Magic of Mesopotamia

Ronald Hutton (1953-, U.K.) in his essay, “Framework for the Study of European Magic,” observed that the materials from Mesopotamia showed “no sign that human beings were believed to be capable of coercing deities… without divine help.” He continues that the peoples of Mesopotamia “made a practice of timing important actions in harmony with heavenly bodies.” Moreover, they had an acute fear of witchcraft (i.e. “magic employed secretly and maliciously by other human beings.”) A few years later, writing in “The Witch” in 2017, Hutton noted that magic was a part of official religion in Mesopotamia. Since the peoples of that region made no distinction between religion and magic, both were a part of their daily lives.

Hutton’s later perception agrees with the various experts of Mesopotamia – Thorkild Jacobsen (1904-1993, Demark), Jeremy Black (1951-2004, U.K.) and Anthony Green (1956-2012, U.K.). Knowledgeable about the cultures of this region, these three Assyriologists stated that the various cultures believed that the world to be numinous and immanent for the Spirits were indwelling. For example, a Babylonian would have regarded the Burning Bush differently from Moses. They would have recognized as Moses did that the God, who was separate from the Bush. However, they would also have worshipped the Bush as a place where the God resided at one time. For a Babylonian, a God could reside in an object without their power diminishing elsewhere. In the mind of a Babylonian, a statue (or bush) could be a repository of the God but not be the God. Therefore, in Mesopotamia, the capture of the statue of a city’s God would be a calamity.

Within the cultures of Mesopotamia, magic consisted of asking for intercession with the Gods (and other Beings). Rituals could involve redirecting a potentially bad event or bringing comfort and healing. Before doing any ritual, divination was used for learning what the person was dealing with. (Divination was also considered to be magic.)

If the signs from the divination were ominous, the ritual of Namburbu (“the undoing of potential evil”) was conducted. In this ritual, people would apologize to the various Gods (known and unknown). Since people could disrupt the order of the universe accidentally, the Surpu (“burning”) would be conducted. This ritual was for the “undoing of unknown ‘sins.’” (Note 1.) During this ritual, a person would peel and onion while reciting their actions, and then feed the fire with the peelings. Once the onion was burnt, the person became “right with the universe.” In the case of illness, a medical magician (Asipu) would divine the problem and address the demons of the illness in the name of the Gods.

My definition of magic is that it how a person participates in the Cosmos with the Holy Powers. For me, magic and religion are the same, since they both entail participation in the ecology of the Cosmos. Therefore, I feel aligned with the Mesopotamian sense of magic. As they did, I believe that we all live under the same universal laws (Gods, Humans, spirits). Sometimes we inadvertently disrupt the order and things happen. One way of setting things right is through offerings and prayers.

For example, when I sustained my brain injury, I did make offerings for healing. Since the injury was a random event, I could have, earlier, disrupted the ecology of the Cosmos, quite by accident. My usual practice is to do divination before deciding what action to take. By conducting rituals and prayers, I have recovered from the trauma of what happened to me. I still have the injury but I now feel “right with the Universe.” Thus, my sense of magic fits well into the cultures of Mesopotamia.

Notes:
Note 1. In Mesopotamian cultures, a “sin” is an “act or omission of offending the Gods and disturbing the world order.” Prayer can undo “sin.”

Works Used:
Bairgent, Michael, “Astrology in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Bear and Co.: Rochester (VT). 1994.

Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green, “Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia.” University of Texas: Austin. 1992.

Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Ebeling, J., Flückiger-Hawker, E., Robson, E., Taylor, J., and Zólyomi, G., “The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature,” Oxford University. 2006. http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/,

Davis, Owen, ed. “The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft & Magic.” Oxford University Press: Oxford. 2017.

Hutton, Ronald, “The Witch.” Yale University Press: New Haven. 2017.
—, “A Framework for the Study of European Magic.” Grey School of Wizardry Class Materials. Dell.Urgano, Ombra, “The Development of European Magic.”

Jacobsen, Thorkild, “The Treasures of Darkness.” Yale University Press: New Haven. 1976.

Koutrafouri, Vasiliki G. and Jeff Sanders, eds. “Ritual Failure: Archaelogical Perspectives.” Sidestone Press: Leiden. 2013.

Moro, Pamela, “Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Magic.” International Library of Anthropology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea1915, .

Van Buylaere, Greta, Daniel Schwemer, et. al. “Sources of Evil: Studies in Mesopotamian Exorcistic Lore.” Koninklijke Brill NV: Leiden. 2018.

Myths and Modernity: Jordan Peterson and the Enuma Elish

In “Maps of Meanings (1999),” Peterson misreads the Enuma Elish. This particular myth describes how Marduk, the principal God of Babylon, becomes the head of the Gods of Mesopotamia. Peterson regards it as the creation myth for Mesopotamia. It is not since the Sumerians had their own creation stories. The Babylonians took all these older myths, combined them, and added their Gods to rule the rest. In the Enuma Elish, Marduk of Fifty Names slays Tiamat, the Mother of All Life. He does so after gaining the leadership of the other Gods of the region.

On the surface, the Enuma Elish fits Peterson’s perceptions of how to overcome chaos, which he regards as feminine. Marduk (male) restores order by defeating Tiamat (female) who created chaos in trying to defeat Him. Tiamat is the Great Mother (unexplored territory), while her Consort Apsu is the Great Father (explored territory). (Note 1) In the myth, the noise from the humans keeps Apsu from sleeping, so He decided to be rid of them. However, Enki, who created the humans, kills Apsu, thereby enraging Tiamat, who seeks revenge. With her many monsters, She defeats the various Gods until Marduk comes up with a plan. Marduk, the Divine Son (the Knower) is the Hero who creates order out of chaos. (Note 2.)

Peterson interpreted this Babylonian creation myth to support his ideas about Darwinism – the survival of the fittest. He claimed that the myth sanctioned his ideas of men (Note 3.) overcoming their instincts. Furthermore, the myth proved that his view of “consciousness” being male, while the “irrational” is female is the correct one. Peterson shoehorned the Enuma Elish into his narrow perspective that archetypes are the “eternal categories” of imagination. Like many people, he takes things out of context, and cherry picks the rest. In his mind, this myth presents cosmic truths that lines up with his politics.

Notes:
Note 1. The Great Mother is also, chaos, which is feminine, the Great Father is order and masculine. The Divine Son replaces the Great Mother’s discord with clarity. These are Peterson’s own concepts in reading myths. He bases his ideas on Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. He agrees with their theory of the monomyth -All myths are variations of a single story.

Note 2. This is Peterson’s reading of the Enuma Elish.

Note 3. Peterson’s focus is on immature males, and turning them into mature men.

Prayer Beads: Tiamat of Mesopotamia

Tiamat is the Dragon Goddess of Mesopotamia upon whose bones the world is made.

Materials:

Charms:
Ocean 1
Dragon 1

Beads:
Chrysocolla 2
Amazonite 7
Lava stone 7
Ruby Zoisite 7

Pattern:

Ocean
Amazonite 7
Chrysocolla 1
Lava stone 7
Chrysocolla 1
Ruby Zoisite 7
Dragon

Prayers:

Ocean:
I sing of Tiamat, the Source of all

Chrysocolla:
I am Tiamat the Source of all, the Glistening One

Amazonite:
(From the Enuma Elish)

“When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
Then were created the Gods in the midst of heaven.”

Lava stone:
(From the Enuma Elish)

“ ‘… my mighty hero,
Whose strength is great and whose onslaught cannot be withstood,
Go and stand before Tiamat,
That her spirit may be appeased, that her heart may be merciful.
Our word shalt thou speak unto Her, that She may be pacified.’
He heard the word of his father Ansar
And he directed his path to Her, toward Her he took the way.”

Ruby Zoisite

Tiamat, the Pure, the Shining
The Glistening, the Deep
Who formed all things
All powerful Mother
Upon whose bones
The cosmos is made
Life Herself

Dragon
I sing of Tiamat, the Dragon Goddess
The Untamed One

Enlil of Sumer

nature sky sunset the mountains

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The most powerful God of the Sumerians, Enlil is one of the more complicated. Called “Lord of the Air,” He is the power of the storm that rages, and the energy of the cloud that brings rain. As the Keeper of the Tablets of Destiny, Enlil ordains the destinies of the Gods and humans. Because of this, He is the mediator between Gods and humans.

The two myths that detail his dark side, “Enlil and Ninlil” and “Atrahasis” show how Enlil learns from his actions. He develops from someone who pursues his own agenda to be the wise governor of divine law. “Enlil and Ninlil” tells of his rape of Ninlil, Her obtaining justice, and his punishment in the Underworld. The myth relates their courtship from their initial meeting to Ninlil becoming his consort. Their children from the courtship are Nanna, God of the Moon, Ninurta, God of Farming, and Nergal, God of Death.

In “Atrahasis” (the Sumerian version of The Flood), Enlil floods the earth. He grew tired of the destructive, numerous and noisy humans. Meanwhile Enki saves Atrahasis who builds the ark. After the waters recede, Atrahasis makes offerings to the Gods. After acknowledging the offerings, Enlil rues his flood and its destruction. He then gives the humans a second chance. To prevent them from being too numerous, Enlil sends threats to their daily existence.
This is a part of the Great Hymn of Enlil. It describes his complexity. (Some of the attributes were later ascribed to Yahweh.)  http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section4/tr4051.htm

Enlil in the E-kur (Enlil A): translation

Enlil’s commands are by far the loftiest, his words are holy, his utterances are immutable! The fate he decides is everlasting, his glance makes the mountains anxious, his …. reaches (?) into the interior of the mountains. All the gods of the earth bow down to father Enlil, who sits comfortably on the holy dais, the lofty dais, to Nunamnir, whose lordship and princeship are most perfect. The Anuna gods enter before him and obey his instructions faithfully.

Enlil, if you look upon the shepherd favourably, if you elevate the one truly called in the Land, then the foreign countries are in his hands, the foreign countries are at his feet! Even the most distant foreign countries submit to him. He will then cause enormous incomes and heavy tributes, as if they were cool water, to reach the treasury. In the great courtyard he will supply offerings regularly.

Enlil, faithful shepherd of the teeming multitudes, herdsman, leader of all living creatures, has manifested his rank of great prince, adorning himself with the holy crown. As the Wind of the Mountain occupied the dais, he spanned the sky as the rainbow. Like a floating cloud, he moved alone.

He alone is the prince of heaven, the dragon of the earth. The lofty god of the Anuna himself determines the fates. No god can look upon him. His great minister and commander Nuska learns his commands and his intentions from him, consults with him and then executes his far-reaching instructions on his behalf. He prays to him with holy prayers and divine powers.

Without the Great Mountain Enlil, no city would be built, no settlement would be founded; no cow-pen would be built, no sheepfold would be established; no king would be elevated, no lord would be given birth; no high priest or priestess would perform extispicy; soldiers would have no generals or captains; no carp-filled waters would …… the rivers at their peak; the carp would not come straight up from the sea, they would not dart about. The sea would not produce all its heavy treasure, no freshwater fish would lay eggs in the reedbeds, no bird of the sky would build nests in the spacious land; in the sky the thick clouds would not open their mouths; on the fields, dappled grain would not fill the arable lands, vegetation would not grow lushly on the plain; in the gardens, the spreading trees of the mountain would not yield fruits.

Without the Great Mountain, Enlil, Nintud would not kill, she would not strike dead; no cow would drop its calf in the cattle-pen, no ewe would bring forth. lamb in its sheepfold; the four-legged animals would not propagate, they would not mate.

Enlil, your ingenuity takes one’s breath away! By its nature it is like entangled threads which cannot be unraveled, crossed threads which the eye cannot follow. Your divinity can be relied on. You are your own counsellor and adviser, you are a lord on your own. Who can comprehend your actions? No divine powers are as resplendent as yours. No god can look you in the face.

You, Enlil, are lord, god, king. You are a judge who makes decisions about heaven and earth. Your lofty word is as heavy as heaven, and there is no one who can lift it. Your word is weighty in heaven, a foundation on the earth. In the heavens, it is reaching up to the sky. On the earth it is a foundation which cannot be destroyed. When it relates to the heavens, it brings abundance: abundance will pour from the heavens. When it relates to the earth, it brings prosperity: the earth will produce prosperity. Your word means flax, your word means grain. Your word means the early flooding, the life of the lands. It makes the living creatures, the animals which copulate and breathe joyfully in the greenery. You, Enlil, the good shepherd, know their ways. the sparkling stars.

You married Ninlil, the holy consort, whose words are of the heart, her of noble countenance in a holy ma garment, her of beautiful shape and limbs, the trustworthy lady of your choice. Covered with allure, the lady who knows what is fitting for the E-kur, whose words of advice are perfect, whose words bring comfort like fine oil for the heart, who shares the holy throne, the pure throne with you, she takes counsel and discusses matters with you. You decide the fates together at the place facing the sunrise. Ninlil, the lady of heaven and earth, the lady of all the lands, is honoured in the praise of the Great Mountain.

Prominent one whose words are well established, whose command and support are things which are immutable, whose utterances take precedence, whose plans are firm words, Great Mountain, father Enlil, your praise is sublime!

More than Sun Signs: The Many Types of Astrology

phases of the moon

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The first type of Astrology to emerge was Mundane Astrology. Michael Baigent in his observations on Mesopotamian Astrology writes “Mundane Astrology seeks a greater understanding of the dynamics of the mass of individuals who gathered together in the body politic.” Therefore when studying history, Mundane Astrology should be considered, since rulers consulted the stars to govern by. By understanding the stars, rulers could divine what is going to happen next, so they can plan accordingly.

My introduction to Mundane Astrology was the writings of John Michael Greer (former ADOA Archdruid). What I gleamed was that the reading is set in the capital of the country on the date of its founding. Then the Twelve Houses and their ruling planets are examined from the months of that particular Ingress to the next one. For example, the Cancer Ingress for the U.K. is June to September (when the Libra Ingress is read). The founding date is the coronation of Victoria, since that marked a new era for the U.K. Predictions are made for politics, economics and society for that particular Ingress for the U.K. This information can be then acted upon for the selected period.

Natal Astrology was developed after the Persian invasion of Babylon in 539 BCE. The Persians expanded upon Babylonian Astrology. They added such concepts such as the Sidereal Period (the length of time taken by a planet to pass through the twelve signs of the Zodiac back to its starting point), fixed Zodiacal signs, and the Synodic Period (the period between consecutive conjunctions of a planet with the sun as seen from the earth).

Professor Bartel Landert Van der Vaerden, who studied early Astrology, said that the religion of Zoroastrianism of the Persians brought a different perspective. Because that religion said that there was a free choice between good and evil for the person, they could learn their potential choices from the stars. Birth charts for individuals were created to advise them on how the stars influenced their lives.

In modern times, the birth chart is a map that a person can to guide their journey. The chart of where the stars are when the person was born is cast. Then the astrologer studies the chart to for the general outline of the person’s future. The natal chart can also suggest what types of careers and relationships that the person can succeed at. Natal Astrology is the focus on the individual and their relationship with the stars.

The birth chart is three dimensional with the birth date, birth place, and birth time. It projects the future by the position of the heavenly bodies at the junction of these three points. It can define where the nodes of a person’s life is overtaken by planets and their returns. The astrologer acts as the navigator of the person’s chart.

Joanna Woolfolk defines Horary Astrology as a “special horoscope cast for the moment in which a specific question is asked. The theory behind Horary Astrology is that there is a sympathy between the cosmos and the human mind.” Horary Astrology is used to answer questions since the stars offer immediate guidance. An example would be Queen Elizabeth I asking John Dee, her astrologer, what the stars counsel for England to do against the Spanish Armada.

Christopher Warnock defines Horary Astrology as the branch of Astrology that predicts the future by using the time of a question. He stress that the time of the question is critical in casting the chart. He states that traditional sources say that the question is “born” when it is asked of the astrologer who uses their location for the chart. The ruling planets and houses related to the question are then read. Warnock uses his location for the birthplace of the question.

Works Used:
Baigent, Michael, “Astrology in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Bear and Company: Rochester (VT). 1994.
Gillett, Ray, “The Secret Language of Astrology.” Watkins Publishing: London. 2011.
Hall, Judy, “The Astrology Bible.” Sterling Publishing: NY. 2005
Warnock, Christopher, “Renaissance Astrology.” 2018. Web. https://www.renaissanceastrology.com/.
Woolfolk, Joanna, “The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need.” Taylor Trade Publishing: Lanham (MD). 2008.