Title: The Ritual Means of Empowerment of the Mesopotamian Exorcist
University: Yale University
Supervisor: Eckart Frahm
My dissertation examines the ways in which the Mesopotamian “exorcist” (āšipu) constructed his identity and authority in and through ritual performance. Among the various strategies, the project focuses on the āšipu’s self-purification and self-protection, his special attire and attributes, and the special nature and forms of his ritual speech. The project draws mainly on ritual texts of the āšipu from the first millennium BCE. Analyzing the construction of the image of the ideal āšipu will lead to a better understanding of his authority as a religious professional in the context of other Mesopotamian experts as well as in cross-cultural comparison.
Keywords: ritual, religion, scholarship, expert, purity, speech
Title: The “death” of statues in the Syro-Mesopotamian area during the Bronze Age
University: Université de Liège, Belgium
Supervisor: Laurent Colonna d’Istria
Imane is studying the “death” of statues in the Syro-Mesopotamian space of the 3rd millennium BCE, through the analysis of the materiality of artifacts, iconography and textual sources. This thesis is a continuation of a master’s thesis concerning the ritual birth of statues in Mesopotamia, which led to an understanding of the cultic process governing the condition of these artefacts. In her current research, Imane wishes to answer the questions raised by the observation of a damaged statue – the accidental or intentional nature of the damage, its dating, the individual(s) responsible for the damage, what motivated the action – in order to obtain a comprehensive view of the context in which the ronde-bosse was made, displayed and ultimately removed from its society.
Keywords: Bronze age, statue, sculpture, iconoclasm, rituals, cuneiform
Title: Conceptions of Transgression and Its Consequences in the Mesopotamian Exorcistic Corpus
University: University of Oxford
Supervisors: Dr Frances Reynolds (Oxford), Prof Daniel Schwemer (JMU Würzburg)
My doctoral research examines the portrayal of suffering in the Mesopotamian exorcistic corpus (āšipūtu) that was attributed to the consequences of an individual’s transgressive actions. Key to the āšipūtu rituals’ conceptualization of transgression and its punishment is the concept of ‘self-curse’, represented by the Akkadian terms māmītu and arratu, and these therefore form the main focus of my research. Recently published namerimburruda-rituals, which target māmītu-curse and its effects, allow for a reassessment of this concept, while previously unpublished material demonstrates that arratu-curse occasionally had a complementary function. Throughout my research, these concepts are situated within their wider intellectual context, in relation to other causes of suffering addressed by the āšipūtu corpus as well as conceptions of divine punishment in other areas of Mesopotamian literature.
The body of my dissertation has a tripartite structure. First, I examine the portrayal of the ultimate causes of suffering, namely the possible acts of transgression that are listed in incantations. I also consider elements that problematize a direct link between these actions and the resultant suffering: the sufferer’s ignorance of possible transgressions; the possibility of contracting the suffering through contagion; and the portrayal of ‘self-curse’ as externalized, demon-like entities. Second, I look at the manifestation of suffering as a state of ‘reduced existence’. This includes physical and psychological ‘medical’ symptoms, as well as damage to the victim’s socio-economic standing and relationship with the gods. Finally, I assess the methods employed by the exorcist to remove the patient’s state of suffering. The way these methods were understood to work provides further insight into the exorcist’s conceptualization of transgression and its consequences.
Overall, my findings suggest a significant new approach to the theology of sin and divine punishment in late Mesopotamian scholarship and give insights into the theoretical background of the āšipūtu corpus.
Keywords: transgression, curse, divine punishment, ritual, religion, history of medicine