As Above So Below Magic Chaldean Magic

Chaldean Magic

Chaldean Magic
Catalog # SKU3842
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Francoise Lenormant
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Chaldean Magic

Its Origin & Development

Francoise Lenormant

Of Assyriology it may truly be written, "day unto day uttereth knowledge." There is probably no section of the science of comparative mythology of which, till recently, less has been known, or of which, at present, more authentic materials remain, than the subject of "Chaldean Magic: its Origin and Development."



A GENERAL, but tolerably complete idea of the magic conjuration of the Chaldeans, its processes and its principal applications, may be obtained from a document which Sir Henry Rawlinson and Mr. Edwin Norris published "in facsimile" in 1866, in the second volume of their collection of the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia.

This document is a large tablet from the library of the royal palace at Nineveh, containing a succession of 28 formulae of deprecatory incantations, unfortunately partly destroyed, against the action of evil spirits, the effects of sorcery, disease, and the principal misfortunes which may attack man in the course of his daily life. The whole forms a litany of some length, divided into paragraphs, which all finish with the same solemn invocation. It would seem, judging from the concluding paragraph, that the intention was not to use the detached formulae of this litany on special occasions, but to recite the whole as a protection from all the fatal influences against which it provides.

This tablet, however, like all the other works on magic from Assyria and Chaldea, is written in Accadian, that is, in the Turanian language, which was related to the Finnish and Tartaric dialects spoken by the primitive population of the marshy plains round the lower Euphrates. An Assyrian translation accompanies the ancient Accadian text, and is placed opposite to it. Centuries ago, when Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, of the VIIth century before our era, had the copy made which has been handed down to us, this kind of document could be understood only by aid of the Assyrian version, which may be traced to a much earlier date. The Accadian was already a dead language; but the Assyrians attributed so much the more mysterious power to the incantations expressed in this language, because the script had become unintelligible.

In order to place the reader at once in the midst of the strange world into which I ask him to follow me, I shall now reproduce in its entirety the formulae of this tablet, those at least which it is possible to interpret, for there are still some phrases which defy explanation, and I shall accompany my translation with short notes. I have been preceded in this undertaking by M. Oppert, with whom in most cases I agree perfectly. Should anyone, however, wish to compare our two translations, he will find some differences, which almost all result from the fact, that the learned Professor of the College of France has translated from the Assyrian version, while I have preferred to adhere to the original Accadian text. The Assyrian version is by no means always a literal one; and of this the reader may judge for himself, as I have annotated all the passages in which it differs from the earlier original. The Accadian text appears to he divided into rhythmical verses, each of which forms a separate line upon the tablet; I have marked these divisions carefully.

The great work on magic, many copies of which had been executed by the scribes of Assurbanipal, according to the pattern placed centuries since in the library of the famous school for priests at Erech in Chaldea, was composed of three different books. We know the title of one of the three, "The Wicked Spirits," for we find at the end of each of the tablets, which come from it and which have been preserved entire, "Tablet No.-of the Wicked Spirits."

As the title shows, it was filled exclusively with formulae of conjurations and imprecations, which were designed to repulse demons and other wicked spirits, to avert their fatal action, and to shelter the invoker from their attacks. Portions of a second book exist, and, judging from what remains of it, it would seem to be formed of a collection of these incantations, to which was attributed the power of curing various maladies.

Lastly, the third book contained Hymns to certain gods. A supernatural and mysterious power was attributed to the chanting of these hymns, which are, however, of a very different character from the regular liturgical prayers of the official religion, a few of which have been preserved to us. It is curious to notice that the three parts composing thus the great work on magic, of which Sir Henry Rawlinson has found the remains, correspond exactly to the three classes of Chaldean doctors, which Daniel enumerates, together with the astrologers and divines (Kasdim and Gazrim), that is, the Khartumim or conjurors, the Chakamim or physicians, and the Asaphim or theosophists. The further we advance in the knowledge of the Cuneiform texts, the greater does the necessity appear of reversing the condemnation much too prematurely pronounced by the German exegetical school against the date of the writings of the fourth of the greater prophets. The language of the Book of Daniel, interspersed as it is in various places with Greek words, proves without doubt that the definitive translation as we possess it, is posterior to the time of Alexander. But the foundation of the work dates much further back; it is tinged with a very decided Babylonian tint, and certain features of the life at the court of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors are there pictured with a truth and exactitude, to which a writer a few centuries later could hardly have attained.

The formulae, hymns, and incantations in this triple collection are in the Accadian language, but they are accompanied by an Assyrian translation, placed according to the usual interlinear method. There are, however, some rare hymns, the original of which was no doubt already lost, since such a long period had elapsed since the first collection was made; and of these an Assyrian version only is given, of which the style bears the mark of a remote antiquity, and the syntax, by certain constructions contrary to the genius of the Semitic dialects, indicates the real character of the entirely different language in which the original was drawn up, and which has been lost to us for so many centuries. The different sections are separated by a deep mark, upon the tablet, and the beginning of each is preceded by the word en "incantation," which indicates still more clearly the commencement of a new formula. All the hymns of the third book finish by the Accadian word kakama, which is translated in Assyrian by "amen" (amanu).

The style of the conjurations to be used against the malevolent spirits is very monotonous, as they are all cast in the same mould. They begin by enumerating the various kinds of demons whom the conjurations are to subdue by their power, and then describe the effects of the charm. The desire to see them repulsed, or to be delivered from them, follows; and this is often expressed in the affirmative form. The formula finished by the mysterious invocation from which they derive their efficacy: "Spirit of the heavens, conjure! Spirit of the earth, conjure!" This part alone is necessary, and is never wanting, but sometimes similar invocations of other divine spirits are joined to it.

I shall as an example now quote one of these conjurations, which was intended to combat different demons, diseases, and fatal influences, such as the evil eye.

The plague and the fever which scourge a country, the disease which devastates a country, bad for the flesh, fatal for the entrails, the wicked demon, the wicked Alal, the wicked Gigim, the malevolent man, the malevolent eye, the malevolent mouth, the malevolent tongue -of the man, son of his god, may they depart from his body, may they depart from his entrails.

420 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 13 point font

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