Lifting of Hands to Marduk

Category: Frameworks > Mesopotamian Polytheism > Lifting-of-Hands Rituals

1 Introduction

This šu’ila (‘lifting-of-hands’) text, the so-called SB Šuˀilla Prayer to Marduk 19 (link to edition off-site), consists of an incantation (akk. en), which we are told is addressed to Marduk, and a brief ritual instruction: it is to be used with “either ritual implements (rasāku) or a censer”. The former option is somewhat vague, the latter refers to an incense offering. In addition to the offering, raising the hands is of course also important.

In this case, the purpose of the rite has to be derived from the incantation itself; it is to free the worshipper (or the ritual expert’s client) from an ikkibu or divine “restriction”. We can probably take this in a fairly general sense.

The incantation runs as follows, in (non-normalized) Akkadian and English:

2 Akkadian text

Sîn ilūtka, Anu malkūtka.
Dagān bēlūtka, Illil šarrūtka.
Adad gišrūtka, Ea iršu ḫasisaka.
Ṣabit qanṭuppi Nabû līˀûtka.
Aššaredūtka Ninurta, dannūtka Nerigal.
Milik libbika Nuska, sukkalka rabû.
Dīnūtka Šamaš nawru, ša ṣilutam lā ušabšu.
Šumuka kabtu, apkallu ilū, Marduk.
Šiltāḫaka izzu nēšu lā gammelu.
Bēl kabtu daiši kullat abi muniḫu qablu
Alik ahīka Zappu, dīnu kiti mišari ilāni u ištarāti.
Šurbutka Igigī, mašutaka qarittu Irnini.

Ḫamakunu Apsû, nignakkunu šamê ša Anu.
Šundultu erṣeti parakkunu, bēlu (bēlī?),
Ša ina bīti, nīqū šārūtu uṣbuni,
Almattu ina maṣḫati, šāru ina immeri iqarrubukunuši
Ina eli akli u mê šā paliḫikunu, gušāni.
Ina ṣit awātikunu, ša lā enû, ikkibakunu puṭira.

Narbika lušapi, dalīlīka ludlul.

(Transcription subject to revision, esp. regarding vowel length.)

3 English translation

“Sîn is your godhood, Anu your rulership,
Dagan your lordship, Enlil your kingship,
Adad your power, wise Ea your sagacity.
He who holds the writing stylus, Nabû, is your skill;
Your preemindence is Ninurta, your strength Nerigal,
The counsel of your heart is Nuska, your chief minister.
Your judgeship is radiant Šamaš, who brings about no conflict.
Your venerable name, o sage of the gods, is Marduk!
Your furious arrow is a merciless lion.
Venerable lord, who tramples all enemies, who averts battle.
Beside you goes the Pleiad (Zappu), the judge of truth and justice of gods and goddesses,
Your greatness is the Igigi, your dignity(?) is valiant Irnini.”

(At this point, “you” switches from singular to plural.)

“Your water basin is Apsû, your incense-burner is the heavens of Anu.
The broad Earth is your sanctuary dais, lord(s?),
Where (as) in a temple, rich offerings are multiplied;
A widow with flour, a rich man with a sheep, they invite you
To come to bread and water from one who fears you.
By your command, which is immutable, put away your interdiction!”

(The last line reverts to the singular.)

“Let me illuminate your greatness, let me sing your praise!”

4 Notes

The identifications of many gods with attributes of Marduk relies on the scholarly tradition of god lists like An = Anu ša amēli, with an especially close analogue in the short and fragmentary Marduk God List.

Sîn is the Moon.
Anu is Heaven.
Dagan has his own page.
Enlil has his own page.
Adad is the ‘god Storm’. Cf. Zeus.
Ea has his own page.
Nabû is (or rules) the planet Mercury.
Ninurta has his own page. He is/rules the planet Saturn.
Nerigal is (or rules) the planet Mars.
Nuska is a sukkal or minister of Enlil (or of Marduk, as the present text has it); he has his own page.
Šamaš is the Sun.
Marduk has his own page. He is/rules the planet Jupiter.
Zappu is the Pleiades, here apparently considered an individual male god, not a group of female goddesses. Hence I use the singular Pleiad.
The Igigi are the celestial gods.
Irnini is Ištar, who is/rules the planet Venus. She is the only goddess included here, but Ištar outstripped any individual male god in popularity. There is a syncretistic hymn to her that in some ways parallels the present poem.

Apsû is the watery Deep; the entire reservoir constitutes Marduk’s ritual water basin.
The entire heavens serve as Marduk’s censer.
The entire Earth (not underworld, as erṣetu can also mean) serves as Marduk’s offering platform.
The temple may be the individual temples on Earth or the whole world conceived as a temple to Marduk.
Flour (maṣḫatu-flour in particular, whatever that means) is an especially frugal offering, the sheep stands for expensive sacrifices.
Bread and water are again substances used in offerings. “The one who fears you” is simply a pious worshipper.
The “interdiction” (ikkibu) is some kind of restriction placed on the worshipper by the gods, from which the prayer seeks freeing.