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1. Asakk?. Demons, Illnesses and Impurity in Ancient Mesopotamia B?cskay Andr?s
Thessaloniki 8-11. august 2011
2. The problems The comparison with the Mesopotamian textual tradition within OT-demonology research looks back on long history, but it is limited by the lack of complete work on the demon-related Mesopotamian text-tradition moreover the majority of the apotropaic incantation and ritual descriptions are only published in cuneiform copies.
the OT-demonological researches belong to two distinct groups according to their scholarly methods:
the ancient Hebrew religion is similar to other Semitic religious types, thus the supernatural entities known form the other Semitic religions (mainly from the Mesopotamian and Ugaritic religion), constitute an organic part of the ancient Hebrew religion
demons can be identified with the gods constituting an organic part of the polytheist ancient Hebrew religion, which were demonised by the authors of the Bible
3. The main character of the mesopotamian demons the demon will be harmful (lemnutu) or helpful (?abu) (list of demons on hand out I.1)
mixed creatures or Mischwesen (hand out I.2) It refers to demons? iconographic representation according to which figures representing demons show the characteristic mixture of several different animals
intermediary creatures or Zwischenwesen hand out I.2) It refers to the transitional state of the demons, that is that the demons exist in the intermediate sphere between divine and human existence
The demons lived beyond the boundaries of the civilised world (in the mountains or the deserts) (hand out I.3)
In ritual text-tradition appear as representatives or messengers of the divine anger (mostly the anger of god Enlil) and causers of illnesses.
In the healing-apotropaic texts the particular demon is exclusively responsible for one or more definable diseases. (hand out I.5)
4. Why Asakku Because all problems with the concept of demon, illness and impurity in Mesopotamia can be studied on this example:
problems with the defining of various diseases
problems with the definition of Mesopotamian illness-conception
the relationship between the illness and the demons
the relationship between the illness and the impurity state
5. The figure of Asakku The CAD refers to the etymology of this term, in a following way: a2-sag3 = ?who smites? this interpretation is based on the reading of the logogram ? and sag (sag = ma?a?u = to smite, a2 = idu = the side). The CAD supposes that behind this term stands probably a popular etymology. Similar to the reconstructed term for the city Babilon (akkadian Bab ili = sumerian ka2 -dingir-ra = the gate of the god)
In the lexical and ritual texts Asakku was mentioned mostly together with two other demons: Namtar and Samana
?samana-demon with the mouth of a lion teeth of u?um.gal, claws of an eagle, tail of a crab. He is Enlil?s awful dog, Enlil?s twisted-necked dog, Ninisinna?s bloody-faced dog, the gods? snarling dog? (Cunningham 1997: Nr. 71)
6. Asakku in literally context (Lugale myth) in the myth Asakku opposes the word order created by Enlil and launches an attack against the gods with the help of the self-created stone army. The attack is received by the god Ninurta (in the another version of the myth by Adad) on behalf of Enlil who defeats the demon and in the form of a curse or a blessing defines the destiny of the stones.
the interpretation of Asakku-demon has three various idea:
van Dijk: Asakku, similarly to Tiamat is the personification of the chaos
Jacobsen: the Lugale myth might be a ?nature-myth? in which Asakku personifying the Winter is fighting against the god Ninurta who is embodiment of the Spring.
Forster: Asakku is the personified volcano and its associated phenomena
7. Asakku in ritual context (apotropaical incantations and ritual texts) The name of Asakku was mentioned at first in the old-Babylonian healing-aportopaic incantations, the most complete incantation-collection created in the first millennia entitled ?evil Utukku-demons?
The apotropaic rites description related to Asakku describe the attack of the demon with the following types of phrases:
as a destructive natural metaphors like for example storm (milu, abubu) or flood (me??) - hand out II.1.1)
General terms like for example the patient?s grabbing (?abatu, kamasu), hitting (ma?asu), binding (kam?) touching (lapatu) or defeating (sahapu) as well as the approach towards the patient (?e??) - hand out II.1.2
the act of the demons location in the body of the patient (ina zumri?u ba??) - hand out II.1.3
8. Asakku in ritual context (apotropaical incantations and ritual texts) the incantation relating to the demon uses numerous elements referring to the myths:
ki?itti asakki - the defeated Asakku (?urpu IV 3)
asakku kima me?? ina er?eti i?tapp? - Asakku who rolls on the earth like a storm (utukku lemnutu III 2)
In apotropaic rite description is Asakku demon mentioned rarely:
?umu 3 Namtar mimma lemnu Asakku m?tu muttapriru ? the third name (of the wax figure) is: Namtaru, anything evil, Asakku roaming dead, Scurlock MMG N. 219:12)
9. Demon and illness In Mesopotamian text we can fid the dichotomy of cause-oriented treatment (which contain apotropaic and prophylactic practices against demon-induced diseases) and symptom-oriented treatment (normal procedure for dealing with diseases of ?natural? causes)
In connection with Asakku demon and disease: di?u (fever, hot tempreture) and ?urupp? (low body temperature) - Asakku is the embodiment of the hot side. (hand-out II.2.1-7)
Asakku is one of the winds bringing illnesses specifically of the hot wind, often connect it to the appearance of the spread of infectious diseases. (hand-out II.2.8)
Asakku and Namtar in collocation with ?not good disease? (mur?u la ?abu) (hand-out II.9)
10. Conclusions In the course of researching the similarity and differences between the OT and Mesopotamian demons we have to analyse varied mesopotamian sources (myths, ritual descriptions, incantations, medical texts, lexical texts etc.).
The figure of mesopotamian demons is embedded in the mythological and ritual context of mesopotamian culture.
We can?t match Asakku or any other demon to some specific diseases because in the mesopotamian (or may be the ancient near eastern) culture didn?t sharply separate the conceptual framework of demons and illnesses.
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