Divination was undoubtedly the most important of the disciplines that a Mesopotamian would have categorized as “scientific,” and should be viewed not as some primitive magical or occult activity but as one of the most basic features of Babylonian life. Indeed its senior practitioners were men of influence, held in high esteem in the own society. They were consulted on all important occasions both by private individuals and officers of state. The army was always accompanied by a diviner who in the Old Babylonian period seems to have acted also as general….
Divination represented, basically, a technique of communication with the gods who, according to Babylonian religious thought, shaped the destinies of all mankind, individually and collectively. Its purpose was to ascertain the will of the gods, to the Babylonian synonymous with the prediction of future events. Its philosophy, of course, presupposes supernatural cause and effect in all perceived phenomena and assumes the cooperation of the gods in their willingness to reveal the future intentions. Evil portended was not inevitable; there existed a variety of purification rituals…and other means of averting unwelcome predictions…. A clear distinction was made between provoked and unprovoked or natural omens. Preference for these various techniques differed markedly from one period and area to another. Although there exists some literature pertaining to the interpretation of dreams, Mesopotamian philosophy was curiously reluctant to admit that the gods made use of man himself for the expression of divine intention—and indeed a dream was significant only when “interpreted” by an expert. Thus shamanistic concepts, often considered universal in primitive religion, are absent in Mesopotamia.