Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Babylonian Mis Pi Ritual

[This is an extract from The Babylonian Mis Pi Ritual, a chapter from The Sacred History of Being, published November 2, 2015]

....Then the offering-arrangements are dismantled.  The hand of the god is taken, and they process to the garden.

The new god is seated in the orchard, in the midst of the reed-standards on a reed-mat placed on a linen cloth. His eyes are turned toward sunrise.

You go to the river and throw mashatu-meal into the river;
You libate mihhu beer. You lift up your hand; and you recite three times each in front of the river the incantation, 'Apsu-temple, where fates are determined,' (and) the incantation 'Quay of the Apsu, pure quay;'

The operator is instructed to draw water (for) seven holy-water-basins, and to place the water in the chapel of Kusu. Into the basin of Mouth-Washing is thrown an interesting selection of items: tamarisk, mastakal, date palm 'heart', seven palm shoots, salalu-reed, apparu-reed, sweet-reed, sulphur, salt, cedar, cypress, juniper, 'horned alkali', sikillu-plant, tree-resin, lodestone, zalaqu-stone, mussaru-stone, carnelian,  [i]  lapis-lazuli, pappardilu-stone, pappardildilu-stone, silver, gold, tin, iron, oil, salve-oil,  perfumed (?)  oil, cedar oil, syrup (and) ghee.

Mention of  the 'Apsu-temple, where fates are determined,' and 'Quay of the Apsu, pure Quay,' represents a poetic reduplication of a single idea, which is the idea that both of them point to the ground of Being, of totality, where fate and destiny can be determined, since all knowledge is present in the Apsu, and that proximity to the Apsu is to be had at the river bank, since all  rivers in Mesopotamia were accorded divine status, and therefore prefixed with the Sumerian determinative sign 'Dingir'.  Tamarisk and date-palm-heart have already been discussed in terms of images pointing toward the Apsu. Juniper has been used in purification rituals in a number of cultures. The palm shoots fairly obviously represent coming forth and generation. 'horned alkali' is a vegetable ash, which clearly represents the final end for something which once had existence. Tree-resin is something which is often found exuding from pines, and can be used for purification purposes, lodestone may indicate stones which fall from the sky, and so were once part of the image of being which the night sky represents. Lapis-lazuli is the colour of the sky, and was a much sought after mineral in antiquity for that reason. It was often used in circumstances where a reference to the sky was required. Gold and Silver reference the Sun and the Moon who are gods, who belong to the image of Being. And gold possesses incorruptibility, which may be the reason why Shamash is also the god of justice (there is no justice where there is corruption).  Iron is far from incorruptible, but it has a special excellence of its own, in that it was the hardest metal available in the first millennium B.C.E, and could be worked into useful forms by the smiths, who had something of the divine fire about them.

After a line which is hard to understand, but concerns arrangement, the operator is instructed to fill a trough of tamarisk wood with the waters of the holy-water-basins. Into this trough carnelian, lapis-lazuli, silver beads, gold beads, juniper and halsu-oil, and then to set the holy water-basins on the brick of Dingirmah. The holy-water-basins are set up, and the Mouth-Washing is performed again. The offering-arrangement is dismantled.

At line 25 the instruction is to set up nine offering arrangements for Anu, Enlil, Ea, Sin, Shamash, Adad, Marduk, Gula (and) Ishtar, the stars  ...  toward the north. The incantation, 'Tamarisk, pure wood,' is recited, and the Mouth-washing is performed again.

Now we get some interesting astronomical detail in connection with the ritual.

You set up towards the south nine offering arrangements for Ninmah, Kusu, Ningirim, Ninkurral, Ninagal,
Kusibanda, Ninildu, Ninzadim and that god.

The Mouth washing is repeated here, and after each of the following, until line 36.

You set up 2 offering arrangements for Jupiter and Venus.
You set up 2 offering arrangements for the Moon and Saturn.
You set up 3 offering arrangements for Mercury, Sirius (and) Mars.
You set up 6 offering arrangements for the Scales (Libra) (which is) the star of Shamash, the Plough (Triangulum/Andromeda), 'SU.PA' (Boӧtes), the Wagon (Ursa Major), Erua (Coma Berenices), the She Goat (Lyra).
You set up 4 offering arrangements for the Field (Pegasus/Andromeda), the Swallow (Pisces), Anunitum (Pisces) (and) the Furrow (Virgo).
You set up 4 offering arrangements for the Fish (?), the Giant (Aquarius), Eridu (and) the Scorpion.

 [End of extract]

[i] Carnelian was used in both Mesopotamia and Greece for seals, because clay did not stick to it. Symbolically the carnelian represents one half of the undefined dyad, and the clay represents what Plato referred to as the ‘receptacle’, capable of receiving images, and participating in Being. Each is the reverse of the other. 

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