Deutsch Intern
  • Extracts from magical texts in antiquity (Greek, Hieratic, Demotic, Akkadian): British Library P 122; British Museum P Chester Beatty 7 and P Leiden/London, British Museum BM 34065
DFG Centre for Advanced Studies MagEIA

The Mesopotamian Grim-reaper: Images of Namtar in Cuneiform Incantations and Rituals

Date: 07/01/2024, 6:15 PM
Location: Residenzplatz 2 (Residenz), Toscanasaal
Organizer: MagEIA
Speaker: Dr. Jon Beltz (Universität Würzburg)

In ancient Mesopotamia, magical incantations and rituals protected individuals against a variety of malevolent beings. One of the most common was Namtar, whose name means “fate” in Sumerian, a being who served as an underworld god, plague-bringer, and a type of “grim-reaper.” In many magical texts, Namtar appears as one of the primary agents of evil, exorcized through various means. In certain rituals, however, Namtar was invoked as an aid, helping to bind malevolent demons by oath and imprisoning witches in the underworld. This talk situates Namtar in his ambiguous position both as the target of magical texts and as an aid to healing and relief, provoking more nuanced thinking about what characterizes divine beings as “gods” or “demons” in ancient Mesopotamia, and how certain beings, such as Namtar, may fall into intermediate categories.