Christopher G. Frechette

AOAT 379



 Mesopotamian Ritual-prayers of “Hand-lifting” (Akkadian Šuillas):

ISBN 978-3-86835-046-3


xxi + 316 pp.

 An Investigation of Function


 in Light of the Idiomatic Meaning of the Rubric

78,- EUR



This book is about a rubric that names a class of ritual-prayers written in cuneiform, but the rubric and the rituals are about something much less esoteric: the role of recognition in a human’s relationship with the divine. In Mesopotamian culture, to lift the hand to the deity expressed one’s desire for and anticipation of the deity’s recognition, affirming a favorable relationship with the deity, and that relationship was characterized not only by the obvious asymmetry, but also by reciprocity. This study covers an array of linguistic and visual sources relevant to understanding the conventional exchange of gestures of recognition between subordinates and authorities, whether human or divine. It brings these to bear on other sources related to the enactment of a particular family of “hand-lifting” rituals intended to establish such recognition (e.g. Namburbis, dream rituals, anti-witchcraft rituals). Those rituals were enacted in order to address concerns arising from events that called into question one’s relationship with the divine and sought to heal that relationship.




Bibliographical abbreviations

Additional abbreviations and symbols


1. Introduction

1.1 A specific function for a common rubric?

1.2 A taxonomy of šuillas

1.3 What is a šuilla? Akkadian šuillas versus other incantation prayers

1.4 The organization of this study


2. “Lifting of the hand” as a formal salutation in an audience with a deity

2.1 Questioning prior interpretations

2.2 Šuilla terms as differentiated from parallel terms for prayer or supplication

2.2.1 Šuilla terms express something construed as prior to spoken prayer

2.2.2 Šuilla terms express something that is rarely “heard”

2.2.3 Šuilla terms and speech: Interpreting the complex constructions

2.2.4 Conclusion: Šuilla terms and terms for prayer are associated but not synonymous

2.3 Asymmetry and reciprocity in an audience in Mesopotamia

2.4 Linguistic evidence differentiating gestures in an audience

2.4.1 karābu: A reciprocal greeting gesture differentiated by context

2.4.2 qāta tarāṣu: The authority’s gesture of recognition as horizontalmovement

2.4.3 The subordinate’s gestures toward an authority as upward movement The šuilla gesture Other expressions for “to lift the hand / arm” to a god or king appa labānu “to stroke the nose” ubāna tarāṣu “to extend the finger and point”

2.4.4 Distinct directionality of hand gestures: authority and subordinate

2.4.5 Excursus 1: The number of hands indicated by šuilla terms

2.4.6 Excursus 2: Comparison of šuilla terms with other expressions

2.5 Gestures of salutation in audience scenes

2.5.1 Presentation scenes in glyptic artifacts from c. 2350–1600 B.C.E

2.5.2 Directionality of hand-gestures as indicators of asymmetrical status

2.5.3 The reciprocal exchange of salutation-gestures as an enduring convention The Stele of Hammurabi A monument of King Melišipak The Broken Obelisk The Sun-God Tablet of Nabű-apla-iddina A monument to Adad-eṭir A deity gesturing from a winged solar disk

2.5.4 Gestures of salutation in audience scenes: Conclusions

2.6 The rhetorical significance of šuilla terms

2.6.1 Establishing the deity’s presence and recognition of the petitioner

2.6.2 Affirming the king’s loyal submission to the gods

2.6.3 Expressing something the gods desire

2.6.4 Employed ironically in satire

2.7 Conclusions


3. The šuilla rubric and the function of Akkadian šuillas

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Ritual rubrics and their rationales

3.3 The šuilla rubric as a classifying rubric: A review of prior scholarship

3.3.1 The rubric signifies “prayer”

3.3.2 The rubric literally means “hand-lifting”

3.3.3 The rubric indicates a literary form or a cluster of features

3.3.4 Conclusions


4. Akkadian šuilla prayers: Identification, structure, and distinguishing features

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Identifying šuilla prayers

4.3 The common structure of Akkadian šuilla prayers and incantation prayers

4.4 Distinguishing Akkadian šuilla prayers from other incantation prayers

4.4.1 Tendencies associated with salutation of the deity

4.4.2 Tendencies associated with petitioning the deity

4.5 Conclusions


5. The structure and function of Akkadian šuillas as ritual units

5.1 Introduction

5.2 The sources and their interpretation

5.3 The circumstances and concerns addressed

5.4 Enactment

5.4.1 Time, location, and ritual space

5.4.2 Offerings

5.4.3 Hand-lifting and recitation

5.4.4 Prostration and additional speech

5.4.5 Disassembly of ritual appurtenances and leave-taking

5.5 Purpose and rationale

5.5.1 Particular concerns and stated effectiveness

5.5.2 Overall purpose and rationale

5.6 Excursus 3: The šuilla rubric and the emergence of Akkadian šuillas


6. Akkadian šuillas as “rites” within rituals

6.1 Introduction

6.2 bīt salāʾ

 6.2.1 Cycles of ritual-prayers limited to šuillas

6.2.2 The purpose of the ritual and the function of the šuillas in it

6.3 bīt rimki

6.3.1 A cycle of ritual-prayers limited to šuillas

6.3.2 The purpose of the ritual and the function of the šuillas in it

6.4 Namburbis

6.4.1 Šuillas within particular namburbis Chariot accidents: Šamaš 5, Nergal 4, and Šamaš 1 Lightning strike causing fire: Nusku 13 Lunar eclipse: Sîn 1 Moths: Šamaš 1 A dream revealing malicious magic: Šamaš 6

6.4.2 Additional evidence for the inclusion of šuillas in namburbis

6.4.3 Conclusions

6.5 Dream rituals

6.5.1 Šamaš 34 and the “Ashur Dream Ritual Compendium”

6.5.2 Nusku 4 and Nusku 5 in the “Nusku Ritual to Obtain a Pleasant Dream”

6.6 Sîn 1 in bīt rimki, a namburbi, and a dream ritual

6.7 Anti-witchcraft rituals

6.7.1 Lengthy šuillas in anti-witchcraft rituals Ištar 13 and Ištar 2 in two versions of an anti-witchcraft ritual Marduk 5 as adapted to an anti-witchcraft ritual

6.7.2 Two šuillas with compound rubrics Kaksisa 2 = 3 = Ninurta 4 against zikurudű “cutting of the throat” magic Ereqqu 2 as a procedure for protective magic?

6.7.3 Ištar 23 in a poultice-making ritual

6.7.4 Conclusions

6.8 A šuilla in a substitution ritual

6.9 Conclusions


7. Conclusions


Appendix 1. Šuilla terms in parallel with terms for communicating with or offering to a deity

Appendix 2. Instructions for recitation or assurance included with exemplars of šuilla prayers

Appendix 3. List of šuilla prayers

Appendix 4. Comparison of features in šuilla prayers