
K.5990 is the only source holding that Venus is female at sunset, while others 
(BM 134543, K.10566, 81-2-4,239, etc., see Reiner and Pingree, BPO 3) hold 
that Venus ina d UTU.E (KUR-rafl) sinnisat 'is female (rising) in the east/ For 
Venus being female in the west see a] ** Wolfgang Heimpel, "The Sun at 
Night and the Doors of Heaven in Babylonian Texts," JCS 38 (1986) 127-51. 

15 ziqna zaqnat in Tablet 61 of the celestial omen series Enuma Anu Enlil, 
and in its parallel sections in the series iqqur Tpus for which see Chapter V. 
She is also often represented with a beard on Mesopotamian cylinder seals, 
see hg. 2. 

16 Listed as No. 3057 in the Amtlicher Katalog of the 1910 Miinchen 
exhibit, cited by F. Saxl, Der Islam 3 (1912) 174 n. 4: "Venus (wohl miBverstand- 
lich) bartig." 

17 Akkadian zikar sinnis (NITA SAL) 'male (and) female/ K.2346 r. 29, com- 
pare Ptolemy Tetrabiblos 1.6 and 7 

18 AfO 18 (1957-58) 385ff. CBS 733 + 1757:11 (prayer to Marduk as Mer- 
cury, edited by W. G. Lambert). 


equated with Nergal, god of pestilence. His rising— first visibility— 
is a bad omen, portending death of the herds: "Mars will rise 
and destroy the herd/ 719 the only prediction of an astronomical 
event, apart from omens predicting an eclipse, appearing in 
other than celestial omens. His Akkadian name, Salbatanu, has 
no known meaning or etymology. 20 Learned Babylonian com- 
mentaries have explained this name as 'He who keeps plague 
constant' by breaking up the name into its syllabic components 
and interpreting these syllables in Sumerian, thus arriving at 
the assumed Akkadian reading Mustabarru mutanu. 21 

The names of most planets have no identifiable meaning in 
either Sumerian or Akkadian, neither the just mentioned 
name of Mars, Salbatanu, nor Jupiter's most common name 
SAG. ME .GAR (see note 9); nor the name of Venus, written Dil- 
bat (preferably to be read Dele-bat following the Greek transcrip- 
tion Delephat). No clear etymology or explanation exists for the 
Akkadian or Sumerian word for 'planet' itself. In Greek, planetes 
are the 'errant ones' because they roam the sky amidst the fixed 
stars; the Akkadian word for planet, bibbu, 'wild sheep,' may 
also refer to their irregular movement. 22 

19 References to this prediction from lunar omens have been collected by 
Francesca Rochberg-Halton, in A Scientific Humanist. Studies in Memory of 
Abraham Sachs, Erie Leichty, M. dej. Ellis, P. Gerardi, eds. (Philadelphia: The 
University Museum, 1988) 323-28. The omen also appears as apodosis of a 
liver omen, RA 65 (1971) 73:62, cited CAD N p. 266, as also noted by M. Stol, 
Bibliotheca Orientalis 47 (1990) 375, and in a celestial omen on solar eclipses, 
with the name of Mars replaced by MUL.UDU.BAD 'planet/ ACh Samas 8:62. 

20 Even the correct reading of the polyvalent signs NI = sal and BE = bat 
with which the name is customarily written has only recently been con- 
firmed with the help of a spelling sa-al-ba-ta-nu, in the liver omen cited in 
the preceding note, see Jean Nougayrol, RA 65 (1971) 82 ad line 62. 

21 In the list 5R 46 no. 1:42, based on the equations ZAL = sutabru (infini- 
tive) 'to last long/ participle mustabarru; BAD = miltu, with phonetic comple- 
ment -a-nu = mutanu 'plague' or 'great death/ 

22 The Sumerian word which is equated with bibbu, UDU.BAD, also con- 
tains the word 'sheep' (UDU), but the second element, the polyvalent sign 
BAD, once thought to have the reading idim 'wild/ has recently been found 
glossed til, in the gloss to line 34 of Tablet XI of HAR-ra = hubullu, which 
lists hides, among them [KUS.U]DU.BAD (gloss: [u]-du-ti-il) = masak bi-ib-bi; 
see MSL 7 124:34, and for the gloss, MSL 9 197. Since in Sumerian til means 
'finished' or 'complete/ the once assumed meaning 'wild sheep' for the 
Sumerian word is no longer tenable. 


But of all the planets it was the Moon that was of the greatest 
importance to the Babylonians. It was the Moon, from its first 
sighting to its last, that regulated the calendar, which was based 
on lunar months. The Moon is a "Fruit, lord of the month," 23 
constantly renewing himself, as his epithet eddesu 'ever-renewing 7 
stresses. The Moon's waxing and waning does not determine 
a stronger or weaker influence on, say, the growing of crops as 
it does in Hellenistic astrology, but its phases signal the timing 
of various ritual acts. The Moon god, Sin, the father of both Sa- 
mas (the Sun) and Istar, is a male deity, not the Selene or Luna 
of the Greeks and Romans, but he still has an affinity with 
women magicians, sorceresses who are able to "draw down the 
Moon" (see Chapter VI). The eclipse of the Moon, in particular, 
remained a terrifying event, whose dire predictions had to be 
averted by penitential rites, 24 including, under the Sargonid 
kings in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C., the installation 
of a substitute king. This substitute king reigned for one hun- 
dred days and was then put to death, thus taking upon himself 
the misfortune and death portended for the king. 25 

Sun, Moon, and Venus, represented by their emblems the 
sundisk, the lunar crescent, and the eight-pointed star, are com- 
monly depicted on monuments — steles, boundary stones — as 
guardians of the provisions sworn to in the treaty or deed 
recorded therein. 

The influence of these stellar deities on man is twofold: they 
are both the origin of ills that beset him and the beneficent 
powers that can be made favorably disposed toward a suppli- 
cant. They may cause affliction, exerting nefarious influence on 
their own or through sorcerers' manipulations, and they may 
herald ill fortune by their motions and configurations that are 
recorded in the extensive collection of celestial omens. 

However, through proper prayers and rituals the stars 7 
influence can avert the portended misfortune and assist the 
exorcist and the physician in healing illness. 

23 Inbu bel arhi; this metaphor is also the name of a Babylonian royal hem- 
erology, for which see pp. 113f . 

24 The text (BRM 4 6) is treated by Erich Ebeling, Tod und Leben nach den 
Vorstellungen der Babylonier (Berlin and Leipzig: de Gruyter & Co., 1931) no. 
24, pp. 91-96. 

25 For this ritual see Parpola, LAS 2 pp. xxii-xxxii. 


Astral magic and the role of astral deities have been amply 
studied in connection with Hellenistic Egypt and the corpus of 
Hermetic texts and magical papyri originating in Egypt. 26 The 
cuneiform evidence from Mesopotamia has been largely 
neglected by Assyriologists, and has been at the most utilized 
at second hand by other scholars who had to rely on often inex- 
actly edited Babylonian sources. But even if comparison with 
neighboring civilizations had not so suggested, the power 
attributed to the heavenly bodies and their significance and 
impact accqrding to the Babylonians 7 conception in their cos- 
mology should have been evident from such Mesopotamian 
images as the poetic phrase "writing of heaven" (sitir same or 
sitir burume) applied to the starry sky, 27 and from King 
Esarhaddon's remark that he depicted on steles "lumasu-stars 
which represent the writing of my name." 28 Uncertain is the 
reference, unfortunately still opaque, to the "reading" or 
"meaning" of Assurbanipal's name that was revealed in a 
dream to Gyges, king of Lydia. 29 

Poetic texts are also the first to adumbrate how the moon and 
the stars give signs and warnings to men, even before the art 
of celestial divination had assumed the status of a scholarly dis- 
cipline. The so-called "King of Battle" (sar tamhari), an Old Baby- 
lonian poem dealing with the exploits of King Sargon of Akkad 

26 Garth Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes: a historical approach to the late 
pagan mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) can be consulted 
for earlier references. 

27 See CAD S/3 p. 146 s.v.; cited (after Zimmern) already by Franz 
Dornseiff, Das Alphabet in Mystik und Magie, Stoicheia Heft 7 (Leipzig and 
Berlin: Teubner, 1922) 89f. 

28 lumase sitir sumiya, Borger, Esarh. p. 28:11, lumase tamsil sitir sumiya, 
Borger, Esarh. p. 27 Ep. 40:9. An attempt at correlating this phrase with the 
symbols depicted on the stone monument was made by D. D. Luckenbill, 
'The Black Stone of Esarhaddon," American Journal of Semitic Languages 41 
(1924-25) 165-73; see also, with reference to Sargon's use of the phrase, 
C. J. Gadd, Ideas of Divine Rule in the Ancient East, The Schweich Lectures 
of the British Academy 1945 (London, 1948) 93-95. 

29 See for this episode Mordechai Cogan and Hayim Tadmor, "Gyges 
and Ashurbanipal," Or. NS 46 (1977) 75, though they, by preferring the manu- 
script tradition which writes nibit sarrutiya 'the mention of my kingship' over 
nibit sumiya 'the "reading" of my name/ divorce this occurrence from the 
other occurrences of this well-attested phrase. 


Figure 3 

* •" ■* 

I ?fe 



Figure 4 



Figure 5 

FIGURES 3, 4, 5. Representations of constellations incised on a Late Baby- 
lonian tablet. Fig. 3, courtesy of the Louvre, no. AO 6448; ng. 4 courtesy of 
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, no. VAT 7847; ng. 5 courtesy of Staatliche 
Museen zu Berlin, no. VAT 7851. 

(c. 2400 B.C.), 30 relates how 'the sun became obscured, the 
stars came forth for the enemy/ 31 a celestial portent that must 
refer to a solar eclipse during which the stars became visible, 
an event that was evidently to be interpreted as the stars por- 
tending victory for Sargon against his enemy. 

Allusions to celestial portents given to Sargon appear in liver 
omens, the earliest recorded mode of divination, which is at- 
tested long before celestial omens were collected and codified. 
A particular configuration of the sheep's liver is said to refer to 
King Sargon of Akkad as one who "traversed darkness and 
light came out for him." 32 This description must record an 
eclipse occurring under Sargon, in spite of its peculiar phrase- 
ology; indeed, omens from lunar eclipses were the first to be 
committed to writing, possibly as early as 1800 B.C. 33 More 

30 Joan G. Westenholz, Legends of the Kings of Akkad . . . (forthcoming). 

31 id'im samsum kakkabu li-su-ii ana nakrim, RA 45 (1951) 174:63-64; for 
a different interpretation see J.-J. Glassner, RA 79 (1985) 123. 

32 For omens referring to Sargon of Akkad see H. Hirsch, AfO 20 (1963) 7ff . 

33 F. Rochberg-Halton, Aspects of Babylonian Celestial Divination: The Lunar 



important, Sargon's later namesake, Sargon II of Assyria, also 
records, no doubt intentionally referring to his illustrious 
predecessor's example, that a lunar eclipse portended victory 
for him on his campaign against Urartu in 714 B.C. 34 

Portents from lunar and solar eclipses, as well as from other 
lunar, solar, stellar, and meteorological phenomena eventually 
were collected and more or less standardized in the omen col- 
lection called from its incipit Enuma Anu Enlil 'When Anu (and) 
Enlil 7 comprising seventy books (Akkadian: "tablets" 35 ) along 
with various excerpts from these and commentaries to them. 36 
But while these prognostications provided warnings for king 
and country— though rarely for an individual— the stars and 
planets were not thought to affect man's destiny by their direct 
influence, as they were in Greek horoscopic astrology. In Otto 
Neugebauer's words: 

Before the fifth century B.C. celestial omina probably did not 
include predictions for individuals, based on planetary positions 

Eclipse Tablets of Enuma Anu Enlil, Archiv fur Orientforschung, Beiheft 22 
(Horn, Austria: Ferdinand Berger, 1989). See also P. Huber, "Dating by Lunar 
Eclipse Omens with Speculations on the Birth of Omen Astrology," in From 
Ancient Omens to Statistical Mechanics. Essays on the Exact Sciences Presented to 
Asger Aaboe, J. L. Berggren and B. R. Goldstein, eds., Acta Historica Scien- 
tiarum Naturalium et Medicinalium, 39 (Copenhagen: University Library, 
1987) 3-13. For attempts at using omens that connect lunar eclipses with his- 
torical events (the so-called "historical omens") for the purposes of dating 
these events, see Johann Schaumberger, "Die Mondnnsternisse der Dritten 
Dynastie von Ur," ZA 49 (1949) 50-58, and idem, "Astronomische Untersu- 
chung der 'historischen' Mondnnsternisse in Enuma Anu Enlil," AfO 17 
(1954-56) 89-92. 

34 A. L. Oppenheim, "The City of Assur in 714 B.C.," JNES 19 (1960) 

35 The term "tablet" is used in Assyriology to designate a chapter, book, 
or other unit of a series of clay tablets, so named because it is written on one 
clay tablet, and normally bears in its colophon a subscript naming it the nth 
tablet of the series. 

36 The collection is in the process of being edited by Reiner and Pingree, 
Rochberg-Halton, and van Soldt; so far published are BPO fascicles 1 and 2 
(by Reiner and Pingree) covering E(numa) A(nu) E(nlil) Tablets 50-51 and 63, 
AfO Beiheft 22 by F Rochberg-Halton (see note 33) covering Tablets 15-22, 
and Solar Omens of Enuma Anu Enlil: Tablets 23(24)-29(30) by Wilfred H. van 
Soldt (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1995). An edi- 
tion of Tablet 14 was published by F Al-Rawi and A. R. George, AfO 39 
(1991-92) 52-73. 



in the signs of the zodiac and on their mutual configurations. In 
this latest and most significant modification astrology became 
known to the Greeks in the Hellenistic period. But with the excep- 
tion of some typical Mesopotamian relics the doctrine was 
changed in Greek hands to a universal system in which form alone 
it could spread all over the world. Hence astrology in the modern 
sense of the term, with its vastly expanded set of "methods" is a 
truly Greek creation, in many respects parallel to the development 
of Christian theology a few centuries later. 37 

Yet besides Greek deterministic astrology, that is, geneth- 
lialogy, or horoscopic astrology, to which the quoted strictures 
of Neugebauer apply, and Mesopotamian omen literature with 
which he contrasted it, there exist areas in which the Babylo- 
nians acknowledged the influence of the stars. These are, firstly, 
catarchic astrology, which endeavors to find the most auspicious 
moment for commencing an undertaking; secondly, belief in 
the stars 7 power to imbue ordinary substances with supernatural, 
magic effectiveness, which I discuss in Chapters II and III; and 
thirdly, the apotropaic and prophylactic application of astral 
influence, both benefic and malefic, especially in the machina- 
tions of black magic, insofar as stars can protect from and avert 
the evil wrought by sorcerers or portended by an ominous sign. 
Cuneiform sources reveal how the Babylonians conceived the 
celestial bodies, what power they attributed to them, what they 
expected to obtain through these powers, and what were the 
means they used to gain their influence. Documentation for 
these concerns is found not so much in the literature that con- 
cerns itself with celestial omens but in the scientific writings of 
the Mesopotamian intellectuals. These writings include, in 
addition to fields that are generally acknowledged as science 
today, such as medicine, others that are not, such as divination 
and various activities around it. Much new material can be 
found in the recently reexamined correspondence of Assyrian 
and Babylonian scholars in the letters they addressed to the 
kings of Assyria in the eighth and seventh centuries, 38 and in 
their reports on astronomical observations which include pre- 

37 O. Neugebauer, HAMA 613. 

38 Published by Simo Parpola, LAS, revised and expanded in his Letters 
from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, SAA 10 (1993). 



dictions based on the phenomena observed as well as the 
means to avert portended evil. 39 We may follow them in mak- 
ing no distinction between scientific astronomy and magic 

Parallels with beliefs and practices of the Hellenistic world, 
as I try to show in these pages, strengthen my claim of the uses 
made of the astral powers; Mesopotamian sources not custom- 
arily adduced for the history of culture may thereby add their 
evidence to the history of magic, especially astral magic. 

39 Published by Hermann Hunger, Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings, 
SAA 8 (1992). 



The Role of Stars 

Stars function in a dual role in relation to man: they exert a 
direct influence and serve as mediators between man and god. 
Directly, through astral irradiation, they transform ordinary 
substances into potent ones that will be effective in magic, medi- 
cine, or ritual, as materia medica, amulets, or cultic appurte- 
nances. Stars also provide reliable answers to the query of the 
diviner. More important, in their second role stars are man's 
medium of communication with the divine. 

The role of the stars as mediators emerges from the descrip- 
tions given in Mesopotamian poetry. For poetry can be found 
not only in the much-anthologized pieces from Gilgames and 
other myths or epic tales, or in the hymns and prayers of the 
official cult that have from early on attracted attention and com- 
parison with the psalms of the Old Testament. It is often 
hidden in the scientific texts, those that constitute the corpus 
of the professional exorcist and diviner, disdained by the .sci- 
entist and dismissed as boring by the literary historian. 

The mediating role of the stars -not unlike the role of saints - 
is most clearly stated in the prayer of the supplicant to the Yoke 
star, approximately our Bootes, in an apotropaic ritual against 
mistakes occurring while executing temple offices: 

Yoke star standing at the right, Yoke star standing at the left, 

the god sends you to man, and man to the god, 

(and now) I send you to (my personal) god who eats my food-offering, 

drinks my water (libation), 

accepts my incense offering. 40 

isapparkunusi ilu ana ameli amelu ana ili 
anaku aspurkuriust ana DINGIR akil NINDA.MU NAG ! A.MU 
mahiru sirqiya 

KAR 38 r. 24ff. and duplicates, see Caplice, Or. NS 39 (1970) 124ff. 



Stars are messengers who are to take the supplicant's prayer 
to the deity, as in: 

may the star itself take to you (goddess) my misery; 

let the ecstatic 41 tell you, the dream-interpreter repeat to you, 

let the (three) watches of the night speak to you . . . 42 

Other stars of the night sky appear in a like role. Besides the 
prayer to the Yoke star, the cited apotropaic ritual contains 
appeals, first, to the "gods of the night," then to Venus, and 
finally to the Pleiades, adjured to be at the supplicant's right, 
and to the Kidney star, adjured to be at his left. 43 

Stand by me, O Gods of the Night! 

Heed my words, O gods of destinies, 

Anu, Enlil, Ea, and all the great gods! 

I call to you, Delebat (i.e., Venus), Lady of battles (variant has: 

Lady of the silence [of the night]), 

I call to you, O Night, bride (veiled by?) Anu. 

Pleiades, stand on my right, Kidney-star, stand on my left! 

Of the several copies some preserve only the partial invoca- 
tion "[. . .] Pleiades, stand at my left, [I ? send] you to the god 
and goddess [who ate my food offering,] drank my water [liba- 
tion], [. . .] intercede for me!" 44 Rare as such explicit state- 

41 The translation of the word "ecstatic" presupposes the reading zabbu 
selected here, on account of its parallelism with sabru, 'interpreter of dreams/ 
However, in the reading zappu, equally possible, the word means 'Pleiades' 
and possibly this is what was originally meant. As for the parallel, sabru (or 
sapru), it does not refer, to my knowledge, to a star or constellation. 

42 murus libbiya MUL-ma lubilakki 
zabbu liqbakimma sabru lisannaki 
EN.NUN.MES sa musi lidbubanikki 

LKA 29d ii Iff. The lines speaking of "the watches of the night" also occur 
in LKA 29e right col. 1 and its parallel STT 52:2ff., see W. G. Lambert, RA 
53 (1959) 127. The "three watches of the night" are also addressed in KAR 
58 rev. 7, along with Nusku. Of course there remains the problem of the 
meaning of "send" and "take" in the cited prayers. 

43 KAR 38:12f., see E. Ebeling, Aus dem Tagewerk eines assyrischen Zauber- 
priesters, MAOG 5/3 (Leipzig: Harrassowitz, 1931) 45ff.; also edited by 
Ebeling, RA 49 (1955) 184, and, with duplicates, by R. I. Caplice, Or. NS 39 
(1970) 124ff. A poetic German translation appears in SAHG no. 69. 

44 [. . .] MUL.MUL ina GUB.MU i-zi-za [. . . -ku]-nu-si ana DINGIR u d Istar 
[. . .] is-tu-u me-e-a [. . .] abutl sabta, RA 18 (1921) 28:5ff. The ritual seeks to 



merits are, they shed light on other appeals that leave the mode 
of the stars' intercession unspecified. 

Just as the Sun sees all of the earth by day so do the stars 
by night. They are also often addressed with the same words: 
"You who see the entire world." 45 Rarely do we find, however, 
prayers of such elaborateness as those whose title designates 
them as 'lifting-of-the-hand/' 46 a name referring to the appro- 
priate prayer gesture accompanying them. Such prayers are pre- 
scribed in the elaborate rituals, 47 often extending over several 
days, intended to purify the temple or the king. Our knowl- 
edge of the existence of some of the prayers to stars comes 
solely from the listing of their incipits in these ritual texts. 

Lifting-of-the-hand prayers to the constellations Wagon 
(Ursa Maior), True Shepherd of Anu 48 (Orion), the Pleiades, 49 
the Scorpion 50 (Scorpius), and to the Arrow Star 51 (Sirius) are 
known. 52 That the planets Venus and Jupiter were invoked is 
known from incipits of lifting-of-the-hand prayers, but it is not 

avert the evil portended by a mistake committed while serving in a temple 
office (HUL GARZA), see Caplice, Or. NS 39 (1970) 124f.; a further duplicate 
(with the star names not preserved) is published in Hermann Hunger, SpTU, 
vol. 1 no. 11 r. 4-8. 

45 ha' it kibrati, see CT 23 36 = BAM 480 iii 52, cited Chapter III. 

46 German: Handerhebung, translating the Sumerian term su-ila, 'hand- 
lifting/ written la, from which the loanword suillakku has been derived 
in Akkadian. The most recent study, with a catalogue of these prayers, 
including the category "Gebete an Gestirne," and an edition of a number of 
them, is that of Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache der babylo- 
nischen "Gebetsbeschworungen" Studia Pohl: Series Maior, 5 (Rome: Biblical 
Institute Press, 1976). An earlier edition, with transliteration and translation 
of the then known texts is by Erich Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie "Hand- 
erhebung" (Berlin, 1953). 

47 For these rituals (bit rimki 'House of Bathing'; bit salcC me 'House of 
Sprinkling Water') see Parpola, LAS 2 p. 198f . ad no. 203. For bit mesiri 'House 
of (ritual) enclosure' see R. Borger, JNES 33 (1974) 183ff. and HKL 2 (1975) 
p. 195f. ad G. Meier, AfO 14. For mis pi 'mouth-washing' see Chapter VIII. 

48 A literal translation of the Sumerian compound SIPA.ZI.AN.NA. 

49 Sumerian MUL.MUL 'Stars,' Akkadian zappu = 'Bristle.' 

50 Sumerian GIR.TAB = Akkadian ZuqaqTpu. 

51 Sumerian KAK.SI.SA = Akkadian Sukudu. 

52 The existence of others can be seen from ABL 23 ( = LAS no. 185), in 
which such prayers are prescribed to the god Nusku, the Moon, the Pleia- 
des, Sirius, Mars, and Be[let-balati?], see Parpola, LAS 2 pp. 177f. and 
p. 349 n. 643, and from ABL 1401 = LAS no. 233. 



known whether they were addressed as deities or planets, 
while surviving prayers to Mars 53 show that he was addressed 
both under his planetary name Salbatanu and as the deity, 
Nergal, whose astral manifestation Mars is. Ambiguity obtains 
of course in prayers addressed to the Moon, whose name Sin 
applies equally to the Moon god and to the Moon as one of the 
seven planets. Lifting-of-the-hand prayers are also addressed, 
collectively, simply to "stars," or "all stars" 54 often called "gods 
of the night." 55 

Unequivocally astral names are used in the treaties that Esar- 
haddon concluded with the vassals of Assyria to secure the 
rights of succession of his son Assurbanipal; they were put 
under the protection of not only the major gods Samas, Sin, and 
Istar, who are elsewhere too identified with Sun, Moon, and 
the planet Venus, but also of other astral deities. Thus Jupiter 
introduces the list of six astral deities in Esarhaddon's Succes- 
sion Treaty, the other five being Venus, Saturn, Mercury, Mars, 
and Sirius, in this order. 56 Similarly, Jupiter precedes Sirius 57 
in another treaty 58 which is known only from its mention in a 
letter of Esarhaddon's son Samas-sumu-ukln. 59 The treaties 
concluded in Anatolia between the kings of the Hittites and 
their neighbors some six hundred years earlier were also put 

53 Among them the prayer to Salbatanu (Mars), listed as Nergal 1 in 
Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen (note 46 above) 402. For prayers to Sirius, 
Venus, the Pleiades, and Isum see Parpola, LAS 2 p. 349 n. 643. 

54 SU.IL.lA MUL.MES DU.A.BI [. . .] LKA 58 rev., edited Ebeling, Die ak- 
kadische Gebetsserie "Handerhebung" (Berlin, 1953) 152f., cited Werner Mayer, 
Untersuchungen (note 46 above) 429. For lines 1-3 see R. D. Biggs, SA.ZLGA. 
Ancient Mesopotamian Potency Incantations, Texts from Cuneiform Sources, 2 
(Locust Valley, NY: J. J. Augustin, 1967) 75. 

55 See Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen (note 46 above) 427f.; the prayer is 
also cited ABL 370 = LAS no. 203. 

56 SAG.ME.GAR, Delebat, d UDU.BAD.SAG.US, d UDU.BAD.GUD.UD, Sal- 
batanu, KAK.SI.SA in Esarhaddon's Succession Treaty, newly published in 
Simo Parpola and Kazuko Watanabe, Neo-Assyrian Treaties and Loyalty Oaths, 
SAA 2 (1988) no. 6 lines 13ff., also LAS no. 1 rev. 18f., see Parpola, Iraq 34 
(1972) 32 n. 57 and LAS 2 p. 5. 


58 See Parpola, Iraq 34 (1972) 32 n. 57 

59 Edited by S. Parpola, "A Letter from Samas-sumu-ukln to Esar- 
haddon," Iraq 34 (1972) 21-34. 



under the protection of the planets and stars, particularly of 
Venus, called "resplendent Istar (variant: Venus)" 60 as well as 
of the storm god and such cosmic powers as mountains and 
rivers, and of the "gods of the nether world" for which a variant 
substitutes Ereskigal, the queen of the nether world. 61 The 
appeal to Babylonian deities in their astral manifestation can 
still be found in Syriac magic texts. 62 

Invocations to stars are not necessarily long and elaborate. 
A few lines, often a few words suffice to state the petitioner's 
appeal. In extreme cases, divine favor is requested by a simple 
enumeration of star names beside names of gods, natural 
forces, and other entities such as the days of the month, in a 
litany-like sequence, as in the type of text composed to gain 
absolution that I have called lipsur litanies from their kenning 
lipsur 'may absolve/ 63 For example, in one such litany 64 an 
enumeration of various gods is followed by "Gods of the night, 
Pleiades, Virgo, Orion, Jupiter 7 ," and the names of the rivers 
Tigris, Euphrates, and other rivers. 65 

Of all the stars, it is Sirius that is especially often addressed, 
both under its stellar name Arrow/ 66 and as the star's divine 
manifestation, the god Ninurta. The hymnic invocation "Arrow- 
star by name, making battle resound 7 , . . . paths, making 

60 d Istar (variant: MUL Dil-bat) mul-tar-ri-hu , also d A-sur kakkabu, variant: 
d Istar MUL Dil-bat (Treaty between Suppiluliuma and Sattiwaza, KBo 1 1, 
variants from KBo 1 2, see E. F. Weidner, Politische Dokumente aus Kleinasien, 
Boghazkoi-Studien 8 [Leipzig, 1923] 30ff. r. 45 and 57), and d lstar-MUL 
(Treaty between Sattiwaza and Suppiluliuma, see Weidner, ibid. 54 r. 42). 

61 E.g., MRS 9 85ff. RS 17.338+ lines 105-10, a text edited by Guy Keste- 
mont, Ugarit-Forschungen 6 (1974) 85-127, for lines 105-110 see ibid. 116-17. 
For Ereskigal's occurrence in Greek magic texts < ** Hans Dieter Betz, "Frag- 
ment from a Catabasis Ritual," History of Religions 19 (1979-80) 287-95. A Baby- 
lonian ritual against snakes (Or. NS 36 [1967] 32 rev. 5) also prescribes a 
prayer to be recited before Ereskigal; the connection of the chthonic goddess 
with snakes is obvious. 

62 See Philippe Gignoux, Incantations magiques syriaques (Louvain: E. 
Peeters, 1987). 

63 Reiner, "'Lipsur' Litanies," JNES 15 (1956) 129-49. 

64 ABRT 1 56-58 K.2096 and duplicates, see JNES 15 144£f . 

pa-e] ABRT 1 57:23, dupl. K.6308:l-2. These and the following lines are not 
treated in JNES 15. 

66 (MUL.)KAK.SI.SA = Sukudu. 



everything perfect" 67 is part of a collection of incantations, 
some in Sumerian and others in Akkadian, 68 known under 
the title HUL.BA.ZI.ZI 'Begone, Evil!/ literally "Evil (HUL) Be 
gone (BA.ZI.ZI)." 69 The last incantation of the collection con- 
jures the evil in the name of Jupiter, the Pleiades, and the god 
Irragal: "Be conjured by the powerful, fearsome, brilliant Jupi- 
ter, by the Pleiades and Irragal, let 'any evil 7 not come close." 70 
A magic effect is sought by praying to a deity called First- 
born of Emah: 

O First-born of Emah, First-born of Emah, you are the eldest son 
of Enlil 

You descended from Ekur, and you stand in the middle of the sky 
with the Wagon. 71 

The stellar nature of the divine being addressed is evident 
from the second line, where he is described as standing in the 
middle of the sky, with the Wagon star. As for the astronomical 
identity of the "First-born of Emah," such a star, described as 
"first-born son of Anu," is listed in an astronomical com- 
pendium from about 1000 B.C. 72 as the star that stands in the 
"rope" of the Wagon, 73 and has been identified with the Pole 

67 MUL.KAK.SI.SA MU.NE mu-sa-lil qab-li mus-te-'-u ur-he-ti mu-sak-lil 
mim-ma sum-su STT 215 i 65-66, duplicates KAR 76:14f., KAR 88 i ! 10f., or 
a short exclamation "By the Arrow-star" (nls MUL.KAK.SI.SA nls MUL. 
KAK.SI.SA KAR 76 r. 25f., and duplicates). 

68 Part of this collection was first edited by Ebeling under the title "Samm- 
lungen von Beschw6rungsformeln / ,, as "Gattung IV," ArOr 21 (1953) 403-23. 

69 It is being prepared for publication by I. L. Finkel under this title. The 
title is taken from a rubric in the last line but it seems that the subscript 
HUL.BA.ZI.ZI refers to one or more of the preceding incantations, not nec- 
essarily to the entire collection. 

70 nls gasru rasbu supi d Sul-pa-e-a nls MUL.MUL u d Ir-ra-gal lu tamat 
mimma lemnu aj itha, STT 215 vi 15-17. 

71 EN DUMU.US E.MAH DUMU.US E.MAH aplu rabu sa Enlil attama 
istu Ekur [t]uridamma ina qabal same itti MUL.MAR.GIDDA tazzaz 
[ ] KAL-an-ni li-iz-ku-ta at-ta-ma 

[ ] UZU.HAR.BAD NU (variant: ul) NAG TU 6 EN 

(text from BAM 542 iii 13-16 and dupl. ND 5497/21+ ii 4'-9'). 

72 MULAPIN I i 21f., edited by Hermann Hunger and David Pingree, 

73 MUL sa ina turrisu izzazzu MUL.DUMU.US.E.MAH maru restu sa Anim 
'the star that stands in its rope' (i.e., of MAR.GID.DA.AN.NA 'Wagon of 
Heaven/ Ursa Minor). C. Bezold, Zenit- und Aquatorialgestirne am baby- 



Star. A prayer to it is prescribed in the hemerology for the 
month of Ululu (month VI). 74 

But the First-born of Emah is also a deity, since he is 
addressed as the son of Enlil, one of the three supreme gods, 
whose temple Ekur in the ancient city of Nippur is the earthly 
counterpart of, we assume, a celestial Ekur in one of the heavens 
where the gods dwell. Some descriptions of the heavens speak 
of seven heavens, and some of three only, each made of a differ- 
ent precious stone. 75 

It is noteworthy that the address to the "First-born of Emah" 
appears in a medical text in which remedy for toothache is 
sought from the "first-born of the Mountain, Marduk"; it is to 
be recited in connection with a ritual that includes fashioning 
a clay model of a jaw with the aching tooth. The "Mountain" 
is an epithet of the god Enlil, and so far the two appeals to the 
"first-born of the Mountain" and to the "First-born of Emah, . . . 
the eldest son of Enlil" seem to be identical, except that, of 
course, Marduk is not the son of Enlil, but of Ea, the third god 
of the supreme triad, the god of the subterranean waters and 
also the god of cunning. 

The reason for addressing the deity of a particular celestial 
body is not normally stated, and can be inferred in obvious and 

lonischen Fixsternhimmel (Heidelberg, 1913) 43, identified it with Polaris (pres- 
ently a, in c. 1000 B.C., P Ursae Minoris, see F. X. Kugler, Sternkunde und Stern- 
dienst in Babel. Erganzungen zum ersten und zweiten Buch [Munster, 1913] 57). 
The identification is partly based on the occurrence in Astrolabe B iii 11. The 
star is mentioned in the so-called "Stevenson Omen Text" (Babyloniaca 7 231 
= pi. XVII) ii 4 and 5: summa UL.DUMU.US.E.MAH sa UL.MAR.GID.DA GAL- 
ti ana UL.ME.GAR is-niq BE.ME GAL-si, summa KI.MIN issi SU.KU GAL-si 'if 
the First-born of E.MAH, (part) of the Great Wagon, approaches Jupiter, 
there will be pestilence; if ditto recedes, there will be famine/ A variant of 
the star's name, DUMU.US AN.MAH, would mean 'First-born of Lofty Anu/ 
see Hunger ad loc. (note 72 above) p. 125. 

74 4R 32 i 48 and 33* i 49, see KB 6/2 p. 12, also Benno Landsberger, Der 
kultische Kalender der Babylonier und Assyrer, Leipziger Semitistische Studien 
6/1-2 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1915) 128. 

75 The pertinent lines of the text, KAR 307, have been variously treated by 
Benno Landsberger, "Uber Farben im Sumerisch-Akkadischen," }CS 21 
(1967, published 1969) 139-73, on pp. 154f.; by A. L. Oppenheim, "Man and 
Nature in Mesopotamian Civilization," DSB 15 pp. 640f.; and by A. Living- 
stone, Mystical and Mythological Explanatory Works of Assyrian and Babylonian 
Scholars (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986) 82-87. 



trivial cases only. Thus, for example, the prayer to Mars in his 
manifestation as the god Nergal (the god of the plague) was to 
be recited by the Babylonian king Samas-sumu-ukln, the son 
of Esarhaddon, mentioned above, during a plague epidemic. 76 
Rarely is reference made to phenomena most characteristic of 
the celestial body, such as the eclipse of the moon. 77 Only in 
the Hymn to the Sun 78 is there an allusion, clad in poetic 
terms, to the sun's daily course and yearly cycle, reflecting the 
Babylonians' characteristic preoccupation with calendric mat- 
ters, a preoccupation that also surfaces in the description of the 
creation of the cosmos in Tablet VI of the Poem of the Creation, 
also known, from its incipit, as Enuma elis. 

Some prayers are written, it appears, in the Sumerian lan- 
guage, but in fact are simple transpositions of Akkadian phrase- 
ology into Sumerian words and phrases. They may have been 
recited -as in various rituals -by the priest or exorcist utraque 
lingua eruditus 79 while the client's prayer was couched in the 
vernacular, Akkadian. Such a prayer, to be recited three times 
to avert "any evil" 80 from a baby, appeals to 'Ninmah, standing 
in the sky, mistress of all lands 781 and to the stars standing at 
the right and the left. 82 The "mistress" is probably Venus the 
morning star, and the prayer is to be recited before sunrise, 83 
and is followed by a fragmentary prayer to the Sun, Samas; with 
this the tablet breaks off. We thus envisage a dawn ceremony in 

76 See Ebeling, Die akkadische Gebetsserie "Handerhebung" (Berlin, 1953), 
8ff. and von Soden, SAHG 300f.; it is listed as Nergal 1 by Werner Mayer, 
Untersuchungen (note 46 above) 402. 

77 The well-known rituals to avert the evil portent of the eclipse, such as 
BRM 4 6, and the notorious "substitute king ritual" that such a portent neces- 
sitated under the Sargonids are treated by S. Parpola in LAS 2 pp. xxii-xxxii. 

78 Known to Assyriologists as the Samas hymn, a 200-line learned com- 
position, for which see my book Your Thwarts in Pieces, Your Mooring Rope Cut. 
Poetry from Babylonia and Assyria, Michigan Studies in the Humanities, 5 
(Ann Arbor, 1985), Chapter IV. 

79 'Learned in both languages/ see Tadeusz Kotula, "Utraque lingua 
eruditi. Une page relative a l'histoire de l'education dans TAfrique romaine," 
Hommages a Marcel Renard, vol. 2, Coll. Latomus 102 (Brussels, 1969) 386-92. 

80 Akkadian mimma lemnu, possibly with a specialized meaning. 

81 [• • •] d Nin.mah nin.kur.kur.ra.[ke4] LKA 142:6ff. 

82 For the "right" and "left" Yoke star (KAR 38 r. 24) see above p. 15. 

83 lam Samas ittapha, line 3. 



which the morning star Venus was addressed, followed by a 
sunrise ceremony. Prayers to Venus as morning star, addressed 
as a female deity, are attested through the Middle Babylonian 
personal name Ina-niphisa-alsTs 'I called to her at her rising/ 84 

The unnamed star addressed as "You have risen, star, you 
are the first one" 85 no doubt also is Venus, this time, as the 
masculine gender of the pronoun and the adjective indicate, as 
evening star. 

Lovers too turn to Venus, the planet of the goddess of love, 
Istar. Their prayer is addressed to the goddess, but her astral 
character is evident from her epithet "luminary of heaven" 86 
and from the sacrifices to Istar-of-the-Stars. 87 The ritual 
directs: "you set up a reed altar before Istar-of-the-Stars, you 
make offerings" 88 and, having prepared six times two figurines, 
"you burn (them) before Istar-of-the-Stars." 89 

A "woman whose husband is angry with her" 90 recites a 
prayer to Istar, 91 calling to her "in the midst of the sky." 92 The 

84 PBS 2/2 53:20 and 32. 

85 MUL tappuha panu atta, KAR 374:1. The pronoun atta 'you' and the 
adjective panu 'first' are masculines. See also the "unnamed star" quoted 
Chapter III. 

86 nannarat same, see Biggs, SA.ZLGA p. 28:25, and see CAD N/1 p. 261a. 

87 Istar-kakkabI, see next note. 

88 ana IGI 15.MUL.MES (variant: [I]s-tar MUL.MES) patlra tukan niqe 
tanaqqi (variant: teppus) Biggs, SA.ZLGA p. 27ff. (KAR 236:18ff. and dupli- 
cates) lines 19f.; another ritual is probably also performed before Istar- 
kakkabI: ana IGI d 15. [MUL.MES 7 ] ibid. p. 65 K.9036:6', also [ana IGI d 15 ? ]. 
MUL GAR-an ibid. 12'. The readings given in SA.ZLGA p. 65 have been 
slightly emended in lines 10' (after AHw. s. v. urbatu) and 12'. 

89 ina IZI ana IGI 15.MUL.MES tasarrap, see Biggs, SA.ZLGA p. 28:24. 

90 SAL sa DAM-sa UGU-sa sab-su STT 257 r. 10 (subscript). I am indebted 
to my colleague Christopher A. Faraone for drawing my attention to the use 
of the k£gto<; to diminish anger between a woman and her husband, see 

■ his "Aphrodite's KEZTOZ and Apples for Atalanta: Aphrodisiacs in Early 
Greek Myth and Ritual," Phoenix 44 (1990) 222. 

91 STT 257 rev. 2-9, listed as Istar 28 in Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen zur 
Formensprache der babylonischen "Gebetsbeschwbrungen" Studia Pohl: Series 
Maior, 5 (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1976) 392. 

92 asasslki Istar . . . ina qereb samami STT 257 rev. 5f. Since astronomically 
such a position for Venus is excluded "midst" must be taken figuratively. The 
topos is also known from Sumerian, expressed as, in e.g., the Iddin- 
Dagan hymn line 161 edited by Daniel David Reisman, "Two Neo-Sumerian 
Royal Hymns" (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1969). 



charm is one of the few love charms spoken by women to recon- 
quer their lovers, best known from Theocritus' Second Idyll 
and Virgil's Eighth Eclogue, while in the Greek magical papyri 
it is men who desire to secure the love of women. The reference 
to Venus is indubitable, even though the first few words in the 
pertinent ritual are broken, 93 since the prayer addresses the 
star 7 (the word is broken) of the morning. 94 

To Venus also, as Istar-of-the-Stars, turns the exorcist before 
administering the potion to the love-stricken patient. 95 Most 
often, however, it is the multitude of stars, the entire starry sky, 
and not a particular planet or constellation that is invoked. A 
ritual designed to have the king triumph over his enemies 96 is 
performed "before all 7 stars," 97 it is accompanied by the recita- 
tion of a prayer addressed to the stars of the night. 98 The next 
ritual 99 prescribes the fashioning of two figurines holding the 
lance and the scepter (the royal insignia) but clothed in 
everyday garments, the making of offerings to Ursa Maior, and 
the burying of the figurines in enemy territory A possibly 
related ritual for diverting the enemy from the homeland is a 
fragmentary text in which the names of the gods to whom the 
prayer is addressed are not preserved, only the epithets 
'Brightly shining gods, (you who are 7 ) judges.' 100 How the 
stars responded to such appeals, and how they exerted their 
influence upon earthly matters, will be the subject of the fol- 
lowing chapters dealing with such areas affecting man as medi- 
cine, herbalistry, and both apotropaic and noxious magic. 

93 Possibly fMUL ? ] [Dil-bat ? ]. 

94 E[N x] |~ x l se-re-e-ti fx] [x] r x ~l _tu ( or: [d]i ? -par) sa mu-se-r[i ? . . .] 
r. 17. 

95 Thus in the Saziga texts, as in AMT 88,3:6, see Biggs, SA.ZI.GA p. 52. 

96 [eli nakirl]su [uzuzzima 7 ] llta [sakani] STT 72:23. 

97 IGI MUL.MES gim-r[i . . .] line 24. 

98 MUL mu-si- ^"1 -[ti ? ] STT 72:1-22, with the ritual beginning in line 24, 
see JNES 26 (1967) 190f . 

99 Lines 41-51, to which STT 251:7-16' is a duplicate. 

100 DINGIR.ME suputu maru dajanl, Hermann Hunger, SpTU, vol. 1 no. 
12 line 17. 



The Art of the Herbalist 

For, who can forget the powerful and noxious herbs of 
Medea, the enchanting herbs of Lucan, the fatal herbs 
of Claudian, the flourishing plants of Maro, and lastly those 
venomous plants, of which abundance was to be found in 
Colchis and Thessally? 

De Vegetalibus Magicis, written by M. J. H. Heucher (1700) 
edited by Edmund Goldsmid, F.R.H.S.RS.A (Scot.) Pri- 
vately printed, Edinburgh. 1886, pp. 11-12. 

Among the many "firsts' 7 that can be attributed to the 
Mesopotamians 101 we may certainly count the first herbals 
and the first lapidaries, and a case may be made for the first 
bestiary too. The cuneiform handbooks can be compared to 
their later counterparts because they already exhibit their char- 
acteristic structure, and go beyond simple enumerations of 
stones and herbs we see in the Egyptian Onomastica. 102 Such 
simple lists were among the very first documents written in 
Mesopotamia or indeed anywhere. The organizing principle 
they exhibit is due to the character of the cuneiform writing 

In the Sumerian writing system names of members 
belonging to a class are preceded by a class mark, called "deter- 
minative," that indicates their nature; only in a few classes does 
the determinative follow. Names of professions and other 
human classes, as well as bodily characteristics or deformities, 
are preceded by the word for 'man' written with the sign lu; 

101 For the role of the Sumerians, see Samuel Noah Kramer, History 
Begins at Sumer (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1959); 3rd, revised 
ed., with additions, with the subtitle Thirty-Nine Firsts in Man's Recorded His- 
tory (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981). 

102 Alan H. Gardiner, Ancient Egyptian Onomastica (Oxford: Oxford Uni- 
versity Press, 1947), for which see Oppenheim, "Man and Nature in Mesopo- 
tamian Civilization," DSB 15 p. 634. 



of textiles and clothing by the word for 'wool 7 (sig), 'linen 7 
(gada), or 'cloth 7 (tug); of cities, rivers, and other geographical 
units by the appropriate determinative; similarly, objects made 
of wood, stone, clay, reed, etc., are preceded by a class mark 
indicating the nature of the item: the word for 'wood/ 'stone/ 
'clay/ 'reed/ etc. Names of garden plants, birds, and fish are, 
however, followed by their respective class marks sar, musen, 
and kue. 

The earliest lists written in cuneiform, as early as the third 
millennium, simply catalogue objects or living beings; the prin- 
ciple of classification is obviously semantic, based on the pres- 
ence of the determinative and therefore seemingly acrographic, 
that is, the items are grouped according to the first sign used 
to write them. Consequently, in any list, objects belonging to 
a particular class are listed together, and the classification 
according to the determinative doubles as a topical arrange- 
ment. This principle is useful for mnemotechnical and didactic 
purposes and at the same time displays a classification of the 
world, a feature that may be taken, with von Soden, as a sign 
of the intellectual curiosity of the Mesopotamian man. 103 Sim- 
ilarly complex is the structure of the much later, late antique 
and medieval, collections of lists and glossaries. 104 

These Sumerian unilingual lists were eventually provided 
with an additional column of Akkadian translations, but their 
sequence remained the "acrographic" principle displayed by 
the Sumerian. 

The best known such bilingual lists, consisting of a Sumerian 
column and a corresponding Akkadian column, form part of 
the series known, from its incipit, as HAR-ra = hubullu, a com- 
pendium of twenty-odd chapters enumerating objects of the 
physical world. To these lists a later commentary (called HAR- 
gud) adds a third column, also in Akkadian, which gives alter- 
native translations, usually by substituting more common 

103 Wolfram von Soden, "Leistung und Grenze sumerischer und babylo- 
nischer Wissenschaft," in Die Welt als Geschichte, vol. 2 (Stuttgart, 1936); 
reprinted, with additions and corrections, in Benno Landsberger, Die Eigen- 
begrifflichkeit der babylonischen Welt (Darmstadt, 1965). See also Oppenheim, 
"Man and Nature in Mesopotamian Civilization," DSB 15 pp. 634ff. 

104 See James A. H. Murray, The Evolution of English Lexicography, The 
Romanes lecture 1900. 



words for terms of the second column that had become obso- 
lete, without thereby changing the sequence or purpose of 
these lists. In certain cases the third column contains not just 
another equivalent or synonym, but an attempt at scholia; for 
example "Egyptian squash" to a variety of squash listed in 
Tablet XXIII 105 or "mourning garment" to explain the poetic 
word karru in Tablet XIX. 106 

Among the chapters 107 of HAR-ra = hubullu, the XVIIth, 
incompletely preserved, deals with plants. In it, the acro- 
graphic principle applies in the first section, where each plant 
name begins with the Sumerian word u, 'herb/ In the second 
section, the names are not preceded by u, but followed by sar, 
'plant/ the postposed class mark for such garden plants as vege- 
tables, and other cultivated plants. Note that Greek too makes 
a distinction between poxdvri 'simple 7 (medicinal plant) and 
Xaxavov 'vegetable/ 108 

Within a section no classificatory principle is discernible, 
except that varieties of the same species, whether botanically 
accurately classified or not, are by orthographic necessity 
enumerated together, as for example the alliaceae, whose 
names in Sumerian are composed with the element sum 'garlic' 
and a descriptive element, such as sum.sag.dili 'one-headed 
garlic' 109 while the Akkadian name is turu or the cucurbita- 
ceae, whose names are composed with ukus 'squash' and a 
descriptive element, e.g., ukus.sir.gud with Akkadian equivalent 
iski alpi 'ox-testicle (squash).' 110 These lists continued to serve 
as pedagogical tools for learning Sumerian. 

105 Hg. D 249. 

106 Hg. E 76 and duplicates; this explanation is also given in a late syn- 
onym list (Malku VI 61), which gives synonyms for rare or obsolete words. 

107 Usually called "tablets" in Assyriological parlance, see note 35. 

108 Cited Margaret H. Thomson, Textes Grecs inedits relatifs aux plantes 
(Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1955) 91, ad "Second traite alphabetique sur les 
plantes, tire dAetius." 

109 Literally (Sumerian:) "garlic — head — single" see Marten Stol, Bulletin 
on Sumerian Agriculture 3 (1987) 57— compare hovokXcovoc; PGM IV 808. 

110 Literally (Sumerian:) "squash - testicle - ox" Hh. XVII 377a and Hh. 
XXIV 310. Compare, e.g., testiculus vulpis (= Orchis), testiculus canis (= Orchis 
militaris L.), cited Hermann Fischer, Mittelalterliche Pflanzenkunde (Hildes- 
heim: Olms, 1967) 276, and Orchis alopekos, cited from the lexicon by Nicolas 
Hieropais, in A. Delatte, Anecdota atheniensia, Bibliotheque de la Faculte 



A more practical purpose was served by a work composed of 
four or possibly more chapters (again called "tablets") known 
from its incipit as Uruanna = mastakal or, for short, Uruanna. The 
two columns of this list place side by side two plant names. 
Sometimes the left-side entry is a Sumerian name and the right- 
side one its Akkadian equivalent as in the cited incipit; in other 
instances several left-side entries, either Sumerian or Akkadian, 
are equated with one (usually Akkadian) name. The explana- 
tion sometimes is a name that simply gives the indication: herb 
for snake bite 111 (compare our "cough drop" or the trade name 
"After-Bite") or the plant is compared to another, better known 
plant or even, though more rarely, warrants a brief description 
quite similar to the entries in the Herbal (see p. 30). Sometimes 
to the term in the right-hand side is added the remark "in 
Subarian," "in Elamite," or "in Kassite," to specify that the 
name in the left column comes from one or another of the for- 
eign languages of the areas surrounding Mesopotamia. 

Uruanna could thus serve as a pharmaceutical handbook, 
used to look up Sumerian and other foreign names, and may 
also have served to indicate what herb could be substituted for 
another. The pharmaceutical as opposed to purely lexical char- 
acter can also be inferred by the inclusion in the list of other 
pharmacological substances, such as minerals (including 
salts), insects, and oils. 

Eventually, however, presumably around 1000 B.C., a different 
type of list was composed, a treatise that might more properly 
be called a precursor of herbals; in the Assyriological literature 
it usually goes under such a name as a "pharmaceutical hand- 
book," or "vade mecum of the physician." The ancient Baby- 
lonians simply called it DUB.U.HI.A 'tablet about/on herbs/ 112 
In outward appearance this list too is divided in three columns 
but not on linguistic grounds: the first column gives the name, 

de philosophie et lettres de l'Universite de Liege, fasc. 88, vol. 2 p. 408 line 14. 
Note also the names Phallus impudicus (Fungus Melitensis) 'devil's horn'; 
Arabic zubb-ed-dtb 'penis lupi,' and zubb-el-hamad 'desert penis' quoted 
Immanuel Low, Die Flora der Juden (Vienna and Leipzig: R. Lowit, 1926), 
vol. 1 p. 44, cited M. L. Wagner, Romanica Helvetica 4 (= Festschrift Jaberg, 
1937) 106 n. 1. 

111 sammu nisik seri, Uruanna I 391. 

112 Compare Ebeling, KAR 44 rev. 3, see Kocher, BAM V p. xi and n. 9. 



Sumerian or Akkadian, of the plant; the second, the indica- 
tion, that is, the symptoms or name of the disease it is sup- 
posed to counteract; and the third, the mode of application: 
how it is to be prepared (e.g., ground, diluted in beer) and how 
it is to be administered (e.g., as a potion, a salve, a lotion). The 
arrangement follows the middle column so that the herbs are 
grouped according to the disease they are good for; this layout 
is convenient for finding the remedies for a particular ailment 
by simply going down the middle column of the list. 

For example: Yellow saffron : for constricted bladder : to 
chop, to administer as a potion in fine beer; Kanis-acorn : for 
the same : to chop, to administer as a potion in fine beer; Garlic 
: for the same : to chop, to administer as a potion in oil or fine 
beer; 113 Pistachio-herb : herb for the lungs : to chop, to admin- 
ister as a potion without eating; 114 Dog's tongue : herb for 
cough : to press out its juice and administer as a potion. 115 

This "vade mecum" has a counterpart that deals with stones, 
also simply called DUB.NA 4 .MES 'tablet about/on stones'; 116 
nevertheless, these compilations are only partially comparable 
to those of the late herbals and lapidaries. 

The type of text that seems truly the precursor of the 
medieval handbooks is the one that I will call the sikinsu type, 
from the opening words. Three such handbooks are known, 
one (abnu sikinsu) dealing with stones and minerals, another 
one (sammu sikinsu) with herbs, and a third (seru sikinsu), of 
which only a small fragment survives, with snakes. These 
three books thus represent the three categories lapidaries, 
herbals, and bestiaries, of which latter the snake book is pos- 
sibly the sole surviving chapter. 

All three handbooks evince a common structure. Each entry 
begins the description with the word sikinsu, a word not easy 
to translate if we consider its literal meaning alone: the word 
siknu may mean "appearance, looks, character," and the like; 

113 BAM 1 i 26-28. 

114 BAM 1 ii 24; see note 197. 

115 Ibid, ii 35. A text published by Rene Labat, "La pharmacopee au ser- 
vice de la piete," Semitica 3 (1950) 5-18, prescribes the use of herbs and other 
ingredients in order to secure divine favor as well as to avert evil and illness. 

116 Cf. Ebeling, KAR 44 rev. 3, see Leichty apud Kocher, BAM IV p. vii. 



the possessive suffix -su, 'its/ points back to the antecedent 
(abnu 'stone/ sammu 'herb/ or seru 'snake'). If we take our cue 
from handbooks of a later period, we may choose the English 
term "nature," simply because medieval texts begin the descrip- 
tion with this word (either with natura, if in Latin, or with the 
form equivalent to natura in the Romance language used). 117 
And so we may translate the opening words as "the nature of 
the herb (stone, snake) is." 

What these handbooks lack are the illustrations of the later 
herbals. 118 The absence of illustrations is only partly due to 
the nature of the writing and the writing material; illustrations, 
even though only rarely and mostly in schematic drawing, do 
appear on liver models and in some divinatory texts and on 
some clay tablets inscribed with liver omens to illustrate marks 
on the liver or lungs, 119 or with physiognomic omens to illus- 
trate drawings on the forehead or the hand, omens that may be 
taken as remote precursors of metoposcopy 120 and chiromancy. 
There exist sketches to indicate the emplacement of parapher- 
nalia in rituals and, even more rarely, in magic texts, as models 
of figures to be drawn. 121 In lieu of illustrations, descriptions, 
often very precise, have to serve: they are couched, as in later 
herbals, in terms of the plant's resemblance to and difference 
from other plants with which it is compared. 122 

For example, "The herb whose nature is like the amhara 
plant's, (but) its leaves are small, and it has no milky sap, its 

117 For example, "La natura del pavon es aital . . . ," "La natura de la fur- 
micz es aital . . ." Der waldensische Physiologus, ed. Alfons Mayer, Roma- 
nische Forschungen 5 (1890) 390-418, nos. 4 (Pavon) and 42 (De la furmicz). 

118 Illustrations appear late also in Byzantine, Arabic, and other later 

119 See Nougayrol, RA 68 (1974) 61f . 

120 Angus G. Clarke, "Metoposcopy: An Art to Find the Mind's Con- 
struction in the Forehead," in Astrology, Science and Society: Historical Essays, 
Patrick Curry, ed. (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1987) 171-95. 

121 See Reiner, "Magic Figurines, Amulets and Talismans," in Monsters 
and Demons in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Papers Presented in Honor 
of Edith Porada, Ann E. Farkas et al., eds. (Mainz on Rhine: Philipp von 
Zabern, 1988) 27-36. 

122 Texts: Kocher, Pflanzenkunde 33, 34b, and 35, see Reiner, Bibliotheca 
Orientalis 15 (1958) 102f .; BAM 327, 379 and dupl. Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, 
vol. 3 no. 106; STT 93. 



seed resembles linseed, that plant is called labubitu. The herb 
whose nature is like that of the amhara-plant's, but its seed is 
red like that of the abulilu-plant, that herb is called [...], it 
is good for removing paralysis; to dry, to crush, and to apply 
as a salve (mixed) in oil." 123 

Or: "The herb's nature is: its thorn is like the thorn of cress, 
its leaves are as large as cress leaves, that herb is called namhara, 
whoever drinks it will die." 124 

An even more detailed description runs: "The herb's nature 
is like that of the 'dog's tongue,' or, according to a second 
source, like the haltappanu-herb; its leaves are long, its fruit is 
like the Adad-squash, 125 it grows tall, its seed, like the tubaqu 
plant's, is divided(?) 126 in three: that herb is called sunazi, and 
in the language of Hatti they call it tubaqanu [that is, the tubaqu- 
like herb]; it is good for scorpion sting; its mode of preparation: 
to dry, to crush, to administer as a potion in beer." 127 

Obviously, these descriptions are very much like those found 
not only in herbals such as Dioscorides, 128 but also in the 
spells collected in Hellenistic magical papyri, written in 
Greek 129 or in Demotic, as in "The ivy -it grows in gardens; its 
leaf is like the leaf of a shekam plant, being divided into three 

123 Kocher, Pflanzenkunde 33:4-7. 

124 Kocher, Pflanzenkunde 33:12-13. 

125 Written with the Sumerogram U.UKUS. d IM. 

126 The verb form used is ummud. 

127 Kocher, Pflanzenkunde 33:15-16. 

128 E.g., "hie autem folia habet similia porro, sed oblonga et tenueiora," 
Dioscorides Longobardus Book I 5c, De quiperu indicu, ed. Konrad 
Hofmann-T. M. Auracher, Romanische Forschungen 1 (1883) 58. Or also "Poli- 
gonon masculus aut carcinetron aut . . . vocant. Erba est virgas habens 
teneras molles et multas, nodosas, spansa super terra, sicut agrostis. Folia 
habet ruta similia, sed oblonga et mollia. Semen habet foliis singulis, unde 
et masculus dictus est, flore albu aut fenicinu habens. Virtus est illi stiptica 
et frigida, unde sucus eius bibitus emptoicis medicatur . . . De poligono 
femina. Poligonon femina frutex est .i. Virga habens, molle et cannosa, . . . 
omnia suprascripta facere potest, sed minus virtute habet," Dioscorides 
Longobardus Book IV lie d/ De poligonon, ed. Hermann Stadler, Roma- 
nische Forschungen 11 (1901) llf. (= Dioscorides IV 4). For Dioscorides see 
now John M. Riddle, Dioscorides on Pharmacy and Medicine (Austin: University 
of Texas Press, 1985). 

129 For example, PGM IV 798-810. 



lobes like a grape leaf. It is one palm in measurement; its 
blossom is like silver (another [manuscript] says gold)." 130 

Some of the more exotic names raise the question whether 
names designating parts of the body of animals that are listed 
among the pharmaka actually refer to animal substances or are 
to be taken as descriptive names of plants, as the "dog's tongue" 
in the previous quote, a literal translation from Akkadian, 131 
equivalent— in name at least— to cynoglossum. R. Campbell 
Thompson thought that "The Assyrian was as ready to call 
what was almost certainly opium by name of 'lion fat' (lipi nesi) 
or 'human fat' (lipi ameluti) or castor oil as 'the blood of a black 
snake' (dami siri salmi) as later alchemists were to give ridicu- 
lous synonyms for mercury, cinnabar, cadmia, and such." 132 

That some of the strange names were indeed used to refer 
to plants is shown by an often quoted passage from the Greek 
magical papyri: 133 

Because of the masses' eagerness to practice magic, the temple 
scribes inscribed the names of the herbs and other things which 
they employed, on the statues of the gods, so that the masses, as 
a consequence of their misunderstanding, might not practice 
magic. . . . But we have collected the explanations [of these names] 
from many copies [of the sacred writings], all of them secret. 

Here they are: 

A snake's head: a leech. 

Blood of a snake: haematite. 
Lion semen: human semen. 

130 Demotic Magical Papyrus XIV 735, translated by Janet H. Johnson, in 
The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, H.-D. Betz, ed. (Chicago and London: 
University of Chicago Press, 1986) 234. 

131 Akkadian Ulan kalbi 'tongue of dog'; the corresponding Sumerian com- 
pound is eme.ur.gi7. 

132 DACG p. xiii, cited -disapprovingly -by Dietlinde Goltz, Studien zur 
Geschichte der Mineralnamen in Pharmazie, Chemie und Medizin von den 
Anfangen bis Paracelsus, Sudhoffs Archiv, Beiheft 14 (Wiesbaden: Franz 
Steiner, 1972). Note also the article "Mageia" by Hopfner in RE 27 (1928) 
301-93, and especially the fancy names of remedies ridiculed by Artemi- 
dorus, Onirocriticon 4, 22 (Pack, Teubner 1963; French translation: Artemi- 
dore. La Clef des Songes, transl. A. J. Festugiere [Paris, Vrin 1975]). 

133 Papyrus Leiden xii 17£f. ( = PGM XII 400ff.), cf. Hopfner, Offenbarungs- 
zauber, vol. 1 §493, also Dioscorides, cited Hopfner, ibid. §494. 



Semen of Hermes: dill. 
Blood from a head: lupine. 
Blood of Hephaistos: artemisia. 
Human bile: turnip sap. 
Fat from a head: spurge, 
but "blood of porcupine: really from the porcupine." 134 

Yet, we might question whether these terms were indeed 
used as "secret" names, as the papyrus indicates. The use of 
"secret" or "cover" names (German: "Decknamen") is not nec- 
essarily intended to keep the craft or learning from the unini- 
tiated or, in case of a lucrative profession, from the competition. 
Complicated and rare words and spellings may simply attest 
to the sophistication of the writer, and enhance his reputation. 
The practice may be comparable to the use of outlandish sign 
values in a Middle Babylonian glass text, once thought to have 
been used to safeguard professional secrets. 135 

Still, late herbals speak of these substances as if they indeed 
were animal (see note 110). Other plant names are less fanciful, 
even though they may betray wishful thinking: imhur esra 'it 
cures twenty— that is, twenty ailments, and even imhur-timu 
'it cures a thousand/ just as in Hungarian there is an herb called 
ezerjofu, 'thousand-good-herb/ The German Tausendguldenkraut, 
literally 'thousand-gold-pieces-herb/ on the other hand, seems 
to be a caique on Latin centaurium (compare English centaury), 
etymologized as 'hundred' (centum) 'gold pieces' (aurum). 136 
The name of the herb centaury (Greek Keviaupeiov) is said to 
derive from the word Centaur, so named after the centaur 
Chiron, who healed his wound with it. 137 

134 dXTiGcbc; xoipoypuUou, PGM XII 414. 

135 For the use of outlandish sign values in the Middle Babylonian glass 
text and the implications of this scribal practice see A. Leo Oppenheim, Glass 
and Glassmaking in Ancient Mesopotamia (Corning, NY: The Corning Museum 
of Glass, 1970) 59ff. 

136 See Handbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens s.v. 

137 Suggested by Reinhold Stromberg, Griechische Pflanzennamen, Gote- 
borgs Hogskolas Arsskrift 46, 1940:1 (Goteborg, 1940) 100: "Man hat 
geglaubt dass Cheiron diese Heilpflanzen zuerst verwendet hatte"; he is fol- 
lowed by the Greek etymological dictionaries of Frisk and Chantraine. The 
connection of the plant with Chiron comes from Theophrastus, Historia Plan- 
tarum 3.3.6 and Pliny, NH 25.66. 



In ancient natural histories it is often added to the descrip- 
tion of the plant that the species comes in two sexes: male and 
female, as the above cited poligonon (see note 128). These des- 
ignations have nothing to do with the plant's sex essential for 
propagation, but refer to its potency. This is evident from the 
fact that stones too— that is, beads of semi-precious stones - 
come in both masculine and feminine varieties; this was 
known in Greek literature since Theophrastus (end of the 4th c. 
B.C.) but, like many small and perhaps insignificant details of 
the transmission of beliefs and knowledge, harks back to Baby- 
lonian sources. Not only Classical authors 138 noted this divi- 
sion but modern jewelers as well. 139 The division of materia 
medica into masculine and feminine is well known from Greek 
and Latin authors; according to commentators, among them 
Pliny the Elder, masculine herbs are stronger and more 
effective than the feminine ones. Note mascula tura "male 
incense" in Virgil, 140 explained by the commentator as mascula 
tura, id est fortia "male incense, hence stronger." 141 In Babylonian 

138 Joan Evans, Magical Jewels of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1922, republished New York: Dover, 1976) 15. See also, for 
Pliny, NH 36.39 (aetites), 37119 (cyaneus), 3725 (magnet) and for Orph. 
lithica kerygmata (topaz) Hopfner, Offenbarungszauber, vol. 1 §564 and §565. 
The Orphic lapidaries are now edited by Robert Halleux and Jacques 
Schamp, Les Lapidaires grecs (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1985); see ibid. 151, 
Orphei lithica kerygmata 8.6: Outoq (scil. tokol^ioc;) eonv 6 dporjv, 6 8e 
GrjXuKoc; eXoKppoiepoc; 'C'est la variete male. La variete femelle est plus 
legere . . .' See also J. C. Plumpe, "Vivum saxum, vivi lapides. The concept 
of 'living stones' in Classical and Christian Antiquity," Traditio 1 (1943), 1-14; 
R. Halleux, "Fecondite des mines et sexualite des pierres dans l'antiquite 
greco-romaine," RBPH 48 (1970) 16-25, both cited in Robert Halleux and 
Jacques Schamp, Les Lapidaires grecs (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1985) 326. 

139 "Les pierres precieuses masculines sont celles qui possedent une 
couleur plus vive, les feminines celles qui ont une couleur plus pale." G. 
Boson, Les metaux et les pierres dans les inscriptions assyro-babyloniennes. 
Inaugural-Dissertation . . . (Munich: Akademische Buchdruckerei von F. 
Straub, 1914) 73 n. 4 (possibly quoting "Dies ist ein terminus technicus der 
Edelsteinhandler . . . Mannliche Steine sind die sattgefarbten, weibliche die 
blassen Steine," Oefele, "Gynakologische Steine," ZA 14 [1899] 356ff.) In 
Akkadian too the subu stone comes in a male and a female variety (BAM 
112:10), and so do the su stone (see the dictionaries), the arzallu stone, black 
frit, and others. See also Chapter VII, notes 591-92. 

140 Eel. 8, 65. 

141 Philargyrius 2.3, cf. Pliny, NH 12.61; note also tritu cum ture masculo 



medical texts the substance UB.PAD (to be read probably uppattu 
or upputtu) comes in male and female varieties. 142 

Sometimes the etymology of the name is transparent. While 
'sunflower' (w. d UTU sammi samas) probably describes any 
heliotrope, that is, a flower that always looks at the sun: "the 
flower of Samas that faces the setting of the sun/' 143 other 
names composed with a name of a god or goddess are more 
suggestive. We do not know to what botanical species for 
example the herb called "Ninurta's aromatic" (Sumerian sim. 
d Ninurta, equated in Akkadian with nikiptu) 1 ^ refers, both vari- 
eties of which, masculine and feminine, are mentioned in 
recipes; however, the name of the herb called sim. d Ishara, 'aro- 
matic of the goddess Ishara,' which is equated with Akkadian 
cjunnabu, 'cannabis,' 145 may indeed conjure up an aphrodisiac 
through the association with Ishara, goddess of love, and also 
calls to mind the plant named ki.nd Istar, in Akkadian suhsi Istar 
or majal Istar, both meaning 'bed of Istar.' 

The pharmaceutical lists, whether of the Uruanna or the 
sikinsu type, provide the physician or the pharmacist with the 
knowledge about the appropriate herb to be used for a partic- 
ular ailment. However, it is important to know not only your 
roots and herbs, and what they are good for but also the proper 
time and manner for picking the herb, or digging up the root, 
so as to maximize its healing power and, not least, to guard 
against the evil consequences of your acts. Then, and perhaps 
most important, one has to know the proper time to administer 
the medicine, by selecting an astrologically propitious moment. 
A sixteenth-century doctor urged: "Above all things next to 
grammar a physician must have surely his Astronomye, to 
know how, when and at what time every medicine ought to be 
administered ." 146 

'crushed with male incense/ Dioscorides (Lombardus) II 48a (Romanische For- 
schungen 10 [1899] 204f.). 

142 AMI 104:15. 

143 sammi Samas sa ana ereb samsi panusu saknu, AMT 74 ii 25, cf . KBo 
9 44 r. ii 6. 

144 The Akkadian word is probably derived from the Sumerian word 
ligidba which is the gloss given to the compound sim. d Ninurta. 

145 ZA 73 (1983) 243 no. 12. Compare the scholion or variant SIM.GIG : qu- 
un-nab in the medical text CT 55 377:4. 

146 Katherine Oldmeadow, The Folklore of Herbs (Birmingham, n.d.) 6. For 



The rules and precautions to be followed at the gathering 
of a plant are not set out in the pharmaceutical handbooks; 
they have to be culled from prescriptions in medical texts and 
some rituals. The directions given to the herbalist are very 
similar to those observed by the 'root-cutter' (the literal trans- 
lation of Greek rhizotomos) in antiquity, in the Middle Ages, and 
in folk medicine, as collected in Armand Delatte's Herbarius, 147 
to which these examples from Mesopotamia may serve as 

(Look for) a gourd which grows alone in the plain; 

when the Sun has gone down, 

cover your head with a kerchief, 

cover the gourd too, draw a magic circle with flour around it, 

and in the morning, before the Sun comes out, 

pull it up from its location, 

take its root . . . 148 

These instructions specify the time for picking the plant, and 
the precautions to be observed in regard to both the plant 
and the herbalist. The scene is night (between sunset and sun- 
rise); the plant is isolated by a magic circle and covered; and 
the herbalist protects himself by covering his head. 

Nighttime may be specified in other ways: sometimes it is 
sufficient to say that the sun must not "see" the herb: for 
example, a root "which the sun did not see when you pulled 

preparing and administering the medicine at a propitious moment see 
Chapter III. 

147 Armand Delatte, Herbarius. Recherches sur le ceremonial usite chez les 
anciens pour la cueillette des simples et des plantes magiques, Bulletins de l'Academie 
Royale de Belgique, Classe des Lettres, t. 22 (1936); re-edited Paris: Droz 1938. 

148 AS. a mu.a d tug sag.zu zfd d Utu 
nam.ta.e su : tigilla sa ina 
seri edissisu asu klma Samas ana bltisu erebi subata qaqqadka kuttimma 
tigilla kuttimma qema esirma ina seri lam Samas ase ina manzazi(su) usuh- 
suma surussu leqema, CT 17 19 i 17-24 and dupls. Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, 
vol. 2 no. 2 i 29-40, etc., see Borger, HKL 2 (1975) 289. The translation 'gourd' 
here used is intended to serve as allusion to the gourd (Hebrew qiyqayon; 
see Jack M. Sasson, Jonah, The Anchor Bible, vol. 24B [New York: Doubleday, 
1990] 291), that provided shade for the prophet Jonah; other terms such as 
squash, cucumber, melon, are equally possible translations of the Akkadian 
word, for which see M. Stol, Bulletin on Sumerian Agriculture 3 (1987) 81ff. 



it up." 149 A medical text enjoins "you crush the root of the 
namtar-plant which was not exposed to the sun when it was 
dug up." 150 Recall the 

Root of hemlock digg'd i'the dark, 

as well as 

. . . slips of yew 

Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse 

that the witches, in Macbeth, throw into their caldron. 151 

Covering the plant and surrounding it with a magic circle are 
necessary because the plant may not willingly give up the root, 
leaf, or shoot needed for preparing the medicine; one must buy 
it from the plant, or at least give some compensation for it. 
Theophrastus notes, 'That one should be bidden to pray while 
cutting is not perhaps unreasonable, but the additions made 
to this injunction are absurd: for instance, as to cutting the kind 
of all-heal {partakes) one should put in the ground in its place 
an offering made of all kind of fruits and a cake; and that, when 
one is cutting gladwyn [Gk. £,ipig = iris 7 ], one should put in 
its place to pay for it cakes of meal from spring-sown wheat, 
and that one should cut it with a two-edged sword, first 
making a circle round it three times. . . ," 152 

In Babylonia the acacia shrub (U.GIR) is such a plant. When 
collecting acacia shoots, you spread them under an acacia shrub 
that grows on a mud wall 153 and say: "You have received the 

149 Akkadian: sa ina nasahika Samas la Tmuru, e.g., [U . . .] GIS.U.GIR sa ina 
Zl-ka d UTU NU IGI.DU 8 .A (BAM 1 i 7); U sursi GIS.NIM sa ina Zl-ka d UTU NU 
IGLDUs.A (BAM 1 i 10); (isid) lisan kalbi sa ina nasahika Samas NU IGI.[DU 8 ] 
(BAM 396 iii 7, also BAM 575 iii 25); d UTU NU IGI.LA (BAM 55:12); see CAD 
N/2 s.v. nasahu meaning 2d-l'. 

150 SUHUSxSE nam-tar-ru sa ina na-pa-li d UTU NU IGI.BAR tasak-unpub- 
lished medical text from Emar, line 46, courtesy A. Tsukimoto, and the simi- 
lar sums GIS.NAM.TAR NITA u sin-nis MAN NU IGI-rum KU NAG ina GU 
GAR.GAR 'root of the namtar (or read: pillu) plant, male and female, (that) 
the sun did not see, to give to eat (or) drink (or) put around the neck' and 
sursi GIS.NIM.BABBAR sa ina nasahika d UTU NU IGI.DU 8 , CT 14 23 K. 229:10, 
and, with sursi GIS.U.GIR ibid. 7 For napalu 'to dig up' see Marten Stol, Bulle- 
tin on Sumerian Agriculture 3 (1987) 65. 

151 Act IV, Scene 1. 

152 Theophrastus, Historia Plantarum 9.8.7. Cf. also L. B. Lawler, 'Three 
cakes for the dogs," Classical Bulletin 30 (1954) 25-28. 

153 Typical of the shrub acacia (Prosopis farcta, Arabic sok). 



present intended for you, now give me the plant of life." 154 At 
the very least, the herbalist must propitiate the plant by speak- 
ing a greeting or a prayer, for which I may again quote Pliny 
(NH 25.145): "Some instruct the diggers [of the pimpernel] to 
say nothing until they have saluted it before sunrise, and then 
to gather it and extract the juice, for so they say its efficacy is 
at its greatest." Even Christian monks recommended that while 
gathering herbs it would be holy to speak the salutation: 

All hail, thou holy herb, vervin, 
Growing on the ground. 155 

The two-edged sword, or any other tool used, must not be 
made of iron, a precaution that is well known from Classical 
Greek and Latin texts, as can be seen from a passage in Pliny's 
Natural History (24.103): "The plant called selago is gathered 
without iron with the right hand, thrust under the tunic 
through the left arm-hole, as though the gatherer were 
thieving." 156 The earliest attestation for this practice too comes 
from Babylonia, as was recognized as early as 1941. The Baby- 
lonian herbalist, too, draws a circle around the herb, in the 
cited text 157 with flour; in other recipes with an instrument but 
not with one made of iron. The precaution of approaching the 
herb the head covered with a cloth and covering the plant itself 
seems aimed at "blinding" the plant so that it does not recog- 

154 SE.KAK tasabbus ina sapal U.GIR sa eli pitiqti asu tatabbak klam 
taqabbi umma attama qlstaka mahrata samma sa balati idnamma, BAM 248 
iv 34, dupl. AMT 67,1 iv 27. Incidentally, not only plants receive a bakshish 
for yielding up their bounty (for offerings to plants, described in Pliny, see 
the references collected by Delatte, Herbarius [note 147 above]) but also other 
participants in the magic actions: the claypit (kullatu) from which the clay 
for fashioning ngurines is taken (Bibliotheca Orientalis 30 178:5) and the river 
that carries away the contaminated material (KAR 227:18, see Erich Ebeling, 
Tod und Leben nach den Vorstellungen der Babylonier [Berlin and Leipzig: de 
Gruyter & Co., 1931] 125). 

155 T. F. Thiselton Dyer, The Folk-lore of Plants (New York: Appleton, 1889) 
285. Or: "Hail thou holy herb Growing in the ground," as quoted in Kath- 
erine Oldmeadow, The Folklore of Herbs (Birmingham, n.d.) 6. 

156 "sine ferro dextra manu per tunicam qua sinistra exuitur, velut a 
furante," quoted Delatte, Herbarius (note 147 above) 175f. [= pp. 139ff.], with 
variant interpretations, e.g. " L'etoffe qui recouvre la main sert d'isolateur . . ." 

157 See note 148. 



nize the herbalist. 158 The reference to "as though . . . thieving" 
also indicates that the gatherer of the herbs pretends to be 
someone else, so as not to bring down upon himself the herb's 
revenge, an evil from which the Babylonian herbalist would 
have protected himself by an apotropaic ritual, but I know of 
no such ritual. 

The plant "growing alone in the plain" or the "lone tamarisk" 
is singled out already by its habitat; 159 other habitats are also 
singled out as significant. Especially effective, apparently, are 
plants growing on a grave (Akkadian kimahhu), as the texts 
often specify: "root of camel thorn from a grave, root of an 
acacia-shrub from a grave"; 160 or "acacia-shrub which grew on 
a grave." 161 Compare: 

Iubet sepulcris caprificos erutas, 
iubet cupressos funebris . . . aduri 

"(Canidia) orders wild fig trees uprooted from the tombs, funereal 
cypresses/' 162 

Most efficacious are plants growing in the mountains; there 
on the mountains 7 heights they are better exposed to the influ- 
ence of the stars, not only because they are closer to them but 
also because the atmosphere is thinner. 163 Among addresses 

158 ". . . nous reconnaissons quelques precautions parmi les plus cou- 
rantes: l'heure du premier contact et celle de la cueillette, qui sont surtout de 
nuit ou de l'aurore plutot que diurnes, et surtout le cercle magique delimite 
autour de la plante. Le plus souvent, il est trace sur le sol avec un instrument 
(rarement en fer), qui l'entame assez profondement; dans notre texte, il sera 
dessine avec de la farine repandue. Pourquoi un cercle? On y voit symbo- 
liquement une prise de possession isolant la plante de tout secours, mais 
aussi une veritable purification, le cercle la soustrayant aux mauvaises 
influences exterieures. Une particularite de ce rituel est l'approche . . . 'la 
tete couverte d'un vehement'; . . . cette precaution se double de celle de 
couvrir la plante elle-meme; le but vise parait etre d' "aveugler" la plante et 
d'empecher que l'herboriste soit connu d'elle . . ." G. Contenau, "Herbarius," 
RA 38 (1941) 53-55, ad 4R 3a:32-41, now CT 17 19, cited above. 

159 For the "lone (or single) palm tree" see Babylonian Talmud P e sachim 
lll a , also lll b , cited Strack-Billerbeck, vol. 4/1 p. 518. 

160 sums balti sa eli [kimahhi] sums asagi sa eli kimahhi, AMT 102:38. 

161 asagu sa ina muhhi kimahhi asu, AMT 99,3 r. 15, and passim. 

162 Horace, Epod. 5.17 sq. Note also Et strigis inventae per busca iacentia 
plumae "a screech-owl's feathers found among sunken tombs," Propertius 
III 6,29. 

163 See the texts quoted by Hopfner, Offenbarungszauber, vol. 1 §466. 



to herbs whose healing properties are sought, several begin by 
describing the plant as mountain-grown: "The heartsease grows 
in the mountains . . " 164 

Herbs can serve not only to heal but also to diagnose a con- 
dition. The patient's reaction to a medicine may very well indi- 
cate what his illness is and what the prognosis may be. Rare 
as they are, the attestations of this diagnostic method indicate 
that they may have been used more often than the extant texts 
reveal. One of the few is a Babylonian medical text that testifies 
to the use of a so-to-speak patch test. The sick man is bandaged 
with a poultice made of ingredients that act as an irritant and 
produce a blister. After having applied the poultice for three days, 
on the fourth day you remove it and inspect the blister that was 
produced by the poultice. The color of the blister, whether it 
is white, red, yellow, or black, will predict the course of the man's 
illness: "if the blister is white, his intestines will quiet down; 
if it is red, his intestines 'hold too much heat'; if it is green, (the 
affliction is due to) overexposure to sun; if it is black, the affliction 
will cause him suffering and he will not live." 165 Only after the 
diagnosis is made does the physician apply a medication to alle- 
viate the condition provoked. 

A similar test is described in a recently found medical text 
from Emar on the Euphrates: 166 "he chops 7 herbs for 'leprosy' 
with a fig-tree branch, he grinds 7 figs and raisins and ties them 
on in a bandage; on the next day at night he removes them, if 
they are white, he replaces the bandage, on the third day he 

164 sammu sa libbi ina sadi aslma, see my Your Thwarts in Pieces, Your 
Mooring Rope Cut. Poetry from Babylonia and Assyria, Michigan Studies in the 
Humanities, 5 (Ann Arbor, 1985), Chapter V. 

165 Edith K. Ritter, "Magical-Expert (= Asipu) and Physician (:= Asu). 
Notes on two Complementary Professions in Babylonian Medicine/' Studies 
in Honor of Benno Landsberger on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday, Aprils 21, 1965, 
AS 16 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965) 304, see also CAD B s.v. 

166 U.MES sa epqanni ina PA (= hatti?) sa GIS.PES imahhasma GURUN 
GIS.PES u GIS.GESTIN.UD.DU i-has-sal-ma irakkas-sunuti ina UD.2 GI 6 
ipattarsunuti summa pesu appuna irakkas-sunuti ina UD.3.KAM ipattarsunuti 
summa pesu appuna irakkas-sunuti summa pesu ihalliqu u summa pesusunu 
la iggamar TA NA 4 .ZU uhappasunutima . . . summa pani simmisu mithu- 
ruma samu SE.MUS5 . . . izarruma iballut summa la iballut . . . tartanakkas- 
su iballut (Emar med. text 72-94, courtesy A. Tsukimoto). 



removes them, if they are white, he replaces the bandage, (but) 
if the white (color 7 ) disappears or if their white (color) is not 
absorbed 7 he crushes them with an obsidian stone ... if the 
surface of his wound is uniformly red, he strews 'bitter barley' 
(etc., over it) and he will get well, if he does not get well, you 
keep placing a bandage (made with various ingredients) on him 
and he will get well." 

A rare pregnancy testing text from Babylonia has also come 
to light. It was used to test whether a woman is able to conceive. 
The test consists of inserting a pessary made from medications 
wrapped in a wad of wool, or of giving the woman a potion 
to drink. If the potion causes her to vomit, she is pregnant; if 
the wad of wool has turned green, she is pregnant. While sim- 
ilar tests had been known from Egyptian medicine, and they 
have been compared with Classical parallels, 167 the newly 
identified Babylonian pregnancy test is the first Mesopotamian 
example of this practice. 168 

The fame of Babylonian herbalists is attested in a ninth- 
century a.d. Arabic book, known as Nabatean Agriculture, 
which reports that certain medicinal plants were introduced by 
Babylonian kings, whose names it lists. 169 In fact, we know 
from Babylonian medical texts that certain salves 170 and 
strings of amulet stones were attributed to a famous king of the 
past, for example, to Hammurapi, Naram-Sin, and Rim-Sin. 171 
Another, perhaps not quite trustworthy, witness to the fame of 

167 Erik Iversen, Papyrus Carlsberg No. VIII with Some Remarks on the Egyp- 
tian Origin of Some Popular Birth Prognoses, Kgl. Danske Videnskabernes 
Selskab, Historisk-nlologiske Meddelelser 26,5 (1939), and J. B. deC. M. 
Saunders, The Transitions from Ancient Egyptian to Greek Medicine (Lawrence: 
University of Kansas Press, 1963) 15-18. See also the article "Empfangnis" 
by Erna Lesky, in RAC 4 (1959) 1248-52. 

168 The text is edited and commented on in Erica Reiner, "Babylonian 
Birth Prognoses;' ZA 72 (1982) 124-38. 

169 D. Chwolson, Uber die Uberreste der altbabylonischen Literatur in arabi- 
schen Ubersetzungen (St. Petersburg, 1859) 42. Unfortunately, the new translation 
of the Nabatean Agriculture announced by T. Fahd has not yet been published. 

170 teqlt Inl sa Hammurapi latku 'proven eye-salve from Hammurapi' 
BAM 159 iv 22; teqltu sa Hammurapi latiktu, Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 
2 no. 50:12. 

171 See Chapter VII. 



Babylonian drugs is the woman scorned in Theocritus' Second 
Idyll, who swears: 

If he continues to grieve me, I call on the Fates as my witness 
Soon he shall knock at the portals of Hades, such sinister drugs I 
Keep in my medicine chest, which I learned about from a 
Chaldean. 172 

172 Theocritus 2.160-162, translated by Daryl Hine, Theocritus Idylls and 
Epigrams (New York: Atheneum, 1982). (Greek: cpdpfxaKa . . . 'Aaaupico . . . 
napd ^eivoio fxaGoiaa). 




For when those who first wrote on the subject gave their 
attention almost solely to meditation about the stars, and 
believed natural philosophy and the healing art to be inti- 
mately connected with these heavenly bodies, they dis- 
seminated seeds of magic, from which that science grew 
to such a degree that it over-spread the whole world with 
its pollution. 

Bibliotheca Curiosa. Magic Plants; being a translation of 
a curious tract entitled De Vegetalibus Magicis, written by 
M. J. H. Heucher (1700) edited by Edmund Goldsmid, 
F.R.H.S.F.S.A (Scot.) Privately printed, Edinburgh. 1886, 
pp. 13-14. 

The Tale of the Poor Man of Nippur, the earliest example 173 of 
the folktale motif "The First Larrikin" best known from the 
Thousand and One Nights has often served to show that ancient 
Mesopotamian literature too knew the physician as a comic 
figure. This tale narrates how a poor man, wronged by the cor- 
rupt mayor of the city of Nippur, takes his revenge by giving 
the mayor three good thrashings for the one he received. He 
administers the second thrashing in the garb of a doctor from 
the city of Isin, under the pretense of tending the wounds that 
he himself had inflicted when he thrashed the mayor in a 
different disguise. Another humorous story, only recently pub- 
lished, The Tale of the Illiterate Doctor from Isin, 174 also pokes 
fun at the medical profession represented here again by a phy- 
sician from Isin. 

He is depicted as an illiterate who, when invited to Nippur 
to a banquet, cannot find his way to the house of his host be- 

-fO. R. Gurney, 'The Tale of the Poor Man of Nippur and its folktale 
parallels," Anatolian Studies 22 (1972) 149-58. 

** Erica Reiner, "'Why Do You Cuss me?'," Proceedings of the American 
Philosophical Society 130 (1986) 1-6. 



cause he does not understand Sumerian, the elite language still 
spoken by the inhabitants. Even the old woman on the street 
corner who gives him directions is bilingual. She addresses 
him in Sumerian but has to repeat everything she said in the 
only language he knows, in Akkadian. The doctor's ignorance 
of Sumerian, the language of learning, is as ridiculous as a 
physician's ignorance of Latin would have been in the not-so- 
distant past. Through the person of the physician the story also 
makes fun of the city of Isin itself, as famous in Mesopotamia 
for its physicians and as synonymous with medicine as 
medieval Salerno was to become. The most famous in the 
ancient world were of course the Egyptian physicians; so great 
was their fame that their neighbors in Anatolia begged them 
to come and provide treatment and medication, a topic that has 
been amply treated by Egyptologists. 175 

The two humorous tales that show that the physician was a 
comic figure in Babylonian literature just as he was in Moliere — 
and still is — have contributed to rekindle the interest in Mesopo- 
tamian medicine. The study of Mesopotamian medicine has 
also benefited from the upsurge of interest in the history of 
ancient medicine, 176 and has attracted a number of Assyriolo- 
gists competent to deal with the original material. They con- 
tribute to collective works on the history of medicine 177 but in 
the main their studies have focused on the identification of the 
diseases and of the materia medica used in the prescriptions. 
This, however, is the area that is fraught with the greatest 
difficulties, since we are rarely able to identify the substances — 
plants, minerals, and other matter— that enter as ingredients in 
recipes, or even to give a precise translation of the symptoms 

175 E.g., Elmar Edel, Agyptische Arzte und agyptische Medizin am hethiti- 
schen Kon igshof (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1976). 

176 To mention, e.g., the studies on Hippocratic medicine resulting from 
the Colloque of Strasbourg in 1972, and the books of G. E. R. Lloyd, the most 
recent being The Revolutions of Wisdom. Sather Classical Lectures, vol. 52 
(Berkeley- Los Angeles -London: University of California Press, 1987). 

177 For example, Krankheit, Heilkunst, Heilung, H. Schipperges, E. Seidler, 
P. U. Unschuld, eds., Veroffentlichungen des Instituts fur Historische 
Anthropologic e. V., vol. 1 (Freiburg: Alber, 1978), or Diseases in Antiquity; 
a survey of the diseases, injury, and surgery of early populations, Don R. Brothwell 
and A. T. Sandison, eds. (Springfield, 111.: C. C. Thomas, 1967). 



FIGURE 6. Middle register of a bronze plaque, showing a patient being 
cured. Courtesy of the Louvre, no. 22205. 

described. The conceptual advance represented by the struc- 
tural approach of Dietlinde Goltz 178 has remained largely 
without following, as have the more philosophically oriented 
studies of Lloyd; even though we no longer give credence to 
Herodotus' report on the lack of physicians 179 or make fun of 
the Babylonians' "Dreckapotheke." Herodotus' report that the 
Babylonians bring their sick to the market in order to inquire 
of passers-by what remedies they would suggest has served as 
argument in the market-economy dispute more importantly 
than in the history of medicine, and we realize that the Dreck- 
apotheke was a well-known pharmaceutical handbook of the 
seventeenth century. 180 

Understanding Babylonian medicine is especially seriously 
hampered by the character of the prescriptions, as they 
nowhere explain the reasons for the treatment indicated nor 
the property of the ingredient that recommends its use. 

In this respect the medicine of the Babylonians is not 
different from the rest of their scientific literature which knows 
only two forms: the list -from sign lists and Sumerian and 
Akkadian bilingual word lists and grammatical paradigms to 
mathematical and astronomical tables -and the procedural 

178 Dietlinde Goltz, Studien zur altorientalischen und griechischen Heilkunde, 
Sudhoffs Archiv, Beiheft 16 (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1974). 

179 Hdt. 3.1, see A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (Chicago: Uni- 
versity of Chicago Press, 1964) 294f . The anecdote is repeated in Strabo XVI 

180 The 1696 work Neu-vermehrte, heylsame Dreckapotheke ... by Christian 
Frz. Paullini. 



text. In medicine, the list form is used in the pharmaceutical 
compendia and the procedural in prescriptions. Even proce- 
dure texts do not constitute a proper handbook, however. Sci- 
entific texts in Babylonia deal with the particular, not the gen- 
eral; they describe procedures but not the justification, the 
underlying reasons, for the procedures; they are casuistic and 
not universalistic; they deal not with theory but with applica- 
tion. This holds, as has been many times stated, for Babylonian 
collections of laws, which hence it is no longer customary to call 
"law codes"; for Babylonian mathematics, which deal with 
problems and not with proofs; for the few "procedure" texts 
which describe step by step how to make glass, how to dye 
wool purple, how to train horses and, we can now add from 
a recently published manual, how to prepare meat dishes. 181 

In addition to the comparison of Babylonian and Greek medi- 
cine on the epistemological and structural level as Goltz has 
done, the examination of the astral components of Babylonian 
medicine, what in antiquity was called iatromathematics, is of 
interest for identifying the direct threads that connect the two. 
A guide for discovering the rationale -if one may call it that- 
behind the instructions to the physician found in these sources 
is handily provided by Greek and Latin, Classical and late, and 
even medieval texts. The non-Mesopotamian texts may serve as 
guides, inasmuch as they can provide the general background 
for the beliefs and practices we find in Mesopotamia; compar- 
isons, illuminating as they may be, should not be taken as 
attempts to ascertain the priority of the Babylonian over the 
Greek or the direction of influences, if any. 182 

Treatment and cure of diseases in Babylonia were the pur- 
view of two different kinds of practitioners: the asipu and the 
asii. 183 The asipu was the expert who performed apotropaic rit- 

181 Jean Bottero, Textes culinaires Mesopotamiens (Winona Lake: Eisen- 
brauns, 1995). 

182 p or th ese questions a summary with previous bibliography is found 
in Christopher A. Faraone, "Hephaestus the Magician and Near Eastern Par- 
allels for Alcinous' Watchdogs/' Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 28 (1987) 
257-80, especially 277ff. A revised version is found in Christopher A. 
Faraone, Talismans and Trojan Horses (Oxford University Press, 1992) 18-35, 
Chapter 2, "Beastly Guardians at the Gate." 

183 p or literature see Edith K. Ritter, "Magical-Expert (= Asipu) and Phy- 
sician (= Asu). Notes on two Complementary Professions in Babylonian 



uals, recited incantations, and executed magic manipulations; 
hence the term is often translated as 'conjurer/ 'exorcist/ or the 
like. It fell to him to examine the patient and to make a diag- 
nosis of the illness, to prognosticate its outcome, and also often 
to determine its aitiology: whether the illness had a somatic 
cause or whether it was brought about by a god or demon, or 
by the infringement of a taboo. His role is evident from the 
handbook known, from its incipit, as enuma ana bit marsi asipu 
illiku, "when the exorcist goes to the house of the sick person/ 7 
a handbook comprising forty chapters, to many of which an- 
cient commentaries have also been preserved. 184 

The treatment of the patient was the domain of the other 
practitioner, the asu, whose title may be appropriately trans- 
lated as 'physician/ He was in charge of the preparation and 
administration of the medicine and of other treatments among 
which those we might call magical must also be counted. Sev- 
eral chapters of the corpus of the physician are extant, but they 
seem not to have been organized into a single treatise such as 
the exorcist's were. These chapters have such titles 185 as "if a 
man's eyes are 'sick/" 186 "if a man's head is feverish," 187 and 
commentaries to several of these chapters, as well as to others 
that are not extant, are also known. 

Although elsewhere it is the exorcist who performs exorcistic 
and apotropaic rituals, the rituals and procedures designed to 
make the medical treatment more effective belong in the 

Medicine," Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday, 
April 21, 1965, AS 16 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965) 299-321; 
R. D. Biggs, "Babylonien," in Krankheit, Heilkunst, Heilung, H. Schipperges, 
E. Seidler, P. U. Unschuld, eds., Veroffentlichungen des Instituts fur Histo- 
rische Anthropologic e. V., vol. 1 (Freiburg: Alber, 1978) 91-114. 

184 Edited by Rene Labat, Traite akkadien de diagnostics et pronostics medi- 
caux (Leiden: Brill, 1951); additional pieces of the treatise and commentaries 
have been published by Hermann Hunger, SpTU, vol. 1 nos. 27-42, and 
Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 3 nos. 87-89. A catalogue of the series is pub- 
lished by I. L. Finkel, 'Adad-apla-iddina, Esagil-kln-apli, and the Series 
SA.GIG," in A Scientific Humanist. Studies in Memory of Abraham Sachs, Erie 
Leichty, M. dej. Ellis, P. Gerardi, eds. (Philadelphia: The University Museum, 
1988) 143-59. 

185 Titles appear as subscripts on the cuneiform tablets. 

186 E.g., BAM nos. 510-16. 

187 E.g., Hermann Hunger, SpTU, vol. 1 nos. 44, 46, and 48. 



physician's domain. Foremost among them are those designed 
to ascertain that the celestial powers make the medication 
efficacious; to attain this goal the medicine has to be prepared 
under the stars' benefic influence, and administered at a pro- 
pitious time. 

The most commonly occurring phrase among the instruc- 
tions to this effect is "you let (the preparation) spend the night 
under the stars." 188 Since the instruction refers to a medication 
prepared ahead of time, on the eve before it is administered to 
the patient, it could be taken as the normal way of expressing 
"to let stand overnight," as in fact it has been translated in the 
Chicago Assyrian Dictionary. 189 There are indeed practical rea- 
sons for letting the preparation stand overnight: the ingredi- 
ents must be steeped in the carrier— oil for salves, liquids for 
potions and baths— in order to be properly blended. 190 The 
mixture is sometimes put in the oven to steep or simmer over- 
night, and removed in the morning and cooled before use. Nev- 
ertheless, the practical reason alone does not explain or justify 
the procedure: exposition of the medication "to the stars" is nec- 
essary to obtain astral irradiation. 

The phrase is first encountered in medical texts written in 
Akkadian at the Hittite capital Hattusa (present-day Boghazkoy) 
in Anatolia where they were excavated in the early years of this 
century; they can be dated to c. the thirteenth century B.C. As 
these texts themselves are no doubt copies of, or modeled on 
originals written in Babylonia, they take us back to the middle 
of the second millennium and possibly even earlier, to the Old 
Babylonian period from which few medical texts are extant. 
The Boghazkoy material, in structure, content, and termi- 
nology, resembles the large corpus of medical texts from the 
first millennium more than it does the few known Old Baby- 
lonian and Middle Babylonian exemplars; since much of the 
intellectual as well as political history of Babylonia is hidden in 

188 ina kakkabi tusbat, literally, 'you have (it) spend the night in the star/ 
the singular form (M)UL being more frequent than the plural (M)UL.MES. 

189 Sub vv. bdtu and kakkabu. 

190 Dietlinde Goltz, Studien zur altorientalischen und griechischen Heilkunde, 
Sudhoffs Archiv, Beiheft 16 (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1974) 51 with n. 300: 
"Das Ziel des Stehenlassens ist eine Mazeration." 



the so-called "dark ages/ 7 roughly from c. 1600 to c. 1400, the 
break in the tradition, also evidenced by the Boghazkoy texts, 
remains difficult to date and to explain. Nevertheless, one of 
the Old Babylonian prescriptions already mentions that the 
medication "should spend the night under the stars." 191 The 
only difference between the Old Babylonian and the more 
recent version is that the latter speaks to the physician, and the 
early prescription speaks of the medicine. 

A typical prescription found in a Boghazkoy text reads: 

you mix (the ingredients) in first-quality beer, you let it spend the 
night under the stars, in the morning you strain the first-quality 
beer and you give it to him to drink. 192 

Another prescription: 

you [steep] (the materia medico) together in water, you let it spend 
the night under the stars, in the morning you [. . .] that water. 193 

Several other texts, many of them fragmentary, contain simi- 
lar instructions, for example: "you let that water (mixed with the 
blood of a bat ? ) spend the night under the stars"; 194 note espe- 
cially "you let it spend the night [. . .], in the morning [. . .]." 195 

The same instructions, occasionally in an amplified version, 
occur frequently in the large corpus of medical texts written in 

191 [i-n]a MUL li-bi-it-ma, YOS 11 29:6-7 (collated by Walter Farber), i.e., 
ina MUL = ina kakkabim "in the star," and libit from the same verb, bdtu (Old 
Babylonian biatum), 'to spend the night/ conjugated in the intransitive rather 
than in the factitive stem. 

192 ina KAS.SAG tamahhas ina MUL.MES tusbat ina serti KAS.SAG 
tuzak . . . tasaqqlsuma, KUB 37 55 iv 15. 

193 iltenis ina me ta[rassansunuti] ina MUL.MES tusbat ina sertim me su- 
nuti [...], KUB 37 50:4ff. and parallel 55 iv 8ff. 

194 me sunuti ina MUL tus-bat, KUB 4 48 i 15 (edited Biggs, SA.Z7.GA 
p. 54f.), ana MUL tusbat, ibid, iii 15 (ibid. p. 55), ina MUL tusbat, KUB 37 43 
ii 4 and, with added injunction for not exposing it to sunlight (see p. 37) in 
the parallel 44:17, also KUB 37 49:6', and, with only the verb tusbat preserved, 
[ina MUL tu]-us-bat, KUB 4 27:10 and [ina MUL t]u-us-bd-a-at , ibid. rev. 5. 

195 [ . . .] tus-ba-at a-ku-zi-en-ga [. . .], KUB 37 56:4. The spelling a-ku-zi- 
en-ga represents, in "phonetic" spelling, the Sumerogram A.GU.ZI.GA = 
Akkadian sert u 'morning/ From another western source, the ancient city of 
Emar in Syria (modern day Meskene), come the similar phrases ina MUL 
tus-bat and ina MUL tus-bat ina se-[er-ti . . .] Arnaud, SMEA 30 (1992) 226 no. 
27 i 5' and 20'. 



Mesopotamia. We know these texts both from the library of 
Tiglath-Pileser I in Assur from the eleventh or tenth centuries 
B.C. and from the seventh-century library of Assurbanipal at 
Nineveh, but their date of composition is uncertain. For example: 

If a man's left temple hurts him and his left eye is swollen and 
tears, you crush dates, Telmun-dates, flsw-plant, and cedar resin in 
myrrh oil, you expose it overnight to the stars, 196 in the morning, 
without eating, 197 you daub (his eyes with it) 198 

You dry and crush 'dog's tongue' 199 which, when you pulled it 
up, the sun [did not see], 200 [you mix it] into beer from the tavern- 
keeper, you expose it overnight to the star(s), [he drinks it] without 
eating [and gets well]. 201 

You expose (the emetic) overnight to the star(s), he drinks it and 
will vomit. 202 

Powdered minerals are added to beer and then mixed with 
juniper oil, 203 exposed to the stars, and in the morning, before 
the sun rises, "you anoint the patient's entire body"; 204 a sim- 

196 A less literal translation of the phrase "you let it spend the night 
under the stars." The phrase is comparable to Greek astronomein, that is, to 
expose to stellar irradiation, for which see Delatte, Herbarius (note 147 above) 
192, with reference to CCAG 12 pp. 127,16; (ipetc; vuktok; vd daTpovo[iiar|<;) 
128,8; cf. 129,15; (TpeiQ vuktok; e£co ev toi<; doipoK;) 131,12 De septem herbis 
planetarum, ex codice 3 (= Cod. Mus. Paleogr. Acad. Scient. Petropoli- 
tanae). The German verb 'besternen' was used by H. Ritter in his translation 
of the Arabic Picatrix as a single-word equivalent to "dem astralischen 
Einfluss aussetzen." 

197 The injunction could refer not only to the patient's fasting, as it has 
usually been taken and as it also seems to mean here, either because it was 
recognized that ingesting medicine on an empty stomach makes it more 
effective or because fasting is essential for cultic purity, but it could refer, as in 
other cultures, to swallowing medicine and the like without chewing or, as 
Pliny puts it, without the teeth touching it (quoniam dentibus tactis nihil pro- 
sint 'because if the teeth are touched [the medication] is useless' Pliny, NH 
30.35). Probably for similar reasons is the use of a reed tube (Akkadian tak- 
kussu, cf . Pliny's per harundinem) for administering medicine recommended. 

198 ina UL tusbat ina serim balu patan teqqi, BAM 482 iii 2. 

199 A plant whose Akkadian name corresponds to cynoglossum, but 
whose botanical identity is not known, see p. 32 and note 131. 

200 p or t hj s precaution see Chapter II. 

201 ina UL tus-bat balum patan [isattlma ina'es], BAM 396 iii 7-9. 

202 ina UL tus-bat isattlma i'arru, BAM 578 iii 1 and 2. 

203 saman surmeni. 

204 kala zumrisu tapassas, AMT 90,1 iii 6. 



ilar recipe directs: "you set out a holy water vessel, put tama- 
risk, mastakal-plant, sweet reed, and cedar oil into it, expose it 
to the stars overnight, draw [a magic circle around it], 205 and 
in the morning, facing the sun, you massage [. . .]." 206 

The texts are sometimes explicit about prescribing the admin- 
istration of the drug "in the morning, //207 sometimes adding 
"facing the sun," 208 but more often mention only the exposure 
to the stars, 209 occasionally adding "at night," 210 or amplifying 
the phrase as "to the stars of the night." 211 

To the stars are exposed other substances as well. To protect 
from ghosts, a clay pot covering a figurine is exposed for three 
days, to the sun during the day and to the stars at night: "you 
make a figurine of 'any evil/ clothe it in a lion skin, you string 
carnelian and put it around its neck, you provide it with a sack 
and give it travel provisions, for three days you place in front 
of it nine food portions, . . . -soup, you place it on the roof of 
the patient's house, and libate for it . . . -flour mixed in water 
and beer, you erect around it three cuts of cedar, you surround 
it with a circle of flour, you upend over it an unfired . . . -pot, 
by day let the sun see the . . . -pot, at night let the stars see 
it, on the third day at midday 7 22 ? . . . you place a censer with 

205 For restoration see BAM 578 i 37-41, cited p. 59 n. 245. 

206 a g U bba tukan ana libbi blni mastakal [GI ? ].DUG.GA saman ereni ana 
libbi tanaddi [ina] UL tusbat [x (x)]-es-sir ina seri ana IGI d Samas [. . . 
tu]massa', AMT 70,7:10-12. 

207 ina seri, written syllabically, for example, ina musi ana IGI MUL tus-bat 
ina se-rim tusabsal . . . lam Samas napahi tasaqqisu "at night you expose it to the 
stars, in the morning, before sunrise, you give it to him to drink," BAM 57:10- 
13, or written with the Sumerogram A.GU.ZI.GA 'morning/ e.g., AMT 90,1 
iii 6, BAM 514 ii 29, and (in an apotropaic ritual for digging a well) CT 38 29:48. 

208 ina A.GU.ZI.GA ina IGI MAN (variant: d UTU), BAM 449 iii 6 and 15 
(= AMT 90,1), ina se-rim ana IGI d UTU, AMT 70,7:12, both "in the morning 
before the sun." For the meaning of the phrase "before the sun," scil. the Sun 
as supreme judge, in magical rituals see Parpola, LAS 2 p. 182 ad no. 187. 

209 ina MUL tusbat, AMT 62,3 r. 4 = Biggs, SA.Z7.GA p. 51; ina MUL tus- 
bat, AfK 1 (1923) 36:4 and 9 (copy p. 38); KAR 65 r. 7 = RA 48 (1954) 132 no. 
7; ina UL tusbat, AMT 37,2 r. 8, AMT 1,3:9, BAM 396 ii 24, 480 ii 7, 482 ii 3, 
499 iii 13, 516 i 63, 575 i 17, STT 102:11, AMT 91,2 and dupl., see Caplice, Or. 
NS 36 (1967) 25:12; 79-7-8-115 :7ft., see Caplice, Or. NS 36 (1967) 32. 

210 ina musi ina UL tusbat 'at night you expose it to the stars/ BAM 152:7. 

211 ana MUL musiti Or. NS 36 (1967) 287:9, 295:25, both belonging to the 
class of apotropaic rituals. Another apotropaic ritual preserves only [. . . tus- 
bat ina A.GU.ZI.GA . . ., Or. NS 40 (1971) 164 no. 63:5'. 



juniper before Samas, at night you pour out millet-flour before 
the stars, for three days he should recite over it" (the incanta- 
tion follows). 212 

Nowhere is it stated in what way the stars are expected to act 
on the medication or what specific effect their irradiation is to 
achieve. Again, were it not for the knowledge we gain from the 
Greeks, we might have been satisfied with the rationalist expla- 
nation mentioned earlier. Still, there exist clues that should 
have made us Assyriologists realize that more than a practical 
result was desired by the nocturnal exposition. For the instruc- 
tions do not confine themselves to prescribe overnight exposi- 
tion to "stars" in general, but sometimes specify to which star 
or constellation the preparation should be exposed. For ex- 
ample, a variant to one of the just cited prescriptions, instead 
of exposition to "the stars of the night," specifies exposition to 
the Goat star. 213 The instructions of another prescription are: 
"at night you place it in front of the Goat star, and in the 
morning, before sunrise, before he sets foot on the ground, he 
drinks it." 214 Or also, for a salve for the eyes: "at night on the 
roof [you expose it] to the Goat 7 star, in the morning, before 
sunrise [you . . .] these herbs." 215 

The Goat star, which corresponds to the constellation Lyra, 
is the celestial manifestation of the goddess Gula. Gula is the 
goddess of healing; a chthonic goddess with a dog as her com- 
panion, and in other respects too resembling Hecate. This 

212 salam mimma lemnu teppus masak nesi tulabbassu samtu tasakkak 
ina kisadisu tasakkan naruqqa tusasbas[su] u sude tanaddinsu UD.3.KAM 
9 kurummassu UTIJL sirpeti ana panlsu tasakkan ina ur bit marsi tuszassuma 
ZlD.SE. SA. A ina me u sikari tamahhasma tanaqqlsu 3 silti GIS.ERIN.NA itatisu 
tuzaqqap zisurra talammlsu DUG.NIG.DUR.BUR NU AL.SEG 6 .GA elisu tukat- 
tam ina umi DUG.NIG.DUR.BUR d UTU llmursu ina musi MUL.MES limurusu 
UD.3.KAM BAR. BAR umi 22 NIG x nignak burasi ana pan Samas tasakkan 
ina musi ZID.ZIZ.Am ana pan MUL.MES muslti tasarraq ana pan Samas u 
MUL.MES UD.3.KAM ana muhhi [li ? ] -im-tan-<an)-nu, BAM 323:4-13 ( = 
KAR 184), edited by Jo Ann Scurlock, "Magical Means of Dealing with 
Ghosts in Ancient Mesopotamia" (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1988), 
Prescription 56. 

213 BAM 578 i 38-41, variant from BAM 159 i 34; parallel also BAM 60:7-11. 

214 ina MI ana IGI MUL.UZ tasakkan ina serti lam Samas ase lam sepsu 
ana qaqqari isakkanu isatti, AMT 59,1 i 29. 

215 ina MI ina UR ana IGI MUL.U[Z ? . . .] ina seri lam Samas ase U.HI. A 
annu[ti . . .], BAM 516 i 57f. 



aspect of the goddess also explains the fact that votive dogs 
have been found in great numbers in the Gula temples, 
including the recently excavated temple in Nippur. We should 
also note that the goat is the animal of Hecate — and of her mani- 
festation as Selene— too. 216 

As most specific instructions mention the constellation of 
Gula, the Goat, or rather She-goat, 217 it should be evident that 
the aim of the procedure is irradiation by the star of the goddess 
of healing. The star of Gula, especially the 0.1 magnitude Vega 
in the constellation Lyra, the fourth brightest of all the stars, is 
particularly prominent in the summer sky, but can be seen at 
varying times any night of the year. 218 Other prescriptions state: 
"These 24 herbs and aromatics you arrange before the Goat star, 
you moisten them with beer, in the morning you boil it"; 219 
"at night you let it stand overnight before the Goat star, in [the 
morning] you boil it," 220 and so on. 221 

Any doubts about this identification should be dispelled by 
the explicit instruction: "at night you let it stand overnight 
before the Goat star, (you draw a magic circle around it with 
flour, you cense it) and you invoke the names of Gula and of 
Belet-ill." 222 The Goat star of one prescription is further 
identified as the "cattle-pen" of Gula. 223 Instead of Goat star, 
some texts simply say "before the goddess Gula." 224 

216 Wilhelm Heinr. Roscher, Uber Selene und Verwandtes. Studien zur Grie- 
chischen Mythologie und Kulturgeschichte vom vergleichenden Standpunkte. Viertes 
Heft (Leipzig: Teubner, 1890) 43 and 105. Greek magical papyri also occasion- 
ally interchange the moon goddesses Hecate and Selene, for example PGM 
IV 2525, 2711, and 2821. 

217 Akkadian enzu. 

218 To quote H. A. Rey, The Stars. A New Way to See Them (Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin, 1952, twelfth printing 1970) 38. 

219 .. . ana IGI MUL.UZ tukan ina sikari tulabbak . . . ina serti tusabsal, 
BAM 579 iv 19. 

220 ina MI ana IGI MUL.UZ tu[s-b]at ina [serti] tusabsal, BAM 579 iv 5f. 

221 ina MI ana (variant: ina) IGI MUL.UZ tus-bat, BAM 574 i 29, variant 
from 575 iv 49; and, with parallel MUL MI 'the star(s) of the night/ BAM 159 
i 34, BAM 578 i 40. 

222 ina musi ana IGI MUL.UZ tusbat . . . sum Gula u DINGIR.MAH tazakkar, 
BAM 49:17ff., also ibid. r. 37ff., 50 ii 14ff., 54:10. 

223 ana IGI MUL.UZ TUR d Gu-la tusbat, BAM 579 iv 38ff. 

224 ana IGI d Gu-la 'before Gula/ BAM 575 iii 54; cf., in a healing ritual, 
"you sweep the roof ina IGI d Gu-la 'before Gula/" KAR 73:6. 



FIGURE 7. Seal representing Gula with her dog. Courtesy of the British 
Museum, BM 89846, published by Dominique Collon, "Neo-assyrian Gula 
in the British Museum," in Beschreiben und Deuten in der Archaologie des 
Alten Orients (Altertumskunde des Vorderen Orients, 4), Miinster: Ugarit- 

Verlag, 1994, pp. 43ff . 

FIGURE 8. Gula and her dog represented on a boundary stone. Courtesy 

of the Louvre, no. SB 22, published by V. Scheil, Memoires de la Delegation 

en Perse, vol. 2 (Paris: Leroux, 1900), pi. 24. 



A further proof for the identity of the Goat star and the god- 
dess of healing is the recipe: "You take equal amounts of var- 
ious herbs, chop them, sprinkle them with pure juniper juice, 
and place the mixture before Gula" while a duplicate to this text 
says "place it before the Goat star." 225 Even the veterinarian 
exposed the tonic he prepared for horses to the Goat star: "take 
one-third liter each from the 23 plants enumerated above, . . . 
leave them overnight exposed to the Goat star, in the morning 
boil them, . . . this is a tonic for horses." 226 

The same sources from Anatolia that provided the earliest ref- 
erences to the practice of nocturnal exposition are also those 
that give the reasons for it. They are, however, written in the 
Hittite language, and thus were less accessible to Assyriolo- 
gists. One text, from about the thirteenth century, directs the 
exorcist: "Take it (the substance to be used) up to the roof, and 
recite as follows: 'From on high in the sky may the thousand 
stars incant it, and may the Moon god incant it.' And it remains 
under the stars." 227 

The Hittite verb used for the celestial irradiation, hukkisk-, 
can be more easily translated into German, with the verb 
'besprechen/ as the editor of the text, Kronasser, had done. For 
lack of a similarly appropriate term in English, I have applied 
the verb 'to incant/ reminiscent of "incantation" to express 
influence through irradiation. The Hittite text emphasizes the 
power the stars exercise and the way in which this power is 
manifested, while the Akkadian texts highlight the practi- 
tioner's act of the exposition. The result expected in both cul- 
tures, however, is not in doubt: the stars will make the potion 
or salve potent and efficacious. 

It was not always Vega, the Goat, that was invoked to irra- 
diate the medication, possibly because its position in the sky 
was not favorable or the day not propitious for praying to the 

225 malmalis tusamsa UR.BI takassim me burasi elluti tasallah ina pan 
d Gula (variant: MUL.UZ) tukan, BAM 168:35f., dupl. STT 97 ii 6ff. 

226 BAM 159 v 41-46. Herbs are exposed to the Goat star also in BAM 
90:7', 561:5', 579 iv 5f., iv 19, and (in broken context) BAM 38 rev. 11. 

227 KUB 7 no. 1 ii 20-24 (§6), see Kronasser, Die Sprache 7 (1961) 149 (tran- 
scription) and 151 (translation). Cf. §7 (ii 27ff.) "In der Nacht haben es die 
tausend Sterne und der Mondgott besprochen . . ." See also Ernst Tenner, 
ZA 38 (1929) 187f . ad lines 21ff. 



goddess Gula. Corresponding in prominence to Vega in Lyra, 
the brightest summer star, the brightest winter constellation is 
Orion, known as the True Shepherd of Anu according to its 
Sumerian name, Sipazianna. 228 While Orion too was wor- 
shipped as a deity in Mesopotamia, 229 few medical texts invoke 
it. A fragmentary text 230 that preserves a ritual, including liba- 
tions, before the constellation probably belongs in the medical 
corpus, judging by the few preserved ends of lines: "you salve 
him," 231 the name of the herb 'it-cures-twenty/ 232 and the in- 
junction "without eating" (line 8). 233 An equally fragmentary 
text invokes Orion against vertigo. 234 

More rarely, medical texts contain appeals to the Yoke star, 
a constellation roughly equivalent to Bootes (see Chapter I), the 
Scorpion, and Centaurus. But the constellation most frequently 
beseeched to irradiate the substance exposed to it is Ursa 
Maior, our Big Dipper, which occurs frequently in the Greek 
magical papyri too under its more common Greek name, Bear 
(apKioc; 'she-bear'). The Babylonians called it Wagon, 235 after 
the shape of the seven most conspicuous stars, a name that is 
also used by various Eurasian peoples: in English (Charles') 

233 i 

228 The constellation's Akkadian name, Sitaddalu or Sidallu, is a word of 
unknown meaning and etymology. 

229 For Sipazianna's role in Babylonian ritual see Chapter VIII. He was 
invoked in the Hellenistic magical papyri as Saint Orion (PGM I 29-36). 

230 BAM 502. 

231 SES-su line 5. 

232 U.IGI.20 = imhur-esra line 6. 
.] Sipa-zi-an-na UR SAR 
.] x GAR-an KAS SAG 


3 [. . .] TI ? BI.ZA.ZA SIG7.SIG7 

4 [. . .] x KU es-ret (or: GIS.SID) 

5 [. . .] SES-su 

6 [. . . U].IGI.20 

7 [. . .]-x-hat (possibly: [mesunu 


8 [. . . balu] pa-tan 

9 [. . . ] Tel 

234 EN MUL.SIPA.ZI.AN.NA [. . .] mukkisu GIG [. . .] En-la-ta ina same 
nap-[ha-ta . . .] sidanu [. . .] mahraka AN [. . .], LKA 25 ii 20-24 (end of ob- 
verse 7 ); the duplicates to this text (see p. 136) omit the prayer to Orion. 

235 Sumerian MAR.GlD.DA = Akkadian Eriqqu. 

[before] Orion you sweep the roof 
you set out [. . .], you libate hrst 
quality beer 
... a green frog 

you salve him 
'you squeeze their juices' 

[without] eating 



Wain, in Latin plaustrum, carrus, in French chariot (le chariot du 
roi David), in Italian Carro, in German Wagen, in South Slavic 
(Velika 'Big') Kola, in Hungarian Szeker (Goncolszeker), etc. Both 
Bear and Wagon are attested in Homer: "the Great Bear that 
mankind also calls the Wagon; she wheels on her axis always 
fixed, watching Orion, and she alone is denied a plunge in the 
Ocean's baths/' 236 Only in Babylonia, however, do we have a 
more detailed description of this constellation as well as the 
enumeration of its parts: the yoke, the pole, and the side-pieces, 
which in these prayers are equated with divine beings. 237 

Since Ursa Maior is a circumpolar constellation, and thus 
never sets -"she alone is denied a plunge in the Ocean's baths"- 
or, as the Babylonians put it, "it stands there all year," 238 it 
could be invoked at any season of the year, so that practical con- 
siderations could have played a role in its choice. We should also 
note that the Akkadian word for Wagon, eriqqu, is of feminine 
gender. Thereby the Wagon constellation may be identified with 
the goddess Istar, and with her heavenly manifestation, the 
planet Venus. The identification is attested not only in the 
ancient star lists and commentaries according to which "The 

236 "ApKiov 0', fiv Kai "Ajxa^av 87iiK^r|aiv Ka^eooaiv, 
fi x' aircoO Gip&peiai kou t' 'Qpicova 8oKei3ei, 

oi'r| 6' awiopoc; eon Xoeipoov 'QKeavoio. 

II. XVIII 487-89 and Od. V 273-75, translation from Homer, The Iliad. Trans- 
lated by Robert Fagles (New York: Viking Penguin, 1990). The passage is 
cited, among others, by Festugiere, La Revelation d'Hermes Trismegiste 2 (1950) 
vol. 1 pp. 182f. and Eric P. Hamp, "The Principal Indo-European Constella- 
tions," Proceedings of the Eleventh International Congress of Linguists, Luigi Heil- 
mann, ed. (Bologna: il Mulino, 1974) 1239. Most recently, the fact that the 
Greek name atnaxa, 'chariot/ was borrowed from Babylonia has been pointed 
out by Duchesne-Guillemin, CRAI 1986 p. 237. 

237 STT 73:61-64 and 71-75, see JNES 19 (1960) 33; a duplicate to this text, 
UET 7 118:8-10 and 17-20, writes the name of the constellation as 
MUL.MAR.GID.DA.AN.NA, which elsewhere designates Ursa Minor, see the 
references collected by Wayne Horowitz, "The Akkadian Name for Ursa 
Minor," ZA 79 (1989) 242. Another prayer to Ursa Maior, addressing her as 
MUL.MAR.GID.DA.AN.NA GIS.MARGID.DA samami, is published in Egbert 
von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 4 no. 129 v 21ff., and an unpublished text, BM 33841 
+ 48068, signaled by W. G. Lambert to von Weiher, is mentioned on p. 39 
ad loc. 

238 BPO 2 Text III 28c: kal satti izzaz. 



Wagon is Venus in the East" 239 but is also evident from the 
inclusion of omens from the Wagon among celestial omens 
derived from phenomena of Venus observed. 240 In her mani- 
festation as the year-round visible, circumpolar constellation 
Ursa Maior, the Big Dipper, Istar can exert her influence even 
when her planet, Venus, is invisible. 241 

Other stars remain nameless. The chapter "if a man's head 
is feverish" of the medical compendium includes recipes to 
stop loss or thinning of hair, and the treatment is accompanied 
by the recitation of charms. The last of a series of six such 
charms (labeled "incantation") is addressed to an unnamed 
star, identified only as the "first" star, and is accompanied by 
offerings consisting not only of the usual foodstuffs (dates, 
flour, a sweet confection, ghee, herbs and spices, etc.) but also 
of a lamb. The address to the star is as follows: 

You, star, who illuminates [. . .] the midst of heaven, who surveys 

(all four) regions, 
I, so-and-so, son of so-and-so, 242 prostrate myself before you this 

night, decide my case, give me a verdict, 
let these herbs wipe away the evil that affects me. 243 

Just as a magic circle around the herb itself before it was dug 
up was indicated, a magic circle around the medicinal prepara- 
tion was supposed to enhance the effect expected from the noc- 
turnal exposition. Thus, a recipe directs: "you place (the three 
herbs steeped in beer) before the Goat star (variant: the stars 
of the night), you draw a circle around it, 244 in the morning 
[. . .] you strain it, he drinks it without eating." 245 

239 [MUL.MA]R.GlD.DA MUL Dil-bat ina d [UTU.E].A, LBAT 1564:13, see 
Weidner, Handbuch 118, and the unpublished tablet BM 37391. 

240 See BPO 3; note also that a scholion gives Venus as explanation to the 
Goat star: MUL.UZ d Dil-bat (Hermann Hunger, Astrological Reports to 
Assyrian Kings, SAA 8 [1992] no. 175 r. 7). 

241 For rituals performed before Ursa Maior see Chapter V. 

242 Here the name and patronymic of the patient are to be supplied. 

243 atta kakkabu munammir x x x x qereb same haft kibrati 

anaku annanna mar annanna ina musi anne maharka kamsaku dinl din 

purussa'a purus 
sammu annutu lipsisu lumnl, 

BAM 480 iii 52-54. 

244 Literally "surround it with a 'drawing/ " 

245 ana pan MUL.UZ tasakkan usurta talammi ina serti [x x] nu tasahhal 



A medication prepared with herbs gathered in the proper 
fashion, and exposed to irradiation by the stars often is also 
administered at an astrologically propitious moment. Favor- 
able days for commencing some activity or enterprise are listed 
in the hemerologies, but administering medicine is not singled 
out, apart from the injunction "the physician must not treat a 
patient" 246 which is mentioned among forbidden activities on 
certain unpropitious days. The choice of particular times of the 
month or year and the role of constellations and planets is sig- 
nificant not only in medicine but also in various domains of 
magic; it will be given an appropriate place in Chapter V. 

Stars can be efficacious in healing illness since they may have 
been its cause. Poetic texts speak of illness "drizzling down 
from the udders of heaven" 247 or "raining down from the 
stars"; charms for protection against some illness may state that 
it "has come down from the stars in the sky"; 248 dew coming 
from stars may be evil as well as beneficial, as the phrases "evil 
dew of the stars" and the "pure dew of the stars" 249 show. 
More specific is the attribution to the planets Jupiter and Mars 
of spleen and kidney ailments. We have here the first occur- 
rence of melothesia 250 and the only known Babylonian ex- 

balu patan isatti, BAM 578 i 38-41, variant from BAM 159 i 34; parallel also 
BAM 60:7-11. For 'without eating' see note 197. 

246 asu ana marsi qassu la ubbal, KAR 176 r. ii 26, and passim. 

247 JCS 9 (1955) 8ff . (the cuneiform text is now published as YOS 11 no. 
8), see Oppenheim, "Man and Nature in Mesopotamian Civilization," DSB 
15 p. 640, while other texts speak of illness sprung up from the bowels of 
the earth (Ludlul II 52), see E. Reiner, Your Thwarts in Pieces, Your Mooring 
Rope Cut. Poetry from Babylonia and Assyria, Michigan Studies in the Human- 
ities, 5 (Ann Arbor, 1985) 115. 

248 The maskadu-disease istu MUL.MES samami urda, urdamma istu MUL.MES 
samami 'descended from the stars of the sky, it indeed descended from the 
stars of the sky,' BAM 390:5-7. For the disease maskadu — its "true" name, see 
E. Reiner, "Nocturnal Talk," in Lingering over Words: Studies in Ancient Near 
Eastern Literature in Honor of William L. Moran, Tzvi Abusch et al., eds., Har- 
vard Semitic Studies, 37 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990) 424 n. 18, while its 
"common" name is suu — see CAD s. vv. 

249 nalsu lemnu sa kakkabi and nalsu ellu sa kakkabi, Hermann Hunger, SpTU, 
vol. 1 no. 48 and dupl., cited Walter Farber, Schlaf, Kindchen, Schlaf! Mesopota- 
mische Baby-Beschworungen und -Rituale (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1989) 63. 

250 A. Bouche-Leclercq, LAstrologie grecque (Paris, 1899, reprinted Aalen: 
Scientia, 1979) 320ff . 



% % r 

FIGURE 9. Clay models of sheep livers inscribed with liver omens. Cour- 
tesy of the Louvre, nos. AO 19829 and AO 19834. 

ample. The commentary to a medical text in which it occurs 
does not make this connection clear. It cites the entry from a 
medical text and then comments upon it. The first entry is "If 
a man's spleen hurts him"; this is followed by the phrase that 
normally introduces scholia: "as they say" (or "as it-scil. the 
commentary- says"), and finally the scholion or explanation 
itself: "in the spleen = Jupiter"; a lexical equation, SA.GIG = 
tu-li-mu 'spleen/ ends the quote. The next entry is similarly 
structured: "If a man's kidney hurts him, (the disease comes 
from the god) Nergal, as they say: 'The Kidney-star is Mars.'" 251 
In this last scholion the tertium comparationis, namely "Nergal is 
Mars," has been omitted. It is well known, from Ptolemy and 
others, that Mars "governs" the kidneys; Jupiter "governs" the 
liver and the stomach. 252 

251 summa amilu tulimsu lkulsu . . . sa iqbu ina SA SA.GIG : d SAG.ME. 
GAR : SA.GIG = tu-li-mu, . . . summa amilu kallssu lkulsu d Nergal sa iqbu 
MUL.BIR = d Salbatanu (Civil, JNES 33 [1974] 336f., Text 3); see E. Reiner, 
NABU 1993/26. The unfortunately fragmentary commentary to a medical text 
comments on the ingredient "blood from a bull's kidney," with the equation 
MUL.BIR // ka-li-ti 'Kidney-star : kidney/ Hermann Hunger, SpTU, vol. 1 no. 

252 CCAG 7 p. 216.5. CCAG 6 p. 83:9-13 (De septem stellarum herbis) attrib- 
utes to Mars the shoulders (metaphrena) and kidneys, to Jupiter a>n,oi kou 
Gcopa^, cf . Demophilus ap. Porphyry, p. 198. Tycho-Brahe, in a lecture from 
1574 (De disciplinis mathematicis oper. omn. f J. L. E. Dreyer, ed., vol. 1 [1913] 
157) adduced by Boll-Bezold-Gundel p. 55, assigns the heart -the source of 
heat— to the Sun, the brain to the Moon, the spleen to Saturn, the liver to 
Jupiter, the gallbladder to Mars, the kidneys to Venus, the lungs to Mercury. 
For planetary melothesia see Alessandro Olivieri, Melotesia planetaria Greca 
(Napoli: Accademia di Archeologia Lettere e B. Arti, 1934). 



Divination 253 

They gaze at the stars (and) slaughter lambs 

(Neo-Assyrian letter) 

Mesopotamian man sought to learn what the future holds 
from every conceivable event and manifestation of the world 
around him. Gods gave signs through such happenings, and 
these signs, the gods 7 warnings, could be read, and the future 
that they predicted could be averted through penitence, prayer, 
and appropriate apotropaic rituals, just as even the stern God 
of the Old Testament could be swayed by the Ninivites' repen- 
tance, as the Book of Jonah teaches. 

Some signs came unprovoked, through fortuitous happen- 
ings in house and fold and in the sky; others were specifically 
requested as answers to questions put to the gods through a 
variety of media. 254 

The fortuitous occurrence and a subsequent good fortune or 
misfortune were linked in the mind of Mesopotamian man, as 
they were in many early cultures and still are in primitive soci- 
eties, not so much as cause and effect, but as signals or fore- 
warnings and events. Such linked pairs, consisting of a protasis 
(if -clause) and an apodosis (forecast), a pair called by the tech- 
nical term "omen/ 7 were collected in lists, and these lists even- 

253 p or literature see A. L. Oppenheim, "The Arts of the Diviner/' in 
Ancient Mesopotamia (note 179 above) 206-27; idem, "Man and Nature in 
Mesopotamian Civilization/' DSB 15 pp. 634-66; Jean Bottero, "Symptomes, 
Signes, Ecritures," in Divination et Rationalite, J.-P. Vernant, ed., 70-197. A con- 
cise summary of ancient divination is given in Georg Luck, Arcana Mundi 
(Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985) 229-31 and 

254 In the Classical world these two types of omens are called omina obla- 
tiva '(freely) brought about omens' and omina impetrativa 'asked for omens/ 
see Bouche-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans Yantiquite (Paris: Leroux, 
1879-82), vol. 4 p. 184. 



tually developed into the large compendia that we call omen 
series. Usually, topically connected lists in the cuneiform 
writing system are acrographic as well, that is, each item— each 
line— begins with the same cuneiform sign or group of signs, 
a feature that articulates the ancient syllabaries and vocabu- 
laries, as we saw earlier. Lists can therefore often be expanded 
indefinitely through the addition of items that repeat the prot- 
asis with further specifications; 255 the forecasts connected 
with these additional omens are accordingly modified. For 
example, a phenomenon occurring on the right side of the liver 
was paired with the same one occurring on the left, with the 
opposite forecast. If one color occurred in the omen, similar 
omens with other colors— five in all: white, black, red, green, 
and variegated, always in this sequence— could be added. Num- 
bers were increased from one or two to three and more, even 
if the increase resulted in an absurdity, as for example in the 
enumeration of multiple births up to eight or nine. 256 "[T]he 
original practical purpose of such collections of omens was 
soon expanded, and even superseded, by theoretical aspira- 
tions. Instead of expressing general principles of interpretation 
in abstract terms, the scribes strove to cover the range of pos- 
sibilities by means of systematic permutations in pairs (left- 
right, above-below, and so on) or in long rows." 257 The Baby- 
lonian omen series kept growing in this way. 

Omens could be provoked by observing the shapes taken by 
oil poured on water, a procedure called lecanomancy (from 
Greek lekane 'basin 7 ), and by observing the configurations of 
the smoke rising from an incense-burner, libanomancy (from 
Greek libanos 'frankincense 7 ). These techniques were in vogue 
in the Old Babylonian period, in the first half of the second mil- 
lennium B.C., but die out with it. 258 But the most ancient and 
the most tenacious in surviving of all the Babylonian divinatory 

255 Oppenheim, DSB 15 p. 642 with note 98. 

256 Erie Leichty, The Babylonian Omen Series summa izbu, Texts from 
Cuneiform Sources, 3 (Gliickstadt: Augustin, 1969) Tablet I 131. 

257 Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (note 179 above) 211. 

258 A few later excerpts of lecanomancy and libanomancy are extant but 
their existence as a written tradition need not indicate that the techniques 
were still in use, even though Nougayrol, Or. NS 32 (1963) 381 n. 1, argues 
in favor of their survival. 



techniques is divination from the entrails (exta) of the lamb, 
extispicy, a term more general, since it includes divination from 
the gall bladder, the spleen, and the lungs, than the more com- 
monly known term, hepatoscopy, 'inspection of the liver/ As 
is well known, hepatoscopy was practiced in Italy by the Etrus- 
cans, so that the Romans called this divination the "Etruscan 
discipline"; just as the hepatoscopy of the Etruscans ultimately 
goes back to Mesopotamian origins 259 so another technique 
practiced by the Etruscans, divination from thunder, bron- 
toscopy, also had its antecedents, no doubt, in Babylonia where 
the meteorological omens formed part of the larger collection 
of celestial omens. 260 Hepatoscopy remained the main means 
of consulting the will of the gods, even as divination from celes- 
tial bodies was gaining in importance; as late as in the reign of 
King Nabonidus the portents of celestial omens had to be 
tested, as we shall see, by submitting queries about them to 
the haruspex. 

The diviner par excellence was the haruspex, whose name, 
barii, literally means 'observer, seer/ The term was also applied 
to those diviners who observed the configurations of the oil or 
smoke, while the scholars who made astronomical observations 
and recorded the forecasts derived from celestial phenomena 
were called tupsar Enuma Anu Enlil, a term meaning "scribe of 
(the celestial omen series entitled) 'When Anu, Enlil . . ./" and 
best translated, albeit freely, "expert in celestial matters." An 
abundant correspondence from the Neo-Assyrian empire at- 
tests the importance at the royal court of the diviners and 
the astronomers who apprised the king of the portents, and the 
exorcists who were expert in averting ill-boding forecasts by 
their rituals. 261 The astronomers regularly conveyed to the 
king such routine reports as the monthly sighting of the new 

259 Jean Nougayrol, "Les rapports des haruspicines etrusque et assyro- 
babylonienne, et le foie d'argile de Falerii Veteres (Villa Giulia 3786)/' CRAI 
1955, pp. 509-19. 

260 Bouche-Leclercq, Histoire de la divination dans Vantiquite (Paris: Leroux 
1879-82) vol. 4 pp. 32£f. 

261 This correspondence was recently reedited and commented by Simo 
Parpola, LAS, and revised in his Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, 
SAA 10 (1993). See also Oppenheim, "Divination and Celestial Observation 
in the last Assyrian Empire/' Centaurus 14 (1969) 97-135. 



moon and the date of the opposition of sun and moon as well 
as special reports on various predictable and predicted celestial 
and meteorological phenomena, such as conjunctions, occupa- 
tions, and rain and thunder. 262 More than a thousand years 
earlier, in Mari, the correspondents reported on such extraor- 
dinary events as torrential rains and thunder. 263 

Of the diviner we know from as early as the Old Babylonian 
period that he accompanied the king on his campaigns; 264 
most diviners were attached to the court, though at least some 
villages had a resident bUru, as is shown by the complaint of an 
Old Babylonian correspondent that there are not enough lambs 
in the village even to provide the baru. 265 Nevertheless, some 
diviners had to live by their wits. This is shown by the apotro- 
paic ritual aiming at "achieving renown for the diviner." 266 
Such renown, based on correct predictions, would attract the 
customers that the haruspex needed for his livelihood since he 
belonged to the professionals -the diviner and the physician - 
who made their living from private clients, as did also the inn- 
keeper and baker with whom the diviner and the physician are 
joined in another ritual to ensure brisk business. 267 

262 These are edited by Hermann Hunger, Astrological Reports to Assyrian 
Kings, SAA 8 (1992). 

263 ARMT 23 90 and 102, also ARMT 13 133, ARM 14 7, cited Joannes, 
ARMT 23 p. 100 sub a. 

264 For example, "The diviner, Ilusu-nasir, servant of my lord, will lead 
the troops of my lord, and a Babylonian diviner will go with the Babylonian 
troops," ARM 2 22:24f ., cited CAD B p. 124. For the role of the diviner in Mari, 
see J.-M. Durand, Archives epistolaires de Mari 1/1 (= ARM 26, Paris: Edi- 
tions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1988) 3-80. 

265 "There are few ewes in the village, they are hardly sufficient to (pro- 
vide) lambs for the diviner" TCL 18 125, cited CAD B p. 121. 

266 tanatti baruti amaru u suma taba lequ 'to hnd praise for the diviner 
and to obtain fame (literally: a good name)/ BBR no. 11 r. iii 15 and no. 19 r. 15. 

267 Ritual to be performed "in order that brisk trade not bypass the house 
of a tavern keeper, or of a diviner, or of a physician, or of an exorcist, or of a 
baker" ZA 32 (1918/19) 164-84. See Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (note 
179 above) 303. For considering the primary reason for this ritual the purifica- 
tion of the tavern in order to return business to it see Stefan Maul, "Der Knei- 
penbesuch als Heilverfahren," in La circulation des biens, des personnes et des 
idees dans le Proche-Orient ancien, Actes de la XXXVIIP Rencontre Assyrio- 
logique Internationale (Paris, 8-10 juillet 1991), D. Charpin & F. Joannes, 
eds. (Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1992) 389-96, esp. p. 



The standing of the haruspex at the Neo-Assyrian court and 
the respect accorded to his craft is evident from a "letter of rec- 
ommendation" addressed to the king. 268 The writer of the 
letter recommends various scholars to the king as well-trained, 
and justifies his opinion by characterizing even the expert in the 
celestial omen series with the words baruti ile'i 'he is expert in 
barutu', although it is possible that the word barutu is here used as 
a general term for 'divination' and not solely for 'hepatoscopy' 269 

Before proceeding to the examination of the ominous parts 
of the lamb sacrificed for this purpose, the diviner appealed to 
his patron deities. These were, in the first millennium at least, 
the sun god, Samas, and the storm god, Adad; the haruspex 
invoked them at the beginning of his query as "O Samas, lord 
of judgment, O Adad, lord of divination." 270 In the earlier, Old 
Babylonian, period prayers of the diviner for a successful extis- 
picy are similarly addressed to both deities 271 but also to Samas 
alone. The appeal to Samas is easily understood since the Sun, 
Samas, sees everything from above -the verb used is baru 'to 
see.' 272 More difficult to explain is the statement in these 
prayers that he also "inscribes the omens in the entrails of the 

395. Note that the Latin Picatrix speaks of Ymago ad faciendum ut phisicus 
lucretur. . . . et videbis [laminam ymaginem habentem] mirabiliter trahere 
homines ad ilium locum. Picatrix I v 30 (Pingree p. 21f.). 

268 CT 54 57, edited by Hermann Hunger, "Empfehlungen an den 
Konig," AOS 67 (1987) 157-66; new edition in Simo Parpola, Letters from 
Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars, SAA 10 no. 160. 

269 On the relationship of the various experts at the Assyrian court see 
Simo Parpola, "Mesopotamian Astrology and Astronomy as Domains of the 
Mesopotamian 'Wisdom/" in Die Rolle der Astronomie in den Kulturen Meso- 
potamiens, Hannes D. Gaiter, ed., Grazer Morgenlandische Studien, 3 (Graz, 
1993). w 

270 Samas bel dlni Adad bel blri, see Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen zur 
Formensprache der babylonischen "Gebetsbeschworungen'/ Studia Pohl: Series 
Maior, 5 (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1976) 423 sub [2.] 

271 For example, YOS 11 22, edited ** Goetze, JCS 22 (1968) 25-29, also 
AO 7032, see Nougayrol, RA 38 (1941) 87 (copy only); and see for these 
prayers Ivan Starr, The Rituals of the Diviner (Malibu: Undena, 1983) 44ff. 

272 The epithet 'Divine Seer of the land/ Akkadian d baru sa mati (written 
d HAL sa KUR), cited Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen (n. 270 above) 411 sub 
10 after the edition by Caplice, Or. NS 36 (1967) 9ff., is based on the single 
source LKA 127:9, and its reading and interpretation are uncertain. 



lamb/ 7 an often quoted phrase whose exact significance still 
eludes us, and which may have its origin in a mythological tale 
that has been lost. 273 

The role of Adad, the storm god, as patron of the haruspex 
is not as clear as that of the sun god, Samas, even though both 
are invoked in the standard first-millennium prayer of the ha- 
ruspex. There is, however, another tradition according to which 
it is not these two who stand by the haruspex to ensure correct 
and reliable omens. Rather, it is to the stars and constellations 
who alone are present during his lonely vigil before he exam- 
ines the liver at dawn that the diviner addresses his prayer for 
a successful extispicy This is the Prayer to the Gods of the 
Night we saw. 

No other text is as explicit as this prayer about soliciting the 
influence of the stars to secure a favorable outcome of the div- 
ination. Rare in Mesopotamia is also the lyricism of this poetic 
text, with its setting of the still night. All are asleep, even the 
great gods; alone are present the diviner preparing himself for 
the act of sacrifice and divination, and the gods of the night, 
the stars. 

Two slightly divergent versions of this prayer have been pre- 
served from the Old Babylonian period, that is, the eighteenth 
or seventeenth century B.C.; in one of them ten constellations 
are invoked by name: "Fire god (possibly Sirius), Erra (the god 
of plague, possibly referring to Mars), Bow, Yoke, Orion, 
Dragon, Wagon, Goat, Bison, Hydra"; 274 in the other version, 
omitting the Yoke and Hydra but adding the Pleiades, nine 
only. 275 Most of them are zodiacal constellations; as in other 
ancient catarchic magic, few non-zodiacal constellations, such 
as Ursa Maior and Minor, Sirius, Orion, the Pleiades, and Pega- 
sus, are mentioned. 276 

273 The reference to C. J. Gadd, Ideas of Divine Rule in the Ancient East 
(note 28 above) 57 n. 4, adduced by Nougayrol, CRAI 1955 p. 510 n. 5 in this 
context does not clarify this image. 

274 Girra (wr. d GIBIL) Erra Qastum Nirum Sitaddarum Mushussum 
Eriqqum Enzum Kusarikkum Basmum. Dossin, RA 32 (1935) 180 (= ZA 43 
[1936] 305). 

275 Ibid. 180 AO 6769. For these two texts see also C. B. F. Walker, "The 
Myth of Girra and Elamatum, ,, Anatolian Studies 33 (1983) 146f . 

276 "Die ausserzodiakalen Gestirne und Einzelsterne kommen als Heil- 
gotter seltener in Frage, ebenso ist in der Astromagie und in der zukunfts- 



The prayer, along with its description of the night, reappears 
about one thousand years later, in the library of Assurbanipal 
in Nineveh. In the late version the constellations addressed are 
much the same as those of the Old Babylonian period: 

Enter, gods of the night, great stars, 
Yoke, Orion, Sulpae, [break], 
Wagon, Ferry, Centaurus, Field, 
Enter, gods of the night, goddesses of the night, 
Stars of the south and the north, of the east and the west, 
Enter, Ninsianna, Great Lady, and the innumerable neighboring 

Perhaps even as late as the seventh century B.C. the prayer 
served a practical purpose, and the diviner recited it before he 
examined the entrails of the lamb. 277 Still, we should not dis- 
card the possibility that the text survived not only due to its 
practical usefulness but in some measure also to its poetic 
merit, as Oppenheim has suggested. To its lyricism our own 
sensibility responds, even though in the later and more elab- 
orate prayer the nocturnal setting has become a topos and lost 
the direct personal, emotional tone, a feature that seems to 
have been censored by first-millennium taste. 

The prayer exists also in a version midway in date between 
the two, from c. 1200 B.C., found in the capital of the Hittite 
empire (today Boghazkoy). It is embedded in a Hittite ritual, 
but written in the Akkadian language albeit in an orthography 
that shows it was written by a Hittite scribe. It has been known 

deutenden Sternreligion ihre Bedeutung wesentlich geringer als die der 
Planeten- und Tierkreisbilder. Aber trotzdem kann man auch ihre Bilder 
und Krafte sich auf verschiedener Weise nutzbar machen; ihre Energien und 
ihre Schicksalseinfliisse werden durch mehr oder weniger ausfuhrliche 
Abhandlungen immer wieder auf den verschiedensten Gebieten dargelegt. 
Miinzen, Gemmen, Ringsteine u. a. m. beweisen, dass auch der Grosse und 
Kleine Bar, Sirius, Orion, die Pleiaden, Pegasus und andere Gestirngotter in 
Altertum, Mittelalter und Neuzeit in prophylaktischer oder therapeutischer 
Absicht benutzt worden sind." W. Gundel, "Religionsgeschichtliche Lese- 
fruchte aus lateinischen Astrologenhandschriften," Melanges Franz Cumont, 
Annuaire de l'lnstitut de Philologie et d'Histoire Orientales et Slaves, vol. 4 
(Brussels, 1936), vol. 1 p. 246. 

277 For an edition of the ftrst-millennium text and the literary apprecia- 
tion of the images see Oppenheim, "A New Prayer to the 'Gods of the 
Night/" Analecta Biblica 12 (1959) 282ff. 



since its publication by A. Jeremias in 1909. 278 It ends with the 
prayer to the gods of the night, and includes an enumeration 
of seventeen stars and constellations. 279 

The prayer to the "gods of the night" is addressed to the noc- 
turnal stars and constellations, after the sun, the moon, and 
the evening star Venus have set: "The gods and goddesses of 
the country- Samas, Sin, Adad and Istar-have gone home to 
heaven to sleep, they will not give decisions or verdicts 
(tonight)." 280 

The setting of another Old Babylonian prayer of the harus- 
pex 281 is also night. It appeals to the planet Venus alone, as the 
stellar deity Ninsianna, addressing it as a male deity, that is, 
in the planet's male manifestation; 282 the diviner invokes the 
celestial power to ask that his examination find favorable signs: 

O my lord Ninsianna, 

accept this offering, 

be present in my offering, and place in it a portent of well-being 

and life 
for your servant Ur-Utu. 283 

278 A. Jeremias, Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie, KAO 3 (Leipzig, 
1909) 33, see Weidner, KAO 4 (Leipzig, 1914) 17f. and Handbuch 60, with 
Addendum p. 144. The ritual in its entirety has been recently reedited by 
K. van der Toorn, Sin and Sanction in Israel and Mesopotamia. A Comparative 
Study (Assen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum & Comp., 1985), 125ff. For notes and 
corrections see the review by Wolfram von Soden, AfO 34 (1987) 71. Van der 
Toorn's text is a kind of lamentation (sigil), only the last ten lines (rev. 39-48), 
not translated anew by him, represent the "gods of the night" prayer, for 
which see the bibliography in Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen (note 270 
above) 428 no. 2a. 

279 For this star list see BPO 2 p. 2. 

280 Oppenheim, Analecta Biblica 12 (1959) 296. 

281 Leon de Meyer, "Deux prieres ikribu du temps d'Ammisaduqa," in 
ZIKIR SUMIM: Assyriological Studies Presented to F. R. Kraus (Leiden: Brill, 
1982) 271-78. 

282 See p. 6 and note 14. 

283 DINGIR be-lf d Nin-si 4 -an-na 
SIZKUR anniam mu-hu-[ur] 
ina SIZKUR-ia izizma 

UZU te-er-ti sulmi balati 

ana Ur- d Utu IR-ka suknamma. 

ZIKIR SUMIM, p. 274 lines 1-5. I have rendered the word written with the 
Sumerogram SIZKUR as 'offering' and tertu as 'portent' rather than as 



It is also to the "gods of the night" that the haruspex turns 
if the examination of the entrails discloses missing or otherwise 
ill-portending parts: 284 

You great gods of the night, 
whom Anu and Enlil have created, 
you efface the evil signs that have arisen [for me], 
' you remove from the man's house the ill-portending features that 
occurred in [my] extispicy, 
remove from me the evil sign that occurred in [my] house, 
let that evil bypass me, 
and I will sing your praises as long as I live. 285 

The reverse of the tablet records another prayer of the diviner, 
similar to the just quoted one, but shorter: "I call to you, O great 

'prayer' and 'oracle' as de Meyer had done. Instead of 'portent/ one could use 
simply 'entrails/ 

284 These are described as siru (UZUME) hatuti, rev.(!) 28. Missing parts of 
the exta are of ill portent and two paragraphs concerning them ("if in month 
x the gall bladder is missing"; "if in month x the 'finger' is missing") are in- 
cluded in one recension of the series iqqur Tpus, see Rene Labat, Un Calendrier 
babylonien des travaux, des saisons, et des mois (Paris: Champion, 1965) 138f. 
n. 4, and on the unpublished tablets BM 65137 and 65570. (The tablet frag- 
ment K.11142 cited U. Jeyes, JEOL 32 [1991-92] 32 n. 45, preserves only the 
protasis about the missing "finger" in each of the twelve months; it may 
belong either to iqqur Tpus or to a tablet of liver omens.) A ritual to avert the 
portended evil has to be performed; see, for an apotropaion against missing 
parts (ha-liq-ti UZU), Caplice, Or. NS 42 (1973) 515:8; for the phrase, though 
with another interpretation ("loss of flesh," following S. Eypper, Or. NS 44 
[1975] 193), see Parpola, LAS 2 p. 156 on ABL 361:12 (= LAS no. 167 = SAA 
10 no. 212); and for amulets against absence of an ominous part in the exami- 
nation of the exta see BAM 367:21, all cited CAD S/3 p. 121 s.v sTru A mng. 4a. 

285 attunu ilu rabutu sa musl[ti] 
sa Anu u Enlil ibnukunu[ti] 

tapassasa ittati lemneti sa ittanab[sanimma] 

ina bit ameli tunakkar(a) slra lemna sa issaknu ina ter[tiya] 

nukkirani ittu lemuttu sa basu ina bit [. . .] 

lumna suatu sutiqanni[ma] 

[adi ana]ku baltaku dallllkunu [ludlul] 

STT 231 obv.(!) 31-37, see Reiner, JNES 26 (1967) 186f.; also Nougayrol, RA 
61 (1967) 95 sub 1. 

The text also prescribes prayers with rituals to Marduk (obverse 7ff.) and 
Samas (reverse 12ff.). I would like to take this opportunity to correct some 
of the crassest errors in my transliteration: in line 4 read BI.RI = tulimu 
'spleen'; in line 16, with Benno Landsberger, . . . tasakkansu mesir abari 
(A.BAR ! ) (ina qablisu tarakkassu). 



gods, stand by me in (this) night, undo the evil of the absence 
of the ominous part that has occurred for me. I am afraid, 
worried, exceedingly worried. Let that evil not come close to 
me, not approach me, not attain me!" 286 

The outcome of the inspection of the exta is conveyed in a 
letter to the person who requested the extispicy, or is recorded 
in brief, indeed laconic form on small tablets. A number of such 
reports, which often begin by stating the query posed to the 
god, have survived from the Old Babylonian period. 287 
Around the middle of the second millennium, in Middle Baby- 
lonian reports on the inspection of the liver, the star Sirius is 
also mentioned in the phrase "let him give instructions that 
ditto ( = they pray) to Sirius"; who the parties addressed are, 
the haruspex or his client, is not stated in the text. 288 While sev- 
eral prayers to Sirius have been preserved, on which more will 
be said later, none of them specifically asks the star to secure 
good omens in the extispicy. 

It is not only the haruspex who sought the stars' benefic 
influence as he inspected the entrails of the lamb. At the more 
popular level of divination, which I have dubbed "fortune- 
telling," 289 and which uses means accessible to clients who 
could not afford a lamb so that it could be called "divination 
for everybody" ("/a divination pour tous") by Jean Bottero, 290 
appeals are made to stars, especially to Ursa Maior, the Wagon 
of the Babylonian sky. The popularity of the Big Dipper is also 
attested in the Greek magical papyri which include several 
prayers to this constellation under its Greek name 'Bear' (Greek 

286 ilu rabutu alsikunusi ina musi izizzanimma lumun [haliq]ti slri sa 
issaknamma pusra [palha]ku adraku u sutaduraku lumnu sasu ay itha ay 
iqri[ba ay isniqa 7 ] ay iksudanni; rev.(!) 8-11. 

-* Albrecht Goetze, "Reports on Acts of Extispicy from Old Babylonian 
and Kassite Times," JCS 11 (1957) 89-105; Jean Nougayrol, "Rapports paleo- 
babyloniens d'haruspices," JCS 21 (1967, published 1969) 219-35; Jean-Marie 
Durand, "Les devins" AEM 1/1 (= ARMT 26) 3-68. 

288 lispurma MUL.KAK.SI.SA KI.MIN (= liseppu), JAOS 38 77ff.:51, see 
Reiner, Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday, 
April 21, 1965, AS 16 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965) 248 n. 5; 
the text has been edited anew by F. R. Kraus, JCS 37 (1985) 150. 

289 In my article "Fortune-Telling in Mesopotamia," JNES 19 (1960) 23-35. 

290 In Divination et Rationalite, J.-R Vernant, ed., p. 123. 



Two prayers to Ursa Maior are prescribed in the instructions 
for "fortune-telling" to help obtain a reliable portent through 
a dream. The first runs: 

O Wagon star, Wagon of the pure heavens! 

Your yoke is Ninurta, your pole is Marduk, 

Your side-pieces are the two heavenly daughters of Anu. 

You rise in Assur, you turn toward Babylon. 

Without you the dying man does not die and the healthy man 

cannot go on his journey 
If I am to succeed on this journey I am undertaking, let them give 

me something (in my dream), 
If I am not to succeed on this journey I am undertaking, let them 

accept something from me (in my dream). 291 

And the second: 

O Wagon star, heavenly Wagon! 
Whose yoke is Ninurta, whose pole is Marduk, 
Whose side-pieces are the two heavenly daughters of Anu. 
She rises toward Assur, she turns toward Babylon. 
Let a dream bring me a sign whether so-and-so, son of so-and-so, 
will become healthy and well! 292 

How the dream would indicate the recovery of the sick 
person is left unsaid in the second of the prayers to Ursa Maior. 
The first prayer, however, specifies what the dream content 
should be to indicate success or failure of the enterprise con- 
cerning which the consultation is made. The significance of 
giving or being given some object is detailed in the Assyrian 
Dream-book, 293 and the stipulation of the prayer implies the 
existence of this Dream-book, even though the expected predic- 
tion is not affected by the nature of the object given or received, 
only by the fact that something is either given or received. This 
simplification of an ominous occurrence is in accordance with 

291 S7T 73:61 _ 64 

2 92 S7T 7 3:71 _75 an d dupl., cited JNES 19 (1960) 33; the then unpub- 
lished duplicate YBC 9884 quoted there is now published as YOS 11 75. 
Another duplicate is UET 7 118. A list of texts mentioning prayers to Ursa 
Maior and of their incipits appears in Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen (note 
270 above) 429f. 

293 See A. Leo Oppenheim, The Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient 
Near East, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, 
46/3 (Philadelphia, 1956), with additional material in Iraq 31 (1969) 153-65. 



many later divinatory consultations, which restrict the answer 
to 'yes' or 'no/ In the late Assyrian period the haruspex evi- 
dently was only interested in learning whether the various fea- 
tures observed were favorable or unfavorable; adding them up 
he gave a favorable prognosis if the favorable features exceeded 
the unfavorable ones, and vice versa. 294 

Another method listed in the same text for ascertaining the 
favorable or unfavorable outcome of some enterprise, 295 which 
is not specified, consists of pouring water over the head of a 
recumbent ox and observing its reactions: whether it gets up 
or not, lifts its tail or not, and the like. This particular technique 
was not included in the cuneiform divinatory corpus, but a sim- 
ilar procedure is known from Greece: "At Delphi the goats to 
be sacrificed were tested by sprinkling a few drops of water into 
their ear or on their coat to see whether the animal will remain 
unmoved or react to this instigation." 296 Among the Baby- 
lonian divinatory texts was included a group, attested in several 
exemplars, in which the movements and behavior of the lamb 
led to slaughter before extispicy are observed so as to foretell 
what the findings of the exta will be. 297 

Answers couched in similar terms, that is, success or failure - 
literally: kasad sibuti 'attaining (one's) desire' and la kasad sibuti 
'not attaining (one's) desire— are elsewhere based on omens 
derived from the "shape" of shooting stars (the shape possibly 
denoting the streaks of light or, less likely, the shape of the mete- 
orite found on the ground) in the omen series summa alu 'if a 
city,' 298 while in the text concerned with "fortune-telling" and 
in its partial parallel 299 it is the path of the shooting star -from 
right to left— that will determine success. 300 

294 See Ivan Starr, Queries to the Sungod, SAA 4, pp. xxxiv-xxxv. 

295 kasad sibuti 'attaining (one's) desire/ i.e., success, and la kasad sibuti 
'not attaining (one's) desire,' i.e., failure, lines 122-38. 

296 "a Delphes, on essayait les chevres a immoler en leur jetant quelques 
gouttes d'eau dans l'oreille ou sur le pelage, pour voir si l'animal resterait 
morne ou reagirait sous cette excitation." Bouche-Leclercq, Histoire de la Di- 
vination (note 254 above), vol. 1 p. 150. 

297 For these texts see Meissner, AfO 9 (1933-34) 118ff. and 329f. 

298 See Caplice, Or. NS 39 (1970) 115f. 

299 LKA 138, see Reiner, "Fortune-Telling in Mesopotamia," JNES 19 
(1960) 28f. 

300 p or tne om i nous significance attached to shooting stars see also 
Chapter V. 



Before pouring water on the ox, there is an appeal to the 
"gods of the night/' collectively called ilii dajanu 'divine 
judges': 301 

I invoke you, divine judges, in the pure heavens; 

I beseech you unceasingly with prayer and prostration. 

Shining torch in the midst of heaven, all the world longs for your 

People observe your verdicts, the weak submits to your decrees. 
Divine judges whose pronouncement cannot be changed, 
In this midnight watch I pour pure spring water on the forehead 

of an ox; 
Let me see your true judgment and your divine verdict so that I 

may make a pronouncement. 
Let the ox provide a verdict whether so-and-so, son of so-and-so, 

will have success. 

Even though the phrase ilil musiti 'gods of the night' does not 
appear in the title of the prayer, the ritual instructions that 
follow it, which prescribe offerings to the "gods of the night," 
make it clear that the prayer addresses the stars. 302 

It is probably also in order to secure reliable oracular answers 
that the prayers designated in their subscripts as ikribu were 
composed. Most of them are too fragmentary to ascertain their 
purpose with assurance. The word ikribu, a noun derived from 
the verb karabu 'to pray,' was assumed to designate a special 
category of prayer accompanying a nocturnal consultation by 
the diviner, since both the Old Babylonian prayer to the gods 
of the night and those of the haruspex to the planet Venus under 
its name Ninsianna cited earlier 303 have, in their subscripts, 
the title ikribu. Other stellar deities are known to have rated 
ikribu prayers, as Nougayrol has reminded us. 304 A text that has 

301 S7T 73 : iio-H7, see Reiner, JNES 19 (1960) 35; the epithet 'divine 
judges' is in lines 110 and 114. 

302 I had surmised, wrongly, in my discussion (JNES 19 28) that 'divine 
judges' designate Samas and Adad, the patrons of the diviner; this sugges- 
tion was followed by Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen (note 270 above) 423. 

303 Leon de Meyer, "Deux prieres ikribu du temps d'Ammisaduqa," in 
ZIKIR Sumim: Assyriological Studies Presented to F. R. Kraus (Leiden: Brill, 
1982) 271-78. 

304 Reference to ikribu prayers to stellar deities, such as Istar, Sin, and 
Sirius, is made by Nougayrol, Or. NS 32 (1963) 381 n. 1. For the genre ikribu 
see also Ivan Starr, The Rituals of the Diviner (Malibu: Undena, 1983) 44ff. 



been known for a long time 305 contains most likely three ikribu 
prayers: one to the Moon god Sin, another to Jupiter, and— the 
last one — possibly to Venus. The prayer to Jupiter, still incom- 
plete, begins: "Jupiter, holy god, foremost of the gods, more 
majestic 7 than the stars in the sky" 306 

While the diviner depends on the stars for eliciting reliable 
predictions, practitioners of other divination techniques depend 
on the haruspex to interpret and confirm the ominous signs 
obtained through other media, primarily from celestial phe- 
nomena. 307 Even the prophecies of ecstatics had to be sub- 
mitted to the test of hepatoscopy, a test for which the hair of 
the ecstatic's head and the fringe of his cloak were dispatched 
to represent the person on whose behalf the divination was 
carried out. 

The long known and famous case of the diviner Asqudum 
in Mari is now better situated with the publication of an entire 
archive dealing with this haruspex who had to authenticate by 
performing an extispicy not only the prophecies and dreams 
of the ecstatics but even the prediction of a lunar eclipse. 308 
King Nabonidus' recourse, a thousand years later, to liver 
omens in order to interpret a lunar eclipse is equally famous 
and often studied. 

Less explicit, and thus in greater need of explanatory com- 
ments, are the diviner's interpretations of two ominous celes- 
tial phenomena under Assyrian kings: of the lunar eclipse in 
714 B.C. during Sargon's eighth campaign, and of the "secret 
place" reached by Jupiter at Esarhaddon's advent to the throne. 
Both episodes are recounted in the res gestae of the kings, the 

305 It was published by S. Langdon, "A Fragment of a Series of Ritualistic 
Prayers to Astral Deities in the Ceremonies of Divination," RA 12 (1915) 
189ff.; another piece, K.3794, published by E. G. Perry, Hymnen und Gebete 
an Sin, Leipziger Semitistische Studien 2/4 (Leipzig, 1907) as no. 5b, has since 
been joined to it. 

306 dg ul .p a . e dingir KU SAG.KAL DINGIR.MES MAH UGU M[UL.MES sa] 
AN-e, RA 12 (1915) 190 Ki. 1904-10-9,157 = BM 99127:14. 

307 The necessity for such a confirmation is attested among the Romans 
too according to Pliny the younger: "... I will consult a haruspex whose 
expertise I have often tested." Without delay, he makes a sacrifice, and 
declares that the exta and the signs from the stars are in agreement. Epist. 

308 See now J.-M. Durand, ARMT 26 no. 81, cf. ibid. 495. 



so-called "royal inscriptions/' styled as first-person accounts. 
Sargon's account is styled as a letter to the god Assur. 309 

While Sargon was en route to Urartu the moon became 
eclipsed and the darkness lasted from the first night watch into 
the second; the haruspex, who as usual accompanied the king 
on his campaign, was called upon to interpret the meaning of 
the eclipse, a much-feared ill-portending event. 310 Sargon con- 
tinued his route only upon being assured that the portent pre- 
saged victory— in his case, unlike Croesus/ the prediction for- 
tunately was not equivocal. Sargon's letter contains another 
allusion to a favorable portent given the king by a certain, not 
specified, phenomenon of Jupiter, here called "the star of 
Marduk." 311 The interrelation between celestial portents and 
liver omens is also attested, as we have seen (p. 12 above), in 
reference to Sargon of Assyria's third-millennium predecessor, 
Sargon of Akkad. 

King Esarhaddon, Sargon's grandson, reports on how he 
secured the throne for himself in the midst of the struggle for 
power among the sons of Sennacherib after the king had been 
murdered. His rightful succession was foretold in the stars: 
among other favorable signs the "secret place" reached by the 
planet Venus is mentioned. 312 When Jupiter shone exception- 
ally brightly and reached its "secret place"— which seems to cor- 
respond to what in Greek astrology was called the planet's 
"exaltation" (hypsoma), the sign of the zodiac in which it has the 
greatest influence — in the beginning of his reign, 313 this sign 
was interpreted as a favorable portent for the rebuilding of 

The two experts in divination, the haruspex and the astrol- 

309 Thureau-Dangin, Une relation de la 8 e campagne de Sargon . . . (TCL 3). 
The cryptic eclipse report appears in line 318. 

310 A. L. Oppenheim, "The City of Assur in 714 B.C.," JNES 19 (1960) 137f . 

3ii //r rh e s t ar f Marduk (i.e., Jupiter), who went on to take up his posi- 
tion among stars which made me resort to arms." See A. L. Oppenheim, Cen- 
taurus 14 (1970) 121 and n. 46. 

312 Borger, Esarh. 2 i 39-ii 5. 

313 Borger, Esarh. 17 Bab. Ep. 13; see Schaumberger, in F. X. Kugler, Stern- 
kunde und Sterndienst in Babel. 3. Erganzungsheft zum ersten und zweiten Buch 
(Miinster, 1935) 311f . 



oger, are coupled in the accusation cited in the Assyrian letter 
of the crown prince Samas-sumu-ukln to Esarhaddon. 314 
"They gaze at the stars (and) slaughter lambs, (but) do not (or: 
he does not) tell (anything) about the king, our lord, (and) the 
crown prince of Babylon. Aplayu alone is a haruspex, Bel-eter 
(and) Samas-zera-iqlsa are astrologers; they look day and night 
at the sky" 315 As Parpola notes, "The elaborate techniques of 
astrology and extispicy were seriously utilized by the royal 
palace in order to foresee the future course of events, and all 
diviners — not only those resident at court— were obliged to 
inform the king of their findings." 316 

It is, however, the episode concerning the lunar eclipse 
under Nabonidus, the last of the Babylonian kings (555-539 
B.C.), that best exemplifies the continuing predominance of 
hepatoscopy. As the king recounts it, 

When Nannar requested a high priestess 

the Son of the Prince showed his sign to the inhabited world; 

the Bright-Light manifested his reliable decision. 

To Nabonidus, king of Babylon, provider for Esagil and Ezida, 

the reverent shepherd who shows concern for the sanctuaries of 
the great gods 

Nannar, the lord of the crown, who bears the signal for all peoples, 

revealed his sign concerning his request for a high priestess. 

On the thirteenth of Ululu, the month of the work of goddesses, 

the Fruit became eclipsed and set while eclipsed. 

"Sin requests a high priestess' — such was his sign and decision. 

As for me, Nabonidus, the shepherd who reveres his divine maj- 
esty, I reverently heeded his reliable order, 

so that I became concerned about this request for a high priestess. 

I sought out the sanctuaries of Samas and Adad, the patrons of 

and Samas and Adad, as usual, answered me a reliable yes, 

wrote a* favorable omen in my extispicy, 

the omen pertaining to the request for priestesses, the request of 
the gods to man. 

314 Edited by S. Parpola, "A Letter from Samas-sumu-ukln to Esar- 
haddon," Iraq 34 (1972) 21-34. 

315 MUL.MES emmuru puhadani inakkisu ina muhhi sarri belini mar sarri 
Babili la iqabbi ma Aplayu udesu baru Bel-eter Samas-zera-iqlsa tupsar UD- 
mu Anu Enlil sunu musu kala umu same idaggulu, Iraq 34 (1972) 22:19-25. 

316 Parpola, Iraq 34 (1972) 31. See also Ivan Starr, Queries to the Sungod, 
SAA 4, pp. xxx-xxxv. 



Elsewhere 317 I commented on the imagery and poetic lan- 
guage of Nabonidus' inscription. What is of interest here is that 
the sign given by the Moon god, a total eclipse in the month 
of Ululu in the last watch of the night, a portent that is listed 
in the compendium of celestial omens Enuma Anu Enlil with 
the apodosis "Sin requests a high priestess/' was not sufficient 
for the king to act on it. The portent derived from a celestial 
phenomenon had to be checked by the most ancient, most reli- 
able divinatory method, namely extispicy 

The celestial omen observed under Nabonidus was a total 
eclipse of the moon, an astronomical event not as rare as a solar 
eclipse, and one that could be predicted with reasonable accu- 
racy shortly before the eclipse was to take place as early as the 
seventh century B.C. Nabonidus does not specify how the ha- 
ruspex arrived at his verdict, what the features of the liver were 
that gave him the answer to Nabonidus' query. The wording 
of the king's questions indicates that the answer he expected 
was in terms of yes or no, and indeed he reports that the gods 
answered his queries with "yes" or "no." Nabonidus, whose 
efforts to revive and relive the past are well known, 318 no 
doubt consciously imitated the Sumerian practice of binary con- 
sultation in regard to the choosing of a high priestess, 319 even 
though, as already mentioned, the practice was also prevalent 
in the late Assyrian period. 

While as late as the reign of Nabonidus the two divination 
techniques went hand-in-hand or complemented one another, 
there must have begun even then or shortly thereafter the pro- 
cess that culminated in the prevalence of astrology. The estab- 
lishment of correlations between the features of the liver and 
stars or constellations, and their assignment to gods and to the 
twelve months of the year, must have been one of the steps in 
this development, a step for which we have some evidence 
from a late Uruk text. 

317 E. Reiner, Your Thwarts in Pieces, Your Mooring Rope Cut. Poetry from 
Babylonia and Assyria. Michigan Studies in the Humanities, 5 (Ann Arbor, 
1985) Chapter I. 

318 See preceding note. 

319 As suggested by Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (note 179 above) 



A rather obscure and poorly preserved small tablet from the 
Seleucid period found at Warka 320 (ancient Uruk) enumerates 
the parts of the liver (with which the gall bladder is, as custom- 
ary, associated) or the marks on it, called "station" and the like, 
and gives for each a correspondence with a god, a month, and 
a constellation. To quote some of the better understood lines: 

The "station" is Enlil; month I; [Aries]. 321 
The "path" is Samas; month II; Taurus. 
The "sweet mouth" is Nusku; month III; Orion. 
The "strength" is Uras; month IV; Cancer, Plow-star. 
The "gate of the palace" is Ninegal; month V; Regulus. 
The "bubble" is the storm god Adad; month VI; Raven star. 
The gall bladder is Anu; month VII; Libra. 

The "finger" (identifiable as the processus pyramidalis) is god 
(broken); month VIII; Goat star. 

Similar are the entries for the remainder of the months on 
the much eroded and hard to read reverse of the tablet. 

The last two elements of each entry refer to the month and the 
zodiacal sign associated with it; these are standard, and some of 
them recur in the list of MUL.APIN Tablet I. 322 Month I (March- 
April) is associated with Aries; month II (April-May) with Taurus; 
month III with Orion in lieu of Gemini; month IV with Cancer; 
month V with Leo (that is, with Regulus); month VI with the 
Raven (Corvus), which has its heliacal rising in month VI; 
month VII (September-October) with Libra; month VIII with 
the Goat (Lyra) which has its heliacal rising in that month; 323 
month X with Belet-balati; month XI with Aquarius; and month 
XII apparently with Venus. (Month IX is omitted altogether.) 324 

320 Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 4 no. 159; the text (W 22666/0) had been 
very generously made available to me before publication by Professor von 
Weiher, the epigrapher of the excavation. 

321 Aries can be restored from the commentary that follows, in which the 
name of Dumuzi is preserved, because the two, Aries and Dumuzi, are 
paired in the astronomical text MUL.APIN Tablet I column i line 43, in the 
edition of Hermann Hunger and David Pingree, MUL.APIN. 

322 See MUL.APIN p. 139f. 

323 MUL.APIN I ii 45 and iii 4; the traces at the end of the entry in line 17 
may represent the zodiacal sign Scorpius. 

324 Similar are the correspondences between months and constellations 
in the "Calendar texts" discussed on pp. 114f. 



The novelty of this unique text is its establishing correspon- 
dences between the liver examined by the haruspex and the he- 
liacal risings of constellations. As another unique text to be dis- 
cussed in Chapter V states, correspondences between terrestrial 
and celestial phenomena can and indeed must be established. 

The parts of the liver and the marks on it are enumerated in 
the sequence they are normally examined in the course of the 
hepatoscopy Their associations with the deities listed can be 
explained in some cases only: in the case of the "bubble" asso- 
ciated with Adad, we can point to the Raven star called the star 
of Adad; 325 other associations, such as that of the mark called 
"path" with Samas, and of the gall bladder with Anu, have not 
yet been found in our sources. The sequence of the parts enu- 
merated makes it certain that the starting point of the learned 
treatise was the manual of the haruspex and that the zodiacal 
signs were only secondarily associated with them. 

The items of the text are accompanied by and thus were obvi- 
ously deemed worthy of scholia; unfortunately, most of the 
explanations offered are rather opaque. 326 

Unique as this text is in Babylonian scholarly literature, it 
testifies to an elaboration of the concept of the stellar influence 
on the configurations that the liver could exhibit, and thereby 
to the continued vitality of the Mesopotamian divinatory tra- 
dition, while its association between stars and planets and 
parts of the exta, paralleled in the Apotelesmatika of Hephaistio 
from Hellenistic Egypt, 327 points to wide-ranging cross- 
currents in the Hellenistic Near East. 

325 MUL.APIN I ii 9. 

326 They give philological equations, for example, to month II, written 
with the Sumerogram GU 4 .SI.SA, first the verb SI.SA is translated as eseri 
sa alaku "to be straight, said of going," then GU 4 , but its translation as 
"bull" is now broken; the connection of the month name with the constel- 
lation Taurus coordinated with it may have been further explained in the 

327 David Pingree, ed., Hephaestionis Thebani Apotelesmaticorum libri tres, 
vol. 1 (Leipzig: Teubner, 1973) III 6.14-17. 



FIGURE 10. Bronze bell decorated with scenes of exorcisms of demons. 
Courtesy of Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, no. VAN 48. 




Doch Abraxas bring ich selten! 
Goethe West-ostlicher Divan 

Tpus Ea ipsur Ea 'Ea has wrought it, Ea has loosed it/ 328 this 
phrase from a Babylonian incantation subsumes the essence of 
Babylonian magic. Ea, the god of both wisdom and cunning 
and hence the figure of the trickster god, is also the god of 
magic. The verb from which the form ipus 'wrought 7 derives, 
Akkadian epesu, a common verb with the basic meaning 'to do/ 
is also the technical term for 'bewitching 7 and many nouns 
derived from it denote various though for us often undifferen- 
tiated machinations, such as ipsu, upsasu, upxsu, muppisutu, all 
denoting sorcery, and muppisu, muppistu, muppisanu, all denoting 
practitioners of witchcraft. 329 The second verb form of the say- 
ing, ipsur 'loosed, 7 carries the apotropaic message par excellence, 
both in its Akkadian version (verb: pasaru) and its Sumerian 
counterpart, the Sumerian verb bur. It is from this Sumerian 
verb that the ritual for undoing evil, Sumerian nam. bur. bi and 
its loan into Akkadian, namburbu, takes its name. The 
Sumerian noun is formed with the abstract nominalizing prefix 
nam (in English, the suffix -ing) and the possessive suffix bi. 
The literal translation, 'its loosing, 7 refers by "it 77 to a previously 

328 CT 23 2:13, Or. NS 40 (1971) 141:28' and 143 r. 16, Or. NS 42 (1973) 509 
r. 26, etc., and the references cited by Parpola, LAS 2 p. 41 (but instead of 
the there cited K.137 + 2788 read K.157 + 2788, edited by R. I. Caplice, Or. NS 
40 [1971] 140). 

329 Similar is the usage in Croatian of the verb ciniti 'to do' and its corre- 
sponding noun cini (pi.) 'magic/ compare the popular saying Ne cini cini na 
mjesecini 'Don't do magic in the moonlight.' For Middle Latin factum 'sorti- 
legium' and the Italian derivatives fatturare 'to bewitch/ and the like, and 
for Greek praxis in this meaning see Wilhelm Havers, Neuere Literatur zum 
Sprachtabu, Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien, 
Philosophisch-historische Klasse, 223, Abhandlung 5, p. 161 and n. 1. 



described ominous occurrence and the implicit or explicitly 
stated impending evil that it portends. The suffix character of 
bi is no longer transparent in Akkadian, and hence the loan- 
word namburbu can take Akkadian possessive suffixes, -su 'its' 
and -sunu 'their/ By carrying out the prescribed actions and 
reciting the appropriate prayers, the evil will be loosed 330 or 
simply "he/it will be loosed/' 331 

This apotropaion was made available to man by the same 
gods who were willing to forewarn him through some ominous 
happening; the power of Ea to undo the portended evil 
expressed in the cited incantation is repeated in a Neo-Assyrian 
letter reporting on an earthquake and the evil portended by it: 
'Ea has wrought it, Ea has loosed it, he who caused the earth- 
quake has himself carried out the apotropaic ritual/ 332 

One expects that each collection of omens had its parallel 
apotropaic ritual. But while the omen collections were serial- 
ized, that is, arranged in books or chapters with more or less 
canonical divisions and numbering, this does not seem to have 
been the case with the namburbu texts. 333 Rather, certain apotro- 
paic rituals are inserted immediately after the ill-portending 
omen, in midst of the omen collection itself; even the cata- 
logues of omen series that cite the title of some chapter may 
add 'including its apotropaion 7 (adi namburbesu) . 334 There are 
also individual tablets inscribed with such rituals alone, one or 
more; their subscripts do not indicate that they are part of a par- 
ticular series. Still, apparently every evil portent signaled by 

330 maskadu ippassar 'the maskadu-disease will be loosed/ BAM 81:7, (the 
affliction) ina zumrisu ippassar (written with the Sumerogram BUR) 'will be 
loosed from his body', BE 31 pi. 51 no. 60 r. ii 8. 

331 pasir, BAM 140:6, Analecta Biblica 12 (1959) 286:107, Dream-book 343:23, 
LKA 123:14, and passim. 

332 epus Ea ipsur Ea sa rlbu Ipusuni sutma NAM.BUR.BI etapas (in 
Parpola's translation in SAA 10) 'Ea has done, Ea has undone. He who 
caused the earthquake has also created the apotropaic ritual against it/ ABL 
355 r. 9, see LAS no. 35 (= SAA 10 no. 56) and LAS 2 p. 41. 

333 See R. I. Caplice, The Akkadian namburbi Texts: An Introduction, SANE 
1/1 (Los Angeles: Malibu, 1974), and for the edition of the texts idem, Or. 
NS vols. 34-42 (1965-73) passim. A comprehensive treatment of the genre 
is now available in Stefan M. Maul, Zukunftsbewaltigung, Baghdader For- 
schungen, 18 (Mainz on Rhine: Philipp von Zabern, 1994). 

334 CT 39 50 K.957:ll: EN NAM.BUR.BI. 



an ominous occurrence could be averted by the appropriate 
ritual, as we gather from those texts that list in a catalogue 
form 335 the events against whose evil consequences, generally 
simply termed 'the evil' (Sumerian HUL, Akkadian lumnu), 
such rituals could be invoked. If the origin of the evil was not 
known, one could perform the rite against 'all evil' (Sumerian 
HUL.DU.A.BI, Akkadian lumun kalama). 336 

The ritual itself is called apotropaion (namburbu), a name that 
appears at the beginning or as subscript at the end; occasion- 
ally it is introduced by the phrase annu namburbusu 'this is its 
loosing/ 337 or is followed by a rubric which states its purpose, 
normally "apotropaion for the evil of such-and-such/' for 
example, "of a snake," or more specifically "of a snake that spat- 
tered the man," that is, citing the ominous occurrence that 
augured ill. 338 

Numerous are the apotropaic rituals that are concerned with 
ominous everyday occurrences which are listed in the two 
omen series summa alu ('if a city') 339 and summa izbu ('if a crea- 
ture') 340 and which affect the common man in whose house- 
hold they are observed. They include strange happenings in 
his house, his field, and his city in the first series, and 
abnormal, monstruous births in pen and fold, even among 
humans, in the second. On the other hand, forecasts from celes- 

335 For such catalogues see Caplice, Or. NS 34 (1965) 108ff . and 42 (1973) 
514f. (the latter subsequently published in Hermann Hunger, SpTU, vol. 1 
as no. 6), and Ebeling, RA 48 (1954) lOff. 

336 For example, an apotropaion against "any evil" is recommended in 
the letter LAS no. 334 (K.818, = SAA 10 no. 56), see Parpola, LAS 2 p. 351. 

337 A. Leo Oppenheim, "A Diviner's Manual," JNES 33 (1974) 200:56. 

338 [NAM.BUR.BI] |~HUL MUS] ana amili u bitisu la tehe 'apotropaion that 
the evil of a snake not approach a man and his house,' Or. NS 36 (1967) 23 
no. 19:10, and ibid. 24 no. 20:7', etc.; [NAM].BUR.BI HUL MUS sa amila isluhu, 
Or. NS 36 21 no. 18:1. 

339 So designated by the Akkadian scribes in the subscript to each of the 
originally more than one hundred chapters, from its incipit summa alu ina 
mele sakin 'if a city lies on high ground.' The work was edited in part by 
F. Notscher, Die Omen-Serie summa alu ina mele sakin (Orientalia vol. 31 [1928], 
vols. 39-42 [1929], 51-54 [1930]); a new edition is being prepared by Erie 

340 These are the teratological omens taken from the birth of malformed 
children or animals, edited by Erie Leichty, The Babylonian Omen Series 
summa izbu, Texts from Cuneiform Sources, 3 (Gliickstadt: Augustin, 1969). 



tial phenomena collected in the treatise Enuma Arm Enlil or 
from the inspection of the liver collected in the various chapters 
of the series barutu affect primarily the fate of the king and his 
land, and thus have a national, even universal significance. 
Only a few rare apotropaic rituals for averting such evils have 
come down to us, 341 even though the titles that are listed— 
without their text— in the mentioned catalogues assure us of 
their existence. It is worthy of note that unknown, at least to 
me, are apotropaia to avert evil portents derived from observ- 
ing the shapes taken by oil poured on water, and by observing 
the configurations of the smoke rising from an incense-burner, 
that is, lecanomancy and libanomancy, techniques used only 
in the Old Babylonian period. 342 

Were it not that the absence of a certain type of apotropaic 
ritual could be due to chance, the existence of apotropaia could 
serve as a test to distinguish two types of divinatory text. The 
ability to resort to apotropaic rituals would characterize those 
omen collections in which the situation or event warns of an 
impending occurrence, and the absence of apotropaia those 
which do not foretell the future, but give as it were a diagnosis. 
To the latter group belong, first of all, the diagnostic treatise 
"When the exorcist goes to the house of the sick person" (see 
Chapter III), and those compendia in which the apodosis 
simply describes the person's character or habits. Among the 
latter are the texts called "physiognomic omens" 343 and the 
texts describing physical or behavioral characteristics known as 
"A Guide to Moral Behavior Styled as Omens," 344 the omens 
derived from a persons habits when speaking, 345 and the very 
similar collection establishing a person's character from his use 

341 Note the subscript [summa? idati] ittati ahati ana sarri u matisu basd 'if 
there exist evil portents for the king and his land/ 4R 60, edited by E. Ebeling, 
RA 49 (1955) 40:21. 

342 See Chapter IV note 258. For the relation of namburbu's to the omen 
collections see R. I. Caplice, The Akkadian namburbi Texts: An Introduction, 
SANE 1/1 (Los Angeles: Malibu, 1974) 7ff . 

343 F. R. Kraus, Texte zur babylonischen Physiognomatik, Archiv fur Orient- 
forschung, Beiheft 3 (Berlin, 1939). 

344 F. R. Kraus, "Ein Sittenkanon in Omenform," ZA 43 (1936) 77-113. 

345 F. R. Kraus, "Babylonische Omina mit Ausdeutung der Begleiterschei- 
nungen des Sprechens," AfO 11 (1936) 219-30. 



of a greeting formula. 346 Evidently these attributes, for example, 
being pusillanimous, or honest, or affectionate (described in 
the Guide), or scratching one's nose when speaking (mentioned 
in the second compendium), even if they portended misfortune 
were not thought to be susceptible of change through a ritual, 
and neither were the diagnoses 347 of the causes or the out- 
come of the illness or its determinations about the sex and 
number of the children a pregnant woman was carrying. 

Many a fortuitous happening, seemingly harmless, could 
carry a warning about a grave impending event, which could be 
warded off only by appealing to the gods, and what interests 
us here in particular, astral gods. The evil was no less to be 
feared if portended by a squeaky pot than by a more momen- 
tous occurrence, just as today a black cat crossing one's path 
is said to bring bad luck. 

There is in fact an apotropaion 348 designed to counteract the 
evil portended by a squeaky pot. The portent is preserved in 
summa alu in a sequence of omens dealing with squeaky pots 
of various contents, among others, "If a pot of water squeaks 
in a man's house." 349 The site of the ritual, which is the bank 
of the river or canal, is purified and offerings are made to the 
gods Ea— god not only of magic but of sweet water as well — 
and Samas. Before the patient recites a prayer to Samas, a holy- 
water vessel, filled with water from the well of the temple of 
Marduk into which herbs and beads of metal have been scat- 
tered, is to be placed "before the [. . .] star and the Wagon." 350 
After the prayer to Samas there is a break on the tablet, and 

346 E. Reiner, "A manner of speaking," in ZIKIR SUMIM: Assyriological 
Studies Presented to E R. Kraus on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, G. van 
Driel et al., eds. (Leiden: Brill, 1982) 282-89. 

347 The term "diagnosis" in Greek medicine includes the prognosis of the 
disease, see G. E. R. Lloyd, The Revolutions of Wisdom, Sather Classical Lec- 
tures, vol. 52 (Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press, 
1987) 39 n. 123. 

348 4R 60 K.2587, edited by Ebeling, RA 49 (1955) 36ff. 

349 [summa i]na bit ameli karpat me issi, CT 40 4:87, dupl. ibid. 8 
K. 10407, and passim in this tablet (cited CAD S/2 s.v sasu meaning lh). The 
namburbi in Or. NS 40 (1971) 134 which enumerates squeaky pots in lines 
5-6 along with other Alu omens is not specific. 

350 ina IGI MUL.[x u MUL].MAR.GID tasakkan, 4R 60:24f., see Ebeling, RA 
49 (1955) 36:24f. 



when the text resumes, on the reverse of the tablet, we find 
addresses to a plurality, as the verb forms indicate; the ad- 
dressees could be the three gods of exorcism Ea, Samas, and 
Asalluhi, but possibly are the two constellations to which the 
holy water vessel was exposed, or even all the stars— the gods 
of the night -as the phrasing of the prayer suggests: "I invoke 
you from the heaven of Anu, I implore you (etc.)." 351 

The holy water vessel was exposed to the stars in several 
other apotropaic rituals, one to ward off the evil portended by 
a snake 352 and two against the evil portended by fire striking 
a house. 353 No nocturnal prayer to the stars accompanies the 
exposure; it is the Sun-god, Samas, who is addressed when 
morning dawns. 

When a fungus that portends evil appears on the walls of a 
house a he-goat 354 is sacrificed before the Pleiades, while a 
prayer to the Seven Gods, that is, the seven stars of the con- 
stellation, is recited 355 and a yellow she-goat (UZ SIG7) is sac- 
rificed to Gula, the goddess of healing, whose celestial mani- 
festation, the constellation Lyra, is called the Goat star. 356 

If a man falls on his face and starts bleeding, obviously an 
ill-portending happening, he will avert the evil consequences 
by making a food-offering to a certain deity (the name is 
broken) and to the constellation Sagittarius. 357 

The evil portended by various birds — described in tablets 

351 alsikunusi istu same sa Ani ashurkunusi, 4R 60 rev. 18. 

352 HUL MUS, Or. NS 36 (1967) 24f . no. 20, see note 338. 

353 IZI.SUB.BA: "you expose the preparation to the stars of the night" (ana 
MUL mu-si-tim tus-bat) Or. NS 36 (1967) 287:9', 295:25. 

354 MAS.GAL bur-ru-qd; the qualifying adjective is obscure. 

355 Caplice, Or. NS 40 (1971) 143 r. 5f.: MAS.GAL bur-ru-qa ina IGI MUL. 
MUL KUD-is-ma muhra d 7.BI DUG 4 .GA-ma . . . Other references to the Ple- 
iades conceived as the Seven gods par excellence are RA 18 (1921) 28 and 
its parallels KAR 38 r. 18ff. and K.8863. Offerings are made to the Pleiades 
in a Hittite text (Bo3298 + KUB 25 32 + . . . ii Iff. §12), see Gregory Mac- 
Mahon, The Hittite State Cult of the Tutelary Deities, AS 25 (Chicago: Oriental 
Institute Press, 1991) 62, cf. the "Lamma of the Pleiades" (SA d 7.7.BI 
d LAMMA) cited ibid. p. 48. 

356 Caplice, Or. NS 40 (1971) 143 r. 34: UZ SIG 7 ana d Gula KUD-is. 

357 kurummassu ana [. . .] u PA.BIL.SAG GAR-ma NU TE-sii 'he should 
present his food-offering to [. . .] and to Sagittarius/ CT 37 46:7 (summa alu 
Tablet 87, to be published by Ann Guinan). 



65 ? -67 of the omen series summa alu, which deal with the 
appearance and behavior of birds in a man's house 358 — is 
averted by an apotropaic ritual with prayers to the stars: 

Incantation: Mighty stars who have resplendent positions in the 

The g[reat ? ] gods have created you, wise Nu[dimmud ( = Ea) 

has . . .] you. 359 

The names of the gods Enlil, Ea and possibly Sulpae follow; 
the next fragmentary line— the last line before the break— with 
its mention of "stars" possibly refers to the stars of the three 
"paths" of Anu, Enlil, and Ea, 360 that is, all stars rising over 
the three "paths" on the horizon. 361 

Similar in tenor is the prayer 362 in the parallel text meant to 
avert the evil portent of a "bird," probably a bat: 363 

8. [Incantation: You,] mighty stars, whom Anu and Enlil have 

9. [Enlil 7 ,] Ea, Jupiter [. . .], 

10. [You ? ] mighty stars who [have resplendent] positions in the 

sky 364 

In rare occurrences the celestial power is addressed because 

358 F. Notscher, Die Omen-Serie summa alu ina mele sakin (Orientalia 51-54 
[1930]) 149ff., and S. Moren, The Omen Series Summa Alu (Ph.D. diss., Uni- 
versity of Pennsylvania, 1978), pp. 104ff. and 211ff. 

359 [EN MUL.MES gasrutji sa ina same manzaza sarhu 

ilu r[abutu ? ibjnukunusi ersu Nu[dimmud . . . -kunusi] 

in an apotropaic ritual to avert the evil of a dove: Bu. 91-5-9,155 rev. 8- 
10, edited by R. I. Caplice, Or. NS 36 (1967) 282f. 

360 d Enlil d Ea d[§ ulpae?] lu MUL.MES [. . .]-Bu. 91-5-9,155 rev. 10-11. 

361 See Introduction p. 6 and note 13. 

362 Rm. 510 lines 8-10, edited by R. I. Caplice, Or. NS 36 (1967) 284f. 

363 BURU 5 .HABRUD.DA. The identification with "bat" is suggested by the 
description BURU5.HABRUD.DA MUSEN NITA ina MI sa DU-ku-ma (= prob- 
ably ittanallaku and not simply illaku) NIM (= lamsata 7 ) ibarru '(blood of) a 
male bat that goes about at night catching flies/ BAM 476:10'. 

364 8. [EN attunu MU]L.MES gasrutu sa Anu u Enlil i[bnukunusi] 
9. [Enlil?] d E-a d Sul-pa-e-a [. . .] 

10. [. . . MU]L.MES gasrutu sa ina same manzaza [. . .] 

Since line 8 of Rm. 510 corresponds to line rev 8 of Bu. 91-5-9,155, and 
line 10 to line rev. 7, we conjecture that the mention of Jupiter (Sulpaea) in 
line 9 was present in the broken part of rev. 9. 



of its analog to the earthly event or object. One apotropaic 
ritual, against the evil portended by a bow, 365 involves the Bow- 
star. The Bow-star (part of Canis Maior) in this case too repre- 
sents Istar, whose celestial manifestation it is, as we know from 
several sources, 366 since the instructions call for two altars to 
be set up, one to Ea and one to Istar, and for a sheep to be 
sacrificed to Ea and a kid to the Bow-star. 367 

The analogy is less transparent, and possibly more tenuous, 
in the ritual to be performed by the king to avert the evil portent 
of "cult city and sanctuary" 368 It directs that a sacrifice be made 
and a prayer recited to the Kidney- star: "You arrange an altar 
before the Kidney-star, . . . the king recites with lifted hands 
before the Kidney-star as follows: Incantation. 'Enki . . .'" 369 
The prayer, in Sumerian, addresses the god Ea under his 
Sumerian name Enki; the relationship of the Kidney-star 
(which is part of the constellation Puppis) to the god Ea is not 
known from other sources, but we may surmise it from a 
learned commentary on the names of the phases of the moon. 
The commentary 370 lists the names of the various phases of 
the moon: the moon is called "crescent" from the first to the 
fifth day, and "resplendent crown" when full. From the sixth 
to the tenth, the gibbous moon (amphikyrtos) is called kalitu 
'kidney/ and is equated with Ea. 371 

A compilation that is in some way a companion to summa alu 
is the series that already in antiquity bore the name iqqur Tpus. 
This series, first edited under the title "An Almanac from 
ancient Babylonia," 372 was republished under the equally sug- 

365 HUL GIS.BAN; one exemplar, LKA 113, was edited by Ebeling, RA 49 
(1955) 137f.; another, Sm. 340, by R. I. Caplice, Or. NS 39 (1970) 116f. 

366 MUL.APIN I ii 7, BPO 2 82 KAV 218 i 15, ii 16, 19, etc., see C. B. F. 
Walker, Anatolian Studies 33 (1983) 147 n. 14. 

367 GI.DUs.MES ana Ea Istar tukan . . . UDU . . . ana Ea teppas, unlqu ana 
MUL.BAN teppas, LKA 113, see note 365. 

368 ana HUL mahazi u esirti ana sarri la tehe, Or. NS 39 (1970) 132f . 

369 GI.DU 8 ana IGI MUL.BIR tukan . . . LUGAL SU-su IL-ma ana IGI MUL.BIR 
k[lam iqabbi] EN d En-ki . . . lines 12'ff . 

370 p or re f erences se e CAD K s.v. kalitu meaning 4. 

371 See lastly Alasdair Livingstone, Mystical and Mythological Explanatory 
Works of Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986) 30f . 
and 47 

372 E. F. Weidner, "Ein Hauskalender aus dem alten Babylonien," RSO 32 
(1957) 185-96. 



gestive title "A Babylonian Calendar of works, seasons, and 
months," echoing Hesiod's Works and Days. 373 This allusion not- 
withstanding, there is no work in Babylonian literature that 
would parallel Hesiod's. As for those texts that indicate the 
days and the months suitable for carrying out ritual or magic 
manipulations, they will be our concern later insofar as these 
moments are affected by astral positions. 

The Babylonian almanac or calendar exists in two arrange- 
ments, one according to the enterprise envisaged, and the 
other according to the month. In the first, each activity forms 
one paragraph, and the prognosis for each month is stated in 
the style normal for omens. For example, the first paragraph— 
from which the name of the series was taken— states "If he tears 
down (iqqur) his house in Nisannu (i.e., month I), he . . .; if 
in Ayaru (month II), . . ." and so on. Hence, each paragraph 
consists of normally twelve entries, one for each month of the 
year, and occasionally of thirteen, if it also includes the inter- 
calary month of the Babylonian calendar, that is, the month 
that was periodically added so that the year, made up of twelve 
lunar months of twenty-nine or thirty days, could be brought 
into agreement with the solar year of 365 and a fraction days. 
The other arrangement 374 excerpts these paragraphs according 
to months, so that under each month all pertinent activities are 
listed along with the prognosis for him who would perform 
them. Not all of these "monthly sets" are extant, though some 
of the months exist in duplicate copies to show that different 
traditions singled out different activities worthy of inclusion. 

In fact, only the first sixty-odd paragraphs record activities 
whose outcome may be favorable or not. The last forty para- 
graphs deal not with intentional undertakings, but with the 
forces of nature, and the transition between the two sections 
is formed by paragraph 66' that deals with fire— presumably 
lightning -striking a house. From paragraph 67 on the topics 
are the ones treated in the compendium of celestial omens, the 
series Enuma Anu Enlil, 'When Anu (and) Enlil/ 375 but include 

373 Rene Labat, Un Calendrier babylonien des travaux, des saisons, et des mois 
(Paris: Champion, 1965). 

374 Called "iqqur Jpus mensuel" by Labat, and version B by Weidner. 

375 See p. 12, note 36. 



only a selection, and the predictions differ according to the 
month in which a particular phenomenon takes place. The list 
of ominous celestial events varies with the different sources, 
ranging from the always present predictions from eclipses of 
the moon and of the sun, haloes of the moon, first appearance 
of Venus, and a few meteorological phenomena, among them 
thunder, rain, and earthquakes, to risings of other planets 376 
not attested in every source. In spite of the crude reckoning that 
can have no claim to astronomical precision— days (in addition 
to months) are stated only in regard to the visibilities of Venus 
while the other phenomena are described solely in terms of 
months, and those schematic thirty-day months— concern with 
celestial phenomena is manifest in these texts too. The last of 
the paragraphs concerned with celestial and meteorological 
events (§104 in Labat's edition) is followed by a paragraph 
(numbered §105 in Labat's edition) that lists the twelve months 
and assigns each to a god or goddess. In one exemplar, VAT 
9772, which lists only twelve months and omits the thirteenth, 
the series does not end there but continues with additional 
material. Unfortunately, the ends of the lines, which are all that 
survive, show only that further predictions were listed, but not 
what the phenomena were from which these were derived. 

Concatenating several series is not unique to this text. Else- 
where, different lexical texts are combined into a single compo- 
sition, possibly reflecting the sequence of the scribe's curric- 
ulum, e.g., in some recensions to the 24-tablet series HAR-ra 
= hubullu was added, as Tablet 25, the list of professions lu = 
Sfl; 377 and one copy of a recension of summa alu omens is fol- 
lowed by omens excerpted from the celestial omen series 
Enuma Anu Enlil 378 while another copy continued with the 
series sammu sikinsu, the incipit of which is quoted as the 
omen tablet's catch line. The second tablet of the astronomical 
compendium MUL.APIN has a catch line MUL SAG.ME.GAR 

376 Jupiter and Mercury are attested, see Rene Labat, Un Calendrier baby- 
lonien des travaux, des saisons, et des mois (Paris: Champion, 1965) 170f. n. 6, 
and so is Mars in the list for month IV in BM 26185 communicated to me 
by Douglas Kennedy. 

377 See Miguel Civil, MSL 12 p. 90. 

378 CT 41 20f. reverse 31-37 contains celestial omens. 



d Sul-pa-e, an incipit which is attested on several fragments and 
lists. 379 

Just as there are apotropaic rituals to avert the evil conse- 
quences of such everyday occurrences as are enumerated in the 
series summa alu and in the series iqqur ipus, others, against the 
evil portended by celestial happenings, also exist but in a 
smaller number, the more regrettable as there are Arabic and 
Indian magical texts with which it would be interesting to com- 
pare them. Of a quite different character are the prolonged 
and public expiatory rites performed when a lunar eclipse 
occurred. 380 

The existence of rituals to avert quite specific ill-portending 
celestial phenomena can, however, be inferred from the "uni- 
versal catalogues" 381 that we may call "HUL-lists" from the 
words that begin each line: ina HUL, Akkadian ina lumun, 'from 
the evil of.' The sequence of celestial phenomena whose evil 
consequence is to be averted is the same in the HUL-lists as 
the sequence of topics in the compendium of celestial omens 
Enuma Anu Enlil: Moon, Sun, weather-phenomena (including 
earthquakes), and stars and planets, also known as the four 
books Sin, Samas, Adad, and Istar, and the sequence of those 
paragraphs of the series iqqur ipus that parallel the celestial 
omen compendium. One catalogue 382 enumerates, possibly 
with reference to the king, eclipses of, first (in a broken section) 
the moon, then of the sun and of Venus, as well as flaring up 
of stars, earthquakes, and various cloud-configurations: "when 
[. . .an eclipse of either the Moon] or of the Sun or of Venus, 
or a flaring 7 [star (or . . .)] or an earthquake [or . . . or a] cloud 7 
or a fireball 7 or an asqulalu-phenomenon is seen." 383 A list of 
evil portents taken from stars and planets is preserved in a 

379 See Hunger and Pingree, MUL.APIN 8f . 

380 See Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache der babylonischen 
"Gebetsbeschworungen," Studia Pohl: Series Maior, 5 (Rome: Biblical Institute 
Press, 1976) lOOff . 

381 Termed "general (allgemeine) namburbi-tablets" by Erich Ebeling, RA 
48 (1954) 3. 

382 LKA 108, edited by Erich Ebeling, RA 50 (1956) 26. 

383 enuma LU[GAL . . . AN.TA.LU lu sa d Sin l]u sa Samas lu sa Istar lu 
mi-si-i[h ? MUL . . .] lu rlbu [lu . . . lu A]N.GUB (or read AN.DU = andugu?) 
lu akkullu lu isqulalu IGI, LKA 108:13ff., see RA 50 (1956) 26. 



summa alu text 384 and another, taken from meteorological phe- 
nomena, in an Assur text. 385 A parallel to these is included in 
a royal ritual in which the king lists in column ii "either an 
eclipse of the Moon [or of the Sun ? ] or of Jupiter or an eclipse 
of . . ., [or . . .] the roar of Adad that came down from the sky, 
[or . . .] or a flaring 7 star or a scintillating 7 star or [. . .] which 
came close to the stars of the (three) paths" 386 and continues 
with "any evil that is in my land and my palace." 387 Of the 
sequel (column iii 7 ) only the first few signs of some lines are 
preserved, and they are, after an introductory "ditto" (KI.MIN) 
in each line, "the evil of [. . .], the evil of [. . .] signs which 
[occurred 7 ] in the land, the evil of an eclipse [of . . .], the evil 
of a fireball 7 [. . .], the evil of [. . .] star," 388 and two more lines 
with only HUL preserved. 

The ritual for averting the evil portended by an earthquake 
is also mentioned in the letters of exorcists to the Assyrian 
king. 389 Other evil portents given by celestial phenomena are 

384 CT 41 23 i 3_i6, edited by Ebeling, RA 48 (1954) lOff ., see Parpola, LAS 
2 p. 73. 

385 LKA 48a, edited by Ebeling, RA 48 (1954) 82 no. 3. 

386 io' . . . lu-u AN.MI Sin n < [. . .] lu-u AN.MI d Sul-pa-e-a w [. . .] lu-u 
AN.MI si-i-qf \y [. . .] KA d IM sa TA AN-e ur-da w [. . . lu]-u mi-sih MUL lu-u 
sa-ra-ar MUL i 5 ' [. . .] sa ana MUL.MES KASKAL.MES is-sa-ni-qu K.8091 + 
10628, known to me from Geers' copies, parallel BMS 62, see Ebeling, RA 
48 (1954) 8. A similar enumeration is found in the text published by W. G. 
Lambert, "A Part of the Ritual for the Substitute King," AfO 18 (1957-58) 
109ff., column A lines llff.: AN.MI d Sin AN.MI d Samas AN.MI d Sul-pa-e-a 
[. . . AN]. MI d Dil-bat AN.MI d UDU.BAD.MES 'eclipses of the Moon, the Sun, 
Jupiter, Venus, (or of) the (other) planets/ see Parpola, LAS 2 p. xxii. No 
eclipse of Jupiter or Mars is mentioned in the celestial omens, but eclipses 
of Venus are. Apotropaic rituals to avert the evil portended by a lunar eclipse 
are published by Ebeling, RA 48 (1954) 82 as no. 2 and by Caplice, Or. NS 
40 (1971) 166f . no. 65; the cuneiform text was subsequently published in auto- 
graph copy as CT 51 190. 

387 See p. 84 and note 341. 

388 HUL [. . .], HUL A.MES [. . .] sa ina KUR [. . .], HUL AN.MI [. . .], HUL 
an-qu[l-lu . . .], HUL MUL [. . .] K.8091 + 10628 iii ? l'ff. 

389 LAS no. 16 (ABL 34, = SAA 10 no. 10), and nos. 147 and 148 (ABL 357 
and 1118 + , = SAA 10 nos. 202 and 203), see also Parpola, LAS 2 pp. 123ff.; 
the ritual itself was described in the text KAR 7 but only the prayer to Samas 
mentioning HUL ri-i-b[i . . .], 'the evil of the earthquake/ is preserved in it. 
A ritual performed by the temple singer kalu to avert such evil is attested in 
Thureau-Dangin, Rituels accadiens (Paris, Leroux: 1921) 34ff. obverse 
16-reverse 1. 



known only from references in the royal correspondence from 
Assyria. One of the letters mentions the evil (portended) by 
Mars that missed its appointed time and entered Aries. 390 
Another speaks of the late rising of Jupiter 391 and a third 392 of 
its dark aspect at rising. This last example provides an addi- 
tional proof, if such were still necessary, that the scholars who 
reported to Esarhaddon were consulting the omen series, since 
the partly broken omen that the writer cites can be restored 
from a number of celestial omen tablets, some of which are 
cited in the commentary to the letter 393 while others 394 are as 
yet unpublished. 

The conjunction of Mars and the Moon was also an occasion 
for an apotropaic ritual, but only the incipit is extant in the 
subscript of a namburbi: "if Mars and the Moon go side by 
side." 395 In yet another apotropaic ritual the "evil" is attributed 
to Sagittarius ( d PA.BIL.SAG). 396 A curious ritual seeking to 
"remove a star by the door from a house" 397 is written on a 
tablet that is designated by its subscript as the "123rd tablet" 
of a composition whose name is broken. 398 The ritual seeks to 
ward off the evil portent by throwing into the river "[an effigy 7 

390 HUL Salbatanu sa adansu useti[quni] u ina libbi MUL.LU.HUN.GA 
i[nnamiruni], K.818 = LAS no. 334 (CT 53 8, = SAA 10 no. 381), and see Par- 
pola, LAS 2 pp. 350f . 

391 ACh Supp. 2 62 = LAS no. 289 = SAA 10 no. 362. 

392 ABL 647 = LAS no. 67 = SAA 10 no. 67. 

393 The citations adduced by Parpola in his commentary in LAS 2 p. 74 
include an omen that is also quoted in MUL.APIN II. 

394 K.2184, K.2286, BM 36627. 

395 [1 d ] [Sal-bat] -a-nu u d Sin it-te-e[n-tu-u . . .] Or. NS 40 (1971) 169 
r. 12 (preceding lines fragmentary). The restoration comes from BM 99065 
( = 1904-10-9, 94) in L. W. King, Catalogue of the Cuneiform Tablets of the British 
Museum, Supplement, pi. Ill no. 130. 

396 R. I. Caplice, Or. NS 40 (1971) 177 (pi. XVI) no. 71 82-3-23,37 line 5: 
SU d PA.BIL.SAG. Note also [ri-h]u-ut d PA.BIL.SAG ibid, line 7. To avert the 
evil, offerings are to be made to the god Hendursagga ([. . .] d 
GAR-ma NU TE-su, line 4). 

397 mul e.ta 4 , Or. NS 39 (1970) 113:8. 

398 The restoration n[] in the break has given rise to the conjec- 
ture that there existed a composition of at least 123 tablets comprising nam- 
burbu rituals, but it seems likely that "the serialization . . . seems to reflect 
rather a local ordering within the Assurbanipal library than a canonical 
sequence" (Caplice, Or. NS 34 [1965] 107). 



of] the star that fell into your house" and reciting a spell in 
Sumerian 399 and a prayer to Samas in Akkadian. How a 
shooting star could land in a man's house is difficult to imagine, 
but portents from shooting stars are not only known from stan- 
dard omen collections 400 but are requested as answers to the 
petitioner's question in the popular media of divination more 
akin to "fortune-telling," as I have had the occasion to show. 401 

The compendium iqqur ipus combined the activities and phe- 
nomena of everyday life listed in §§1-66 with the portents 
announced by celestial bodies in §§67ff . The compilers of iqqur 
ipus simply juxtaposed omens reflecting the two domains of 
heaven and earth and, correspondingly, public and private fore- 
casts. Rare is a true conflation of the two, of which we saw a 
late example (p. 78) establishing a relationship between parts 
of the liver examined by the haruspex and zodiacal and other 
constellations. An effort to establish a relation between omens 
portended by various media was begun, however, even earlier. 
Speculations to this effect are set out in a text already known 
under Assurbanipal, from whose library its exemplars come. 
It was edited by Leo Oppenheim under the programmatic title 
"A Babylonian Diviner's Manual." 402 The text is a rarity not 
only in regard to its subject matter but especially in its attempt 
to give a rationale for the correspondences between signs 
observed in the sky and signs on earth, in contrast to the 
Mesopotamian approach which, as we have seen, does not nor- 
mally give reasons or explanations. 

The interconnections between celestial and terrestrial omens 
are stressed several times but they are eventually expressed in 
the simple terms: the portents on earth and those in the sky 
correspond. The task of the diviner, as we can infer from the 

399 The Sumerian spell begins with mul E.NUN.ta e.a 'star which has 
come Out of the E.NUN'; E.NUN, Akkadian agrunnu (for which see Caplice, 
"E.NUN in Mesopotamian Literature," Or. NS 42 [1973] 299-305) elsewhere 
is both the underground abyss and the temple that corresponds to it on 
earth, see ibid. 304f. 

400 See p. 72. 

401 In "Fortune-Telling in Mesopotamia," JNES 19 (1960) 28f., and see 
above p. 72 and note 299. 

402 A. Leo Oppenheim, "A Babylonian Diviner's Manual," JNES 33 (1974) 



statements of the author, is both to interpret the signs as they 
are observed individually, and to establish a relation between 
the terrestrial and the celestial omens. It is noteworthy that this 
"manual/' as much as it proclaims the correspondence (in the 
Baudelairian sense) of terrestrial and celestial omens, is written 
on tablets some of which are also inscribed with planetary 
omens. ". . . our difficult text is witness to the renewed vigor 
the Mesopotamian scholar brought to bear on enlarging and 
refining previous divination techniques in the outgoing second 
and incoming first millennium, a vigor which created a 
plethora of new forms and methods of divination while at the 
same time it carefully maintained the heritage of the early 
second millennium achievements." 403 

The text's first explicit statement: 404 "The signs in the sky 
just as those on earth give us signals," 405 follows the listing of 
incipits of "fourteen tablets with signs occurring on earth" and 
the second, even more insistent, "The signs on earth just as 
those in the sky give us signals; sky and earth both produce 
portents, though appearing separately they are not separate 
because sky and earth are related," is the subscript to a list of 
incipits of "eleven tablets with signs occurring in the sky" 406 
The correspondence between the two domains extends to the 
consequences of the portents, as the Manual continues with a 
warning about evil-portending signs: "A sign that portends evil 
in the sky is evil on earth, one that portends evil on earth is 
evil in the sky," 407 and about the necessity of calculating 
whether it is susceptible of apotropaic rituals or not. 408 The 
next rubric gives the grand total of the two groups of tablets: 
"In summa twenty-five tablets with signs (occurring) in the sky 
and on earth whose good and evil portents are in harmony (?). 
You will find in them every sign that has occurred in the sky 
(and) has been observed on earth. This is the method to dispel 
(them): . . ," 409 

403 Oppenheim, JNES 33 (1974) 210. 

404 Translations are those of Oppenheim. 

405 i99 : 24. 

406 200:38-40. 

407 200:41-42. 

408 200:43-46. 

409 200:53-56. 



Even though far from "every sign" can be found in the twenty- 
five tablets whose incipits follow, 410 we should note the sig- 
nificant statement that there exists "a method to dispel them." 
This method, for which precisely the term for apotropaion, 
namburbu, is used, 411 is not a simple catalogue of apotropaic rit- 
uals similar to the ones quoted on pp. 83f., but rather instruc- 
tions for establishing, by astronomical calculations, the exact 
date of the event and for finding in a hemerological table 
appended to the Manual the month and day when such rituals 
can be effective. 412 

The already mentioned Uruk text with its correspondences 
of parts of the liver with times (possibly indicating zodiacal 
signs) and celestial bodies, the correspondences drawn between 
the signs of the zodiac and the performance of apotropaic rites 
(see Chapter VI) and the Diviner's Manual all indicate various 
tentatives to refine the techniques or, to use Peter Brown's term, 
"the technology of sorcery in the ancient world," 413 into more 
sophisticated methods that culminate in Hellenistic astrology, 
and thus testify, as I have had occasion to stress earlier, to the 
continued vitality of the Mesopotamian divinatory tradition. 

410 For a discussion of the significance of this statement see Oppenheim, 
JNES 33 (1974) 208. 

411 annu namburbusunu 'this is their "loosing/" 

412 "The namburbu prescribed in our text consists in establishing the 
exact date of the event observed by means of sound astronomical observa- 
tions and calculations and by gleaning from the appended hemerological 
table whether the month or the time of day was propitious or not for the 
undertaking planned when the omen occurred." Oppenheim, ibid. 209. 

413 Peter Brown, "Sorcery, Demons, and the Rise of Christianity," in 
Witchcraft, Confessions & Accusations, Mary Douglas, ed. (London: Tavistock 
1970) 18. 



Sorcerers and Sorceresses 

Nunc meis uocata sacris, noctium sidus, ueni 

Seneca, Medea 750 

Sorcerer and sorceress 414 could coerce the power inherent in 
the celestial bodies for evil purposes, as we learn from the very 
rituals that are designed to counteract the machinations of 
these magicians. Rituals for curing an ailment or other affliction 
suspected of having been brought about by such machinations 
are prescribed when "witchcraft was practised against that 
man before the such-and-such star. //415 The words 'witchcraft 7 
(ipsu) and 'was practiced against him' (epsusu) belong, as we 
saw, to the family of the verb epesu, 'to do/ that is also the tech- 
nical term for 'bewitching.' Another term for witchcraft or sor- 
cery, kispu, belongs to the family of words that includes the 
terms for sorcerer (kassapu) and sorceress (kassaptu), derived 
from the verb kasapu 'to bewitch.' 

In Babylonian sources, the witches carry out their magic 
"before" a star, and they are not known to bring the stars down 
from the sky as Medea raved 416 nor do magic texts reveal that 

414 For 'sorceress' many descriptive terms, mostly designating these 
women as coming from foreign parts, are known, see Tzvi Abusch, "The 
Demonic Image of the Witch in Babylonian Literature," in Religion, Science, 
and Magic, Jacob Neusner et al., eds. (New York/Oxford: Oxford University 
Press, 1989) 27-58. 

415 ana amlli suatu ana pan MUL NN ipsu epsusu, STT 89:50, etc., see 
below pp. 103ff.; for references (before Sirius: BAM 461 and dupls.; Scor- 
pius: BAM 203; Ursa Maior: AMT 44,4) see Marie-Louise Thomsen, Zauber- 
diagnose und Schwarze Magie in Mesopotamien, The Carsten Niebuhr Institute 
of Ancient Near Eastern Studies 2 (1987), 80 nn. 89-91. 

416 Hue ille uasti more torrentis iacens 
descendat anguis, cuius immensos duae, 
maior minorque sentiunt nodos ferae 
(maior Pelasgis apta, Sidoniis minor) 



they bring down the moon. To this feat there is only a cryptic 
allusion in a Neo-Assyrian letter. Nevertheless, it is this allu- 
sion that establishes yet another link between the Mesopo- 
tamian and Classical cultures, and at the same time makes us 
aware of the constraints imposed on our understanding by the 
paucity and the accident of preservation of the data. 

The allusion is found in a Neo-Assyrian letter written to King 
Esarhaddon in the seventh century B.C. which contains the fol- 
lowing passage: 

As for the messengers whom the king, my lord, sent to Guzana, 
who would listen to the disparaging remarks of Tarasi and his wife? 
His wife, Zaza, and Tara$i himself are not to be spared. . . . 
Their women would bring the moon down from heaven! 417 

We might easily have dismissed the last sentence as a simple 
hyperbole would it not remind us of the often-celebrated feat 
of "the Thessalian witches who draw down the moon from 
heaven" 418 mentioned by Plato, the feat of drawing down the 
moon that had become in Latin literature the hallmark of sor- 
ceresses, expressed by the Latin phrase detrahere lunam, or dedu- 
cere lunam. 419 

The power to draw down the moon was attributed especially 
to the sorceresses of Thessaly, a land of magic compellingly 
described by Lucan in The Civil War: 

". . . I want the Snake that lies up there to come down here like a gigantic 
torrent. I want the two Bears— the big one, useful to Greek ships, and the 
small one, useful to Phoenician ships -to feel the Snake's enormous coils 
. . ." Seneca, Medea 694ff. 

417 ABL 633 + : 18-23, recopied with new joins CT 53 46 rev. 26f. The cited 
translation was made in 1930 by Leroy Waterman. Frederick Mario Fales, AfO 
27 (1980) 144 translates "The women of these people, they would bring down 
the moon from the sky!" 

418 Plato, Gorgias 513 A. 

419 Sophie Lunais, Recherches sur la lune. I. Les auteurs latins de la fin des 
Guerres Puniques a la fin du regne des Antonins. Etudes Preliminaries aux re- 
ligions orientales dans l'empire romain, M. J. Vermaseren, ed., vol. 72 
(Leiden: Brill 1979), Chapter XI: Le pouvoir des magiciennes sur la lune, pp. 
225-33. See also Anne-Marie Tupet, La magie dans la poesie latine. I Des origines 
a la fin du regne dAuguste (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1976), Chapter VII: La 
descente de la lune, pp. 92-103. 



The pregnant fields a horrid crop produce, 
Noxious, and fit for witchcraft's deadly use; 
With baleful weeds each mountain's brow is hung, 
And listening rocks attend the charmer's song. 
There potent and mysterious plants arise, 
Plants that compel the gods, and awe the skies; 
There leaves unfolded to Medea's view, 
Such as her native Colchis never knew. 420 

In this land the witches exercise their magic power to draw 
down the moon: 

Magic the starry lamps from heaven can tear, 
And shoot them gleaming through the dusky air; 
Can blot fair Cynthia's countenance serene, 
And poison with foul spells the silver queen. 

Held by the charming song, she strives in vain, 
And labours with the long pursuing pain; 
Till down, and downward still, compell'd to come, 
On hallow'd herbs she sheds her fatal foam. 421 

A more prosaic translation of the last section, this one by 
Robert Graves: 422 "Witches have introduced the art of drag- 
ging the stars from the sky; and know how to turn the Moon 
dim and muddy-coloured, as though she were being eclipsed 
by the Earth's shadow— after which they pull her close to them 
and torture her until she secretes poisonous foam on the plants 
growing underneath." 

420 The verse translation is that of Nicholas Rowe from the early 18th 

421 .. . illic et sidera primum 

praecipiti deducta polo Phoebeque serena 
non aliter diris verborum obsessa venenis 
palluit et nigris terrenisque ignibus arsit, 
quam si fraterna prohiberet imagine tellus 
insereretque suas flammis caelestibus umbras, 
et patitur tantos cantu depressa labores, 
donee suppositas propior despumet in herbas. 

Pharsalia (also known as De hello civili) 6.499-506. 

422 Robert Graves, Lucan, Pharsalia (Penguin Books, 1957) 141. A more 
recent verse translation is that of P. F. Widdows, Lucan's Civil War (Bloom- 
ington: Indiana University Press, 1988). 



The sorceresses' ability to draw down the moon, which is 
attested even in modern circum-mediterranean popular lore, 423 
has been given a rationalist explanation not only in modern 
times; the means to achieve this feat (with candles, water, and 
mirrors) had been denounced already in the fourth century by 
bishop Hippolytus of Rome. 424 

The connection between the Classical topos and the refer- 
ence contained in the Neo-Assyrian letter has been overlooked 
for many years. 425 If in Greek and Latin poetry "bringing 
down the moon from heaven" was already a topos, 426 associ- 
ated with the sorceresses of Thessaly, 427 or with barbarians, 
for example by Lucian in his Lover of Lies with a Hyperborean, 
the origin and original referent of this strange image are 
unknown. We may assume that it was already well known by 
the seventh century B.C., when it appears in the quoted Neo- 
Assyrian letter, since, in speaking of the barbarians of Guzana 
in Syria, the simple allusion to "their women who bring the 
moon down from heaven" sufficed to brand them as witches. 
Even further, while Greek and Latin poets often allude to this 
feat of the sorceresses— the most famous being perhaps the 
verse "Charms (that is, incantations) are able to draw the Moon 

423 See Tupet, op. cit. (note 419) 97ff. 

424 Refutatio omnium haeresium IV 37, L. Duncker and F. G. Schneide- 
win, eds. (Gottingae: Dieterich, 1859). 

425 In fact, Leroy Waterman in 1930 not only translated the letter as cited, 
but in his Commentary refers to a certain Sina Schiffer, and if we follow up 
this reference to the journal Oriens. The Oriental Review (January 1926, p. 34, 
n. 38) Schiffer had founded in Paris to promote collaboration between French 
and American scholars, but which did not live beyond its first year, we find 
that he speaks of the Classical origin of "this allegorical locution." Unfortu- 
nately, Waterman's Commentary is hardly consulted nowadays, and so his 
insight into the connection between the letter and the Classical parallels has 
borne no fruit. 

426 See S. Lunais, op. cit. (note 419). 

427 quae sidera excantata voce Thessala 
lunamque caelo deripit 

"who, using the Thessalian incantations, tears the stars and the Moon 
from the sky" 

Horace, Epod. 5.45-46, cited Lunais p. 227. For the association of Thessaly 
with magic and sorceresses see also G. W. Bowersock, "Zur Geschichte des 
romischen Thessaliens," Rheinisches Museum 108 (1965) 278f . 



from the sky" 428 of Virgil's Eighth Eclogue— there is no refer- 
ence, to my knowledge, to this feat either in the poetry of the 
Babylonians, or in their astral magic. It is true that the male 
Moon god of the Sumerians and the Semites has less affinity 
with the 'wise women' of Mesopotamia than the goddess Selene, 
Cynthia, or Luna of the Greeks and Romans. Perhaps it is for 
this reason that it was the power of the stars that Babylonian 
sorceresses and other magicians were using to carry out their 

The means of affecting the intended victim involve, as in 
other cultures, the use of figurines made of him 429 or, more 
directly, imbuing with sorceries, in Akkadian kispu, the food he 
eats, the water he drinks, and the oil he uses as body ointment. 
An elaborate ritual extending throughout a whole night, called 
Maqlu 'Burning' is designed to counteract these evil machina- 
tions by burning figurines of the person suspected of having 
wrought sorcery. 430 The ritual begins, appropriately, with a 
prayer to the "gods of the night": "I invoke you, Gods of the 
night, with you I invoke the night, the veiled bride, I invoke 
(the three watches of the night) the evening watch, the mid- 
night watch, the dawn watch." 431 It is from such rituals, and 
from the proscription of black magic found in the law books 
(the Code of Hammurapi and the Middle Assyrian Laws) that 
the machinations of sorcerers and sorceresses can be docu- 
mented, since instructions for practicing such noxious magic 
have, for good reason, not come down to us. 432 

The effect of "witchcraft practiced before the such-and-such 
star" is manifested in a number of afflictions, physical as well 

428 carmina vel caelo possunt deducere Lunam, Verg., Eel. 8.69. 

429 See Christopher A. Faraone, "Binding and Burying the Forces of Evil: 
The Defensive use of 'Voodoo Dolls' in Ancient Greece," Classical Antiquity 
10 (1991) 165-99, also, in a partly different version, in Talismans and Trojan 
Horses (Oxford University Press, 1992) 74-93, Chapter 4. 

430 See Tzvi Abusch, "Maqlu," in RLA 7 (1989) 346-51. 

431 alslkunusi ill muslti, ittikunu alsi musltu kallatu kuttumtu, alsi 
bararltu qablltu u namarltu. 

432 Note the two unusual and difficult texts containing a self-curse, each 
addressed to a god, for which see Erich Ebeling, "Ein babylonischer Beispiel 
schwarzer Magie," Or. NS 20 (1951) 167-70 a -► Wolfram von Soden, JAOS 
71 (1951) 267f. ad UET 4 171 (the latter text reedited with collations by 
Michael Streck, ZA 83 [1993] 61-65). 



as psychological, that are described in the opening words of the 
treatment. The names of these afflictions are usually written 
with Sumerograms, that is, a group of cuneiform signs whose 
literal meaning can usually be derived from their Sumerian con- 
stituent elements, but for which the Akkadian equivalent is not 
always known, and whose exact meaning is by no means se- 
curely established. 

Nevertheless, the very names of certain diseases or disabili- 
ties indicate their astral cause: 'semen of Jupiter/ 433 '"hand" 
(SU) of Sin (i.e., the Moon) 7 or '"hand" of Samas (i.e., the Sun)/ 
and '"seizure" by Lugalirra/ 434 one of the twin gods who, with 
Meslamtaea, represents the Twin stars, Gemini. The nature of 
the relationship of the disease to the deity said to have caused 
it with his "hand" or his "seizure" is usually impossible to deter- 
mine. As to the "semen" or "sperm" of the stars 435 describing 
certain illnesses, it may be a name for "dew" (which is else- 
where called "Blood of the stars"), 436 since dew is said to 
descend from the stars, and dew can be maleficent— "the evil 
dew of the stars"— as well as soothing. 437 

Most frequently mentioned among the magic afflictions diag- 
nosed as inflicted with the connivance of the stars is the one 
called 'cutting the breath/ 438 Since according to the rubric of 
one such ritual '"cutting the breath 7 has been practiced against 

433 rihut Sulpaea. Names composed with "semen" or "sperm" and the 
name of a god appear among "secret" names given to herbs in PGM XII 401, 
etc. (see p. 33 above), see Hopfner, Offenbarungszauber, vol. 1 §493, and the 
herbal of Pseudo-Dioscorides mentions the plant 'Sperm of Hermes/ see 
ibid. §494. Whether the "sperm of the stars" refers to a particular ingredient 
or is to be understood as "dew" is unclear. Note the designation "Blood of 
the stars" given to dew by dream-interpreters, among other such fancy 
names deplored by Artemidorus, Onirocriticon 4,22 (note 132 above), cited 
Hopfner, vol. 1 §496. 

434 See the text STT 89 cited presently. 

435 rihut kakkabim, AfO 18 (1957-58) 63 i 12. 

436 See the Artemidorus reference cited in a preceding note. 

437 See note 249. 

438 Another translation is "throat-cutting." The ambiguity stems from the 
various meanings of the Sumerian element zi of the loanword zikurudu (from 
Sumerian zi.ku(d).ru.da) and of its Akkadian equivalent napistu, that can 
mean life, breath, and throat as well. For literature and suggested identifica- 
tions see Kocher, BAM IV p. xvi n. 26. 



the man in front of Sirius," 439 the cure is sought from Sirius 
too. It takes the form of a complex ritual with alternating liba- 
tions and prayers to (literally: before) Sirius. The rites are per- 
formed in a curtained-off enclosure prescribed in other rituals 
too 440 and the prayer 441 is recited three times with the appropri- 
ate "lifting of the hand." The instructions say: "facing Sirius you 
sweep the roof, you sprinkle pure water, you strew juniper on a 
censer (aglow) with acacia-embers, you libate fine beer, you 
prostrate yourself, you draw the curtains, you set out heaps of 
flour, you purify that man with censer, torch, and holy-water 
basin, you have him stand inside the curtains on garden herbs 7 , 
he lifts his hand, recites this 'recitation' three times, each time 
he recites it he prostrates himself and tells everything that is 
on his mind, and then the wrath of (his) god and goddess will 
be loosed, the sorcery and machinations will be loosed." 442 

Several evil machinations are enumerated in a long text, 
which is identified as an excerpt from the medical com- 
pendium When you approach the patient, itself a sub-series of the 
diagnostic omen series. 443 The patient may suffer from such 

439 [KA.I]NIM.MA summa amelu ina pan MUL.KAK.SI.SA ZI.KU5.RUDA 
epussu(DU-su), BAM 461 iii 4'. 

440 For example, "you draw the curtain as a diviner would do," also "(the 
ceremony performed in) the curtained cubicle on the 13th day," etc., see CAD 
S/2 s.v. siddu B. 

441 In one of the exemplars the prayer is dubbed a "lifting-of-the-hand" 
prayer (for which see p. 17) and was published, along with the extant part 
of the pertinent ritual, by Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen zur Formensprache 
der babylonischen "Gebetsbeschwbrungen," Studia Pohl: Series Maior, 5 (Rome: 
Biblical Institute Press, 1976) 540f . The subscript is preserved in BAM 461 and 
in its fragmentary duplicate BAM 462 which gives a more complete version 
of the ritual but preserves only part of the prayer. 

442 ina pan MUL.KAK.SI.SA ura tasabbit me elluti tasallah nignak burasi 
ina penti asagi tasarraq sikara resta tanaqqi tusken siddl tasaddad zidub- 
dubbe tattanaddi amela suatu nignakka gizilla agubba tullalma ina birlt siddi 
ina muhhi sammi kiri tuszassuma qassu inassi minutu annltu 3-su imannu 
ema imtanu usken u mimma mala libbasu sabtu idabbubma kimilti ili u istari 
patratsu kispu ipsu ipattaru, BAM 461 iii 5'-13'. 

443 According to the subscripts in lines 102 and 215, these are the 23rd ? 
and [24th ? ] tablets of the composition (DUB 23 ? .KAM.MA ana GIG ina TE- 
ka, STT 89:102, [DUB.n.KAM.MA ana GIG] ina TE-ka, STT 89:215). In the 
catalogue to the diagnostic omen series published by I. L. Finkel in A Sci- 
entific Humanist. Studies in Memory of Abraham Sachs, Erie Leichty, M. dej. 



afflictions as the previously mentioned 'cutting the breath/ 444 
"seizure" by Lugalirra, 445 'semen of Jupiter' 446 and "hand" of 
Sin or "hand" of Samas, 447 or 'epilepsy 7 ' m and diseases called 
with such opaque names as 'hatred'; 449 other afflictions may 
have been described in the broken sections. That these were 
wrought by magic means can be inferred from enumerations 
of the same afflictions in other sources among effects of witch- 
craft; 450 in this very text one of them is attributed to the 
placing of a figurine of the man in a grave with a dead man 451 
and another to the fact that wax figurines of him were "laid 
down" 452 — no doubt also in a grave or some other gruesome 
place. That some, perhaps all, of the strange-named and 
sorcery-induced diseases refer to psychological disorders has 
also been suggested. 453 

One affliction, called by the seemingly transparent name 

Ellis, P. Gerardi, eds. (Philadelphia: The University Museum, 1988) 146, this 
sub-series occupies Tablets III-XIV, and thus the serial number "23" given 
in the Sultantepe text poses a redactional problem, for which see already 
O. R. Gurney, The Sultantepe Tablets, vol. 1, p. 8. Recently M. Stol has pro- 
posed to see in this text an older version of the diagnostic omen series, in 
Epilepsy in Babylonia, Cuneiform Monographs, 2 (Groningen: Styx, 1993) 91ff . 

444 zikurudu (ZI.KU 5 .RUDA) lines 27, 33, 47, etc. 

445 d Lugalirra isbassu 'the god Lugalirra has seized him/ lines 105, 111, 116, 
126, 135. 

446 rihut Sulpaea, lines 169, 176, 186, 190. 

447 line 214. 

448 miqtu (AN.TA.SUB.BA), lines 138, 143, 150, 162. 

449 ztru (HUL.GIG), lines 82, 89, 93. 

450 Compare, for example, the enumeration kispi ruhu ru[su upsase] la 
KA.GIR.RA SUR ! (text SAR).HUN.GA [. . .] E.GAL.KU4.RA miqit temi san[e temi] 
HUL.HA.ZA m[ukll res lemutti] iskununimma . . ., Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, 
vol. 2 no. 19:24-30, and the similar enumeration in W. G. Lambert, "An Incan- 
tation of the Maqlu Type," AfO 18 (1957-58) 288-99, on pp. 289f . lines 11-15 
and note p. 95 and in CBS 14161:7-8, in E. Leichty, "Guaranteed to Cure," 
in A Scientific Humanist. Studies in Memory of Abraham Sachs, Erie Leichty, 
M. dej. Ellis, P. Gerardi, eds. (Philadelphia: The University Museum, 1988) 

451 [. . .] itti mtti sunul, line 7. 

452 NU.MES-sw sd GAB.LAL s[u-nu-lu], line 101. 

■^ Edith K. Ritter and J. V. Kinnier Wilson, "Prescription for an Anxiety 
State: a Study of BAM 234," Anatolian Studies 30 (1980) 23-30. 



'seizing of the mouth/ 454 and which therefore has been taken 
to describe aphasia, 455 that is, an inability to speak, can be 
shown to have been imputed to evil magic by referring once 
again to Classical sources. In the Wasps of Aristophanes a dog 
is put on trial, accused of stealing a piece of cheese. When he 
takes the stand, the dog, famed for his barking, is suddenly 
and strangely silent. The president of the mock tribunal, con- 
cerned lest this silence be interpreted as an admission of guilt, 
is ready with a precedent for such an incident: he quotes the 
case of a certain Thucydides, son of Melesias, who suffered 
the same mishap when he was on trial— he suddenly became 
paralyzed in his jaw. 456 According to the scholia, this Thucyd- 
ides, an excellent orator, after he had heard his accusers make 
their case in the course of a trial, was not able to plead his own 
defense, just as if he had a tongue which had been bound from 
within. In this way he was convicted and afterwards ostracized. 
Other stories also recount inexplicable seizures suffered by 
". . . even experienced orators while pleading at the bar"; 
further testimonies 457 come from inscriptions and from the life 
of Libanius, the famous orator of the fourth century a.d., who 
was accused of having cast a spell on a rival whose memory 
failed in the midst of a speech. Libanius himself tells us in his 

454 sibit pi (KA.DIB.BI.DA), line 101. 

455 Also translated 'lockjaw/ see CAD Z s.v. zikurudu. For a medical pre- 
scription for KA.DIB.BI.DA see 17 sammu latkutu sa KA.DIB.BI.DA 'seventeen 
tested herbs for seizing of the mouth/ E. Leichty, "Guaranteed to Cure," in 
A Scientific Humanist. Studies in Memory of Abraham Sachs, Erie Leichty, M. 
dej. Ellis, P. Gerardi, eds. (Philadelphia: The University Museum, 1988) 262 
CBS 14161:5. Recently, Stefan Maul, in his review of Thomsen's book on 
Magic, Welt des Orients 19 (1988) 165ff ., has suggested that the affliction refers 
to stopping up the mouth of the effigy representing the victim. 

456 "n ^ it seems to me that it suffered the same misfortune that once 
befell Thucydides when he was on trial: he suddenly became paralyzed in 
his jaw." 

ook, aXX' 8K8ivo jioi 5ok8i rcercovGevai, 
orcep 710X8 (peoyoov ercaGe Kai 0oi)Ki)5i5r|c; 
drcorcXriKToc; e^aupvnc; eyevexo xac; yv&Gooc;. 

457 All adduced by Christopher A. Faraone, "An Accusation of Magic in 
Classical Athens (Ar. Wasps 946-48)," TAPA 119 (1989), citing from scholia to 
Ar. Wasps 946-48, also Ar. Acharnians 703-18, cited p. 151; Libanius, cited 
p. 153. 



autobiography (1.245-49) how at one point late in his life he 
became gravely ill and was no longer able to read, write, or 
speak before his students, until there was mysteriously dis- 
covered in his lecture hall the body of a chameleon, strangely 
twisted and mutilated; one of its forefeet was missing, and the 
other was "closing the mouth for silence." Libanius recognized 
a case of magic, and what concerns us especially here, he inter- 
preted the placing of the chameleon's forefoot upon its mouth 
as having effected the silencing of his speech. He regained his 
health, he says, only after the body of the chameleon was 
removed from the room. 458 

The "seizing of the mouth" in Babylonian magic texts also 
was designed, no doubt, to bring about the inability to speak, 
especially to speak in one's defense before the judges. 

The witchcraft responsible for such afflictions was performed, 
as the medical text expressly states, "before" certain stars: accord- 
ing to one diagnosis, 'a "binding" was "bound" for him before 
Jupiter on the 21st (or) the 22nd'; 459 according to another, 
'magic [was practiced] against that man on the 4th ? of month 
XI "before" Centaurus/ 460 or 'magic was practiced against that 
man on the nth of month XII "before" Scorpius'; 461 and, with 
the name of the star broken: '[magic was practiced] against that 
man "before" [. . .].' 462 In another diagnosis only the month 
name is preserved, not the star's: '[magic was practiced] against 
that man [on the nth ? ] of month IV ["before" . . .].' 463 This last 

458 Campbell Bonner, "Witchcraft in the Lecture Room of Libanius," 
TAPA 63 (1932) 34ff. See also Peter Brown, "Sorcery, Demons, and the Rise 
of Christianity," in Witchcraft, Confessions & Accusations, Mary Douglas, ed. 
(London: Tavistock 1970) 29. Especially relevant are the "judicial curse 
tablets" that "attempt to bind the opponent's ability to think clearly and 
speak effectively in court at an upcoming trial. . . . judicial curses are pri- 
marily concerned with the cognitive and verbal faculties which are essential 
to success in the law courts . . ." (Faraone, "An Accusation of Magic," 156f.). 

459 ana IGI d Sul-pa-e ina UD.21.KAM ina UD.22.KAM rik-su fra-kis]-su, 
STT 89 line 31. 

460 ana NA BI ITI.ZIZ UD.4 ? .KAM IGI MUL.EN.TE.NA.BAR.HUM ip-su [ep- 
su-sii], line 50. 

461 ana NA BI ina ITI.SE ina |~UD.x.KAMl [IGI] MUL.GIR.TAB ip-sii ep-su- 
sii, line 54f . 

462 ana NA BI ana IGI [MU]L [...], line 36. 

463 ana NA BI ina ITI.SU [. . .], line 74. 



paragraph may already refer to 'hatred/ which follows as diag- 
nosis in lines 85, 89, and 93. Even such a usually beneficent 
power as the Wagon (Ursa Maior) could be used for nefarious 
purposes, as an unfortunately fragmentary prescription, from 
which little survives beyond the phrase "[witchcraft was prac- 
ticed?] against that man before the Wagon/' 464 testifies. 

What a star has wrought, a star will undo. To counteract the 
evil magic, one turns again to the stars: materials to be used in 
the ritual, just as medications (see pp. 48ff.), are to be exposed 
to stars, as in the instruction: "you expose it to all 7 stars"; 465 
two now broken lines must have held similar instructions. 466 

An effluvium from a celestial body may manifest itself not 
only as "seizure" or "hand"; 467 another image used is "cov- 
ering" or "clapping down," an image taken from the impact of 
a net. 468 For example, a diagnosis states: "the name (of the ill- 
ness) is 'male fly of . f .,' a wind has swept over him, it is 'cov- 
ering by Sagittarius/ you may make a prognostication," 469 and 
another: "its name is 'female fly of . . ./a wind has swept over 
him, it is 'covering by the Twins/ you may make a prognosti- 
cation." 470 The term also occurs in the fragmentary prescrip- 
tions "for 'covering by Istar.'" 471 Unidentified is the disease or 
symptom called "staff of the Moon." 472 

The stars are appealed to as individual divine beings whose 
influence is sought in order to avert the sorcerers' machina- 
tions, and it is in the same guise that they are invoked to save 
from other afflictions, or to achieve a desired goal. Their 

464 ana LU BI ana pan MUL.MAR.GID.[DA . . .], AMT 44,4:2. 

465 ana IGI MUL DU ? tus-bat, line 17. 

466 [. . . tus]-bat, line 22, ana IGI MUL [...], line 60. 

467 An illness is called "hand of Venus" in the Neo-Assyrian letter to the 
king, ABL 203 r. 4, see Parpola, SAAB 2 (1988) 74 n. 4. 

468 sihiptu, a noun derived from the verb sahapu 'to cover, overwhelm/ 

469 lamsat hilati NITA MU.NI saru isbitsuma sihi[pti] d PA.BIL.SAG qlba 
(DUG4.GA) GAR-an. The noun qibu 'command, declaration' is the technical 
term for prognosis, prognostication. 

470 lamsat hilati SAL MU.NI saru is-[bit-su-ma] sihipti d MAS.TAB.BA qf-ba 
GAR-an, AMT 44,1 ii 4 and 10 = BAM 580 iii 16f. and 22. 

471 ana sihipti Istar [. . .], BAM 582 ii 5' and 7'. 

472 GIS.PA sd d EN.ZU, in summa LU GIM GIS.PA sd d EN.ZU GAR-sum-ma 
'if (something) like the "staff of Sin" affects the man/ BAM 471 ii 21, dupl. 
TDP 192:35. 



influence is not yet connected, as it will be in Hellenistic astrol- 
ogy, with their positions, their "houses/' and aspects. 

Still, there exist a few texts from Babylonia that seem to 
be precursors of Greek astrology. Two late, largely parallel, 
lists from Hellenistic Uruk 473 enumerate the "regions" or 
"areas" 474 of the zodiacal constellations associated with a cer- 
tain activity which, in order to succeed, has to be carried out 
in that region. Occasionally an explicit instruction is added: tep- 
pusma isallim "if you carry it out, it will succeed." 

It is again the Greek astrological tradition that provides the 
clue for interpreting the Babylonian references to the signs of 
the zodiac. What the texts mean when they refer to these signs 
is the region of the sky where the Moon stands in that partic- 
ular moment. The Moon's position is considered auspicious or 
inauspicious for engaging in a specific activity, and these 
moments have been collected in so-called Lunaria (when 
written in Latin), preserved from the second century a.d. 
onward, 475 to which the Babylonian texts represent often very 
close parallels. 

The lunaria not only indicate the auspicious moments (with 
such phrases as bonum est, utile est) but also the times to be 
avoided (with such phrases as malum est or caveat vos) when 
engaging in a specific activity. The Babylonian "Lunarium" 
includes, e.g., "to bring back a fugitive: region of Regulus, or 
Libra," 476 comparable to finding a fugitive, indicated for several 

473 BRM 4 19 and 20, edited by A. Ungnad, "Besprechungskunst und 
Astrologie in Babylonien," AfO 14 (1941-44) 251-84. More recently, these 
texts have been studied by Jean Bottero, EPHE, Annuaire 1974/75 130ff., 
reprinted in Jean Bottero, Mythes et rites de Babylone (Geneva-Paris: Slatkine- 
Champion, 1985) lOOff . 

474 The term used is the Sumerogram KI with the reading qaqqaru 'ground, 
area, region/ written syllabically in LBAT 1626 rev 6' It is possible that a 
better translation would be 'place' (locus). 

475 The earliest preserved text is the Ilepi Kaxapxcov of Maximus, edited 
by A. Ludwich, Leipzig, 1877; see Paola Radici Colace, Le parafrasi bizantine 
del nEPi katapxqn di Massimo, Letteratura e Civil ta Bizantina, 4 (Messina: 
Dr. Antonino Sfameni, 1988). For Greek Selenodromia see the catalogue in 
Delatte, CCAG 10 p. 121; for Latin Lunaria see Emanuel Svenberg, Lunaria 
et Zodiologia Latina, Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia, 16 (Goteborg: 
Elanders Boktryckeri, 1963). 

476 BRM 4 20:20, see AfO 14 (1941-44) 259 and 265. 



days of the Lunarium of David and Solomon, 477 and "to enter the 
palace (scil., to be well received by the ruler): region of 
Cancer," 478 comparable to "bonum est ire coram rege uel 
iudice 'good for going before the king or a judge'" indicated for 
the position of the Moon in Aries. 479 The hitherto obscure 
"placing of silver" of the Babylonian texts 480 can be under- 
stood in light of the lunaria's "nummos mutuos dare uel accipere 
'to give or receive borrowed money'" recommended for the 
signs Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. 481 Success is also 
sought in love, in business, and in obtaining royal favor, for 
example "desire: 482 region of [. . .]"; "to obtain gain for the inn- 
keeper: 483 region of Cancer, variant: Aquarius." 

Many of the activities listed describe calamities or diseases 
in order to indicate the proper time for carrying out apotropaia 
against them, especially when they were caused by maleficent 
practices. Such entries are, e.g., "Vertigo: 484 region of Gemini"; 
and "Seizing of the mouth: . . " 485 (see p. 105); and "reversal 
of verdict"; "cutting the breath"; "hatred"; and "migraine 7 ," 486 
all well known and often listed among the evil machinations 
of sorcerers. 487 The acts of black magic by means of which the 
sorcerer and sorceress sought to achieve their goals include, for 
example, "to seize a ghost and tie him to a man" 488 and "to 

477 A. Delatte, CCAG 10 pp. 122ff., e.g., 6 (poycbv etipeGfiGeTai. 

478 BRM 4 20:12, see AfO 14 (1941-44) 258 and 263. 

479 Cod. Paris. Nouv. Acq. Lat. 299, XIII s., f. 23r-24v, in Svenberg p. 80, 

480 sikin kaspi, BRM 4 20:19 = BRM 4 19:7. Compare the proscription for 
month II day 13: sea kaspa la isakkan 'he must not "place" barley (or) silver/ 
KAR 178 iv 67. 

481 Cod. Vat. Pal. Lat. 834, cited Svenberg (note 475 above) p. 44. 

482 SA.ZI.GA (= nis libbi), BRM 4 20:45. 

483 M\h sabi sursi, BRM 4 20:25 = BRM 4 19:14; see above note 267 

484 IGI.NIGIN.NA (= sidanu), BRM 4 20:10. 

485 KA.DIB.BI.DA (= sibit pi), BRM 4 20:43 = BRM 4 19:38. 

486 DI.BAL.A, BRM 4 20:2, with commentary nabalkut dini ibid. 55; ZI.KU 5 . 
RU.DA (= zikurudu), BRM 4 20:9; HUL.GIG, BRM 4 20:22 = BRM 4 19:11, 
with commentary: ze-'-i-ri 'hate/ BRM 4 20:66; and SAG.KLDIB.BA, literally: 
'seizing of the forehead/ BRM 4 20:44. 

487 See note 450. 

488 GIDIM DIB-bat KI LtJ ana KES, BRM 4 20:33, explained in the commen- 
tary (ibid. 73) as e-tem-mu sa-ba-tu it-ti ameli a-na ra-k[a-si], see AfO 14 
(1941-44) 259f. 



hand over a figurine of the man to death (or: to a dead 
man)." 489 These are comparable to the Lunarium which speci- 
fies the days suitable for making amulets and phylacteria and 
carrying out magical operations. 490 

Some of the entries must go back to an earlier period, as is 
shown by the philological commentary appended to one of the 
two texts to explicate it and to render the Sumerograms in 
Akkadian; the other text has been provided with an arithmet- 
ical scheme, known in Greek astrology under the name dode- 
katemoria, in which two points of the zodiac are related in such 
a fashion that the dodekatemorion of one position is found by 
adding to a particular degree of the sign (i.e., a number 
between 1 and 30) its twelve-fold multiple; the resulting 
number then is expressed by a degree in another sign. 491 

While only two texts are complete, several fragments dealing 
with "regions" testify that such speculations were fashionable 
in the late period. Most of the fragments are as yet unpub- 
lished; one of them that is published shows the term "region" 
in one of its rubrics. 492 The names of two zodiacal constella- 
tions, Virgo and Capricorn, can be read in this small fragment; 
it is possible to restore the names of others, along with the activ- 
ities recommended when the Moon is in their "region," from 
the two Uruk texts. For example, the Moon in the region of 
Virgo assures "that he who sees you rejoices at seeing you"; 493 
the Moon in the region of the (. . .) star 494 is "for being 
purified through the river (ordeal)"; 495 another "so that a 
'favorable finger 7 be pointed behind the man"; 496 and for the 
Moon in the zodiacal signs now broken, it promises "favor 7 of 

489 salam ameli ana mutu paqadu, ibid. 33 and commentary ibid. 71. 

490 A. Delatte, CCAG 10 pp^ 71ff. 

491 For the arithmetical scheme of BRM 4 19 see Neugebauer and Sachs, 
"The 'Dodekatemoria' in Babylonian Astrology," AfO 16 (1952-53) 65-66. 

492 [. . .] x.MES qaq-qa[r . . .], LBAT 1626 rev. ? 6'. 

493 [amirka ana amarika] hade KI MUL.KI.DIDLI, LBAT 1626 rev. ? 2'; cf . BRM 
4 20:16 = 19:2 Leo. 

494 End of line; no star name seems to be missing after MUL. 

495 ID.KU.GA KI MUL, LBAT 1626 rev. ? 3'; cf. BRM 4 20:11 Capricorn. 

496 uban damiqti arki ameli [tarasf], LBAT 1626 rev. ? 4', restored from paral- 
lels, tablet preserves [~LA~| [. . .]). 



the king" 497 and the unfortunately obscure outcome "the 
(legal) case of ? the (or: his) adversary . . " 498 

By determining the propitious time for initiating an activity, 
the genre represents an early example of the process known as 
catarchic astrology. 499 

The correspondences drawn between the signs of the zodiac 
and the performance of the apotropaic or prophylactic rites 
have a forerunner from a much earlier time. The tablet that 
records them comes from the site of Sultantepe and is dated 
to 619 B.C. 500 and thus the composition of the text must 
precede this date. The same catarchic magic that was listed in 
the late texts is here stated in terms of propitious dates rather 
than signs of the zodiac. 501 

The most significant difference between the two is the 
absence in the earlier text of the astronomical data of BRM 4 
19. 502 The Sultantepe text goes through the months of the 
year, singling out the days of the months that are propitious for 
carrying out the described enterprise. 503 Its recommendations 
are expressed by the already mentioned formula teppusma 
isallim "if you carry it out, it will succeed" which ends each sec- 
tion. It also includes activities that are now missing or were 
never included in the late texts, such as, for the first month in 
its entirety ("from the 1st to the 30th") "desire," 504 also "for 
(curing?) migraine and calming desire." 505 

497 [ma ? -gar ? ~\ (copy: x GAR, with the GAR sign written as the numeral 
"4") LUGAL KI x, LBAT 1626 rev. ? 2; cf. BRM 4 20:46, constellation broken. 

498 [• • •] MUL SUM 7 (possibly mistake for MAS 'Capricorn') din(Dl) bel 
dababi KI ? (or bel dababisu) x [. . .], LBAT 1626 rev. ? 5'. 

499 See Introduction (p. 13) and above note 475. See also A. Bouche- 
Leclercq, L'Astrologie grecque (Paris, 1899, reprinted Aalen: Scientia, 1979)458ff. 

500 Dated by the name of the eponym Bel-aha-usur in the colophon. 

501 £jY 300^ published in 1964 in cuneiform copy by O. R. Gurney, who 
identified it as a duplicate to BRM 4 19 and noted the differences between 
them. See also Jean Bottero, EPHE, Annuaire 1974-75, pp. 130ff., reprinted 
in Jean Bottero, Mythes et rites (note 473 above) lOOff . 

502 See above pp. 108ff. and note 491. 

503 STT 30 O:7 has a p ara ii e i i n Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 2 no. 23:1, 
a ritual concerning the activity su.dus.a, which is also listed in BRM 4 20, see 
Ungnad, AfO 14 (1941-44) 272 and von Weiher, op. cit. 124. 

504 SA.ZI.GA, line 1. 

505 SAG.KI.DIB TUK-e u nu-uh-hi SA.ZI.GA x x, line 2. 



Some entries are applicable to more than one month. 506 
According to rev. 18, days 27, 28, and 29 of every month are (pro- 
pitious) for [expelling 7 ] the demon SAG.HUL.HA.ZA, literally: 
'who holds the head of evil/ 507 

The medieval lunaria that list every day of the month are not 
much different from the hemerologies that list auspicious and 
inauspicious days, adding, in the words of Boll and Gundel, 
only a thin veneer of astrology 508 over the ancient menologies, 
and the previously adduced lunaria or zodiologia, which list the 
twelve zodiacal signs, can similarly be considered offshoots of 
the ancient menologies. 

Such hemerologies and menologies existed in Mesopo- 
tamia, 509 both in the redaction in which the days and the 
months are listed in their calendrical order and marked as 
either good or bad for initiating certain activities, and in the 
reverse format, in which the activity is mentioned first, and is 
followed by the list of the months or days which are recom- 
mended for its execution or are to be avoided. 510 The resem- 
blances to the last section (lines 765-828) of Hesiod's Works and 
Days, even though they are few and superficial, have naturally 
been noted by the editors of these texts. 511 

As for the cultic significance of the days and months of the 

506 Line 11 to months II and III, line 19 to months IV and V, line 24 to 
months VI and VII, rev. 15 to months X and XI, and rev. 16 and 17 to months 
XI and XII. (Months VIII and IX are not so combined.) 

507 For this demon see W. Farber, "Saghulhaza mukil res lemutti," ZA 64 
(1974) 87-95. 

508 "es ist damit nur ein leichter astrologischer FirniB uber die alte 
Tagewahlweisheit gestrichen," Boll-Bezold-Gundel 176. 

509 For texts and discussion see S. Langdon, Babylonian Menologies and the 
Semitic Calendars, The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1933 
(London: Oxford University Press, 1935); Rene Labat, Hemerologies et meno- 
logies d'Assur (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1939), and additional texts published by 
him in RA 38 (1941) 13ff., MIO 5 (1957) 299-345, Sumer 8 (1952) 17ff.; and 
by L. Matous in Sumer 17 (1961) 17ff. A new edition of the hemerologies is 
being prepared by A. Livingstone. 

510 Among the lunaria too some are arranged according to the activity rec- 
ommended or to be avoided, see Boll-Bezold-Gundel 176, listing "Krankheits-, 
Traum-, AderlaB-, Nativitats- und Tagewahllunare." 

511 The edition of Hesiod by M. L. West (Oxford University Press, 1978), 
conversely, notes many parallels with the Assyrian and Babylonian hemerol- 
ogies and Mesopotamian (Sumerian and Akkadian) literary texts. 



year from Sumerian times onward, and for the local calendars 
of the second millennium, it is only recently that efforts have 
been underway 512 to enlarge and update Benno Landsberger's 
early work of 1915, 513 since he himself never returned to the 
subject in a second volume as he had promised. 

The cuneiform hemerologies list the days that are favorable — 
in their entirety or in part— in general or for conducting a par- 
ticular kind of business or activity, either private, such as 
building a house, taking a wife, or religious, such as addressing 
prayers and offerings to a god or goddess. The sequence is 
calendrical by months and days; some texts are laid out in a grid 
pattern, indicating "favorable" (SE) or "unfavorable" (NU SE) in 
the appropriate column of a table. 514 

Some lists give only a selection of the days of the month. The 
selection always includes the days that are most dangerous, 
namely the "evil" days 7, 14, 19, 21, 28. Cultically significant 
days on which prayers and offerings to gods are prescribed are 
found especially in hemerologies prepared for use by the king, 
and perhaps exclusively in those. Astral gods to whom prayers 
and offerings are to be made are conceived in their astral mani- 
festations: stars, constellations, and planets; offerings to the 
Moon are prescribed for the 15th day, the day of the full moon 
in the standardized thirty-day month. A hemerological text 
from Assur which is the most explicit of all 515 prescribes 
offerings on the 18th of Nisannu (the first month in the cal- 
endar) to the Pleiades (ii 45); on the 19th and on X 10 to Orion 
(Sipazianna, ii 15 and r. ii 48); on III 16 to Marduk, Gula, and 
Venus (v 44f .); on III 12 and XI 14 to Venus (v 32 and r. ii 53); 
on IV 18 to the Scorpion (MUL.GIR.TAB, vi 47); and VI 16 and 
VII 14 to Jupiter (Sulpae, r. v 50 and r. iv 80). 

512 Mark E. Cohen, The Cultic Calendars of the Ancient Near East 
(Bethesda, Maryland: CDL Press, 1993); Walther Sallaberger, Der kultische 
Kalender der Ur III-Zeit, Untersuchungen zur Assyriologie und Vorderasiati- 
schen Archaologie, 7 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1993). 

513 Benno Landsberger, Der kultische Kalender der Babylonier und Assyrer. 
Leipziger Semitistische Studien 6/1-2 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1915). 

514 Compare the layout of the table at the end of the Diviner's Manual 
cited p. 96. 

515 KAR 178, edited by Rene Labat, Hemerologies et menologies dAssur 
(Paris: Maisonneuve, 1939). 



Conversely, on particular days food and sex proscriptions 
apply, to avoid acts abhorrent to the astral deity. One of the 
more common proscriptions, that of eating fish and leeks, is on 
day 7 of month VII 516 said to be prohibited by "Sulpae, lord of 
the date grove"; as often, the reference is frustrating because 
a connection between Sulpae, that is, Jupiter, and date groves 
is not otherwise attested, nor are we told what these two for- 
bidden foodstuffs have to do with Jupiter, even though offer- 
ing onions is considered sacrilegious in the Greek magical 
papyri. 517 

On the 7th of month VII there is a prohibition for having inter- 
course with one's wife because "she will despoil him of his 
virility; it is an abhorrence to the Wagon of the sky of Anu." 518 
Again, the relationship between sexual abstinence and the 
Wagon is not explicit, but the connection between the (celestial) 
Wagon, Ursa Maior, which often represents Venus, and sexual 
taboo is readily understandable. 

The few late texts concerning the relationship of days of the 
month and the signs of the zodiac 519 presumably reflect Helle- 
nistic speculations. These are the texts for which the term "cal- 
endar texts" (German: Kalendertexte) 520 was coined. Of two re- 

516 Reverse iv 55f . 

517 E.g., PGM IV 2584-86, 2650; the fact was noted by Albrecht Dieterich 
(". . . Zwiebeln haben eine besondere Bedeutung") in Abraxas, Festschrift 
Hermann Usener (Leipzig, 1905, reprinted Aalen: Scientia, 1973) 158. 

518 ina sun <SAL>-su la inal UR-su itabbal ikkib GIS.MAR.GID.DA same 
Anim, KAR 178 r. iv 61f . I have supplied the sign SAL 'woman' in the poorly 
written and transmitted text; the omission of the word and the consequent 
tfanslation "he must not lie in his (own) lap," has given rise to several, to 
my mind wrong, interpretations. The remark "of the sky of Anu" to "Wagon" 
is presumably added because the text simply says "wagon" (GIS.MAR.GID. 
DA), not "Wagon-star" (MUL.MAR.GID.DA). For MUL.MAR.GID.DAAN.NA 
'Ursa Minor' see the literature cited in W. Horowitz, "The Akkadian Name 
for Ursa Minor," ZA 79 (1989) 242-44. 

519 For the late introduction, c. 500 B.C., of the zodiac of 30 degrees as 
opposed to references to zodiacal constellations see Neugebauer, HAMA 593. 

520 E. F. Weidner, Gestirn-Darstellungen auf babylonischen Tontafeln, Oster- 
reichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, 
Sitzungsberichte 254, 2. Abhandlung (Wien: Bohlaus Nachf., 1967). Addi- 
tional fragments are W. Mayer, Baghdader Mitteilungen, Beiheft 2 p. 19 nos. 
78-79 and W.20030,133, cited H. Hunger, "Noch ein 'Kalendertext,'" ZA 64 
(1975) 43. 



cently published tablets from Uruk that belong to this genre 521 
one lists the thirty consecutive days of month IV, the other of 
month VIII. Each line begins with the name of the month (indi- 
cated with the "ditto"-sign from line 2 on) and the number 
of the day. These two entries are followed by another pair of 
entries, also designating a month and day, in which the month 
is expressed, as elsewhere, by the name of the corresponding 
zodiacal sign, and the day by the number referring to the 
degree in the sign. From one line to the next the second pair 
increases by nine signs plus seven degrees (9 x 30 + 7) yielding 
the number 277. Since no astronomical significance for this 
number can be found, it has been suggested, among other spec- 
ulations, that it refers to the number of days in a gestation 
period. In the first text (no. 104) the sequence begins with I 7 
(Aries 7°) for day one, continuing with X 14 (Capricorn 14°) for 
day two, etc. 522 

Typical of "Calendar texts" is the association of zodiacal 
signs with a tree, a stone, an herb, and various other items. 
Sources come from Seleucid Uruk 523 and their relationship 
with Hellenistic texts is shown by the fact that they assign the 
same entities to the signs of the zodiac — or rather, of a micro- 

521 Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 3 nos. 104 (month IV) and 105 (month 

522 Not all the designations of the zodiacal signs are the standard ones 
used in astronomical texts. Both texts (nos. 104 and 105) use the month 
names BAR (month I) instead of LU or HUN for Aries (I), and SU (month IV) 
instead of ALLA for Cancer (IV). Moreover, the sign GUD Taurus' is replaced 
by MUL.MUL 'Pleiades' (II), MAS.MAS 'Gemini' by SIPA 'Orion' (III), and 1 IKU 
'Field' ( = Square of Pegasus) (XII?) stands for ZIB (Pisces, XII); both texts also 
use the abbreviated names GIR (= GIR.TAB) for Scorpius, SIPA (= SIPA.ZI. 
AN.NA) for Orion (standing for Gemini), PA (= PA.BIL.SAG) for Sagittarius, 
SUHUR (= SUHUR.MAS) for Capricorn. However, according to the catch line 
of no. 104, the next tablet of the set, dealing with month V, again designates 
Taurus, as usual, by GUD 'Bull.' 

523 Published in cuneiform copy by F. Thureau-Dangin, TCL 6 12, and 
edited along with another fragment, now in Berlin, of the same tablet (see 
figs. 3-5) by E. Weidner in Gestirn-Darstellungen auf babylonischen Tontafeln 
(note 520 above). Included in Weidner's publication is a tablet now in the 
British Museum, which is catalogued among the Kuyunjik collection, but 
most likely also comes from late Babylonian Uruk. Landsberger drew atten- 
tion to it as early as 1915 in Der kultische Kalender der Babylonier und Assyrer 
(note 513 above) 145ff. 



zodiac 524 in which each sign is divided into twelve units of 2Vi 
degrees each — as do the Cyranides, 525 as I discuss in Chapter 
VII. The above-described Uruk texts assign to each of the cal- 
endar dates an ointment whose ingredients are related to the 
zodiacal sign by a pun, either linguistic or purely orthographic, 
on the name of the sign. Thus, the text prescribes as ointment 
the following ingredients: 

For the first month, corresponding to the zodiacal sign Aries 
'Ram/ the ingredients are blood, tallow, and wool from a sheep; 
for month II, corresponding to the zodiacal sign Taurus 'Bull/ 
here designated by one of its conspicuous constellations, the 
Pleiades, they are blood, fat, or hair of a bull; for month III, 
corresponding to the zodiacal sign Gemini, here, as in the simi- 
larly late text cited on p. 80, designated by the name of the 
constellation Orion, they are to contain the head, blood, and 
feather of a rooster; 526 for month IV, corresponding to the 
zodiacal sign Cancer 'Crab/ the blood and fat of a crab; for 
month V, corresponding to the zodiacal sign Leo 'Lion/ blood, 
tallow, or hair from a lion; for month VI, corresponding to the 
zodiacal sign Virgo 'Furrow/ 527 flour made of sigusu-barley, the 
head and feather of a raven; for month VII, corresponding to 
the zodiacal sign libra 'Scales' . . .; 528 for month VIII, corre- 
sponding to the zodiacal sign Scorpius 'Scorpion' . . .; for 
month IX, corresponding to the zodiacal sign Sagittarius, here 
designated by the name of the god Pabilsag, the head, feather, 
and blood of the anzu-bird; for month X, corresponding to the 
zodiacal sign Capricorn, blood, fat, and hair of a goat; for 
month XI, corresponding to the zodiacal sign Aquarius, 529 the 

524 For the micro-zodiac see A. Sachs, JCS 6 (1952) 71. 

525 p or recen t literature see David Bain, Dover Fs 295f . 

526 Written DAR.MUSEN, which elsewhere corresponds to Akkadian 
ittidu 'francolin' but which here must be an abbreviation for DAR.LUGAL. 
MUSEN = tarlugallu 'Rooster/ part of the constellation Canis Minor. 

527 The name of the constellation is written, as usual in late texts, with 
the signs KI.DIDLI that have no known etymology, unless they stand for Akka- 
dian asar nisirti, literally "secret place," a term designating the sign in which 
a planet reaches its exaltation (Greek: hypsoma). The constellation Raven 
(Corvus) has its heliacal rising in month VI; compare the text cited p. 78. 

528 The entry is, here and in the next month, the unintelligible KI.KAL-f/ra. 

529 The name of the constellation, written GU, abbreviated from its Sumer- 
ogram GU.LA, does not seem to be connected with the word for 'eagle.' 



head, feather, and blood of an eagle; for month XII, corre- 
sponding to the zodiacal sign Pisces, here designated by 'Field/ 
the name for the Square of Pegasus, the head and blood (vari- 
ant: heart) of a dove, the head and blood of a swallow. 

The late origin of the text is also evident from the fact that 
the punning relationship between the prescription and the 
corresponding sign of the zodiac can be understood only with 
reference to the classical zodiac. For example, the recipe pre- 
scribed for the first month is prepared from a sheep although 
the expected zodiacal sign, Aries 'ram/ is not mentioned nor 
is the Akkadian name of the sign, Agru 'hired man/ associated 
with "sheep"; MUL.LU, MUL.LU, or simply LU with the mean- 
ing "Aries" is well attested in Seleucid texts. 530 Note also that 
the prescription for the second month requires the blood, fat, 
or hair of a bull, but the month is identified by the constellation 
MUL.MUL 'Stars/ i.e., the Pleiades, used in late texts instead of 
the name GUD 'Bull' of the zodiacal sign. 

I am not able to solve the problem posed by the unintelligible 
KI.KAL-fzm prescribed for months VII and VIII, the signs Libra 
and Scorpius. However, although less transparent, the connec- 
tion between the birds that provide materials for the ointments 
and the month or sign for which these are prescribed, can be 
astronomically justified; 531 thus month III, Gemini, desig- 
nated by Orion, is connected with the Rooster, a part of Canis 
Minor; month VI appropriately with the Raven (Corvus); 
month XI, Aquarius, with the Eagle (Aquila), and month XII, 
Pisces, with the Swallow, a name for the western Fish of Pisces. 
Since the identification of the anzu-bird is not certain, its con- 
nection with month IX, Sagittarius, cannot be argued. 

Heads and feathers of various birds indeed appear as ingre- 
dients in various Mesopotamian recipes, both magic and medi- 
cal, just as they do in medieval magic texts. Among twelve 
recipes against a disease 532 — its name is broken on the tablet— 

530 See A. Sachs, JCS 6 (1952) 71f. ad TCL 6 14:6-20. Among various the- 
ories for the origin of the writing LU, the association of LU (a cuneiform sign 
that may also be read UDU 'sheep') with the zodiacal sign Aries 'ram' was 
also discussed by Ungnad, AfO 14 (1941-44) 256 n. 37. 

531 Following a suggestion of David Pingree. 

532 12 bultu sa[. . .], BAM 473 i 26; in line 27, an enumeration of medicines 
for SUGIDIM.MA 'hand-of-the-ghost' begins. 



only in the last five are the names of the ingredients preserved, 
and in the first of these five, the eighth recipe, only the word 
for "head/' The ninth recipe requires the head of a raven, 533 
the tenth the head of a goose, 534 the eleventh the head of an 
uruballu bird, 535 and the twelfth the head of an eagle. 536 A 
salve for headache in another recipe also uses the head of an 
eagle; 537 a phylactery to assure victory over an adversary must 
include an eagle's head, eagle feathers, and hair from a lion. 538 
The heads of a water-fowl and of a male bat 539 are used in a 
salve for headache; the head of a bat and feathers and blood 
from various birds in phylacteries against epilepsy 540 and 
other afflictions. 541 

These phylacteries are said to have been transmitted from 
Lii- d Nanna, 542 one of the seven sages who lived under King 
Sulgi of the Third Dynasty of Ur, who elsewhere too is credited 
with the confection of powerful drugs and amulets. 543 

533 qaqqad (or res, written SAG) a-ri-bi. 


535 qaqqad (written SAG.DU) u-ru-bal-li MUSEN. 

536 SAG A.MUSEN; the text is BAM 473 i 1-25. 

537 qaqqad a-re-e, BAM 481:4. 

538 Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 2 no. 22 iv 11-12. 

539 qaqqad KI. SAG. SAL. MUSEN qaqqad BURU5.HABRUD.DA NITA, BAM 480 
hi 38, cf . AMT 76,6:4'-ll' cited BAM V p. xxv ad loc. 

540 BURU5.HABRUD.DA 'bat' (BAM 476:10'), arabu (a bird) (line 14'), aril 
nahti 'fledgling eagle' (lines 14' and 17'), nahti paspasi 'duckling' (line 14'), aribu 
'raven' (line 16). For BURU5.HABRUD.DA 'bat' see above note 363. 

541 The head of a falcon (surdu) in BAM 311:62' and dupl. AMT 46,5:8, of 
a swallow and a bat BE 8/1 133:6, etc., see, e.g., CAD S s.v. suttinnu. 

542 See Rykle Borger, "Die Beschworungsserie bit meseri und die Himmel- 
fahrt Henochs," JNES 33 (1974) 183-96, and Claus Wilcke, "Gottliche und 
menschliche Weisheit im Alten Orient," in Weisheit, A. Assmann, ed. 
(Munchen: Fink, 1991, pp. 259-70) 266. 

543 BAM 476 r. 11', also BAM 434 iii 78. 



The Nature of Stones 

Ingens est herbis virtus data, maxima gemmis * 
(H&ya n&v o6evo<; ercXexo {yitft^ dXXa XiGou noXi) net^ov 

Orphei Lithika 410.) 

Zachalias of Babylon, in the volumes which he dedicates to King 
Mithridates, attributes man's destiny to the influence of precious stones. 

Pliny, NH 37.169. 

Human-headed bulls and other stone colossi guarded, as it 
is well known, the gates of Assyrian palaces. Their apotropaic 
function is sometimes inherent in their names already, as that 
of the guardian figure called aladlammu (from the two Sumerian 
words alad and lamma, both designating protective spirits); the 
name of another, apsasatu, reflects its shape (from the word for 
cow, Sumerian db). Both these learned loanwords were coined, 
along with many others, during the renaissance of learning 
under the Sargonid kings. 

The palace of Alcinous too was guarded, as we know from 
the Odyssey, by apotropaic dogs of gold and silver, fashioned 
for the Phaeacian king by Hephaestus the Magician. 544 But 
only the Assyrian king Esarhaddon explains how the guard- 
ians fulfilled their function: they were made of the stone SE.TIR 
"repelling the evil one according to their siknu." 545 The avail- 
able, usual translation of this word siknu as 'form' (in the 

* John M. Riddle, Marbode of Rennes' (1035-1123) De Lapidibus, Prologus, 
line 23. (Sudhoffs Archiv, Beiheft 20), Wiesbaden, 1977, p. 34. 

544 Christopher A. Faraone, "Hephaestus the Magician and Near Eastern 
Parallels for Alcinous' Watchdogs," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 28 
(1987) 257-80. A revised version is found in Christopher A. Faraone, Talis- 
mans and Trojan Horses (Oxford University Press, 1992) 18-35, Chapter 2, 
"Beastly Guardians at the Gate." 

545 aladlamme apsasati sa NA4. SE.TIR sa ki-i sik-ni-su-nu irti lemni utarru, 
Borger, Esarh. p. 61 §27 Episode 22, A vi 15-16. 



alternative translation "which by virtue of their form ward off 
evil" of the above phrase) seemed to indicate to Faraone, in his 
comparison of Greek and Near Eastern apotropaic statues, that 
the Assyrian king attributed the operative force of the statues 
to their form alone. We have seen, however, that in reference 
to the handbooks describing herbs or stones a more appro- 
priate translation of the word siknu would be 'nature/ A trans- 
lation 'nature' also vindicates Faraone's suggestion that "the 
medium could also be an important factor." His suggestion was 
based on an inscription of Sennacherib who boasts of having 
had protective colossal statues 546 fashioned from that same 
stone SE.TIR, 547 which, as the old translation had it, "was nor- 
mally used only for making neck amulets." 548 Unfortunately, 
Sennacherib does not say exactly this. Rather, as the more up- 
to-date translation has it, he identifies "the pindu stone which 
at the time of my forefathers was (considered) too precious to 
be (worn) around the neck." 549 Still, as Faraone had surmised, 
it is the material, the substance, the nature of the stone— its 
siknu— that gives it its power, a power described in the hand- 
book called, after its incipit, abnu sikinsu 'the nature of the stone 
is.' Of the entries of this handbook, which has survived only 
in fragmentary state, 550 some preserve the description of the 
stone or mineral, and others also the purpose for which it is 
suited. For example: 

546 For the human-headed lion-colossi (apsasati) made of NA4. d SE.TIR see 
H. D. Gaiter, L. D. Levine and J. E. Reade, ARRIM 4 (1986) 31 sub no. 20. 

547 The Akkadian name is possibly pindu or ezennu, and not as previously 
thought asnan. 

548 "Ashnan-stone, whose beautiful structure had the appearance of cu- 
cumber seeds, and was highly prized for necklaces {lit. , stones of the neck), 
or amulets to bring on rain {lit., stone for commanding favor and bringing 
on rain) and to keep disease from approaching a man" D. D. Luckenbill, 
Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1927) vol. 2 no. 430. 

549 mala aban kisadi suquru, OIP 2 127 d 5, in CAD K p. 449 kisadu meaning 

550 The surviving fragments are: STT 108, STT 109, BAM 194, BAM 378, 
K.4751 (for these, see B. Landsberger, JCS 21 [1967, published 1969] 151 n. 
64), and BM 50664; the latter two are edited, with some comments on the 
series, by Wayne Horowitz, "Two Abnu sikinsu Fragments and Related Mat- 
ters," ZA 82 (1992) 112-21. 



the such-and-such stone is for appeasing divine anger; 

the such-and-such stone is for entering the palace -namely, to be 

received with favor by the ruler; 551 
the such-and-such stone is to prevent migraine; 
the such-and-such stone which has a greenish tinge is to assure 

that the god be favorable to the man; and so on. 552 

Descriptions that appear only in the Assyrian kings' narra- 
tives probably are citations from this work, as that of the girim- 
hilibu stone, which protects one from plague 553 or of the elallu 
stone, which serves to obtain obedience, 554 while that of the 
SE.TIR-stone "which ensures obedience and averts destruc- 
tion" 555 may be compared with "the stone for averting de- 
struction," attested in a list of amulet stones. 556 The 'nature' of 
the SE.TIR-stone itself does not happen to be preserved in the 
Stone-book, and many of the Stone-book's descriptions leave 
the modern reader perplexed and, as so often, with his curi- 
osity unsatisfied. Take the entry: "the stone whose nature is 
like fish eye is called 'fish-eye'"; no more informative though 
more picturesque is the description of, for example, the stone 
arzallu as "the stone whose nature is like a stork's wing" or the 
stone abasmu called "stone of sunset"; 557 another stone or pos- 
sibly the same— the name is not preserved— is called "stone 

551 Two parallel texts sum up a list of 37 stones as 37 NA 4 .MES TU E.GAL 
tas ? -ni-ni kar-sa la ma-ha-ri '37 stones for entering the palace and not be con- 
fronted with calumny/ BM 56148 ii 12, dupl. to BAM 367:9, coll. C. B. E Walker. 

552 The text is published as LKA 9; the list is on the left side of the tablet, 
that is, either on the first column of the obverse or the last column of the 
reverse. The bottom of the tablet is not preserved, so that the purpose of the 
enumeration is not apparent. Neither are the beginnings of the lines pre- 
served, so that the name of the stone with which the line began is missing; 
to compound the uncertainty caused by the break at the left margin, it is also 
often impossible to tell whether a line is a new entry, or whether it continues 
the preceding line. The text belongs possibly to the abnu sikinsu series. Sim- 
ilar are the texts BAM 343 and 344, as noted by Kocher, BAM IV p. xiii. Com- 
pare also Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 4 no. 129. 

553 NA 4 girimhilibu . . . NA 4 N[AM.BAD] ana ameli la tehe, Archaeologia 79 
pi. 52 no. 122 N (+ M):5, cited CAD E p. 74 s.v. elallu A usage b. 

554 NA 4 alallu aban qabe u magari, Borger, Esarh. 85:50, cited ibid. 

555 aban qabe magari u rihsu sutuqi, Luckenbill, OIP 2 132:73 (Sennacherib). 

556 NA 4 rihsi sutuqi, BAM 343:2. 

557 STT 108:75 and dupl. BAM 378 iv 17'f. 



of sunrise/' 558 Would that we had the lapidary of Zachalias of 
Babylon! 559 

A place of special interest was allotted to the magnetite, 
Sumerian KA.GI.NA.DIB.BA, a compound translated into Ak- 
kadian as sadanu (KA.GI.NA) with an epithet written DIB.BA 
that may be read sabtu or sabitu. Since the reading of the Sumer- 
ogram DIB.BA is ambiguous, the epithet either describes the 
magnetic attraction of the stone: sabitu 'capturing/ or alludes to 
the magnetite captured, along with a cohort of rebellious 
stones, by the god Ninurta in the Sumerian mythological epic 
tale Lugale: 560 sabtu 'captive/ Akkadian sadanu most likely simply 
refers to the ore's '(coming) from the mountain' 561 but the 
explanation of the corresponding Sumerogram KA.GI.NA as 
'speaking the truth' is probably just popular etymology, based 
on the possible translation dababu 'to speak' of its component 
KA, and the translation kinu 'true' or kittu 'truth' of its compo- 
nent GI.NA; the stone therefore is given the aitiology "the 
stone of truthfulness, he who wears it shall speak the truth, 
only a pious man may wear it." 562 This function of "the stone 
of truthfulness" evokes of course Pliny's statement that posses- 
sion of the haematite reveals treacherous designs on the part 
of the barbarians. 563 

Reference to the "Babylonian Stone-book" is made in a Neo- 
Babylonian list of stones 564 which culls stone names, both 
Sumerian and Akkadian, from the standard lexical list HAR-ra 
= hubullu without apparent order. It ends with a colophon 

558 STT 108:74. 

559 Pliny, NH 37.169, quoted in the motto to this chapter, see Robert Hal- 
leux and Jacques Schamp, Les Lapidaires grecs (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1985) 
xxiv and 320. 

560 J. J. van Dijk, LUGAL UD ME-LAM-bi MR-GAL. he recit epique et didac- 
tique des Travaux de Ninurta, du Deluge et de la Nouvelle Creation (Leiden: Brill, 

561 From Akkadian sadu 'mountain.' See A. A. Barb, "Lapis Adamas. Der 
Blutstein," in Hommages a Marcel Renard, vol. 1, Coll. Latomus 101 (Brus- 
sels, 1969) 69 n. 6 for the suggestion that the word recurs in Greek as oreites, 
and that Greek 8|iV|/uxov dpeiiriQ reflects Akkadian sadanu baltu. 

562 BAM 194 vii 4. 

563 Pliny, NH 3760, as cited in R. Campbell Thompson, DACG 86. 

564 Published in MSL 10 65-68. 



comprising a subscript 7 and a catch line: 565 "(the series) abnu 
sikinsu for learning about stones'' 566 followed by the equation 
NA4 KALAG = su-u, [u]s-su-ru, the catch line 567 to the stone 
section of the pharmaceutical series Uruanna. 568 The same 
catch line also appears at the end of Tablet VIII of the synonym 
list malku = sarru, 569 showing that the sequel to this synonym 
list was the stone list, or a particular recension of it. 570 

Besides the handbooks, there exist shorter lists of herbs 
alone, stones alone, or of a combination of herbs, stones, shells, 
and various other materia magico-medica; these are usually 
written on narrow tablets, 571 whose shape itself is reminiscent 
of the lamellae made of lead or other metals. 

Certain Akkadian stone names have been adduced to 
explain Arabic and Greek counterparts. 572 The fame of stones' 
magical properties and the aitiological explanations pertaining 
to them have spread beyond Babylonia. The best known of 
these is the aitites or 'eagle-stone/ Its name in Akkadian is aban 
ere (or its phonetic variant aban are), of which the second ele- 
ment, eru or aru, is both the word for eagle and the infinitive 
of the verb 'to be pregnant.' It is in the bilingual Sumerian and 
Akkadian lists that we find the "basic" meaning, or at least the 

565 yi 17 _20. 

566 [( x y)j a b nu sikinsu [N]A 4 ana lamada. 

567 NA4.KALAG.GA = NA 4 su-u, K.4237 i 1, in CT 14 17 (= Uruanna III 

568 The stone section— with its entries preceded by the determinative 
NA4 'stone— follows the herb section, whose entries begin with the deter- 
minative U 'herb' or GIS 'tree'; they are usually separated by a ruling (in 
Kocher, Pflanzenkunde 12 ii 39/40 and Kocher, Pflanzenkunde 14 + CT 14 10 iii 
18/19). One source, K.4419, in CT 14 43, ends with the plant section, and has a 
subscript [. . .] NA4.MES, which Kocher suggests to restore [arkisu] NA4.MES 
'[there follow] the stones.' 

569 Malku VIII 176. 

570 p or concatenating various series see Chapter V (p. 90). 

571 E.g., BAM 255, or UET 4 nos. 148-53, mentioned in his review of the 
volume by A. Leo Oppenheim, JCS 4 (1950) 188ff., and especially Rene 
Labat, "Ordonnances medicales ou magiques," RA 54 (1960) 169-76, with RA 
55 (1961) 95; such texts are mentioned in Jean Bottero, EPHE, Annuaire 
1974/75 p. 110, who is quoted by Kocher, BAM V p. xi note 9. 

572 See Paul Kraus, Jabir ibn Hayyan, vol. 2, Memoires de l'lnstitut 
d'Egypte, 45 (Cairo, 1942) 72ff. (citing Akkadian stone names after R. Camp- 
bell Thompson, DACG). 



meaning that was considered primary: the Sumerian name of 
the stone is§4 'stone for pregnancy/ Nevertheless, in 
Akkadian context, the name of the stone is often written, 
in rebus writing, with the Sumerogram NA 4 .A.MUSEN, that 
is, NA 4 = aban 'stone (of)/ A.MUSEN 'eagle-bird' = eru. It is of 
course the homonymity of 'pregnant' and 'eagle/ and the use 
of the logogram of the latter word for the former, that gave rise 
to the fable about the stone to be found in the nest of the eagle, 
brought by the eagle from India or other far-away places, 573 
or, according to other sources, found in the head of a fish called 
'eagle/ 574 to serve as amulet for pregnant women. 575 

The claim that stones have such beneficial properties was rid- 
iculed by Pliny the Elder when he wrote in his Natural History 
in the first century a.d.: "Zachalias of Babylon, in the volumes 
which he dedicates to King Mithridates, attributes man's des- 
tiny to the influence of precious stones; and as for the 'haema- 
titis' [a stone discussed by Pliny earlier], he is not content to 
credit it with curing diseases of the eyes and liver, but places 
it even in the hands of petitioners to the king, 576 allows it to 
interfere in lawsuits and trials, and proclaims also that to be 
smeared with an ointment containing it is beneficial in battle." 577 

Beads made of semi-precious stones, shells, and other 
colored stones (some of which are probably colored glasses 578 ) 
are supposed to protect from evils wrought by demons or 
witches. Even though in some of the Assyriological literature 
they are called "amulet stones/ 7 this designation may be mis- 
leading, as our own associations with the word "amulet" are 

573 See RAC 1 (1950) 94 s.v. "Adlerstein." 

574 Kyranides, cited Barb, JWCI 13 (1950) 317 n. 8. 

575 "In der Literatur wird ein Stein erwahnt, der den Mutterleib mit dem 
darin befindlichen Embryo durch ein im Inneren befindliches kleineres 
Steinchen wiedergibt (AGM VIII 1/2, P. II 4 ). Natiirlich wollte sich die 
Tragerin dadurch vor Fehlgeburt sichern." E. Ebeling, RLA 1 (1928) 121 s.v. 
"Apotropaeen." See now R. Halleux, Les lapidaires grecs (note 559 above) 336f. 
n. 4 with previous literatu hA.A. Barb, "The Eagle-stone," JWCI 13 (1950) 
316-18 has noted the pun, interpreting the hesitant suggestion of R. Camp- 
bell Thompson, DACG 105. 

576 Compare the stone "for entering the palace" cited earlier. 

577 Pliny, NH 37.169. 

578 A. Leo Oppenheim, Glass and Glassmaking in Ancient Mesopotamia 
(Corning, NY: The Corning Museum of Glass, 1970) 9ff. 



different and, moreover, modern authors use the term "amulet 77 
to refer to a variety of things. 579 In fact, the Latin word amuletum 
from which "amulet" is borrowed has no known etymology, 580 
and when Greek and Latin texts speak of using such stones and 
other materials for protection, they simply prescribe "tying 
them on" as in Latin (ad)alligare, Greek kathaptein or periaptein. 
It is exactly the same phrase, 'to tie on/ that is used in Akkadian 
to describe wearing such phylacteries. 581 

Amulets are used mostly not singly, but on a string. Such a 
string of beads (Akkadian turru) is made up of various stones 
strung on a cord of colored — red, white, black, or multicolored — 
wool to be worn as charms around the neck, on the right or left 
wrist, or the right or left ankle. Other charms— amulet stones — 
may be placed on the chest or the abdomen. A particularly well 
known example from Hellenistic and medieval magic texts and 
lapidaries is the charm used to make a woman talk, a phrase 
that recurs verbatim in a Babylonian magic text. 582 It is only 
the Hellenistic lapidary that says that by placing the prepara- 
tion on the sleeping woman's bosom (Greek: psyche, a term 
used for pudenda), she will be induced to talk. It is, however, 
a medieval text that tells us that if you place the stone from the 
nest of an owl [la huppe < upupa] on the bosom of the sleeping 
woman, she will babble out in her sleep if she has a lover. 583 

Prescriptions for various ills include long lists of such beads, 

579 E. j+ Beatrice L. Goff, "The Role of Amulets in Mesopotamian Ritual 
Texts," JWCI 19 (1956) 1-39. 

580 According to A. Ernout and A. Meillet, Dictionnaire etymologique de la 
langue latine 3 (1951) 54 s.v., while others have proposed that it derives from 
Greek amylon 'starch/ reinterpreted by folk-etymology as amolimentum 'phy- 
lactery' (A. Walde, Lateinisches etymologisches Worterbuch s.v). 

581 The Hebrew term qamiy'a also means Angebundenes/ see Strack- 
Billerbeck, vol. 4/1 p. 529. 

582 Reiner, "Nocturnal Talk," in Lingering over Words: Studies in Ancient 
Near Eastern Literature in Honor of William L. Moran, Tzvi Abusch et al., eds., 
Harvard Semitic Studies, 37 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990) 421-24. 

583 Auctarium cavense, 65, p. 645 Pitra (Analecta Sacra II), from Evax lap- 
idary, cited Halleux, Studi medievali 3,15 (1974) 332, and newly edited in Hal- 
leux, Lapidaires (note 559 above) 288 lxvii and 342. For literature (Pliny, Dami- 
geron, and the similar beliefs in German and French folklore ["Aberglaube"]) 
see also Max Wellmann, Marcellus von Side als Ant und die Koiraniden des 
Hermes Trismegistos, Philologus, Supplementband 27/2 (Leipzig: Dieter ich, 
1934), 7f. and nn. 26-29. 



sometimes enumerated in sets for each such string; the lists 
end by stating the purpose of the string (turru), or simply of 
the group of "stones' 7 (Akkadian abnu, usually expressed with 
the Sumerogram NA4) and the manner of application. For 
example, a small tablet enumerates eleven beads, and summa- 
rizes them as "eleven stones for blurred vision, 584 to string on 
red wool, you wrap 'wolf-bane' on seven rolls (HppT) of blue 
wool, while you recite a charm, and tie it on his left hand." 585 
To cure a hemorrhaging woman you string on red wool various 
stones, recite the appropriate magic spell, and tie the string 
around her waist; 586 another string for the same purpose is to 
be strung on the tendon of a dead cow or dead sheep, with 
fourteen -that is, twice seven -knots tied between the beads. 587 

Not all the items are precious or semi-precious stones, or 
even stones at all. Among the "stones" enumerated there 
appear beads made of a metal, either of the precious metals 
silver and gold, or of others, such as copper, iron, or tin, and 
beads of various minerals such as antimon, and even shells, all 
of which are normally written by means of their Sumerograms, 
with initial NA4 'stone.' 

Specifications added to names of stones are rare, except for 
the qualification "male" or "female" mentioned earlier in con- 
nection with the sex of herbs (Chapter II). Male and female vari- 
eties of stones are known from Classical texts 588 and from late 
antiquity; for example, it is said of the topaz that "it is green, 
. . . hard, compact, transparent. This is the male variety. The 
female variety is lighter." 589 Male and female stones are named 
not only in magic texts 590 and in the stone lists, 591 but they are 
so classified in the "Glass texts," the Assyrian prescriptions for 

584 Akkadian: birrat int. 

585 BAM 351, also 352. 

586 BAM 237. 

587 BAM 237 i end. 

588 E.g., Pliny, NH 36.39, 37.119; see R. Halleux, "Fecondite des mines et 
sexualite des pierres dans l'antiquite greco-romaine," RBPH 48 (1970) 16-25 
and Lapidaires (note 559 above) 326. 

589 Orphei lithica kerygmata 8.6: Outo<; (scil.TorcdCioc;) eonv 6 dpoiiv, 6 
6e GtjXukoc; 8A,a<ppOT£po<;, cited Halleux, Lapidaires (note 559 above) 151. 

590 E.g., 7 NA4 su-u NITA, BAM 473 iii 22. 

591 NA4 li-li-i NITA and NA 4 li-li-i SAL in the abnu Ukinsu text K.4751:5-6, 
see ZA 82 (1992) 117f . 



producing colored glasses, which speak of male and female 
frit. 592 Among the rare descriptions of natural markings, one 
refers to a variety of aspu stone as sa uskaru kullumu 'which 
shows a (moon?) crescent/ 593 and some shells are often 
specified as having seven spots. 594 

In contradistinction to the amulet of antiquity, which 
according to one definition is "a stone of inherent supernatural 
powers that may be engraved and/or consecrated, and that is 
either used as a seal or worn as a phylactery" and to the tal- 
isman, which is "an image either made of metal in the round 
or engraved on a metal plate, over which image a ceremony of 
incantations and suffumigations is performed in order to 
induce a spirit to enter the talisman and to endow it with 
power," 595 the Babylonian "stone" bears no engraving or 
image. The images and engravings on Babylonian cylinder 
seals have a different origin and aitiology, even though of 
course some seals may have been worn as amulets, 596 and 
even though the particular stone that serves as material for a 
cylinder seal is said to determine the fate of the person who 
wears such a seal in the omens appended to one exemplar of the 
abnu sikinsu series. 597 Nor does the Babylonian string of stones 

592 (anzahhu) lu US lu [SAL], A. Leo Oppenheim, Glass and Glassmaking 
in Ancient Mesopotamia (note 578 above) 48 fragm. e §20, see ibid. 49. 

593 See E. Reiner, JNES 26 (1967) 196 line 7, with note 21; a further attes- 
tation is NA 4 as-pu-u sa UD.SAR PAD-w, von Weiher, SpTU vol. 2 no. 22 iii 32. 

594 ayartu sa 7 tikpusa, Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 2 no. 22 iv 19 and 
other references cited CAD T s.v tikpu; for the reading see Landsberger, JCS 
21 (1967, published 1969) 147. 

595 David Pingree, "Astrology," in Dictionary of the History of Ideas, vol. 1 
(New York: Scribner, 1973) 118-26; see also Et ymagines sapientes apellant 
telsam, quod interpretatur violator quia quicquid facit ymago per violenciam 
facit . . . Sunt composite corporibus propriis ad implendum predicta, et hoc 
in temporibus opportunis; et suffumigacionibus quibus fortificantur attra- 
huntur spiritus ad ipsas ymagines . . . Picatrix Latinus (Pingree) I ii 1. 

596 For the question of representations on and the function of seals see 
the works of Edith Porada, for example, "The Iconography of Death in 
Mesopotamia in the Early Second Millennium B.C.," in Death in Mesopotamia, 
B. Alster, ed., Mesopotamia, 8 (Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1980) 
259-70. See also the article by B. Goff cited n. 579. 

597 BAM 194 viii. The text (formerly published as KAR 185) has been 
adduced by B. Goff (note 579 above), but was interpreted as referring to por- 
tents from a particular cylinder seal rather than referring to the wearer of 
such a seal. 



normally undergo a ceremony of consecration by which a spirit 
is induced to enter it and to endow it with power. The power 
sought to imbue the string or the individual stones is that 
coming from the stars. For this reason they must be exposed 
to irradiation by stars. 

In a recently published ritual enumerating the proper amulet 
stones to be used in various predicaments 598 such an exposi- 
tion to the Goat star is recommended against the evil machi- 
nations of an "ill-wisher" or, as the term bel lemutti may also be 
translated, "adversary." Other strings listed in the same text, 
but without specifically prescribed nocturnal exposition, pro- 
tect from such physical ailments as diseases of the eye, 599 but 
also from harm brought about by enemies, ill-wishers, divine 
anger, 600 and sorcery. 601 The ritual to protect the client from 
the disastrous consequences (described in lines 8-16) brought 
about by an "ill-wisher" begins with column ii line 8. 602 It is 
divided in two parts; the first section of seven lines (ii 17-23) 
enumerates seven phylacteries, one in each line, containing 
two herbs and one stone each, while the next section goes — 
without a ruling— from the enumeration of stones to the expo- 
sition to the Goat star (the star of Gula) and the prayer to Gula, 
beginning in ii 24 and ending in iii 2, for a total of thirty lines. 603 
This last section begins with a list of twelve stones — as a matter 
of fact, when you count them there are thirteen— and many of 
them cannot be identified: 

Carnelian, lapis lazuli, yellow obsidian, mekku, egizangu, pappardilu, 
papparminii, lamassu 1 \ antimon, jasper, magnetite, turminu, abasmu, 
twelve(szd) stones (to use) if a man has an "ill-wisher." You string 

598 Egbert von Weiher, SpTU, vol. 2 no. 22. An excerpt tablet that dupli- 
cates lines 16-25 is published by M. J. Geller, AfO 35 (1988) 21f . Note [x] BE 
NA 4 .MES DIS HUL.GIG UD.4.KAM sa ITLNE DU-su '[...] stones if "hatred" 
was practiced against him on the fourth of month V, i 30-31 with which may 
be compared the magic "practiced against the man on the fourth of month 
XI before the constellation Centaurus," STT 89:50, see Chapter VI. 

599 birsu, i 3'-15'. 

600 i 16'-25', ii 8'-16', etc. 

601 i 39'-46'. 

602 A ruling after line 7' of column ii introduces a section that runs until 
column iii line 32, at which point other rituals begin. 

603 Thirty and not thirty-one, since line "32" is a rejet from line 31. 



the stones and phylacteries on a [linen 7 thread], you set in place 
a holy-water vessel, you purify the stones and the phylacteries, 
you place the stones before the Goat star, you set up a censer with 
aromatics, you libate beer, (you recite) the incantation: 

. . . 604 O Bright one, let your angry heart be appeased, 

let your innermost relent, O Gula, exalted Lady. 

You are the one who created mankind, who bestows lots, food 

portions, and food offerings, 605 
be present at my lawsuit, let me obtain justice through your verdict, 
because of the sorceries, spittle and spatter, evil machinations 
of my adversary, let his evil doings turn back against him and affect 

his head and his body, 
and I, your weary servant, will sing your praises. 

How stones acquired their renown for protecting from evil 
and granting success to an enterprise is not known; however, 
there is a tradition about strings of amulet stones harking back 
to a famous king of the past. Some are attributed to Hammu- 
rapi, Naram-Sin, and Rim-Sin, just as some "proven salves" 
bear the name of Hammurapi. 606 A list enumerating fourteen 
amulet stones, to which several duplicates exist, has as sub- 
script: "14 stones of the necklace of Naram-Sin," 607 while vari- 
ants to it attribute the necklace to King Rim-Sin. 

604 The first four signs, u-sd-an-ni, are unintelligible to me. They seem to 
stand for a first or third person past tense of the verb sunnu 'to repeat' or 
'to change/ or possibly may have to be read sam-sd-an-ni or sam-gar-an-ni, 
with the ending -anni that could represent a first person dative. 

605 Compare the address to the Wagon star in STT 73 (see p. 71). 

606 For salves attributed to a famous king of the past, see Chapter II p. 41 
and n. 170. 

607 14 NA 4 .MES GU m Na-ram- d Sin, BAM 372 ii 5; [1]4 GU Na-ram- d Sin, 
BAM 357:5'; 14 NA 4 .MES GU m Na-(ra)-am- d Sin, BAM 375 II 42; 14 GU m Na- 
(ra)-am- d Sin, BAM 376 iv 8; [. . .].MES GU [. . .], BAM 368 iii 9'; see (also for 
K.2409+ ii 24', K.6282+ ii 14) Kocher, BAM IV p. xvi ad no. 357, and Kocher, 
"Ein verkannter neubabylonischer Text aus Sippar," AfO 20 (1963) 157ff. 
Note, however, that not all names written AM- d Sin are to be emended to 
Naram-Sin, since AM as Sumerogram can stand for the Akkadian word rxmu 
'wild bull/ and hence the spelling can refer to King Rim-Sin of Larsa, as in, 
e.g., GU AM- d Sin in AMI 7,1 r. i 6, see Yalvac, Studies in Honor of Benno 
Landsberger on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday, April 21, 1965, AS 16 (Chicago: Uni- 
versity of Chicago Press: 1965) 332, now confirmed by the recently published 
text CT 51 89, which writes GU AM- d Sin LUGAL Larsam ([UD].UNUG ki ) in 
i 15, as I pointed out in "Magic Figurines, Amulets and Talismans," in Monsters 
and Demons in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Papers Presented in Honor 



The date of composition of the Stone-book is not known, but 
it probably is to be placed around the turn, or at the beginning 
of the first millennium, when much of the speculative literature 
and scholia originated, as opposed to lists of stones and other 
objects of the material world, which go back to the very origin 
of cuneiform writing. It is worth noting that of these latter lists 
only chapters XIV (snakes and other animals), XVI (stones), 
and XVII (plants) of the lexical series HAR-ra = hubullu have 
parallels in the three handbooks characterized by their kenning 
sikinsu. It is therefore significant that the same three kingdoms 
of nature have a role not only in Hellenistic magic but also, with 
slight modifications, in Babylonian astral magic. 

The relevant part of Hellenistic magic is described in the 
work called Cyranides. 608 Book I "contains twenty-four alpha- 
betically ordered chapters. In each of these are enumerated, 
both individually and in combination, the magical-medical 
properties of four entities which share a common letter, these 
entities being plant, bird, stone, and fish. Each chapter also con- 
tains the description of an amulet made of the relevant stone 
and containing in its design one or more of the other enti- 
ties." 609 Neither birds nor fish- which, by the way, share one 
tablet, Tablet XVIII, of HAR-ra = hubullu -appear in the Baby- 
lonian sources; they are replaced by trees, so that in lieu of four 
entities, Babylonian sources enumerate three only as being per- 
tinent in magic: plants, stones, and trees. The references to this 
practice are rare and often unclear, but the juxtaposition of 
these three is diagnostic. For example: "when 7 you practice 7 
plant, stone, and tree and exorcism, do it along with its com- 
mentary 7 " 610 or "when you want to ascertain the zodiacal sign 

of Edith Porada, Ann E. Farkas et al., eds. (Mainz on Rhine: Philipp von 
Zabern, 1988) 33 n. 27. A new duplicate published in Egbert von Weiher, 
SpTU, vol. 4 no. 129 iv 19 writes GU AM- d Sin LUGAL SES.UNUG ki . The list 
of amulets ADD 1043 (= SAA 7 no. 82) also lists 14 GU AM-Sin in reverse 
line 6. 

608 p or recent literature see David Bain, "Treading Birds.' An Unnoticed 
use of 7NXT8C0 (Cyranides 1.10.27, 1. 19.9)," in Dover Fs 295-304. 

609 Dover Fs 296. 

610 ki U NA 4 u GIS u LU.MAS.MAS-u-tu a-na GIG te ! -pu-su it-ti si-ti-su 
e-pu-us, ZA 6 (1891) 243:39f ., cited A. Livingstone, Mystical and Mythological 
Explanatory Works of Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars (Oxford: Clarendon, 



in . . . stone, plant, and tree [. . .]." 611 Trees, plants, and stones 
were associated with zodiacal signs in late Babylonian texts 
as they were in Hellenistic Egypt, and to these entities were 
sometimes added animals, cities, and excerpts or incipits of 
mantic material, lists of gods and temples, and others. 612 No 
explicit reference is made, however, to amulets with such pic- 
torial representations. 

In a late commentary 613 the mention of plant, stone, and 
tree is possibly connected with medicine, if my reading 614 "to 
heal him [. . .] plant, stone, and tree of /which [. . .]" is correct; 
the next line of the text already makes the association of a zodi- 
acal sign with magic operations 615 for which the main sources 
are the two Neo-Babylonian texts BRM 4 20 and 19, and the simi- 
lar texts LBAT 1597 and LBAT 1626, discussed in Chapter VI. 
The just cited text which associates the three entities plant, 
stone, and tree with exorcism or magic (Akkadian masmasutu or 
asiputu 'art of the exorcist') enjoins the practitioner to have 
recourse to its situ or, as the signs can also be read, setu. The 
latter reading, setu, designates a commentary arranged like a 
glossary in two columns, and such a commentary would have 
given in the second column the synonym or explanation of the 
word in the first. 616 What the commentary to NA 4 u GIS may 
have contained we do not know; possibly it gave equivalences, 

1986) 73, and translated by him as "When you perform plant stone and wood 
and the art of the exorcist for a sick man— one performs (it) with its com- 
ment 7 ." For the texts see Ernst Weidner, Gestirn-Darstellungen auf babyloni- 
schen Tontafeln (note 520 above) 17ff. 

611 MUL.LU.MAS ana IGI-ka ina E SU 11 (= pit-qad ? ) sa NA 4 U u is-si [. . .], 
JCS 6 (1952) 66:6 (= TCL 6 12), see Sachs, ibid. 71ff. 

612 See Reiner, JAOS 105 (1985) 592f . 

613 LBAT 1621. 

614 [ana] bullutisu ([. . .] TI-su) U NA 4 u GIS sa T[U . . .]. 

615 [K]I.AG.GA NITA ana SAL MUL.[KUN.MES] 'love of man for woman: 
constellation: [Pisces]/ LBAT 1621:8', restored from BRM 4 20:6, see Ungnad, 
AfO 14 (1941-44) 258. 

616 For botanical glossaries cf., e.g., the glossaries in A. Delatte, Anecdota 
atheniensia, Bibliotheque de la Faculte de philosophic et lettres de 
l'Universite de Liege, fasc. 88, vol. 2 pp. 273ff.; the Byzantine Greek Lexikon 
kata alfabeton en ho hermeneuontai Una ton botanon (= Delatte, op. cit. 378ff.) 
was also edited subsequently by M. H. Thomson (note 108 above) as no. 9, 
"Lexique de synonymes grecs," 133ff. 



or common names, to such exotic ingredients as "lion's blood" 
or "wolf bone" as the magical papyrus PGM XII 401ff. 617 cited 
earlier (p. 32) and so represents one tradition in the explanation 
of "secret" names. 

617 See Hopfner, Offenbarungszauber, vol. 1 p. 124f. §493 and "Mageia" in 
RE 27 (1928) 319. 



Nocturnal Rituals 

Stellis atque herbis vis est, sed maxima verbis 
Heim, Incantamenta Magica, p. 465 

Night is a time when spirits roam and danger lurks. ". . . The 
ominous day was one of the dark, moonless nights of the inter- 
lunium at the end of the month between last and first visibility 
of the moon, nights when it was indeed believed that evil 
spirits could roam freely/' 618 But night is also filled with the 
emanations of the moon and the stars, and is thereby suited 
for the performance of rituals and magic manipulations. The 
moon may have been an ally of sorceresses — it was the full 
moon that Erichtho, Medea, and other notorious sorceresses 
"drew down" to make their magic more efficacious, thus 
making Thessaly, the home of witches, famous from Plato to 
Lucan 619 -but no Mesopotamian text speaks of the influence 
of its waxing and waning on the growth of crops or on various 
human activities. No instructions are extant about procedures 
known from folklore and that the farmers' handbooks of 
antiquity— Virgil, Columella, Pliny the Elder— recommend and 
that are still practiced today under the name "biody- 
namics": 620 say, planting to be carried out when the Moon is 
waxing, and pruning when it is waning. 621 

-f A. T. Grafton and N. M. Swerdlow, "Calendar Dates and Ominous 
Days in Ancient Historiography," JWCI 51 (1988) 14-42; the quote is on p. 16. 

619 For literature see Chapter VI. 

620 The New York Times, May 2, 1991, Section B, page 1 (continued on 
page 7). 

621 I know only of one instruction to the farmer based on astronomical 
data, a letter from the Old Babylonian period that warns not to soak 7 the 
sesame seeds in preparation for sowing before the rising of Sirius. The letter, 
TLB 4 (= Altbabylonische Briefe, 3 [Leiden: Brill, 1968]) no. 65, is quoted by 
F. R. Kraus, JAOS 88 (1968) 116 and again, adding a reference to stars sig- 
naling the time to cultivate, by R. Frankena, SLB 4 p. 197. The reference is 



Moon and Sun may combine their influences. Accordingly, 
two dates expressly designated for administering potions and 
for other ritual acts are the two regularly occurring planetary 
events, the conjunction and the opposition of the Sun and the 
Moon. These are of course, in lay terms, the nights of the new 
moon, a time when a solar eclipse' may occur, and of the full 
moon, that is, the middle of the month, when a lunar eclipse 
may occur. 

Both dates repeatedly appear in medical texts. The night of 
the new moon is recommended as the time when an herb 
against witchcraft is to be ingested in beer; 622 another herb is 
to be used for purifying the man at new moon's day, by putting 
it into water and exposing it to the stars, 623 and still others by 
placing it around the patient's neck or giving it to him to eat 
at new moon's day. 624 A particularly precise instruction 
directs: "put a potsherd lying in the street [and other mate- 
rials?] into first-quality beer, drink (it) at new moon's day facing 
the sun." 625 Moonless nights are, as we saw, particularly appro- 
priate for gathering herbs. Thus, an instruction, unfortunately 

naturally to the season, and comparable to the importance of the rising of 
Sothis (i.e., Sirius) in signaling the flood of the Nile in Egypt, or to the rising 
of Sirius observed for the timing of agricultural tasks in the Nabatean Agri- 
culture as noted by D. Chwolsohn, Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus (St. Peters- 
burg, 1856) vol. 2 p. 912. The relevance of the Old Babylonian letter for the 
identification of the oleiferous plant was most recently adduced by Miguel 
Civil, The Farmer's Instructions. A Sumerian Agricultural Manual (Sabadell [Bar- 
celona], Spain: Editorial AUSA, 1994) with reference to the discussion by 
Marvin Powell, Aula Orientalis 9 (1991) 155-64. 

622 ina urn bubbuli ina sikari saqu, KMI 76 K.4569:l-8 and 14-21, a three- 
column pharmaceutical text of which the rightmost column, the recommen- 
dation for use, is preserved but not the first column, the one that gives the 
name of the herb, and only part of the second column, the one that specifies 
the herb's curative power. 

623 ina urn bubbuli amela(NA) ullulu ana me nadu ina UL bu-[ut-tu ? ] 
ibid. 10. 

624 ina UD.NA.A ina kisadisu [. . .], KMI 76 K.4569:ll, amela sukulu, ibid. 
12-13 and Kocher, Pflanzenkunde 1 rev. v 18, 19, 24, 27-29, 30, 32. The two texts 
are discussed in Pablo Herrero, La Therapeutique mesopotamienne, M. Sigrist, 
ed. (Paris: Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1984) 19, with a note that we have 
here "une des rares prescriptions de caractere magique," ibid. n. 33. 

625 hasabtu sa ina suqi nadat [. . .] ana libbi sikari resti tanaddi ina urn 
bubbuli ana pan [Samas siti], BAM 208:7, restored from AMT 85,1 ii 12. 



fragmentary, prescribes a procedure "on the day when the 
moon disappears from the sky" 626 and continues with "you 
pull up ? [. . .] the stars must not see (it ? ), on the 29th day [. . .] 
hair from his head" and further directs that an effigy be made 
(presumably of the evil) and offered to the sun, Samas. 627 

An effigy is also used in a ritual to be performed at the first 
sighting of the new moon, a favorable moment as the subscript 
tells us: "Incantation to recite in order to turn the evil into good 
at the first visibility of the moon." 628 

The effigy to be fashioned, at moonrise, is called here not 
with the usual term 'figurine' or 'statue(tte)' 629 but passu 
'doll/ 630 specified in two exemplars as a "male doll" 631 and in 
the third as a "female doll." 632 Whose effigy the "doll" repre- 
sents is not stated in the preserved portions. The ritual 
addresses the exorcist with the words "throw the 'doll' behind 
you into the river, and the evil will be loosed." 633 Whereas one 

626 um d Sin ina same ittablu, BAM 580 v 5' (= AMT 44,1 iv 5'); compare a 
ritual against evil dreams prescribed enuma Sin ittablu 'when the Moon has 
disappeared/ KAR 262 rev.(!) 14. 

627 BAM 580 v 7-8'. 

628 KA.INIM.MA sa IGI.DU 8 .A d Sin HUL SIG 5 .GA.KAM. This apotropaion 
has survived in three exemplars. One, which has the ritual on the reverse 
(BMS 24 + 25 + K. 14704, new copy in Su-ila no. 59, subscripts in rev. 4', 15', 
edited by Werner Mayer Untersuchungen zur Formensprache der babylonischen 
"Gebetsbeschworungen," Studia Pohl: Series Maior, 5 [Rome: Biblical Institute 
Press, 1976] 529f.) has on the obverse a prayer to the Moon god Sin "with 
lifting of the hand"; its tenor resembles that of the prayers for calming the 
angry god ( The second (BAM 316) is a large tablet 
with three columns on each side; it enumerates a number of afflictions, seem- 
ingly psychological; the ritual appears toward the end, and is followed by 
the words "the evil of dreams and (other) evil signs," a phrase that may rep- 
resent the final rubric. The purpose of the third ritual (LKA 25 ii) and the 
prayer to the Moon preceding it, is, according to its rubric, "to calm the angry 
god." The prayer to the Moon was edited, along with its several more com- 
plete duplicates, by W. G. Lambert, JNES 33 (1974) 294ff. 

629 NU = salmu. 

630 See Benno Landsberger, WZKM 56 (1960) 117£f. 

631 ZA.NA NITA (BAM 316 and LKA 25). 

632 ZA.NA SAL (Su-ila no. 59 obv. 15', in Werner Mayer, Untersuchungen 
(note 628 above) 530. 

633 [ku-tal-l]a-nik-ka ana ID SUB-ma HUL BUR, Werner Mayer, Untersu- 
chungen (note 628 above) 531 rev. 19'. 



text ends here and its parallel 634 is followed by a ritual against 
evil dreams, in the third text 635 the ritual is followed by a 
prayer to Orion, fragmentary to be sure, but evidently imploring 
the constellation to avert illness: "O Orion [. . .], who drives 
away illness [...], you are high in the sky, you rise [...], vertigo 
[. . .], before 7 you [. . .]." 636 

The full moon also has a role in nocturnal rituals. The day 
of the opposition of Sun and Moon may vary from the 13th to 
the 16th, but in the schematic month of 30 days it is set for the 
15th. To cure the affliction named ZI.KU 5 .RU.DA, literally "cut- 
ting the breath/' 637 the patient addresses a prayer to the Moon 
god Sin, presents an offering and recounts his affliction to Sin 
on the night of the 15th of the month. 638 Offerings to the 
Moon on the 15th day are also recommended in the hemerol- 
ogies. 639 A remedy for the ears is to be prepared on the 15th 
of the sixth month 640 while the next recipes prescribe that the 
treatment be performed on the 1st of the third month and 
the 11th of the eighth month respectively. 641 t 

For some rituals it is essential that both planetary deities, 
the Sun and the Moon, be equally present. That time is when 
the full moon sets and the sun rises, at dawn of the day of the 
opposition of Sun and Moon, in the middle of the month (usu- 
ally expressed as the 15th day); this is the time for carrying out 
a ritual against the spirits of the dead that haunt a man. 642 The 
aim of the ritual is to gain deliverance from afflictions caused 

634 BAM 316 vi 24'-28\ 

635 LKA 25. 

636 EN MUL SIPA.ZI.AN.NA [. . .] mukkisu GIG [. . .] En-la-ta ina same 
nap-[ha-ta . . .], sldanu [. . .] mahraka AN [. . .], LKA 25 ii 20-24 (end of 
obverse 7 ). For other prayers to Orion see p. 56. 

637 For literature and suggested identifications see Kocher, BAM IV p. xvi 
n. 26. For rituals against zikurudu-magic see Chapter VI. 

638 BAM 449 ii 2f., also ibid. 11-15. 

639 See p. 113. 

640 UD.15.KAM sa ITI.KIN, AMT 105:10. 

641 ina UD.l.KAM sa ITI.SIG4, ibid. 14, and ina UD.ll.KAM sa ITI.APIN, 
ibid. 17. The latter date which does not seem to be astronomically significant 
may relate, as possibly also the other dates of this text, to some pre-calculated 
time, such as are known from certain divinatory practices. 

642 BAM 323:93ff. and parallel 228:28ff. 



by a "persecuting ghost"; 643 it is performed "on the 15th day, 
when moon and sun are equally present." 644 The exorcist 
"clothes the patient in a dirty 7 garment, draws his blood by 
slashing his forehead with an obsidian (knife), has him sit 
down in a reed hut, has him face north, makes an incense 
offering of juniper and libates cow's milk to Sin toward 'sunset/ 
and makes an incense offering of 'cypress' and libates fine beer 
to Samas toward 'sunrise.' Then the patient recites as follows: 
'To my left is Sin, the crescent of the great heavens, 645 to my 
right the father of mankind, 646 Samas the judge, the two gods, 
ancestors (lit. fathers) of the great gods, who determine the lots 
for the far-flung people. An evil wind has blown at me, the per- 
secuting ghost persecutes me, so that I am worried, I am trou- 
bled, disturbed (as I face) your verdict. Save me so that I not 
come to grief.' He recites this seven times, leaves the reed hut, 
changes his clothes, puts on a pure garment, speaks to Sin as 
follows: 'Incantation: Sin, light of heaven and earth, take away 
my sickness!' He speaks this three times and speaks to Samas 
as follows: 'Samas, great judge, father of mankind, 647 let the 
evil wind that has settled on me rise to heaven like smoke, and 
I will sing your praises'— he speaks this three times and does 
not [. . .]." 648 

643 etem ridati, BAM 228:27 and dupl. BAM 323:92. 

644 ina UD.15.KAM urn Sin u Samas istenis izzazzu, BAM 228:28 and 
dupls. 229:21'f ., 323:93. The texts have been edited by Jo Ann Scurlock, "Mag- 
ical Means of Dealing with Ghosts in Ancient Mesopotamia" (Ph.D. diss., 
University of Chicago, 1988), Prescriptions 56-59; the ritual is edited as no. 59. 

645 The word "crescent" is used here as a standard epithet of the moon, 
since obviously on the 15th the moon is full. 

646 The word for 'mankind' is sal-mat qaqqadi (SAG.DU), literally 'black- 
headed,' written with the Sumerogram SAG.Gl6.GA in line 106. 

647 See preceding note. 

648 NA BI TUG.SA.HA MU 4 .MU 4 -as ina NA 4 .ZU SAG.KI-su te-es-si-ma US-su 
ta-tab-bak ina SA GI.URI.GAL TUS-ib-su IGI-su ana IM.SI.SA GAR-an ana 
d Sin ana d UTU.SU.A NIGNA SIM.LI GAR-an GA AB BAL-qi ana d UTU.E 
ana GUB-ia d Sin UD.SAR AN-e GAL.MES ana ZAG-ia a-bi sal-mat SAG.DU 
ES.BAR ana UN.MES DAGAL.MES IM HUL-tim i-di-pan-ni-ma GIDIM ri-da-a-ti 
US.MES-an-ni lu <na>-as-sa-ku e-sa-ku u dal-ha-ku ana di-ni-ku-nu su-zi- 
ba-ni-ma la ah-ha-bil 7-su DUG 4 .GA-ma is-tu GI.URI.GAL E-ma TUG.BI u-na- 



The situation is quite clear, even though the ritual does not 
specify the time when it is to be performed. Since the moon 
is in the west, that is, setting, and the sun rising in the east, 
we have here a dawn ceremony. 

Appeals to stars and planets as the deities 7 astral manifesta- 
tions are known from two late rituals, the New Year's ritual in 
Babylon and a ritual performed in the temple of Anu in Uruk. 
Among the deities addressed in the New Year's ritual in 
Babylon 649 are the goddess Sarpanltu (the consort of Marduk, 
chief god of Babylon) in her astral manifestation, 650 also the 
Square of Pegasus, 651 Mudrukesda, 652 and the star of Eridu; 653 
they are followed by the planets Jupiter, 654 Mercury, 655 Saturn— 
here called, with an epithet elsewhere reserved for Libra, Star 
of justice 656 -and Mars, 657 and the stars Sirius, 658 Arcturus, 659 
NE.NE.GAR, 660 Numusda, 661 Antares, 662 and finally the Sun and 
the Moon. 663 The prayer to Babylon's tutelary deity, Bel (that is, 

kar TUG.UD.UD MU 4 .MU 4 ana d Sin HAR.GIM DUG 4 EN d Nanna x .gal tu.ra su!.mu.ta ba.z[i] 3-sii DUG 4 .GA-ma ana d UTU 
HAR.GIM DUG 4 .G[A] d Utu f a l a sa g-gi6-ga im.hul he.e ka.tar.zu : 3-sii DUG4.GA-ma NU x [x], BAM 
323:94-107, partly duplicated by BAM 228:24-32, 229:18'-26'. My translation 
differs in mostly minor details from that of Jo Ann Scurlock (see note 644). 
The text is also treated by Marten Stol, in Natural Phenomena, D. J. W. Meijer, 
ed. (Amsterdam, 1992) 256. 

649 Le rituel des fetes du nouvel an a Babylone, in Francois Thureau- 
Dangin, Rituels accadiens (Paris, Leroux: 1921), pp. 127ff. 

650 ds ar _p a _ n j_t um na _bat kakkabl 'Sarpanltu, brightest of the stars/ line 

651 lku, lines 275f . 

652 MUL.MU.BUKES.DA, line 302. 

653 MOL.NUN.KI, line 303. 

654 MOL.BABBAR 'White Star/ line 305. 

655 MOL.GUD.UD, line 306. 

656 mOL.GENNA kakkab kittu u misar, line 307. Libra and Star of Samas 
designate Saturn in several cuneiform sources, see Hunger in Hunger and 
Pingree, MUL.APIN p. 130 ad i 38f. quoting Parpola, LAS 2 pp. 342f. 

657 MOL.AN, line 308. 

658 m0l.KAK.SI.SA, line 309. 

659 MOL.SU.PA, line 310. 

660 N ot identified; line 311. The name is possibly to be read Ne-bi-ru x , i.e., 
another name for Jupiter. 

661 MOL Nu-mus-da, line 312. 

662 MOL GABA GIR.TAB 'Breast of the Scorpion/ line 313. 

663 Lines 314 and 315. 



Marduk), and his consort Beltiya in lines 318ff . addresses the 
goddess (lines 325-32) as the planet Venus or as one of its mani- 
festations as a fixed star: the Bow (MUL. BAN), the Goat (MUL. 
UZ), the Star of Abundance (MUL.HE.GAL.A), the Star of Dig- 
nity (MUL.BAL.TES.A), the Wagon (MUL.MAR.GID.DA), Coma 
Berenices 7 (MUL.A.EDIN) and Vela 7 (MUL.NIN.MAH). 

In the temple of Anu at Uruk in a nocturnal ceremony 664 
offerings are made on the 16th (of a month that is not identified 
in the preserved portions of the ritual) to the heavenly manifes- 
tations of the temple's main deities: to "Anu of the sky" and 
"Antu of the sky," as well as to the seven planets, 665 and in the 
same text daily offerings are made to "Anu and Antu of the sky" 
and to the seven planets, now named in the sequence Jupiter, 
Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Mars, the rising of the Sun and the 
sighting of the Moon. 666 

The heavenly manifestations of Anu and Antu are, for Anu, 
a star belonging to the constellation Mudrukesda (a Dra- 
conis 7 ) and, for Antu, a star in the constellation Ursa Maior. 667 
The text itself specifies: "as soon as the star of Great Anu of the 
sky rises, (and?) Great Antu of the sky rises in the Wagon." 668 

The most elaborate ritual performed at night with appeal to 
the stars is the "washing of the mouth" (mis pi). It deals with 
the all-important ceremony of breathing life into the statues of 
the gods, a process called empsychosis in Greek. In Babylonia, 

664 Akkadian: bayatu. 

665 Rituels accadiens (note 649 above) 79, lines 32-34: UD.16.KAM sa 
arhussu 10 immere SAG-ii-tu marutu ebbuti sa qarnu u supru suklulu ana 
d Ani(DIS) u Antu sa same u d UDU.BAD.MES 7-su-nu ana sa-al-qa i-na te- 
bi-ib-tum SU 11 ina paramahi ziqqurrat d Ani kima sa UD.16.KAM sa Tebeti 

666 umisam kal satti 10 immere maruti ebbuti sa qarnu u supru suklulu 
ana Ani u Antu sa same d SAG.ME.GAR d Dil-bat d GUD.UD d GENNA d Sal-bat- 
a-nu KUR-ha Samas u IGI.DU 8 .A d Sin . . . inneppus, ibid. p. 79 rev. 29-31, 
and the similar enumeration . . . ina muhhi 7 passurmah hurasi ana d SAG. 
ME.GAR d Dil-bat d GUD.UD d GENNA u d Sal-bat-a-nu d Sin u d Samas kima sa 
innammar me qate tanassi-ma (etc.), ibid. p. 119:22-24. 

667 Rituels accadiens (note 649 above) 85 n. 2. The star list to which he 
refers is now published in MUL.APIN. 

668 kima sa MUL d Anu rabu sa same ittapha An-tum rabltu sa same ina 
MUL.MAR.GID.DA ittapha "Une ceremonie nocturne dans le temple d'Anu," 
in Rituels accadiens (note 649 above) 119 lines 15-16. 



the ceremony is called the "opening of the mouth" (pit pi), 
which is preceded by the "washing of the mouth" (mis pi) of the 
divine statue. Divine statues, we know, were made of wood, 
and overlaid with precious materials, usually gold; incrusta- 
tions of precious stones adorned them. 669 Their fabrication 
was, therefore, placed under the tutelage of the patron gods of 
carpenters, goldsmiths, and jewelers. Only after the inert ma- 
terials were infused with breath through the mouth-opening 
ceremony could the statue eat and drink the offerings, and 
smell the incense. 670 

The vivification of the divine statue comprised several 
stages. The first stage, the first mouth-washing, was conducted 
in the workshop; then, the statue was carried in procession to 
the river bank, where a second mouth-washing took place. The 
statue was first facing west, then facing east. Offerings were 
made to the nine great gods, among whom are the major plan- 
etary gods, that is, Sun, Moon, and Venus; then to the nine 
patron gods of the craftsmen; then to other planets and to cer- 
tain fixed stars and constellations, among them Sirius, Libra, 
the Wagon, the Goat, and the Scorpion, and finally to the stars 
rising over the three "paths" along the eastern horizon, that is, 
all the stars. 671 The role of the astral deities in the ritual is not 
specified; nevertheless, that role is clear from the description 
of the venue, which is the river bank, and the time: at night, 
as indicated by the fact that the procession advances by torch- 
light; the stars and planets were to irradiate the statue crafted 
of wood and adorned with precious metals and stones and 
thus infuse these materials with their power. The offerings are 

669 Oppenheim, 'The Golden Garments of the Gods," JNES 8 (1949) 

670 salmu annu ina la pit pi qutrinna ul issin akala ul ikkal me ul isatti 
'this image without opening of the mouth does not smell incense, does not 
eat food, does not drink water/ STT 200:42f. and dupl. PBS 12/1 6- a near- 
literal equivalent of Psalm 115's description of idols. 

671 S. Smith, JRAS 1925 37ff., also Erich Ebeling, Tod und Leben nach den 
Vorstellungen der Babylonier (Berlin and Leipzig: de Gruyter & Co., 1931) 
104-105:25-36; see also W. Mayer, Or. NS 47 (1978) 445 W 20030/3:3-5 (copy: 
Baghdader Mitteilungen, Beiheft 2 no. 1). The introductory instructions are 
partially broken; the text begins: e-nu-ma sip-ri DINGIR [BllGA-am~] [x x x 
ina IT]I sal-me . . . 'when . . . the work on the god, [. . .] in a favorable 
month . . .,' lines If. 



described with the words: "you set up a cultic arrangement 672 
to the god"; it seems that these "cultic arrangements" or, as we 
might say, "altars," are the loci to which the astral god will 
descend. It is to be noted that no specific connection is made 
between the various materials of which the statue is made and 
the deity that presides over each. Only in Hellenistic times will 
each planet be associated with a particular metal and stone. 673 
At the head of the offerings to astral deities stands Jupiter: 

You set up two altars for Jupiter and Venus— ditto (= you perform 

the mouth-washing) 
You set up two altars for the Moon and Saturn — ditto 
You set up three altars for Mercury, Sirius, and Mars— ditto 
You set up six altars for Libra, (called) the Star 674 of Samas, the 

Plow, SU.PA, 
the Wagon, the Cluster, the Goat -ditto 
You set up four altars for the Field (the Square of Pegasus), the 

Swallow, the Star of Anunitu, the Furrow— ditto 
You set up four altars for the Fish, Aquarius, the Star of Eridu, the 

Scorpion— ditto 
You set up three altars for (the stars) of the Path of Anu, of the Path 

of Enlil, of the Path of Ea- ditto. 675 

The first seven offerings, in two groups of two and one of 
three, are meant for the seven planets, even though the place 
of the sun, Samas, is taken by Sirius in the last group, either 
because he was included in the group of nine gods enumerated 

672 riksu. 

673 Bouche-Leclercq, L'astrologie grecque (Paris, 1899, reprinted Aalen: Sci- 
entia, 1979) 313. 

674 Text: House. 

675 29. 2 rikse a-na d SAG.ME.GAR u d Dil-bat tarakkas KI.MIN 

30. 2 rikse a-na d Sin u d UDU.BAD.SAG.US tarakkas KI.MIN 

31. 3 rikse a-na MUL.GUD.[UD] MUL.KAK.SI.SA MUL Sal-bat-a-nu 
tarakkas KI.MIN 

32. 6 rikse a-na MUL Zi-ba-ni-tum E d UTU MUL.APIN MUL.SU.PA 


34. 4 rikse a-na MUL.AS.GAN MUL.SIM.MAH MUL d A-nu-ni-tum MUL. 
AB.SIN tarakkas KI.MIN 

35. 4 rikse a-na MUL.KU 6 MUL.GU.LA MUL.NUN.KI MUL.GIR.TAB 
tarakkas KI.MIN 

36. 3 rikse a-na su-ut d A-nim su-ut- d E[n-lil u su-ut d E-a tarakkas KI. 



earlier in line 25 or simply because it is night. The next three 
groups include the zodiacal constellations Libra (with its stan- 
dard epithet, Star of Samas) in the first group of six, Virgo in 
the second group of four, and Pisces, Aquarius, and Scorpius 
in the third group, also of four. Moreover, the northern constel- 
lations Triangulum (the Plow), Bootes (SU.PA), Ursa Maior (the 
Wagon), Coma Berenices 7 (the Cluster), and Lyra (the Goat) 
receive offerings in the first group, the Square of Pegasus and 
the Northern Fish (the Swallow)— paired, as usual, with the 
Southern Fish (the Star of Anunitu)-in the second group, and 
the southern constellation Vela 7 (the Star of Eridu) in the 
third. And finally, offerings are made to all the stars, collec- 
tively called "those of (the paths of) Anu, Enlil, and [Ea]." 

While only the Late Babylonian version of the mouth- 
washing ritual describes in such detail the appeal to the stellar 
powers, already the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Assurban- 
ipal speak of the initiation of the new cult statues as taking 
place before not only the gods and the divine patrons of the 
crafts by means of which these statues were made, but also 
"before the stars of the sky," as the texts expressly state. 676 In 
the Assurbanipal-library version of the directions for the 
mouth-washing ritual only the setting up of an offering table 677 
for d SAG.ME.GAR (Jupiter) and an altar for MUL.SUPA (= Arc- 
turus 7 ) and the incipits of the prayers to be addressed to them 
are cited: "You Sulpaea" 678 to Jupiter, and "(You,) magnificent 
one, 'Mountain' of the Igigu-gods" 679 to Arcturus 7 . 680 It was 
noted long ago that the Assyrian recension "did not enumer- 
ate these [astral] deities, at any rate in quite the same con- 

676 mahar kakkabl samami, M. Streck, Assurbanipal, Vorderasiatische 
Bibliothek 7/2 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1916) 268 iii 20 (= Th. Bauer, Das Inschriften- 
werk Assurbanipals, vol. 2 [Leipzig, 1933] 84), Borger, Esarh. 91 §60 i 13, and 
parallels §57 r. 21, etc. 

677 GI.DUs = patlru, line 14. 

678 atta d Sul-pa-e-a, line 18. 

679 s[urbu sadu] Igigi, line 21. 

680 Gerhard Meier, "Die Ritualtafel der Serie 'Mundwaschung,'" AfO 12 
(1937-39) 40-45; the rituals and prayers to the stars appear on K.9729 + obv. 
14-21. A new edition of the "mouth-washing" ritual is being prepared by 
C. B. F. Walker. 



nexion," 681 it is therefore only in the Babylonian, late version 
that the process takes on the character of what may already be 
called "astral religion" while the Assyrian recension testifies 
only to the belief in stellar irradiation, the effect of which has 
permeated, as we saw, several crucial areas of Babylonian 
science and religion. 

681 S. Smith, JRAS 1925 40. 



abnu sikinsu (composition), 122-125 

acacia, 38 

acrographic, 26, 62 

Adad (god), 65, 66, 68, 79, 91 

aitites, 123 

Akkadian, 26, 28, 44, 45, 48 

"all evil," 83 

amulet, amulets, 15, 110, 120, 125, 

amulet stones, 41, 121, 124, 128, 

Antares, 138 
Antu (goddess), 139 
Anu (god), 5, 6, 12, 20, 71, 79, 87, 

89, 139, 141 
aphasia, 105 
aphrodisiac, 35 
apodosis, 61 
apotropaia, 109, 119 
apotropaic ritual, 39, 46, 47, 66, 82, 

83, 84, 96 
apotropaion, 83, 96. See also 

Aquarius, 78, 109, 116, 117, 144 
Aquila, 117 
Arcturus, 138, 144 
Aries, 78, 93, 109, 117 
Aristophanes, Wasps, 105 
Arrow star, 3, 17, 19 
Asalluhi (god), 86 
Assur, 50, 71 
Assur (god), 75 
Assurbanipal (king of Assyria), 18, 

50, 67, 142 
astral deities, 9, 141, 113 
astral irradiation, 49, 51, 52, 55 
astrologer, 76 
astrology, 76, 77; catarchic 13, 111; 

horoscopic 13 
astronomer, 65 

astronomical observations, 14, 65 
astronomy, 14 

Babylon, 71, 138 

Babylonian calendar, 89; divinatory 

texts, 72, 84; "Stone-book," 122 
"Babylonian Diviner's Manual," 94, 

95, 96 
bakshish, 38 
beads, 126 

Bear (constellation), 56, 70 
Bel (god), 139 
Belet-balati (goddess), 78 
Beltiya (goddess), 139 
bestiaries, 25, 29 
bewitching, 97 
Big Dipper, 3, 56, 58, 70 
bilingual (lists), 46 
birds, 86-87, 117, 118 
Bison (constellation), 66 
black magic. See magic 
Boghazkoy, 48, 67 
Bootes, 15, 56, 144 
Bow star, 66, 88, 139 
brontoscopy, 65 
Bull, 117. See also Taurus 

calendar, 8, 22, 89, 113 

calendar texts, 114-116 

Cancer, 78, 109, 116 

Canis Maior, 88 

Canis Minor, 117 

cannabis, 35 

Capricorn, 109, 110, 116 

catalogue, 82, 83, 91 

catarchic. See astrology; magic 

Centaurus, 56, 67, 106 

centaury, 33 

charms, 125 

chiromancy, 30 

classification, 26 

clouds, 91 

Columella, 133 

Coma Berenices, 139, 144 

commentary, 110, 133 



concatenation, 90 

conjunction, solar-lunar, 134 

conjurer, 47 

constellations, 3, 79, 94 

Corvus, 78, 117 

cuneiform, 25 

"cutting the breath," 104, 105, 109, 

Cygnus, 3 
Cyranides, 116, 130 

dawn, 23 

Delebat, 7. See also Venus 

Delphi, 72 

Demon with the Gaping Mouth 

(constellation), 3 
destruction, 121 
determinative, 5, 25, 26 
dew, 59, 104 
diagnosis, 47 

diagnostic omina. See omens 
divination, 2, 11, 14, 72 
diviner, 1, 2, 15, 64, 65, 67, 69, 

73-74, 94, 95 
dodekatemorion, 110 
dog, 52 
Draco, 139 

Dragon (constellation), 66 
Dream-book, 71 
dreams, 74 
"Dreckapotheke," 45 

Ea (god), 5, 6, 21, 81, 82, 83, 85, 86, 

87, 88, 141 
eagle, 124 

Eagle (constellation), 117 
eagle-stone, 123 
earthquake, 90, 91, 92 
eclipse (lunar), 8, 11, 12, 22, 74, 75, 

76, 77, 90, 91, 134 
eclipse (solar), 11, 12, 90, 134 
ecstatic, 74 
emgy, 135 
Ekur (temple), 21 
Emar, 41 

empsychosis, 140 
Enki (god), 88 
Enlil (god), 5, 12, 21, 87, 89, 141 

Enuma Anu Enlil (composition), 13, 

65, 77, 84, 89, 90, 91 
Enuma elis (composition), 22 
Ereskigal (goddess), 19 
Eridu, 138 
Erra (god), 66 
Esarhaddon (king of Assyria), 18, 

22, 74, 75, 76, 93, 98, 119, 144 
Etruscan, 2, 65 
Euphrates, 19 
Evening star, 3, 6, 23 
evil, 20, 22 

exorcist, 8, 15, 24, 47, 65, 92, 131 
exposition, 109; nocturnal 51-56, 58 
exta, 2, 65, 70, 72, 79. See also liver 
extispicy, 65, 66, 67, 70, 74, 77, 84. 

See also hepatoscopy 

female. See feminine 
feminine: materia medica, 35; 

stones, 128 
Ferry (constellation), 67 
Field (constellation), 67 
figurines, 24, 105 
First-born of Emah (star), 20, 21 
fish, 114 

Fish (constellation), 117, 144 
full moon, 113, 133, 134, 136 
Furrow (star), 3 

garlic, 27 

Gemini, 78, 104, 109, 117. See also 

genethlialogy, 13 
ghost, 137 
Glass texts, 127 
goat, 86 
Goat (star), 3, 52, 55, 56, 58, 66, 78, 

86, 128-129, 139, 140, 141, 144 
gods of the night, 1, 16, 18, 19, 66, 

68, 69, 73, 86 
grave, 39, 40 
Gula (goddess), 5, 52, 53, 55, 56, 

86, 113, 128, 129 

haematite, 122 
halo (of the moon), 90 
Hammurapi (king of Babylon), 41, 



HAR-gud (composition), 26 
HAR-ra = hubullu (composition), 

26, 27, 90, 122, 130 
haruspex, 2, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 69, 

70, 72, 74, 75, 77, 79, 94. See fl/so 

Hattusa, 49 
Hecate, 53 
hemerologies, 21, 59, 96, 112-114, 

hepatoscopy, 63, 65, 74, 76, 79. See 

also extispicy 
Hephaistio, Apotelesmatika, 79 
herb, 27, 28, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 103, 

115, 128 
herbalist, 36, 38, 39 
herbals, 25, 28-29, 33 
Hermetic, 9 
Herodotus, 45 
Hesiod, 89, 112 
Hippolytus, 100 
Hittite, 48, 55-56, 67 
Hittites, 18 
Hydra, 3, 66 
hypsoma, 75 

iatromathematics, 46 

ikribu, 73 

illustrations, 30 

incantations, 47 

intercession (of stars), 17 

iqqur ipus (composition), 88, 91, 94 

iron, 38 

irradiation, 15, 48, 52, 55, 59, 128, 141 

Irragal (god), 20 

Ishara (goddess), 35 

Isin, 43, 44 

Istar (goddess), 5, 6, 8, 18, 19, 23, 

35, 57, 68, 91 
Istar-of-the-Stars (goddess), 23, 24 

Jupiter (planet), 4, 7, 17, 18, 19, 20, 
59, 60, 61, 74, 75, 87, 93, 104, 105, 
106, 114, 138, 139, 141, 144 

justice (Star of), 4 

Kidney star, 16, 60, 88 
lapidaries, 25, 29 

lecanomancy, 62, 84 

leeks, 114 

Leo, 78 

Libanius, 105-106 

libanomancy, 62, 84 

Libra, 4, 78, 108, 109, 117, 138, 140, 

141, 144 
libraries, 50, 67, 142 
lifting-of-the-hand, 17 
lightning, 89 
lists, 26, 46, 62, 130 
litany, 19 

liver, 77, 7S-79, 94, 96 
liver models, 30 
loosing, 81 
love charms, 24 
lu = sa (composition), 90 
Lucan, 98, 133 
Lucian, 100 

Lugalirra (god), 104, 105 
lunarium, lunaria, 108-110, 112 
Lyra, 3, 53, 78, 86, 144. See also 

Goat star 

magic, 14; black, 3, 14, 101, 109; 

catarchic, 111 
magic circle, 37, 39, 55, 59 
magical papyri, 9, 32, 33 
magnetite, 122 
male. See masculine 
malku = sarru (composition), 123 
Maqlu (composition), 101 
Marduk (god), 21, 71, 85, 113, 138, 

139; Star of, 75 
Mars (planet), 4, 7, 8, 18, 22, 60, 61, 

66, 93, 138, 139, 141 
masculine: materia medica, 35; 

stones, 126 
materia medica, 15, 44, 123 
mediator, 15 
medicine, 15, 131; Mesopotamian, 

melothesia, 59 
menology, 112 
Mercury (planet), 3, 5, 6, 18, 138, 

139, 141 
Meslamtaea (god), 104 
messengers: stars as, 16 
meteorological omens, 63 



meteorological phenomena, 92 
metoposcopy, 30 
micro-zodiac, 116 
Moon, 4, 8, 9, 12, 18, 88, 91, 93, 

98-101, 104, 108-111, 133, 134, 

139. See also full moon; new 

Moon god, 18, 74, 77, 101, 107, 113, 

136, 140 
Morning star, 3, 6, 23 
Mudrukesda (constellation), 138, 139 
MUL.APIN (composition), 20, 78, 90 

Nabatean Agriculture, 42 
Nabonidus (king of Babylonia), 76, 

namburbu, 81, 82, 96 
Naram-Sin (king of Akkad), 42, 129 
nature, 30, 120 
NE.NE.GAR (star), 138 
Nergal (god), 7, 18, 22, 60, 61 
nether world, 19 
new moon, 63f., 134, 135 
New Year's ritual, 138 
Nineveh, 50, 67 
Ninmah (goddess), 22 
Ninsianna (goddess), 67, 68, 73 
Ninurta (god), 5, 19, 35, 71, 122 
Nippur, 21, 43 
Nisannu (month), 113 
nocturnal exposition, 52, 56, 59 
Numusda (god), 1, 40 

obedience, 121 

omen, 61-63 

omen collections, 13, 82-84 

omen literature, 13 

omens: 11, 82, 90, 94, 95; celestial, 

11, 12, 63; diagnostic, 84, 105; 

liver, 7, 11, 30; meteorological, 

63, 72, 92; physiognomic, 30, 84 
"opening of the mouth," 140 
opposition, 134, 136 
Orion, 3, 5, 17, 19, 56, 66, 67, 78, 

113, 116, 117, 136. See also 


patch test, 40 

path: of Anu, 5, 87, 144; of Ea, 5, 

87, 144; of Enlil, 5, 87, 144; three 

paths, 5, 87, 140, 144 
Pegasus (square of), 66, 138, 141, 

pharmaceutical, 46; handbook 28 
pharmacist, 35 

phylactery, 118, 125, 127, 128, 129 
physician, 8, 35, 43, 47, 48, 64; 

Egyptian, 44 
physiognomic omens, 30, 84 
Pisces, 117, 144 
plague, 7-8, 22, 66, 121 
planet, planets, 6, 8, 13, 19, 91, 139, 

140; rising of, 90 
planetary gods, 140 
plant, plants, 27, 131; gathering, 36; 

planting, 133 
Plato, 98, 133 
Pleiades, 16, 17, 19, 20, 66, 86, 113, 

Pliny, 35, 39, 122, 124, 133 
Plow star, 144 
Poem of the Creation (composition), 

poetry, 15 
Pole star, 20 
portents, 95 
prayer, 73, 74 

prayers, 17, 18; 82; ikribu, 73-74 
pregnancy, 124; testing, 41 
prescriptions (medical), 46, 125 
prognosis, 40 
prognosticate, 47 
prophecy, 74 
protasis, 61 
Puppis, 88 

rain, 90 

Raven, 78, 79, 117 

regions, 108, 110 

Regulus, 78, 108 

reports (on extispicy), 70 

Rim-Sin (king of Larsa), 41, 129 

rituals, 17 

Rooster (constellation), 117 

sacrifice, 72 

Sagittarius, 5, 86, 93, 107, 116, 117 

Sargon (king), 12, 74, 75 



Saturn (planet), 3, 18, 138, 139, 141 
Scales, 4. See also Libra 
scholia, 27, 60, 79, 105, 130 
Scorpion, 17, 56, 114, 139. See also 

Scorpius, 17, 106, 116, 117, 144 
(cylinder) seals, 127, 128 
secret names, 33, 132 
secret place, 75, 116 
"seizing of the mouth," 105-106, 109 
Selene, 53 

semen: of stars, 104, 105 
Sennacherib (king of Assyria), 75, 

Seven Gods, 86 
seven sages, 118 
shells, 126, 127 
shooting stars, 72, 94 
signs, 9 
Sin, 8, 18, 68, 74, 77, 91, 104, 105, 

136, 137 See also Moon god 
Sipazianna, 56, 113. See also Orion 
Sirius, 3, 17, 18, 19, 66, 70, 105, 138, 

140, 141, 142 
Snake (constellation), 3 
sorcerer, 2, 8, 14, 97, 109 
sorceress, 2, 8, 97, 109, 133 
sorceries, 101 
Spica, 3 
squash, 27 

Star of Abundance, 139 
Star of AnunTtu, 142 
Star of Dignity, 139 
Star of Eridu, 142 
Star of Justice, 138 
stars, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 57, 86, 87, 

91, 93, 97, 133, 140; ftrst, 58; of 

the night, 24; of the sky, 142 
statue (divine), 140 
stone, stones, 115, 120, 121, 131; 

masculine, 131; feminine, 126 
Stone-book, 121 
storm god, 66 

string of beads, 125, 126, 128 
substitute king, 9 
Sultantepe, 111 
Sumerian, 22, 26, 28, 44, 45; lists, 

26; writing system, 25 
Sumerogram, 104, 110 

Sun, 4, 9, 17, 18, 22, 23, 65, 66, 91, 

104, 134, 136, 138, 139, 140 
Sun god, 86. See also Samas 
sun, 37 
sunrise, 22, 23 

Swallow (constellation), 117, 142 
Syriac, 19 
Salbatanu (planet), 7, 8, 18. See also 

SarpanTtu (goddess), 138 
Samas, 8, 18, 23, 65-66, 68, 79, 85, 

86, 91, 94, 104, 105, 135, 137, 141, 

142. See also Sun 
Samas-sumu-ukln (king of 

Babylonia), 18, 22, 76 
sammu sikinsu (composition), 90 
Sulgi (king of Ur), 118 
Sulpae (planet), 67, 87, 114, 142 
summa alu (composition), 83, 85, 87, 

88, 90, 91, 92 
summa izbu (composition), 83 

tablets, 12, 82, 93, 95, 96 

Taurus, 78 

Theocritus, 24, 42 

Theophrastus, 34, 38 

Thessaly, 98, 100 

Thucydides, 105 

thunder, 90 

Tiglath-Pileser I (king of Assyria), 

Tigris, 19 
toothache, 21 
treaties, 8 

treatment (medical), 46 
tree, trees, 115, 131 
Triangulum, 142 
True Shepherd of Anu, 3, 17, 56. 

See also Orion 
Twins (constellation), 107. See also 


Ululu (month), 21, 76-77 

Urartu, 75 

Ursa Maior, 3, 17, 24, 57, 58, 66, 70, 

71, 107, 114, 139, 142. See also 

Ursa Minor, 66 
Uruanna (composition), 28, 36, 123 



Uruk, 78, 108, 115, 116, 138, 139. 

See also Warka 
Vega, 53, 56 
Vela, 139, 142 
Venus (planet), 3, 5, 6, 8, 16, 17, 18, 

19, 22, 23, 24, 58, 68, 73, 74, 75, 

78, 90, 91, 114, 139, 140 
veterinarian, 55 
Virgil, 24, 34, 101, 133 
Virgo, 4, 19, 110, 116, 142 

warnings, 12, 61, 85 
"washing of the mouth," 140 
watches of the night, 16, 101 
weather, 91 
witch, 97, 98, 99, 100 
witchcraft, 81, 97, 99, 101, 105 
writing of heaven, 9 

Yoke star, 15, 16, 57, 66, 67 

Wagon (constellation), 3, 17, 20, 56, zodiac, 96, 108, 111, 114, 116, 117 

57, 66, 67, 70, 71, 85, 107, 114, zodiacal constellations, 108 

139, 140, 142. See also Ursa Maior zodiacal signs, 115, 131 

Warka, 78. See also Uruk zodiologia, 112