Rituals for Private Devotees (29-32)

As a whole, this chapter includes quite heterogeneous sources: it collects different rites performed not by the king, but by private individuals. These were conducted in various buildings or open spaces (the Equ-House, the temple of Gula and a river are mentioned), and on different specific occasions (probably depending on the purposes that the performers sought). The texts are at once both prescriptive and descriptive, and particularly in nos. 30-32 we observe a continuous shift between the third and the second singular person. The reason why such texts were drafted was probably due to the fact that private devotees had to follow a severe procedure in order to obtain what they were looking for and could not do everything by themselves, but rather needed the cooperation and the assistance of the ordinary temple personnel. In effect, priests and singers are often mentioned: they were probably paid or received gifts as compensation for their work.

The first tablet, no. 29, presents an after-heading which places the action in the Equ House of Kar-Tukulti-Ninurta (r. 9'-10'). It describes an initiation ritual to be performed si-mu-nu i-na ka-ša-di, "in the proper time" (l. 1), and therefore the formulas pronounced by the priest conducting the ceremony not only sought protection and requested an intercession, but also urged the same individual to keep the goddess' secrets.

The two following texts, 30-31, describe a festive meal served in a temple: the reason prompting a banquet for a specific god was likely for health purposes and therefore the chosen place was the temple of the goddess of healing, Gula. The three main performers appearing here were the "master of the banquet", EN–qa-ri-te, the "officiant" EN–GARZA, and a priest LÚ.SANGA: they all actively participated in the cult, performing offerings and presenting gifts to the deity, just as in the ritual meals presented by the king. Text no. 32, which gives a larger role to the singer as one of the main cultic performers, even presents different options to follow concerning meat offerings depending on the social status of the offerer: šum-ma NUN šu-ú TU.[GUR₄].MUŠEN a-na ma-aq-lu-te i-qa-lu / šum-ma muš-ke-nu šu-ú ŠÀ-bi UDU.NITÁ i-qa-lu: "If he is a nobleman, he bums a turtledove as a burnt offering. If he is a commoner, he burns the heart of a ram."

Interestingly, we know two additional sources that record banquets arranged by private parties, and they always mention a married couple as the organizer of the event. While one of these texts (SAA 7, 112) is quite synthetic and refers mostly to garments (maybe donated as gifts after the meal), the second one instead provides more data (SAA 10, 294).[[13]] On both occasions, the ultimate purpose of the donors was the request for a progeny.

Similar to what happened during the nāṭu rites performed by the king and discussed above, text no. 32 (a nāṭu for the Daughter-of-the-River) seems to have had an apotropaic purpose. The ritual acts are similar, although we notice a difference in the quality and quantity of the offerings: bakery products, beverages, greens and garments abound here, while the abundance of meat that was present in the royal performances is lacking — the only offered animal is a virgin ewe (mentioned in ll. 15 and r. 15). The person who organized and set up the ritual is always referred to as the EN-šìp-ṭí, "the sufferer of the punishment"; however, the text belonged to the chief singer of Aššur (see the colophon, l. r. 24: LÚ.NÀR.GAL AN.[ŠÁR]), who was the responsible for the performance among the temple personnel and, as such, directed the individual throughout the ceremony.

13 This text has been commented and analyzed in depth also by Parpola S. 1987, "The Forlorn Scholar", in F. Rochberg-Halton (ed.), Language, Literature, and History: Philological and Historical Studies Presented to Erica Reiner, New Haven, 257-278.

Stefania Ermidoro

Stefania Ermidoro, 'Rituals for Private Devotees (29-32)', 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/nos2932/]

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