free web hosting | website hosting | Business Hosting | Free Website Submission | shopping cart | php hosting
Notes to:

Magic in history

A theoretical perspective, and its application to Ancient Mesopotamia

Wim van Binsbergen & Frans Wiggermann

© 1995-99 W.M.J. van Binsbergen & F.A.M. Wiggermann.

contact us at | main text of this article | homepage

Abbreviations (standard Assyriological abbreviations not included)

1 This paper is now in press in a collective volume on Ancient Mesopotamian magic, edited by Tzwi Abusch and Karel van der Toorn (Styx publishers,Groningen). We wish to register our gratitude to the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), Wassenaar, The Netherlands, for initiating and accommodating the theme group on ‘Magic and religion of the Ancient Near East’ during the academic year 1994-95; without the congenial and supportive NIAS environment the present study would never have been undertaken. We also appreciate the year’s leave of absence granted by our respective departments. The earliest version of this paper was presented at the weekly seminar of the NIAS theme group, 17 May, 1995; we are greatly indebted to the other members of this group (Tzvi Abusch, Marc Geller, Shaul Shaked and Karel van der Toorn) for their constructive criticism. A revised version was presented at the conference on ‘Mesopotamian Magic’, NIAS, 6-9 June 1995; among the participants’ remarks we have especially benefited from those made by Irving Finkel and Karel van der Toorn.

2 For surveys of Mesopotamian magic, cf. Bottéro, J., 1988, art. ‘Magie. A. In Mesopotamien’, RLA 7, 3-4: 200-234; Contenau, G., 1947, La magie chez les Assyriens et les Babyloniens, Paris: Payot; Fossey, C., 1902, La magie assyrienne, Etude suivie de textes magiques: Transcrits, traductions et commentaires, Paris: Leroux; Haas, V., 1978, Magie und Mythen in Babylonien, Vastorf: Merlin; Lenormant, F., 1874, Les sciences occultes en Asie: La magie chez les Chaldéens et les origines accadiennes, Paris: Maisonneuve; Engl. tr. Chaldean magic (enlarged), London: Bagster, 1877; Reiner, E., 1966, ‘La magie babylonienne’, in: Le monde du sorcier, SO 7, Paris: Seuil, pp. 67-98; Reiner, E., 1995, Astral magic in Babylonia, TAPhS 85, 4 , Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society; Thompson, R. C., 1900, The reports of the magicians and astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon in the British Museum: The original texts, printed in cuneiform characters, edited with translations, notes, vocabulary, index, and an introduction, 2 vols, London: Luzac.

3 A comparable state of affairs obtains in the study of Ancient Egypt, cf. Trigger, B.C., 1995, Early civilizations: Ancient Egypt in context, Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, first published 1993. With regard to the periodisation of socio-cultural analysis Trigger offers an useful generational sequence which helps to elucidate our own position. He sketches a development from historical particularism (as exemplified by Boas’s insistence on understanding a culture on its own basis, without comparison — a position which for the Ancient Near East corresponds with Landsberger’s insistence on Eigenbegrifflichkeit), via general comparison as in processual archaeology and in Steward’s work, to the present post-processual phase which seeks to combine a revived interest in the historical process with general comparison and theory. Cf. Boas, F., 1940, Race, language and culture, New York: Macmillan, first published 1902; Steward, J.H., 1949, ‘Cultural causality and law: A trial formulation of the development of early civilizations’, AA 51: 1-27.

4 Durkheim, E., 1912, Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France; La Barre, W, 1978, ‘Freudian biology, magic and religion’, JAPsA 26: 813-830; Freud, S., 1953-1974, The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, 24 vols, transl. & ed. J.Strachey, in coll. with A. Freud, and with ass. of A. Strachey & A. Tyson, London: Hogarth / Institute of Psycho-Analysis; Jung, C.G., 1938, Psychology and religion, New Haven (Conn.): Yale University Press.

5 Frazer, J.G., 1911-1915, The golden bough: A study in magic and religion, 3rd ed., rev. & enlarged, I-VIII (12 vols.), London: Macmillan; first published 1890. Cf. the criticism by Malinowski, B., 1954, Magic, science and religion and other essays, New York: Doubleday (Anchor); first published as a collection 1948; Malinowski, B., 1972, ‘The role of magic and religion’, in: W. Lessa & E.Z. Vogt, eds., Reader in comparative religion, New York: Harper & Row, pp. 63-72; Wax, M., & R. Wax, 1963, ‘The notion of magic’, CA 4: 495-518; Versnel, H.S., 1991, ‘Some reflections on the relationship magic-religion’, Numen 38: 177-197.

6 Cf. Brooker, W.M.A., 1971, ‘Magic and semantics’, AA 73, 5: 1264-1265; Evans-Pritchard, E.E., 1972, Witchcraft, oracles and magic among the Azande, London: Oxford University Press; reprint of the first edition of 1937; Horton, R. & Finnegan, R., eds., 1973, Modes of thought: Essays on thinking in Western and non-Western societies, London: Faber; Jarvie, I.C. & Agassi, J., 1967, ‘The problem of the rationality of magic’, BJS 18: 55-74, reprinted in: Wilson, B., ed., 1970, Rationality, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 172-93; Macho, T., 1981, ‘Bemerkungen zu einer philosophischen Theorie der Magie’, in: H.P. Duerr, ed., Der Wissenschaftler und das Irrationale, Vol. 1, Frankfurt am Main: Syndikat, pp. 330-350; Yalman, N., 1964, ‘Magic’, in: D.L. Sills, ed., International encyclopedia of the social sciences, New York / Glencoe: Macmillan / The Free Press, 9: 521-528;

7 Versnel, o.c. note 5.

8 Oppenheim, A.L., 1970, Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a dead civilization, Chicago / London: University of Chicago Press, 4th impr; 1st impr 1964.

9 Popper, K., 1959, The logic of scientific discovery, New York: Basic Books.

10 A typical example for the study of religion is: Swanson, G., 1960, The birth of the gods, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

11 Tambiah, S.J., 1985, Culture, thought and social action: An anthropological perspective, Cambridge (Mass.) / London: Harvard University Press: ch. 1 and 2; cf. Carucci, L.M., 1993, ‘Medical magic and medicinal cure: Manipulating meanings with ease of disease’, CultA 8: 157-168.

12 Frazer, o.c. note 5; the present quotation is after the abridged edition: Frazer, J.G., 1957, The golden bough: A study in magic and religion, abridged edition, 2 vols., London: Macmillan, i: 67.

13 Hubert, H., & M. Mauss, 1966, ‘Théorie générale de la magie’, in: M. Mauss, 1966, Sociologie et anthropologie: Précédé d’une introduction à l’oeuvre de Marcel Mauss par Claude Lévi-Strauss, Professeur au Collège de France: Avertissement de Georges Gurvitch: Professeur à la Sorbonne, 3rd ed., Paris: Presses Universitaires de France; first published in: Année Sociologique, 7, 1906; Mauss, M., 1972, A general theory of magic, transl. by Robert Brain, New York: Norton, first published 1950.

14 Cf. Lévi-Strauss, C., 1966, ‘Introduction à l’oeuvre de Marcel Mauss’, in: M. Mauss, 1966, Sociologie et anthropologie: Précédé d’une introduction à l’oeuvre de Marcel Mauss par Claude Lévi-Strauss, Professeur au Collège de France: Avertissement de Georges Gurvitch: Professeur à la Sorbonne, 3rd ed., Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, pp. ix-lii.

15 Cf. Malinowski, B., 1935, Coral gardens and their magic, 2 vols. London: George Allen, Unwin; and Malinowski 1954, 1972, o.c.

16 Lévi-Strauss, C., 1963, ‘The sorcerer and his magic’, in his Structural anthropology, New York: Basic Books, pp. 161-180; Tambiah o.c. note 11.

17 Cf. Wax 1963, o.c., Rosengren, K.E., 1976, ‘Malinowski’s magic: The riddle of the empty cell’, CA 17: 667-85; Hammond, D., 1970, ‘Magic: A problem in semantics’, AA 72: 1349-1356.

18 E.g. Middleton, J., ed., 1967, Magic, witchcraft, and curing, Garden City (NY): American Museum of Natural History, Natural History Press; Kiev, A., ed., 1964, Magic, faith and healing, New York: Macmillan.

19 We are indebted to Willem van der Wal at NIAS for carrying out the survey, and to the NIAS management for making available additional funding towards the use of the DIALOG data-base.

20 E.g. J. Barry, 1996, ed., Magic, faith, medicine: Alternative healing traditions in Europe, 1500 to the present, London etc.: Routledge; Derby, L, 1994, ‘Haitians, magic, and money: Raza and society in the Haitian Dominican borderlands, 1900 to 1937’, CSSH 36: 488-526; Flint, V.I.J., 1992, The Rise of magic in early medieval Europe, Princeton (N.J): Princeton University Press; first published 1991, Oxford: Clarendon; Godbeer, R., 1992, The Devil’s dominion: Magic and religion in early New-England, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Kieckhefer, R., 1994, ‘The specific rationality of medieval magic’, AHR 99: 813-836; Labouvie, E., 1992, Verbotene Künste: Volksmagie und Ländlicher Aberglaube in den Dorfgemeinden des Saarraumes (16.-19. Jahrhundert), St. Ingbert: Rührig, Saarland Bibliotheek 4, doctoral dissertation, University of Saarbrucken, 1989; McMillan, T.J., 1994, ‘Black magic: Witchcraft, race, and resistance in colonial New-England’, JBS 25: 99-117; Scribner, R.W., 1993, ‘The Reformation, popular magic, and the disenchantment of the world’, JIDH 23: 475-494; Tomlinson, G., 1993, Music in Renaissance magic: Toward a historiography of others, Chicago: Chicago University Press. Meanwhile, the broad categorization suggested here does not preclude that the term ‘magic’ is still being used by highly respected contemporary anthropologists relying on synchronic ethnography, e.g. W. van Wetering among the contributors to the Barry volume cited above, or: Meyer, B., 1995, ‘Magic, mermaids and modernity: The attraction of Pentecostalism in Africa’, Etnofoor, 8, 2: 47-67

21 Argyrou, V., 1993, ‘Under a spell: The strategic use of magic in Greek Cypriot society’, AE 20: 256-271; Brown, M.F., 1993, Tsewas gift-magic and meaning in an Amazonian society, Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, first published 1986; Some, M.P., 1994, Of water and the spirit: Ritual, magic, and initiation in the life of an African shaman, New York: Putnam; Voeks, R., 1993, ‘African medicine and magic in the Americas’, GR 83: 66-78.

22 Horton, B., 1993, Patterns of thought in Africa and the West: Essays on magic, religion and science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Lanwerd, S., 1993, Mythos, Mutterrecht und Magie: Zur Geschichte religionswissenschaftlicher Begriffe, Berlin: Reimer; Tambiah, S.J., 1990, Magic, science, religion, and the scope of rationality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

23 E.g. Stocking, G.W., 1992, The ethnographer’s magic and other essays in the history of anthropology, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press; Dauber, K., 1995, ‘Bureaucratizing the ethnographer’s magic’, CA 36: 75-95, with reference to the ethnographer himself.

24 H. Powdermaker, 1951, Hollywood, the dream factory: An anthropologist looks at the movie-makers, London: Secker & Warburg. Incidentally, her fascination with the anthropology of modern life was also to yield a remarkably lifely early study, not of the stereotypical African village, but of teeming and innovating urban life on the Zambian Copperbelt: Powdermaker, H., 1962, Copper town: Changing Africa: The human situation of the Rhodesian Copperbelt, New York: Harper & Row. We owe the reference to her work on modern manufactured dream magic to Bonno Thoden van Velzen, who also informs us that the great Dutch anthropologist of religion Van Baal repeatedly expressed the opinion — generally shared among his colleagues in the discipline since the middle of the twentieth century — that the concept of magic had better be abolished in anthropological discourse.

25 To gather access to the history of this extended magical tradition we have benefitted from the following works, among many others: Barb, A.A., 1963, ‘The survival of magic arts’, in: Momigliano, A., ed., The conflict between paganism and christianity in the fourth century, Oxford: Clarendon, pp. 100-125; Betz, H.D., 1986, The Greek magical papyri in translation: Including the demotic spells, Chicago / London: University of Chicago Press; Bidez, J., & F. Cumont, 1938, Les mages hellénisés: Zoroastre, Ostanès, et Hystape d’après la tradition grècque, 2 vols, Paris: Les belles lettres; Blau, L., 1898, Das altjüdische Zauberwesen, Strassburg: Trübner; Cumont, F., 1929, Les religions orientales dans le paganisme romain, Paris: Geuthner, 4th ed; Dieterich, A., 1891, Abraxas: Studien zur Religionsgeschichte des spätern Altertums, Leipzig: Teubner; Doutté, E., 1909, Magie et religion dans l’Afrique du Nord, Alger: Jourdain; Graf, F., 1994, La magie dans l’antiquité gréco-romaine, Paris: Les Belles Lettres; Hopfner, T., 1921, Griechisch-ägyptischer Offenbarungszauber: Mit einer eingehenden Darstellung des griechisch-synkretistischen Daemonenglaubens und der Voraussetzungen und Mittel des Zaubers überhaupt und der magischen Divination im besonderen, Studien zur Paläographie und Papyruskunde, xxi, Leipzig: Haessel; Hopfner, T., 1924, Griechisch-ägyptischer Offenbarungszauber: Seine Methoden, Studien zur Paläographie und Papyruskunde, xxiii, Leipzig: Haessel; Hopfner,T., 1965, ‘Mageía’, PW 27: cols. 301-393; reprint of the 1928 ed.; Hubert, H., 1904, ‘Magia’, DAGR, iii: 1494-1521; Kropp, A.M., 1930-31, Ausgewählte Koptische Zaubertexte, 3 vols., Brussels: Fondation Reine Elisabeth; Lloyd, G.E.R., 1984, Magic, reason and experience: Studies in the origin and development of Greek science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; earlier ed. 1979; Meyer, M., & R. Smith, 1994, Ancient Christian magic: Coptic texts of ritual power, San Francisco: Harper; Naveh, J., & S. Shaked, 1985, Amulets and magic bowls: Aramaic incantations of late antiquity, Jerusalem; Preisendanz, K., 1951, ‘Zur Überlieferungsgeschichte der spätantike Magie’, Aus der Welt des Buches: Zentralblatt für Bibiliothekswesen, Beiheft 75, Leipzig: Harrassowitz, p. 223-240; Preisendanz, K., with coll. of A. Henrichs, A. Abt, E. Diehl, S. Eitrem, A. Jacoby, eds, 1972-74, Papyri Graecae magicae: Die griechische Zauberpapyri, 2nd ed., 2 vols., Stuttgart: Teubner; first published 1928-1931 (PGM); Thomas, K., 1978, Religion and the decline of magic, Harmondsworth: Penguin; Thorndike, L., 1923-58, A history of magic and experimental science: During the first thirteen centuries of our era, 8 vols., New York: Columbia University Press; Ullman, M., 1972, Die Natur- und Geheimwissenschaft im Islam, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Erste Abteilung: Der Nahe und der Mittlere Osten, Ergänzungsband vi, 2. Abschnitt, Leiden: Brill; Yamauchi, E.M., 1967, Mandaic Incantation texts, New Haven (Conn.): American Oriental Society; Yates, F.A., 1978, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic tradition, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul / Chicago: University of Chicago Press, first published 1964.

Of course, Ancient Mesopotamia was not the only original contributor to this extended tradition; Ancient Egypt made its own fairly independent contributions, cf. Griffith, F.L., & H. Thompson, 1974, eds., The Leyden papyrus: An Egyptian magical book, New York: Dover, reprint of the 1904 ed.; Pinch, G., 1994, Magic in Ancient Egypt, London: British Museum Press; Sauneron, S, 1966, ‘Le monde du magicien égyptien’, in: Le monde du sorcier, SO 7, Paris: Seuil, pp. 36-39; Wilkinson, R.H., 1994, Symbol and magic in Egyptian art, London: Thames & Hudson.

26 The scholarly literature on the history of astrology is extensive, the popular literature enormous but largely of appalling quality. Important works relating to the history of astrology, and partly overlapping with the literature on the general magical tradition of the Ancient Near East and Europe, include: Barton, T., 1994, Ancient astrology, London: Routledge; Berthelot, R., 1938, La pensée de l’Asie et l’astrobiologie, Paris: Payot; Bouché-Leclercq, A., 1899, L’astrologie grecque, Paris: Leroux; Boll, F., C. Bezold & W. Gundel, 1966, Sternglaube und Sterndeutung: Die Geschichte und das Wesen der Astrologie: 5. durchgesehene Auflage mit einem bibliographischen Anhang von H.G. Gundel, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftlichte Buchgesellschaft (first published Leipzig 1926: Teubner Verlag); Cumont, F., F. Boll et al., eds., 1898-1953, Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum, vols. 1-12, Bruxelles: Lamertin; Cumont, F., 1937, L’Égypte des astrologues, Bruxelles: Fondation égyptologique reine Élisabeth; Festugière, R.P., 1943, La révélation d’Hermès Trismégiste, I: L’astronomie et les sciences occultes, Etudes bibliques, Paris: Lecoffre / Gabalda; Gundel, H.G., 1968, Weltbild und Astrologie in den griechischen Zauberpapyri, München: Beiträge zur Papyrusforschung; Gundel, H.G., 1972, ‘Zodiakos’, PW 2nd ed., 19: col. 462-709; Gundel, W., & H.G. Gundel, 1966, Astrologumena: Die astrologische Literatur in der Antike und ihre Geschichte, Sudhoffs Archiv 6, Wiesbaden: Steiner; Gundel, W., 1936, Dekane und Dekansternbilder: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Sternbilder der Kulturvölker: Mit einer Untersuchung über die Ägyptischen Sternbilder und Gottheiter der Dekane von S. Schott, Studien der Bibliothek Wartburg, Bd 19, reprinted 1969, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft; Gundel, W., 1936, Neue astrologische Texte des Hermes Trismegistos, ABAW new series 12; Nilsson, M.P., 1943, The rise of astrology in the Hellenistic age, Meddelande från Lunds Astronomiska Observatorium, Ser. ii, nr. iii, Historical notes and papers, no. 18; Pingree, D., 1978, The Yavanadj‹ataka of Sphujidhvaja, Harvard Oriental Series 48, 2 vols, Cambridge (Mass.) / London: Harvard University Press; Pingree, D., 1979, ‘Ilm al-hay’a’, EI new ed., III: 1135-1138; Rehm, A., 1941, Parapegmastudien, ABAW, new series, 19; Reiner, E., o.c. note 2; Tester, S.J., 1989, A history of western astrology, New York: Ballantine, first published 1987; Thomas, K., 1978, Religion and the decline of magic, Harmondsworth: Penguin (astrology: part III, pp. 335-460); Wright, R. Ramsay, 1934, The book of instruction in the elements of the art of astrology by Abu’l-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni: Written in Ghaznah, 1029 A.D., reproduced from British Museum MS. Or. 8349, London: Luzac & Co.

27 Ritter, H. & M. Plessner, 1962, Picatrix: Das Ziel des Weisen von Pseudo-Magriti, Studies of the Warburg Institute, 27, London: Warburg Institute; transl. of: al-Maghriti (Pseudo-), Abu Maslama, 1933, GHayat al-/hakim wa-Ÿha/k/k an-natidjatayn bi-t-taŸkdim, ed. H. Ritter, Leipzig, Teubner, 1933, Studien der Bibliothek Warburg, 12; Hartner, W., 1965, ‘Notes on Picatrix’, Isis 56: 438-51; Pingree, D., 1980, ‘Some of the sources of the GHayat al-/Hakim’, JWCI 43: 1-15.

28 Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1995, ‘Four-tablet divination as trans-regional medical technology in Southern Africa’, JRA 25, 2: 114-140; in press (1996), ‘Regional and historical connections of four-tablet divination in Southern Africa’, JRA 26; and extensive references cited there.

29 Schapera, I., 1963, Government and politics in tribal societies: Josiah Mason lectures delivered at the University of Birmingham, London: Watts, first published 1956; Kuper, A., 1982, Wives for cattle, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1981, Religious change in Zambia: Exploratory studies, London / Boston: Kegan Paul International.

30 For recent general works on the history of Mesopotamia the non-specialist may be referred, in addition to CAH, to: Knapp, A.B., 1988, The history and culture of Ancient Western Asia and Egypt; Postgate, J.N., 1992, Early Mesopotamia: Society and economy at the dawn of history, London & New York: Routledge; Nissen, H.J., 1988, The early history of the Ancient Near East, 9000-2000 B.C., Chicago: University of Chicago Press; a general introductory work with chapters on history, social institutions and religion is the four-volume: Sasson, J.M., with J. Baines, G. Beckman & K.S. Rubinson, eds., 1995, Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, I-IV, New York etc.: Scribner / Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

31 Cf.: Dodds, E.R., 1951, The Greeks and the irrational, Berkeley / Los Angeles: University of California Press; Onians, R.B., 1951, The origins of European thought: About the body, the mind, the soul, the world, time, and fate: New interpretations of Greek, Roman and kindred evidence also of some basic Jewish and Christian beliefs, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Snell, B., 1955, Die Entdeckung des Geistes: Studien zur Entstehung des europaischen Denkens bei den Griechen, Hamburg: Claassen & Goverts. In social-science circles, Jaynes’s somewhat popular book has made considerable impact: Jaynes, J., 1976, The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Cie; cf. Vroon, P.A., 1981, ‘Zelfinterpretatie en motivatie bij Homerus’, NedTP 36: 219-229; Vroon, P.A., 1992, Wolfsklem: De evolutie van het menselijk gedrag, Baarn: Ambo.

32 Implied in the following sections is the theory of the articulation of modes of production, cf. van Binsbergen, W.M.J., & P.L. Geschiere, 1985, ‘Marxist theory and anthropological practice: The application of French Marxist anthropology in fieldwork’, in: W.M.J. van Binsbergen & P.L. Geschiere, eds., Old modes of production and capitalist encroachment: Anthropological explorations in Africa, London / Boston: Kegan Paul International, pp. 235-89; van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1981, Religious change in Zambia, London / Boston: Kegan Paul International; van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1992, Tears of Rain: Ethnicity and history in central western Zambia, London / Boston: Kegan Paul International; van Binsbergen, W.M.J., in press, ‘ ‘‘Then give him to the crocodiles’’: State formation, violence and cultural discontinuity in pre-colonial South Central Africa’, Africa (London); Dutch version, ‘ ‘‘ Geef hem dan maar aan de krokodillen’’: Staatsvorming, geweld en culturele discontinuïteit in voor-koloniaal Zuidelijk Centraal Afrika’, Antropologische Verkenningen, 12 (1993), 4: 10-31; and references cited there. For a related perspective specifically adapted to Ancient Mesopotamia, cf. Service, E.R., 1975, Origins of the state and civilization: The process of cultural evolution, New York: Norton: ch. 12, p. 203f.

33 The complementary duality of religion as a model both of, and for, social life, has been inspiringly argued in a famous article by Geertz, C., 1966, ‘Religion as a cultural system’, in: Banton, M., ed., Anthropological approaches to the study of religion, London: Tavistock., pp. 1-46.

34 Orwell, G., 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four, London: Secker & Warburg; Huxley, A., 1945, Brave New World, Stockholm: Continental Book Company, first published 1932.

35 This theme is less developed in Foucault’s monumental history of sexuality: Foucault, M., 1976-1984, Histoire de la sexualité, 3 vols, Paris: Gallimard; however, cf. Rattray Taylor, G., 1953, Sex in history, London: The past in the present; Ginzburg, C., 1966, I Benandanti: Stregoneria e culti agrari tra cinquecento e seicento, Torino: Einaudi; Ginzburg, C., 1992, Ecstasies: Deciphering the witches’ sabbath, tr. R. Rosenthal, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books; repr. of the first Engl. edition, 1991, Pantheon Books, tr. of Storia notturna, Torino: Einaudi, 1989.

36 General references on Ancient Mesopotamian religion and its history, for the benefit of non-assyriological readers: Bottéro, J., 1951, La religion babylonienne, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France; Bottéro, J., 1974, ‘Symptômes, signes, écritures: En Mésopotamie ancienne’, in: Divination et rationalité, Paris: Seuil, pp. 70-195; Frankfort, H., 1948, Kingship and the Gods: A study of Ancient Near Eastern religion as the integration of society and nature, Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Frankfort, H., Frankfort, H.A., Wilson, J.A., Jacobsen, T., & Irwin, W.A., 1957, Before philosophy: The intellectual adventure of Ancient Man: An essay on speculative thought in the Ancient Near East, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, first published 1946; Jacobsen T., 1976, The treasures of darkness: A history of Mesopotamian religion, New Haven & London: Yale University Press; Sasson c.s. o.c. note 30, III part 8, ‘Religion and science’, pp. 1685-2094.

37 Words and gods’ names will be cited as S u m e r i a n / Akkadian, with, depending on the text discussed, one or the other language form in parentheses. For the Akkadian notion of fate see J.N. Lawson, 1994, The Concept of Fate in Ancient Mesopotamia of the first millennium: Toward an understanding of shimtu, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz (Ph.D. thesis Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1992).

38 For a review of the meanings of this word see, with previous literature, G. Farber, RLA, s.v. ‘m e ’; cf. also K. Oberhuber, 1991, Linguistisch-philologische Prolegomena zur altorientalischen Religionsgeschichte, Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck, Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft : Vorträge und Kleinere Schriften, 53, pp. 11ff.

39 See J. Assmann, 1990, Ma’at. Gerechtigkeit und Unsterblichkeit im alten Ägypten, München: Beck.

40 See F.A.M. Wiggermann, 1992, ‘Mythological foundations of Nature’, in: D.J.W. Meijer ed., Natural Phenomena: Their meaning, depiction and description in the Ancient Near East, Verhandelingen / Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. Afdeling Letterkunde, n.s., 152, Amsterdam: North-Holland, pp 279-306, esp. 287ff.

41 J.J.A. van Dijk, RLA s.v. ‘Lugale’, with previous literature; for the opposition a z a g : n a m t a r in this myth see provisionally F.A.M. Wiggermann, RLA s.v. ‘Mischwesen’, p. 224.

42 For a recent translation, with references to text editions, see Hecker, K., 1994, ‘Das Anzu-Epos’, TUAT III / 4. Mythen and Epen II: 745-759.

43 Tablet II 62-65.

44 A.R. George, 1986, ‘Sennacherib and the tablet of Sins’, Iraq 48: 133-146; our reference is to p. 133: 4.

45 Erra I 170.

46 UH 13-15:36.

47 Edition and translation of the text, with, discussion of Adapa’s place as a sage: S.A. Picchioni, 1981, Il Poemetto di Adapa, Budapest: Eoetvoes Lorand Tudomanyegyetem; a new edition is now being prepared by S. Izre’el.

48 Cf. P. Michalowski, 1980, ‘Adapa and the ritual process’, RO 41: 77-82.

49 Cf. Luck, G., 1985, Arcana mundi: Magic and the occult in the Greek and Roman worlds: A collection of ancient texts: translated, annotated and introduced by G. Luck, Baltimore / London: John Hopkins University Press.

50 Bauer Asb. 2 77 r. 8, cf. A.L. Oppenheim, 1974, ‘A Babylonian diviner’s manual’, JNES 33 197-220.

51 W.G. Lambert, 1967, ‘Enmeduranki and related matters’, JCS 21: 126-138, espec. 132:7f.

52 64:1ff. in W.G. Lambert, 1962, ‘A catalogue of texts and authors’, JCS 16: 59-77.

53 I.L. Finkel, 1988, ‘Adad-apla-iddina, Esagil-kin-apli, and the Series SA.GIG’, in: B. Eichler, E. Leichty eds., A Scientific Humanist: Studies in Memory of Abraham Sachs, Philadelphia: Occasional Publications of the S.N. Kramer Fund, 9, pp. 143-159; our reference is to p. 148: 29f.

54 Cited from H.W.F. Saggs, 1978, The Encounter with the Divine in Mesopotamia and Israel, London: Athlone Press, p. 137, where this problem is discussed.

55 CT 40 3:63.

56 KAR 382:7.

57 Literature on omens in the Old World is fairly extensive but largely obscure.

On omens in South Asia, see: Bijalwan, C.D., 1977, Hindu omens, New Delhi: Sanskriti in association with Arnold-Heinemann; Devkar, V.L., 1954, ‘Omens on birds as described in the Citraprasna or Sakunamala MSS in the Baroda Museum’, BMPGB 10-11: 25-31; Govindasami, S.K., 1941, ‘Omens and divination in early Tamil religion’, JAnnU 11: 1-7; Gray, L.H., 1910, ‘The Parsi-Persian Burj-Namah, or Book of Omens from the Moon’, JAOS 30: 336-342; Pandit, V.R., 1951, ‘Omens and portents in Vedic literature’, Proceedings of the 13th All-India Oriental Congress, 2: 65-71; Pillai, G.S, 1951, ‘Omens and beliefs of the early Tamils’, JAnnU 16: 37-55; Raghunathji, K., 1885, ‘Omens from the falling of house lizards’, IndAnt 14: 112-115; Ray, S.C, 1924, ‘Magical practices, omens and dreams among the Birbers’, JB(O)RS 10: 209-220; Vyas, S., 1952-53, ‘Beliefs in omens in the Ramayana age’, JOIB 2: 1-8; Weber, A., 1859, ‘Zwei vedische Texte über Omina und Portenta’, Abhandlungen der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin: Aus dem Jahre 1858, Philologische und historische Abhandlungen, Berlin: Dümmler, for: Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, pp. 313-413.

A discussion of omens Arabian world in: Wellhausen, J., 1927, Reste arabisches Heidentums, Berlin / Leipzig: de Gruyter, 2nd ed., pp. 200f.

Representative references to omens Africa e.g. to be found in: Simmons, D. C., 1956, ‘Efik divination, ordeals and omens’, SWJA 12, 2: 223-228; Berglund, A.-I., 1989, Zulu thought-patterns and symbolism, London / Cape Town & Johannesburg: Hurst / David Philip, first published 1976 (see index s.v. omens); Doke, C.M., 1970, The Lambas of Northern Rhodesia: A study of their customs and beliefs, Westport (Conn.): Negro University Press, first published London: Harrop, 1931 (see index s.v. omen). Not specifically on omens but a standard recent publication on African divination in general is: Peek, P.M., ed., 1991, African divination systems: Ways of knowing, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

On omens in Greek and Roman antiquity, cf. Bouché-Leclercq, A., 1879-1882, Histoire de la divination dans l’antiquité, Paris: Leroux, 4 vols, i: 177f; Flacelière, R., 1961, Devins et oracles grecs, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, série: Que sais-je?, English tr. Greek oracles, London: Paul Elek, 1965, second edition 1976; Luck, o.c. note 49, pp. 229ff; Plinius, Hist. Nat. xvii, 38, 243.

Finally, on omens in China: Doré, H., 1914-1929, Recherches sur les superstitions en Chine, 15 vols., Pt 1, vol 3: Méthodes de divination (p. 217-322), Shanghai : T'ou-se-we; Smith, R.J., 1991, Fortune-tellers and philosophers: Divination in traditional Chinese society, Boulder / San Francisco / Oxford: Westview Press.passim (see index s.v. omens, portents).

58 CT 6 1ff.

59 Kramer, S.N., 1970, ‘Enki and his inferiority complex’, Or (ns) 39: 103-110.

60 M. Krebernik, 1984, Die Beschwörungen aus Fara und Ebla, Hildesheim: Georg Olms, p. 211.

61 For this notion and its relation to m e see G. Farber-Flügge, 1973, Der Mythos ‘I n a n n a und E n k i ’ unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Liste der m e , StPsm 10, pp. 181ff. (to 1.23 add KAR 4:4); Ee I 61f. (where Ea establishes the ‘designs of everything’ for his incantation); and UH 3:125 (where the incantation specialist states that ‘the designs of E n k i ’ are in his hands).

62 Abusch, T., 1989, ‘The demonic image of the witch in standard Babylonian literature: The reworking of popular conceptions by learned exorcists’, in: J. Neusner, E.S. Frerichs & P.V. McCracken Flesher, ed., Religion, science and magic in concert and in conflict, New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 38-58.

63 Cf. r. ii 7 of the late astral mythological commentary discussed in: Landsberger, B., 1923, ‘Ein astralmythologischer Kommentar aus der Spätzeit babylonischer Gelehrsamkeit’, AfK 1: 43-48; there, the constellation enzu, ‘goat’, is associated with Tiamat and the Witch (reference courtesy T. Abusch).

64 For a summary of Seleucid astrological ‘philosophy’ through the eyes of Diodorus Siculus and Philo of Alexandria, see F. Cumont, 1960, Astrology and Religion among the Greeks and Romans, New York: Dover pp. 17-21 (first published 1912).

65 CT 22 1:23.

66 Cf. Ritter, E.F., 1965, ‘Magical-expert (-ashipu) and physician (-asu): Notes on two complementary professions in Babylonian medicine’, in: H.G. Güterbock & T. Jacobsen, eds., Studies in honour of Benno Landsberger on his seventy-fifth birthday, April 21, 1965, Chicago: University of Chicago Press for Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, pp. 299-322.

67 Cf. E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1967, ‘The morphology and function of magic’, in J. Middleton, ed., Magic, Witchcraft, and Curing, Garden City (NY): American Museum of Natural History, Natural History Press, pp. 1-22 (first published in 1929 in AA 31: 619-641).

68 From R.D. Biggs, 1967, ‘ÍÀ.ZI.GA. Ancient Mesopotamian Potency Incantations’, TCS II, 17: 12ff.

69 BRM IV 19 / / 20 and duplicates, cf. A. Ungnad, 1942-1944, ‘Besprechungskunst und Astrologie in Babylonien’, AfO 14: 251-284; also E. Reiner, 1990, ‘Nocturnal talk’, in: T. Abusch, J. Huehnergard, & P. Steinkeller, eds., Lingering over words: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of William L. Moran, Atlanta (Georgia): Scholars Press, pp. 421-424.

70 KAR 71, 237, 238, LKA 104-107a, STT 237, SbTU II no. 24, cf. J.V. Kinnier Wilson, 1965, ‘An introduction to Babylonian psychiatry’, AS 16: 289ff; T. Abusch, 1972, Babylonian witchcraft literature, Atlanta (Georgia): Scholars Press, pp. 92ff.

71 SbTU 2 24:7.

72 BAM IV 376 iv 9-11.

73 Cf. also K. Yalvaç, 1965, ‘Eine Liste von Amulettsteinen im Museum zu Istanbul’, AS 16: 329-336.

74 Cf. R. Labat, 1950, ‘La pharmacopée au service de la piété’, Sem 3: 5-18; F. Köcher, 1963, AfO 20: 156-158; BAM 314-316.

75 W.G. Lambert, 1957 / 58, ‘An incantation of the Maqlu type’, AfO 18: 287-299; our reference is to p. 289:12f.

76 Major publications on astrology in Ancient Mesopotamia up to Seleucid times include the following: al-Rawi, F.N.H. & A.R. George, 1991-1992, ‘Enuma Anu Enlil XIV and other early astronomical tables’, AfO 38-39: 52-73; Baigent, M., 1994, From the omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia, Harmondsworth: Arkana / Penguin Books; Bezold, C., & F. Boll, 1911, Reflexe astrologischer Keilinschriften bei griechischen Schiftstellern, AHAW 7: 1-54; Bezold, C., 1911, Astronomie, Himmelschau und Astrallehre bei den Babyloniern, SHAW 2, no. 18; Bezold, C., 1918-1919, ‘Assyriologische Randbemerkungen’, ZA 32: 206-214; Hunger, H., 1992, Astrological reports to Assyrian kings, State archives of Assyria, vol. viii, Helsinki: Helsinki University Press; Lambert, W.G., 1987, ‘Babylonian astrological omens and their stars’, JAOS 107: 93-97; Miller, R.A, 1988, ‘Pleiades perceived: MUL.MUL to Subaru’, JAOS 108: 1-25; Oppenheim, A.L., 1969, ‘Divination and celestial observation in the last Assyrian empire’, Centaurus, 14: 97-135; Reiner, E., 1985, ‘The uses of astrology’, JAOS 105: 589-595; Reiner, o.c. note 2; Rochberg-Halton, F., 1984, ‘New evidence for the history of astrology’, JNES 43: 115-140; Rochberg-Halton, F., 1987, ‘Mixed traditions in Late Babylonian astrology’, ZA 77: 207-228; Rochberg-Halton, F., 1988, ‘Benefic and malefic planets in Babylonian astrology’, in: E. Leichty, M deJ. Ellis & P. Gerardi, eds., A scientific humanist: Studies in memory of Abraham Sachs, Philadelphia: Occasional Publications of the Samuel Noah Kramer Fund, 9, pp. 323-328; Rochberg-Halton, F., 1987, ‘The assumed 29th akhu tablet of Enuma Anu Enlil’, in: Rochberg-Halton, F., ed., Language, Literature and history: Philological and historical studies presented to Erica Reiner, New Haven (Conn.): American Oriental Society, pp. 327-350; Rochberg-Halton, F., 1988, Aspects of Babylonian celestial divination: The lunar eclipse tablets of Enuma Anu Enlil, AfO Beiheft 22, Horn (Austria): Berger; Rochberg-Halton, F., 1989, ‘Babylonian horoscopes and their sources’, Or (n.s.) 58: 102-123; Rochberg-Halton, F., E. Reiner & D. Pingree, eds., 1975 & 1981, Babylonian planetary omens, Malibu: Udena; Sachs, A., 1952, ‘Babylonian horoscopes’, JCS 6: 49-75; Schott, A., 1938, ‘Nabu-ahhe-eriba, der Astrologe mit den Silbenlesungen’, ZA 44, 194ff; Ungnad, A., 1941-1944, ‘Besprechungskunst und Astrologie in Babylonien’, AfO, 14: 251-284; van Soldt, W.H., 1995, Solar omens of Enuma Anu Elil: Tablets 23 (24) - 29 (30), Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten; Walker, C.B.F., 1989, ‘A sketch of the development of Mesopotamian astrology and horoscopes’, in: Kitson, A., ed., History and astrology, London: Mandala, Unwin Paperbacks, pp. 7-14; Weidner, E.F., 1941-1944, 1954-1956, 1968-1969, ‘Die Astrologische Serie Enuma Anu Enlil’, AfO 14: 172-95, 308-18; 17: 71-89; 22: 65-75; Weidner, E.F., 1959-1960, ‘Ein astrologischer Sammeltext aus der Sargonidenzeit’, AfO 19: 105-13.

77 Oppenheim, 1974, o.c. note 50, p. 204: 38ff, p. 207.

78 Cf. Baigent o.c. note 76.

79 Cf. Mackenzie, D.N., 1964, ‘Zoroastrian astrology in the Bundahis’, BSOAS 27: 511-529; Gordon, R.L., 1975, ‘Franz Cumont and the doctrines of Mithraism’, in: J.R. Hinnells, ed., Mithraic studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

contact us at | main text of this article | homepage

page last modified: 11-04-99