“(Let) the witch be a sorceress”: An examination into the notions of ‘witchcraft’ and ‘sorcery’ in the Old Babylonian period
The notions of ‘witchcraft’ and ‘sorcery’ were well known practices throughout ancient Mesopotamia. This is attested in the textual evidence from the second and first millenniums BC. This thesis critically interrogates the preconceptions held by modern scholars on ancient Mesopotamian notions of ‘witchcraft’ and ‘sorcery’. This is further developed by querying how these notions were understood in the context of the Old Babylonian period (c. 1900-1600 BC). This is presented through a linguistic analysis of the Sumerian and Akkadian terms and a critical examination of a corpus of texts. The prevailing scholarly discourse on this topic has been largely confined to the study of first-millennium BC anti-witchcraft rituals, with very few works concerned with mapping out their genesis and earlier textual representations. This thesis considers how the terms ‘witchcraft’ and ‘sorcery’ are defined by modern audiences before examining how these terms have been used in the definitions for ancient Akkadian and Sumerian terms. I argue that these are fundamentally coded terms that require further consideration when being used in the context of ancient Mesopotamian culture. The textual analyses demonstrate the complexity of the notions and their respective practitioners. Old Babylonian texts provide a significant insight as to how the notions of ‘witchcraft’ and ‘sorcery’ were conceptualised, understood and interacted with in various facets of society.