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The Maqlû, “burning,” series is an Akkadian incantation text from the early first millennium BC which concerns the performance of a rather lengthy anti-witchcraft, or kišpū, ritual. It comprises eight tablets of nearly a hundred incantations and a ritual tablet, giving incipits and directions for the ceremony. This was performed over the course of a single night in the month of Abu (July/August) when the movements of the spirits to and from the netherworld made them especially vulnerable to its spells.

The ritual[edit]

The manifestation of witchcraft could take many forms, such as “the grip of the mountain, be it the epilepsy, the offspring of Šulpaea.”[1] The incantations are divided into three sequences, during the first of which figurines of the sorcerer were burned, drowned in black liquid and finally placed face down on the ground and crushed while the first four tablets were recited.[2]

Pure oven, great daughter of Anu, inside whom the fire of the grave is flaring, inside whom the valiant fire-god has taken up residence, [whose] flames have reached the sky [...], burn, set alight, incinerate my witch! May my warlock's and witch's life swiftly, quickly come to an end![3]

—Maqlû, Tablet II, 219–224

The second sequence the destructive rites against the source of the evil were gradually replaced by the purification and protection of the victim and involved the fumigation of the household and the massage of the patient while tablets five to seven, line 57, were read out, “May their spells be … peeled away like garlic!”[4] The final sequence took place during the early hours of the morning when the remaining incantations were delivered while washing the patient.[5] An invocation of the god Nusku, the “protective night light,” was recited at dawn[6] then a greeting to the savior, the sun-god and finally a moment of self recognition in a bowl of pure water: "You are my reflection ... You are mine, and I am yours. May nobody know you, may no evil approach you!" (Maqlû, VIII 127–137)[3]


  1. ^ CAD L 182a, quoting Maqlû II 56: lu li-‘-bu ṣibit KUR-i lu bennu riḫût Šulpaea.
  2. ^ V. Haas (2007). "Hittite rituals against threats and other diseases and their relationship to the Mesopotamian traditions". In Irving L. Finkel, Markham J. Geller. Disease in Babylonia. Brill. p. 111. 
  3. ^ a b Daniel Schwemer (2011). "Magic Rituals: Conceptualization and Performance". In Karen Radner, Eleanor Robson. The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Oxford University Press. p. 434. 
  4. ^ Maqlû V 57: kis-pu-sa liq-qal-pu kima šumi.
  5. ^ Tzvi Abusch (2007). "Witchcraft literature in Mesopotamia". In Gwendolyn Leick. The Babylonian world. Routledge. pp. 379–382. 
  6. ^ Erica Ehrenberg (2007). "The rooster in Mesopotamia". Leaving No Stones Unturned: Essays on the Ancient Near East and Egypt in Honor of Donald P. Hansen. Routledge. p. 61.