Exorcism in Babylonia and Assyria
All down the ages good and evil have been in opposition as two contending forces in perpetual conflict, so that the ritual of expulsion has been an essential element in sanctification and the impulsion of spiritual power and insight. Consequently, in this dual task of getting rid of evil in order to secure good the exorcist has exercised a function complementary to that of the seer. Not infrequently, as we have seen, the medicine-man or shaman has been responsible both for riddance and induction, and at a higher cultural level in Babylonia and Assyria the soothsayer and exorcist originally were hardly distinguishable. In the process of time, however, the driving out of demons from human beings and buildings by incantations and ritual expulsions were separated from the interpretation of omens and astrological portents. This was necessitated by the development of an elaborate system of demonology entailing jinns, ghouls, vampires, malignant disembodied ghosts (edimmu), and vast hordes of hostile spirits (utukku, galla, labartu, labasu and ahhazu, lila, sûdu and lamassu) which lurked in graves and solitary places, on mountains and in dens of the earth, and in marshes. They roamed about the streets, sliding through the doors and walls of houses, and were borne on the wings of the mighty winds that swept the land. Wherever they occurred they brought misfortune, sickness and death in their train. Small wonder, then, that the exorcist was in constant demand. Thus, the cuneiform texts from the middle of the third millennium [B.C.E.] onwards bear witness to the numerous incantations employed to expel evil spirits and the ghosts of the dead. In the case of the latter the exorcist threatened that no rites would be performed on their behalf until they had departed:(Whatever spirit thou may be), until thou art removed:Until thou departest from the man, the son of his god,Thou shalt have no food to eat,Thou shalt have no drink to drink.