Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms

Front Cover
Independently Published, Jul 16, 2019 - 378 pages
From the INTRODUCTION. The material collected and edited in this book comprehends nearly all the temple liturgy of the official Babylonian and Assyrian religion yet published. By temple liturgy I mean services of public praise and penance. A sharp division must be made between public services and private services, a distinction which was observed by the Babylonians themselves. Religious literature in Babylonia originated from two distinct sources; on the one hand the priest of incantation exercised the mystic rites of magic over afflicted persons in huts in the fields; on the other hand the psalmists had charge of the public services of the temples. In the earliest period the Sumerians who created the entire form of Babylonian religious literature, had only these two classes of sacred literature. The temple services were called er-sem-mas or psalms to the flute'; the incantations, mystic sacramental formulae and prayers of the private rituals bore the title en. The priests or temple singers were named lagar, labar. As early as the period of Gudea distinct reference is made to the lagaru or kalu priests who play the balaggu or harp(?), and if the word lagal in another passage be really its earliest form, then Gudea himself tells us explicitly that he appointed these priests for the temple services'. Mention is made of a temple psalmist on a tablet at least pre-Sargonic [3ooo BC] Urukagina [circa 3200 BC] made provisions to regulate the salary of his temple singers. In a psalm 1 for the temple service the kalu's instrument is called the mesa, which with the halhallatu and the balaggu formed the principal instruments for temple music" Other instruments employed in temple music are the uppu and the lilissu. Of these five instruments the names of four are Sumerian loan-words; halhallatu whose meaning Prof. Meissner has shown to be «reed flute», is Semitic. In Babyloniaca III I-3o, I attempted to prove that the asipu priests who had control of the rituals of magic of the fire and water cults had no part in the public services of the temples. Their sphere of activity seems to have been confined to the mysteries performed in huts in the fields. Yet we know that in every great religion the priests who con- trol the sacraments, who are directly commissioned with divine power over the unseen spirits, become the central factor, and it could not have been otherwise in Babylonia. Gudea says that he installed the high priest in the temple along with the psalmist, and direct evidence exists to prove that this high priest was the asipu, called en in Sumerian. Countless documents boar the dale, « year when the high priest was elected». There can be, then, no possible doubt but that the asipu priests held the highest position of influence in the Sumerian and Babylonian religion. That they performed mysteries, attended at least by incense, is evident from the fact that the niknakku, or incense stand, was placed before the statues of the gods. While it is impossible to define the spheres of activity of the asipu and kalu priests, yet one fact remains clear, viz. that the psalmists (kalu) had full charge of the public services in so far as they were not connected with magic....

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