Rituals for Singers (24-28)

The rituals described in these texts were performed at different stages than those of the groups mentioned above: as their opening lines attest, they were in fact executed mostly in open spaces (rivers, temples, mountains). They can all be considered as reports that record the performance of nāṭu rituals and sheep­offerings for different gods and, according to their headings, were initially established by Tukulti-Ninurta I — even though they were copied and performed in later times, as their colophons reveal.

Texts 24 and 25 describe nāṭu rituals for Šarrat-šadê (though they are not exactly alike), while no. 26 is addressed to Sîn; the etymology and exact meaning of the term nāṭu is not clear (it appears in the corpus also in text 19, i 1 and ii 12; 32 1; and 52 r. iii 13) but we can reconstruct the development of these events from the tablets at our disposal. The specific circumstance included offerings, liturgical songs and cultic acts that were performed in a tent set up on the bank of "a river": presumably the Tigris, which flowed to the north of the Aššur Temple, the Anu and Adad Temple and the Royal Palace.

It seems that the nature of these rites was mostly apotropaic and primarily aimed at ensuring a strong royal dynasty: such hypothesis seems confirmed by the frequently recurring expression NUMUN-šú i-ka-ṣar "his seed will solidify" and the colophons, always included and always reporting the formula 2-šú dul-lu an-nu-ú ina ma-ḫar DN ú-šal-lam-ma e-pa-áš NUMUN-šú i-šir "he performs this ritual twice in its entirety before the god and his seed will be all right" The same purpose of a release from evil characterizes this rite when performed not by the king but by a private devotee, as attested by text no. 32 (see below).

An apotropaic intent also seems to have characterized the cultic event recorded by text n. 26, even though the setting of the ritual was different (see l. 3). Text 27 describes not a nāṭu but a "sheep offering", and yet presents many similarities with the three preceding tablets.

As noted before, all these sources have headings and colophons that attest their origin and that they were copied for a long time; according to the final lines, these rituals must always be performed twice and, considering the quantities of food offerings mentioned (in particular with reference to the cut of meat), this would lead to a impressive display of the royal generosity toward his protecting gods.

Stefania Ermidoro

Stefania Ermidoro, 'Rituals for Singers (24-28)', Assyrian Royal Rituals and Cultic Texts, SAA 20. Original publication: Winona Laka, IN, Eisenbrauns, 2017; online contents: SAAo/SAA20 Project, a sub-project of MOCCI, 2020 [http://oracc.org/natureandcontent/nos2428/]

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