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A History of Science — Volume 1 by Williams

From the evil spirit of the ulcer


1. Take a white cloth. In it place the mamit, 2. in the sick man's right hand. 3. Take a black cloth, 4. wrap it around his left hand. 5. Then all the evil spirits (a long list of them is given) 6. and the sins which he has committed 7. shall quit their hold of him 8. and shall never return.

The symbolism of the black cloth in the left hand seems evident. The dying man repents of his former evil deeds, and he puts his trust in holiness, symbolized by the white cloth in his right hand. Then follow some obscure lines about the spirits:

1. Their heads shall remove from his head. 2. Their heads shall let go his hands. 3. Their feet shall depart from his feet.

Which perhaps may be explained thus: we learn from another tablet that the various classes of evil spirits troubled different parts of the body; some injured the head, some the hands and the feet, etc., therefore the passage before may mean "the spirits whose power is over the hand shall loose their hands from his," etc. "But," concludes Talbot, "I can offer no decided opinion upon such obscure points of their superstition."(15)

In regard to evil spirits, as elsewhere, the number seven had a peculiar significance, it being held that that number of spirits might enter into a man together. Talbot has translated(16) a "wild chant" which he names "The Song of the Seven Spirits."

style="text-align: justify;"> 1. There are seven! There are seven! 2. In the depths of the ocean there are seven! 3. In the heights of the heaven there are seven! 4. In the ocean stream in a palace they were born. 5. Male they are not: female they are not! 6. Wives they have not! Children are not born to them! 7. Rules they have not! Government they know not! 8. Prayers they hear not! 9. There are seven! There are seven! Twice over there are seven!

The tablets make frequent allusion to these seven spirits. One starts thus:

1. The god (---) shall stand by his bedside; 2. These seven evil spirits he shall root out and shall expel them from his body, 3. and these seven shall never return to the sick man again.(17)

Altogether similar are the exorcisms intended to ward off disease. Professor Sayce has published translations of some of these.(18) Each of these ends with the same phrase, and they differ only in regard to the particular maladies from which freedom is desired. One reads:

"From wasting, from want of health, from the evil spirit of the ulcer, from the spreading quinsy of the gullet, from the violent ulcer, from the noxious ulcer, may the king of heaven preserve, may the king of earth preserve."

Another is phrased thus:

"From the cruel spirit of the head, from the strong spirit of the head, from the head spirit that departs not, from the head spirit that comes not forth, from the head spirit that will not go, from the noxious head spirit, may the king of heaven preserve, may the king of earth preserve."


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