Witchcraft: a resource of evil

The conviction that ritual acts, prayers and also incantations, food and drink, drugs and ointments can not just be used for a person’s benefit, but additionally with evil will to harm people, is typical to many, maybe even all cultures that take it the performance of symbolic acts somehow or various other for granted. Mesopotamia is no exception to this rule, and also witchcraft was taken into consideration by Babylonians and Assyrians to be one possible cause the illness and mishap.

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Witchcraft-induced illnesses

Cylinder seal native Tell Halaf. Image: B. Hrouda, call Halaf 4: dice Kleinfunde aus historischer Zeit, Berlin 1962, key 23 no. 9.

While all witchcraft-induced sufferings can be described by the single term ‘hand-of-men’-disease (Akkadian qāt amēlūti), various different sets that symptoms might be diagnosed as witchcraft-induced. These include stomach problems, lung diseases, impotency, emotional problems, psychological disorders and also complex, serious conditions that resulted in severe pain, paralysis and a rapid destruction of the patient’s health.

Nevertheless, the diagnosis the bewitchment was not arbitrary; certain signal symptom like too much salivating, bleeding from the mouth or the unusualness of the disease pattern were concerned as usual for witchcraft-induced ailments.

The variety of symptomologies synchronizes to plenty of differentiated witchcraft diagnoses amongst which one can distinguish two key groups:

bewitchment resulted in by the performance of angry rituals, often involving the manipulation of instead of figurines representing the patient, andbewitchment brought about by call with bewitched substances.


The symptoms the were connected with bewitchment are recognized to united state from so-called symptom descriptions that type part of countless texts managing witchcraft-induced sufferings. This symptom descriptions space not referring to monitorings of one certain ill individual (case description), yet rather sell a typical set of symptoms that suggests a witchcraft as the underlying cause of the patient’s suffering.

Diagnostic messages associate quick descriptions of symptoms v a diagnosis that gives either the name of the given disease or details on the cause of the condition (aetiology); diagnostic messages usually additionally offer prognoses ~ above the additional prospects that the patient and the treatability that his illness. Therapeutic texts information instructions because that the cure of certain illnesses or crises; they provide directions either for the execution that a routine or because that the preparation and application that a medicine.

Victims that witchcraft

In rule anyone can end up being a victim that witchcraft, however most Babylonians and also Assyrians went around their daily service without the constant fear of being bewitched; witchcraft belief became virulent just in instances of crisis, illness, insecurity and also conflict.

Pregnant women and also infants were concerned as potential victims, but most descriptions of sufferings diagnosed as induced through witchcraft offer the impression that witchcraft affected very first and foremost men, an observation that agrees well through the key stereotypes of the agents the witchcraft, the mrs witch and the male evil one in court.


The human being of the king constantly deserved one-of-a-kind protection; the texts of the Bīt rimki routine in details show that since of his plenty of adversaries and enemies the king was pertained to as a element potential victim that witchcraft. One war ritual also accuses the foreign opponents of having actually tried come bewitch the king weapons and soldiers through wooing the favour that the Mesopotamian gods.

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Sumerian and also Akkadian texts space silent around bewitching whole villages, cities or countries; additionally animals, canals, wells, areas or orchards perform not seem come be usual victims the witchcraft, despite purification rituals because that stables and agricultural areas are well known. This overall impression may to some level be due to the reality that our main resource of info on Mesopotamian witchcraft ideas is a body of texts that, in modern-day terms, forms part of human medicine and focuses mostly on male elites. ~ above the other hand, it appears hardly possible to i have dissolved the concentration of appropriate sources in this segment the Babylonian technical literary works as insignificant.