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Sick Spirit Drugs and Demonic Exorcisms Within the Temple Faculties of Mesopotamia

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Within the temple-schools of Mesopotamia, college students discovered exorcism rituals, the way to combine therapeutic atonements, carry out astrology, and the way to remedy demonic possession. Whereas these abilities could appear archaic now, the temple-schools really served as the primary medical colleges. They even educated their college students on the research of contract regulation, ethics, medical billing, and accounting. They had been hubs of mental exercise. The temple clergymen produced textual content books to coach younger Within the temple-schools of Mesopotamia, college students discovered exorcism rituals, the way to combine therapeutic atonements, carry out astrology, and the way to remedy demonic possession. Whereas these abilities could appear archaic now, the temple-schools really served as the primary medical colleges. medical college students, the candidates of the priesthood. Because of the meticulous record-keeping of the Sumerians, archaeologists are capable of research their early medical information and non secular beliefs.

Spirit Sicknesses of the Sumerians

What students have discovered is that the Sumerians believed sure spirits brought about particular ailments, which could possibly be recognized by way of a affected person’s signs. This spirit entity would enter the physique by way of the affected person’s head. It was vital for the priest to know the title of the entity in order that he may prescribe the correct remedy. It was as if the names of the demons had been the names of the ailments. As an illustration, one pill refers back to the follow of rubbing somebody’s head with butter and milk in order that they be cleansed of the “head illness of heaven.”

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Demon Pazuzu statuette, first millennium BC, Mesopotamia/Assyria. Louvre Museum. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Possessions in Mesopotamia weren’t restricted to ailments of the top. Signs of demonic possession could possibly be felt all through your complete physique. Based on one other pill , signs of demonic possession can start within the muscle mass of the physique. The possessed affected person can have fever and chills, in addition to intestinal issues, ache within the stomach that radiates to the again, in addition to chest ache. On this case, the demon didn’t assault the top, nonetheless the remedy referred to as for purifying the affected person with water, then wrapping his head with a bandage and juniper leaves. He should go away this bandage on for one full day, then discard it. This methodology supposedly drew the demon out of the affected person’s cranium.

Conspiracy plate against the evil goddess Lamashtu, called "Plaque of the Hells". Neo-assyrian time. (Louvre museum, Paris, France). (Public Domain)

Conspiracy plate in opposition to the evil goddess Lamashtu, referred to as “Plaque of the Hells”. Neo-assyrian time. (Louvre museum, Paris, France). ( Public Area )

The Mesopotamian Hell Plaque

One particular exorcism ceremony is detailed on a bronze determine of the demon Pazuzu, whose outstretched arms are holding a pill depicting symbols much like these on the boundary stones, a sort of stone doc used that data the tip of 1 land and the start of one other. It’s a small amulet, solely about 5 and a half inches (14 cm) excessive, by Three and a half inches (9 cm) large. It’s known as the Hell Plaque.

Known as the “Hell Plaque,” this amulet held by the demon Pazuzu, would be placed at the bedside of the possessed. It depicts the demon Lamashtu, Pazuzu’s wife, on the front of the plate. (Internet Archive Book Images)

Referred to as the “Hell Plaque,” this amulet held by the demon Pazuzu, could be positioned on the bedside of the possessed. It depicts the demon Lamashtu, Pazuzu’s spouse, on the entrance of the plate. ( Web Archive Ebook Photographs )

On the highest first row are divine symbols like these sometimes discovered on boundary stones, together with the image of Utu. Utu (later often called Shamash) was the traditional Mesopotamian solar god. He represented reality, justice, and morality. Based on Sumerian mythology , Utu was the dual brother of the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven. He would spend his days travelling by way of the sky in a solar chariot, conserving a watchful eye on all of the people beneath. It was believed that he was very highly effective and would intervene between demons and people to assist these in misery and implement divine retribution.

Cropped image of the Tablet of Shamash (Utu) showing the figure of Shamash (Utu) on the throne. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Cropped picture of the Pill of Shamash (Utu) exhibiting the determine of Shamash (Utu) on the throne. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Utu was depicted as a photo voltaic disc . This appeared as a circle with a four-pointed star pointing to the cardinal instructions, like a compass. Overlapping that had been 4 wavy traces stemming from the middle between every of the factors on the four-pointed star. This image is seen throughout Mesopotamian artwork, because it symbolized heat and light from the solar, in addition to energy.

Additionally included on the highest, are the symbols for different deities reminiscent of Ea, depicted by a mace with ram’s head, Marduk by a spear-head, Adad by a lightning fork, Nebo by his double workers, Ishtar by an eight-pointed star, Sin by the crescent, and the Sibitti, recognized with the Pleiadean star system and depicted as seven circles.

Top row shows symbols of Sumerian deities, the second row depicts 7 gallu (ghouls). (Public Domain)

High row reveals symbols of Sumerian deities, the second row depicts 7 gallu (ghouls). ( Public Area )

The second row reveals seven gallu, (the earliest root of the phrase ghoul), demons that carried victims off to the Mesopotamian underworld , having the heads of animals. These animal-human hybrid beings are a standard component amongst human depictions of demons. It’s a theme that arises from the pressures of adapting from a primitive or wild existence to 1 that’s extra civilized. This theme is discovered all through historical artwork and proto-literature, hinting to a dualistic idea of “good versus evil,” or the wrestle between wild man and civilized man.

Exorcism rite on the Hell Plaque. (Public Domain)

Exorcism ceremony on the Hell Plaque. ( Public Area )

The Exorcism Ceremony of the Hell Plaque

The third row of the Hell Plaque reveals the precise exorcism ceremony. Within the center, there’s a possessed individual mendacity on a mattress. On the head and foot of the mattress are clergymen, that are recognized by their fish-like robes, indicating that they’re clergymen of the water god, Ea. There’s a demon behind the correct priest who’s holding two different demons at bay. The opposite priest is holding a lamp, which symbolizes the god of fireplace, Nusku.

Backside a part of the plaque depicts the demon Lamashtu and her husband Pazuzu. ( Public Area )

The final row reveals objects reminiscent of a bowl, water bladder, two jars, and numerous meals. These are choices for the demons. Within the very middle of this final row is a big depiction of the demon, Lamashtu, who’s holding a snake every hand. She is breastfeeding two pigs and kneeling on a donkey, which is her image. The donkey is resting on a ship, crusing on water the place there are fish swimming from left to proper.

To Lamashtu’s left is her threatening husband, Pazuzu, who’s attempting to assault her with a whip. Pazuzu was summoned by the clergymen to defend the affected person from her. The demon Pazuzu was usually invoked to guard pregnant girls and moms in opposition to Lamashtu, as a result of she would steal their infants out of jealousy. This was the reason for miscarriages, still-born infants, and sudden toddler loss of life, making tablets and amulets of Pazuzu among the hottest in historical Mesopotamia.

Bronze head of Pazuzu, Mesopotamia (probably from Nimrud), 900-612 BC, now in the room 56 of the British Museum. (CC0)

Bronze head of Pazuzu, Mesopotamia (in all probability from Nimrud), 900-612 BC, now within the room 56 of the British Museum. ( CC0)

The Intensive Otherworld of the Sick Sumerians

The Sumerians didn’t consider in only one sort of spirit. They believed in entities much like demons, devils, and even ghosts, all of which may enter an individual by way of possession. Some had been demons from the underworld whereas others had been merely unhappy, misplaced souls. To be able to know the distinction, the exorcist would pay shut consideration to the affected person’s signs, in addition to seek the advice of his guide.

For instance, if an individual in life was unloved, abused, and uncared for to the purpose whereby they had been starved to loss of life, that tortured soul would search to inhabit the physique of another person. As soon as in that physique, nonetheless, their maligned nature could be expressed within the affected person. This might make the affected person really feel signs of despair, loneliness, nausea, lack of urge for food, chills, and weak spot. Due to this fact, the therapeutic ceremony, or exorcism, may embrace making a pleasant meal for the spirit and providing it optimistic affirmations, along with medicinal herbs.

This follow affords a glimpse into the minds and hearts of historical Sumerians. Whatever the science or logic, one factor it does certainly present is a degree of compassion on the a part of the traditional individuals.

High picture: Pharmacy In Babylonia, About 2600 B.C. by Thom, Robert A. Bender, George A., editor
Parke, Davis & Firm. Displaying the medical practitioners (priest, pharmacist and doctor) of Babylonian occasions: one holding a clay pill and invoking the gods; one other getting ready a mix; and a 3rd holding a sheep. A desk is ready with apothecary paraphernalia. Supply: Picture:

By Heather Lynn


Annus, Amar, and Alan Lenzi. Ludlul Bēl Nēmeqi: The Customary Babylonian Poem of the Righteous Sufferer . Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Textual content Corpus Venture, 2010.

Scurlock, JoAnn. Magico-medical Technique of Treating Ghost-induced Sickness in Historical Mesopotamia . Leiden: Brill Styx, 2006.

Stol, Marten. Epilepsy in Babylonia . Groningen: Styx, 1993.

Thompson, Campbell. “Assyrian Medical Texts: From the Originals within the British Museum.” Nature 114, no. 2854 (1924): 48. doi:10.1038/114048c0.

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