"Mesopotamian Magic: Ancient Tablets Reveal a World of Witches, Sorcerers and Exorcists" (A.O)

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"Mesopotamian Magic: Ancient Tablets Reveal a World of Witches, Sorcerers and Exorcists" (A.O)

Postby Wizard » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:04 am




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Re: "Mesopotamian Magic: Ancient Tablets Reveal a World of Witches, Sorcerers and Exorcists" (A.O)

Postby Alys-RaccoonReadings » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:27 pm

That particular site tends to be extremely hit or miss, so you may want to limit how much you read from it and thoroughly check everything you do choose to read. (https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/ancient-origins/)

YouTube is another really unreliable way to get historical and archeological information and news.

Its many spelling errors aside, I found the questions in this post to be a very good guide to evaluating history- and archeology-related sites (https://www.quora.com/Is-ancient-origin ... rchaeology):
1. Check who the authors and owners are. If they are not historians nor archaeologists, there is a good chance the site’s content is bad. There are exceptions, but this is a good starting point.
2. Be [skeptical] of big revolutionary claims. Fringe [hypotheses] aren’t automatically wrong, but bold claims demand bulky evidence. When in doubt, keep the mainstream theory.
3. Be wary of certain key-words or [sentences] in articles. “covered-up discovery”, “revolutionary finding”, “secret origins”, “aliens”, etc. Revolutionary discoveries are exceedingly rare in most sciences and knowledge normally [accumulates] slowly.


That said, there's nothing terribly egregious about this article, but you can read many pieces on this subject that are better, more thorough and more interesting (not surprising given that the website in question mainly consists of "lightly re-written" material from other sources.) And you would find them by simply googling any of the bits you found interesting.

I particularly liked this article (and it links to some others that are related) from Miriam Said at The Met: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/magic/hd_magic.htm

Two thousand years after the end of the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian empires (ca. 883–539 B.C.), it can be difficult to grasp Mesopotamian magic as a cultural concept. Steeped in the philosophical traditions of Western dualism, we often view magic in a binary relation to religion, yet no such distinction existed in Mesopotamia. For people living in ancient Iraq and the imperial peripheries in Syria, Anatolia, and Iran during the first millennium B.C., magic was a part of everyday life. Far from being considered irrational, it was the guiding principle by which Mesopotamians understood various natural phenomena and their positive and negative consequences....The responsibilities of a Mesopotamian magician could come under the umbrella of a number of specialties that we might refer to as magical, scientific, medical, literary, and religious....


One of the most interesting aspects of Mesopotamian (and that word can take in several different cultures) magic is that the advent of writing standardized much of it over time.

Experts called ashipu (41.160.234) were responsible for performing all nonprivate magical acts in elite contexts, such as funerary and mortuary rites, or renewing images of the gods on behalf of the king. The ashipu could also act as an advisor to the Assyrian king. Additionally, physicians, or asu, could treat people suffering from ailments using salves and other remedies, but would also practice their trade alongside the ashipu in ritual performances (86.11.130). Finally, diviners, or baru, solicited omens from gods and interpreted the resulting signs. Often, this was done through a practice known as extispicy, the action of reading the entrails of a sheep (86.11.378b), or reading celestial and terrestrial phenomena. The baru typically worked for the Assyrian king as either a court scholar or a member of a military retinue. All these specialists were the beneficiaries of years of training and centuries of knowledge production. Many of the incantations and their attendant rituals—recorded in such places as the Maqlu texts, a collection of antiwitchcraft rituals dating back to the Old Babylonian period (ca. 1894–1595 B.C.)—were passed down in secret over the course of several centuries.

In addition to texts and ritual practices, there were objects that worked alongside, or independently of, textual traditions. Images were believed to have been enlivened and capable of acting of their own independent wills. Hence, objects were also used to magically avert many crises. The size of these objects varied. They could be small enough to be held in one’s hand or significantly greater than lifesize—and everything in between. Monumental sculptures were carved and installed throughout the palaces of the Neo-Assyrian capital cities....

[Some such] objects were deposited in boxes beneath the floors of homes in locations believed to be the most accessible to malevolent spirits: corners, doorways, and other permeable thresholds between the human realm and the underworld. Since this level of the earth was thought to be vulnerable to malevolent spirits, ancient Assyrians conversely used this space to insert representations of benevolent spirits made from clay (one of the primordial materials of creation) to avert evil in perpetuity....

The human body was also considered susceptible to harm from demons and other malevolent forces, so various adornments were created as a safeguard against such events....Furthermore, the materials used for the creation of amulets and other magical adornment was not random, but followed culturally meaningful practices of production. Texts from the first millennium B.C. tell us which stones were appropriate for various magical and prophylactic purposes (86.11.64). The portability of small-scale, magically efficacious materials would have meant that the average Mesopotamian could have carried a bit of magical protection with him or her everywhere—which was especially necessary in a world beset by everyday dangers.


Other really interesting, in-depth and credible writing on this subject for those wanting a deep dive:

There's a four-volume text by Jack M. Sasson called Civilizations of the Near Ancient East, and The University of Chicago has made the chapter called "Witchcraft, Magic, and Divination in Ancient Mesopotamia" available for free here: https://educatoroutreach.uchicago.edu/s ... hcraft.pdf


These two books by Tzvi Abusch (a scholar at Brandeis):
-Mesopotamian Magic: Textual, Historical, and Interpretative Perspectives (Studies in Ancient Magic and Divination, 1), https://www.amazon.com/Mesopotamian-Mag ... 9056930338 (this one is expensive)
-The Witchcraft Series Maqlû (Writings from the Ancient World), https://www.amazon.com/Witchcraft-Maql% ... 9M6ZH556R9 (this one is available on the Kindle)




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