Magia. Daiches Babylonian Oil Magic in the Talmud and Later Jewish Literature

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Text of Magia. Daiches Babylonian Oil Magic in the Talmud and Later Jewish Literature


    abylonian Oil Magic in theTalmud and in the later

    Jewish LiteratureBY




    I California



    Babylonian Oil Magic in theTalmud and in the later

    Jewish LiteratureBY




    INTRODUCTION 3-6Oil a mystic element in antiquity :

    (a) in the Bible ; (&) in Assyria ; (c) in Egypt and Greece 3Oil in magic :

    (a) Babylonian 4(6) Jewish .....5(c) Egyptian 5-6(d) European 6

    Babylonian origin 4-6


    Babylonian parallels ; Notes on }{? t|")B> J D'JPS '">B>, magicalpower of oil; Babylonian origin 7-12

    B. LATER JEWISH TEXTS, TRANSLATIONS, AND NOTES . . i3~42B i. Texts in which oil is used as a part of the divination

    ceremony i3-25B 2. Texts in which the whole divination is made only through

    the oil .... . . . , . . .26-7Notes

    ; Babylonian parallels ; Babylonian origin of the late Jewishoil magic shown 28-42

    NOTES :1. On fra np, sp np, 012 np, r6ra +W (JDP n) . 28-3 i2. On looking at the finger-nails at the prayer of Habdalah ;

    throwing away the parings of the nails ; cutting the nailson certain days and in a certain order . . . .31-2

    3. On the magical circle (^UV) 32~34. On stones in magic 33-45. On Bwrt nicy / 34-56. On ' the sea and the three lights that are in the universe


    . 36-77. On divination through oil-formations; striking Old Baby-

    lonian parallels . - 39-48. On the use of oil mixed with water among the Jews in

    Babylonia about 1000 C.E 419. On Q^pnn Wiy& and its Babylonian origin .... 41-2


    OIL was regarded in antiquity as a mystic element.It was used for consecration and dedication. When Jacobwanted to hallow the stone at Bethel he poured oil on it

    (Gen. xxviii. 18). "When Moses dedicated Aaron to theservice of God he poured oil on his head and anointedhim (Lev. viii. 12, cf. also Exod. xxix). The Tabernacleand all that was in it was consecrated by being anointedwith oil (Lev. viii. 10, n). Lev. x. 7, Moses says to Aaronand his sons: 'And ye shall not go out from the doorof the tent of meeting, lest ye die : for the anointingoil of the Lord is upon you.' At the cleansing of the

    leper, too, oil was used. Four verses deal with the use ofthe oil for that purpose (Lev. xiv. 15-18 ; cf. also w. 26-9).Every action mentioned in those verses no doubt hadits significance. Samuel, when selecting Saul for thekingship, pours oil on his head (i Sam. x. i). WhenDavid was chosen by Samuel to succeed Saul he wasanointed with oil by Samuel (i Sam. xvi. 13). And sowere the later kings anointed with oil, see especiallyi Kings i ; cf. also Ps. xlv. 8.In Assyria, too, memorial stones and tablets were

    anointed with oil. So Tiglath-Pileser I (end of twelfth

    century B.C.E.) says : naru PI- sd Samsi- % Ramman a-bi-ia Samne ap-sti-us,

    ' the memorial stones of my ancestoramsi-Bamman I have anointed with oil ' (col. viii, 47-

    48). See, for more references, Delitzsch, AssyrischesHandworterbuch, p. 550. In Egypt and Greece also oilwas used for dedication ; see Hastings, Dictionary of the

    Bible, Vol. I, p. 101.

    Oil also played a role in magic. We know this fromAssyro-Babylonian magical texts. In the Ritualtafeln

    A 2



    published by Zimmern 1 oil is mentioned several timesas an important element in magic. In old Babyloniantexts, published by J. Hunger,2 we find divination bymeans of oil. What importance there was ascribed tooil in Babylonian magic can also be seen from the

    following passage occurring in one of the incantationsof the Maklu texts published by Tallqvist 3 :

    siptu samnu ellu samnu ib-bu samnu nam-ru

    samnu mu-lil-li sa Hanisamnu mu-pa-as-si-ih ^bu-a-na sa a-me-lu-tisaman sipti a il E-a saman sipti sa # Marduku-da-hi-id-lca saman tap-su-uh-tisd il E-a id-di-nu a-na pa-as-ha-a-tiap-su-us-Tca saman balati

    addika.' Incantation. Bright oil, pure oil, shining oil,the purifying oil of the gods,oil which softens the sinews of man.With the oil of the incantation of Ea, with the oil of the incan-

    tation of MardukI have made thee drip ; with the oil of softeningwhich Ea has given for soothingI have anointed thee ; oil of life

    I have put on thee.'*

    Note especially line 34, in which the oil is called' the

    oil of the incantation of Ea and Marduk',the two great

    Babylonian gods of magic and divination.It is the object of the following pages to show that

    Babylonian oil magic in its various forms is also to be

    1 In his Beitrage zur Kenntnis der babylonischen Religion, Leipzig, 1901

    (to be quoted in these pages as Rit.').2 See J. Hunger,


    Becherwahrsagung bei den Babyloniern nach zweiKeilschrifttexten aus der Hammurabi-Zeit ' (Leipziger Semitistische Studien,I, i), Leipzig, 1903.

    3 See K. L. Tallqvist, Die assyrische Beschwdnmgsserie Maklu, Leipzig, 1895.4 See Tallqvist, I.e., p. 92, lines 31-8; and cf. Weissbach, Zur Serie

    in Bfiirage zur Assyriologie, Vol. IV, p. 160.


    found among the Jews in the time of the Talmud and inlater times. The parallels are striking, not only withregard to the use of the oil, but also with regard to theceremonies and formulas connected with it. It will beseen that the Babylonian and Jewish documents supple-ment and throw light on each other. The passages re-ferring to oil in magic in the Talmud are very few andfragmentary. It will be seen how they become clearand intelligible with the help of the Babylonian textsas well as the later Jewish documents.

    I will deal first with the Talmudic passages (A) andthen with the later Jewish texts (B). These later textsI divide into two groups: (i) one group (B i) consist-ing of those texts in which oil is used in course of thedivination ceremony as a part of the ceremony so thatthe spirits may appear in the thumb-nail or in the handor in the vessel and may be seen through the oil (|B> *>&>,1-7) ; (2) the second group (B 2) consisting of texts inwhich the whole divination is made practically throughthe oil only, as through the formation of the oil (8) or

    through the reflection or non-reflection in the oil (9, 10).Text 1 1 does not strictly belong to this group. But inthis text, too, the use of oil is important."We find that oil also played a role in Egyptian magic.

    The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leyden,published by Griffith and Thompson, are full of oil divina-tion, and contain many striking parallels to Babylonianmagical texts as well as to the Jewish texts publishedhere. 1 There can be no doubt that this form of magiccame to the Egyptians from the land of the Euphrates.The following passage from the papyrus mentioned will

    help to show clearly the Babylonian origin of Egyptianoil magic :

    {The spell] which you say to the oil to put it on the stingdaily :


    Isis sat reciting to the oil Abartat and lamenting (?) to

    1 Cf. Griffith and Thompson, I.e., pp. 21-33, 35> 49. I03i JII > JI 3> I23>137, 139, *47i '55, 165, 169.


    the true oil, saying,' Thou being praised, I will praise thee, O oil,

    I will praise thee, thou being praised by the Agathodaemon ; thou

    being applauded (?) by me myself, I will praise thee for ever,O herb-oil otherwise true oil O sweat of the Agathodaemon,amulet (?) of Geb. It is Isis who makes invocation to the oil


    (see Griffith and Thompson, I.e., p. 131, lines 17-22).

    These lines read as if they were formed on the passagefrom Maklu, quoted above (p. 4), and show unmistakablythe Babylonian origin of Egyptian oil magic.In Europe, too, oil has been known as a means

    of magical manipulations; cf., e.g., lines 129-30 in

    Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner:1 The water, like a witch's oils,burnt green, and blue, and white.'

    The influence of the culture of the land of the tworivers upon the development of mankind has been verygreat, but not the least great has it been in the domainof magic and witchcraft. The more one examines theancient literature the more one sees how the variousforms of Sumero-Babylonian superstition spread to thewhole of the ancient civilized world, and how many ofthese superstitions have survived up to the present dayin East and West.

  • A.


    IN Talmud Babli, Sanhedrin ioi a, the following Baraithais quoted : JBD sbx ?TO b^ub jnm 0^3 nw fe> ns?pan -p'a^ T3P pp ^y ptwi^ pro ^33P jot? by pe>n6 .psraot?,^Q3S> ptPD p3D pNi T3B> ptw ' One is allowed to ask ofthe princes of oil and the princes of eggs, only (one doesnot ask because ?) they lie.

    1 One whispers a charm overoil in the vessel and one does not whisper a charm overoil in the hand

    ;therefore one anoints (oneself) with

    the oil in the hand and one does not anoint (oneself)with the oil in the vessel.'

    It is clear that we have in this Baraitha the use of oilin magic. In the first case (}P nt?, &c.) oil is used fordivination purposes (fm htfB^). In the second case theoil is used for ' whispering a charm ', }w6, for magicalhealing. How the oil was used by the diviner theBaraitha does not state. Neither is it clear what Ht?means. Rashi explains that it refers to magical workwith oil and that pe> nt? mean }ni3 nt? (' the princes ofthe thumb

    '). But this does not add much to our under-standing of the Baraitha. In fact, the phrase fB> ne> (aswell as 0^3 n