On the origin: Female ritual practitioners

On the origin: Female ritual practitioners
20th century BCE. Diorite statuette of a seated woman from Gipar-ku (Irak). Sumerian inscriptions on the seat indicate that it depicts a priestess dedicating the offering to the goddess Ningal. Largely reconstructed. Inv. B16229 © Penn Museum 2022, British Museum/University Museum Expedition to Ur, Iraq, 1926

On the origin: Female ritual practitioners

As early as the second millennium BC, we have evidence of the development of magical techniques in the geographical area of the eastern Mediterranean. From this area we have reports of healing rituals based on the principle of analogical magic (doing something in reality in order to affect the supernatural plane) preserved in the archives of the capital of the Hittite Empire (Turkey). Women play an important role in these rituals, since they are the authors of many surviving magical rituals, often of foreign origin. The official nature of these documents suggests that they were performed for members of the royal family, as the private use of magic was punishable by death. 

In addition, from India we have the compilation of hymns of a magical nature, called the Atharvaveda. These hymns’ structure all the rites associated with the private aspects of a person’s life. They were probably composed around 1000 B.C. and contain aspects that we could associate with white magic and black magic, in whichalso on the principle of analogythe aim is to influence the real plane by actions on the supernatural plane. In these hymns, however, the magical function of the word stands out. Through its utterance, the supernatural world acts upon our sphere and, consequently, the images evoked in the hymns materialize and the desired thing is achieved (in this case, the falling in love of the recipient of the ritual action with the beneficiary of it).

Atharvaveda VI 8 (Love Charm, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith)

«1. Like as the creeper throws, her arms on every side around the tree,

  So, hold thou me in thine embrace that thou mayst be in love with me, my darling, never to depart.

  1. As, when he mounts, the eagle strikes his pinions downward on the earth,

  So do I strike thy spirit down that thou mayst be in love with me, my darling, never to depart.

  1. As in his rapid course the Sun encompasses the heaven and earth,

  So do I compass round thy mind that thou mayst be in love with me, my darling, never to depart.»


Berta González Saavedra