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In the Babylonian magico-medical tradition, Šulak is the Lurker of the bathroom or the demon of the privy. Šulak appears in the Babylonian Diagnostic Handbook (Tablet XXVII), in which various diseases are described and attributed to the "hand" of a god, goddess, or spirit. A "Lurker" is a type of demon who lies in wait in places where a potential victim is likely to be alone. When a man attends to excretory functions or elimination, he is exposed and hence vulnerable: "Šulak will hit him!" The "hit" may be a type of "stroke" (mišittu). The demon referred to as "The Hitter" or "Striker" elsewhere in the handbook may be Šulak identified by an epithet. A much earlier reference to this demon is found in a Hittite diagnostic text.[1]

The "demon of the privy" (Sheid beit ha-Kisset) appears also in the Babylonian Talmud:

The Rabbis taught: On coming from a privy a man should not have sexual intercourse till he has waited long enough to walk half a mil,

— [2] because the demon of the privy is with him for that time; if he does, his children will be epileptic.[3]

Stroke and epilepsy were closely related in ancient medicine. This law is not included in the Mishneh Torah.[4] The lavatory demon takes the form of a goat in the Talmud (Shabbat 67a, Berachot 62a).[5]

The "demon of the privy" is the type of unclean spirit that in the early Christian era was regarded as causing both physical and spiritual affliction.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marten Stol, Epilepsy in Babylonia (Brill, 1993), pp. 17, 71, and 76.
  2. ^ An ancient unit of measure, approximately 1km.
  3. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 70a.
  4. ^ Marc Shapiro, "Maimonidean Halakhah and Superstition," in Maimonidean Studies (Michael Scharf Publication Trust of Yeshiva University Press, 2000), vol. 4, pp. 88–89 online.
  5. ^ Fred Rosner, Encyclopedia of Medicine in the Bible and the Talmud (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000), p. 96.
  6. ^ Joel Marcus, Mark 8–16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Yale Anchor Bible series (Yale University Press, 2009), p. 652 online.


  • Geller, M.J. "West Meets East: Early Greek and Babylonian Diagnosis." In Magic and Rationality in Ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman Medicine, Studies in Ancient Medicine 27 (Brill, 2004), p. 19 online.
  • Rosner, Fred. Encyclopedia of Medicine in the Bible and the Talmud. Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, p. 96 online.
  • Stol, Marten. Epilepsy in Babylonia. Brill, 1993, pp. 17, 71, and 76 online.
  • Stol, Marten. Birth in Babylonia and the Bible: Its Mediterranean Setting. Brill, 2000, p. 167 online.

Further reading[edit]

  • *Manekin Bamberger, Avigail. "An Akkadian Demon in the Talmud: Between Šulak and Bar-Širiqa", JSJ 44.2 (2013), 282-287.